ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: Iki Edition

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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.

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Trotting Out The Gifted Horse

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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…

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ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: Orléans Edition

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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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Plug Your Mouth at Tacos Tu Madre

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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…

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ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: ‘Gold West’ Edition

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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?

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ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: ‘Nippon’ Edition

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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!

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PLAYERS GONNA PLAY: Viking Bravery and ‘The Champions of Midgard’

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When it comes to knowledge of Scandinavia, I sadly glean most facts from my Ikea cookbook, the Thor franchise, and occasional episodes of The Amazing Race. Oh, and my friend Diana. She’s from Sweden.

Nevertheless, one thing I definitely do know about Northern Europe is that Vikings used to sail its shores, paving the way for a cultural legacy that includes the Bjursta extendable table, the Nobel prize, and now The Champions of Midgard, a brand new board game from Grey Fox Games.

What glories lie in this game’s cardboard box? Answers after the jump…

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New Episode of Banter Blender is Up!

Sorry folks, I really do want to get these episodes up more regularly again, but I’m happy to report we’ve made up for lost time with this latest installment of The Banter Blender. We touch on all the important stuff: reality stars downstairs, Lamar Odom, oversized sandwiches, Adele, my new board game, and candy. Lots of talk about candy. We get into it, people. Come listen, and if you like it, share it with your friends!

Special guests Angie Thomas and David Clark, co-hosts of the Deep Thots podcast!

ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Maangchi Madness!

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If there’s any cuisine I’m totally obsessed with, it’s probably Korean. On any given night I’m pestering my friends to grab some grub in Koreatown — or K-Town (not to be confused with my hometown of Katonah, NY, also known as K-Town amongst the local ruffians). Whether it’s BBQ or tofu or grilled clams or hot pot or raw crabs or fatty bossam or refreshing hwe dup bap, I want it all, and I generally want it every meal.

This does not happen.

I do have some enablers — my friend Sly is almost always good for a trip to our favorite K-Town eateries (Soowon Galbi, A-Won, or even Hodori) — but mostly, I spend a lot of time pining. Luckily, Amazon.com has direct access to my brain and happily suggested I “treat myself to a little something,” and in this case, it was a cookbook by Korean cook cum Youtube star Maangchi. The collection of recipes certainly looked interesting… and the reviews were stellar… and I hadn’t purchased a Korean cookbook in years… and… well, you know where this is headed.

After some hemming and hawing, I bought the book, visited the Korean grocer, and soon found myself knee-deep in Korean madness. Pics of what I made and some thoughts on the final product after the jump…

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Making Life Easier in ‘La Granja’

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Last week I casually ranked all the board games in my collection, with one of my favorites being La Granja. It’s about farming in Majorca (finally, something to fill that gaming void), and one of the central mechanics has players sliding cards under a cardboard “farm” to spectacular effect. Well, unfortunately, all this pushing and sliding often causes the farmstead to shift around, causing chaos amongst the carefully placed cards. To that I say NO MORE! I’ve come up with a $2 fix, which should help all us OCD types press on in the quest of pastoral dominance.

The Earth-shattering solution after the jump…

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