November Writing Challenge Day 21: The Phantom Menace

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.

Last night I started my latest challenge: watch all of the Star Wars movies and two of the animated series before The Rise of Skywalker debuts next month. I’m watching them in chronological order, which means I started with Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I never saw Episode I in the theaters. When it came out I was more interested in going out to the bars with my friends. I thought I’d get around to watching it, but before I knew it the movie was no longer showing. When I did finally get to see it on videotape, I was underwhelmed. I watched it a second time on DVD years ago and was bored by it.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to it when I logged into Disney+ last night. The opening scroll talks about a trade blockade and this is where I knew I was in trouble. Trade talks and politics? Not exactly the best way to kick off The Saga, right?

Within 15 minutes, or about the time Jar-Jar Binks made his first appearance, I was ready to turn it off. Jar-Jar was just as annoying as I remembered him. So was young Anakin Skywalker.

The podrace was cooler than I remembered, but it would’ve been better without the two-headed sports announcers. Did we really need this nod to modern sports?

Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor were the best parts of Episode I. Darth Maul was a menacing presence, but like most of this movie the best parts were too short and the worst parts were too long. I remember reading an interview with Liam Neeson years ago where he complained about having to act in front of a bunch of blue screens.

Neeson’s interview was on my mind when I saw part of the Star Wars documentary that’s on Disney+. In it, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford joke about George Lucas’ directing style: “Faster and more intense.”

I thought about that quote as I watched Episode I. For its time, the CGI was the latest and greatest in special effects, and it was obvious that Lucas was more enthralled with these than the actual actors or dialogue. You have all of these great actors in the greatest space opera of all time and all you get is a dull film? What a waste.

It’s no wonder I’ve been watching these films in Machete Order for years. After my challenge, I’m going back to it.

November Writing Challenge Day 20: Star Wars. All of It.

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.

I want to get my money’s worth out of Disney+ so here’s my next challenge: watch everything Star Wars before going to see the final movie, The Rise of Skywalker, next month.

For the last two sequels I watched the Star Wars Saga in Machete Order: Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and Return of the Jedi. What is Machete Order? I’ll quote from the original article:

The problem with [watching the films in] Episode Order is that it ruins one of the biggest twists in movie history. If you think that this reveal doesn’t matter since it’s common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kids’ faces. If a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.”

In honor of the final film in The Saga, I’ve decided to watch all of the movies and two of the animated series, Clone Wars and Rebels, both of which I’ve only seen a handful of episodes.

I’m going with Episode Order this time and following the chronology seen above, which is from Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, a book that takes place between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do recaps of each movie and series episode or if I’m going to just do a summary of this challenge.

Actually, I think I’ll dig up my log-in and password for my old Star Wars WordPress blog, Lando’s ‘Stache.

November Writing Challenge Day 19: Party Games

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.

I love me a good party game. At last night’s gaming event, I played two of my favorites: Just One and Blank Slate. Both are easy to learn and both are not easy to win. Just One is a cooperative game that gives you a ranking based on how many cards out of 13 you answer correctly. Our group last night did well and scored 9. I always play our one house rule, which is that there is no passing when it’s your turn to guess. If you answer incorrectly, you still lose two cards.

For me, the “let’s pass so we don’t lose another card” goes against the spirit of the game. What’s the point of everyone writing down clues if the guesser is just going to pass? I’d rather have them take a stab in the dark and risk losing two cards than playing it safe and losing only one card.

Blank Slate is another word game that’s been well received with my main gaming group and everyone I’ve played it with. The last two Mondays it’s hit the table with a lot of new and casual gamers.

For a competitive word game, Blank Slate is outstanding. It’s easy to learn and it’s perfect for a casual game night. Game play is simultaneous so there’s not much wasted time: reveal a card, which has a word and a blank, then everybody secretly writes a word to fill in the blank. For example, the clue may be “salt [blank].” See the photo above for what I wrote.

After all players have written an answer, they all reveal them. If your answer matches with exactly one person, then you each get three points. If your answer matches with two or more people, all the matching players get one point each. If nobody matches you, then you get zero points. The first player to collect 25 points is the winner.

I love the Dixit-style scoring in Blank Slate. It creates this fun dynamic of trying to be original in your answers, but not so original or obscure that nobody matches with you.

Games usually take 20 minutes to play and it’s also an excellent icebreaker. The group I played it with last night are new-ish gamers and they absolutely loved it. One of them messaged me tonight to say that one of their friends went out and bought it today!

Nothing makes me happier than hearing someone bought a great game. Whether they decide to dive deep into the hobby or not, we’ll see. But it’s always nice to see them take that first step.

November Writing Challenge Day 18: Wingspan

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.

My first play of Wingspan was at Orccon, the first of three yearly events hosted in Los Angeles by Strategicon. I played with my friends Jac and Ben, who taught the game.

I’d passed on Wingspan when it was announced. The pitch was interesting: a game about birds that was an engine builder between Gizmos and Terraforming Mars. Although I’m a big Stonemaier Games fan, I didn’t think a lighter Terraforming Mars game about birds would be that great.

I was wrong.

After that first game with Ben and Jac, I played it twice at Dice Tower West and it confirmed that Wingspan was something special. The smooth play and the gorgeous components are Stonemaier staples, and I shouldn’t have been surprised by how much I loved this game. But I was.

From the bird feeder dice tower to the beautiful artwork on the cards, Wingspan is a beautiful game on the tabletop. I love that it’s more than just a bunch of nice bits, though; the game play is rock solid and features an easy-to-learn ruleset.

When the European Expansion was announced, I knew I’d be the first in line when it went on pre-order. I received my copy last week and after three games (at the two-, three-, and four-player counts), I’m happy with the expansion. It adds just enough new birds with new actions, both during your turn and at the end of the round, to keep the game fresh.

Best of all, everything I’ve seen while playing the expansion makes for a better and more interactive experience. I love expansions that don’t change too much of the base game; I prefer enhancements to the base game and I’m not a fan of expansions that change things so much you wonder if the base game was properly play tested.

While the European expansion isn’t essential, I recommend it for fans of the game. The additional abilities and bonuses make it easy to re-learn the game on the fly. It makes a great game ever better.

November Writing Challenge Day 17: Highlights of the Week

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.

Three highlights from my last week:

  1. Got to hang out with Meeple Lady and Chris at a local game night. They were traveling back home and I was thrilled that they stopped by for dinner and a coupla games. We played Q.E., which has been a big hit with all of my friends. Check out my Instagram post for more info on Q.E., which is one of my favorite games of 2019.
  2. Continued my Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated campaign. We’re halfway through and it’s been a blast. Read my spoiler-free thoughts here.
  3. Had a wonderful brunch with my family today. We don’t get together as often as I’d like to, but when we do it’s always a good meal highlighted by lots of laughter. I shared some old photos of me and my brothers that I’d scanned recently and everyone was cracking up over them. My stepdaughter, nephew, and nieces laughed at our clothes and haircuts while the rest of us marveled at how much my niece and nephew looked like my brothers. My parents love spending time with their grandchildren and it brings them great joy to see them growing into such good young people.

November Writing Challenge Day 16: 100 Games in 100 Days

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.

Earlier this year I met David Guthrie, also known as GameyLannister on Instagram. Besides having the coolest Instagram handle, David is also known for his insanely awesome accomplishment: he played BGG’s Top 100 Games in 100 days.

We met when I’d reached out to him via Instagram to see if he wanted to play Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition. I’m on my own quest to play it 10 times this year and I had a game scheduled at Strategicon in L.A. Unfortunately, a few of the players couldn’t make it and we ended up playing a three-player game with Ben O’Steen. It was a fun game with two fantastic gamers and while I still think TI4 is best at six players, I’d happily play it at three again.

As the old saying goes, three-player TI4 is better than no TI4.

Today a bunch of us who’d helped David reach his goal met up at The Dragon & Meeple in Los Angeles. I wrote about this gaming restaurant/bar/game store here and today we ate, drank, and played games in honor of David. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve met through the hobby.

I thought about this on the way home, how fortunate I’ve been to game with David and so many other fantastic people. A few of them where there today and I’m grateful for the times we’ve spent at the tabletop, laughing, talking trash, and enjoying each other’s company.

For me, it’s the best part of the hobby. Yeah, we play all of these fun games, but the games are only as good as the people you play them with. If you’re gonna hang out for hours at a time playing games, I hope you’re doing so only with the best people. I’m fortunate that I do.

November Writing Challenge Day 15: Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated (no spoilers)

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.

I haven’t had much luck with legacy games. I played a friend’s copy of Charterstone once and I enjoyed it, but not enough to join in for the rest of the campaign.

I’m nearly finished with Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and I’ve got my fingers crossed for finishing the campaign by the end of the year. My Pandemic Legacy group consists of me, my stepdaughter, and her boyfriend. We only play when she’s back from school, her boyfriend visits, and we’re not doing anything else. I’ve never made it a priority to play the game; it’s more important to me to spend time together, chatting, sharing a meal, or talking about what she’s learning in school. But it’s a great game and I can’t wait to finish it since I plan on hanging up the map in our game room.

I was so fired up to get Mechs vs. Minions when it was released. It’s still the best board game deal I’ve ever scored, thanks to Riot Games’ “gift” to the board gaming community: $75 (and free shipping!) for a game that should easily be $200+. Unfortunately, my three-person group only got to the third game when one player decided he didn’t like programming games. I was bummed since I liked the game up until that point and figured the best was yet to come. We were about to unlock the boss monster, too! Ugh. It’s sat on my shelf ever since, but after I finish Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated I’m going to make it my mission to finish Mechs vs. Minions.

Which brings me to Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated. I’m a big fan of Clank! and all of its expansions and last year I wrote an overview of the series. When the Game the Game production team asked me to play Clank! on an upcoming episode, I was thrilled. We played Clank! with the Acquisitions Incorporated Upper Management Pack and the Temple of the Ape Lords expansion. You can watch the episode above or here.

It was a fun episode to film and it confirmed how much I enjoy the game. While deck-building isn’t my favorite game mechanism, I do like when board games feature deck-building, like Trains or Tyrants of the Underdark. Clank! ranks right up there, too. I love how it combines deck-building with press-your-luck and dungeon crawling.

Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated has everything I love about the base game and expansions: it’s a race to get your artifact and get out, all while battling monsters and grabbing gold, market items, and more. Without giving away anything, the legacy game has been a fantastic experience so far. My group of four players finished our fifth game tonight and after every game so far we’ve had the same reaction: we can’t wait to see what’s next.

The game has been so good, in fact, that two of the guys in my group ordered their own copies. I’m curious to see how everything in our completed campaign compares to their other games, from the different paths we took to the way characters developed.

Big thanks to Renegade Game Studios for the copy of Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated.

November Writing Challenge Day 14: Star Wars: Rebellion

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.

With just over a month left until the final film of the Skywalker Saga hits movie theaters, I’ve decided to get an early start on the Star Wars madness. For Episodes VII and VIII I watched Episodes II through VI in Machete Order (IV, V, II, III, and VI; skipping I, aka my least favorite and the worst Star Wars film of the series). I haven’t started the movies yet, but I’ve already decided to watch them all, including Episode I, before the big day.

I’ve also decided to play a bunch of Star Wars board games. My buddy Patrick and I played what is probably my favorite Star Wars game, Star Wars: Rebellion. I’m terrible at this game, but it’s awesome. Although it can be played by four players, it’s really a two-player game, with you and your opponent playing the Rebels and the Empire. The Empire wins if it can locate and destroy the Rebel base, while the Rebels win if they can remain alive for a set number of turns.

It’s an epic experience that neatly ties in Star Wars lore throughout the game. In today’s game I was the Empire and I was able to capture Obi-Wan Kenobi, but of course he become a Force Ghost instead. I quickly found the Rebel base twice early in the game, but the Rebel scum wouldn’t go down without a fight and they managed to turn things around for the win.

There are certain parts of Star Wars: Rebellion that remind me of my other favorite space-opera-in-a-box, Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition. Activating systems and “locking” them down seems very TI4-like to me. The production of ships is also determined by the planets you control, but here in Rebellion it’s a bit simpler. Combat also comes down to dice rolls, but like TI4 there are cards that you play. And just like TI4, Rebellion can seem like a long game (up to three hours), but it certainly doesn’t feel that way since you’re only doing one action per turn.

After only two plays, Star Wars: Rebellion is one of my top five all-time greatest two-player games. It’s a grand, movie-like experience and although you don’t need to know anything about Star Wars to play the game, if you’re a lifelong Star Wars geek like me then you’ll undoubtedly love this as much as I do.

November Writing Challenge Day 13: Time Travel

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.

I’ve got a secret: I didn’t write a blog post yesterday. Sure, if you check the date November 12, 2019, you’ll see I wrote about something delicious, but this was a case of Internet Magic. I wrote that post about an hour ago and back-dated it so my Post Every Day in November Challenge could live on. Yes!

This small bit of Internet time travel got me thinking about time traveling while playing board games. With my main group, we’re all easy going and like to win, but not to the point where we won’t let someone take back a move, especially if the next player hasn’t gone yet.

If an action was caused by a missed rule, then we try to retcon moves back to when the rule was missed. If we’re not too far along, then we’ll just start the game over, but if not, then we’ll just finish the game with the wrong rule and play correctly next time.

So this is our version of traveling back in time during game night. Recently, though, a buddy of mine was gaming with someone else I know and that person took back a few of his previous moves during his turn before taking his current turn (I think this was during a game of Anachrony or Trickerion). I couldn’t believe he did that and I couldn’t believe my friend didn’t say anything.

Again, we’re pretty laid back, but in heavier games we’re a bit more by-the-book since your actions affect a lot more during the game. It’s like the poker games I used to play in regularly: things that were okay at a home game were definitely not okay at the casino.

I’m definitely not a hardcore rules lawyer, though. I’m all about the experience and if a missed rule would ruin the experience, then we’ll figure out a way to fix it. But most of the time I’m willing to roll with a mistake or a take-back or two, as long as things keep moving. While I want to make sure we play correctly, I’d rather not devote time to reading the rulebook while we’re playing since it takes away time from the next game we could be playing.

Still, whenever I play a game of Twilight Imperium, we do have the “Everyone Gets One” do-over, as long as the next player hasn’t gone yet. We’re playing games, which are supposed to be fun, so a friendly do-over is well within reason. Just like when you’re trying to blog every day in November.

November Writing Challenge Day 12: Happy Hour

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.

My wife and I recently discovered a late-night happy hour at a local ramen restaurant called Noods Bar. The ramen isn’t all that, but the appetizers and small bites are good, especially during their late happy hour from 9pm-midnight on Friday and Saturday.

We like the mini chashu bowl which is the pork belly served over a small bowl of white rice. I call it their “adobo” since the consistency and flavor reminds me of one of my favorite Filipino dishes.

We’re also big fans of their shishito peppers, which are stir-fried and served with a cream sauce. These peppers are interesting: about 1 in every 10 are spicy, while the others tend to be a little sweet. The quick stir-fry gives it a little smokiness, too. Michelle and I always laugh when one of us “gets lucky” and bites into the spicy chili.

My favorite appetizer, though, is the Elote. Inspired by the Mexican snack found at roadside vendors throughout Southern California, the Elote at Noods is deep fried corn kernels with a yuzu cream and hot Cheetos crumbs. It’s not too spicy, since the sauce acts as a cooler, but it sure is delicious.

The name Elote is a misnomer, though; elote refers to corn on the cob, while esquites is the corn removed from the cob and served in the bowl. Thankfully, I love elote and esquites equally so I don’t mind eating this tasty misnamed dish.