Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
So, there you have it, I was down two games to four when we started our seventh game, which I recapped below so you can get a feel for the flow of the game. It seems as though the first three games were learning experiences with large margins of victory (average: just under 16 pts/game). In the following three games, the margins of victory dropped (average: just under 3 pts/game) and the games were much closer with me losing all three!
Having played through all of the recommended pre-sets in the instruction manual, we shuffled the randomizer cards and set out 10 random sets of Kingdom cards. The first card that catches my eye as we look over our selection in the supply is the Gardens card. The Gardens is an additional Victory card that costs just 4 treasure and gives you a victory point for every 10 cards in your deck. Thus, if you manage to get 60 cards in your deck, a Gardens card is worth as much as a Province for half the price. My first instinct then is to buy up as many of the Gardens as I can while going for a big deck.
The majority of the Kingdom cards I picked up were Workshops and Cellars, which I balanced with treasure cards. Workshops cost 3 treasure and allow you to gain another card costing up to 4 treasure for free. Thus, any time I got a Workshop into play, I was able to gain two cards per hand. The negative effect of going after Gardens cards early is they do not do anything in your hand. To compensate for this, I picked up a few Cellar cards. The Cellar lets you discard cards from your hand and draw new ones, a nice solution for dumping useless victory cards and hopefully getting more treasure to buy stuff with.
When I began using the Workshops to grab Gardens, in addition to purchasing a second card (even if it was free copper), Katie quickly caught on to my strategy and saw that I was trying to rush through all the Gardens. She normally works up an elaborate + Actions/+ Cards engine, but she abandoned this in favor of going straight for treasure cards, a big money strategy to clean out the Provinces before I got to them.
We did realize at the end of the game that I had mistakenly dropped the whole pile of Gardens into the game without counting them. I thought there would be 10 in the set, like the rest of the Kingdom cards, but it appears there are 12 in the set, like the rest of the Victory cards. Without looking at the rules, I assume that (for a two-player game) we were actually only supposed to put 8 Gardens into the Supply. Oops! This may have slightly inflated our scores for this game, if nothing else.
Anyway, in hindsight, looking back at my deck and the available cards and how I might have changed things, I believe my mistake was not picking up enough treasure to balance out the Workshops and Gardens. My deck began getting choked with victory cards and I often had to settle for buying the free Copper instead of higher-quality cards. My deck consistently grew as desired, however my buying power was constantly low and I picked up a minimal amount of Gold and Provinces. Because of this, Katie was able to effectively buy up most of the Provinces with little competition.
I knew going into the end of the game that it was going to be close, and figured that it would come down to how many cards I had in my deck. If I managed to get 60 cards and make my Gardens worth as much as her Provinces, I should win. She grabbed the last Province, and we began tallying our cards up. I had 56 cards, just shy of the 60 mark that I believed I needed.
Victory Points in Matt's Deck
2 x Provinces = 12 pts
9 x Gardens (5 pts ea for my deck) = 45 pts
3 x Duchies = 9 pts
5 x Estates = 5 pts
Total: 71 points
That was a great deal higher than we had ever scored before, but I knew I was at the bottom of a 2-6 Province split and this was still going to be close.
Victory Points in Katie's Deck
6 x Provinces = 36 pts
3 x Gardens (4 pts ea for her deck) = 12 pts
5 x Duchies = 15 pts
8 x Estates = 8 pts
Total: 71 points
Yep, all those points and, unbelievably, we tied 71-71. I just needed four more cards in my deck to win 80-71. Sigh. =) Since I started the game and Katie ended it on her turn, we ended up with the same amount of turns and thus no tiebreaker.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
This release from Underoath is quite different from their earlier albums to say the least. I personally fell victim to not hearing Underoath until they started gaining popularity with this release, so it is difficult for me in retrospect to go back and listen to the older albums when this one has such clean vocals. Their music is definitely not as metal as it has been previously, but it is very successful at what it tries to be. The screaming/singing dynamic is splendid here... the screaming will send those unaccustomed to it running, while the choruses on almost every song are downright infectious and will have you singing them to yourself over and over again.
Most of the lyrics revolve around relationships and related struggles. Underoath is not shy about the issues they are addressing, and they do not hold back from singing about lust and the associated regrets that come from giving in to temptation. It is a subject that many artists will not breach, though one that Christians must frequently learn to deal and cope with. The lyrics also hold true to that of earlier albums, in that they shamelessly use Jesus' name when singing to him; whereas similar bands may be tempted to make only veiled references throughout their music.
The album is very short as, excluding The Blue Note (an instrumental track), there are only nine tracks here. Fortunately enough, every track holds its own weight. I really could not be pressed to find any one song that I like significantly less than any of the others. This is certainly a pristine example of quality over quantity.
My Highlights: Boy Brushed Red Living in Black and White, It's Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door, Some Will Seek Forgiveness Others Escape
Glass shatters and comes to a halt
I thought we'd be there by now
I thought it would be so much quicker than this
Pain has never been so brilliant
I made sure you were buckled in
Now you can walk hand in hand with Him
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
My Favorite Video Games from 1989
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES)
9. Adventures of Lolo (NES)
8. Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)
7. River City Ransom (NES)
6. Batman (NES)
See more of my lists, reviews, and ratings here!
Interesting puzzle game, mildly entertaining, if only for a bit.
Back to the Future (NES): 1/5
Yuck. This may be the worst film-to-game adaption ever.
The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle (NES): 4/5
A fun little 2D platformer, quite entertaining, especially at a young age.
North & South (NES): 4/5
One of my favorite early strategy games, it's a unique hybrid with turn-based moves followed by real-time battles.
Beat 'em up games have never exactly been a favorite genre of mine, but this is one of the best from this generation.
I really enjoyed the combat and platforming aspects of this title, however it is quite annoying to sit through the same opening cutscene repeatedly without being able to skip it.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES): 3/5
Combat is fun and involving, but some horrific level design in certain spots nearly ruins the game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, The Arcade Game (NES): 3/5
I actually prefer the combat in the first NES TMNT game more, but I prefer this game as a whole due to the other's awful platforming mechanics.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Thursday, April 10, 2008
I was doing my normal four-mile run around the base again right at dusk tonight. And in the middle of the haze, a huge something jumped out of the bushes in the middle of a lengthy stretch that I normally sprint through... it messed up my pace, took my focus off the goal, basically completely threw me off track and knocked precious seconds off my time. That huge something happened to be a native Iraqi jackrabbit that was nearly the size of me.
So... how many bunnies has the devil thrown into your spiritual walk recently?
Anyway, one of the most difficult things that I must deal with here is the homesickness... and the constant reminder, in the form of not-so-friendly explosive projectiles falling from the sky, that I might not make it home. I’ve been reminded over the past few days that no matter where I am or what I’m going through, God is always here with me... and no matter how far I get from that physical location that I call home, the one who cares about me the most is here with me now.
Is this the whole picture?
Or is it just the start?
Is this the way You love me?
You're capturing my heart
I used to try and walk alone
But I've begun to grow
And when You tell me just to rest
I'm finally letting go
I'm seeing so much clearer
Looking through Your eyes
I could never find a safer place
Even if I tried
All the times I've needed You
You've never left my side
I'm clinging to Your every word
Don't ever let me go
I'm here to stay, nothing can separate us
You cradle me gently, wrapped in Your arms
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Is this one for the people?
Is this one for the Lord?
Or do I simply serenade
The things I must afford?
You can jumble them together
My conflict still remains
Holiness is calling
In the midst of courting fame
I see the trust in their eyes
Though the sky is falling
They need Your love in their lives
Compromise is calling
Father, please forgive me
For I cannot compose
The fear that lives within me
Or the rate at which it grows
If struggle has a purpose
On the narrow road You've carved
Why do I dread my trespasses
Will leave a deadly scar?
Do they see the fear in my eyes?
Are they so revealing?
This time I cannot disguise
All the doubt I'm feeling
What if I stumble?
What if I fall?
What if I lose my step
And I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue
When my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble
And what if I fall?
I hear You whispering my name
You say "My love for you will never change"
What if I stumble, what if I fall?
You never turn in the heat of it all
What if I stumble, what if I fall?
You are my comfort and my God
Well, I started writing this a couple of weeks ago in the middle of a night on a cot in Baghdad. At the time, I found myself digging through Luke, back to a passage I’d heard a few weeks ago back in Oklahoma. It was a message on being committed... and the cost of that commitment for those who were truly dedicated.
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”
And Jesus said to Him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
Then he said to another, “Follow me.”
But he said to another, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”
But Jesus also said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Three men approach Jesus wishing to follow Him and become His disciples... yet all three are denied. Why, and what can I learn from that?
Each of the men wanted to maintain a hold on specific parts of their life and were not willing to commit wholeheartedly to Him. God desires ALL of us or none of us.
The first man boldly proclaims that he wants to follow Jesus wherever they are going. Jesus responds by pointing out that neither He or any of His disciples had homes of their own, and that any who desired to follow Him must give up such things that many consider necessary. The first man says that he’ll follow Christ to the ends of the earth, but he turns away when he hears that the cost of following Christ is denying himself. Many people during this period of time believed that Christ had come to earth to establish a physical (though temporary) kingdom there. This man likely imagined that he would do well to be with Jesus as he established this kingdom. I don’t think many of us pursue Christ solely for material gain... but when the cost of total commitment is the physical (temporary!) objects and belongings that we hold onto in this world, it becomes a sacrifice that many of us are not willing to make.
The second man is actually called by Jesus to follow Him, but instead lets his love for his family delay his desire to follow Christ. In my brief amount of studying, this man’s reply has several different interpretations. I’m no scholar and I should probably enlist my sister’s knowledge of Greek here but... I’ll give it a go. From what I have read, it makes the most sense during this period of time... if his father had already died, he would have already been involved in the burial procedure. It appears more likely to me that his father was near death and this man wanted to wait until his father passed away, before he left to follow Jesus.
Our love and desire for Him should be so much that our love for our family looks like hatred in comparison. Jesus tells the man to let the (spiritually) dead bury the (physically) dead, but instead he allows his love for his family to weaken his love for Christ; and puts off pursuit of the eternal kingdom of God for a temporary relationship with his father.
The third man, much like the second, also let family ties interfere, “Lord, I will follow Thee; but...” Anybody seeing anything wrong with this statement? When a loving farewell gets in the way of obeying Christ, it becomes sin. The third man would be looking back instead of ahead, his heart never wholly with Christ; hence Jesus’ comment on plowing and never looking back.
At the time that these men attempted to join Jesus, He was on His way to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, He would be flogged, mocked, crucified, and finally take on the sins of the world and be separated from God the Father, ultimately conquering the grave and resurrecting three days later. This is the one most crucial point of time that defines all of history, and God would have used any of these three men during this period... if only they had been willing to totally commit themselves. Instead, they chose to hold onto temporary relationships and objects.
None of us know what God has in store for each and every one of us when we dedicate our lives, possessions, relationships, everything completely to Him and for Him.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.”
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.