Monday, February 10, 2014

Going Out With a Bang: Top Ten Memories of 2013

This will be my last blog post.  Instead of fading out like I have been for the last year and a half, I am just going to call it.   11 years ago when I started blogging it served 3 purposes.  First, it was a way to keep people up to date about what I am up to.  This was back before social media was a thing.  With facebook, I am not very motivated to expand status updates into full posts.  Second, it was a means for me to write about viewpoints ad a continuation from my days of writing an op-ed column in college.  When it comes to political matters I now prefer to keep those to myself.  Over the years my status in church leadership has steadily increased, and as that has happened it as seemed more and more prudent to not allow for a wedge to be created.   When it comes to more theological posts, those have also decreased.  At Avon, I almost exclusively created my own youth group and Sunday school curriculum.  That was good, but the theological matters on my mind any given week were usually what I was working on, and I was not very motivated to re-write the things I had already been working on.   Someday, I might consider starting a ministry specific blog where I can post manuscripts of sermons and sh are the years worth of youth group lessons I have created.  The final purpose initially was to write about the things I enjoy, and that will continue as I continue to blog about board games that Abigail and I play together on our board game blog.  However, it does not make sense to re-post those things here.  Thus, this is my last post.

Abigail has been asking me to write this for like two months.  Every year I write about my top 10 memories, but we had a very hectic end of the year and January, and I kept putting this off.    As always the list is in descending order for dramatic effect.

10.  Surgery and Recovery
Not every memory is a positive one, but it is still a big memory.  That definatly describes this.  In December of 2012 I tore a minscus, and I had to have surgery in January.  It turns out that I hurt myself worse than initially thought and basically tore it in half.  This meant that after surgery I had to spend four weeks on crutches and keep weight off my knee as much as possible.  Now a year later, my knee is a lot better.  However, it will never be fully right again.

9.  Cincinnati Trip
It has been tradition to do a fun youth group trip over the summer and in 2013 we went to Cincinnati.  On this trip we went to Newport Aquarium, rode a duck, explored a conservatory, and wandered around the massive Jungle Jim's grocery store.  It was a really fun trip with a lot of participation, and it is a good memory.
8.  Chicago Trip
I got to take an eight weeks paternity leave in the Spring of 2013, and that was really appreciated.  Towards the end of that time we took a trip to Chicago.  We rode the train into the city, walked to Rain Forest Cafe and walked around the city.  Callie slept the entire time, but Connor loved it.  Now nine months later, he still talks about it.

7.  May Game Day
On May 4th (Star Wars Day!) the Game On! game group had an all day Star Wars game day.  We began that day with an 8 player game of Memoir '44.  When this WWII game is played with that many players it is a team game where one person for each team is a supreme commander who oversees the other three commanders.  In this game I was the overall commander for the defending French and Abigail was the overall commander for the Germans.  This was a really good game with a lot of back and forth.  Abigail started talking a lot of trash, until she finally made a bet that the loser would have to dishes for a week.  She was up in points when she said it, but  I took her up on it.  My side battled back and got the lead.  It got to the point where it was tied, but Abigail had better board position.  I took a gambit that would get the win, but required a die roll that had a 50/50 chance for success.  It succeeded, and victory has never been so sweet

6.  Meeting Wesley
In September, my sister and her family came over from England to visit.  It was nice to see Kristen and Matthew, but I really enjoyed getting to meet my nephew Wesley.  He is only three weeks younger than Callie.  It was really fun to see the two of them play together.

5.  Game On Game Con
In November, we took our occasional game days to the next level, by having an entire mini game con.  The event was over two days.  We had a few official events (including an awesome game of Werewolf that I moderated), and we had a silent auction.  We got several donations for that and we raised $500 for a local charity.

4.  Mission Trip  
I know every year I have been on a mission trip and made this list, the trip made the list.  In 2013 we once again went back to Nashville (same organization we went with in 2012).  We helped out with a program called Camp Skillz which is a day camp for children who came from impoverished areas.   In hindsight, this memory is a bit more poignant, because Edinburgh does not have a tradition of a youth mission trip.  That means this might be the last youth mission trip I get to participate on for quite some time.  

3.  Warhammer Invasion Tournament
Gen Con is consistently one of my favorite weeks of the year, and I especially liked that in 2013 it really was a full week for me.   The real highlight of Gen Con though was the Warhammer Invasion tournament.  While the game has a small following, it is a game that I played competitively.  I had several decent showings in tournaments, but at Gen Con I made it all the way to finals.  Going into the final game I was undefeated.  I id not manage to win, but I did finish second and the tournament was really exciting to play in.

2.  Preparing to Move
The last couple months of 2013 was a bit of a roller coaster of emotions as I began to discern how I could best fulfill my call into ministry.   I am not really going to go into details, but it is very evident to both Abigail and I how clearly God led us.  Until I got a phone call from my DS, I had no idea that I would be moving to Edinburgh.  However, it is clear to us that this is where God want us right now and the way it all came together was truly amazing.

1.  Callie is born 
Of course my best and biggest memory from 2013 is the birth of Callie on March 12th, 2013.  Of that day my best memory is the first hour or so after she was born.  For a couple of different reasons Callie had to spend a couple of hours in the NICU for observation.  I got to spend that first hour of her life with her, just the two of us (and the occasional nurse).  I know Callie will not remember that, but it is something I will never forget.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Gospel Economics

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In Indiana high school seniors have to take Economics.  At the Sr. High  prayer breakfast today we were talking about that subject.  Of course, no entry level discussion of economics is complete without someone mentioning the worn-out platitude/ eternal economic truth, "There is no such thing as a free lunch." 

Now I will admit, I have been wanting to have a pointless argument for a while, and this was a great chance to do so.  I disagreed with it, and one of the youth in AP Econ insisted it was true.  I did not deny the truth, but stated that the position when held as an absolute goes to some fairly absurd places.  I then proceeded to make this point with a (fairly) absurd hypothetical. 

In my hypothetical situation I created a hunter-gather society living in an isolated area where all of their needs were provided in abundance.   For someone living in that situation, eating two apples  is a free lunch.  Now I knew from an economic view point this is technically not true, but I went with it.  The youth stated it was not free because there was opportunity cost involved.  By eating the apples, there was a cost of not eating berries.  Another argued that there was a cost in time.  This was the point I was driving for, especially the time argument.   I created a hypothetical situation that lacked scarcity, and the only way to create a cost for the lunch was to essentially create scarcity where there was not any.  Survival is kind of a priority so to say giving up time to do so is kind of like saying that opportunity cost for breathing is giving up not breathing.  Technically, that is true, but it is absurd (which was my original point).

I still had a trump card though for the free lunch, and that is Manna from heaven.  The full details can be found in Exodus 16, but the summary is that God provided bread for the people of Israel.  They would wake up every morning, and there would be this special bread just sitting on the ground waiting for them to pick up, and it provided everything they needed for the day.  Someone tried to argue that there was cost to God, but I think when you are omnipotent and omnipresent opportunity costs really are not applicable anymore. 
This really got me thinking though about how economics are present in the bible.  The basic theme of economics is scarcity.  In fact, here is a text book definition of economics: " Economics is the study of how people make choices under conditions of scarcity and the results of those choices for society."
By and large our governmental policies and many of our personal actions are dictated by an economics of scarcity.  Our economic strategies (personal, business, and political) are based off of how we can secure what we want from the limited amount of resources. 

The bible would make a very poor Economics text book, because they economics promoted in the Bible is not a philosophy of scarcity but an economics of abundance.  The economics presented in the Bible presumes that there will not be scarcity.  If we look at Exodus 16 we see this.  The people were given all of the manna they needed for the day, but if they horded it then it went bad (Exodus 16:20).  In other words, if God's abundance was treated like a scarce resource it was worthless and wasted. 
Jesus most clearly lays out this Gospel of Abundance in his teachings.  There are multiple examples from the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:15-21) to Jesus sending out his disciples with barely the bare essentials (Matthew 10).  However, the most clear example of how Jesus understood econ is found in the Sermon on the Mount:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[a] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[b] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[c]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The basic idea is that instead of worrying about scarcity and building our lives and decisions around scarcity, we should trust in God's abundance to provide.  However, an economics of abundance goes a step further than this.   If we do not have to worry about scarcity then we have no reason to hold back our own resources and we have no reason to be a source of abundance for others.  This sort of giving in abundance is what we see from the Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is the same sort of giving in abundance we see in the church of Acts (Except for Ananias and Sapphira who stuck to scarcity economics strategies and it did not work out to well for them- Acts 5:1-11). 

Now I am not really advocating that we sell everything, give it all to the poor, and expect food to be on the ground for us every morning.  Then again, what if we did?   What if we trusted God to provide for us so much that we did not worry about tomorrow?  What if we stopped evaluating things in how can I get what I want out of the scarcity but instead evaluated things on how can I give out of abundance? 
Living that way does not require a supernatural intervention like the time that Jesus took five loaves of bread and 2 fish and used it to feed 5,000 men (plus everyone else) and still have 12 baskets left over.   It just requires a different approach.  A few years ago I too part in an annual conference service project.  The plan was to have people divide by districts, eat lunch together, and then serve.  There was mix up in the lunch delivery, and the place I was gathering was really short on lunches.  What happened is that people began sharing.  Instead of evaluating things on scarcity people gave out of abundance, and everyone ate.  There was no supernatural multiplication of the food, there was just a different way of looking at things.  Opportunity cost did not apply.  The chips and half a sandwich I gave up was not a loss or cost for me, because I viewed it as an abundance that I was sharing not a scarce resource I was spending.   

I will try my hardest not to make any direct political statements, but since we are in the middle of a government shut down that is at least partially related to spending, I can not help but think what would happen if on a national level how things would change if we went from an economics of scarcity to the gospel based economics of abundance.  I have a sneaky suspicion that we would have a lot less problems and we would see that resources and wealth are not as scarce as we always treat them.

Monday, October 07, 2013

An Almost Sports Fan

I am really not that big of a sports fan.  I will casually play just about any sport, but I am not that big on watching sports.  For me both baseball and football are too slow.  Basketball (especially NBA) is just not interesting to me, and I suppose I could say the same about hockey.  They just are not my thing.  However, there are some sports that I do like, and I could see myself really getting into if I knew how to.  So here are the sports that I am almost a fan of.

I really do enjoy soccer.  It is a great team game that has a good mix of teamwork and shows of individual skill. When a team sets up an attack on goal, it is exciting, and  at 90 minutes, the game is also the perfect length.  Sadly most American do not agree with me.  There are dedicated networks for Soccer, but we do not have cable, and network coverage of MLS is spotty at best.  Right now, my soccer watching is mostly restricted to the World Cup and Olympics.  However, this is a sport I could find myself enjoying more.

Roller Derby
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So in fairness, I have only watched Roller Derby once, but  I found it a lot of fun.  Earlier this year, we did get Impact City Roller Derby, a board game on the sport. Playing that game has opened up my appreciation for this unique sport that is both fast paced and physical.  Roller Derby is very much not main stream, so the only way to watch it is to go to bouts.  Unfortunately it seems the local team seems to play somewhat irregularly, and it seems they only play when I can not make it.

Rally Racing
So honestly I find NASCAR a little boring.  It is all left turns and it seems like only a few of the hundreds of laps seem to really matter.  Plus it seems like pit strategy is more important than on the track racing at times.  Road course racing like IRL or Formula 1 is a little better, but it is still a little boring because passing is so irregular.  I like Rally Racing though because it is always exciting.  Even though there is no passing, the drivers compete on technically challenging courses at insane speeds.  The racing is time trials and the drivers all push it as hard as possible, so there is always tension if they can keep control of the car.  While Rally racing is an international sport, it is not an American sport and it is even harder to find and follow than soccer.

So those are the sports that I could be a fan of.  Do you know how I can follow them better?

Turning the lights back on . . .

I have had some breaks in blogging over the past 11 years (hard to believe it has been that long!), but  I think that this might be the longest break I have had.

Essentially what happened is that Abigail had a post she really wanted me to write.  I did not know how to write it, so I wrote nothing. . . and then time just started passing.

However, I want to keep writing, so I need to start back up . .. which we will do now.  Hopefully, you have an RSS feed and this comes back on.  

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Top 30 Board Games of All Time (2013 Edition)

Yay!  It is May which means I can make one of my favorite annual post, my top board games.  Since 2009 I have posted this list annually.  It started off as a top 10.  Last year, I expanded it to top 20, and this year I am going to top 30.  Currently, I have played a little over 650 board games.  That means that the top 30 is still less than the top 5% of all the games I have played.  These are all games that I really like, and that I am always willing to play some more.  Another reason to expand to 30 is that my game preferences are really starting to solidify, and there is not as much variance as there have been in past years.  For instance, there is only one new game in the top 10 and two new games in the top 20 (though the positions have switched some). Since I know everyone reading this may not be as familiar with board games, I have tried to post a picture that gives some idea what the game looks like being played.  All pictures come from  The number in parentheses is where the game is in relation to last year's list.  As always, the list is descending order for dramatic effect.

30.  Ca$h n Gun$
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This made my list back in 2010, but slipped off of it since.  Cash n Guns is not a very deep game.  It is essentially Mexican Stand-off the game.  Often personal vendettas have more to do with what happens than making the best move.  The game involves pointing a foam gun at people.  That is fun, involves a lot of laughter, and makes for a good experience.  This is a game that can not be played repeatedly because the gameplay does wear a little thin, but this is a fantastic game to bring out every now and then.

29.  Frontline: D-Day
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I have had this game for a couple of years now, but it is a new addition to the list because every time I play it, I think "wow! I like this game."   This game is a WWII skirmish game that is played entirely with cards.  This game has two major things going for it.  First, it is a card game that captures the feel of a miniatures game.  Players customize their squad with a points system, deploy them units, and the whole game set up is a skirmish like most miniatures game.  However, the game plays  nothing like a miniatures game.  Second, it is a good card game that just happens to be a war game.  This means this game is the closest Abigail will ever get to playing a miniatures game with me AND it is a war game that she legitimately enjoys.

28. Homesteaders
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Homesteaders makes the list because this game has a lot going for it.  I am not the biggest fan of auction games, but this is clearly my favorite.  I like the auctions in this game because the amount is controlled by the game, so it is a lot easier to determine the value of a tile being auctioned since I have a limited number of possibilities.  This game also involves managing workers to collect resources, which are used to build buildings, which provide more options.  This game provides a lot of options and it is very satisfying to build something that works well in this game.

27.  Agricola (-15)
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This game had the biggest plunge of any game, but it is also the only game on the list that we do not own.  We traded the game, because after many plays Abigail decided she really did not like the game because it was just too stressful.  This game is stressful, and it feels like it is always kicking me when I am down.  However, what I like about this game is no matter how stressful it is, no matter how badly things go, at the end of the game my farm is working.  I may not win the game, but I always feel happy because I accomplished something.   That keeps the game on the list, but the fact that my options to play it are far and few between has dropped it quite a bit.

26.  Citadels  (-6)
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I have played this game a good deal, I just have not played it for a little over a year.  That lack of playing is probably the biggest reason for the drop, because I still like the game.  Citadels is a hidden role game.  Players are using money to build buildings, and to help accomplish this they take turns picking a secret role that grants special abilities.  I really enjoy the mind games that go with this as everyone tries to figure out what role people took.  This is one of the older games on the list, and at game groups usually new games are more likely to be played  That means it might be hard to get this one played, but I would like to soon.

25.  Village
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This is one of the newer games on the list.  This can be considered a "cube pusher" where players use resource cubes and turn them in for something else, and then some how turn that something else into points.  One of the reasons why I like this game is that it adds several new elements to the standard mix of euro game mechanisms.  First, the action a player takes is tied to the resource they take.  Often player take an action to get a resource, but in this one it is switched.  Sometimes players will take a resource they do not need because they want the action.  Second, this game does involve placing worker and workers die during the game.  The fact that workers have a lifespan makes for some very interesting decisions.

24.  Hammer of the Scots
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This is a fantastic war game that covers the Scottish rebellion led by William Wallace.  I really enjoy the asymmetrical play of the game.  England and Scotland play completely differently.  I also really like the block game mechanisms.  Units are represented by blocks.  This introduces a fog of war aspect, and the way the blocks and game mechanisms work together is very intuitive.

23.  Crayon Rails Games  
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This one might be cheating a bit, as it is a whole series of games.  However, each game is mostly the same (a few we do not have add new elements) but is just played on a different map.  The picture is of British Rails, which is the one we have played the most.  However, we also have Australian Rails and Nippon Rails.  Empire builder, which is the US map, is on our shortlist of games we want.  This is a pure pick up and deliver game where players build track connecting cities.  They then move on their tracks to make money by delivering goods between the various cities.  This game has a bit of a race aspect to it, as the winner is the first one to reach a certain profit level.  This game also has a a good sense of progress to it.  At the end of the game it is fun to look back and see how my railway developed.

22.  King of Tokyo 
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This is a dice game where Godzilla style monsters play king of the hill.  It is probably the simplest game on the list, but it is so much fun to play.  Players bash each other and try to earn the most points by staying in Tokyo.  There is a lot of luck pushing, and optional power cards that can be purchased really add a lot of variability.  The game is been out awhile, but we just acquired it in January and it is one of our most played games this year.

21.  Settlers of America
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Settlers of Catan made my first list back in 2009, but as I played more game it slid back.  This version of Catan is probably my favorite.  It has a lot of the same elements of Catan such as rolling dice to collect resources, trading resources with other players, and using those resources to build on a board.  However, it adds a pick up and deliver aspect as well.  Players have to build train track to connect to other people's cities and then deliver goods to them with their trains.  This added aspect to the classic Catan formula really makes an old classic something new and awesome for me.  We still have and play the original game, but this is really my Catan game of choice.

20.  Havana (-6)
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Two years ago this was in my top ten, so it has fallen back some.  However, this is still a game I greatly enjoy.  Like Citadels this is a role selection game where players choose rolls to gain resources and build buildings.  Unlike Citadels, everyone has their own set of role cards and has two rolls each turn.  This creates a lot of trying to out guess and out maneuver other players.   I also feel like this is kind of a hidden gem game, because it seems that unless I have played it with them most people I play games with have never heard of this one.

19.  Empires of the Void
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From last year, there are two games that are new additions to my top 20.  This is one of them.  This is a big space opera game where players build fleets of ships and fight for control of a dying space empire.  It is epic in scale, but plays in three hours or less.  The rules are fairly straight forward so this is an easy game to get into.  A lot of gamers prefer Eclipse for this sort of thing, and it is a good game.  Empires of the Void has a stronger emphasis on fighting and that suits me much better.

18.  Manoeuvre 
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This game stayed in the same place it was at last year, and I feel about the same as I did last year.  I still find this to be a fun game that offers a lot of replayability.  I really enjoy the use of cards to control the units an dice for combat.  It may be very abstract, but it still feels like a wargame.  Plus, this is another game on the elite list of wargames that Abigail acutally enjoys.

17.  Glen More (-4)
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I feel like this is a very clever game.  In Glen More players build their own little area of Scotland one tile at a time.  Players have to be very clever in how they place and activate their tiles.  Plus, players have a lot of control over which tiles they get.  However, taking a tile further around the line means waiting longer for the next turn.  This means every turn players face a decision where they have to measure their long term goals with the short term gain.  I really like the mixture of strategy and tactics this game presents.

16.  Kingdom of Solomon 
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In a lot of ways this is just "another euro."  This game really does not offer anything new.  What it does though is take elements from a lot of different euro games and packages them into something new.  This game is a worker placement game, but it is more than a worker placement game.  It is an area control game, but it is more than an area control game.  It is a resource management/building game but it is more than that.  This game is a lot more than the sum of its parts and makes for a very enjoyable game.  

15.  Yomi
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Yomi is a Street Fighter style fighting game played with cards.  The game makes great use of a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic, and simultaneous turns.  It really does capture the heart and soul of a fighting game.  This is a game that I would like to invest more time in, but I do not get to play it is as often as I like.  I know there is a popular online implementation, but I am a little intimidated by it to be honest.

14.  Last Night on Earth  (+2)
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Last Night on Earth rises two spots, because Zombies shamble on.  I like Zombies and this is the best zombie game I have played.   The game has potential for a bad session when luck stacks up in a way so that one side has a super easy win, but usually this is a great zombie filled adventure with a strong narrative and a lot of dice throwing.

13.  Ninjato (+6)
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I had only played this game a few times when it made the list last year at #19.  I have played the game multiple times since then, and it has climbed even higher in my liking.  This game offers a lot of interesting choices as players have very few actions throughout the course of the game.  It also has an exciting "push your luck" component that can make or break a turn if players are not careful.   The ninja theme is also a big plus, and it is implemented extremely well.  Mechanically, this is a pure euro game, and I wish all euro games had theme come out so well.

12.  Core Worlds (-1)
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Core Worlds is a deck building game, but it is different than most deck builders available.  In this game players will build their space Empire by recruiting forces and invading worlds.  Players have to be smart about managing resources, and since cards are drafted from a common pool it is important to pay attention to what other players are doing.  This game has a fun sense of progression.  It is neat to go from having grunts and fighters to battle cruisers.  All the while the number of planets under my banner slowly grows.  I already like the game, but we have read multiple places that the expansion really makes the game better.  We recently got it, but we have not had a chance to play with it yet.

11.  ElfBall  (-3)
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This game dropped out of my top 10 this year.  The biggest reason is that ElfBall is the type of game that really rewards a lot of repeated plays.  There are rules for team progression and upgrades (and some would argue they are  the real meat of the game) that I have not even played with.   Despite that, I still really like this game of Fantasy Football (or Rugby really).  I like that this game is fairly easy to play while not feeling shallow and that it has a lot of back and forth.

10.  London  (-1)
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Sadly, due to all of game playing/blog project it has been a year since I last played this game.  Despite that long of an absence this is still one of my favorite games.  While there is an area control element present on the board, this is primarily a card game.  The game requires careful planning and allows for some really clever combos as cards interact together.   It is a shame that it has been so long since we last played, and that needs to be fixed soon.

9.  Blood Bowl: Team Manager (-3)
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Last year, this was still a fairly new game and I think the new game shine had not quite worn off yet, which is why it jumped so high up in my rankings.  Now that I have had it for another year, it drops a bit but it still one of my top ten favorite games.   I really like the the fantasy football theme, and I like the tactical duels that take place every round.  The game has multiple teams, and each team plays a little differently .  This is a fairly light and quick game, but it is always a very fun game.

8.  A Touch of Evil (+2)
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This continues to be a game that I thoroughly enjoy.  Last year, a new expansion came out making the board even bigger (as pictured).  Despite the fact that there games that are objectively better and less clunky I love this game because it always has such a strong narrative.  This game tells a story, and it is a story of high adventure and thrilling horror.  I like playing role playing games, but Abigail hates them.  Playing a Touch of Evil is probably the closest I will get to playing a RPG with her.

7.  Small World
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This game is one of four games that has been every single one of these lists that I have made.  There is a good reason for this, because the game is so much fun.  This is an in your face conflict game, but the lack of player elimination softens the fighting a bit.  This game has a perfect mix of long term strategy and short term tactics.  It also has a lot of variability in the way the races and powers combine.

6. Resistance/Resistance: Avalon  (-1)
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The Resistance and The Resistance Avalon are essentially the same game with a couple of variant rules built into the different boxes.  This game is all about social interaction.  Some people are bad, some people are good.  The good people are trying to complete missions and the bad are trying to prevent it.  This game has a lot of arguing, a lot of lying, a little back stabbing.  This is one of the favorite's of our game group, so I have played it quite a bit.  Every time it is a lot of fun.

5.  Dominion (-2)
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This is another game that has been on the list every year.  This is the classic deck building game, where players start off with a small starter deck, buy cards from a random set of available cards to improve their deck and get the most points.  This is a classic design that has proven to be something special based on the large number of games it has inspired.  We have all of the expansions so we are guaranteed to have a different experience every time we play.

4.  Race for the Galaxy
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Race for the Galaxy moved back ahead of Dominion for me, which kept it at the same spot as last year.  Dominion does have a lot more variation and options, but that is only because of the expansions.  Race for the Galaxy, even with just the base set, is always fun and never feels played out for me.  The game has a perfect mix of strategy and tactics, luck and skill, player interaction and doing my own thing.  For me this is one of the best designed games there is, even if the learning curve is high.

3.  Federation Commander (+14)
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Last year I had only played this game a couple of times, and put in my #17 spot.  I have played it a good deal since then and I absolutely LOVE this game.  I could gush and gush about how good this game is.  To put it in a nutshell, this game transcends the counters and hexes, it rises above the mechanics, and really makes me feel like I am in the captain's chair on a starship.   The only reason why this is not my #1 game is because Abigail HATES this game, and how much I can play the game with her really influences my opinion on a game.

2.  Warhammer: Invasion 
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This game continues to be my second favorite game ever.  It also continues to be my most played game.  Chances are that by the time Gen Con is over in August, I will have played this game over 500 times.  I really like that it is easy to keep up with the Living Card Game model and get all of the cards.  I like building my decks, and I really like the interesting decisions in resource management this game provides.

1.  Memoir '44 
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For the third year in a row, this continues to be my favorite game.  I really like how much this game offers.  At this point this game is really more of a system for simulating WWII battles than a game.  The rabbit hole goes fairly deep.  For example, in December my wife and I played this game and in order to play the scenarios we played required five different expansions.  This game offers a whole lot, and every time I play it I find myself liking the game a little bit more.  Memoir '44 continues to be my absolute favorite game of all time (for another year anyway).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Issue That Divides Our Times

My post list is littered with drafts of post that I have attempted to write on this topic.  On multiple occasions I have started a post and then abandoned it.  The topic of course, is homosexuality-specifically homosexual marriage (or marriage equality if that is the way you prefer to address the issue).  I always stop because I am aware of my position.  As an ordained pastor, I need to be very mindful about what I post on the internet because it is all public.  I am mindful that everyone has an opinion, and I usually just assume most people disagree with mine.  I have stopped myself, because I had to ask, what fruit does throwing my opinion out there.  If a member of the church reads what I have to say, will it be edifying or will it be divisive?  The answer of course, with this issue anyway, is that it will be divisive.  This is an issue that EVERYONE has a firmly entrenched opinion in, and no matter how eloquently I try to explain why I am right, it is not going to really change any minds or build anyone up in anyway.     

However, this issue is coming to a head and one way or the other will be a watershed moment in our collective history.  I am sure you are all familiar with this symbol by now.
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If you have a facebook account (or twitter account, or instagram account, or you know a computer) then you have seen this equal sign plastered everywhere.  It's ubiquity shows that this issue has gone from a fringe issue to one that occupies the public consciousness.  The popular way to deal with this issue is through simple inaction and delay, but I do not think that will work much longer.  As I said, it is coming to a head.

I will not be offering my opinion on the subject in this blog post, and if I do it right you will not know which way I fall (feel free to try and read between the lines if you like though).  However, I have a couple of observations on the issue that I feel are usually overlooked in the debate (and mostly name calling) that surrounds the issue of marriage right now.

The thing with marriage is that it is a very complex term, and when someone refers to marriage they are using the one word to simultaneously refer to three different institutions.

First, marriage is a religious institution.  I realize people who do not claim any faith get married as well, but for many people marriage is a first, and foremost a religious ceremony and spiritual event.  Often the people who oppose homosexual marriage oppose it from the religious basis.  I do not need to quote chapter and verses the scriptures that reference homosexuality as a sin-we all know they are there.   I am also very well aware that for every single verse, there is an interpretation or rationalization as to why that verse does not truly condemn homosexual marriage as a sin.  Since I am not giving my opinion I will not comment on the legitimacy or fallacy of those interpretations.  I think if the people (especially the people of faith) who are in favor of homosexual marriage are honest, then they have to admit that it is fully possible that someone can honestly come to oppose homosexual marriage on religious grounds.  What I wish we could all agree upon is that some people oppose homosexual marriage out of religious conviction.  That does not mean these people are bigoted or homophobic, it means they are trying to live a faithful life by not comprising their faith based beliefs.  

Second, marriage is a legal institution.  When two people get married they change their legal standing and their legal relationship.  There are certain legal rights and responsibilities that come with agreeing to be bound to another person.  There are hundreds of homosexual couples who live their lives together, like heterosexual married couples, but are denied basic things like family hospital visitation.  Often, when people speak of support of homosexual marriage, they are speaking from this legal perspective.  I think that if the people (especially the people of faith) who oppose homosexual marriage are honest, then they have to admit that this is unfair and that it can even be unjust.  I do question if the current conflict over homosexual marriage has the same weight and significance as the civil rights movement did, but there are clearly some issues of fairness that need to be resolved.

Third, marriage is a social institution.  To be married in our society means something.  People view and understand themselves differently if they are married rather than single.  Society has a certain understanding of what it means to be married, and what marriage is suppose to be like.  The current conflict over marriage is largely about the social institution of marriage, and how we as a society understand marriage.  If the conflict over homosexual marriage was based in the religious institution  then only churches would be having the debate.  If it was only the legal institution of marriage that was being debated, then those on the pro-side would be perfectly happy with civil unions.  However, it seems that ship has sailed.  Those in favor of allowing homosexual marriage do not just want the legal rights, it is now about having social acceptance.  Those opposed to homosexual marriage, oppose how society defines marriage because a change in the social definition will put a more traditional understand of the religious institution of marriage at irreconcilable odds with the larger culture.  

The fight is over the social institution of marriage.  The problem though is those opposed to homosexual marriage argue with understandings of marriage from the religious understanding, while those in favor if it argue from the legal understanding.  This means, that both sides essentially talk past each other.   Both sides feel like they have simultaneously fully articulated their point and been completely ignored by the other side.  This is more than comparing apples and oranges.  It is like one side is using apples the other side oranges, and they are trying to describe a pear.

Because the social institution is what the debate is about, then I think that society should decide.  A lot of people are hoping that the Supreme Court decision on California's proposition eight and DOMA will give momentum to their side.  I hope the supreme court does know such thing.  This is an issue that we the people need to decide on, not a court.     This is happening in 2012 three states voted to allow homosexual marriages.  Of course,  in that same year North Carolina  joined the list of states that added to their state constitution provisions that banned homosexual marriage.  That is why this is the issue that divides our times. With each election more states are going to pick their side, and we are going to keep picking different sides. Right now 29 states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as only between a man and woman, while ten states allow same sex marriages.  The  other 11 states (including Indiana) are going to have to go one way or another, because public opinion will demand it one way or the other.

I am very interested in how this develops.  I read every news story related to this issue, because it has PROFOUND implications for the church as an institution   However, since I am not giving my opinion I will not comment on that.  

I am not sure if this post has any real meaning or  really adds anything.  But it has been floating in my head for years at this point and I finally glad to get it out, so thanks for reading (or at least scrolling down to the end and reading this).

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Comic Book Post

The last time  I wrote about comics was a little over a year ago   At that time I had been reading a few issues of the New 52 relaunch for about six months.  Since then I have continued to stick with it, so this post is about what I am currently reading.

In September of 2011, DC comics hit the reset button on their entire universe creating a new jumping on point for people, and it worked. I am one of the new readers they drew in, and I know I am not the only one.  As of right now, I monthly read three titles.   Batgirl continues to be my favorite.  I explain why in my previous post, I liked to.  The story telling in Batgirl continues to be very well done, and Barbara Gordon is very easy to relate to.  She has a certain "everyman" appeal to how she is being written.  This series has me completely hooked, and more than any other I am in it for the long haul.

I also continue to read Batman, because it is Batman.  Batman has continued to be excellent.  I occasionally check in on some comic blogs/news sites and the word "legendary" is getting used a lot with this current run of Batman. For the most part the Batman series has consisted of two long story lines.  The first, the Night of the Owls, but Batman against a new foe, the Court of Owls- the secret controllers of Gotham City.  The second big story line was Death of the Family which was the biggest Joker vs. Batman story ever.

  I have continued to stick with All Star Western as well.  This is a Western(ish) series that places bounty hunter Jonah Hex in a 19th century Gotham City.  I have enjoyed the series, but I feel like the stories keep ending to quickly.  Each story arc has a great set up, an outstanding cliff hanger, and then a super rushed ending.  It has not helped, that for several months the back up story was one that I really did not like or care for.   I think at some point Hex is going to have to leave Gotham, and when he does that might be a good jumping off point for me as well.

One of the main reasons, why I am considering dropping All Star Western is because I want to keep the number of comics I read down to a manageable number.  If I am not careful, I could easily see my monthly "pull list" ballooning.   I read these on the iPad, which has several advantages.  One of the disadvantages though is pressing download and entering a password does not always feel like real money.

There are a couple of series I am considering branching out in.  For the past couple of months, I have been reading Red Panda.  This is a very pulpy hero who uses science to fight against supernatural forces.  The first two issues have been really fun, and they have also only cost 99 cents, which has been a big plus.

I also the past couple of months have checked out Green Arrow again.  Green Arrow is a super hero I like, and who I started reading at the beginning of the New 52 reboot.  However, I dropped the series for a variety of reasons.  The series got a new creative team, who are giving it a strong noir type of feel. I really want to get back into this series, and I like the idea of sticking with the current arc and seeing where it goes.

Last month, I also picked up the new Justice League of America (with the Indiana cover!)
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This was a fantastic first issue, and I really want to read more.  However, I want to keep the total number of series I am reading down to four.

The New 52 reboot was so successful for DC comics that Marvel (the other big comic company) wanted in on it, and has the Marvel Now initiative going on.  This is not quite a reboot like the DC one.  All of the Marvel comics universe contuinity is still present.  However, they coordinated it so that all of their flagship titles are at a good jumping on point, and to show that they re-titled many of them and started them back over at #1.   This was a few months ago, and as a promotion they recently made all of the Marvel Now #1s free for a limited time.  I read them all, and I only really liked a couple of them.  Even though they had series at good jumping on points, I still fell lost in some of them.  This was especially true for FF #1 and New Avengers #1.  I did like Savage Wolverine quite a bit, and the first issue did leave me wanting to read more.

Of the Marvel books, the ones I liked the most were Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Arena
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I liked the Sci-fi super hero take of Guardians of the Galaxy.  Other than Iron Man, who was kind of squeezed in, I was not familiar with many of the characters, but the 24 pages that introduced them made them all seem interesting and left me really wanting to know more about them, and what was going to happen next.

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Avengers Arena is essentially The Hunger Games with super heroes, which sounds like an awesome concept.  Of all the Marvel books this is the one that I would want to read.  Reading the Marvel books is a hard sale for me though.  One of the advantages of the DC comics is that a month after they are released the price drops by $1.  This means that I have been reading the issues one month behind their actual release.  Marvel does not drop prices like that, and many Marvel books cost $3.99 (as opposed to the DC $2.99).  Still, Avengers Arena  is one that I might like to get when the issues get collected into trade paperback form.

I was really big into comic books in middle school and early high school.  My involvement with them this time is much more restrained, but I think I might be in for the long haul.  Connor is really starting to show an interest in comic books.  For example, this evening for a bed time story I "read" him two Batman comics.  That, by the way, was his choice (and it was 100% unprompted).  We have taken two trips together to the comic book store, and he absolutely loves going there and looking around.  Since his birth, one of my small hopes is that comic books is something that Connor and I could share together, and it looks like that might be happening.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mandatory catch up post

I think that it is now an established tradition that in February/March I sort of just disappear from this blog.  I think it has happened more years than not.  

This year it happened for a couple of reasons.  First, February kind of kicked my butt.  I spent the majority of it on crutches, and I also spent it super buys getting ready to be on paternity leave.

Second, Callie was born.
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Since her birth, I have been on paternity leave and it has been a true blessing.  For the past four weeks, I have been home and I have been able to help Abigail with the care of Callie.   This was extremely important the first couple of weeks home from the hospital because Abigail needed some extra assistance, and it was good the next two weeks because Connor did not have preschool because of spring break.  I have a little of anxiety about being away from ministry for so long, but I know that that is anxiousness I need to let go of.   We have a college intern covering youth group, and ministry can survive with out me being present for a few weeks.

I am very thankful that the United Methodist Church is willing to support families by having such a generous leave policy, and I am even more thankful that they did not reserve it just for mothers but extended it to fathers as well.  I am also thankful that Avon UMC has been so supportive in me taking the leave.  I suppose someone somewhere might be upset about it, but I have received nothing but positive affirmation of it.

So far Connor has been the best big brother.  He is always sweet and gentle with Callie.  He is always wanting to hug her, he says "awww" everytime she opens her eyes, and he is quick to share toys with her (as long as he can take them back!)   He does not stress out when she is crying and overall has been a great kid.

Callie is not quite yet sleeping at night like we would like, but she is only one month old so that will come.

Now that Connor is back to pre-school, I feel like there is now a little bit of time to do things like write blog post, which I plan on doing now that I got this one out of the way.