Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's be Creative

So I successfully completed my really major goal for this year, which was finishing seminary, but I have a couple of other goals that I would like to complete this year, and those are both creative endeavors. One of the things I want to do is participate in National Novel Writing Month, which is November. I have never written a novel, but joining with thousands of others to try to do it in a month sounds like a worthwhile activity. I don't really have any ideas right now as to what I would write, but I have until November to figure that out.

However, the creative activity I would like to between now and November is make my own board/card game. I did this once in college (it simulated a fighting game style kung-fu fight), and since then I have had a lot of half ideas. My goal would be to fully develop a game and post it as a print and play game on the website boardgamegeek. I think the best way to acomplish this is to pick one of my ideas and run with it. Of course I have had a lot of them, so as best as I can describe them, which one sounds best to you?

idea #1: I actually semi-created this game about five years ago. The idea is that each person creates a gladiator and then fights it out with dice rolls and a small pool of selected tactics cards. This game essentially takes character creation of a Role Playing Game and distills it down to player vs. Player combat.

idea #2: This game would be a simple strategy game that uses dice to recreate video game style shooting matches. The base mechanic would be "rock-paper-scissors" So grunt soldiers would be strongest against scouts, scouts would be stronger against heavy soldiers, and heavy soldiers would be strongest against grunt soldiers. Each solider type would have their own unique attributes and abilities, as well as their own deck of weapons and special cards. In addition to that, each unit type has a terrain type that they are strongest in, and the game board would be modular so various "maps" could be made. Video game style matches such as capture points, attack/defend, and CTF would be played with this game.

idea #3: This game would be a 2 player deduction game. There would be X amount of tiles and the tiles would be arranged in some sort of grid. Each tile represents a person attending some sort of diplomatic ball in the cold war era. One player controls two of them and the other player controls the rest of them. The player controlling the majority of the tile secretly selects one tile to be the undercover spy. The player controlling two tiles secretly selects one to be the CIA contact and the other to be the KGB contact. The goal of the game for the player controlling the majority is to survive so many turns, or successfully say the pass phrase to the CIA agent. The other player attempts to catch the undercover agent with the KGB agent. The player controlling the CIA/KGB will move one and then select an adjacent tile to say the pass phrase to. The other player can then have so many tiles exchange places. I think this could be a good game of cat and mouse, while the one player tries to root out the undercover agent, and the undercover agent player tries to hide out or deduct who the CIA agent is.

idea #4: This game idea is heavily inspired by the video game Rainbow Six Vegas. The players each control a small special forces team and rely heavily on cover to either eliminate the other team or plant a bomb. One of the ways I envision this game working is that players take their moves simultaneously instead of being a turn based game.

idea #5: This game idea has inspiration from the video game Fable. It is a card game where players play various cards that essentially generate "resources" of combat prowess, renown, and acumen. So for example a player might play a card called "Married for Money" that will generate +2 Acumen per turn, but in order to play that card the player needs a renown of 8 (which other cards would have earned him). The goal is to get high enough ratings in these three areas to successfully complete quest cards that are worth victory points. When a quest is completed all of the cards currently in play for a player except one are discarded, and the player begins working on a new quest. To draw cards, players can do a blind draw or there will X amount of cards turned up that players can buy by using their resources. However to buy these cards will essentially be an auction of sorts and this will be how players have more direct interaction in this game.

idea #6: This is an idea that I have only thought about in the past couple of months while playing a lot of Left 4 Dead on the Xbox and Dominion on the table. It would be a Zombie card game. The goal would be to live longer than the other players. Each player would take turn picking various mini-decks that represent locations. The mini decks would be combined to make a larger communal deck. This does not have the deck building of Dominion exactly, but it would still allow for a lot of variety. As this is one of my most recent ideas, I have not been able to throughly think out the mechanics.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Top Ten Favorite Board/Card Games

I have always liked board games, and I am always up for a game of just about anything. I also like top ten list, and it has been a while since I have posted one. So this seems like a good reason to post my top ten board/card games in dramatic descending order.

10. Citadels
Citadels is a fun game for a group of people. Each person takes a role every turn that gives them different bonuses and benefits. The goal is to get the most points building a city. What makes the game interesting is the roles change every turn and some of the roles like Assassin and Thief target other players. There is a lot of intrigue in this game as players try to figure out who has what role. I like this game because it has simple strategic decisions and a lot of social interaction.

9. Say Anything
This is the best party game that I have ever played. It is sort of like the more popular Apples to Apples, only much better. One player ask a question, and then everyone else writes any answer they want for that question. The question asker then secretly picks the answer they like and everyone else bets on what they picked. It always leads to a lot of laughs. I have played Say Anything with several different groups of people and it always goes well.

8. Blue Moon City
Blue Moon City is a board game relative to a card game I really like called Blue Moon. This game is kind of hard to describe. Players are trying to rebuild a city, and they play sets of cards to do so. I have only played the game with two players, but it supports four and I would love to do that sometime.

7. Pandemic
Everyone that I have taught this game to as really liked it. Pandemic is a co-operative game where up to four players work together to save the world from deadly viruses. What I really like about this game is when we lose it feels like we were about to win. When we win it feels like we almost lost. I am really looking forward to the expansion that comes out this summer.

6. Small World
This is my newest game, and I think that it raise higher. I really, really like Small World. It is technically a "war game" as the goal for the players is to take a civilization and conquer as much of the board as possible. However, the game never really feels adversarial as it is impossible to get eliminated, and players are always looking for new civilizations to get more points out of. Every time the game is played, the civilizations are random. I can not get enough of this game, and I really want to play it more.

5. The Settlers of Catan
This is one of Abigail's favorite games, and I really like it too. The Settlers of Catan is a game where players build settlements and cities on an island for points. What makes the game fun is that the players do not always have the resources they need to build what they want so they have to trade with other players. I really like the dynamic of this as each trade is mutually beneficial, but there can be only one winner so people make trades that hopefully benefit them more than the competition.

4. Stone Age
This is another game that I have only recently acquired but from my first play I really fell in love with it. In Stone Age each player has little cavemen workers that they assign to various tasks such as hunt, gather one of four types of resources, farm, or reproduce. The resources that the players get are then converted into victory points. However, there is not enough space on the board for every player to get to do what they want every turn, so players have to make the best of what they have available to them. I also really like that there are multiple paths to victory, and each one is viable.

3. Dominion
In middle school and high school I was all about the collectible card games. Sadly, those are money pits but I still really like the idea of deck building. Dominion is all about deck building. Each player starts out with three points and seven pieces of copper. These copper cards are used to buy more cards that do different things. Eventually the players get gold which can be used to buy victory points. Whoever gets the most victory points wins. What I like about this game is that the game is all about building a deck. Every game of Dominion has 10 types of cards that players can buy. However, the game has 25 total cards, this creates millions of possible combinations, so every game is different.

2. Memoir'44
Memoir '44 is a two player war game that simulates WWII battles. I like that it has a customizable board so that there are hundreds of scenarios that can be played. The game is easy to play. Players play cards to determine which units can be ordered, and combat is resolved by rolling special dice. The game mixes luck, strategy and accessibility really well.

1. Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is my absolute favorite game. However, it is not very friendly to first time players and it is a bit hard to explain. Essentially players compete to create goods and then consume the goods for victory points. To accomplish this there are several phases each turn, but every phase may not happen as each player secretly chooses on each turn. There are a lot of strategies to Race for the Galaxy, and it is very satisfying to get one working. Race for the Galaxy also sets up and plays quick so Abigail and I play it regularly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Seminary After Thoughts

So I am officially a seminary graduate! I thought that before I get busy with a mission trip, fish fry, moving, and starting a new job it would be a good idea to record my thoughts on the overall seminary experience or rather the overall Christian Theological Seminary experience. I have thought a good deal the past couple of days about what I would write here. While I have no idea at this point what I will write, I will apologize in advance if anything I write comes off as whining, nitpicky, cruel, vindictive, arrogant or in any other way offensive. There is at least a 50% chance I did not really mean to convey it in that way.

I suppose the biggest question that shows if going to seminary was a success is "Did I learn anything?" The short answer is yes I did. I took 20 classes at CTS,and I would say that only four of them were what I would consider a complete and total waste. That is to say, I probably could have learned more about the assigned subject by sending three hours a week watching paint dry or grass grow. However, the other sixteen classes were to varying degrees educational, and I did learn at least a couple things useful about the subject matter of hand in those classes.

The biggest thing I learned in seminary though, is that I learn best when I disagree with something, and I was taught a lot that I disagreed with. However, I did learn from this. One of my fears of going to CTS is the old joke that seminary is where one goes to lose their religion, and with CTS having a reputation as being "ultra liberal" I was a bit afraid of that (Side note: CTS totally lives up to its reputation, proof positive is brining in someone like James Cone to be the commencement speaker). However, when I have two theology professors who completely and totally reject the Trinity then my choice is to go along with their (flawed and wrong) theology or learn why I believe God is three in one. From examples like this one and others I learned the most from what I considered the most disagreeable.

For the record here are the major things that I find the most disagreeable: I dislike most of the form criticisms of the Bible. I agree that the Bible should be read critically, but the methods taught for criticisms tend to work of the premise that the Bible is not divinely inspired and then go out of their way to prove that premise true. I do sincerely believe the Bible should be read critically and it can with stand challenge. However, I also believe that God wrote the Bible, and I respect it to much to tear it to shreds for my own intellectual gratification. I completely and wholly disagree with Paul Tillich. I know some people reading this could be fans of his and I respect your right to your opinion. However, if I had the power to have anyone considered a heretic it would be him. Along the same lines I have nothing kind to say about process theology, other than I suppose it could be a good theology for, I don't know, Jedi . . . but not for Christians. Finally, any sort of contextual theology including (but not limited to) black theology, black liberation theology, Feminist theology, womanist theology, Caribbean theology, and what ever the hell other the minority or special interest group thinks they should get their own theology is not really theology. These sort of "theologies" are really just social commentaries that make mention of God a lot and are written by people who have a pretentious sense of self righteousness. That may be a bit unfair. Maybe all of the people who write these books are not that way, just the ones I had to read.

In the end, I did learn a lot and I especially learned from disagreements, but learning from disagreeing is a very tiring way to do it, and this left me feeling a bit worn out. Before moving on I do want to shout out the three teachers who I learned the most from and considered the best at CTS. First is Dr. Ron Allen. He is the New Testament professor. I am fairly sure that on every major theological point, we probably disagree. However, I believe from his words and actions that he fully respects my right to disagree with him, and that is something I can not say for many of the professors. He also struck me as one of the more knowledgeable professors I had. Second, is Lorna Shewmaker, a church history professor. I have a history background, and I would consider to be one of the top history professors I have had. Finally, I want to recognized Gregory Clapper. He technically is not a professor at CTS. Dr. Clapper is from UIndy, but he taught Methodist History and Theology. This class was my most positive experience at CTS and the class I gained the most out of. Plus, I had this class at the same time as Systematic theology and having a traditional Wesleyan perspective to balance out the crap from that class was a life safer.

I remember from seminary orientation, one of things that really got brought up again and again is the community and friends that one makes in seminary. I did make some good friends, but I am a PK and I know how moving goes and how long friendships last when not constantly reinforced (that is they usually don't). That being said, there are a handful of people that I truly do hope I can keep in contact with (since I am posting this in facebook, if you get tagged that means you are probably one of those people. . .feel special :) )

Though one of my minor frustrations with seminary was the people. I know that there are people who I just naturally don't click with, and I realize it is probably my problem not theirs. That being said, I have a small tolerance for people who have a "victim complex." I initially observed in high school that there are some people who are only comfortable with life when they are in the middle of a crisis of some sort and they are the victim. These people almost purposely create drama in their life. I don't know if these sorts of people are naturally drawn to ministry or just CTS but there were a lot of them. What is worse is many of these peoples also had a great desire to be martyrs. They would self sacrifice their time, talents, whatever to their congregation/classes/in-laws/whoever to the point of feeling like a victim. During seminary I had more than one class that was hijacked by someone one with this personality disposition and it turned the whole class into a group therapy session.

I feel like I have done a lot of complaining (and I probably have), so before I complain again let me reiterate the highlights in case I have not made them clear enough. 1. I did learn a good deal in seminary 2. I met good friends who really helped me get through many of the low points of seminary. So I do have one more complaint, and it is my biggest complaint and that is the general attitude of CTS. The main problem is anything that is traditional or conservative theologically is looked down upon and belittled. A term that gets used a lot the first year is "embedded theology". This phrase is ALWAYS used to refer to traditional/conservative doctrine and it is ALWAYS used in a negative light. CTS talks big game about being opening and accepting, but that is only true if the person/idea is more left than they are. Any traditional beliefs such as divine inspiration of scripture, Trinity, or hell are completely looked down and treated with total disdain. In the same way, if you believe that the biblical intention of marriage is to be between a man and a woman then please do not mention it because that discussion never, ever ends well at CTS (basically the pro-homosexuality people rage and the pro man/woman marriage people get made to feel like they are on the same moral level as a child rapist). Further more, I left CTS feeling like the place discriminates against white men. I understand that historically being black in America sucks, and that being a woman at any point in human history means a degree of marginalization, but that does not mean that I have to get beat on the head with it. I get it, God is not a white man BUT that does not mean God is a black woman. About a semester and half in I got tired of being told I should feel guilty for having pale skin and a penis. By the fifth semester I was down right cynical about it. By the sixth semester, and a stupid "fish bowl" activity reiterates this attitude I was ready say some unchristian things to the next person who rehashed that. It is a really, really good thing I did not get a chance to talk to James Cone after graduation.

So what are my final thoughts about seminary? Overall, I am glad I went to seminary. I did learn some things that will be essential as I continue my career in ministry. That being said, I am disappointed a bit in CTS. I went to CTS because of its location, and I can not help but wonder if I would have had a better seminary experience someplace else. I have talked to people at other seminaries, and they did not have the frustrations that I have felt over the past three years.
So my final word: Glad I went to semnary, I learned something, but I will immediately throw away the "give us money" letters from CTS, and I would not recommend it to anyone.