Codenames was a welcome gift and nice addition to our games library last year (by the way, I prefer library over collection  because when I hear collection, I think of a group of objects displayed for the sake of observing and admiring, whereas a library is something that is actively used. I want our games to be played, borrowed, and played some more. I’m not looking to keep everything in pristine condition and I certainly don’t want our games to be off-limits to the youngest members of our extended family. Okay, rant over). It’s one of the most popular party games ever released, one that gets love from both the hardcore gamers and the casual crowd.

Designer Vlaada Chvatil might not be a household name, but for gamers, he’s a legend. Chvatil has designed some of the most popular and respected titles in the hobby, including Through the Ages: A Story of Civilization, Mage Knight, and more. These are deep and complex titles that gamers love, but Chvatil proved with Codenames that he could appeal to the masses as well.

In Codenames, two teams are trying to uncover their secret agents before their opponents do. A 5×5 grid of cards is set up, with each card containing one word. One member of each team (blue and red) is the spymaster and has access to the key that contains the identities of all the agents, innocent bystanders, and the assassin, on the grid. The spymasters will give clues about who their agents are and the teams will guess which ones are theirs.

Easy, right? Not so fast, Mr. Bond.

The spymaster is only allowed to say exactly one word for a clue and exactly one number that tells the team how many words are related to that clue. For example, the blue team’s spymaster could say, “sport, two.” It’s up to their team to figure out what two words on the 5×5 grid are related to “sport.” The words “ball” and “bat” might be the most likely answers, but what about “plate” or “pitch?”  Team members talk amongst themselves while the spymaster remains poker-faced.

When the team guesses, they touch the word on the grid. If it’s correct, the blue spymaster will cover that word with a blue agent card. If it’s incorrect, then they will cover the word with a red agent, an innocent bystander, or worst of all, the assassin. If it’s an opposing team’s agent, then that team now needs one fewer correct guess. If it’s an innocent bystander, no harm done, but it’s the other team’s turn now. If it’s the assassin, though, you lose instantly. Game over. Good night.

It’s easy to get distracted while trying to figure out the perfect clue for your team. There’s also a timer so if you’re taking too long, your opponents can put you on the clock. I prefer playing with the clock, since spymasters can take awhile trying to find that perfect word for their teammates. The game box says the game takes a minimum of 15 minutes, but it could take much longer if the spymasters are too intense. Hence, the clock.

Although I don’t enjoy Codenames as much as others, I usually won’t turn down a match. It’s a treat to play and it’s fun as either the spymaster or as a guesser (field operative).

(By the way, compare the photo below to the one above. Is it just me, or does one of the red team’s agents look like Team U.S.A. goalkeeper Hope Solo?)


Hope Solo, soccer player and/or Codenames character

Day 363: A Thousand Words

Best shot I hit all year on the golf course.

Best shot I hit on the golf course in 2015.

I can’t believe I only have two more days until I’ve completed My Quest to Blog Every Day in 2015!

I’ll write more about this on the final post of the year, but for now let me say this: I wish I would’ve written more substantial posts. I didn’t realize how tough this quest would be and I have a greater appreciation for those that publish quality content on a regular basis.

What’s the old saying? A picture’s worth a thousand words? Here are a few photos I took this year. I’m not sure I could write a thousand words for each, but they are a good sample of what I did during the previous 363 days.


Roll for the Galaxy


Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens


Wasabi-flavored Kit Kats from Japan


Incredible kim chi fried rice from Little Meats LA

Frontier sign at the Neon Boneyard Museum

Frontier sign at the Neon Boneyard Museum


A summer night at Dodger Stadium


Celebrating the US Women’s World Cup victory at LA Live


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 263: Full Day of Football

Amari Cooper's first NFL TD.

Amari Cooper’s first NFL TD.

It’s a good day when three of my favorite football teams play on the same day and all win. Actually, two play football (soccer) and the third plays American football. And there’s a fourth that’s my favorite soccer team (the LA Galaxy), but they weren’t in action today. Clear as mud? Good.

A quick recap:

1. Manchester United. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wake up at 4:45am on a Saturday to catch the Red Devils. Their 8am game fit perfectly into my Sunday sports-viewing schedule, since it would be over just before the NFL games. Just like last week, the story of the match was Man U’s 19-year-old phenom Anthony Martial, who scored two goals in the 3-2 win.

2. FC Barcelona. They started off slowly, but Barca quickly turned their match against Ligante into a rout, 4-1. Messi missed a penalty kick! Of course, he also scored a brace, and Neymar also scored, so it was business as usual for the best team in the world.

3. Oakland Raiders. Their defense is a still a sieve, but credit Coach Jack Del Rio for having his team ready to play today. Last week was utterly dismal: a no-show for the new coach in front of the home fans. So today’s game was a pleasant surprise as the Raiders show heart and played good enough to beat the favored Ravens. I was hyped about Carr, Cooper, and Murray on offense before the season began. After week one, I was ready for another 3-13 year, but hopefully today’s game is a sign of better things to come. I still have my fingers crossed for 8-8, but the defense needs some help.

Day 235: Couch Potato

Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead

With the Galaxy hosting the New York City Football Club, Tiger Woods in contention at the Wyndham Championship, and the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, my Sunday was booked solid.

Unfortunately, Tiger quickly dropped out of contention, but that allowed me to get out of the house after the Galaxy game. The Galaxy looked like MLS Cup contenders again, thanks to Robbie Keane’s continued MVP form and Giovanni Dos Santos’ all-around excellence. Although I missed out on the game today (I tried to buy tickets after Gio had signed, which meant that it was already sold out), it was still fun watching the Galaxy dominate the game and I expect to go to the StubHub Center later this year for another championship game.

Fear the Walking Dead is on right now as I type this, but my wife and I are both finishing up some work before AMC reruns it. I hope it lives up to the hype, but I still prefer binging on shows 2-4 episodes at a time so we’ll probably watch tonight’s pilot before taking a few weeks off to stockpile episodes.

Nothing says couch potato better than zoning out on a bunch of zombie shows.

Day 219: Manchester United

Manchester United (via Facebook)

Manchester United (via Facebook)

The 2015-16 Premier League season starts tomorrow, so for us soccer fans across the pond, that means waking up at 4:45am to watch the action.

I’m a Galaxy fan because I love all things L.A., but the MLS is still years away from competing with the European leagues. It’s nice to have the European stars on the downsides of their careers come over and build the MLS fan base, but watching the teams in the Premier League or La Liga reminds me why the sport is called The Beautiful Game.

It’s why Americans like me wake up before dawn to watch soccer.

When I’m not rooting for the Galaxy, I’m pulling for Manchester United. As someone who came to the sport later in life, I had to choose a team. It’s not like how I chose my basketball, baseball, or football teams; that was easy, since I grew up in L.A., which meant following the Lakers, Dodgers, and Rams (although once I saw the Raiders play, I immediately switched allegiances. This was made easier by the fact that the Rams abandoned L.A. for Anaheim, then the Raiders moved down from Oakland. Also, I was seven years old at the time).

So why Man U? My stepdaughter roots for Manchester United. Before I became her stepdad, I’d watch her play for her club and school teams. I learned about the sport so I would know what was going on when she played. I watched videos and learned the history of the league. I read the fantastic The Miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss.  I felt like a bandwagon fan when I started watching Man U, since they’re the most successful club in league history, but that wasn’t going to stop me from cheering for them.

And something funny happened along the way: I became a soccer fan.

It’s my favorite sport by far right now. I’ll never be a rabid Man U or FC Barcelona (my favorite non-American team) because I believe you have to live within the city where they’re located to truly feel the fans’ passion. I think of American football and the passion that it ignites among fans here in the States. Or how the city of Los Angeles gets into a frenzy whenever the Lakers are closing in on another NBA title.

But I love soccer. And I’m rooting for the Red Devils, bandwagon or not.

Day 204: CONCACAF Gold Cup

Team USA's Gyasi Zardes

LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes representing the U.S.

Well, that was interesting. Not only did Jamaica upset the U.S. in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals, but the Panama-Mexico match nearly ended in a riot. As much as I love The Beautiful Game, the ugliness of any sporting event marred by questionable refereeing and unruly fan behavior is something I’ll never appreciate.

Some of that ugliness was on display at the Galaxy-Barcelona game I attended two nights ago. On a beautiful Tuesday night in Pasadena, a sold-out crowd of over 93,000 filled the Rose Bowl to cheer for their teams. It was a remarkably pro-Barcelona audience, since Barca has the longer and more illustrious history.

Now, I’m all about supporting your club and being passionate and vocal. Unfortunately, some “fans” think of the games as an excuse to over-imbibe and act like an idiot. F-bombs filled the air, as did slurred speech and the occasional near-fight. I was embarrassed for them and felt bad for all of the parents who had to explain to their children why it’s not acceptable to act like a drunken buffoon in public.

As I commented to my stepdaughter, it was like being at a Raiders game.

(For the record, I’m a card-carrying member of the Raider Nation. Most of us diehard fans act responsibly, but it’s the unruly types who make the news. And truth be told, I’ve seen some bad behavior at the Raider games, especially when they were in Los Angeles.)

Day 188: USA Fan Rally


“We won the World Cup, baby!” – Abby Wambach


That’s Abby Wambach at L.A. Live, the first stop of their victory tour across America. It’s been a few years since I’ve been down to the Staples Center for a championship celebration, so it was nice to be amongst the red, white, and blue-clad crowd paying tribute to the 2015 World Cup Champions.

My wife and I made the hour-plus journey from the Inland Empire to show our support for the team. There were fans from all over and we ran into a few friendly faces on this mild July morning. Making our way to the celebration, I thought about all of the young girls in attendance with their parents, friends, and siblings. Was one of the next national team players here? The sentimental side of me hoped so.

At precisely 11am (just like the game itself, soccer players are prompt), the team made its way to the stage. They thanked us fans, their teammates, coaches, and staff, before dancing away into the afternoon to Queen’s “We Are The Champions.”

It was the perfect celebration for the perfect team.


Day 187: The Audience Is Watching

American Outlaws

American Outlaws

I liked Dave Zirin’s piece this morning, “Why I’m Done Defending Women’s Sports,” especially when he wrote, “Frankly, it’s insulting to the athletes involved to even conceive of it as if they need defending. It’s time to go on offense. It’s time to write more about women’s sports and be part of the grassroots struggle to do what the sports networks and sports-radio talking potatoes won’t do, and that’s tell the stories of what is happening in women’s sports.”

The numbers back him up. The final last night drew over 22 million U.S. viewers, which shattered the record for most-watched soccer game (men or women) and put it on the same level as last year’s World Series Game 7 and this year’s NBA Finals Game 6.

While the women’s game worldwide is not as popular as the men’s version yet, the packed bars, private parties, and growing legions of American Outlaws are proof that the audience is there.