Challenge Completed

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Over on boardgamegeek.com they run a 10×10 challenge, in which participants attempt to play 10 different games at least 10 times each during the year. I did it last year and like the Lakers winning championships back in the day, I repeated the feat this year.

Here’s are quick thoughts on the 10 games on my list. Thanks to my wife, nephew and niece, and regular gaming buddies (two on Twitter: Daryl and Oscar) for helping me finish my list.

Santorini. One of my favorite abstract games ever. The game is ridiculously easy to learn: on your turn you move to any adjacent square, then you build on any adjacent square; to win, you must move up to the third level of any building. That’s it. It has surprising depth and lots of replayability due to its God Power cards, which add new moves, abilities, and/or win conditions for each player. Simply brilliant. (25 plays)

Mint Works. Everyone I’ve played Mint Works with has loved it. It’s a stripped-down-to-basics worker placement game that fits inside an Altoids tin. Games take no longer than 15 minutes, but it always manages to satisfy that worker placement itch. (10 plays)

Karuba. This was an insta-hit with my wife and our extended family of gamers. The tile call-outs reminds me of bingo, while the puzzle-like game play is always a blast, as each player tries to guide their adventurer to their temples while scooping up gems. (10 plays)

Onitama. Another abstract that gets bonus points for its terrific, road-trip-friendly packaging. While Santorini provides more depth and replayability, Onitama is even easier to learn: play a card and move any of your pieces according to the card’s directions while trying to capture your opponent’s master pawn or moving your master pawn to your opponent’s side. It plays faster than Santorini and I’m happy that both are in the Gaviola Game Library. (18 plays)

Red7. Any fan of card games should give Red7 a try. It’s a quick filler-type game, but has lots of interesting decisions throughout a game, thanks to its unique card play. Each card can be used in multiple ways so you’re always trying to find just the right card to play on your turn. The win condition is simple: be the last person standing. (17 plays)

Tiny Epic Quest. I love the Tiny Epic series of games. Scott Almes and Gamelyn Games manage to pack a lot of game into small boxes and Tiny Epic Quest is the best of the lot. I enjoy the puzzle-like nature of the Day Phase as you try to complete Movement Quests, but it’s the dice-chucking, push-your-luck Night Phase to complete Treasure Quests that’s an absolute blast. (28 plays)

Guess Who? My wife and I took a weekend cruise to Mexico earlier this year and the ship had a lounge that had a few shelves of board games. Unfortunately, it was multiple copies of chess, checkers, Connect Four, and Guess Who?. Thankfully, we were too busy chillaxing and enjoying the trip to care about how shoddy the selection was. We did, however, play 10 straight games of Guess Who?, so at least I was able to get my board game fix. (10 plays)

Tiny Epic Galaxies. No surprise here: I played another Tiny Epic game 10 times this year. This was my favorite in the series until I got Tiny Epic Quest. Galaxies is a lot of dice chucking, which always makes me happy. The solo game is fun (although TEQ has also supplanted it as my favorite of the series) and the Beyond the Black expansion added some nice touches to it, including new ships and abilities, and set collection and push-your-luck mechanisms. (14 plays)

Imperial Settlers. I’m not sure what I expected with Imperial Settlers, but I heard a lot of good things about it and won an auction for it last year. I like the civilization building aspect, along with card drafting. As the game progresses it becomes a good brain-burning exercise as you try to squeeze as much as you can out of each of your cards. (16 plays)

Viticulture Essential Edition. I lucked out last year and found a BGG user who had a brand new copy for half price. Not sure why I waited until this year to play it, but it was love at first play; the theme and mechanisms blend in so well together. It’s a classic of the worker placement genre and easily makes it into my Top Five Games Ever. When I added the Tuscany Essential expansion a few months later, it took the game to a whole new level. (36 plays)

My Friend Ryan

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It’s been a month since my friend Ryan passed away. I’ve thought about him every day since then, shared memories with a few of our friends, and reflected on what he meant — and still means — to me.

Big Ryan was one of the most well-educated and articulate people I’ve ever known, but he wasn’t one of those ivory tower types. He could have serious discussions about race, class, privilege, and more then in the next minute quote passages from Tommy Boy, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and The Karate Kid, talk trash about how his beloved Yankees had won an MLB record 27 World Series championships, or let out an infamous Ric Flair “Woooooo!”

He was an absolute blast to be around and I’m grateful to have so many fond memories of him. From Santa Barbara to San Diego, New York to Las Vegas, wherever we were, we had the best time. You couldn’t hang out with him and NOT have fun. He’d talk to anyone at any time and it’s a testament to what kind of man he was when you see that his friends and loved ones came from all walks of life.

Below is a short video of him discussing his experiences abroad. This was years ago when he was the Director of Multicultural and International Student Programs at Hofstra University, before he went to Seattle University, where he was the Director of the International Student Center. I always admired his commitment to social justice and respected the work he did in higher education.

Thinking of my friend on what would’ve been his birthday. I miss and love you, brother. Hoisting a pint of Guinness for you later tonight.

Long Beach Comic Con

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Although I won’t be attending this weekend’s Long Beach Comic Con, I highly recommend the event. For me it’s a throwback to the experiences I had at the San Diego Comic Con during my youth, before it transformed into the overwhelming beast of today.

My brothers and I grew up with comic books. Our parents encouraged reading and when we weren’t spending hours on end at our local library, we were buying comics at our local used bookstore. The store had a friendly exchange policy, which allowed us to trade in our mom’s used books (mainly romance novels by the insanely prolific Barbara Cartland) for store credit.

That credit was immediately spent on issues of Spider-Man, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and many others. We started off as Marvel kids for no other reason than that’s what you did back in the day: you were either a Marvel or DC fan. As the years passed, we added Batman, Superman, and even the occasional independent book, like an up-and-coming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

During our Saturday afternoon visits I’d wander around the store, soaking in the smell of yellowing paperbacks and listening to the creaking of the old wooden shelves that held them. But most of the time would be spent up front amongst the racks of new comics and cardboard boxes of back issues.

My experience at last year’s LBCC was special for me since one of my brothers and his children attended. Hanging out with my niece and nephew and introducing them to this former world that their father and uncles once inhabited (and still do to some extent) was a blast.

Of course, the cosplay scene of today is mind-blowingly better than what we had in our day. Upon seeing the first few Deadpools and Stormtroopers walking around, my nephew brilliantly observed, “Boy, I’m underdressed!”

We hung out for a few hours, soaking in all of the comics and pop culture. We made buttons, thanks to the wonderful Long Beach Public Library booth. We operated remote-controlled robots at the Space Expo area hosted by the Columbia Memorial Space Center. We perused some of the cardboard boxes of back issues found throughout the convention center floor.

And we took pictures with some of our favorite characters.

The photos in this post were taken by my niece, who I was proud to have by my side as part of the press coverage. I hope she and her brother continue to explore the many facets of geekdom, just like their dad and his brothers did in their day.

The Long Beach Comic Con is September 2-3. More info here

All photo credits: Kaya Gaviola

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San Diego Comic Con 2017: Cosplay Friday

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I’m constantly impressed by the cosplay at modern comic conventions. From the carbon copies of superheroes, to the wacky hilarity of pop culture fun, to the imaginative mashups of two (or more) genres: people’s ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. This is the second of a three-part series highlighting a few of the cosplayers at SDCC 2017. Part one is here

Pictured above: The Watchmen, minus Ozymandias and Nite Owl.

Friday

After Preview Night on Wednesday and the first official Con day on Thursday, Friday was much busier. Cosplayers were everywhere at the Super Bowl of comic conventions.

I started going to the Con in the ’80s, so it blows my mind to see how ginormous the event is these days. Not only is it the entire convention center, but the surrounding hotels and Gaslamp Quarter as well. While it’s entirely overwhelming, it’s also cool to see the entire city all geeked out.

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Who wore it better? (1 of 2)

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Who wore it better? (2 of 2)

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Family cosplayers are the best!

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Even when one of the family members is over it …

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Next up: Cosplay Saturday

 

San Diego Comic Con 2017: Cosplay Thursday

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I’m constantly impressed by the cosplay at modern comic conventions. From the carbon copies of superheroes, to the wacky hilarity of pop culture fun, to the imaginative mashups of two (or more) genres: people’s ingenuity never ceases to amaze me. This is the first of a three-part series highlighting a few of the cosplayers at SDCC 2017. 

Pictured above: the fantastic mashup duo Wonder-Woman-Xena and Supergirl-Gabrielle.

Thursday

I love how the whole city is overrun with all types of geeks during Comic Con and it was a blast running into cosplayers on the trolley to the convention center.

Pro tip: take an early trolley from The Murph (sorry, but that’s what the stadium will always be to me; shout-out to my friends and family in San Diego). There’s plenty of free parking and it’s easier to get a seat since the trains fill up in no time. 

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Once inside the convention center, a few of my favorites were there.

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Of course, you never know who you’re going to run into at the Con.

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Inside and outside the convention center, cosplayers were everywhere.

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Next up: Cosplay Friday

San Diego Comic Con 2017: Gone Viral

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So, the video I posted of the kids in the mini landspeeder yesterday went viral.

My tweets typically get a few likes and, if I’m lucky, a retweet or two so this was totally unexpected. This particular tweet has deluged my phone with nonstop notifications and as of Saturday 7/22/17 at 4pm it’s been liked over 4,000 times and retweeted over 1,200 times.

Whoa.

It’s been interesting seeing how people have reacted to the video. Obviously, cute kids in their Star Wars costumes will usually generate lots of likes. Kudos to them (unfortunately, I didn’t actually meet them) for being good sports and to the Radio Flyer company for making such as amazing vehicle.

One cool thing about the video going viral? Getting a Twitter like from the man himself, Mark Hamill (shown above).

I’ll say it again: Whoa.

This has been the Best. Comic. Con. Ever.

San Diego Comic Con 2017: Conival

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I got to spend some quality time at Conival, the big bash hosted by Legendary Entertainment’s Nerdist, Geek & Sundry, and Alpha. The lounge was outside on the Marina Terrace behind the Marriott and it was an ideal location overlooking the water.

Even though San Diego is known for its mild weather, it can still be pretty tough being in the sun all day and thankfully there were plenty of shaded areas, misters, and two huge fans to keep everybody cool.

I loved that Conival was outside: it made for a nice change after being engulfed by the sweaty masses inside the convention center. And what better way to enjoy the great outdoors than by playing board games?

My friends Marlon and Julla met me at the lounge and we played FUSE and Wits and Wagers. We shared a loss and a victory in FUSE and were awarded some terrific freebies: books and a book bag.

In Wits and Wagers I eeked out a single-point victory, thanks to the final question, which couldn’t have been more perfect for the setting: “What year did Superman first appear in comics?”

While you Google the answer to that (here, I’ll help you), I’m going back to the con for more gaming and what-not.

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San Diego Comic Con 2017: The Story So Far

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Wednesday (Preview Night) and Thursday at SDCC ’17 were fantastic. I’ve met some people on my Must Meet List and I was fortunate to connect with friends from back home and an old friend from across the country.

(Pictured above: the cutest FULLY WORKING mini land speeder outside the convention center. Seriously, just stop the con now. That was the best thing ever.)

Crowds tire me a lot more now than when I was a younger man,  but like so many of my fellow attendees I feed off the energy of the crowd. It’s fun being among so many fans of so many different geekdoms. Admittedly I’m not up to date on all of the latest trends (still haven’t seen Rick & Morty, despite hearing how great it is from everyone I know), but I dig seeing everyone’s respective obsessions.

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While the first day and a half were spent exploring all the different nooks and crannies of the main exhibit hall, I also managed to briefly check out the Conival put on by Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. I’ll be revisiting it later today and will post another report soon.

I also checked out the board games area on the mezzanine, where my buddy Oscar and I got to play the new Potion Explosion expansion, The Fifth Ingredient. CMON demo-er Kimberly explained the changes and we got into a game, which was a blast (fans of the game will get that pun, ha!).

To be continued. If you’re here and want to meet up to play a game, tweet me!

 

Back from the Philippines

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It’s been a week since I got back from a three-week trip to the Philippines and I’m finally getting over my jet lag. Last year, my wife and I went to Japan and it was a full two weeks before my body re-adjusted to California time, so I’m grateful for the quicker recovery this time.

I’m still processing my emotions and memories of this latest trip to the motherland. Long story short, our visit was nothing short of amazing and life-changing and we were fortunate to spend time in two of the top three islands in the world.

Like my last trip in 2010, it feels like going home, even though I’m far removed physically and culturally from the land of my parents and ancestors. I’ll write more about this at some point, but for now enjoy a few photos of sunset Boracay (above), the Taal Volcano in Tagaytay, pine trees in Baguio City, and our lunch stop at the Secret Beach in El Nido (Palawan).

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Humans of the Tabletop: June 12, 2017

One of the best things about playing board games is the time spent hanging out with your fellow human beings, bonding over your shared experience at the tabletop. Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, I present Humans of the Tabletop, an ongoing series about the people I’ve played games with.


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“I try to take simple board games or card games and make them into P.E. games. The more fun the kids are having, the more engaged and more active they are. My colleagues would use a lot of the games I made up. They nominated me for P.E. teacher of the year and I won.”