Board Games Played: March 2017 Update

Viticulture Essential Edition. Solo campaign complete!

Viticulture Essential Edition. Solo campaign complete!

So far my 2017 has been an excellent year for board gaming. According to my Board Game Geek stats, I’ve played 65 different games for a total of 191 plays. Not bad!

I’ve solo played more this year, thanks to a binge of Viticulture Essential Edition (36 total plays). After picking up a half-priced copy of VEE last December (thanks, BGG flea market!), the game sat on my shelf for a month before I learned how to play. WOW. It’s the perfect blend of theme and mechanisms; it really feels like you have a little vineyard that you can build into a well-oiled wine-making machine.

It always takes me a game or two to really “get” any game I play and solo-ing VEE with the Automa cards helped me tremendously. When I eventually played with friends, I felt comfortable playing and teaching the game. I even played the solo campaign, scoring a 14 in the 8-game challenge.

My love of VEE led me to buy the Tuscany Essential Edition expansion. I haven’t played it yet, but I’m sure I’ll binge on that as well. And after playing Scythe, Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia, Between Two Cities, and VEE, I consider myself a full-on Stonemaier Games fanboy.

Here are a few of the games I’ve enjoyed this year:

Santorini.The best two-player game I own. I’m writing another blog post about this wonderful game by Dr. Alan Gordon.

Imperial Settlers. Thanks to my gaming buddy Daryl for teaching me this one. It was a lot more think-y than I expected, but I like it a lot and it’s a fun solo game. Best of all, it no longer sits on my Shelf of Shame (unplayed games in my library).

Ca$h ‘n Guns. One of my favorites for an impromptu game night. My wife and I recently visited our daughter at college and played this with her and her roommates. It was a welcome study break for them and a fun way for us to spend time with everybody. Nothing says fun like pointing fake guns at your friends and family.

Baseball Highlights: 2045. Now that baseball season is about to start, I’m getting back into this fantastic deck builder. It never ceases to amaze me how Mike Fitzgerald managed to capture the feel of a baseball game with only six cards. Only six! It’s also a tremendous solo game.

Nexus Ops. In the context of most gamers’ Cult of the New obsession Nexus Ops is an ancient game, having been released in 2005. But it still holds up today and it’s interesting to see its influence on modern area control games like Blood Rage or Cry Havoc. Resolving combat can be frustrating or exhilarating, depending on your dice rolls, but it’s an excellent introductory war game. Best of all, it was a big hit at the weekly board games club I host at a local high school.

Day 356: Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson.

I thought this was a cool bit of news today. Dodger Stadium is erecting its first statue on its property: Jackie Robinson. It’ll be on display during the 2016 season.

As a lifelong Dodgers fan and proud Angeleno, I couldn’t be happier. Actually, I might be happier if the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988, but I’m not sure. Hopefully the team will give me the chance to figure this out.

Day 354: Reign-y Sunday

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

The last hockey game I attended was in the early ’90s, when Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Kings at the old Fabulous Forum. I sat a few rows behind goal and got to see The Great One do his thing. I’ll never forget how much better the game was live than on TV.

However, as much as I enjoyed that game, it didn’t stick. I occasionally watch the playoffs when the hometown Kings are involved, but outside of that I don’t really follow it.

(Side note: the number one thing I can’t stand about diehard hockey fans is when they justify their love of the sport by saying how “real men” play hockey. They play through injury, they’re tough, blah blah blah. Listen, I get it. Enjoy your sport. But when NFL games are regularly compared to car accidents and boxers/mixed martial artists practice the sweet science of causing major bodily damage to their opponents, I don’t want to hear a word about toughness.)

Fast forward to today, as my family and I scored tickets to the Kings’ minor league team, the Ontario Reign. We had a blast at this afternoon’s game. Once again, the speed of hockey is so much better in person and since this was the minor league, the arena was smaller and we could follow all of the action easily.

The experience was a first-class production from the moment we walked into the Citizens Bank Arena (much like the minor league indoor soccer and baseball teams in the area, the Ontario Fury and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, respectively). While it’s not the highest level of professional sports, it’s entertaining and more fan-friendly both in environment and in ticket prices.

And fans get the coolest giveaways, as shown above. Nothing beats an oven mitt that looks like a hockey glove. Go Reign Go!

Day 288: The Drought Continues

Greatest World Series moment ever.

Greatest World Series moment ever.

The Dodgers were just eliminated from the playoffs, which means we’re closing in on 30 years since the team last played in the World Series. I know I’ve been a fortunate sports fan, having seen all four of the major sports teams in Los Angeles win a championship during my lifetime, but it’s still a drag when the season ends without a parade in downtown.

Speaking of that last World Series appearance, I’m going to watch this on repeat until this end-of-the-season sadness is gone.

Day 286: Must Win

After the Dodgers went up 3-0 against the Mets, my wife and I decided to go to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. My wife asked if I was sure if I wanted to go and I said yes.

As we were driving there, the Mets scored a run against Clayton Kershaw and my first thought was, “here we go again.” I also thought about turning the car around, but we were starving and didn’t feel like making dinner.

Thankfully, everything turned out perfect: we shared our favorite dish, Kershaw broke his 7th-inning curse, Jensen saved the game, and the Dodgers get to play Game 5 in L.A.

And as an added bonus, we made it home in time for another hilarious episode of Fresh Off the Boat. I was as pumped up as Kershaw was tonight.

Day 182: Carl Crawford

Dodgers' Carl Crawford DH for the Quakes

Dodgers’ Carl Crawford DH for the Quakes

The last time I caught a Dodger doing rehab with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes was when Andre Either played a few games before going back to the big leagues. Last night I met some local Yelpers for our third Unofficial Yelp Event at the Epicenter (technically Loan Mart Field). It was Recycle Tuesday, so fans who brought 10 CRV cans and/or bottles received a free seat at the game. Spending a summer night at the ballpark is something I love to do, so being able to do so for free (while helping the environment) was a real treat.

The five of us Yelpers were treated to a Quakes blowout, as they took it to the visiting High Desert Mavericks early and often, putting up 6 runs in a few innings. The Dodgers’ Carl Crawford was DHing for the Quakes and while he went 0-for-3, he did have the most important RBI of the game. This season Quakes fans’ lucky number is seven; when the team scores seven runs, everybody gets a coupon for two free tacos at Jack in the Box. When Crawford grounded out while driving in that seventh run, it was one of the biggest cheers of the night.

Day 174: Another First

The Magic Words

The Magic Words

I’ve written two posts about Filipino Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium two weeks ago, so I promise this will be my last. I just wanted to document something I saw that night that was a first for me: a couple got engaged on the big screen.

The moment happened between innings, during the Kiss Cam. A few couples were shown and they kissed, much to the delight of the crowd. After the last couple kissed, however, the camera lingered on them. At first I thought someone forgot to turn off the camera, but all of a sudden the guy got down on his knee and produced a ring box. His girlfriend was stunned and all of us in attendance roared our approval. After she accepted, he placed the ring on her finger and the cheers continued all the way to the start of the inning.

It reminded me of the last time I was at Dodger Stadium, when I was telling my wife that out of all the baseball games I’ve attended — major and minor league — I’d never seen a benches-clearing brawl. Sure enough, just a few innings later, the Diamondbacks threw at Yasiel Puig and the brawl was on.

Coincidentally, it was the Diamondbacks who were playing the Dodgers when I saw my first Proposal at a Sporting Event. I wonder what I’ll see the next time they’re in town?

Day 166: Great Night of Blue

Dodger Stadium, aka Heaven.

Dodger Stadium, aka Heaven.

Rather than update my previous post about the Dodgers’ Filipino Heritage Night, I’m recapping that great day here.

My family and I left early so we could beat traffic and enjoy a pork BBQ plate at Bernie’s Teriyaki. We succeeded on both counts: we experienced no traffic and beat the dinner crowd at Bernie’s. We’re onto the third generation of our family who have eaten here (they opened in 1977) and the taste and quality have remained the same over the years. It also seems like they haven’t upgraded the facilities in nearly four decades of business, but if ain’t broke, why fix it, right?

Our bellies full of delicious Filipino-style BBQ and rice, we made the quick 10-minute ride to Dodger Stadium and, having paid half-price for parking online, we zoomed right to the shortest Pre-Paid Parking line and made it to Lot 1. Although it’s a trek to the Right Field Pavilion, it’s normally not a problem, especially if it means saving money (the closer Preferred parking lots cost $35 online and $50 at the gate). Unfortunately, my knee was sore from a Monday full of driving and moving, so I had to take it at a slower trek.

Once we got closer to the stadium, we noticed people at a truck handing out freebies. Normally, this thing would be swarmed by fans, but once I saw the name on the side of the truck, I knew why most fans were ignoring it: [INSERT NAME OF CABLE COMPANY THAT WON’T SHOW DODGERS GAMES TO MOST OF LOS ANGELES HERE]. The young interns were all smiles and giving away free Dodger cups to the masses. From what I saw, fans were just walking by, but I’m sure the workers got some verbal abuse as more fans walked in. For the record, I decided to take a cup, but vowed to scratch out the cable company’s name.

So, my ambivalence about taking said cup aside, I was fired up for the game. It was the first game I’d been to in a few years, after the previous non-Magic-Johnson owners nearly ruined everything great about the Dodger Stadium experience. Mainly, however, the thrill of celebrating Filipino Heritage Night with my family and my brothers’ families outweighed everything else.

We met up, collected our cool Filipino Heritage Night Dodgers shirts, caught part of the Filharmonic performing a few songs, and found our seats. The weather was sunny and mild and once the game started, we were treated to a back-and-forth affair, with the Dodgers prevailing on a walk-off single by Howie Kendrick. The highlights of the game: Yasiel Puig nearly hitting for the cycle and crushing a 3-run home run and Joc Pederson climbing the center field wall to rob the D-Backs of a homer.

Although I would’ve preferred sitting in the reserve section like we did during our last trip to Filipino Heritage Night, there’s something to be said for sitting in the Right Field Pavilion; mainly, it’s the spot where Gibson hit The Home Run. I’ll never forget sitting in my buddy’s truck in 1988, listening to Vin Scully’s perfect call on AM radio: “High fly ball to right field … she is out of here! [long pause as Gibson rounds the bases, then hugs his teammates] In a season that has been so improbable, the impossible has just happened!”

That home run is one of my favorite Dodger memories. My other favorites? All of the games I attend with loved ones.

 

Day 55: Family Celebration

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Gaviola family favorite Salo-Salo Grill was the site of another celebration tonight. Whenever we get together here, we tend to order too much food. It’s consistently excellent Filipino food, served in abundant portions. I call it The Place Where Diets Go To Die.

Clarissa Wei, one of my favorite food bloggers, recently posted this guide to Filipino food in Los Angeles. There are  some great spots listed; I’ve been to a few of them and others were new to me. I would’ve loved to have seen Salo-Salo on there, but it’s still a solid list. Newbies to Filipino food should start with her article; better yet, I’d point them to one of the Filipino-American restaurant icons of L.A.: Bernie’s Teriyaki.

Bernie’s has been serving inexpensive plates of Filipino barbecue for decades in the same location. Yes, the name suggests Japanese food, but that taste is undeniably Filipino. In fact, I prefer Bernie’s over Grill City, which was one of the places in Wei’s article. Unlike Grill City, Bernie’s doesn’t overdo it with the barbecue sauce and glaze; it’s a more subtle taste and there’s less fat on their pork sticks, which sets them apart from most Filipino barbecue.

In my family, we’re on generation three of the Bernie’s fan club.  The menu isn’t as Filipino-heavy or authentic as Salo-Salo’s menu, but those barbecue plates are deeply satisfying and inexpensive to boot. The location is ideal during baseball season: you can pick up a plate to go before making the short trek to Dodger Stadium.