Top 10 Games Published in 2009

Posted: January 6, 2019 in Games
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This top ten list looks back ten years and is my favourite games that were published in 2009. Unfortunately, I don’t know so many games from this year, and so I was only able to come up with a top nine, whereas, in making the list for 2014, while it was easy because so many were also included in my top fifty, I also had a wide choice of other games to fill up the extra slots.

So, here are my top nine games published in 2009:

  1. Finca
  2. Tobago
  3. Small World
  4. Jaipur
  5. The Resistance
  6. Arctic Scavengers
  7. Zulus on the Ramparts!
  8. Word on the Street
  9. Summoner Wars
  • Of these nine games, only the top two can be found in my top fifty.
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    Top 10 Games Published in 2014

    Posted: January 6, 2019 in Games
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    Once again I’m following the lead of The Dice Tower with their annual looking back at games published in previous years. They look back five and ten years and choose their top ten games that were published in those years.

    This post looks back five years and is a list of my top ten games published in 2014.

    1. Five Tribes
    2. Castles of Mad King Ludwig
    3. Medieval Academy
    4. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
    5. Viceroy
    6. Roll for the Galaxy
    7. Dead of Winter
    8. Istanbul
    9. Deep Sea Adventure
    10. Colt Express
  • This was a fairly easy list to come up with as the first seven of the games on it are also on my top fifty games of all time. There were a lot of very good games published in 2014, and games from this year make up almost one-seventh of my top fifty.
  • Top 50 Games 2019

    Posted: January 6, 2019 in Games
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    The start of a new year always brings a flurry of new blog posts from me, and one of the regular ones is my list of my favourite games. Many folk like to list their top one hundred favourite games, but I’ve stuck to limiting my list at a top fifty, which seems to be quite enough for me to manage!

    Anyway, here goes for 2019.

    1. Viticulture (up 1)
    2. Whistle Stop (up 3)
    3. Five Tribes (down 2)
    4. The Castles of Burgundy (no change)
    5. The Castles of Mad King Ludwig (up 3)
    6. Black Orchestra (new)
    7. Courtier (up 42)
    8. Suburbia (up 3)
    9. Fresco (down 3)
    10. Warsaw: City of Ruins (new)
    11. Great Western Trail (up 4)
    12. Concordia (down 3)
    13. Medieval Academy (up 10)
    14. The Prodigals’ Club (down 7)
    15. Mysterium (up 29)
    16. Airlines Europe (up 10)
    17. Mission: Red Planet (up 4)
    18. Pandemic (down 1)
    19. Agricola (down 6)
    20. Elysium (down 4)
    21. Ex Libris (new)
    22. Finca (new)
    23. Brew Crafters (new)
    24. Hanamikoji (up 16)
    25. Codenames Duet (new)
    26. Dominare (down 23)
    27. The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet (up 2)
    1. Dixit (returned to the list after one year off)
    2. Time’s Up (returned to the list after one year off)
    3. On the Underground (down 12)
    4. Die Macher (down 6)
    5. Bohnanza (down 5)
    6. Tobago (returned to the list after two years off)
    1. Automania (down 6)
    2. Chronicles of Crime (new)
    3. Space Base (new)
    4. Power Grid (down 23)
    5. One Night Ultimate Werewolf (down 28)
    6. Ca$h ‘n Guns (returned after one year off)
    7. Fungi (new)
    8. Viceroy (down 19)
    9. The Grizzled (returned after one year off)
    10. Roll for the Galaxy (down 10)
    11. Automobiles (new)
    12. Dead of Winter (down 25)
    13. T.I.M.E. Stories (returned after one year off)
    14. Firenze (down 23)
    15. Downforce (new)
    16. Keyflower (down 10)
    17. Dice Forge (down 20)
  • The statistics for the list break down like this:
    • Twelve games climbed. The greatest climber was Courtier which rose 42 places.
      Twenty games fell. The greatest drop was for One Night Ultimate Werewolf which fell 28 places.
      One game did not move.
      Six games returned to the top fifty after having previously dropped off the list.
      Eleven games are new to the list.

    Games Played in 2018

    Posted: January 1, 2019 in Games

    The number of games played in 2018 was a similar number to that of the previous year. Still lower than the highs of pre-Alexander days, but keeping steady around the level set last year following his birth.

    I played 157 different games in 2018 (2017: 159), of which 60 were new to me. The total number of plays of those games was 693 (2017:746). Once again, my most played game, thanks to the app, was Qwixx, with 55 plays (50 less than in 2017). In total four games received more than 25 plays, and another fourteen were played at least ten times.

    The full list of those games that received at least 10 plays is as follows:

    • Qwixx (55)
    • Codenames Duet (34)
    • Big Points (29)
    • PitchCar (28)
    • Ticket to Ride (19) – this is of various maps
    • Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (18)
    • One Night Ultimate Werewolf (17)
    • Coloretto (15)
    • Bohnanza (15)
    • Black Orchestra (14)
    • Colt Express (14)
    • Castles of Burgundy (13)
    • T.I.M.E. Stories (13) – both Lumen Fidei and Estrella Drive
    • Dream Home (12)
    • Can’t Stop (12)
    • 3 sind eine zu viel (10)
    • Circus Flohcati (10)
    • Warsaw: City of Ruins (10)
  • As usual, most of the games that received multiple plays are light, filler types, with a few slightly heavier and co-operative games mixed in to the list.
  • Books Read in 2018

    Posted: January 1, 2019 in Books

    2018 was a better year than 2017 in terms of reading. I finished the year having read a total of 20 books – almost double the previous year’s total. As usual, the year ended with a number of books part-read as well, but unfinished books don’t count towards the yearly total. Hopefully, I’ll manage to finish most of them and they’ll be able to be part of the total for 2019.

    However, that’s in the future and the point of this post is to look into the recent past. So the list of books that I read in 2018 is as follows:

    • The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
    • Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir by Ken Clarke
    • Poirot’s Early Cases by Agatha Christie
    • Writing in the Dust by Rowan Williams
    • Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin
    • Towards Zero by Agatha Christie
    • Phoebe by Paula Gooder
    • A Hero in France by Alan First
    • Target Tirpitz by Patrick Bishop
    • Undivided by Vicky Beeching
    • The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves
    • Unseen by Karin Slaughter
    • Agatha Raisin and the Murderous Marriage by M.C.Beaton
    • Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August by Oliver Hilmes
    • Cockleshell Heroes by C.E.Lucas-Phillips
    • The Big Four by Agatha Christie
    • From Source to Sea by Tom Chesshyre
    • The Whistler by John Grisham
    • Parliament The Biography. Volume 1: Ancestral Voices by Chris Bryant
    • Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie

    Risen (2016)

    Posted: November 1, 2018 in Sabbatical
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    This is a different take on the gospel story. Unusually the film begins with the crucifixion and moves forward from there. Thus most of the film deals with events that occur after the resurrection.

    Not only does the film focus on this rarely used part of the Jesus story, but it also introduces the non-canonical character of a Roman tribune, Clavius, who is drawn into the mystery and wonder of the resurrection as he investigates the events surrounding the discovery of the empty tomb.

    Because of the timeline of this particular film, the first time that we see Jesus he is on the cross and already dead. Clavius has not been involved in his crucifixion, but is sent by Pilate to see how his execution has progressed. When he arrives there he discovers that Jesus is already dead. Then Joseph of Arimathea is allowed to bury him.

    Following the discovery of the empty tomb, Pilate tasks Clavius with tracking down the body and arresting the disciples who are assumed to have stolen it. In time, after much searching and questioning of witnesses, Clavius discovers the upper room and finds the disciples gathered there with Jesus.

    This, unsurprisingly, unsettles Clavius and starts him off on a journey towards faith. He goes AWOL from the Roman army, follows the disciples to Galilee, meets Jesus again and speaks with him. In the end we hear him proclaim a faith and see him set off on foot for the rest of his life – no doubt, one assumes, witnessing for Jesus as he goes.

    This is, as I’ve already commented, an unusual approach to the gospel story and, while it could easily have gone astray, it is well handled which, in turn, makes it watchable. Thankfully, nothing is overplayed, especially with the supernatural, or beyond human-ness, that the resurrection challenges us with. Jesus appears and disappears at will, but is also clearly fully human and has a physical body.

    This Jesus is enigmatic. For much of the film we do not hear his voice, he is just present, and he is gentle, relaxed, and comfortable with the people around him. He is a Jesus who cares and seeks to reach out to those who are in need. We see him heal, and we witness him reaching out to Clavius, a symbol of the powers that crucified him. One sign of the reality that God’s love, and the gospel message, are for everyone is shown when Clavius first encounters the resurrected Jesus. Jesus welcomes him into the upper room and states that, “there are no enemies here.” Here then, we see the love of Christ offered to all, with no barriers and no hesitancy. It reminds us of how we should be and is, therefore, a challenge to us all.

    The Gospel of Us (2012)

    Posted: October 31, 2018 in Sabbatical
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    This is a film that I found challenging. In some ways it doesn’t quite fit in with the theme of my sabbatical as Jesus is not a named character in the film, and yet, Michael Sheen’s character, The Teacher, is clearly a Christ-like character in what is a contemporary retelling of what we know as the passion narrative. Therefore, it seems right that it should be included.

    What makes this film difficult compared to other contemporary approaches to the gospel story is that this film only follows the familiar story very loosely. Much of what takes place is not easily connected with the gospel narrative. There are allusions to time spent in the wilderness, there is clearly a baptism of sorts, the Teacher does stand up to the authorities and challenges them, and at the end he is arrested, beaten, and crucified.

    However, I found the film confusing in many places, and I wasn’t always sure what was going on. Michael Sheen was, as one would expect, very good in his role, but the confusion that his character had about who he was and where he came from, shown at the end of the film to be some sort of temporary memory loss caused by his time ‘in the wilderness’, didn’t match up with how I perceive Jesus to have been.

    The highlight of the film came right at the end. Following an extended, and very drawn out procession to the site of the crucifixion, the Teacher is crucified. After his death the body is taken down and cradled by his mother. Then, the body is revealed to be a collection of flowers and petals, at which point a character standing nearby reveals himself to be the Teacher with the words, “It is finished,” and the cry, It has begun!”

    This cry truly speaks of the gospel message and is a terrific moment with which to end the story. Even though I struggled with the majority of the film, and found it hard going to persevere with it, this final moment enthused and excited me. This one moment sums up who Jesus is and what he means to us all. It is joy, it is victory, it is the mission cry of the church.

    Killing Jesus (2015)

    Posted: October 31, 2018 in Sabbatical
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    This is an interesting film. It is, according to IMDb, the first time that the character of Jesus has been portrayed by an actor of west Asian heritage. The actor is Lebanese, so ethnically accurate for the character, and not the blond-haired blue-eyed Jesus that has often been seen to be portrayed in Western works in the past.

    As Jesus grows up it becomes apparent that he does not know who he is. In time John the Baptist enlightens him, but Jesus remains doubtful.

    Later, we see Jesus go fishing with Peter in his boat. The fishing does not go well, so Jesus suggests that they pray. As he does so, the net fills with fish. Following this miracle, we see that Peter has faith in Jesus while James & John have doubts. Jesus then heals a boy with evil spirits, although at first, as he is doing so, people, including Peter, think that the boy has died.

    During a conversation Jesus says, “I’m not a zealot. I come only to bring word of God’s love. And to say that all must be born again.”

    On hearing word of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus says, “How do I now speak of love? Forgiveness? How? I am trapped by the feelings of a man who longs to attack this injustice. Now I know my Father’s anger at how we fail him. Now I feel I am not to bring peace but a sword.”

    Towards the end of the film, after Jesus has been arrested, the Captain of the Temple Guard is shown to be extremely antagonistic towards Jesus. Specifically, he wants Jesus to contradict his teachings and begin to curse those who have brought him to suffering. Jesus does not do this.

    On the third day Nicodemus, Joseph, John, Mary, Mary, and Joanna go to the tomb together. They find the tomb open and empty save the grave clothes. After a while the women are seen to smile as they begin to realise what the empty tomb means.

    Then we see Peter, in Galilee, fishing. Once again, the fishing is not going well, so he decides to pray just as he remembers Jesus did on a previous occasion. Once again the net fills with a big catch of fish. Peter then looks to heaven and says that he will be a fisher of men. Then he calls to the shore, to James & John, and says, “He has come, come back to us!”

    Jesus is an interesting character in this film. For much of it he seems to be either unaware of exactly who he is, or unconfident in his abilities. There is an undercurrent of doubt in him. His desire to challenge the powers that be and those in authority becomes stronger as the film progresses, and the personal challenge that he faces when he learns of John the Baptist’s death presents an interesting interpretation.

    Yet one of the challenging aspects of the film for a believer comes right at the end. For the viewer does not see the resurrected Christ at any time. The resurrection is hinted at with the empty tomb and the discarded grave clothes. Its power and meaning is alluded to in the expressions that appear on the faces of the women at the tomb, but we still do not see Jesus for ourselves. Nor are we ever given the impression that the characters themselves do either. Instead, the film suddenly cuts to period of narration that describes what is believed to have happened to a number of the key characters in the story.

    Son of Man (2006)

    Posted: October 30, 2018 in Sabbatical
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    This is a South African film that translates the gospel story into a modern setting in South Africa. This makes for a powerful telling of the story which, while remaining faithful to the familiar, adapts it in ways that make the viewer think.

  • There are a number of moments in the film that stand out for one reason or another.
    • Throughout the film the angel Gabriel is depicted as a child. The heavenly host that appear to the shepherds are all children, and when they appear they surround the shepherds. Then after Gabriel has announced the birth of Jesus, they sing, “The sun will rise in spring over the mountain. Today we are united, we are one people.” When the shepherds visit the stable, one of them quotes what we might consider to be the traditional angelic words that the shepherds hear to Mary and the baby Jesus.

    The angel Gabriel

      The infant Jesus is shown dancing with Gabriel, but when the viewpoint changes to look from Mary’s perspective, we can see that she can only see Jesus apparently dancing on his own.
      The three kings arrive while Jesus is having a bath. This is an unusually vulnerable situation for Jesus to be portrayed in and, while being a short scene, reveals something of his humanity and the context that the film is set within. The magi praise him loudly for a prolonged period of time, until he tells them to be quiet.
      While still in Bethlehem, Joseph sees an angel and has a vision of the soldiers coming. They leave; not just the holy family, but everyone from the town. As they travel along the road they come to a road block. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus stay back and hide. The infant boys of the rest of the group are taken aside and killed. Afterwards Gabriel invites Jesus to go with him, seemingly suggesting that he come away from the situation, threats, and death. However, Jesus shakes his head and says, “This is my world.” Here we see something of Jesus’ willingness to come to earth and fulfil the mission that his Father gives to him. He has a choice and chooses to become incarnate and carry out his mission. There are also echoes of R.S. Thomas’ poem, The Coming, particularly the final line, “Let me go there,” in his words.

    Jesus, at the point where he says, “This is my world.”

      Contrary to how some people think such things should be portrayed, and in contrast to what made up a lot of discussions at theological college, Jesus is dressed in white while Satan is dressed in black. Satan is often seen in the background of scenes. He clearly influences some actions, but doesn’t speak or act.
      The baptism of Jesus and subsequent series of temptations are shown as a type of initiation into adulthood, and specifically that of becoming men.
      The calling of the disciples is interesting. Peter, James, and John are linked to fishing by being met by a boat, but we do not know if they actually are fishermen. Thomas and Bartholomew are miners. James the younger and Matthew are depicted as insurgents or terrorists. Simone and Phillippa (initially Simon and Philip before we see that they are women) are aligned with the rebels. Thaddea and Andie do not appear to have specific roles. Judas is a fireman/stoker on the railway. He deals in weapons and is seen giving guns to the Elders, Caiaphas & Annas.
      Jesus encourages non-violent protest and rebellion throughout his ministry. At one point he says, “We don’t need weapons to fight this battle” and places a bag on the table in the middle of the disciples. One by one they place their weapons in the bag, at times with flashbacks to past atrocities that they have been part of.
      The woman caught in adultery is doused in petrol. Jesus is asked if she should be punished. Before he responds the army appear and call on the crowd to disperse, in contrast to the gospel account where it appears to be what Jesus writes in the sand that leads them to leave. Jesus then asks the woman where her accusers are and when she replies that they have gone, he tells her that he does not accuse her either and that she should go. Then Jesus is seen at a party, dancing and singing. The woman caught in adultery, having gone and bought perfumed oil, comes in and anoints Jesus’ feet. The gathered company are outraged and Judas challenges Jesus. In reply Jesus forgives the woman and tells her to find peace. This leads the other women to gradually join in singing around her, effectively bringing her back into the community.
      Jesus is seen in a shanty town speaking of what he hears happening around the world, and that when he hears such things he says, “I say we have been lied to. Evil did not fall.” He continues, “When you are told, and you will be, that people just ‘disappear’, you must say we have been lied to. And evil will fall.” This is a clear comment on the type of atrocities that are known to have taken place in South Africa, particularly during the apartheid era, and it is also a deliberate placing of Jesus alongside the poor and oppressed.
      Jesus has a coffin opened despite protests, and raises a dead man. We then see a mural of the event painted on a wall. Jesus then goes and heals a girl with an evil spirit and we see the Elders watching a video of the event, and another mural. But the Elders also want more evidence.
      Pilate is shown video evidence of Jesus’ activities. He says it is not enough, that they are just tales for children. He then says that if Jesus disappears it will be nothing to do with him, and is seen symbolically ‘washing his hands’ with water that he has spilt pouring himself a drink.
      After he is arrested, Jesus is taken to a secret place by night and beaten. He refuses to support the evil authorities and so they either beat him unconscious, or kill him. Jesus is then driven into the bush and a grave is dug. He is put in it. One of the henchmen takes his boots. Jesus is shot. Whether this is an execution, or simply making sure that he is already dead is unclear.
      Jesus’ mother, Mary, goes to the grave and digs Jesus’ body up. She ties his body to a cross and displays it in a prominent place over the city. This is shown as an act of defiance and challenge to the authorities who are unable to prevent it.

    Jesus’ body displayed on the cross

      Resurrection happens, though we do not see it. Afterwards, Jesus climbs the hill towards the, now empty, cross, with a host of angels following him. As he nears the top he turns and punches the air victoriously. The film ends with a freeze frame on him doing this.

    The final scene. The freeze frame image is a close up of Jesus.

  • This is a powerful film, and one of the best attempts at retelling the gospel narrative that I have seen so far. There are times when it strays from the canonical narrative, but this is always to be expected in an attempt to tell the story on film in a way that entertains as much as it educates.
  • The point of greatest divergence from the gospel narrative is at the moment of Jesus’ death. For while Jesus has, in the moments leading up to it, visions of the cross, his death is more secretive and hidden. And while this does not conform to the gospel story, it fits in with the context of the setting in South Africa and the knowledge of those people who have ‘disappeared’. It is Mary’s act of defiance and shining a light on what has happened that brings Jesus’ death into public view, and it is at that point that we see him on the cross – an act that offends the authorities.
  • There are similarities in this film with that of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s, The Gospel According to St Matthew. In that film the director depicts Jesus and his message from a Marxist viewpoint, thus focusing on the poor and oppressed, and intimating that God is on the side of such people. The same can be said of this film, and I think that it achieves its aim much more clearly as this Jesus is far more explicit in his support of those who are oppressed as well as his criticism of those who are the oppressors. Indeed, in this film, it is clearly his challenge to the authorities and their collusion with the occupying forces that ultimately leads to his death.
  • The Young Messiah (2016)

    Posted: October 19, 2018 in Sabbatical
    Tags: ,

    This is an odd film that doesn’t really go anywhere. It based upon a novel written by Anne Rice entitled Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (she is probably better known for writing a series of books called The Vampire Chronicles, the best known of which is Interview with the Vampire).

    The film is set in Jesus’ early life between the gospel accounts of his birth and the visit to the temple in Jerusalem when he was twelve. This means that the film is based upon non-canonical and fictional accounts of Jesus’ early life.

    The narrative of the film begins in Egypt, where Jesus and his extended family have fled after Herod the Great seeks to kill all the boys born in Bethlehem. The rest of the film shows the family on their journey home to Nazareth following Herod’s death, and then another journey to Jerusalem. Indeed, much of the film consists of people walking along dusty roads. All through this time, the new King Herod seeks to have Jesus found and killed because of the threat that he causes him.

    The twin themes of the film are the hunt to find and kill Jesus, and the desire for knowledge that Jesus has about who he is. Jesus, at this time in his life, does not know who he is, nor where he comes from. As the film progresses he gradually learns parts of the story, but his parents are unwilling to share the truth with him until just before the film drifts to its end. As for the hunt for Jesus, the Roman soldiers are always just behind Jesus until the last few scenes of the film when the centurion, played by an unusually living-until-the-end-of-the-film Sean Bean, finds him but cannot bring himself to kill him, despite the willingness to follow orders and act in brutal ways that he has shown previously, including being part of the massacre of the innocents.

    This Jesus is, obviously, a child. He is all sweetness, light, naivety, and ignorance. The actor plays the part that he is given as well as he can, but there is no real depth to the character itself. However, this is not really surprising because the film doesn’t have any depth to it either.

    While one can understand the desire to explore ideas about Jesus’ early life and how and when he came to know who he was and what his Father wanted of him, this story does not make a good job of doing so. Jesus really does come across as far too naive and it is not easy to believe that Mary and Joseph would have kept so much from him, even if he didn’t know it for himself.

    One of the recurring motifs in the film is that of Jesus’ divinity and how that manifests itself in the outworking of miracles. We see a few throughout the film. The bringing back to life of the boy who bullies him; the bringing back to life of a dead bird; the healing of his uncle; the giving of sight to a blind rabbi. None of these miracles are attested to in the gospels, and indeed they run contrary to the gospel accounts where, in John, we read that the miracle at Cana was, “the first of his signs” [John 2:11].

    One point of interest in the film is the personification of the devil. Interestingly, this character can only ever be seen by Jesus, and he performs a variety of roles. When we first see him he causes the death of the bully of Jesus, but directs blame towards Jesus; he is often seen whispering into the ears of those who then turn against Jesus; and he even appears directly to Jesus to challenge him.

    He is an interesting character and is portrayed well, which enables the viewer to consider how Jesus may have been challenged, tempted, and threatened by the devil throughout his life and ministry, even while this film dwells on unrecorded events.

    However, even despite this, my overwhelming feeling about this film is that it is poor. Even if one is able to move beyond the idea of basing the entire film on non-canonical accounts, the reality is that the film itself is generally dull and uninteresting. Indeed, if I hadn’t been watching it for a particular reason, then I’m not sure that I would have stuck with it to the end,