ADVENTURES IN GAME TIME: Railways of the World Edition


As I’ve tumbled down the slippery slope of the gaming hobby, I’ve encountered, resisted, and ultimately succumbed to a phenomenon called “The Cult of the New.” It’s a terrible, terrible affliction that has gamers flocking like zombies to the new and exciting titles rolling off the assembly lines. However, this comes at the expense of older, equally impressive options, which can be overlooked in the mad scramble for fresh, new playthings.

Thankfully, to help separate the wheat from the chaff, there are tons of gaming podcasts out there, and one of them, The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast, recently profiled a groovy game from the mid-Aughts called Railways of the World by Martin Wallace. Their enthusiasm was unbridled, to put it mildly. Here was a game that promised excellent strategy, interaction, components, and variety — one of their favorites of all time.

Could it be that good? I had to try it for myself.

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The Apples to Apples model of party games has turned into a tried and true format, going dirty with Cards Against Humanity and performative with Funemployed, among others. Even Dixit owes a little bit of its whimsical DNA to the now iconic game.

For the uninitiated, Apples to Apples has players offering up a word that best exemplifies an adjective, with the winning choice selected by the round leader. The results are generally hilarious, but after a while, the thrill can fade as the same options pop up time and time again. This is most apparent in Cards Against Humanity, whose titillating offensiveness transitions into stale joke within two sessions.

Variety is what ultimately kills these games — or at least removes some of their luster — but a new entry in the genre seems to have found an ingenious workaround. The game is called Bring Your Own Book, and it breathes hilarious, intelligent new life into the party game scene.

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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 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

GH Bottle Shot.jpg

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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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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Fighting the “Dead of Winter” with Nancy’s Fancy Gelatti & Sorbetti


It’s been a year or two since I last dusted off my handy ice cream maker, and every time I gaze at its shiny, white shell (which is admittedly not often), I grow wistful for those heady days when I would pour fatty custards into its spinning innards and find glorious ice creams and gelatos waiting for me thirty minutes later. Damn, I love ice cream.

I mean, I really love ice cream.

Of course, who doesn’t love ice cream? Lactose intolerant people, probably. Or maybe people with six-packs. For most of us though, we all scream for ice cream, which is why I was particularly excited when a large box filled with complimentary Nancy’s Fancy gelato arrived at my doorstep last week. The creation of acclaimed pastry-chef Nancy Silverton, Nancy’s Fancy promises a luxe dessert experience, but does it deliver? And is it worth the $10.99 price tag? Yes, you read that correctly: Nancy’s Fancy retails for $10.99 a pint.

To find out the answers to these pressing issues, I brought two pints — Coconut Stracciatella with Bittersweet Chocolate Strands, Frutti di Bosco – Greek Yogurt and Mixed Berries — to my friend’s house for a group tasting. This was all rather convenient as we were all assembling anyway to play the zombie board game “Dead of Winter.” Zombies + Nancy Silverton = an intriguing night to say the least.

Pictures and revelations after the jump…

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The Only Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Best Cream Cheese Frosting Ever

This past weekend, my friend Sly celebrated a birthday, and in her honor, I baked Ina Garten’s impeccable Carrot and Pineapple Cake. It was actually the second time in three weeks that I’ve made the recipe for a birthday, which is significant only because the first time around, I couldn’t help but feel like Ina’s cream cheese frosting was a little… off.

Avid readers of this blog know that I think Ina Garten is basically flawless, but here’s the hardcore truth: the Barefoot Contessa cream cheese frosting veers way too closely into buttercream territory. In fact, it’s barely tangy at all. There, I SAID IT.

Nevertheless, as I prepared to bake Sly’s very own carrot cake, I wanted to learn from Ina’s missteps. I was determined to create a batch of cream cheese frosting that was tangy and amazing and decadent enough to be worthy of Sly.

I’m happy to report that I not only achieved this, but I actually knocked it out of the park. This was the best cream cheese frosting I’ve ever made, and Sly herself even proclaimed it was the best she’d tasted. There’s no great science to it, but with a variety of cream cheese frosting recipes online, I think it’s important that someone drive a flag into the ground and declare that the Internet search is over: THIS is the only cream cheese frosting recipe you’ll ever need.

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THINGS I ATE: Sausage and Beer at ‘Berlin Currywurst’


It’s October, and among the fall pleasures in Los Angeles is Oktoberfest, that German celebration of the harvest or beer or who knows what. The point is that I have Germany on the mind, which means this is a great opportunity to revisit a restaurant my friends and I dropped by over the summer: Berlin Currywurst.

Ardent readers of this blog may remember that I happily visited the Silver Lake location of “Berlin Currywurst” on its opening day two and a half years ago. Since then, the plucky sausage shop has expanded into fresh new digs in Hollywood, taking over an old BBQ joint on Cahuenga and adding on a biergarten. There really aren’t enough outdoor biergartens in this city, and so it was with high hopes that I assembled a crew of people to head to Berlin Currywurst for an afternoon of beer, sausage, and outdoorsiness.

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BANTER WITH BEN AND LISA #69: Government Shutdown! New Britney Spears Video! Moby Dick!

You guys, this was a good one….

There’s only one podcast on earth that can discuss the government shutdown, Britney Spears’s new video, and Moby Dick without skipping a beat. We discuss all that and more on this latest episode of “Banter with Ben and Lisa.” Also going into the banter blender: “Gravity,” ghost tours of Savannah, biker gangs, Grand Theft Auto V, and what your Facebook status updates might say about you. Plus, more etiquette lessons from 1888. Come listen!