November Writing Challenge Day 3: The Rise of Skywalker

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Has there ever been a more perfect teaser trailer than for Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I still get goosebumps watching it, which I tend to do whenever a new Star Wars teaser, trailer, or behind-the-scenes trailer is released. In only 30 seconds it captured all of the nostalgia from the original movies and introduced us to this strange, yet familiar new world. Here, watch it again, then we’ll talk about The Rise of Skywalker:

I’ve loved all of the new Star Wars movies, including The Last Jedi and Solo, both of which haven’t been universally acclaimed by fans. The final chapter in the Skywalker Saga, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, hits theaters next month and I’m equally excited and sad to see it. Excited because it’s Star Wars. Sad because it’s the end of an era.

And while we all know Disney will pump out new Star Wars material in various formats for years to come, this is the end of a story that captivated me as a child and into my teen years.

The original trilogy will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first “big” movie I remember seeing at a theater, when my parents took me to the old Pasadena Academy, an old-school moviehouse that was converted into a multiplex many years ago.

I already have my tickets to The Rise of Skywalker, thanks to my local comic book shop’s special screening the night before the official release date. I’ve seen all of the new Star Wars movies this way, with members of the 501st Legion showing up for pre-movie photo ops, Star Wars giveaways, and the thrill of watching the newest film with my fellow Star Wars fanatics.

I’d probably be more sad about The Saga ending if not for my nephew and nieces. Knowing that there will be new characters and stories from this amazing universe for them to enjoy puts a smile on my face. I hope they get as much joy out of whatever Star Wars they get in the future that I’ve gotten from the Skywalker story.

November Writing Challenge Day 2: Fight Night

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

Photo Credit: https://twitter.com/UFCNews/status/1190863538543300608/photo/1

Saturday fight night has been a tradition in my family for as long as I remember. The earliest memory I have of a big fight night was Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns. Like other pay-per-view fights at the time my uncle had a party at his house and we gathered in the den to watch on the big projection TV.

Tonight was a double dose of big fights, but times have changed: everyone I know prefers mixed martial arts over boxing and I was more excited about UFC’s non-title fight for the BMF “belt” than the Canelo-Kovalev light heavyweight title. They even brought The Rock out to put the belt on the winner! Ha!

Although the BMF fight was stopped by the doctor after the third round due to a nasty cut on Nate Diaz’s eyebrow, it was still entertaining. Jorge Masvidal rocked Diaz several times and definitely won the first three rounds. But everyone knows that Diaz always turns up the pressure in the championship rounds so I was ready to watch a bloody fight get even bloodier. But the doctor had other plans.

And that was totally fine by me.

The fight was terrific, but that cut was nasty. Yes, I’ve seen doctors let fighters with worse cuts continue (I’ll never forget the sight of Diego Sanchez with his forehead split open by B.J. Penn). And I’m sure this fight would’ve continued if it was in Vegas, but this time it was in New York City. Perhaps they keep a closer look at the participants in the Octagon.

The BMF fight wasn’t in Vegas because Sin City was hosting the Canelo-Kovalev fight and to see how times have changed, the two boxers were shown relaxing in their dressing rooms. Kovalev looked like he was gonna fall asleep on the couch. The fight was being delayed until the end of the UFC main event, something that never would’ve happened 20 years ago.

I’d much rather watch MMA these days than boxing. But there is something special about seeing a boxer like Canelo in his prime land a flurry of punches to end a fight. It was a close fight until the 11th (I had Canelo slightly ahead) and honestly it was a bit of snoozer due to Kovalev’s jab-jab-jab style that never put either fighter in danger.

Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “Like a tragedy in which no one dies, the fight lacking a classic knockout seems unresolved, unfulfilled: the strength, courage, ingenuity, and desperation of neither boxer have been adequately measured.”

And just as I was about to proclaim this fight a dud, it ended in a blink of the eye as Canelo hurt Kovalev with an overhand right and followed up with a barrage of punches. The final straight right hand was a masterpiece of violence, dropping Kovalev in a heap into the ropes. The referee immediately called the fight off.

The sweet science had produced another memorable moment, one that, despite the corruption of the alphabet-soup boxing organizations, will have me back at the next big fight.

November Writing Challenge Day 1: Coloring and Better Call Saul

I love how November has become the month for challenges, from growing a mustache to writing a novel. I’ve done monthly challenges before, like when I play a game every day and write about it.

For this month I’m doing two different challenges. First, my wife and I are coloring for at least 10 minutes every day. I don’t remember the last time I colored, but tonight’s session was great. It took me about 15 minutes to color the flower above and I hope to complete the entire oversized page this month. Yes, I’m a slow colorist, but for me it’s all about the relaxation. And it certainly was relaxing.

My second challenge will be posting here every day this month. It won’t be about games necessarily, but just about life in general and other thoughts. Of course, I’m sure gaming will be a big part of what I write about, but I wanted to expand what I write about here.

Photo Credit: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/better-call-saul-season-2-863965

So for this first day of posting, let’s talk Better Call Saul. I’m a huge Breaking Bad fan, but until the other day I’d managed to watch only a few episodes of its prequel. I just couldn’t get into it.

That changed this week, thanks to a day spent in bed due to sickness. As I get older I realize that it takes me much longer to recover from anything, whether it’s a late night out or an illness of any sort. The ol’ bones need their rest.

Funny thing, too, I knew I was due to get sick because I’d been pushing myself recently and not eating regularly. Skipping meals is never a good thing and being laid up for a day (ok, actually two) was my body’s way of slowing me down.

Still, at least I got to dive into Better Call Saul. I watched the first two seasons and enjoyed them. The show certainly has that Breaking Bad feel, thanks to creator Vince Gilligan. Bob Odenkirk is excellent as Jimmy McGill, the man who would become Saul Goodman, the shady lawyer for Walter White. While Saul was a scene-stealer in Breaking Bad, it’s Saul’s right-hand man Mike Ehrmantraut (played by Jonathan Banks) who steals scenes in Better Call Saul.

In fact, I like the story of Ehrmantraut better than Goodman so far. Without giving away too much, the mysterious Mike of Breaking Bad is more fully developed here, along with Goodman and a few other new characters. There are a few surprises, of course, but just like Breaking Bad it’s all about watching these characters develop. Of course, the difference here is that we know what they become in Breaking Bad, but that works in its favor. It’s like working a puzzle backwards, slowly pulling pieces away to see how it all began.

September Game-and-Blog Challenge Completed!

Thanks to everybody who reached out via Twitter and Instagram during my challenge to play a different game every day in September and blog about it. I’ve done this before (click here to check out a previous one) and I’m happy to report that I completed my challenge.

Of course, I didn’t have game night at my house every day in September. I played games everywhere, from my local meetup to a brewery in Pasadena. I played games with my wife, my regular gaming buddies, and new friends. I played quick games, long games, casual games, heavy games, and solo games.

In fact, without solo gaming there’s no way I would’ve finished the challenge. As much as I love hanging out with people and playing games together, I appreciate my alone time. Being able to play a game quietly by myself is a real treat and one of my favorite ways to relax.

One thing I tried to do during this challenge, especially in the later posts, is talk about different aspects of the game I was playing or of the experience itself. Early on I found myself explaining the game play itself and I really wanted to share more of my experiences, whether it was about the venue I played at or how the game compared to others I’ve played.

Thanks again, friends, for following me on my September Challenge. You’ll find my game play stats for the month as well as links to each game I blogged about for my challenge below. Let’s talk about these games and more over on Twitter. Until next time, happy gaming!

September Play Stats:

Different games played this month: 53

Number of total plays: 86

New-to-me games played: 23

Number of players: 28

Number of locations: 8

Games Played for My Challenge (30):

Wingspan

Railroad Ink

The Castles of Burgundy: The Dice Game

Thurn Und Taxis

Gentes: Deluxified Edition

Architects of the West Kingdom

Tapestry

Mint Works

Point Salad

Oaxaca

Spirits of the Wild

Shards of Infinity: Relics of the Future

Azul

NMBR 9

Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra

Tiny Towns

Valley of the Kings

Tal der Wikinger

Tiny Epic Galaxies

Friday

For Sale

Jetpack Joyride

Star Trek Panic

Brass: Birmingham

Samurai

Rolling America

Medici: The Card Game

Blood Rage

Pipeline

Baseball Highlights: 2045

The Day in Gaming, September 30, 2019: Baseball Highlights: 2045

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

With my hometown Dodgers gearing up for the postseason after winning the NL West for the seventh straight season, today was the perfect day to play Baseball Highlights: 2045.

The game is one of those 2-4 player games that plays best with only two players. I love the feeling of going head-to-head against my opponent in Baseball Highlights; it’s like we’re both managing our futuristic baseball teams, trying to out-maneuver each other to score runs every game. Tonight I solo-ed the game, which is always a challenge since the AI starts off with a team full of powerful free agents while you slowly cull your deck of starter cards (rookies and veterans). By the way, the pieces you see in the photo above were 3D printed by my buddy Marlon. The actual game uses standard game pawns.

Designer Mike Fitzgerald did an outstanding job of incorporating the deck-building mechanism into the baseball theme. It’s remarkable that he distilled all of the action of a ballgame into a mere six cards that you play against your opponent.

I have a few of the expansions to BH: 2045 and while they add some new wrinkles to the game, the original base game is perfectly fine and you’ll log many hours playing it against your favorite baseball fanatic.

My nephew is one of those fanatics. He absolutely loves baseball and I enjoy seeing his passion for it. We’ve played BH: 2045 a few times when he’d visit and I gave him his very own copy for Christmas a few years ago. Although he’d rather play video games or an actual game of baseball these days, I’m glad that he’ll still play BH: 2045 with his Uncle Ruel. Maybe one day he’ll let me win.

The Day in Gaming, September 29, 2019: Pipeline

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

I’m now up to a half-dozen plays of Pipeline and it’s on my short list of best games of 2019. For a game that can be downright punishing I still find it enjoyable. The first time I played a few months ago with my friend Jose, I immediately asked for a rematch. It’s a game where you always feel like you can do better, no matter if you’ve won or lost.

After today’s game with Nick, I felt the same way. It was a particularly rough game for both of us; neither of us could get much going based on the valuation cards for the game (orders and contracts, all of which were tough to complete). We both wanted to play it again right away, but decided to play the relatively mild The Castles of Burgundy instead.

One of the criticisms I’ve read about the game is how it’s not very exciting during the last few turns since you’re just running your machine and pumping out that Black Gold. It actually reminds me of one of my other favorite (so far) games of 2019, Wingspan. Both give players fewer actions each round, with your final turns feeling semi-scripted.

I actually like this about Pipeline. The puzzle of the first half of the game is brutal and brain burny, as you attempt to figure out a way to get your oil refined and make that money. Once you get your engine humming you can just sit back and collect your dough.

The criticisms of the upgrades are fair; I’m not a fan of how you get to lock not only the stack of upgrades you chose that turn, but also another stack. It just feels punitive for the sake of being punitive.

Still, for a game that plays under in an hour for two players, it’s a remarkably deep and thinky experience that’s one of my favorites of the year.

The Day in Gaming, September 28, 2019: Blood Rage

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

Today was a special day of gaming for me, since I was able to celebrate my friend Dave’s birthday. We’ve known each other nearly our entire lives and and actually longer than that: our mothers were friends before we were even born. I like to think that it was pretty much a given that we’d become friends. It never ceases to amaze me that I could be friends with someone for several decades.

It was a fun day celebrating Dave with family, friends, and board games. We ate a lot, enjoyed a few adult beverages, and had a lot of laughs. We ended the day with his choice of games: Blood Rage.

Or, as most gamers call it, BLOOD RAGGGGGGEEEEE.

It’s one of my all-time favorites. There aren’t many games that offer this epic of a tabletop experience in 90 minutes or less, thanks to an approachable and streamlined set of rules. From the mighty Viking theme to the deceptively smooth card play, Blood Rage always gets an enthusiastic response when it’s on the table.

Our group last night included two new players, both of whom picked it up fairly quickly. It’d been a while since I’ve played so I forgot a few rules (like the ability of monsters to invade for free immediately), but thankfully it didn’t affect game play. In the end, the Birthday Celebrant won easily and I couldn’t be happier … and I was already looking forward to a rematch.

The Day in Gaming, September 27, 2019: Medici: The Card Game

I’m posting about a game every day in September! Here’s a link to yesterday’s post.

It looks like my September has been a celebration of Reiner Knizia’s catalog of games. I wasn’t planning it, but thanks to the fine tastes of my gaming buddies, I’ve played four of his titles this month: Ra, Samurai, Blue Lagoon, and Medici: The Card Game.

While Ra and Blue Lagoon were new to me, I’d played Samurai and Medici: The Card Game before. I’ve already talked about Samurai so let’s take a quick look at Medici: The Card Game.

The original Medici, like a few of Knizia’s games, use bidding as its main mechanism, with set collection used for scoring points. It’s an excellent game and the card game captures some of the flavor of the original, but replaces bidding with push-your-luck.

Like other Knizias, this is a streamlined game with tension on every turn. I love the use of push-your-luck as you try to collect all of the cards necessary to complete your different sets. While this isn’t a “deep” game per se, it sure is a lot of fun trying to see how far you can go to get the card or cards you want. Your draw is limited to three cards and at the very least you have to take the last card you drew.

I’d love to see more designers focus on games like the four Knizias I played this month. Each one has no variable player powers and some luck involved in game play, and you don’t have to go through pages and pages of rules to learn to play.

I’d rank Ra, Samurai, Blue Lagoon, and Medici: The Card Game higher than some of the latest board games that feature all of the extra mechanisms and what-not. Knizia’s games are so well-polished and offer an engaging tabletop experience for all types of gamers. Designers should learn a lesson from a master of game design: less can definitely mean more.