Video: One Zero One Review

Here are my thoughts about One Zero One, along with the basic gameplay. If you'd rather read, you can do that here.

But don't trust me. Lots of other people like One Zero One.

Rahdo called it a "neat, neat game" that's "very evocative." He played it before the game was Kickstarted, and the designer obviously took some of his advice.

Chalk Board Game Reviews said, "It just works. ... I had a lot of fun playing it."

Bowser's Game Corner also liked it, although he didn't like the expansion cards. "One Zero One is a fantastic two-player game that should be on your shelf ...," he said.

I could only find one negative review, but it was from the esteemed Tom Vasel. I'm not sure why Tom hated this game so much, except that it obviously wasn't the game he was hoping for.

It was exactly the game I was hoping for. I think One Zero One delivers.

Pope Offers Fresh Look at Evangelism

joy of the gospelFirst off, you should know that I'm not Catholic. I'm rather decidedly a Protestant. But like lots of folks, religious and not, I'm intrigued by Pope Francis. I wanted to read The Joy of the Gospel for no other reason than to hear his take on evangelism and the world.

Overview:

The book is an apostolic exhortation from the leader of the Catholic Church to clergy and laity. In it, he tackles the position of the church in the world, the crises it faces, and the hope it offers.

Why you might like The Joy of the Gospel:

While the pope is addressing Catholics primarily, he quickly casts a wide net. On the first page of text, he implores "all Christians, everywhere, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ ..."

For any mainline Protestants, Francis' take on the problems facing the church will sound tragically familiar.

But Francis is hopeful and articulate. He displays his knowledge of the world as well as the church, and he offers a vision of what the church could bring to the world.

The book is pastoral in tone and obviously comes from the heart of a man who knows the struggles of the parish priest as well as the politics of the Vatican.

He is the strongest of advocates for the poor, not just as recipients of charity, but as being included in decision-making and in receiving the benefits of redistribution of wealth.

For the most part, he offers solutions to the problems of declining church attendance and the perception that religious people are out of touch. He takes on tasks from the creation of a homily (sermon, for us Protestants) to the creating of a just and peaceful society.

Francis also spends a great deal of time encouraging the faithful to respond to materialism and individualism. Consider this passage:

Many of us try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realms of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tell us constantly to run the risk of face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. ... The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.

The pope doesn't avoid the hard questions — from the role of women in the church and its pro-life stance to relationships with other religions.

This is a meaty book.

Why you might not like The Joy of the Gospel:

The book is decidedly Catholic. It quotes extensively from the Catholic tradition as well as from Scripture. This shouldn't come as a surprise, but it should be noted.

The arguments about the role of women are the least compelling section of the book. While Francis argues that women should be involved in decision-making in the church, he says "the reservation of the priesthood to males ... is not a question open to discussion ..."

The book is full of church jargon. Francis usually defines his terms, but without a theological education behind you, certain sections of the book may be a challenge. There is a subsection titled "Kerygmatic and mystagogical catechesis," for example. Most of the book is accessible, but there are exceptions.

This is a book for the faithful, which should be obvious from the title. While a reader interested in the positions of the Catholic church may find it interesting, other sources would likely be more appealing to the non-religious.

My conclusions:

I found The Joy of the Gospel refreshing and relevant. It is a beautiful picture of what the church could be in the world — a voice for the poor, an authority in the face of violence, a transforming influence in the darkness of addictions, isolation, and fear.

It is both practical and theoretical, encouraging and a swift kick where it's most needed.

If you find yourself frustrated or discouraged with the state of the church — Protestant or Catholic — you will find hope and solutions in this short but weighty book.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of The Joy of the Gospel from Blogging for Books. I wasn't required to give a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

Max & Denalyn Lucado Offer Kids' Prayers

_240_360_Book.1494.coverProlific Christian author Max Lucado and his wife, Denalyn, have undertaken no small task in compiling the Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers. The hardcover book, illustrated by Lisa Alderson and published by Thomas Nelson, retails for $19.99.

Overview:

In addition to prayers by the Lucados, the book is a compilation of prayers, hymn lyrics, and Scriptures.

Despite the title, there are chapters devoted to morning prayers, prayers for family and friends, prayers of praise and thankfulness, mealtime prayers, holiday prayers, and more.

Why you might buy the Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers:

Most of the prayers included are classics, from the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to "Away in a Manger." You are unlikely to find such a comprehensive collection, and one very nicely compiled, elsewhere.

The illustrations of woodland animals are charming and engaging.

The Lucados have included an introduction for parents that is particularly good, written in Max Lucado's approachable style.

The prayers by Max and Denalyn Lucado feel fresh and relevant to young readers.

Because most of the prayers rhyme, they're great for memorization.

Why you might not buy the Lucado Treasury of Bedtime Prayers:

Most of the prayers rhyme. You'll notice I mentioned this above. Rhyming may or may not be to your liking. I find that my very young children often get lost in the rhythm and don't pay attention to what is being said.

While the illustrations are lovely, they have nothing to do with the prayers on the page. My kids were asking questions about the pictures, trying to understand how they related to what I was reading. They became a distraction rather than an aid to comprehension.

Despite many of the prayers being adapted for young readers, they often feel stilted. Take this adapted prayer by Alice E. Allen, for example:

Give us this day our daily bread; Our table is so beautifully spread, Show us how best to save with care, Until our every loaf we share With hungry children everywhere. Father, that all be fed, Give us our daily bread.

The sentiment is lovely, but the inverted language may make it lost on little ones. A little more adapting might have made it more accessible.

My conclusions:

I'm a fan, though  not an avid one, of Max Lucado, so I was excited to see this book of prayers. It's a tiny bit disappointing, though.

I need to wait a couple of years to see if this book will engage my little ones. At almost 3 and almost 4, they have no interest in the text of this book. And they love books, even wordy ones.

My fear is that by the time they can understand what the older prayers are saying, they will have outgrown the illustrations.

That would be unfortunate because the collection is quite good, and the presentation makes it keepsake worthy. I would suggest picking up a copy and showing it to the child it's intended for before you buy.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers. I wasn't required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

Venetia Deserves Second Look

Photo by Teresa Jackson A few turns in to Venetia Some games capture me the first time I play. I'm looking at you, Sheriff of Nottingham. Others ... don't.

Some never quite work for me, but others take a few plays before I feel like I get them.

I suppose that means I'm not a natural. I felt this way about math in school. I was good enough, but I wasn't like those people in my class who just understood. I had to work at it.

Venetia was a bit like that for me. I wonder if that's why it hasn't gotten the favorable press that other games have enjoyed.

And that's too bad. Because a few games in, Venetia begins to shine.

Here's my full review of Venetia, as it was originally published on News for Shoppers. Links from here on out are to Amazon.com, where, if you buy, I get a small commission. No pressure.

Venetia is a two- to four-player strategy board game for ages 13 and up by designers Marco Maggi and Francesco Nepitello, with art by Matteo Alemanno. It plays in about 90 minutes.

It was published by Stratelibri & Passport Game Studios. It has a suggested retail price of $64.99 but can be found for less than $40 online.

How it works:

Players try to place their influence, moving out on the board from Venice into other parts of Europe and Africa. To do so, they have to have influence in sea areas of the colonies they want to control.

There are major colonies, which enemies are more likely to attack, and minor colonies, which are easier to control but gain fewer points. A player with a majority in a colony (provided there is enough influence there) can gain the title of podestá, which adds points.

Players also vote for the doge, a powerful figure in Venetian history. The doge reveals threats (and can veto them in the advanced version of the game), and rolls the action dice, which determine how much influence players can spread, as well as whether they battle to place influence and whether they place it in one or several colonies. The dice also allow players to take action cards, which give them a special ability or let them gain influence in the next doge election.

If all that sounds a bit complicated, it is. But is it worth learning?

Why you might buy Venetia:

One of the best features of Venetia is the way it integrates history into the gameplay. It comes with a separate 12-page book of history notes, which explains why every threat card unfolds the way it does, as well the role of the families you play.

There is a lot of interaction in this game, especially with more than two players. You can directly thwart your opponents' plans by inciting a riot, often before the end of an epoch, when scoring takes place. (There are three epochs total.)

The board is continually shifting, and you often gain cards on opponents' turns, which means that when it's not your turn, you'll still have plenty to think about.

The action cards, threat cards and dice rolls add up to randomness in the game, which means fantastic variety. It also helps even things out between new and experienced players.

While Venetia isn't easy to learn from the rulebook, it is easy to teach. I was able to explain it to my niece, who plays some strategy games but not many, and she picked it up very quickly.

There's a lot of depth to the strategies, and you can try different ways each game, which I really like.

Why you might not want to buy Venetia:

The two-player game is good, but it's not as good as playing with three. I didn't try it with four, but I think it would be very interesting. There is less tension with two, and more ability to do exactly what you want.

The game isn't as accessible as some others. It takes a bit to figure out how the rules work and what will work best. Essentially, it requires a little patience and a few plays to hook you. At least it did for me.

It does have a lot of randomness. For pure strategy players who prefer that the best player win every time, this won't be a good fit.

My conclusions:

Venetia grew on me, and now I love it. It took three plays for me to stop worrying so much about the strategy that I was able to have fun, but it was worth the work.

I really love the care the designers put into incorporating history, going so far as to hire a historical consultant. The gameplay is intriguing, and the random factors make it feel unlike anything else I've played.

This game won't be for everyone, and you definitely shouldn't introduce it to new players unless they're deeply immersed in the history of the rise and fall of the Serenissima republic.

This game didn't get much press when it came out late last year. It's worth a second look.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Venetia from Passport Game Studios. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

Here are a few Serenissima-related products, only one other of which is a board game.

Does Splendor Shine?

Photo by Teresa Jackson Just in case enough hasn't been said about Splendor, I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

I hadn't played (gasp!) until the game won the Golden Geek Game of the Year. The award and the subsequent controversy intrigued me. I had to know if it was as good — or as unworthy — as people said.

Honestly, the game leaves me a little confused, both by its great success and by the fallout.

I can say that I was able to teach this to my sister and her husband. My sister loves games but doesn't play much, and my brother-in-law would rather do almost anything (preferably outside) than play games.

My sister liked it quite a bit, though she didn't profess her love, and my brother-in-law found it tolerable enough to play a second game.

What they both enjoyed was how engaged they stayed and how the strategies began to open up to them. In teaching a new game, I rate it a success, though not a raving one.

Here's my full review of Splendor, mostly as I originally published it on News for Shoppers.

The rest of the links in this post will take you to Amazon.com, where if you buy, I receive a commission that helps me keep bringing you content like this. No pressure. (And please don't stop supporting your local game store if you're lucky enough to have one.)

When the tabletop game Splendor earned what is in effect the People's Choice Award in board gaming last month, it set off a storm of controversy on Board Game Geek, the same site whose 1 million-plus users gave it the Golden Geek Game of the Year.

That award has traditionally been given to more complex games, but Splendor took the top spot despite its simple rules and relatively quick play.

In the game, two to four players ages 10 and up spend about 30 minutes attempting to gain fame by becoming the best gem merchant. The game is by designer Marc André with art by Pascal Quidault. It was published by Space Cowboys and Asmodee. It retails for $39.99 and can be found at most online retailers for about $10 less.

But does it deserve the Golden Geek Award, and last year's nomination for Germany's Spiel des Jahres, widely considered the top honor in the tabletop gaming world? Obviously, thousands of people think so. (It lost the Spiel des Jahres to Camel Up, by the way.)

How it works:

On a turn, players can do one of only a few things: Take two gems of the same color (provided there are at least four available); take three gems of three different colors; reserve a card, putting it face down in front of them, and taking a gold, which acts as a wild token; or purchase a card by spending the number of gems indicated on the card.

Purchased cards always give players a discount on future purchases. Each card has a gem in the top right corner that can be substituted for a gem token throughout the rest of the game. Many cards also give a point value.

Lower-level cards are easier to purchase, but give fewer points. Higher-level cards are more difficult, but they give as many as five points. Players can also try to collect sets of cards, which can earn a visit from a noble worth three points.

The first player to reach 15 points wins.

Why you might buy Splendor:

Splendor offers a rare mix of real strategy with extremely simple rules and setup. You can have the game on the table and get new players started in less than five minutes.

Because the cards are constantly shifting, players' decisions must shift, too. There is plenty to keep players occupied when it isn't their turn.

There are at least a couple of viable strategies in Splendor. Players can go for lots of low-scoring cards, or they can work primarily on the higher ones.

The game also has a nice pace. It starts out slow, as players find themselves spending most of their time collecting gem tokens to get the cards they want. But as they build up their cards, the game takes off quickly. They find they already have what they need to grab a card, or even two, forcing some interesting decisions.

The artwork is quite nice. It's not clear if Quidault intended it, but the pictures on the cards give subtle reminders of the human cost of the gem trade without being outright depressing. Giving each gem a different shape as well as color helps those with color blindness and other vision challenges.

Why you might not buy Splendor:

Splendor's strengths are also its weaknesses.

The game is simple. It keeps shifting, but the optimum choices are fairly obvious.

It has lot of depth for a quick game, but for someone who wants a more challenging experience, Splendor isn't a great fit.

Quick games often allow for lots of socialization. Splendor doesn't do that as well. People will be staring at their gem piles, their own cards, and the cards available, often in silence. That speaks to its interesting choices, but players may feel like they are playing alone, or that they are a victim of their opponents' choices.

If all of the higher-level cards require gems that aren't available on the lower-level cards, the game can bog down for a while. This creates the promise of more strategy, but it can also lead to people scratching their heads instead of playing.

My conclusions:

I understand the appeal of Splendor. This is a fantastic game for introducing people to the strategy of engine-building, which is often used in more complex games.

It's pretty, the tokens feel solid in your hand and clink together in a satisfying way.

The game is easy for new players to pick up, so people who have played a lot probably won't slaughter the newbies.

Does it deserve its accolades? I'm not sure about that. I'm not sure I care.

Splendor is a good game with mass appeal. And the masses approve.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Splendor from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. This is my honest opinion.

Here are all of the 2014 Golden Geek Winners, except ... and then we held hands, which won Best Print & Play Game.