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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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Today's post

Anthony Boydell
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#cheapjoke #failedtoprepare #inconsistentstamps #thumbitanyway
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Thu Jan 7, 2016 6:40 am
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Game for LARP

Anthony Boydell
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TIME...START!


Today I've got some snaps of a book I wrote with my dear, departed pal Rob, in the early years after graduating, getting a proper job and marrying Mrs B. Glorious Fortune is a simplistic rule-set for Live Action RolePlaying (LARP, of course) that we drew up after my brother-in-law's 11th birthday; we'd run a live-action tournament with jousting and combat and other tests of warrior skillz for the party and rounded it off with a medieval feast and a (victoria sponge) Dragon's Head. The lads enjoyed it so much that everyone was up for doing something similar in a proper location ie. forest, canyons and - how cool is this? - caves!

Rob & I had 'previous' with LARP-ing in the Forest of Dean courtesy of Mythlore - a TV and Film props company run by a group of dope-smoking free-wheelers and fantasy fans - for whom a mutual pal, Mark, had been doing bits-and-pieces (scenario writing, prop-making, weed-consumption and so on!). As a combined group of mates, we dropped in on a few official Mythlore sessions and volunteered as 'monsters' ie. NPCs, hordes, equipment carriers and general corps-de-chien. Though not paid for our services, we did get plenty of drinks during the day and, once, got 'the nod' about - and free entry to - a 'secret' Hawkwind concert in a vacant hotel not far from Builth Wells. We had an absolute blast!

Inspired by the boys' enthusiasm after the birthday party - and drawing from those muddy/herbal Mythlorian memories - Rob and I decided we'd not just run about in the woods with toy swords but ACTUALLY apply an ACTUAL system to it all: introduce some discipline to the chaos!



The date on the inside cover is 1993 - 22 years ago - and this would place it being authored in our first home in Cheltenham. I can remember the room, the computer and even the desk it was written on...because me and my Dad built the desk in to the wall and had a carved wooden foot on one of the supporting legs. We started with the character sheet - how damage was allocated and recorded - then introduced damage dealing (weapons) and damage prevention (armor and shields), simplistic character classes, levelling up and - of course - Magic.



There's nothing in there that should surprise or astound; this is everything we'd ever learned about fantasy RPG-ing and LARP-ing distilled in to as straight-forward a formula as we could come up with!



Our cute twist was in the use of Magic, though; we wanted to make sure the drama played out verbally as well as physically, so introduced proper spell incantations that the players had to learn: no 'magic words' equals 'no spell', sonny!



We even came up with a formal presentation method for designing the scenarios (see above); copies of which would be with the Player and Monster Referees (me and Rob, interchangeable) at all times! We ran three such sessions, developing the story, but attendance dropped with each: the Law of Diminishing Returns for the youngsters...and the increasing inconvenience of getting them to-and-from the Symonds Yat site for their parents. Everything got packed up and forgotten.

Today the props have been thrown away, the weapons I made from gaffer tape and carry-mat have disintegrated and the costumes have become anti-paint-splash throws. Even Rob has gone. All that remains is this single presentation display folder with home-printed sheets, CorelDraw clipart and hand-written campaign notes.

TIME...FREEZE!
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Wed Jan 6, 2016 6:55 am
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Pax Mobasa

Anthony Boydell
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Not only was it first day back at work yesterday, but it was first day back in North Wales! Yes, the dismally-grey Monday morning found me four hours a-trundling up the Marches and along the top to Llandudno. I'm certainly no stranger to this journey and filled it with audio distractions from Pappys (Flatshare Slamdown), The Greatest Show In The Galaxy Podcast (a Doctor Who fan thing), Desert Island Discs and Richard Herring's RHLSTP (RHLSTP). The chesty cough and ticklesome throat that greeted me on New Year's Day Morn has developed in to a proper cold with seeping and weeping and a shredded larynx that lets me say 'Yoh-to, yoh-to' like what Princess Leia does in Return of the Jedi. I can also do a Frank Bruno impression but that kind of thing is regarded as racist now...even in the solo-occupancy/aircon-on-full-heat of my VW Touran: I gave myself such a talking to.

Not wishing to spread my lurgy to my co-workers (in the form of airbourne particulates) - and, to be honest, because I couldn't really face the jolly 'How was your Christmas?'s, the sarcastic 'Bet you're glad to be back!'s and other obligatory, post-Festivities socialising in the work environment - I found myself a hotdesk in another wing of the LLJ building and processed three weeks of emails in splendid isolation.



Come the evening I had barely time for a quick bath at the B&B before scooting off over the river to Conwy: it's uplit castle and games-playing Golf Club. There was quite a throng gathered as I carted my Bag For Life to the Bar: Isle of Skye, A Nice Cup of Tea and Mombasa. I knew I'd have no trouble getting takers for Mr Pfister's delicious vegetarian-unfriendly* puzzler and within less-than-a-minute Aaron, Tim, Lee and myself were butting tables together and unpopping ziplocs excitedly. Nothing gets passed these guys, you know; just because they're based in the wilds of Cambria doesn't mean they miss out on the Hot Stuff - oh no! It turns out they have, between them (and in various configurations) played quite a LOT of Mombasa.



I was quite daunted. Once again I tripped up a little on the bookkeeping track, having to split an intended along-the-bottom-and-round-the-first-corner run in to two after cocking up on that 'must have two bookkeepers' rule on the icon match (fuuuuuuuuuck!). However, I paid better attention to the diamond track and managed to hit a fourth card playable in round 5 and a fifth in round 7 - this, alone, made me feel utterly satisfied! I'm sure seasoned Mombasans will scoff at such inefficient play but to them I say: "Bollocks!". I doubled my score from last time AND won by (only) 6 points thanks to an even-handed focus on the two player board tracks (diamonds / bookkeeping) and some judicious betting on Cairo - all that hard work Tim and Lee put in to upping my own Share values...


Pleased as Punch to be using Max Actions


Someone, I cannot remember who, previously-remarked that you should play Mombasa once, sleep on it and then PLAY IT AGAIN; the second time it will begin to make sense! How very true...and it keeps this superb Euro at the top of my 'Take to Play' stack!

The scales of gaming justice must be balanced, of course, and the second item on this evenings menu was from Aaron's library: Pax Pamir. Phil Eklund's four dimensional area control card game is his usual flurry of rules, images, iconography and flavour...and ain't no family-friendly filler!

In summary: you can buy cards from a tableau and play them to populate elements on to a central board; the cards also come with one or more actions that can be selected in later rounds. Importantly, cards can also change the current Victory Condition - there are four (intelligence, economic, military and the last one - which also sets which additional actions (on cards) are FREE to use while in play. Money is passed around the players via buying from the central card market and by the placing of pieces. Money is important: I ran out about 20 minutes in and was stuck to do much for the next hour. Players are allied to one of three factions: Russian, Afghani and British: when a trigger card is bought, the current victory condition is evaluated to see which Faction wins (if any does) and then which player, allied to that faction, is the 'best'.


God help me! As the sole Brit supporter, I should've switched allegiance a little earlier...


I'm not explaining it very well; there's a spying mechanic that gains influence for the 'Intelligence' condition, there's hand and tableau management, area control and - always and throughout - there's the changing Victory condition to keep a track of. I won't pretend I didn't find it all a bit overwhelming...but the head cold is NOT helping, certainly. Intriguing...now, I really must get Pax Porfiriana to the table while Mr Eklund's "style" is fresh in my mind!

More sternutatory episodes punctuated my drive home through the silent Llandudno streets but I was tucked up with a hot pillow and a lemsip by 11PM.

Good-ATISHOO!-day to you!

*because it's "very meaty" *cough*
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Tue Jan 5, 2016 6:50 am
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Workle

Anthony Boydell
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Holiday's over. Bollocks.
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Mon Jan 4, 2016 6:40 am
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Is this microphone on?

Anthony Boydell
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I love comments and I love feedback - even the heckles that Boffo throws in (with an especial glee) - so it's an odd feeling whenever I post up something and it gets not-a-peep-of-a-response. The visible ego massage that is thumbsup (oh, that bewitching green icon) indicates that some have been suitably entertained but the void after the main text echoes hauntingly...

I am pleased to see, from the appropriate section of the main page, that lots of gamers are starting new blogs for 2016. Ah, the nervous introductions and the self-depracating 'excuse my speling mistokes' and the (hopeful, always caveated as 'hopeful') commitment to keep things regular. It can be done - some of us are doing it - but daily is a mental goal, to be honest. I started out with the unwritten intention of doing it for a year, an approach taken by others recently, and just found that the rhythm of my day (and the electrical storm in my brain) suited carrying on. It's just a matter of pace, of course: Ignacy writes approximately once per week and it's funny and varied; Paulo and Allen and Milena Guberinic and Steph too - and they have all those wonderful photos as well!

For the new blogger, the silence is often deafening - barely a thumb and almost always that echoing abyss of non-response. This year I have decided to encourage more...in the last couple of days I have subscribed to four new contributors and I encourage you to, too (!). They may all wither and die before post #2, they may struggle to reach double figures OR - with just a small amount of our attention - they might flower and become the next Lowell, the new FilipW or - God help them! - an everyday prose-puker!

Go on...click [Subscribe] - you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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Sun Jan 3, 2016 6:45 am
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Baby Fish Mouth!

Anthony Boydell
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Mrs B had been away for an Aunt's funeral, so it was just me and the boys and Daisy and Ziggy in the house. The two elder children barely surface before midday, so - after walking the dog in the bright sunshine of the A.M (see below) - three of us popped in to Ross-on-Wye to stock up on vittals for the NYE 'party'.



A few friends have been invited over to eat, drink and play some games but I'd realised we were perilously-short of cheese, pork pies and - thanks to Mrs B hemorrhaging my stock of Carmenere as 'house visit' gifts - red wine! Fortunately, Sainsburys was on hand to replenish supplies AND supplement the scran with a fulsome sherry trifle and Lego Jurassic World (XBox360) for Arthur.

Aside: Arthur is a wonder with his pocket money: he earns - via household chores - steadily throughout the month and is able to buy himself one or two 'decent' toys at the end of it. Cash Presents from the Festivities boosted his December balance to £70 (!) with which he has now bought 4 x Transformers, the aforementioned video game and two expansion packs for Lego Dimensions: the lad makes his money go a looooooooooong way!

Six o'clock heralded the arrival of Mrs B (long journey down the M6/M5 from Blackburn) and the evening's guests: the Freemans (Jules, Pip and Peter), Loarne (good friend and Franciscan Friar) and - eventually, when they could pull themselves away from Tales of the Arabian Nights - Boffo and Smudge Bateson. Butternut squash / sprout & chestnut soups were bubbled in to life and the groaning table of comestibles groaned satisfyingly. I took myself out of the loop to deliver Daisy to another house party and then got stuck behind a council gritter on the way back: it seems the bonnet of my Touran will be MORE than safe from frosting over given the generous spraying it received!

Entering the rowdy kitchen upon my return, I was greeted by a dazzling array of players in full performance; a game had already been started (without informing me) whereby everyone was given a random 'trait' card and had to enact that trait for me to guess...me to whom NO ADVANCE WARNING had been given! The pandemonium was positively Ken Russell-esque with Jules hog-snouting through a large bowl of sweet chilli crisps ('hungry'), Smudge braying like an electrocuted donkey ('hysterical'), Pip skulking furtively around the patio avec fag ('suspicious') and other displays of moral disintegration. I got the Hell out of there...

...to the shed to retrieve the first official entertainment of the Evening:

The spoils of a local Auction about 10 years ago: 1960s party games from Pepys (Castell Brothers) and Dennis's


A curious mix of anagrams, objects-from-an-unusual-angle and 'What is wrong with this picture?' formed the split-in-to-three-teams playoff; each team getting 5 minutes with one set of images and then passing left, and so on with end-of-round scoring.


From L to R: Boffo, Smudge (Fast Action Response Team); Pip, Mrs B, Loarne (the Turtle Doves); Benedict and Jules' Knee, pTer not in shot (The Younglings)


It was neck-and-neck between the Farts and the Doves for the three rounds while the Younglings - finally resisting the urge to piss about - managed to scrape back from a woeful opener to end a respectful third (albeit 'of three').

Suitably warmed up, we popped another log on the fire and NOBO-ed five rounds per team of pseudo-Pictionary ie. forget the board, just work your way through the cards from top-to-bottom in 1 minute. I have managed to miss out on the last three sessions of this (at least) which equates to about 5 years in elapsed time; everyone expects me to be 'rather good' on account of my quick mind and cartooning skills and, indeed, so it proved when I busted the others' averages of 2 or 3 with my own 7 (almost 8).



Smugly, I returned to my seat (and my personal bottle of Carmenere) to heckle the remaining 'doodlers' mercilessly: that'll get them back for the 'traits' debacle!


From L to R: Peter, Boffo, Loarne, Pip, Mrs B & Jules


Next: there was no way I was going to let a room full of non-gamers get away without being subjected to the singular light-bulb moment that is Codenames. As expected, it only took a couple of clues before the whole concept took root and they were guessing, mis-guessing and trash-talking the opposition like veterans! At some point during the game, 2015 gave way to 2016 and we all stood to hug, cheer and top-up the bubbles.

Though beginning to flag, the group was not YET ready to succumb to beddy-bo-bibbles and we closed a raucous session with the plain beauty of Dixit. Now calmed, but still giggling, and with the puppy snoring loudly in his den, the assembled persons dis-assembled in to the frosting Newent night.

The perfect way to end, and begin, a Year.
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Sat Jan 2, 2016 6:50 am
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What's Another Year?

Anthony Boydell
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(Oh dear: my head hurts! This blog was jotted a couple of days ago and, thus, doesn't reflect the riot of a New Years Eve we had - I'll tell you about that tomorrow!)

So, dear friends, what will 2016 bring? For myself, that list is (already) well-formed:

Copies of the sumptuously-illustrated Bad Grandmas for Surprised Stare Games to sell at shows

Guilds of London for sale at UK Games Expo (I have signed stuff!) otherwise it will be an expensive stand with nothing in it...apart from the Grandmas, of course.

This blog's 1500th post!

A new job?

A first Tony trip to the U.S for Gencon?

Eldest daughter comes back from her year-long trip to New Zealand!

My Snowdonia (but not Snowdonia) spin-off A Nice Cup Of Tea (Darjeeling / Wye Valley Tourer) in a box with cards, pieces and a new board...hopefully for Essen Spiel!

This blog's 5th anniversary!

The new MegAgricola?

That's enough to be going on with, no? What about YOU?



HAPPY
NEW
YEAR!


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Fri Jan 1, 2016 6:50 am
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(strokes chin - cue: wobbly fade)

Anthony Boydell
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Another 12 months flies by and it's been a decidedly odd year:

As a player...
...I averaged about 25 games per month (across 126 different games) with the following fives and dimes:
42 x Guilds of London (more later)
17 x Codenames (my Silver Medal Game of the Year)
17 x Dobble (I was Born Again!)
15 x Roll for the Galaxy (oddly bored of this now)
13 x The King of Frontier
9 x Unpublished Prototype
9 x Містеріум (Mysterium, the old version)
9 x Snowdonia (incl. other scenarios)
7 x Agricola (!)
6 x Cubist
6 x Eggs and Empires
6 x Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King (my Game of the Year)
6 x Pi mal Pflaumen (my Bronze Medal Game of the Year)
6 x Spyfall (one session, LOTS of fun)
5 x Cubiko (a continuing favourite!)
5 x Harbour, and
5 x Sandcastles

The Ross-on-Wye club celebrated it's 5th birthday (without me!) and continues to be a significant refuge in my weekly routine; I think I might perish without it!

As a Designer...
...Ivor the Engine has competely gone from the Esdevium warehouse which means my own shedstock is now fair game for selling to shops (we were prohibited before)!
...Bad Grandmas has appeared as a real, proper, actual manufactured thing!
...Snowdonia: Trans-Australian Railway & The Daffodil Line made it to Essen, albeit a little rushed, and - of course - there was
...Guilds of London

Spoiler-ed for the benefit of innocent eyes:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Even now, with a distance of 4 months, the bile begins to burn when I recall the shenanigans I was put through. I was dealing with Intrafin on the Saturday before the deadline Monday without ANY inkling there'd be a pull out; we were sanding corners and tidying things up with Mr Klemens Above-and-Beyond-the-Call-of-Duty Franz AT THE WEEKEND! We wanted it to be absolutely right, to be 100% the best it could be! So I don't believe, for a second, that this was a last minute decision on their part: 'gutless' is the word I'm looking for...and 'unprofessional'...and 'inept' too.

I wish them swift Bankruptcy.


As a Father...
...I have sent two children away, one to the other side of the World, and it hurts! A heart simultaneously swollen-to-bursting with pride and with missingness.
...my eldest son has had an incredibly rough year and was crippled by the stress of exams; with the support of a fantastic local organisation, Mrs B has managed to survive a maze of bureaucracy and secured him a place at his hoped-for College!
...the other boys just keep on keeping on: both developing as fine game players (which is nice)!

As a Business Analyst...
...work has taken me up-and-down Wales a lot, which is tremendously rewarding, but it also feels like the walls are closing in! I've been doing I.T stuff for 25 years+ and am yearning for a change!

As a British Citizen...
...I am shamed by the Middle Eastern refugee crisis and our Government's refusal to help in any meaningful way
...I am shamed by our Government's gung-ho, ego-polishing military action in Syria
...I am, however, delighted that the shower of cloned, self-serving shitbags masquerading as the political strata in our Society, are getting a decent opposition - at last - in the shape of Jeremy Corbyn. And that people are finding their voice.

As a blogger...
...I reached 1000 posts and have accelerated through to almost half-as-many again! I think I may need to put myself a Kickstarter book campaign and dig out some other Boydellian ephemera: would you buy a copy?
...I have been joined in this daily discipline by the most excellent (and, importantly, interesting) Mr Stuart Burnham (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/4563/it-beats-watching-tv). And he only lives about 40 miles away, so perhaps 2016 will bring a new regular meetup?

Lawks, it's been a thumper of a three hundred and sixty five - let's hope we all meet again at the end of the next one!

Oh, and there was Star Wars
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Thu Dec 31, 2015 5:06 pm
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Oedipus 4X

Anthony Boydell
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Middle son Ben (White), Daffers (Blue) and myself (Red) played Eclipse yesterday; for Benedict, it was his first time...
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Thu Dec 31, 2015 7:00 am
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Bricking It at Boffo's

Anthony Boydell
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The holiday grinds remorselessly towards it's end. Damn! It seems like only yesterday that I was singing along to Driving Home For Christmas and leaving the office for a well-earned break; now I'm steeling myself for noseygrindstone once again. Shit-the-bed!

No matter, though; for today (ie. yesterday), I managed to wangle a pass out and scoot over to Ross-on-Wye to pay in a couple of cheques and play some board games at the tiny abode of the Batesons! We were rumoured to be attended by gentle David de Ledbury but he had to rearrange at the last minute...as did Jobbers, who has backed away from tomorrow's (ie. today's) projected game of Eclipse which Dave can make. *phew* It's hard to keep up sometimes.

Anyway, today it was Boffo and Smudge, on home ground, to the sound of distant Guinea Pigs; the wiggers have been brought indoors due to projections of oncoming bitter weather...it also means Boffo can use the garden's hutch as a beer cooler: smart, if cold (in both senses) thinking, Sir. Look, I'm just wittering on now; perhaps I should just describe what we played?


Biblios - A game of two quickly-played, if rather empty, halves.


While Smudge decanted a generous dollop of potted cheese on Boffo's toast (Please!!! This is NOT a euphemism), we started things light-and-simple...the opposite of Boffo's lunch which looked ripe and complex with a heady bouquet of garlic. After 10 minutes of card selection and a subsequent auction, the final scores were 6-6-3 with Boffo winning on the tiebreak: hardly rip-snorting material for my next Gamer Detective novel! Still, with all munching and curds (fermented or no) dispatched, we were now limbered up for something with a little more flesh on it's bones: Porta Nigra


About to begin: it's all fields...


In summary: Each player has their own deck of action cards, each of which depicts a number of action icons. Each turn you will select one - from two in hand - and use it like a miniature worker placement board: assign dobbers to buy bricks of various (or any) colour, gain scrolls/money/torches and (most importantly) build - using accumulated bricks - for points. When you have used your dobbers, or spent-torches-as-extra-dobbers, your turn is over. You will play/use every card in your deck TWICE (with intermediate scoring/money gain) and then the game ends with some final scoring.

The key is building using the bricks - allocated according to where they were bought in the market - in sets of 1, 2, 3 and (occasionally) more. Building is completed in coloured spaces in four quarters of the board; each quarter has a theme to it's build requirements eg. 1, 2 and 3 height tiers, two-high double tiers, minimum-of-three-high spots and 'a wall'. Building scores immediate points; if you cross a
divide-your-total-bricks-in-the-quarter-by-three boundary you get an extra bonus, variable to each quarter. Building can also get you special cards, as can the scrolls, which provide further scoring and/or short-cut/free-money actions.


...and we're done. I remember when it were all fields around here.


It sounds a bit busy but is, in the playing, extraordinarily straightforward: buying the right colours of bricks (to reduce supply to other players) and building the right height in the right colour in the right quarter will pick up a nice scoring momentum and a flow of bonus bits-and-bobs for later rounds. Despite my steady lead in the first 4/5ths of the game, Smudge's protestations of bewilderment and confusion proved unfounded when she skipped ahead by a handful of points for the win. Boffo was breathing hard behind me...and was only a few points back on the score board too! *badomp-tish*

(sound of cicadas)


The unholy trinity pronounced it 'good stuff' and we moved on - at Smudge's generous suggestion - to Agricola. Though no slouch at The Farming Game herself, she forewent a 'real life' Concordia (we're playing it a lot on boiteajeux.net) for something to make our little faces light up; I dealt 5 each of 'E' deck and 'G'(amers) deck - with a cheeky random sprinkle of my good self - and we were away!


A sight for sore eyes; it has been far too long.



I swear there was no sleeve-play or shenanigans: I took myself in hand and slapped myself down on the table, first turn.


I won't bore you with the details; suffice it to say that my preoccupation with the Braggart, and a consequent collection of pointless minor improvements, distracted me from a renovation here and some extra ploughing there. Smudge, edging in to the 40s off the back of a nice grain/veg combo and cruel exploitation of the Fishing space, proved dominant yet again. Us lads were proving somewhat of a disappointment, I feel.


The Skye's the Limit.


We closed, at my suggestion and to my delight, with Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King. Boffo retrieved his recently-purchased Brettspiel Adventskalender 2015 promos and added them to the mix and we began. I was having another one of my 'flyer' games, quickly able to exploit early scoring for ship/lighthouse pairs and largest lake to gain a healthy lead. Supplemented by a brace of large, closed areas and the odd dribble of sheep, I ignored any of the '1 per' game-end tiles and just stayed 15 points in front all the way. This game just keeps getting better and better.

It was now approaching late teatime and I had a chip-shop run to complete so, with the promise of some New Year's Eve gaming to come, I bade farewell to the generous hosts and chugged off in to the blustery dusk.
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Wed Dec 30, 2015 7:30 am
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