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Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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The Great Stink

Anthony Boydell
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Many (about 15) years ago, when me and Alan and Charlie first started in the world of boardgames as Surprised Stare, we'd often fill our journeys with stream-of-consciousness brainstorming sessions: start with a name and flesh out a game concept from there. During a particularly-delicious Moroccan meal in Erlangan (outside Nuremberg), an overly-chunky lamb kofta prompted my suggestion of "Colon": little wooden 'boats' carrying multi-coloured cubes along a segmented board and players try to collect sets of these cubes for points. The 'twist' was that the cubes were to be replaced (in the aforementioned 'boats') by brown cubes from the players' personal supplies (lest they lose Veeps at game end); the boats would drop off the end of the track now (mostly) completely brown. Crass? Yes, but then I was quite a fan of obvious humour in my (simplistic) designs back then; please remember that I had yet to experience my Damascan Conversation to Eurogames! Thus, while "Colon" is a ridiculous, scatalogical conceit, it seeded an idea over time that is much more traditional, thematic and viable: Joseph Bazelgette and the Sewers of London.

From Wikipedia:
During the early 19th century the River Thames was an open sewer, with disastrous consequences for public health in London, including cholera epidemics. Proposals to modernise the sewerage system had been made during 1856, but were neglected due to lack of funds. However, after the Great Stink of 1858, Parliament realised the urgency of the problem and resolved to create a modern sewerage system.



Joseph Bazalgette, a civil engineer and Chief Engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works, was given responsibility for the work. He designed an extensive underground sewerage system that diverted waste to the Thames Estuary, downstream of the main centre of population. Six main interceptor sewers, totalling almost 100 miles (160 km) in length, were constructed, some incorporating stretches of London's 'lost' rivers. Three of these sewers were north of the river, the southernmost, low-level one being incorporated in the Thames Embankment.


To a great extent, my original (early 2000s) Bazelgette notes are the direct ancestor of Snowdonia; indeed, routing about in the shed recently, I unearthed a pile of uncut A4 sheets of multi-function action cards that allowed resource collection, sewer building and so on. It seems appropriate, then, that I should return to this idea having learned so many lessons from my railway-ing! Last weekend, I gathered together some maps of Victorian London (Google is one's friend) with the goal of putting together a proof-of-concept board:





This board will form the first focus for defining & refining a core structure for Bazelgette:

because this is a story of 'building', take the WP/action selection and pseudo-cooperative elements of Snowdonia as a starting point (regardless of what some might say, I still think WP has a huge amount of life left in it - especially when reinforcing a strong theme);

players are building the sewers and other bits of the infrastructure (embankments, pumping stations);

introduce a mechanic for simulating the movement of material out of London Boroughs - scoring comes from building but also, more significantly, for 'clearing out' Boroughs you have a partial/whole interest in;

Miasma! To supplement 'weather' effects, I want the worst polluted areas to affect worker performance! I also want 'taking short cuts' (eg. using the old London rivers as temporary sewers) to be a viable strategy WITH CONSEQUENCES!

There must be Events, of course.

Basically, we're looking at Snowdonia 2: This Time It's Dirty!

Intrigued?

Naturally, I'll be keeping you informed of any developments...
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Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:30 am
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Coming Soon...

Anthony Boydell
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Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:30 am
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Putting the Ass in 'Glass Face'

Anthony Boydell
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Come and see, friends.

For your consideration:

Glass Face

A fast paced game about rolling dice and slapping faces. If you like set collecting, strategy, stealing and speed, you'll like this!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1238697612/glass-face

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Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:04 pm
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K.S.B.S.

Anthony Boydell
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Goodness! How things have moved along for Kickstarter these last few years, eh? I remember when it was all vanity novel publishing, documentaries about Rickets and the campaign to rename Snickers back to Marathon! Everything has - thankfully - matured and it's now all about vanity board game publishing, edgy independent movies and attempts to reconstruct Babbage's Difference Engine from pasta: modern times, indeed.

I don't spend a lot of time of KS; I find all the campaigns I need from spam e-mails telling me what my mates have just signed up to when something (occasionally) tickles my fancy; recent temptations have included Chris Handy's Pack O'Games (#2, with a retro pick-up of #1), Scythe (the massive Art set version), Dreamwell (pretty), Ember: the Magical Card Game (a friend asked if I'd back it, I felt guilty and so I did) and Glass Face. The latter, from the demented Odd Hackwelder, is his latest card-based game though I mainly regard his output as Art - I just love his style, is all.

Other gems that siren-called but were, thankfully, resisted included:
Wedgie Wars (Undercracker Games, 2015) - a curious dexterity party game where players don oversized Y-fronts and attempt to slice each-others' anuses in half while playing a Twister clone. In the end, they didn't reach any of the stretch goals (reinforced gussets, nipsy cream, comedy adhesive skidmarks).

Pocketful of Stones (Tongue Games, 2016) - a place-and-take abstract/tiddley-winks crossover with 100 ellipsoid pebble pieces, each with an inkjet-ed picture of one of The Rolling Stones: first wave with Brian Jones, Mick and the second wave and even that walnut-faced shitbubble hanger-on Ronnie Wood gets a look-in. Clocking in at 18Kg (when packed), the postage was a bitch.

T.H.Y.M.E Stories (Ham 'n Eggertspiele, 2015) - make a casserole over-and-over again until you get the seasoning just right; add-ons include the expansions: The Parsley Case, A Profligacy of Damsons and Under the Mascarpone.

Codournames (Septum Games, 2016) - is exactly the same as Codenames only with smells. Over 300 scratch-and-sniff cards are placed in a five-by-five array and players take it in turns to give scent / gaseous clues to those (secretly) assigned to their team. Oddly, this is a game where spoiling the atmosphere is encouraged nay essential! Ultimately, I didn't back it because I missed out on the 'Be Part Of The Game' level; I'd been holding that garlicky burp 'in' for DAYS!

Zombinoes (Who Cares? Games, 2016) - Dominoes. With Zombies on.

Guess Cthul-who? (Arsebro, 2016) - "Does it have facial tentacles?" "No." (clack, clack, clack, clack); "Has it eaten my Soul yet?" "No." (clack, clack); "Is it bigger than the Empire State Building and filled with Eternal Hate?" "That's TWO questions!" etc

So, what preposterous piffle have you been crowd-funding recently?

No, I really am listening...keep talking...these headphones are cancelling out extraneous noise...yes, I can still hear you...*thumpah-thumpah-thumpah-thumpah-hssssss-hssssss-thumpah thumpah*
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Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:13 am
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...always stuck in second gear...

Anthony Boydell
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It's that time of the year when other folks' blogs, tweets and mailshots inform us of the utterly
splendid time their authors are having at Alan Moon 's The Gathering of Friends. I watch, deeply-
envious, as a great many peeps I admire happily play-test each other's new games, exchange ribald
stories and just kinda hang-out. If you ever want to know true loneliness, then read about
these unraveling by-invitation-only festivities from a scuffed laptop in the chilly, wet & indifferent United
Kingdom. After you've spent the day re-formatting self assessment questionnaires in MScunting-Word.


I imagine what it must be like in Niagara Falls at this wonderful time: pinching fries off
Friedemann Friese's plate in the canteen and maybe asking Matt Leacock which room
of the house he most likes to wear a hat in? Actually: pah! The Gathering of Friends ain't nuthin'
special - I mean, Surprised Stare Games Ltd will be holding it's own biannual Designer Day
towards the end of May and I won't be able to make that EITHER. And I own the fucking Company!
Talk about being 'exclusive', eh? I'm the kind of guy who won't have someone like myself at
my own Events! Mind you, from this evidence I was right to exclude me: I sound like a bastard.
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Tue Apr 12, 2016 6:25 am
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Scarecrow People

Anthony Boydell
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Boffo and Smudge do it every year, rain or shine, and tell me about it either during (when they need help deciphering a confused exhibit) OR afterwards by way of conversation. Every year I say to myself: "We should try that!" and then I promptly forget: The Tutshill Scarecrow Trail.

Quote:
(from the Parish website)

What started as a one-off fundraiser for the church buildings has become an annual community event. Scarecrows, dressed up on a theme, are placed in people's gardens, driveways and windows all around the village of Tutshill and people follow the trail to guess the characters.


For 2016, I had already forgotten completely when - fortuitously, while I was selling my copy of Puerto Rico: Limited Anniversary Edition at the same time - a message (from Boffo) popped up on Facebook:

Quote:
We're doing Tutshill scarecrows this afternoon. Might be sending some pictures for you and/or Arthur to identify


Bingo! And Gawd Bless You, Sah! I checked with Regimental HQ and a Pass Out was granted for myself and young Master Arthur B (everyone else was engaged in Homework and sleeping in very late), so it was "Shoes on!" and away in to the Forest of Dean.

Tutshill is just up from Chepstow on the English side of the Welsh border and is but a train's whistle from Tidenham, where the Wye Valley railway used to run through it's famous 1000 yard tunnel (that's three track cards in the prototype Wye Valley Tourer scenario). It's pretty unremarkable of itself: a butchers, a playing field, a secondhand car garage and a tiny village shop. The shop was being managed by an extremely quietly-spoken girl and seemed to consist (the shop, not the girl) almost entirely of budget chocolate bar brands; there were just enough pastry-based savouries to keep Arthur and me in lunch as well as the Scarecrow Walk's map/answer sheet (a Princely £2!). We set off, fuelled by sausage meat and wine gums, around the genteel Tutshill housing estates in search of Children's movie characters:

S C A R E C R O W S

...obviously, there were MORE than just this selection but how many of these can you name?


Answers:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
1 - Mary Poppins (it's a spoonful of sugar, apparently; looks more like a radio dish and some LSD-laced 'entertainments TBH
2 - The Wolfman (from Scooby Doo Meets The Wolfman)
3 - Ka from The Jungle Book
4 - Turbo (from Turbo) - Arthur made immediate sense of what looked like a spilt toolbox to me
5 - Sweet Cheeses! Surely Smurfette never had a lantern jaw?!
6 - The Strange Fruit version of Harry Potter
7 - The Tin Man...who's coming for your soul
8 - A Whovian from Horton Hears a Who


There were 29 spaces on the sheet but absolutely no sign of numbers 7 or 22 along the route; it transpires that the latter was in the garage undergoing repairs just as me and my boy were a-passing. However, we were now approaching ninety minutes of peering in to other people's gardens, and Boydell Jr was getting tetchy, so we returned to the car...only to find Boffo, Smudge and Boffo's In-Laws ambling down the road in our direction: they were starting just as we were finishing.

On the way back, us two stopped off at the picturesque village of St Briavels, having spotted that it contains a Castle...one that I had never visited before! Any fool kno that Welsh border castles are the best, so we tucked the Touran in a convenient right-by-the-gate nook and popped in:



There was a WW2 re-enactment session taking place (which explains the shot of Arthur being accosted by a couple of Stormtroopers), someone warbled 1940s tunes while a pair of camouflage demonstrators shambled about the place like something from Quatermass. We tried a couple of different machine guns for size, crafted a paper aeroplane and then rested awhile with tea and sweet things:



The final leg of our travels took us through the village of Lydbrook on the banks of the River Wye where, because I remember - and am obsessed by - this kind of thing, there used to be a railway river crossing and a resplendent valley-spanning viaduct. You can make out one end of it through the rampant woodland or, for a clearer picture, there were diagrams in a nearby car park:



Every time I see images - or the battered remains - of such spectacular vanished engineering, I feel a real sense of sadness and loss; the dust of their demolition was still settling when I was born in the late 1960s, so I just missed out on seeing so much statuesque beauty. However, saying all that, to ice and cherry-top the day's cake we paid a quick visit to Ross-on-Wye so Arthur could spend some of his pocket money on a Transformers toy. We were excellent company for each other today and I cherished every. single. minute.




...AND the blog title gives me an excuse to include something from my favourite ever band EVER!
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Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:25 am
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Coffin up some cash!

Anthony Boydell
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They've arrived amid half a ton of polystyrene nuggets and that cloying resin stench: the coffins for Snowdonia: The Necropolis Railway & Neuhauser Bockerlbahn:



Fact Sheet:
Fifty (50) sets of 5 coffins.
£4 (Pound Sterling) per set.
Forty (40) sets available now for National & International delivery (+£2 GBP for the UK, +£4 Europe & RoW - note: these are prices for one set being dispatched)

Thus, for absolute clarity, my next door neighbour needs to pay £4 because s/he can collect by hand; my cousin Angela in Swindon* needs to pay £6 and my dear friend David in Canada has to stump up £8. Pounds Sterling.

Please email tony@surprisedstaregames.co.uk with your order and the Subject 'I love coffins but I'm not a necrophiliac' (or similar); I'll reply with remuneratory instructions.

Now, if you don't mind, I think I'd better go and put some clothes on.

*she also deserves my deepest sympathies
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Sun Apr 10, 2016 6:53 am
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A Horse! A Horse! My Kingdom for a Flying Horse!

Anthony Boydell
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We play a lot of Euro fayre at the Ross-on-Wye board gamers: we're never happier than when we're popping our dobbers into a vacant space, claiming or converting or cashing-in resources and/or auctioning in some shape-or-form. We like a good card game too - preferably something that involves groupthinking and second-guessing - and, when the Season permits, we may stray in to the mass market for our guilty Balderdashian pleasures.

What we get less of is the "directly combative"; games that involve attacking, dice rolling for combat resolution and - gasp - the real possibility of player elimination! Hence Eclipse is beloved of only a smattering...and last night's 5 player run at Cyclades quickly reminded Boffo of this distaste. Mind you, we didn't get a volley of complaining about Wallenstein (first edition) last weekend - perhaps 'the Tower' seems fairer as a means of battling than polyhedra?


Benedict's Yellow Army descends upon the Northern Isle...Jobbers' Black Army waits
to steal the, now-vacant, Yellow stronghold (if he can find a flying horse!)


In summary: A bounce-out auction phase attributes players to GODS - a particular flavour of action - which they then use and, depending on the order of their God in the resolution line, can also make use of available MONSTERS. The aim is to build and/or control two Metropolises: a 'set' of four different buildings (University, Port, Fortress and Temple) which are constructed using the appropriate God too (if you have the money).

The rest of us seemed to have a blast with Benedict quietly building up to superb final 'cycle' (round) where he and Jobbers fought over the 'recruit armies & send them to war' God. Taking an island off someone gifts you any buildings thereon - good for 'cashing in a set for a Metropolis' - and any 'Horns of Plenty' that give you income every cycle (round). In this final round, whomever won the bidding war would get first dibs on a MONSTER that allowed 'army teleportation' (Pegasus) to a vacant Metropolis island (Byll's armies had been routed there but it still had his ownership marker). Beebs used most of his money to take the action THEN the remaining couple of gold to recruit a monster that gave him his income all over again and THEN he flew his entire army over to Byll's island for the win! Or was it? In a tense turn, Jobbers paid the Priestly God to search through the Monster Deck (one gold per card) to find the 'take a monster from the discard pile' monster and - WITH ONE GOLD TO SPARE - found it, reanimated Pegasus and then dropped HIS army on to Benedict's recently-vacated base! A properly exciting finish; well, to most of us it was - to Boffo it seemed a Blessed release*.

With an hour remaining, for me and Beebs at least**, it behooved us to cheer the old feller up with something more Euro: Glen More



This is a fine filler with bite and it skipped along - even with Byll's traditional detailed turn appraisals - to finish exactly on the sixty minutes. There is a lot to enjoy in this game but, inexplicably, I seem to have a mental block on getting the position of my worker (citizen?) correct: in the later game I a) never have enough and b) they're never on the right tile(s) for optimal placement. Tonight I had a moment when TWO of the THREE scoring phases were triggered IMMEDIATELY BEFORE MY TURN which meant I didn't get a chance to get better involved. Nevermind; the final round progressed in the usual Ross-on-Wye manner ie. Boffo complaining he was well out-of-the-running only to come in second, Benedict quietly steeling himself for a strong finish (being ignored by everyone else) and Byll winning by a fucking country mile thanks to everyone chipping in an helping him optimize every turn! I came in a last, of course, with the traditional whining, bealing and hurrumphing.



There is also potentially-excellent news on the Boffonian front: he and Smudge are in the midst of moving house...to a residence within falling over distance from the White Lion pub! This means, during the Summer certainly, we could all meet 30 minutes earlier and get some more Molkky in!

*he was sulking because I summoned a Kraken and destroyed a few of his fleets; he was no threat but he DID have the best target other than my OWN chain of fleets...which is why I had to take the Kraken in the first place!
**Eldest Son retrieval duties
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Sat Apr 9, 2016 11:37 am
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Vaseline on the Lens

Anthony Boydell
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For those expecting something saucy - from today's title - will, sadly, be disappointed because I've been off on one of my miniature impulsive excursions...and the title is, of course, the clumsy cinematic allusion for remembering.

Last October, you may recall, I interrupted my journey home to revisit the old Risca railway (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/47246/any-given-satur...); today, the clement weather - and an earlier work finish - drew me off the rumbling dullness of the M4 motorway again. My grandparents ran the Station Café in Risca and every evening - after my Grandmother had made the supper and got her fix of Crossroads* - my Grandfather would bugger off to the The Fox & Hounds leaving her to shut everything up for the night. They did this for almost 40 years and, because I was the eldest grandchild and very much the precious bouncing bambino, I started staying with them for the weekends and during school holidays from about the age of five. My first memories are of the café; my grandparents lived above in a two-storey apartment that covered it and the shop next door (which they also owned but rented out) but, later, they moved just a 10 minute (steep) walk over the railway line and up the hill to Number 1, Vale View, with splendid views of the valley below and the Twmbalwm iron-age hillfort above:


Nonno and Nonna Lived 'Ere


When my Grandfather bought it, he paid £7000: in cash:
- We're talking old pound notes, here.
- We're talking a glass jar in his bedroom filled up over the years; and,
- I imagine that we're talking no involvement from the Inland Revenue!

At the time they moved in, the rest of 'Vale View' was still being built; the position from which I took this picture was, back then, nothing but a line of concrete floor slabs, guide ropes and acres of churned mud; breeze blocks, bricks and cement slag; piles of earth and trenches. At the bottom of this street-long building site ran the Monmouthshire Canal, just a few miles from the Cefn Flight of Locks:


(archive photo - not one of mine)


Quite the adventure playground for a 9 year old boy! Trees to climb, minnows to net and those half-constructed homes the perfect Summer battleground: clod grenades, cap guns and CHAAAAARRRRRGE! I once walked along the top of the brick wall, slipped off and badly grazed my legs; my grandfather eschewed the traditional 'front-and-back lawns' in favour of a 100% vegetable patch arrangement; we watched the start of the Falklands War in the living room; I taped the Top 40 singles chart on to a C90 straight off the radio broadcast and my Grandmother died in her sleep there, discovered - at peace - by a loyal neighbour.

It was bright but chilly-windy today (yesterday) so I mooched about for a bit - peering over walls at the slopes and brambles - and returned to the cooling Touran to be accosted by a gentleman resident who was chatting with another visitor: "If you don't mind me askin', why are you takin' photos?" he queried, politely.

I replied: "My grandmother used to live there" (I pointed), "and I used to play along the road while it was all still being built"

"Oh" he mulled, stroking his chin and looking me straight in the eye; "I remember that lady; you do have the look of a Lusardi** about you!".

Happy to have not been taken for a burglar casing the (albeit tatty) joint, we chatted for a good ten minutes about 'the old days', how he's known my Uncle "forever" and about the family and the family's Café; we parted on cheerful hand-shaking terms.

*a British television soap opera set in a fictional motel in the Midlands in England, Crossroads became a byword for cheap production values, particularly in the 1970s and early 1980s. Despite this, the series regularly attracted huge audiences during this time, with ratings as high as 15 million viewers
**Caterina Lusardi: my beloved grandmother
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Fri Apr 8, 2016 6:55 am
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Pre-ee-ee-pare Ye the Way of the Board...(game)

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Snowdonia: SeasonsI know that the UK Games Expo is still about eight weeks away BUT time flies and we've been scurrying about trying to get everything ready ASAP; if I've learned one thing over the years is that leaving it to the last minute is a TERRIBLE idea. So, I've commissioned 50 sets of Coffins for The Necropolis Railway and have a Shed full of NOT Guilds of London product (yet); all I need now is the latter...and a biiiiiig van.

Oh, and I've got these too:


Snowdonia: Seasons - 6 card set (the first wave, NO pre-orders - sorry; am planning to get bulk quantities to US/RoW - probably around Essen Spiel time!)


and


Specials: Shunter & Engine Shed coming to BGG/FB SSG competitions near you.


(I'll be posting up our UK Games Expo 'advert' and prices soon)
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Thu Apr 7, 2016 6:05 am
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