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.

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.

Day 362: 85 Degrees

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe

Sad that fantasy football is over? Go eat at 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe.

My fantasy football season ended tonight.

I was on a nine-game winning streak that led me to win my division and lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. I squeaked by my first-round opponent with a 5-point win, then faced the guy who has become my nemesis.

Mike and I met in last year’s championship game, where he beat me. This year, as Yogi Berra would’ve said, was deja vu all over again, as I lost by 12 points to Mike’s team.

In the Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda department, I sat Todd Gurley and his 15 points for Ted Ginn Jr.’s less than 1 point. I didn’t think Gurley would do much against the Seahawks’ defense (the same defense that locked down my other RB Adrian Peterson a few weeks ago), so I went with the hot hand in Cam Newton and his favorite target over the last three weeks.

Of course, Ginn came crashing back down to earth, thus giving me no chance to win my third championship.

I’d be more upset, but I wouldn’t have been in the game anyway if my kicker Blair Walsh hadn’t exploded for 21 points. Plus, having two titles under my belt some of the sting away from the loss. Just a little.

I drowned my sorrows away with some treats from the phenomenal 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe. Pictured above: walnut multigrain bread, cinnamon twist, green onion bread, boroh danish, and calamari sticks. Not pictured: their extraordinary iced sea salt coffee. It’s all sinfully delicious and my hands-on research has proven that it does wonders for one’s mood when the fantasy football season ends.

Day 346: First

Perfect Timing.

McGregor Gets There First.

I nearly missed the Aldo vs McGregor fight tonight. Not because I was busy or anything, but I happened to blink my eyes.

I’ve rooted for Aldo for so long that it was weird (sorta) rooting for McGregor tonight. McGregor talks a lot of trash, but he backs it up and the one thing I love about the UFC is that anything can happen.

In title-fight record time, McGregor knocked out Aldo cold in just 13 seconds. I thought the two would mix it up for two rounds before Aldo gassed (which is what seemed to happen to Weidman when he lost his belt to Rockhold in the fight before). But McGregor once again backed up what he said about nobody being able to take his left hand.

Aldo rushed in with his face wide open and paid the price as McGregor nailed him with that left just as Aldo was landing his own punch. Aldo was out while McGregor put the finishing touches (aka hammer fists) on him.

It reminded me of that old boxing adage: you want to be first. The Notorious One was first and cleaned out Aldo’s clock.

 

Day 333: Kobe

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

After a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers (my favorite sports team) Kobe Bryant announced that he’s retiring at the end of this season.

There’s an unofficial tradition in my family: picking a Laker to have a love/hate during his career. My uncle always complained about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. My dad couldn’t stand Magic Johnson.

Kobe was my love/hate Laker.

When things went bad, he was a ball hog, a player who didn’t play the game the right way, and a diva that would sabotage team goals in order to score more points or try to be the hero.

When things went well, he was basically Jordan 2.0.

His greatest individual moment was the perfect example of his good/bad: he scored the second-most points in NBA history, 81, on the same night where he dished out two assists. Two assists by one of the all-time greats on a night he was virtually unstoppable?

As someone who came of age when Magic could completely dominate a game without taking a shot, I saw this as one of the greatest sins a player could commit: not sharing the ball.

And yet, I remember that night, completely blown away by his shooting display (and the fact that the Raptors never double-teamed him). It showed everything good and bad about Kobe. His greatness was never in question; his commitment to playing the game the right way was. It’s why, even as a diehard Laker fan, I’d rather watch LeBron James. He’s the one who took the torch from Magic when it came to playing the game the way I watched it in the ’80s. A player who used his talent to make his teammates better.

Kobe was the closest thing we’ve seen to Jordan. He forced his teammates to bend to his will through his unparalleled dedication and preparation to the game he loved.

For me, his greatest display was during the 2001 playoff run, when the Lakers defeated three straight 50-win teams, going 15-1 in the postseason. The way they demolished the favored San Antonio Spurs was spectacular: Shaq and Kobe at their peak playing-powers, a modern Wilt-Jordan combination with the perfect set of complementary players and the best coach in NBA history.

Kobe played perfectly during that run, scoring at will yet doing all of the things a great teammate does: share the ball, rebound, and defend the opposition, but most importantly he made everyone better

It’s a shame that he and Shaq couldn’t work things out because I’d be writing about one of the all-time great players from the Greatest NBA Team Ever.

Instead, I’m appreciating one of the greatest to ever play the game (and one of the top five guards in history: MJ, Magic, Kobe, West, and The Big O) who was part of one of the most incredible postseason runs ever.

Day 323: Kaosball

Kaosball. My team lost.

Kaosball. My team lost.

While Kaosball won’t replace my love of fantasy football, it was a fun sports-themed board game that I’d like to see on the tabletop again.

Mainly because I scored exactly zero points.

I was left in the dust by my opponents last night, but I started to “get” it as the game progressed. There was almost no point to getting the ball. It was all about fighting your opponents trying to end up in one of the scoring spaces.

I kept forgetting to use my team’s special ability (the Ogre “Stomp”) and I made the mistake of trying to play like a real game of football. Getting the ball to the “end zone” was next to impossible. We were playing a free-for-all, so instead of two-on-two, it was every player for themselves.

Excellent theme and top-notch components mean I’m ready to play again. I need to redeem myself after posting a first-match goose egg.

Day 318: Rowdy

Holly Holm wins the title.

Holly Holm wins the title.

Tonight was one of the reasons why I love watching sports.

The Upset.

Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. Matt Serra knocking out Georges St. Pierre. Guys that nobody thought could beat a seemingly undefeatable champion shocking the world instead.

Tonight the sports world was shocked again, this time by Holly Holm. The former boxing champion was supposed to be UFC Bantamweight Champion Rhonda “Rowdy” Rousey’s latest victim, but like the other great fight upsets, she decided not to follow the script.

Holm fought the perfect fight. She used Rousey’s aggression against her. She fought from the outside, she used movement to frustrate Rousey, and she countered Rousey beautifully. The biggest moment was when Rousey got her hands on Holm and couldn’t use her infamous judo to throw her down and arm bar her. Holm easily defended Rousey’s one submission attempt on the ground.

In fact, it was Holm who was able to throw Rousey down on the mat. That was the beginning of the end. It was the first round that Rousey’s lost in her career and once she went to the corner, I knew it was over.

Rousey looked bewildered, but the first thing her corner said was that she was fighting beautifully. What?! I understand not wanting to panic your fighter, but shouldn’t they be telling her ways to counter the beating she was taking?

It probably wouldn’t have mattered. Just like Douglas and Serra on their nights, Holm wasn’t going to be denied. She continued to tag Rousey before unleashing a championship-winning head kick.

I couldn’t be happier for Holm, who became the first woman to win boxing and mixed martial arts titles. When’s the rematch?

Day 298: Weekend Wrap-Up

Lakers' Julius Randle

Lakers’ Julius Randle

Random thoughts on a fun weekend:

  1. Drafted my fantasy basketball team last night. The league I’m in started back in 2000, but we stopped for a few years. Like fantasy baseball, the hoops game doesn’t lend itself well to the weekly fantasy format. Football will always be king when it comes to make-believe teams.
  2. The fantasy basketball draft itself was a lot of fun, as always. The core group of the league has been together for years, so it’s basically an annual family reunion: we eat, eat, and eat again while drafting our teams.
  3. I didn’t draft a Laker, but I’m already considering working a trade for Julius Randle. Funny that I ended up with Draymond Green, the guy Randle claimed, “can’t guard me.”
  4. After the draft we played poker, which is something I haven’t done in a while. I miss it, but the games are tougher to put together nowadays. My buddy and I got involved in the first big hand of the night and our analysis of how we played it became the running joke of the night.
  5. On the TV while we were playing poker was the replay of Gennady Golovkin’s last win. Poker and prizefighting: the perfect guys’ night out while staying in.
  6. I need Carson Palmer to play well for both of my fantasy football teams to win. This is the kind of season I’ve had: I chose Palmer over Andrew Luck and Drew Brees in both of my leagues.
  7. The Raiders went on the road and beat the Chargers! It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to say this. With three victories, my favorite NFL team has already equaled its win total from last season. Wow.
  8. Manny Pacquiao announced that his next fight would be his last. No matter who he fights, I think it’s safe to say that he’ll do better pay-per-view business than the Mayweather-Berto dud.

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.