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 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.

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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?

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A Bunch of Board Games You Should Play


A year ago, my friend and former blog partner Joe (a.k.a. J-Unit) had a bachelor party up in Lake Tahoe. It was a pretty fun bro weekend full of beer pong, barbecuing, and a forest fire (unrelated to the barbecuing). With the area full of smoke, we spent a lot of time indoors, and thankfully our friend Isaac had brought a game. Specifically, Settlers of Catan. It was the first time I had even heard of this cultural phenomenon, and I can assure you that after my first play, my life was changed — CHANGED, I TELL YOU. Catan blew my mind, and being that I’m a curious type, I spent the next several weeks devouring any sort of media about it that I could find (videos, articles, performance art, anything). I soon discovered that Settlers of Catan was only the tip of the gaming iceberg. There were many, many, many more modern board games out in the world, and they were a far cry from the roll-and-move games of our youth.

A year later, I’ve slid down the rabbit hole and found myself fully obsessed with modern board games. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise: I’ve been a video game fanatic for years; so board games are a logical next step in my playtime activities. Nevertheless, one of my great weaknesses is forcing my obsessions onto innocent bystanders, and subsequently, I now talk everyone’s ear off about tabletop gaming, often hijacking my podcasts to extol the virtues of Catan or Dead of Winter.

The response has actually been pretty cool. I receive several Tweets and messages asking for recommendations, and who am I to deny ANYONE my thoughtful opinion? I’m not a monster, after all. I AM AN INFLUENCER, DAMMIT. (Somewhere there is a Klout score to verify this, as well as several free shaving kits, some Hulu vouchers, and an Audi).

That being said, after the jump, check out an unsolicited tour of my gaming collection. Hopefully you’ll find something in there that will inspire you to either dive into the hobby or expand your collection. At the very least, it’s a fun way to pass five minutes on the Internet.

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BANTER BLENDER #109: Emmys Noms, Caitlyn Jenner’s Speech, LA Complex, and Fiasco

New episode is up! Finally!!

Angie Thomas and I chat about Emmy nominations, Caitlyn Jenner’s ESPY speech, transgender stuff, and the overlooked series, “LA Complex.”

There’s also chatter about the games Fiasco and Viticulture as well as the cinematic experience known as The DUFF.

Come listen!

BANTER BLENDER #104: Measles, Bruce Jenner, ‘American Sniper,’ and Bagels

This week on “The Banter Blender,” Angie Thomas (“All the Way”) joins Ben to chat about the usual grab bag of topics: the measles outbreak in CA, Bruce Jenner’s possibly trans journey, the controversy surrounding American Sniper, and, of course, the best bagels in Los Angeles. Come listen!

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WATCH WHAT CRAPPENS #163: Drama on the Menu at Sur

This week Ronnie Karam ( and Ben Mandelker (The Banter Blender) go to town on the crazy drama of “Vanderpump Rules.” From the Miami stalker to Lisa’s scolding, it’s nearly a full hour of ridicule. Then it’s on to Beverly Hills and Atlanta for more mockery. Along the way, there’s talk of Top Chef, Best New Restaurant, and even some random Food Network talk. Come in and listen to this long and rowdy episode!

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BANTER WITH BEN AND LISA #59: Adventures in Hawaii

This week on “Banter with Ben and Lisa,” Ben Mandelker ( shares death-defying stories about his recent trip to Hawaii where he encountered roosters, giant SUVs, and other frightening threats to his safety. There’s also talk of fat suits, Gerard Depardieu, and Jason Collins, naturally. Come listen!

BANTER WITH BEN AND LISA #58: Goodbye TVgasm, DOMA; Hello Cougar Music

This week on “Banter with Ben and Lisa,” Ben Mandelker ( and Lisa Timmons ( are joined by Matt Whitfield (Yahoo!, Watch What Crappens) to talk about everything under the sun. We start by saying goodbye to, which is shutting down this week. Ben talks about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that inspired the site and eventually led to his departure. After that, the gang takes on the Man of Steel, DOMA, Aaron Hernandez, Gwyneth Paltrow, and inevitably, our favorite cougar anthems. Definitely listen to this one!

BIG BROTHER PHOTOCAP: Shiny Surfaces, Devious Twists, and A Whole Lot Of Boobs


Big Brother 15 is off and running. It’s hard to believe, considering that CBS has traditionally premiered the show after July 4th. Nevertheless, I’m more than delighted to have Big Brother back, and so far, I’m digging the cast. With sixteen members, there’s more potential than ever for cattiness and fights, especially amongst the women who all seem to think they’re the hottest in the house. A disaster in the making…

In an effort to combat some of the sleepy gameplay we’ve seen in recent seasons, the producers have introduced a fascinating twist. Every week, America will vote on the Big Brother MVP — the person that we believe is playing the best game. The BBMVP will then be quietly informed of his or her status and be given the power to secretly nominate a third person to go up on the block. Of course, this twist leaves the door wide open for producer manipulation, but I’m not sure I care. Anything that gives these jokers a reason to scheme hard is a-ok by me.

On to the photocap!

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THINGS I ATE: Garlic Fun, Courtesy of Delancey and Jon’s


Garlic. It’s the best. Who doesn’t love garlic, aside from vampires and other similarly closed-minded ghouls? I’ve recently been on a minor garlic quest to master the fine art of toum, a Lebanese garlic sauce formed from garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. One of my attempts (documented here) involved raw egg, which sent my mixture into aioli territory, which was delicious but not really what I was looking for.

It turns out that toum is not as simple as it would appear, and while normally that’s exactly the sort of challenge I embrace, I have to admit that I’ve thrown in the towel. Why? Well, I was recently at Jon’s grocery store in Los Feliz, and I came upon a no-frills container of “authentic garlic sauce” that claimed it was “great for dipping.” I’m not master chef, but it looked a hell of a lot like toum (spoiler alert: it pretty much was toum). Anyway, I indulged a whopping $2.50 on this sauce, and I can proudly state that my desire to make toum from scratch has fully dissipated.

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