Every Night Is Game Night: Friday


I’m playing a board game every day this month and blogging about it (I did a similar challenge last year)Feel free to join me during my Every Night Is Game Night: My Daily Play & Blog Challenge. And tweet me with what you’re playing these days!

Today, of course, is the perfect day to play Friday, a superb solo deck building game. Friedemann Friese, best known for Power Grid, published Friday in 2011 and it’s frequently found on best solo games lists. I got my copy last October and I’ve played it 20 times, including tonight, and I still find it challenging.

In Friday, you’re helping Robinson Crusoe survive on the island, gathering knowledge and resources to fight incoming pirates. The game is played in three main rounds with two final rounds of pirates if Crusoe survives (a big if). There are two main decks of cards: hazard cards and fighting cards. You first draw two hazard cards and decide which one to fight, then draw the amount of fighting cards indicated on the hazard card. If your total fighting points are equal to or greater than the hazard card’s fighting card, then you win the fight and turn the hazard card around and add it to your fighting cards (each hazard card has fighting abilities that are “unlocked” if you win a fight). Many fighting cards include special abilities to help you in your battles.

Losing fights, though, is the key to optimizing your deck. For every point that you lose in a fight you may spend a life point (Crusoe starts with 20 life points) and destroy (“trash” for you Dominion fans) a card. This is where Friday is tough; you need to preserve your life points while also destroying the weaker cards in your deck.

Every time you go through your fighting card deck, you’ll shuffle in an “aging” card which is always negative fighting points. For such a small game, Friday definitely packs in a lot of obstacles to your success. Even if you survive the first three main rounds (which get progressively harder, of course), your deck must be lean and mean to defeat both rounds of pirates.

Friday isn’t easy, but it is immensely satisfying when you finally break through for that first win, and every win after that; just don’t get use to doing it.




I missed my weekly gaming group last night, but thankfully my wife made sure I got my board gaming fix. We played our first game of Istanbul together and she enjoyed it.

Istanbul was the Kennerspiel 2014 winner, an award given to more “gamier” games. It’s easy to see why it won: turns are simple and elegant, with interesting decisions as the game progresses. The components are all top-notch and the rulebook is clearly written.

Players are in the busy bazaar district of Istanbul and are trying to accumulate 5 rubies (6 for two players) to win the game. Of course, these gems are scarce, so players must gather, sell, and trade resources to score one of the precious rubies.

Each turn players will do one thing: move. It’s that simple; you move horizontally or vertically one or two spaces.

Of course, that wouldn’t be much of a game, so players also have the option of performing the action depicted on their space: filling up their wheelbarrow with a particular resource, upgrading their wheelbarrow to carry more resources, selling goods from their wheelbarrow, gaining action cards, gambling for more money (lire), and more.

There’s one requirement, though, for performing the action: you must have an assistant with you. Either you use of the assistants you brought with you on your move or you use an assistant you previously left on the space. Players can find efficient paths on the game board (a 4×4 grid of separate tiles; these can be changed from game to game) and there can be several paths to victory.

I love Istanbul and I’m glad my wife liked it, too. We’ll be adding it to our growing rotation of game night titles.

By the way, it’s National Dog Day! Here’s our buddy Bruno wondering why I’m sticking my phone in his face.

Bruno is not amused.

Bruno is not amused.

Award Winner


I’m now an award-winning writer!

My wife and I recently attended a Yelp Elite Event at The Vermont in Los Angeles. One of the vendors was Tabanero Hot Sauce. Although I’m not the hot sauce junkie I was as a younger man, I still enjoy spicing up my food. Back when I could stomach it, the hotter the better. Nowadays I don’t need to be sweating through my clothes in order to appreciate a tasty hot sauce.

We tried Tabanero with deconstructed chicken tacos (basically chicken nachos) and I liked the flavor. It’s not a vinegar-based sauce and it has a little kick to it, thanks to the habanero pepper recipe. I also enjoyed the Tabanero bloody mary mix.

A few days after the event I learned that the company was sponsoring a contest; anybody who attended the event was eligible. All that was required was an “ode to Tabanero” and a lucky few would win a three-pack of Tabanero Hot Sauce.

Summoning my ode-to-hot-sauce writing skills, I came up with this haiku and as they say in the casinos, Winner winner, chicken dinner! My food will be extra spicy for months to come.

Next up: The Pulitzer.


The Nation’s Fist

Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao.

If there’s ever been a tweet I wish I’d written, it’s this one:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.17.39 AM

It’s a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of Filipinos and Filipino Americans share. Manny wasn’t the perfect boxer (too susceptible to counter-punchers like Marquez and Mayweather) or the perfect man (a womanizer and someone who has idiotic beliefs about gays), but he was one of us.

Twenty years ago if you would’ve told me that a Filipino boxer would one day be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and would headline the biggest pay-per-views year in and year out, I would’ve said you were crazy.

Growing up, my favorite boxers were Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. They were the larger-than-life athletes that fans gravitated to, but it wasn’t until Pacquiao burst on the scene that I felt a kinship to a boxer.

He was our community’s brother, cousin, uncle, father; the one who represented you, good and bad. He showed the world the ferociousness of Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist) inside the ring and the soft-spoken humility outside of it.

He did what any of us would’ve done in his position, whether it was hamming it up with Will Ferrell or chartering two planes for friends and family to one of his fights.

And those fights! From the moment he started collecting championship belts until last night’s trilogy-closing domination of Timothy Bradley, a Pacquiao fight was An Occasion, a family party filled with plenty of laughter and too much food. It was like a Filipino mash-up of the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving, as you cheered him on with your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, long-lost cousins, pseudo-family members, and random strangers. We made predictions of his fights and debated his place among boxing’s immortals, but not before stuffing ourselves from tables overflowing with food and drink.

While I’ll miss his fights and the parties, I’m rooting for him to stay true to his retirement. He has nothing left to prove and we all know about the damage that fighters suffer and its effect on their later years. I want to see him continue his public service to the best of his ability.

He’s my favorite fighter of all time, warts and all.

Orccon 2016

Open Gaming at Orccon 2016.

Open Gaming at Orccon 2016.

I wrote about my Orccon 2016 experience  at  iSlaytheDragon.com and I wanted to add a few things here.

It’d been awhile since I was at any kind of gaming/comic/pop culture convention and Orccon was awesome. It was all about the gaming and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in the hobby. Not only did it satisfy the hardcore gamers, but it also had plenty for the newbies.

Here are a few photos that didn’t make it in the original article.

The International Ballroom was where all of the big events and demos took place.

The Game Library had hundreds and hundreds of games to borrow.

The taco truck down the street from the convention was much better than eating at Denny’s or Carl’s Jr. The tacos de birria was delicioso!

So smart: these water dispensers were everywhere, keeping everybody well hydrated. Came in handy when my mouth was EN FUEGO after devouring a handful of spicy tacos.

My 2016 Yelp Goal

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

2016 Yelp Elite badge.

Last week I received my 2016 Yelp Elite badge, my fourth in a row. As I’ve written before (here and here), I wear my badge proudly and love all of the perks I’ve received. From free event/concert tickets to awesome parties, Yelp takes care of its most dedicated users. My wife and I have enjoyed some terrific date nights, compliments of Yelp.

Although I’d used the site for years without actually writing a review or posting a photo, this changed in 2013 when I took the Yelp 100 Challenge, which is an unofficial challenge to write 100 reviews in a year. That year I reached my goal and also became a part of the Yelp Elite squad.

As I became a Yelp power user, not only did I get to go to fun and complimentary events, but I also made some new friends along the way. That alone makes it worth the time and effort it takes to write 100 reviews in 365 days.

My 2016 Reading Goal


I set my Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge goal at 26 books and I’m using the above chart to choose a few of them. I’ve already got one book picked out, thanks to my wife: Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.

I met my reading goal in 2015, beating my 26-book goal by 3 books, and I hope to do it again, thus giving me a three-peat for my yearly reading challenge.

One other book-related note: Gene Luen Yang was named the Library of Congress’ national ambassador for young people’s literature. He’s the first graphic novelist to be named to the post and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading his brilliant and thought-provoking American Born Chinese.

I Love L.A.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park.

View of Downtown from Pershing Park’s Ice Rink.

No matter where I live, I’ll always be an Angeleno at heart. I love L.A.’s diversity, its energy, and its SoCal vibe, which is a lot more laid-back than other big cities. My wife and I took an East L.A. food tour in 2014 and our guide, who was a Chicago transplant, was asked what he liked about Los Angeles. As he answered our group, I nodded my approval when he quickly pointed at me and said, “THAT is exactly what I love about L.A.! The chill attitude.”

My wife and I decided to do our own food tour this morning, something we like to do every now and then. Some of our best Date Days/Nights are like this, where we explore a neighborhoods’ food and culture (be sure to read my post from last year on 5 Inexpensive Was to Rock Date Night).

We love to take advantage of the MetroLink $10 Weekend Day Pass, which allows us to ride anywhere on the MetroLink, Metro Rail, or Metro Bus all day Saturday or Sunday. It’s the best way to save on gas money and parking fees as well as avoid traffic-induced headaches and road rage.

So we took the train into downtown and walked over to Grand Central Market, which was opened in 1917 and is now home to lots of buzz-worthy eateries. In other words, it’s a hipster foodie’s paradise. There was one place that we’ve been wanting to try for a while: Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

The Slut at Eggslut.

Eggslut’s signature dish The Slut was really good, a unique blend of poached egg and potato puree (with grey salt and chives) that melts in your mouth and contrasts well with the crunchy baguette slices. Was it worth $9? Read my Yelp review here.

Next on our food tour was RiceBar. I’d heard the news about its opening last summer; it’s not often that a Filipino restaurant opens downtown. Most of the Filipino eateries in Southern California are located in suburban areas and this one was generating a lot of hype because chef/co-owner Charles Olalia left his executive chef position at the highly regarded, Michelin-starred Patina to open RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Bisteg Tagalog at RiceBar.

Chef Olalia’s passion for his food was evident the minute my wife and I sat down at the counter. We ordered the Bisteg Tagalog and absolutely loved it. Read my Yelp review here.

Finally, for the third place to cross off our imaginary Foodie Bucket List, we went to Bottega Louie for dessert. It was a beautiful restaurant with its vaulted ceilings and its New-York-hustle-and-bustle atmosphere.

Macarons at Bottega Louie

Macarons at Bottega Louie

We wanted to try their famous macarons and that’s exactly what we did. Michelle got the grand cru (chocolate ganache made with Valrhona dark chocolate) and I got the pistachio (Sicilian pistachios & Valrhona white chocolate ganache). Both were tasty, but I preferred the pistachio.

After we were done feasting, we walked around Pershing Square and admired the public art and the view of the city (shown above). Downtown has changed a lot since I worked down here decades (!) ago and it’s so much more accessible thanks to the train system, which didn’t exist when I was a regular in the area. Nowadays, a morning or afternoon spent here can make for a memorable, affordable, and walkable date.