Category Archives: Games and Family

The Regularity of Sunday: A Pastor’s Confession

A dear mentor and pastor once said to me, “Sundays come along with alarming regularity.” These past few years as a preaching pastor, those words have sunk in.
 
I love preaching. I love reading and studying God’s Word. There are few things I love more than to read a text out loud, then explain it to a group of listening ears. I’ve learned in my preparation, and they will learn from me in my presentation. Teaching is a gift from the Lord that I cherish. I make it a part of my livelihood during the week as well as on weekends. I love my church. I am happy with my work and very glad to do it. But…
 
…preaching is hard work. Each week, I stand in front of our small church and teach them the Scriptures, and I know some things I have to say are hard. I also know that some things I have to say are difficult for me to follow myself. “Love one another as I have loved you,” is a hard teaching for a man who wants complete silence most of the time. I love people, but I love solitude a little bit more. Some weekends I think, “What if I could just have today off too?” I’m jealous of the folks I see driving toward the lake. I’m more jealous of the ones who sleep in. On Saturday, as I finish preparing the next day’s message, I’m sometimes tempted by an old sermon. I’m more tempted by a sermon someone else preached on the same text.
 
Why do I continue? Romans 10 rings in my ears when I think of just sitting in the pews…
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Romans 10:14-17
Of course, I’m not the only preacher out there. However, I am the preacher for my small flock. The Lord has used me in the past despite my failings, and I trust he’ll use me again. So, I press on.
 
Pray for your pastor. Pray that he’ll preach the Scriptures faithfully. Encourage him when you see him. Sundays come along with alarming regularity, and some weekends, he’d rather have two Saturdays.

My Thoughts on Breaking Statues

Recent events in the world have stirred my conscience a bit. Most of the time, I’m a passive person. I tend to let things slide, even to a fault. I don’t get too bothered by the opinions of others, even when they tread on mine. I’m a secure person, and I know why I hold to my beliefs. I’m a man of conviction in most areas of my life. So, when I read about the destruction of landmarks and statues around our country, I became stirred.
 
To be clear, racism is abhorrent and right thinking and moral people the world over should stomp it out. There will always be racism because people will always be different. That said, we don’t have to like it, and we should do what we can to eradicate it from our families and our immediate influences.   If you remember you aren’t owed anything from anybody, and that we are all created in God’s image, racism goes away. I treat all people equally because God made all people as a reflection of his character. A human being has value inherently without my input, or anyone else’s. Every person has value, regardless of their skin color. 
 
With that, the destruction of our historical monument is ill-conceived. For one, it’s breaking the law. There is a right process to remove things. In today’s world, where hurt feeling rule, getting a statue removed peaceably should be an easy task. Second, the monuments themselves represent history more than they represent an ideal. Granted, many of the South’s “ideals” were horrible in regards to slavery, but an image of Stonewall Jackson is just that – an image. It doesn’t represent the hurts of generations of black families. It doesn’t represent the wrongs of generations of white families. It is an image. Now, we can assign meaning to it, sure. We all do in one form or another. For me, I see it as a sign of mistakes corrected and a world I hope we never return to. For others, they embody hate. Whatever it is they represent to you, it doesn’t change their actual status as rock and metal, representing something or someone that has been dead for decades.
 
I can see the opposing argument. People have hurt other people, and they continue to do so. It’s a sad commentary on living life in society, and frankly, the only fix is time and help from the Almighty. Destroying statues today may feel good for a time, but it only puts a bandage on the gaping wound of past and current indiscretions. The act also seeks to destroy the metanarrative that we are currently hoping to leave behind. When we attempt to eradicate our history, how will we remember what we need to rise above? How will we teach our children, “And this was a time when we hated our neighbor. It was a bad time.”
 
The struggle to love one another is always present and real. Each of us can do better as we seek to erase the problems of the present while remembering where we’ve come from.

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

“Dungeons and Dragons” has come to represent any number of tabletop roleplaying games. Since its beginnings, certain groups have made it out to be a Satanic ritual. Some have said it encourages suicide. Others, like myself, see it as a great form of cooperative storytelling. Tabletop RPGs are something I plan to play with my family in the coming years. For some who question that, it may be helpful to see them from my perspective.
 
Tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs) have been around for a long time. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was one of the first to gain some popularity, in large part due to negative press. The first public concerns games with the case of James Dallas Egbert. Much of the early stigma surround D&D then had to do with fictionalized association about this case. Today, there are still similar holdovers. D&D uses words like “witch” and “devil” to describe fictional monsters, and for many, this is too much.
 
While I’m not a fan of some of the terms either, everything about how one play a TRPG is optional. The world you create, the characters, their stories – everything. The “Dungeon Master” (DM) facilitates the world and its non-player characters (NPCs). The characters either stick to the main storyline or drift around, discovering new people and places. That is one of the things that makes TRPG so great. Sure, you could make your story “evil” if you chose, but you could also make it a great family adventure. Designers have created other TRPG systems that allow for my diversity. Savage Worlds is my favorite when it comes to creating your own type of world and building a story. I have played everything from Middle Earth to Wild West with the Savage Worlds system and have grown to love it.
 
TRPGs deserve a second chance if you’ve cast them away in the past. What have been your experiences with TRPGs?

The Board Game Cafe

Last weekend, Emily and I, along with two friends, traveled to St. Louis for a weekend of baseball. The Lord had other plans, as it rained the entire time we were there. We did get to watch one game on Sunday, but the team postponed Saturday’s game a few hours before game time. We scoured the webs looking for something to do, and one of the things we found was Pieces, a board game cafe.
 
Pieces is the first board game cafe I’ve ever seen, much less been to. They featured good food and atmosphere…and a collection of over 500 games. They hooked me with the games part. Emily and I love gaming, but our friends had never played many of the games we are into. After looking at their shelves for a while, I chose a few to play. We had a great time playing games and eating food. What excited me most was the variety of games folks were playing, and everyone was having a great time.
 
If I ever stumble into wealth somehow, I’m going to open a cafe like Pieces. Also, if you’re in St. Louis and need someplace to spend several hours, I can think of no better place.

“Gametes” Update

Since my last post, the Gametes have  collected quite a collection! Using Gofundme.com, we raised over $200 in cash, as well as over $200 in games. Companies and stores from all over sent games to the high school to supply our little club.
 
The experience has been very humbling to me. When people gather around a common hobby and experience, there are good things that can occur. I shared our club’s fundraiser with several communities of which I’m a part. Not only did that experience supply our club, but it inspired others to start similar clubs.
 
Our club is growing and young people are playing games together. It has been a great destresser for me after school, and I hope it is the same for them.

Stress-Causing Factors at the Table

Last time, I wrote about how games can (and should) be a way to relieve stress. There are certain ways to play games to help you do that. For some, games can be a source of stress. There are certain stress-causing factors to avoid when playing games. Not everyone needs to avoid these. These are things you “learn as you go.” After years of gaming, I’ve learned a few things.

Analysis Paralysis (AP)

For some folks, the number of decision to make at once can be paralyzing. They want to do something, but they’re unable to commit. Some of it is fear of loss of course, but much of it is hard to qualify. I tend to go by the axiom, “Lose fast and play again,” but for many, this isn’t an option. The decisions are too much, and that leads to long turns and frustration. If this is you, pick games that have a low decision density or lower “weight.” Work up to more complex games as your decision-making improves. Table Downtime I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time,

Table Downtime

I link this one with the one above. This is one of the most frustrating factors for me in playing games. Sometimes, it is about the design of the game. Most of the time, however, it is about the people who are playing it. I’ve solved this a few times by choosing who I play with. Other times it may not be that easy. A simple strategy would be to first make sure you plan out your next turn. Also use the time to learn the board and consider what your opponents strategy might be. This has helped me many times not only to become a better gamer, but to help my friends who suffer from AP.

Non-game Talk

This is a bother for many folks. They have sat down to play a game, not talk about baseball or the latest Kickstarter game. This has a lot to do with group ethos. If your group allows for this, it probably doesn’t bother you. But if you have one or two folks who can’t be quiet during your turn, it can be frustrating. One solution is to stop playing with those people. If that solution isn’t socially viable, then either join the conversation or politely ask them to stop. This is a hard one because of the delicate balance found in some groups. This is another one that is hard for me. Good luck! What are some things that stress you out while playing games?

The “Heavy” Games – How to Approach Them

There are certain games that the gaming world calls “heavy” games. We call them heavy because they have more complex rules and longer play times. These are my favorite type of game for a few reasons. I like investing in a game for a few hours – watching it develop and change. I also like the reward of seeing a strategy work. There is even some satisfaction in trying bad strategies for kicks.

I decided to write on heavy games because of my family’s “100 Game Challenge.” contains several heavy games. Many folks have commented, saying things like, “Your family plays some heavy games!” They’ve also added, “I wish I could get my family/group into games like that.” My family does tend to play heavier games because I do. To groups that want to up the complexity at the table, I have a few tips. 

Increase Nice and Easy

Every game fits in a particular category of games like “worker placement” or “deck builder.” In that category, there are going to be lighter games and heavier games. Start with lighter games in that category and move up. If you want to play Agricola, you may want to start with Lords of Waterdeep or Champions of Midgard. You aren’t sacrificing quality with those great games, but you are building skills. Those skills will help your group ease into Agricola or others like it much easier.

Plan to Play Twice

With heavy games, there can be many rules with thick rulebooks to go with them. Some rulebooks aren’t the most helpful either. When you group decides to play a heavy game, plan on playing it at least twice in a row. If you have time to do it back to back, that’s great. If not, plan on playing it at your next session. This gives you more familiarity with the rules and mechanics. It also allows you to immediately correct the mistakes you are bound to make in the first play through.

Play to Learn

For heavy games, your group should call the first play through a learning experience. Some people are more competitive than others – this we know. Your group would do well to suspend the competition for a game or two. Instead, walk through each others’ turns and even help one another make decisions. This seems like a bit much for some, but I promise the experience will pay dividends. It also builds a spirit of helpfulness in the group, which is much better than other vibes a group might produce. What is your favorite heavy game and why? How has your group approached playing them?

What is your favorite heavy game and why? How has your group approached playing them?