Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Mad Libs: The Game (Looney Labs)

I was a big nerd growing up. Okay, let's be honest. I am still a big nerd. I love words and wordplay and always have. I played many games of Scrabble with family and friends. I also did a lot of word searches, crosswords, and Mad Libs. For those of you who don't remember, Mad Libs was a story that had a lot of blanks on it. One person would ask you for a noun, adjective, verb, etc. and fill in the blanks for you. Once all the blanks were filled in, they would hand you your filled in paper to read your hilarious and nonsensical story. Looney Labs has recently published Mad Libs: The Game. It is designed for 3-8 players, takes about 20 minutes to play, and retails for $20.

1. Shuffle the deck of Word cards and deal seven to each player.
2. Shuffle the deck of Sentence cards and place it in the center of the table next to the Word deck.

Game Play - The game plays over several rounds until one player gets 3 points and wins.
1. Flip over the top card from the Sentence deck and read it aloud.
2. Each player picks cards from their hand, providing one Word card for each blank on the Sentence card. (Note: The words must match the blank in terms of part of speech, i.e., noun, verb, etc.)
3. Players take turns reading the sentence they formed with their chosen words, making tense fit where necessary.
4. After all the sentences are read, players simultaneously vote on which sentence they liked the best, not voting for themselves. The winner receives one point.
5. Before you start the next round, players may discard any Word cards from their hand they don't like, and then re-draw back up to seven.

Depending on how many people you play with, will determine how long the game takes to play. If only a few people, it's easy for someone to quickly get three points. If more people, it could take a little while longer. With 42 Sentence cards and 200 Word cards, there is also some degree of replay value in this game, as you will never get the exact same combination of cards in your hand to match the sentence card. With that being said, this game screams for an expansion of more cards, which seems easy enough to accomplish, if this game takes off. That being said, I think this game could have been better designed. Half the fun of Mad Libs is you never know what kind of sentence you are going to end up making. I would have made the Sentence cards double sided. On one side, it tells you what types of blanks you need to fill in, and then after everyone picks their word cards, you flip the Sentence card over and people reveal their sentences. This game is fun for kids and family gatherings, but it could have been better.

This game was provided to me for free by Looney Labs in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sixes (Eagle-Gryphon Games)

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and if you're like me, you love to share the gift of gaming with your friends and family. Apart from light, gateway games to gift, I find party games to be a good present for your friends and family who are unfamiliar with games that aren't Monopoly or Sorry. Today, I would like to tell you about a light game called SixesSixes is game six of the E-G-G series. The game is designed for 2+ players, age 6+. It takes approximately 25 minutes to play and retails for $12.

Setup and Game Play
1. Give each play a list sheet.
2. Create three stacks of cards - Match, Unique, and Lightning.
3. Rounds 1 and 4 are Match. Rounds 2 and 5 are Unique. Rounds 3 and 6 are Lightning.
4. Read the card aloud and place it in the middle of the playing area so everyone can easily see it.
5. Start a one minute timer.
6. Players write down six things on their List sheet in the appropriate round.

1. In the Match round, you score one point for each items that matches an item on an opponent's sheet. If a player matches all six items, they score one bonus point.
2. In the Unique round, you score one point for each unique item that is not on an opponent's sheet. If a player has six unique items, they score one bonus point.
3. In the Lightning round, players write down one item for each of the six individual categories. The goal is to match in each category, and again a bonus point is awarded if you match all six.
4. The player with the most points after six rounds is the winner.

The game feels a lot like Scattegories with the major difference being that you don't have to use the same letter for each answer you write down. It plays quickly with little to no learning curve, and kids can play this as well as adults. The reason for this you are not trying to come up with the best answer, just the ones that will match or not match (depending on the round) your opponents. Therefore, you really are playing your group. I found the game to be a nice little filler that was perfect to play after holiday dinner with the whole family, and will add it to my rotation of games to play with non-gamers.

This game was provided to provided to me for free by Eagle-Gryphon Games.

Monday, November 28, 2016

O Emmanuel (Dynamic Catholic)

It's Advent again. My favorite time of the year. We all have different ways of preparing ourselves for Christmas. There are Advent calendars and Advent wreaths. We hang up lights and decorate Christmas trees. Sadly, a lot of this is done November 1st, the day after Halloween. We rush through the seasons and don't appreciate the beauty of the preparation. I normally am opposed to playing Christmas music too early, but I was recently sent a copy of the album O Emmanuel.

O Emmanuel is a Christmas album with composer J.J. Wright, the Notre Dame Children's Choir, and Fifth House Ensemble. The first track is called Gabriel's message. The next seven tracks follow the O Antiphons of Advent that span from December 17th through 23rd. These are Sapienta, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel. The final two tracks are When the Sun Rises in the Morning Sky, and a favorite of mine, Christ the Lord is Born Today.

The music has a unique style to it as it combines adult and children's voices, jazz piano, and other instrumentalists as well. At about an hour long, the album is unfortunately longer than my commute to and from work, but I can generally complete the album over the course of two days. That point aside, I thoroughly enjoy this album and I play it as often as possible when I am in the car. If you would like to hear some samples or obtain a copy for you, your family or friends, follow the link.

This CD was provided to me for free by Dynamic Catholic in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Karuba (HABA)

Tile placement games are some of the most visually satisfying games that you can play. There's the tactile pleasure of feeling the cardboard in your hand, and there's the eye-candy of the tiles slowly forming into some type of picture. Karuba, from HABA, is a tile placement game that has a racing element and a bingo mechanism. It plays 2-4 players, ages 8+. It takes approximately 30 minutes to play and retails for $35.

1. Give each player an Island, four Adventurers in the four different colors, four Temples in the four different colors, and the 36 Jungle tiles with the same color on the back.
2. Cooperatively decide where to place the Adventurers and Temples on the Island. Adventurers are placed on the beach side of the Island and Temples are placed on the jungle side. (Note: The Temple and Adventurer of the same color must be a minimum of three numbers distance apart, and once all are placed, everyone's Island will be identical.)
3. Put the Crystals and Gold Nuggets in the middle of the table, as well as the Temple Treasures according to the number of players.
4. Have one player (known as the Expedition Leader) shuffle his Jungle tiles face down and form a stack to draw from. All other players can arrange their Jungle tiles around their Island in numeric order for easy finding.
Game Play - The Expedition Leader reveals the topmost tile of their stack and calls out the number. All players look for that tile. They may then play take one of two actions:
1. Play the tile on their Island by placing it on an open space with the number being in the upper-left hand corner. (Note: If a tile has a Crystal or a Gold Nugget on it, place one on the tile.)
2. Discard tile and move Adventurer a number of steps equal to or less than the number of paths on the discarded tile. (Note: You can only move one Adventurer per turn, and if you want him to collect a Crystal or Gold Nugget, he must end his move on that tile.)

When an Adventurer reaches a Temple, he collects the highest valued Temple Treasure of that color. The game ends when one player gets all their Adventurers to their respective Temples or all the Jungle tiles are called. Everyone adds up their Temple Treasures and collected Crystals (1 point each) and Gold Nuggets (2 points each) and the most points win.
Karuba is a fun game for the whole family. On the surface, it seems like a very light game with the bingo-calling mechanic. However, there is are at least three different elements of strategy in this game. The first one is deciding where to play the tile, as everyone can play their tiles in different places. The second bit of strategy is deciding which tiles to discard to move. You don't want to waste movement, if possible, but sometimes you have no choice. The last bit of strategy is deciding whether or not you are going to try and pick up as many crystals and gold nuggets as possible, instead of being the first one to get to certain temples. There are other bits of strategy that will pop up, like should I move each of my adventurers a little, or should I focus solely on one first and then another, and possibly abandon one altogether?

It is no wonder this game was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres in 2016. The game is casual enough that you can introduce it to anyone, but has enough meat on its bones that it will provide enough depth for a somewhat more serious gamer. This is easily one of my wife's favorite games, so I know that this game will be in my collection for a long time. I also know that it will get a lot of playing time around the holidays when we get together with other family members, who aren't as into gaming as I am. Be sure to check out other titles from HABA as they are branching out from strictly kids games to strategy games as well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hydration Pack with 1.5 L Backpack Water Bladder (Camden Gear)

Today, I am branching out of my review comfort zone to share with you a product that I have thoroughly enjoyed for the past several months, and that is a hydration pack. Now, I'm no runner, but I do like to go on long walks, and it's always awkward to carry a water bottle when you are walking for anything more than a quick trip around the block. You feel like one of your hands is doing something but the other is just being lazy. And if you're clumsy like me, you end up dropping the bottle (more than once) and bust it open, rendering it useless. This problem exacerbates itself even more when you take a toddler with you. If you had a water bottle in your hand, your other hand is no longer lazy, because it is firmly holding tightly to your child who doesn't yet fear the real world, but if you want a drink of water now, how are you going to easily open it with one free hand? I give you Camden Gear's Hydration Pack!

Camden Gear's Hydration Pack is a pack you wear on your back that can hold 1.5 liters of water in a removable bladder. It retails for $50, but is normally on sale for about half of that amount. It is adjustable in size and can comfortably fit older children, teenagers, and adults. It comes with a chest strap so it doesn't bounce up and down, and you are able to tuck the hose into one of the shoulder straps giving you easy access to the bite valve. There are also several storage compartments and side pockets that can hold not only phones and MP3 players, but also tablets as well.

I really love this pack. It is small enough that it doesn't become cumbersome, but large enough to hold some essentials. The bladders and hoses are of good quality, and are also super-affordable if you want to buy additional ones. I have found many uses for this pack, which go beyond training, running, and long-distance walking. It is nice just to have around the town, as my son seems to always be thirsty. Where this pack really shined for me though, is on a vacation. I took this pack to Disney World, and it was a life-saver. The water in Florida is known for having a funny smell/taste/everything. So yes, tap water is free in the park, but is only palatable to me if I'm dying. Bottled water is expensive and adds up quickly, so this was the perfect solution. I filled this up the night before with something else, filled up a spare as well, and put them in the fridge. In the morning, I'd put this on and it would last me til the early afternoon, when I was ready for a break, and then I'd just go and swap out the bladders for the rest of the day. This really turned out to be an unexpected, but necessary thing to pack for my Disney vacation.

This product was provided to me for free by Camden Gear in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Steampunk Rally (Roxley Game Laboratory)

I tried coming up with my own definition of steampunk, but after writing and re-writing, I finally decided to just copy and past what Wikipedia said about it. "Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery." This trend/fad has taken over many aspects of popular culture, including fashion, literature, music, and you guessed it...board games. Today, I would like to tell you about a game called Steampunk RallySteampunk Rally is a racing game for 2-8 players, ages 14+. It takes about an hour to play and retails for $50.
1. Lay out the Racetrack (Swiss Alps for first-timers) and select three of the five available middle track tiles to build a continuous racetrack. At the end of the Racetrack, attache the finish line tile and the end track tile after that.
2. Place all the Dice and Cogs within reach of all players.
3. Sort the four decks according to their border color (gold, silver, copper, and black). Shuffle each deck and place it face down within reach of all players. Take the top card from each deck and place it face up next to the deck to form the individual discard piles.
4. Flip the Play Direction token like a coin, and place it between two random players.
5. Have each player select an Inventor. Then give each player their Inventor CockpitInventor Machine PartInventor Pawn, and a Light Bulb.
6. Place the Inventor Pawns on the Racetrack and have each player assemble their Invention by taking their Cockpit and Machine Part and connecting them by forming a valve connection.
7. Finally, give each player a Damage Gauge, and have it set to zero.
Game Play - The game is played over a series of rounds with the following four phases each round.
1. Draft - Each player draws one card from each deck to form a hand of four. Simultaneously, each player then selects one card (plays it face down). Once all players have selected, you reveal your card and either attach it to your Invention, discard it to gain Cogs or Dice, or stash it if it is a Boost card. Cards are then passed to your neighbor according to the Play Direction poster and the process is repeated until no cards remain in your hand.
2. Vent - Use Cogs to reduce the pip value of Dice currently in the die slots on your Invention. Each Cog reduces your dice total by two pips (either one die two pips or two dice one pip each). Any die reduced to zero is discarded. (Note: Skip this step on your first turn.)
3. Race - Roll all the Dice in your dice pool and storage slot. These Dice are used to activate the Machine Parts on your Invention. You may also use Cogs to re-roll a die, or increase a die's value by one pip. (Note: You cannot increase a die's value beyond six.) Keep track of damage you receive uring this leg of the race by decreasing your Damage Gauge one for each point of damage.
4. Damage - If you Damage Gauge is above zero, do nothing. If it lower than zero, you must discard a Machine Part from your invention equal to the the number shown in red on your Damage Gauge. You may then reset your gauge to zero. If you run out of Machine Parts to discard, your machine explodes sending you to last place. You also must discard all your Machine Parts (including your personal inventor one), leaving you with only your cockpit.

The game continues until someone crosses the finish line. This signals that there will be one more round played. After the final round, the player furthest past the finish line is the winner.
Steampunk Rally is a gorgeous game. When I initially unboxed it, I felt spoiled as if I were opening a decadent surprise. For starters, there are 108 dice in the game! What kind of game comes with 108 dice?! That's just crazy, and by crazy I mean fun! Next, the artwork is beautiful. There are a lot of little details in the art that stand out and demand attention. If you look at the cockpit for the Wright brothers, it has that old airplane look to it. That is not only appropriate, but picture perfect.  The artwork for each inventor is also full of details that are pertinent to each inventor.

Another aspect I appreciated was the variety of inventors. It would have been easy to have a bunch of old white guys, like that villain Edison. (Yeah I said it!) Instead, we have the likes of George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, and Ada Lovelace to name a few. When you game with women regularly like I do, the fact that there is more than one woman character to play with is HUGE!

Lastly, the game plays well and roughly at the same pace no matter how many characters there are. Usually when you add player count, you add play time, which you don't always have the time for. There is also no feeling of hopelessness if you fall behind in the game, as comebacks are not only possible, but to be expected.

I'm embarrassed to say that I have been sitting on reviewing this game for far longer than I should. Unfortunately, my game group doesn't play many racing games, so it took me a while to get a good enough feel for this game to review it. With that said, I would say that it is one of the best racing board games I have ever played and is one of the only ones I reach for when we do play a racing game. Roxley Game Laboratory may not have many games in their catalog (yet), but the three they do are each works of art. They are unique from each other in mechanisms and theme, but uniform in their high art quality and stunning game components. Be sure to check out their other two games Super Motherload and Santorini.

This game was provided to me for free by Roxley Game Laboratory in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Liturgy and Personality (Hildebrand Project)

Dietrich von Hildebrand was a Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher, who Pope Pius XII called the "20th Century Doctor of the Church." He was also greatly admired by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. In order to bring his writings to a wider audience, Hildebrand Project was launched. Today, I would like to share my thoughts with you on von Hildebrand's work Liturgy and Personality.

Liturgy and Personality was originally published in German in 1933. It was later republished in English in 1960. Now, over 80 years later, we are presented once again with this work. The book begins with a foreword by Bishop Robert Barron. In this section, he gives us a brief glimpse at von Hildbrand's personality and tells us that the main point of this book is that "the liturgy of the Church decisively shapes a healthy personality." Von Hildebrand also firmly teaches that the liturgy is designed to give praise to God. The book then contains the original introduction which tells the aim of this book, and ten chapters, which contains liturgical related topics like spirit of communion; spirit of reverence; and spirit of awakenedness.

Reading through this book, I stopped and paused multiple times. I was presented with ideas that I had never even thought of considering before. For example, the word "we" dominates the word "I" in the Liturgy, because the Liturgy is not a personal prayer but a "communion-prayer." Another stop and think moments was when von Hildebrand said, "The eternal union with God is also a theme of the Liturgy." We see this in different feasts and seasons, yes, but we primarily see it in Holy Communion, for this is "in which the God-man comes to us in an ineffable manner and unites Himself to us in a way which is far beyond all the possibilities of natural union."

This book, like most von Hildebrand titles, are rich in their intelligence and depth. At times, you have to stop and re-read a line several times just so that it will sink in. The foreword by Bishop Barron helped to set the stage for this important work, but the afterword, by his widow Alice von Hildebrand, helped to further clarify what you just read. In this section, she gives us more examples and definitions of his term personality, which is needed for the modern reader, because he doesn't use the words like we would. This book is a good read for the coming Advent season. If you take a little bit each day, chew on it, and digest it, you will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of not only the Mass, but also the Liturgy of the Hours and the Sacraments. It will also make you more holy and reverent when receiving these great gifts, and not be so casual with them ever again. Highly recommended.

This book was provided to me for free by Hildebrand Project in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 18, 2016

All That Remains (Ignatius Press)

Takashi Nagai was born in 1908. His birth was described as difficult and nearly killed both him and his mother. His family lineage was one of doctors as both his father and grandfather were doctors, with the former being trained in Western medicine and the latter practicing herbal medicine. His mother, on the other hand, was the descendant of a samurai family. Nagai was raised in the Confucius and Shinto religion and became interested in Christianity while attending school. When he was 20, his family hoped that he would go to school in Tokyo. He instead went to Nagasaki, and this decision forever changed his life. He became a physician who specialized in radiology and a convert to Roman Catholicism. He was also a survivor of the atomic bombing at Nagasaki, and is currently on the path to Catholic sainthood, being given the title Servant of God. The film All That Remains tells his story.

In this film, we live Nagai's journey. We see his childhood and his mother raising him to be strong. We see him meet his wife, Midori, who helps bring him to Catholicism. We also see Japan's government being taken control of and thus forcing Japan to enter World War II. Dr. Nagai, buries himself in his work, putting his health and family harmony in peril, but this quickly changes when the bomb takes the life of Midori. He now must raise his two children on his own, while battling leukemia. He also tries to help rebuild Nagasaki. This is done through his writings, which help inspire a nation and rebuild through the power of love. It is no wonder he is so highly revered in Japan.

The DVD is approximately two hours long. It contains live action acting, archival footage, and CGI. This creates for a unique viewing experience. Also included on the DVD is a documentary film on Dr. Nagai and an animated short film, entitled "The 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki." These make for fascinating viewing after viewing the initial film. I am grateful for getting the opportunity to review this film, as I'm not sure I would have ever learned about the remarkable Catholic man that Dr. Nagai was otherwise. It has also made me interested in reading the book A Song for Nagasaki to help fill in the holes that the film had. (Note: This is not a critical statement against the film. It's just the nature of the media, and that items have to be cut to make a reasonably timed movie.) If you are interested in World War II, Japan, and/or potential Catholic saints, you will want to watch this movie.

This DVD was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yeti (Alderac Entertainment Group)

In the game of Yeti, you and your opponents are mountaineers in the Himalayas searching for the elusive Yeti. In order to find the Yeti, you must follow his footprints and take photos of it. However, you will need the right equipment, the help of a Sherpa or two, and the weather to be just right to achieve this. The game plays 2-5 players, ages 8+. It takes 20-40 minutes to play and retails for approximately $30.
1. Assemble the mountain and the two-part game board.
2. Place the Photo Track next to the game board.
3. Sort the Equipment Tiles by value and place them next to the Photo Track.
4. Give each player an Actions Overview Card, as well as a Base Camp, Mountaineer, and Victory Point Marker of the same color. Have everyone pick a unique spot on the board to place their Base Camp and Mountaineer.
5. Place the Victory Point Marker of all players on space 0 of the Victory Point Track, and place the Yeti on space 50 of the Victory Point Track.
6.  Stack up a number of Peak Tiles on top of the mountain in descending order. (Note: If playing with two, use the 8 and 6 point tiles. If playing with 5, use the 8, 6, 4, 3, and 2 point tiles.)
7. Randomly determine the starting player and give him the seven dice. If playing with two players, the starting player gives one die to the other player to use on his first turn. If playing with 3-5 players, in clockwise order, players two and three each receive one die to use on their first turn.
Game Play
1. Roll your dice
2. Set aside all dice that show Snow, if any.
3. If you did not roll Snow, you must set aside all dice of exactly one type (Coins, Sherpa, Footprints, or Tents). If you did roll Snow, you may opt to set aside all dice of exactly one type in addition to the Snow you set aside earlier. (Note: You may set aside the same type of dice on subsequent rolls.)
4. Repeat steps 1-3 until all your dice have been set aside.
5. Evaluate and resolve your dice according to the Actions Overview Card.
Yeti is a simple "press your luck" game that is great for the family. The setup is super-easy and the rules/game play are even easier. What I like best about the game is that it involves dice, and that helps to engage people, especially kids and casual gamers. There is also a way to spice up the game with Weather Tiles that will appeal to more serious gamers. What I like least about the game is the bit of downtime involved, especially with more players. Each player is going to make a lot of dice rolls each turn and you can space out on this, because nothing is happening to you for 3-4 turns depending on how many other players there are. That being said, I feel that you need to play this game with more than two players, because it adds a bit more racing to this game and there are more opportunities for snow to hamper other players. I also noticed that the dice show footprints on two of the six sides. I think it should have been snow instead, because it seemed in the few games that I played, the Yeti did not move nearly enough. With all that in mind, this is a fun family game that could have just been a set of seven dice. Instead they made a 3-D game board, with lots of wood and cardboard. This helps add to the theme of the game and makes it better than other similar games.

This game was provided to me for free by Alderac Entertainment Group in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tinyville Town (Abrams Books)

There is a new series of books out for younger children from Abrams Books. The series takes places in Tinyville Town and currently there are three books out with a fourth one due out in March 2017. Today, I am going to tell you about these books.
Tinyville Town Gets to Work! is an illustrated hardcover book, measuring approximately 9.5" x 10.5". The book begins with a letter from the author/illustrator, Brian Biggs. In this letter, he talks about all the places he has lived and how they are each a bit different. He did notice that the one thing they had in common was the people. Wherever you go, you will find different people performing different jobs and all working together to make the community thrive. These different communities were the inspiration for Tinyville Town. The book explains that everyone in Tinyville Town has a job and that for the most part everyone has a daily routine. One day that routine is backed up, which causes trash to not be picked up, the donut shop to not be open, and the bus to be behind schedule. It is decided that a wider bridge must be built to accommodate the growing town. The different professions involved and actual construction of the bridge is the main focus of this book.
Following this hardcover book, two board books were released. They are called Tinyville Town: I'm a Firefighter and Tinyville Town: I'm a Veterinarian. Each book is 22 pages in length and focuses on that specific profession. In the firefighter book, we learn that firefighters sleep at the station when they are on duty. That night there is a fire at the bakery. At the fire, each fireman has a job, which include functions like hoses, ladder, hydrant, etc. Back at the fire station, each fireman has a job there too, including cooking and cleaning. In the veterinarian book, we learn that the town vet has a lot of animals, so she spends her whole day with animals. The firefighter we met in the other book brings his dalmatian to the vet, because the dog isn't feeling well. It turns out the dog ate a sock, something my son finds hilarious. I really like these books, because they not only teach your children what different people do, but they show that everyone has a purpose. They also give realistic career ideas, not just astronauts or professional athletes. I can't wait to see how many of these books come out, and I look forward to the release of Tinyville Town: I'm a Librarian next March.
These books were provided to me for free by Abrams Books in exchange for honest reviews.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Avalanche at Yeti Mountain (Green Couch Games)

Winter is quickly approaching, so I thought now would be a good time to tell you about some snowy-themed games. Both games this week focus on the Abominable Snowman, also known as the Yeti. Today's game is called Avalanche at Yeti Mountain, and it was produced by Green Couch Games. It can play 1-5 players, ages 8+, and it retails for $20. In Avalanche at Yeti Mountain, you and your friends are engineering students who invented rocket-powered skis and want to test them out at Yeti Mountain.
1. Shuffle all 60 Mountain Cards into a face-down pile.
2. Deal four cards to each player.
3. Lay out twelve cards in a row in the same orientation. This forms the Mountain.
4. Give each player a Skier meeple and a Rocket Status Card of the same color (active side up).
5. Set out the Speed Limit Card depending on the number of players. (7 in a 2-player, 10 in a 3-player, 13 in a 4-player, and 16 in a 4-player)
6. Place all the Skier meeples randomly at the top of the mountain, the Yeti meeple behind them, and the Avalanche Speed Marker in its stand behind the Yeti.

Game Play - The game is played over several rounds with the following actions performed each round:
1. Select Cards - Each player secretly selects one card and places it face down. The number on the card indicates the speed. (Note: A player two cards if they have the same symbol.)
2. Reveal Speed - All players reveal their cards simultaneously. Add up combined speed, if the speed limit was exceeded, the fasted player crashes.
3. Move Skiers - Each skier moves down the mountain going from fastest to slowest with the number of spaces moved equal to their speed. If you played a card with a symbol matching the card you were on, you Rocket Jump, completely jumping over the next card and then moving your number of spaces. (Note: Each successful Rocket Jump increases the speed of the Avalanche. If there was a crash from Step 2, then you only move one space.
4. Move the Yeti - The player furthest up the mountain movies the Yeti. He has his own path and moves equal to or less the speed of the fastest skier. If the Yeti moves through a space occupied by a player, he damages their rockets for the next round.
5. Advance the Avalanche - Move the Avalanche down the snowbanks on the mountain equal to the Avalanche's current speed. If the Avalanche lands on a space or passes a skier, they are eliminated.
6. Draw Cards - Discard all cards played this round and each player draws one new card.

The game ends and a player wins when they move off or jump over the last card in the mountain.

Like the other games in the Green Couch Games library, this game is tiny but packs a punch! For starters, the box fits in your pocket, so its portable. Next, the cards are multi-use, meaning they make up the mountain and are used to mover your skier. Lastly, the game just doesn't take up a big footprint on the table when playing it. The other thing you will notice about Green Couch Games is their attention to graphics and details. The graphics in this game are visually appealing and the tiny meeples that are shaped like skiers and a Yeti are a very nice touch. They could have easily used generic pawns or meeples, but they went the extra step to add more theme to the game. Finally, and most importantly, the game is just fun. There is little downtime, as players are making actions simultaneously, and it plays quickly, so you have time to play it multiple times if you are unfortunate enough to lose. It's also great for kids, because it's easy to learn and it teaches them risk management (when to go high on speed and when not to) as well as cause and effect (if I rocket jump that avalanche is going to get quicker and might catch me). I highly recommend this game and play it often.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Prayer Works! (Our Sunday Visitor)

Prayer is something I really wish I was better at. Every time I sit down to pray, instead of quieting my mind, it immediately starts to wander. Sometimes, it is merely idle thoughts of nothingness, and worse times it is like Satan is attacking me and making me think wicked thoughts. I have read a multitude of books on the matter, and they all help to some degree or another, but only for so long. That doesn't stop me from reading more books on the subject. Today, I would like to tell you about Prayer Works! by Matthew Leonard.

The book begins with a Foreword by Dr. Scott Hahn, which introduces us to the author and tells us why he is qualified to write this book. Chapters then follow that answer questions like why we should pray, what prayer is, how it works, etc. There are also chapters that talk about the different ways to pray, including talking to God, meditation, contemplation, and just silence. The chapter I found the most useful was "How to Progress." This is always a struggle for me, but Matthew Leonard gives the advice to persevere, stay humble, embrace suffering, and go to Penance.

Prayer Works! is a short work at only 150+ pages, but it offers sound and practical advice for people in the beginning stages of their prayer life or those looking to go a little bit deeper. This book won't immediately make you a saint who prays without ceasing, but if you follow the advice in the book, it will get you on the right path.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Pauline Books and Media)

In August 1988, the Pope released an Apostolic Letter entitled On the Dignity and Vocation of Women. It was revolutionary at the time, because it was the first papal document that addressed women and their unique role, not only in the Church, but in the world. Now, almost 30 years later, this document is just as relevant, if not more so.

The document begins by talking about the timeliness of this Apostolic Letter. Pope John Paul II then explains how this topic was brought to light both in and before Vatican II. He reflects on the recent female Doctors of the Church and discusses his encyclical Redemptoris Mater. Part II reflects on Mary the Mother of God (Theotokos). In this section, he reflects on the fact that a woman (Mary) was at the center of salvation, because it was through her Fiat that Jesus came into the world. He also talks about how Mary is the ultimate example of a woman and her vocation. Part III takes us back to Genesis and man being made in God's Image. Part IV compares Eve and Mary. Part V focuses on Jesus Christ and His interaction with women. This is the most fascinating section as it discusses the value which He placed on them, how it was uncommon for that time, and how they were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Part VI addresses motherhood and virginity, which are mentioned hand in hand in Christ's teaching, but share a distinctness to them as well. Part VII and VIII talk about the Bride of Christ and love.

There has been a lot of talk about feminism lately, but that is false feminism. If you want to understand the true beauty of women and their vocation, I highly recommend this book. It not only contains the Pope's words, but reflections and points to ponder as well. Be sure to check out this book and other anniversary editions of Pope John Paul II's writings.

This book was provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Prodigals Club (Czech Games Edition)

In order to be a "proper gentleman," you must hold public office, not squander your money, and speak politely at formal dinners. In summation, you must be an absolute stick in the mud. After years of being an absolute bore, you and a group of friends have decided to cut loose and have some fun and create The Prodigals Club. The Prodigals Club is a secret fraternity of young gentlemen trying to tick off the upper crust of society as much as possible. They will do this by losing votes in an election, getting rid of everything they own, and infuriating as many influential people as possible. The Prodigals Club is a game for 2-5 players, aged 14+. It takes 40-90 minutes to play and retails for $49.95.

Setup - There are three separate Competitions included in this game. It is recommended to use two until you know the game really well. I will teach you the setup for two players, using the recommended first game setup Election and Society Competitions.
1. Set up the Central Board by placing it on the correct side for the number of players.
2. Place the Round Counter, Renaissance Man tile, and four Bonus Action Tiles on the Central Board.
3. From the collection of cards, find the five Central Cards that you will use, depending on what competitions you are competing in. Shuffle the two white-bordered Central Cards and place them face down on the Central Board. Then, shuffle the three black-bordered Central Cards and place them face down on top of the white-bordered ones.
4. Place the Society Game Board to the left of the Central Board with the Dame Beatrice Tiles shuffled and placed face down on their spot.
5. Place the Election Game Board to the right of the Central Board with the Political Circle Tiles shuffled and placed in the manner that the single-icon stack is on top of the double-icon stack.
6. Place the Election Scoreboard above the Central Board.
6. Set up Player Boards and Errand Boys by having each player choose a color and giving them a player board and five Errand Boys (top hat tokens) in that same color.
7. Each player then places his Vote Counter on the Election Scoreboard space number 42.
8. Each player places has his own Society Scoreboard and Influence Markers, which are put on the three sixteen spaces (going man, woman, man) with the final woman going on the first fourteen space.
9. Player order is randomly determined and placed on the numbered spaces in the middle of the Central Board and the first player takes a one vote handicap.
Game Play - There are six phases in every round.
1. Setup - Each game board has three to four spaces that require cards. On these spaces, you will see what kind of cards needed and how many. Reveal the cards for the spaces and also turn over the top card on the Central Board. (See Setup #3 above.) Deal four Political Circle Tiles to their space and reveal the top Dame Beatrice Tile.
2. Errands - Take turns placing Errand Boys on unoccupied spaces and immediately perform the corresponding errand.
3. Actions - In turn order, each player gets one turn to play actions. Actions are represented by cards and you can play as many as you want on your turn in any order.
4. Hyde Park - Here you count up the number of megaphones each player has earned this round. The appropriate number of votes lost is then awarded to each player.
5. Dame Beatrice - Here you resolve the Dame Beatrice Tile and move up your Influence Markers as indicated by the tile.
6. End of Round -
a. Check for the end of the game. This happens if a person's score drops below in any competition or if five rounds have passed.
b. Mark the new player order based on whether or not they placed an Errand Boy on a numbered Errand Boy space.
c. Clear the player boards of any white-bordered cards that they played this round. Discard your hand size down to four. Remove all cards and tiles from the game boards.
d. Advance the round marker to the next space and begin the next round with the round setup again.

1. In the Election Competition, your score is marked on the Election Scoreboard. You can have a maximum of 44, and there is no minimum, so your score can be negative.
2. In the Society Competition, your score is based on your player board. Add together all the values under your four markers. This too could be negative.
3. Determine which competition has the highest score. This will be your final score. The lowest score among players is the winner with a tie being broken by the second highest score.

The Prodigals Club is a medium-weight worker placement and hand management style game with a bit of an economic theme. However, the twist in this game is that you are trying to lose points, not gain points. The fact that you are trying to lose points messed with me a couple of times, because it goes against everything I know about gaming. What I really like best about this game is that it is condensed to five rounds. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it is an action-packed five rounds of trying to build your engine efficiently and then destroy it at just the right moments. The theme doesn't always come through with everything you are doing, but it has a strong enough presence that with a little effort on your part and some fake accents, you can make it a funny experience.

As with all Czech Games Edition products, the components in this game are of high quality. You aren't just putting cubes on a board, but placing elegant top hats. The cards are also superb, because the illustrations is very hoity-toity in a good way. I also liked the replay value of this game. With three modules, you can mix and match which two you play with and give yourself three different variations to play with, or if you are feeling brave, go for all three! The game is also a stand alone prequel to Last Will, and if you want an even more ambitious game, it is able to be combined with Last Will.

Where this game suffered for me was the time it takes to play it. Unfortunately for me, my game group seems to be made up of people who suffer from analysis paralysis. The game itself is straight-forward, as are the moves, but you are presented with a lot of choices that can make some very interesting combos. Because of these choices and the analysis of combos, it's no wonder people can overthink this game. The game can play up to five players, but I generally only play it with two because I don't want a game to go on forever. This isn't necessarily a criticism of the game, more a tip to be aware of who you will play it with. So if you are looking for a worker placement game with a somewhat sinister/mischievous theme and a unique scoring system, I invite you to check out The Prodigals Club.

This game was provided to me by Czech Games Edition in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Alamo All-Stars (Abrams Books)

Alamo All-Stars is the sixth book in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series. The book begins very abruptly with talk of settling Texas. This is a departure from their usual lead-in of Nathan Hale, trying to stay his execution by telling a historical tale. However, it leads us to an introduction of Vicente Guerrero, who like Nathan Hale, is telling historical tales to try and stay his execution. This leads us to a mashup story, told from the side of the United States and Mexico.

Within this book, we see characters like General Santa Anna, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Stephen Austin. We also learn about the history of Texas' statehood and of course, the famous Battle of the Alamo. The story is really helped by the addition of Guerrero into this tale and helps adds perspective from both sides, which is something that is generally lacking in American History textbooks. On the inside of the book, we are presented with two maps. The first map is a layout out of the Alamo in 1836, which makes the stand all the more impressive. The second map is a military map that shows us all the battles fought in the Texas Revolution. At the end of the book are actual images of historical figures in this book and other resources, your child can read to learn more about this historic event.

Like the rest of the books in this series, this book is a graphic novel in format. The illustration style is inviting, and I believe young boys in particular will really get a lot out of this series. The book does a nice job of mixing humor into the history to make it more compelling and come alive off the page. I cannot recommend this series enough.

This book was provided to me for free by Abrams Books in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Kill Doctor Lucky Deluxe 19.5 Anniversary Edition

One of the very first games that I remember playing a child was Clue. At the time, I thought it was a very clever game of deduction and problem solving. While I still own a copy and will occasionally play it, I have moved on to different games. Recently, I was introduced to a game called Kill Doctor Lucky. On the surface, Clue and Kill Doctor Lucky have a lot in common. They both have a mansion, a murder, and colorful players/pawns. However, where the two games differ is VASTLY different. In Clue, you are trying to solve the murder. In Kill Doctor Lucky, you are trying to commit the murder. Kill Doctor Lucky has recently been re-released in a Deluxe 19.5 Anniversary Edition. It is designed for 2-8 players, ages 12+.  It takes about 30-45 minutes to play and retails for $40.

Setup - This is regular setup. For variants of setup, consult the rule book.
1. Lay out the player board. Close off a number of rooms, depending on the number of players.
2. Choose a pawn and the matching color card. (Note: The cards are double-sided.)
3. Place the Doctor Lucky pawn in the Gallery and all player pawns in the Drawing Room.
4. Remove unused player cards, and then shuffle all the other cards together to form a draw deck.
5. Deal each player six cards. Then set, the deck next to the board, leaving room for a discard pile.
6. Starting player is random, and play goes clockwise, unless Doctor Lucky causes the order to change.

Game Play - Each turn has two stages - Movement and Action.
1. Movement - You may take one free move (a step from one room to any adjoining room) or stay put. Hallways and stairways don't count as rooms and can be stepped through freely. You can play as many Move cards as you want to add one or two steps to your movement or simply move you directly to a specific room.
2. Action - You may only take one action per turn, and sometimes none.
a. Draw one card if you are in a room where no one can see you, including Doctor Lucky.
b. Attempt to kill Doctor Lucky if you are alone in a room with him and no one else can see you. When you attempt to kill him, you may play cards to increase your strength. Other players may then play one card to lower and eventually thwart your attack. You then discard all the cards, except one, and place it face down under your character card. This increases your killing strength by 1.
3. After your turn ends, Doctor Lucky moves to the next highest numbered room, i.e., from the Gallery (22) to the Master Suite (23). If he moves in a room occupied by someone else, it becomes that players turn.

The game ends when you are able to successfully kill Doctor Lucky and the other players can't play enough cards to thwart your attempt.

If you are a fan of The Simpsons, like myself, you are very familiar with the evil billionaire C. Montgomery Burns. When they did an episode about him being shot, everyone was a suspect, because he was so universally disliked. Kill Doctor Lucky made me immediately think of this episode. If you read your character card, you will see that Doctor Lucky has harmed all the people in some humorous way or another. One guy wants to kill him, because he gave away the secret to his magic trick. A paperboy wants to kill him, because he is weeks behind on payment. All of them are nonsense, in a funny way. However, he is called Doctor Lucky for a reason, and the reason is that he is just so hard to kill. When you do finally get him alone in a room to attempt the murder, you will most likely fail your first several attempts because other people are trying to foil you. Yes, they want him dead, but they want to be the one to do it.

The game smacks of flavor text on every card. The humor is a mix of subtle, corny, and silly, so there is something for everyone. The game play itself is simple to learn, and the board is not only double-sided but scales well, no matter the number of players. It does this by playing with fewer rooms and/or adding in Doctor Lucky's pets, which make it a bit more challenging to kill the miserable old man. Now, I don't condone murder at all,but after playing through this game several times, it is clear to me why this game has a cult following and has stood the test of time for 20 years. The game is a clear spoof of Clue, doesn't take itself too seriously, and has a high replay value. Unfortunately for me, my wife didn't like the game as much as I did, but I'm hoping I can get her to play it a few more times and win her over. If you like this game and want even more variety, check out the expansion called the Secret Lair of Doctor Lucky, which gives you an alternate board with a spy theme.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Abraham: Father of Faith and Works (Ignatius Press)

Footprints of God is a DVD series from Ignatius Press that is led by Steve Ray that walks us through important figures in salvation history. The key figures covered so far have included Jesus; Mary: Peter; Paul; Moses; David and Solomon; and the Apostolic Fathers. The most recent in the series is on Abraham.

Steve Ray begins by reading from the opening chapter of Genesis. He then shows us that he is on a boat in Iraq in the Euphrates River. He tells us the importance of this river, shows us how it connects to the Tigris, and talks about Mesopotamia being the cradle of civilization. He then recounts the Fall of Adam and Eve and The Great Flood. This takes us to the Tower of Babel and the idolatry of man. God was looking for one just and righteous man, Abram (later Abraham). Steve Ray then takes us on a cab ride to Ur, the place Abraham lived before he was called by God. We also see the famous ziggurat of Ur, which was dedicated to the god of the moon and speculated that Abram probably worshiped this god. We are then treated to museum-housed treasures from the past, such as jewelry, art, and musical instruments, and what those instruments would have sounded like. Lastly in Ur, we see the royal tombs also referred to as "death pits," because human sacrifice would not have been uncommon then.

Abraham is then called by God and traveled to Haran (modern day Turkey). Abraham was a family of shepherds, and the land of Haran was good for shepherding. After Abram's father died, God again told Abram to move and go to wherever God would lead him. This leads us to the land of Canaan. Steve Ray then gives us a crash course on what typology is, using the example of bread and wine given to Abram by Melchizidek (a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ). Abram is still without child, so Sarai (later Sarah) gives Abram her maidservant Hagar, and she conceives a child named Ishmael. Next comes the covenant that God established with Abraham. Steve Ray continues walking us through Scripture and Abraham's life, which is marked time and time again by his superior faith.

Steve Ray does a wonderful job blending Scripture, history, and culture into one great presentation. He takes you on site to places that you would only dream of visiting and points out interesting tidbits that you might have never heard before. What I like best about this program was the presentation style. I have watched many Catholic DVD programs and they all come off very polished and well-rehearsed (not that there is anything wrong with that). Steve Ray has a very relaxed presentation style that feels like he is casually speaking to you and not a camera. I mean he milked a goat and shot the milk straight into his mouth. It was both impressive and humorous. I look forward to watching the rest of the DVDs in this series.

This DVD was provided to me for free by Ignatius Press in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 4, 2016

A Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist (Catholic Answers Press)

Every year around this time, Christian publishers of all denominations come out with the one-a-day devotionals. Catholic publishers are not innocent in this respect either. There have been some very good ones, such as the little leatherette ones that TAN Books, and there have been some just okay ones. Personally, I don't like this style of book. Instead of getting a full text, you get a little snippet. I'd rather just read the whole work and put the snippet in its proper context. When I was offered a review copy of Catholic AnswersA Daily Defense: 365 Days (Plus One) to Becoming a Better Apologist, I admit that I groaned a little and initially declined. However, I was promised this wasn't your typical daily devotional, so I gave the book a shot. Here are my thoughts.

The book is laid out in a page-a-day manner. There is not a specific calendar day, i.e., January 1st, but instead Day One, Day Two, etc. At the beginning of each day a specific challenge to the Faith that Catholics face every day from atheists, agnostics, and sadly other Christians. This challenge is followed by a one-line defense to this challenge. The defense is then further elaborated on using Scripture, Church Documents, and the Catechism. At the end of most days is a tip for further reading on the subject. Here is a brief example from Day One:

Challenge: "I consider myself spiritual rather than religious. Why isn't that enough?"
Defense: Because God loves you and wants even better things for you.
Tip: A good book on the evidence for faith is the Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli.

Other challenges included in this book are Apostolic Tradition, Infant Baptism, Science, and the Resurrection to name a few. I found myself pleasantly surprised by this book. The amount of information that Jimmy Akin is able to pack into one page (roughly five minutes of reading time) is astounding. This daily book is not a devotional, it is a crash course in the faith. It is not just a book to help you deepen your faith, but one to help you defend it as well. So if you are looking for one book to read in 2017, I highly recommend A Daily Defense, and if you have students entering college, pick them up one as well, as they will most likely face attacks to the faith that they have never experienced before.

This book was provided to me for free by Catholic Answers in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

100 Swords (Laboratory)

You grew up in a small village your whole life. Every day was more drudgery and more of the same. Lately, you have been seeing your friends coming back with treasure and telling tales of dungeons, dragons, and even mammoths! (Whatever that may be) You grow weary of life passing you by and want to experience this adventure as well. One day you finally decide to leave this town, before you can talk yourself out of it again. Armed with an old pair of boots and a crappy sword, you embark on what you hope will be a quest for fame and fortune. This is 100 Swords100 Swords is a micro-deck building game for two players (with the potential for four players), taking approximately 25 minutes. Season One base decks retail for $15 and booster packs for $8. Season Two is currently on Kickstarter, so let's learn how to play the game!
1. Set aside the Boss Card you wish to use.
2. Give each player their Starting Deck. (This deck is composed of 6 Crappy Swords, 1, Awkward Sword, and 2 Boots.)
3. Designate an area for your personal Discard Pile and above that your Trophy Pile.
4. Place the three Rental Items (marked with an R) in reach of all players.
5. Shuffle all other cards face down to form the Dungeon Deck.
6. Draw nine cards from the Dungeon Deck and add the Boss Card to them. Shuffle those ten cards and place them at the bottom of the Dungeon Deck. (Note: If using a Dungeon Builder Set in addition to a base deck, you would then draw an additional five cards from the Dungeon Deck and place them below those ten cards.)
7. Draw five cards from the Dungeon Deck and place them face down in a row. This forms the Dungeon, and each card is considered a room in the Dungeon.
8. To the right of the Dungeon Deck, leave an empty space for the Vaporized Pile.
9. Have each player shuffle their Starting Deck and draw five cards to form their hand.
Game Play - The game plays out over a series of alternating turns until the Boss is defeated or the Dungeon Deck is emptied and there are less than five cards in the Dungeon. On your turn, you perform the following actions in order:
1. Rent any of the Rental Items before entering the Dungeon, using cards from your hand as Energy to pay the rental fees.
2. Using cards from your hand, use these cards as movement (Boot symbol), to Defeat Monsters (Fist Symbol), Acquire an item (Each card is worth one Energy/Lightning Bolt).
3. Discard any cards that you played this turn or left in your hand.
4. Slide the Dungeon cards from the right to the left to fill in any empty rooms and refill any empty rooms with cards from the Dungeon Deck until there are five rooms in the Dungeon again.
6. See if you met the win condition mentioned above. If not, draw your new hand of five cards from your deck, shuffling your discard pile if necessary to reform your deck, and the next player begins.

Game End - After the game ends, add up all the coins on your cards, both in your hand and in your discard pile. The player with the most coins wins.

Deck building games are one of my guilty pleasures when it comes to games. If there is a new deck builder out there, I want to try it. 100 Swords takes the mechanism, gives you multi-use cards, adds a memory element to it, and places it in the genre of a dungeon crawl to boot. This is a lot of bang both for your buck and for a deck of cards no bigger than a poker deck. Another positive for me are the graphics. They have an early video game system feel to them, which I like, and the symbols on all the cards are big enough to help you easily understand what the card can do, without being too big that it detracts from the artwork.

This is Season Two for the game 100 Swords. In Season One, we received two decks, Red Dragon and Blue Mammoth, and four expansions/Dungeon Builder Sets. Season Two is giving us two more decks, the possibility of another four expansions, and a multiplayer option (more on that later). With the ability to mix and match the base games and the expansions, This gives you loads of replay value and the ability to customize your game. The game is also super easy to learn and plays in under 30 minutes. This is both a positive and a negative for me. On the plus side, you can play a game or two during your lunch time. On the negative, for me at least, my wife wishes the game were a bit longer, because she feels like whenever she is getting into a game, it ends.

The only knock I had about this game came from Season One, and that was that the game only supported two players. Unless it is just you and your wife, or you and a friend, who play games, you would have to leave your family/friends out unless you had multiple decks and did it tournament style or something of that nature. The Multi-User Dungeon (M.U.D. for short) expansion pack now allows you to play the game with three or four players (assuming you have at least two decks of cards).

With a low price-point, small footprint, easy game play, quick playing time, and solid graphics, I can think of nothing wrong with this game. Season Two is currently on Kickstarter and I invite you to check it out. It is about halfway through its campaign, and while fully funded, it needs your support to make it better. I really appreciate/admire the way they are doing their campaign. Most campaigns set dollar figure goals to reach to make the game better. Laboratory, however, is using the system of number of backers. They realize that some people may only want/need/can afford one deck at this time, and others (like myself) want it ALL! So whether you pledge for one deck, or the whole kit and caboodle, your pledge makes a difference and essentially counts the same. So if this sounds like a game for you, and honestly, how could it not, go make this campaign a success, so eventually, we will get Season Three.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Dear Pope Francis (Loyola Press)

Books "written" by the Pope always carry a special weight to them. After all, he is the leader of over one billion Catholics worldwide. I can think of a lot of Pope Benedict XVI books that have caused me to stop, ponder, and walk away spiritually enriched. Recently, Loyola Press released a book called Dear Pope Francis. This book is "co-authored" by Pope Francis and 30 children from around the world. Within this book, each child wrote a letter to Pope Francis, and he took the time to personally respond to each of them. Some of the questions are as follows:

How did Jesus walk on water?
What did God do before the world was made?
When you were a child did you like dancing?
Why didn't God defeat the devil?
Do bad people have guardian angels too?
My mum is in heaven. Will she grow angel wings?
What can I, as a child, do to increase the number of Christians in my age group?

As you can see, the questions have a wide range in both depth and seriousness. However, Pope Francis doesn't discount any question as beneath him or too silly to answer. Instead, he answers each question with a thoughtful and age-appropriate answer. What I like best about the book is that he doesn't talk down to the children, thinking they can't understand tougher concepts or hard truth. At the end of the book is the background on how this book came to exist, which was also a bit fascinating to read. Reading through this book will be a gift not only for your children, but you as well, because it contains questions that adults probably would want to ask but would never have the courage to themselves. I highly recommend this book to all families and Catholic religion teachers.

This book was provided to me for free by Loyola Press in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

3 Wishes (Passport Game Studios)

The notion of a wish-granting genie in a lamp is a centuries old tale. It has been popularized in American culture by I Dream of Jeannie and Walt Disney's Aladdin. These as well as the original 1001 Arabian Nights has led people to dream of finding a magic lamp and having their every desire come true. Well with the game 3 Wishes from Passport Game Studios, you can now experience the next best thing! 3 Wishes is a game for 3-5 players, ages 8+. It takes 3-5 minutes to play and retails for $10.

Setup - The number of players dictates the number of cards you use.
1. If you are playing with five use all the cards. If playing with four, remove Immortality, Teleportation Grid, and Quantum Supercomputer. If playing with three, remove those three cards and Flight, Spaceship, and Universal Translator.
2. Shuffle all the cards you are using and place them face down in a pile.
3. Take the top card from the pile and remove it from the game.
4. Place the next top two cards face down in the middle of the table.
5. Each player draws three cards, looks at one of them, and then places all the cards face down in front of them.

Game Play - Beginning with the starting player, each player takes turns performing two of the following Actions:
1. Peek - Look at any card in front of any player or in the center.
2. Switch - Switch the position of any two cards. (Note: You can add a variant where when you swap, one of the cards must be yours.)
3. Shuffle - Shuffle the three cards in front of you. Put them back face down, and then look at one of them.
4. Declare End Game - This action may only occur in the fourth round or later. You may also only perform this action if its the only action on your turn.

End Game - Once End Game has been declared, the game is over and all players reveal their cards.
1. If a player has one card each of a Superpower, a Gift, and a World Harmony, they score the points on their cards, taking into account special rules. Most points wins.
2. If a player doesn't have one card each of a Superpower, a Gift, and a World Harmony, they lose.
Notes: If you have Time Travel at the end of the game, you automatically lose. If you have Cornucopia OR Cold Fusion, double the total points of your other cards. If you have both of those cards and meet the winning condition, you automatically win.

3 Wishes is the ultimate definition of a micro game. It has only 18 cards. It is very short to setup and explain the rules, and it plays even quicker than that. This is a very fun game and one that you can play with kids, new gamers, experienced gamers, etc. I originally introduced this game to my gamer group as an appetizer before longer games, but we ended up playing this game so many times that we never got to the game we were supposed to play. If you are looking for a game that has a mix of memory, strategy, and general fun, I recommend you add this game to your collection. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can't wait to play it with my son when he gets just a little bit older. Now, I only wish that I won this game more often.

This game was provided to me for free by Passport Game Studios in exchange for an honest review.