Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Commissioned - A Fantastic Chara Games Strategy Game - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Commissioned {Chara Games}
A few years ago my oldest son, John Allen, had the pleasure of working at a great Christian camp in upstate New York for two summers. My family was also able to spend a week there each summer helping in different areas and speaking in their evening vesper program. The director and his family just happened to be game players. Now, we aren't talking about regular family board games like Monopoly and Clue, we are talking board games where you have to build your own civilization or control this or that economic area. They were new and interesting scenarios and games that I had never played before. I really enjoyed it! John Allen has since continued to seek out and play these games and has become quite good at playing them.

Recently I was invited to review a new game from a brand new company called Chara Games. It looked like this company made games similar to those neat games that I had played a few years before however, while the other games were very fun with nothing necessarily wrong with them, the games from this company were going to have all Christian themes. This intrigued me, as it did John Allen. So, when I was chosen to review their first game, Commissioned, he and I were both very excited.

Commissioned {Chara Games}

In fact, John Allen was so excited that when the game arrived he promptly grabbed it from my had to open it and begin to read the directions. Now, as I mentioned before, these games aren't your typical family board games. While this makes the game more exciting and interesting, the rules can sometimes be a little frustrating to learn until you finally get into the game. The rules for Commissioned are no different. While someone experienced with these type of games like John Allen and his friend Danny can decipher the rules and understand them quicker, an old codger like me has a little harder time figuring them out. It was one of those things where we just had to dive in and play and, sure enough, as we played things became a lot clearer.

I commented before that the games from Chara Games were going to have Christian themes and I loved the theme for Commissioned. It is based in the first century just after Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension and has to do with the spreading of the gospel to other regions. The game came with a double-sided game board, 5 double-sided scenario cards, 6 player boards, 96 faith cards, 27 trial cards, 4 missionary meeples, 75 church member cubes, 1 elder's staff, 6 player pawns, 30 double-sided stop tokens, 5 double-sided extinguished tokens, 1 converted cities leaders token, 1 Roman Legion token, 1 8-sided die, 1 rulebook and 1 theme appendix. Whew! Say that five times real fast!

There is no way that I could explain all the rules and details of the game in a short blog post, but I can give you a basic overview. You begin by choosing a scenario card which tells you the victory conditions and what it means if you fail. It also determines which side of the double-sided playing board that you use. Oh, and did I forget to tell you that in Commissioned, you aren't playing against each other, but are all working together to achieve the victory conditions? That makes this even more fun and unique. The five scenarios are:

  • Acts of the Apostles
  • Peter's Gentile Outreach
  • The First Missionary Journeys
  • Appeal to Caesar
  • To the Ends of the Earth

Each person then chooses a player board. Each player comes with a unique set of gifts and abilities. That may help you once you learn the game, but when first started out, we just chose a player that we thought we liked. The six players are:

  • Peter
  • James
  • Barnabas
  • Paul
  • Andrew
  • John
The game play is pretty easy to follow. It's the intricate things that happen during the game that make it interesting and challenging. I'll go into those in a minute but first let me tell you the game play.

Commissioned {Chara Games}

You begin by drawing a certain amount of faith cards depending on the number of players. That is called "Arming Yourself" for the round. You then play 2-4 rounds of the "Live" stage (again determined by the number of players). This is where it gets exciting. During the "Live" rounds you choose a TRIAL card and apply what it says. As you know, the apostles had to face and overcome many trials when spreading the gospel. Sometimes they faced opposition, often they were beaten or thrown into prison, many times the churches that they were working with needed to be rebuked because they were allowing wrong influences into their group. The creators of this game do an excellent job in trying to recreate those things in the game. It makes it challenging. However, prayer worked back then and that brings us to the next phase - the PRAY phase.

In the PRAY phase the players quietly play two of their Faith cards. You then go on to the SHARE phase where the Elder (Leader for that round) then chooses two of the played Faith cards to apply. These cards often over power the things done during the trial phase or, they could help to advance the game by adding more churches.

The Elder can then MOVE some of the players around to help further advance the game and then GROW the church population.

After the two "Live" rounds are played, the players "Mature" by buying new cards to add to their collection.

As I mentioned, the rounds are pretty easy to follow, it's the intricate things that happen that can be a challenge to understand. That's where the die and all of the other pieces come in. However, as we have played it has gotten easier.

We have really enjoyed this game. John Allen and Danny have really gotten into it but even this old codger has had fun. Although nothing can compare to the real life trials that the apostles and early church leaders had to go through, playing this game has helped us understand some of the things that they went through. It has been a great learning experience.

Commissioned {Chara Games}

EXTRA BONUS! They have a card game coming out soon that I know is going to be really great as well. In fact, I'm going to be reviewing it soon. Stay tuned for my review on 3 Seeds! I can't wait!

I would encourages you all to look into Commissioned and the other games that Chara Games are developing. Just click on any of the highlighted links above or click on any of the social media links below. Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed this game and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Playing!

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Twitter: @Charagames

Commissioned {Chara Games}
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Critical Thinking Co.™ - A "WOW" Homeschool Review Crew Review

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
I love being on the Homeschool Review Crew. It has been such a blessing to us as a family. We have reviewed some great products with which my atypical learning children have excelled. I will give you a glimpse into how the Homeschool Review Crew works. First, future review vendors are posted as they come on board with us so that we as reviewers can check out their websites to get familiar with their products. Then, closer to the review period, a vendor interest form is posted for us to fill out and express our interest in reviewing a certain product. After much research there are some products that I feel would be a great fit for my kids so I express that I would be interested in reviewing that product. However, most of the time it takes much research. There aren't too may vendors that I know immediately that I want to review their products. Those vendors that I know without research that I want to review then are vendors that have "top of the hill - cream of the crop" curriculum. The Critical Thinking Co.™ is one of those companies and Language Smarts™ Level E is one of those products.

We have used Language Smarts™ products before with my middle son Joshua and he loves them. In fact, he was just talking about Language Smarts™ a couple of weeks before we were invited to review it again. We have tried other Language Arts products from other companies. Some of them have worked fairly well, but none of them have been a great fit for him. Language Smarts™ is the only one that he absolutely loves.
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
You see, Joshua is autistic and needs the right balance of work and play with his curriculum. If it is a boring, all worksheet/workbook, type program where all he is doing is filling in blanks or writing sentences, then he falls apart. There can't be too much writing and there has to be a level of fun in what he is doing. Language Smarts™ Level E has a perfect balance that he loves. 
First of all, let me tell you that just because challenged child loves this curriculum does not mean that it is all fluff and no content. It has plenty of content. Level E - which is listed as a fourth grade level (I've found that most Critical Thinking Co.™ products are advanced though so make sure you view sample pages before making your choice), has nearly 400 pages that covers:
  • Capitalization
  • Part of Speech
  • Punctuation
  • Reading
  • Reference Materials
  • Sentences
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary and Word Usage
  • Writing
I like the fact (and so does Joshua who has small motor challenges) that, although writing is involved, each page/lesson has just the right amount of fill in the blank, choose from the wordbox, etc. questions. I also like the fact that every few pages there is a puzzle activity such as a crossword puzzle or word search. Probably the biggest thing that drew me to Critical Thinking Co.™ is the fact that it teaches, well, critical thinking! That is something that Joshua definitely needs help with. However, they teach it in ways where Joshua doesn't even realize he's learning critical thinking skills! So, he is getting the best of many worlds! He's learning Language Arts and critical thinking skills in a fun way that is perfect for him. 
Joshua likes this so much that he does two to three pages a day so, although there is no suggested time schedule for this book, he should complete it in a year. The introduction to the book suggests that Language Smarts™ Level E can be used as a core curriculum or a supplemental resource. However, because I feel that it is very complete on its own, we are using it as our core Language Arts book. 
As you can see, we really like Critical Thinking Co.™ and Language Smarts™ Level E. To find out more about this awesome company just click on any one of the highlighted links above or visit one of their social media sites listed below. Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed other products from Critical Thinking Co.™ and you can see what they had to say by clicking on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!
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Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Accountable2You - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

I'm going to tell you right now that the issue that I am going to talk about is a touchy one. No one wants to admit that anyone in their household has an issue with this. No one wants to admit that there is a family history of this. No one wants to admit that this even exists! However, it does exist. It does affect families. It has even affected my family. It is a problem that needs to be discussed. That problem is internet pornography, internet stalking, and other inappropriate internet activity.

I was one of those people that ignored the fact that it could be in my circle of friends and in my family until, just recently, a close friend came to me and told me he was having a problem with internet pornography. Although I was surprised, I wasn't shocked. I should have known better. I should have known that this evil was even more prevalent than I thought. It had affected me in my younger days and, now, with internet, it is even more accessible and available. Then, later on that same day, a family member came to me in tears saying that he had seen pornography on the internet as well. That's when I knew I needed to protect my immediate family and was glad that I was reviewing the Accountable2You online Family Plan for 12 months.

With the Family Plan, we could install the program on up to 20 devices including phones, tablets, and computers that include almost any system that you can think of. To begin, however, I wanted to see and get a feel for how the plan worked so I only installed it on a few devices that my wife and I use. The installation was incredibly easy. First you sign up for the plan. When you sign up, you are asked who should receive the accountability emails. You can choose a spouse, another family member, a friend - it doesn't matter. All that is required is an email address. Then, after you have signed up, you can go on any internet capable device, log in, and it will give easy prompts to install Accountable2You on that device. It's that simple. From then on Accountable2You is working in the background of that device.

Since it is only me and Sarah at this time, we have not set up any of the many "actions" that you can set up for each user. The actions include setting up objectionable words, non-objectionable words, and time limits that allow your accountability partner to be alerted if you are on line during a chosen time period. It is pretty obvious what these are intended for, but they can also be used in creative ways. For example, a friend of mine who is on the Homeschool Review Crew has her son's computer set to notify her if he looks up the word "lego" since he has the habit of looking up creative lego creations when he should be doing his math homeschool work online. Since we now know how this all works, I am looking forward to installing this on my children's devices as well and becoming pretty creative to be notified when they look up specific things during homeschool hours. :-)

Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

I am very impressed with the notification system that my wife has been getting. I popped on there today to once again see it so that it would be fresh in my mind while writing this review. I was shocked to see that I had three questionable records in the last 15 days! First the notification tells you how many records that a particular device shows. There are two categories that show up - "Questionable" and "Highly Questionable". Thankfully I didn't have any "Highly Questionable" content but I was curious to find out what my "Questionable" content was. I found out that one was a comment that I had made on facebook that joked about a "pot plant"; another was a story that I had shared on facebook about how a bar in England is cleverly combating the sexual assault on women; and the last one was a facebook search that I did but I have no idea why it was listed as questionable.

And those things are just the first things that my wife sees when she goes to the notification page! She can also get a report on app usage that details what apps have been used on a device, how long has been spent on that app, and how active the device has been every day. She can also get a more detailed account. This blew me away! Every message that I have sent from my phone can be seen and every message sent to me can be seen. Sarah and I have an open phone policy where she can look at my messages when she wants but seeing all of my messages linked on one page still surprised me. It even lists when I rejected a call or answered a call! Finally, she can go to a full report that lists all devices that are registered on one page.

WOW! This is detailed. I am really impressed. We are definitely going to be putting this on all of my children's devices to keep track of what they are looking at and when. It's not that I don't trust them, it's just that I want them to be safe. As parents we ask where a child is going and how long it's going and when they will be home. We talk about friends and make sure who they are spending time with. We monitor all kinds of things so why shouldn't we be monitoring their internet activity?

As you can tell, Accountable2You is a keeper for us. Let me tell you now, that this is just a monitoring program and not a filter program although they do give you suggestions for good filtering sites. This will not block sites that anyone sees, it will just let you know what sites they are seeing. Oh, and this works when a child is away from home as well so if they are on a trip or spending the night at a friends house, you can keep track of what they are doing on their own online devices (not their friends devices, only the ones you have Accountable2You downloaded on).

To find out more about Accountable2You just click on any one of the highlighted links above. Accountable2You also has Individual Plans, Group Plans and Small Business Plans to choose from. Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew were given those plans to review and you can find out what they thought by clicking on the banner below. You can also connect with Accountable2You on the social media links listed below.

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Accountability across all your devices {Accountable2You}

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