Back in January, when the temperatures here in Los Angeles were hitting a frigid 64 degrees, I found myself staving off the Arctic winds by holing up with my laptop and engaging in some warmth-inducing retail therapy. One of my purchases was the humble game City Hall, designed by Michael Keller and published by Tasty Minstrel Games. I had previously read some encouraging things about this game — enough to make my frostbitten finger use its last sensation to tap the One-Click-Purchase button. It also helped that the game had been marked down to about $15. For the price of a stiff Bloody Mary, I had nabbed myself a brand new board game. The future was mine.
But why was City Hall so cheap? For starters, the game is ugly. Like, really ugly. We’re talking a color scheme that mixes forest green with copper with champagne. And don’t get me started with the blocky fonts on the board. It’s as if “Chicago” and “Charcoal” had a bastard love child. If pretty hurts, City Hall definitely has never experienced pain.
The unfortunately reality is that people generally stay away from ugly games, especially if they’re ugly AND about city bureaucracy. Out of the gate, poor City Hall had two strikes against its marketability. And then came the death knell: a lackluster review from one of an influential board game critic, who most likely turned off wide swaths of the purchasing audience. Mix those factors together, and it’s no surprise that this $60 game had been marked down to less than a twenty-dollar bill.
This leads to the inevitable question: is City Hall an ugly duckling? Or should it be voted out of office? (Yes, I mixed metaphors). Continue reading
When it comes to depictions of World Wars, Germans have not fared so well. Therefore, it’s a bit surprising that there’s a board game out there casting the Germans as protagonists during WWI. How could this possibly be??? Allies are, like, THE BEST. Well, don’t get yourself worked up into too much of a tizzy. The morality of WWI is hardly a factor in the entertaining, historical game Wings for the Baron (even though at times you will find yourself actively rooting against ‘Murica).
Real Housewives of New York is by far my favorite iteration of Bravo’s venerable Real Housewives franchise. There’s no better collection of lunatic, neurotic, self-involved, and generally hilarious women on the network, perhaps even TV in general. The latest season of the show continues its tradition of petty squabbles and sharp-tongued blow-outs, and since I had a few spare hours on my hands, I thought I would look back on the first eight episodes and do a good ol’ fashioned photocap.
After the jump, a massive stroll through RHONY’s greatest 2016 hits…
I have a special place in my heart for jungle adventures, mostly based on my love for the seminal ’80s movie Romancing the Stone. The exotic mix of hidden treasure, treacherous terrain, and general humidity is a big draw for me. Plus, let’s not overlook the khaki splendor that is Kathleen Turner.
These days, my jungle adventures seem limited to watching Survivor and occasionally ambling through a local nursery. It’s just not the same. Luckily, there’s a new game out called Karuba that yearns to scratch that jungle itch. Does it? No, of course not. How could an adorable game compare to Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, and Kathleen Turner? But the good news is that Karuba is super fun, and there’s no threat of death by crocodile. Continue reading
I may be an unabashed board game nerd these days, but it’s only because there are so many fun games out there. Truly — it’s a problem. An embarrassment of riches. Just when I think I can ebb the purchasing, another great one comes down the pike, the latest being Iki — a Japanese “game of Edo artisans.” Well, if that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is.
I first learned about Iki during a particularly fruitful span of procrastination that had me exploring the depths of boardgamegeek.com. First, I came upon a glowing review of the game, and since it sounded interesting, I dug deeper until I found a playthrough on YouTube. After watching a few rounds of Iki, I went to the mirror and saw that I had giant hearts in my eyes. Oh dear. Time to make more room in my Ikea shelving system.
It’s Winter, which means that swaths of America have been plunged into subzero temperatures. Of course, in Los Angeles, we’re going on our fifth day in a row of 80-plus degree weather, but that’s neither here nor there. Don’t worry: when this state falls into the Pacific, you can have your laughs.
The point is that this is an excellent time of the year to curl up next to a fireplace (or radiator) and enjoy some whiskey. Thankfully, the good people at Orphan Barrel™ recently invited me and a guest to taste their new release, The Gifted Horse American Whiskey, and I’m proud to say that on that frigid 55 degree evening, it was the perfect antidote to the Winter blues. Pics after the jump…
Back in June of 2015, when I was six months into my burgeoning board game obsession/addiction, I learned that a game called Orléans had been nominated for Kennerspiel De Jahres. In gaming parlance, it’s the equivalent of receiving an Oscar nod. Well, sort of. The Spiel de Jahres is actually the award reserved for game of the year, and that award usually goes to something with broad, perhaps family appeal. The Kennerspiel, however, is designated for more intensely gamey games — the titles that are a little more challenging in some way or another. Think of it as the Palm d’Or to the Spiel de Jahres‘s Oscar. This is all an elaborate and unnecessary way for me to say that about six or seven months ago, I heard about Orléans, and I heard it was good.
WELL. I took a gander at some of the early reviews of Orléans, and after seeing the way the game played, I summarily decided that I must have it. The only problem was that the damn thing wasn’t available outside of Europe. I’m a sucker for when people play hard to get, and I guess the same goes for board games because I definitely developed a crush on this bad boy. I waited patiently for months, and then finally, Orléans arrived stateside. In fact, the game’s US distributor, Tasty Minstrel Games, was kind enough to send me a review copy recently. At last I could get my eager paws onto this game; although, full disclosure, my friend Larry bought the game six weeks prior; so, my eager paws had actually pawed about already. But that’s neither here nor there.
Was Orléans worth the wait? Or did my crush merely string me along?
There’s no shortage of tacos in Los Angeles, except for maybe in Little Armenia, but who am I kidding? There are tacos there too. Tacos are everywhere in Los Angeles. I mean er’rywhere. Yes, tacos and L.A. go together like pizza and New York, chowder and Boston, Outback and Orange County — classic combinations that won’t be going away anytime soon.
The humble taco has seen its stock rise in recent years. Purveyors such as Guisado’s and Kogi and Petty Cash have reminded Angelenos that tacos can be about so much more than ground meat, crappy cheese, and some generic toppings (although, when done right, that can still be so good). Throwing their hat into the elevated taco game is Tacos Tu Madre, a funky little taqueria that serves up flavors both traditional and “fancy.” At a recent media-comped meal, I was able to enjoy some of the concoctions on offer, and I’m happy to report that the taco renaissance continues to blossom. Pics of the fun stuff after the jump…
There aren’t many board games that do double duty as Village People song puns, but Gold West is here to buck the trend. Admittedly, the term “Go West” could also be credited to 19th century author Horace Greeley, but that’s not nearly as fun. I like to think “Gold West’s” designer J. Alex Kevern was making a cheeky reference to classic disco (or maybe even the Pet Shop Boys) when he conceived the name. I know I would.
Nevertheless, I always enjoy a good pun, and there’s no better way to win over my good graces than some light wordplay in a game title. Therefore, I was particularly eager to dive into my new copy of Gold West, generously provided by its publisher, Tasty Minstrel Games. Would the game strike gold? Or would it just be another sad lump of California dirt?
Is there anything more fun than pretending to be 19th century Japanese industrialists? I don’t think so. Luckily for us, there’s a fantastic new game on shelves that captures the thrill of modernizing Japan, all from the comfort of your dining room table. Finally, the zaibatsu simulation you’ve always wanted.
This madness is called Nippon, and please do not let my snarky tone confuse you: the game is awesome. Players will ascend to great, industrialized heights, thanks to savvy investments in lightbulbs and bento boxes and other exciting goods (paper, anyone?). Factories will rise, infrastructures will grow, and influence will blossom across the island of Japan. Also, your brain may just turn into a pretzel. But what a fun pretzel it will be!