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Archive for Tony Boydell
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A lightning jaunt to the top of Wales courtesy of an all-day Monday conference meant a Sunday evening drive in the blustering dark to the Deganwy Quays, luxurious middle class hotel with marina pretensions overlooking the wide and rippling River Conwy estuary. The wind was blowing so hard outside, you could hear the flagpoles on the Castle creaking from over a mile away! I arrived late and promptly fell asleep in front of the latest ‘David Attenborough’ documentary series. The next day, after long hours of pointing-and-clicking one’s way through Powerpoint in a stuffy side room, I was not going to drive the return journey, tired, through the inky black so had convinced ‘the boss’ to let me stay an extra night; of course, being a Monday, the postponement of an eye-straining trek was just the excuse I needed to be around for board games at the Conwy Golf Club with the Snowdonia Dragons!
I was keen to finally give Grand Austria Hotel an outing and repaired to the best-lit corner with Aaron, Tom and Tim. Like myself, Aaron had heard ‘some things’ about GAH. particularly about the playing time and possible death-by-AP, and announced – during the setup – that we were “all reasonably quick players”: a true statement with, perhaps, the tiniest undercurrent of a warning! Not that any of us had any trouble with either the rules or the actual play, as it turned out:
In summary: Each turn (2 per round, 7 rounds in the game), you are (optionally) buying a customer from an array and then taking a die-keyed action; there are also a number of free ‘additional actions’ you can take - should you need to – that can be performed ‘around’ your main action. These main actions, numbered from 1 to 6 for the die pips, are take resources (strudel/cake, coffee/wine), prepare a hotel room, take money/Emperor points, employ a new member of staff or a ‘wildcard’ effect. What’s both a ‘nice touch’ and a ‘curse’ is the number of dice in an action space guide how powerful the resolution of that action is ie. 5 dice in the ‘recruit staff’ bay means ‘hire a staff member for 5 money discount’ – pick it later and there might only be one or two dice there (for a 1 or 2 Krone discount). Resources are used to feed customers and customers want to go to a prepared room when they’ve feasted and will gift one-off effects when they do. Staff give one-off, permanent or game-end scoring effects. There are also some other scoring bits-and-bobs around the Emperor track and Politics cards (variable elements that make each game ‘different’) but I’ll not mention them here.
The simple turn structure masks quite a plate-spinning thinky game: having a good turnover of guests, getting rooms ready so fed guests can gift their bonuses, having enough money to keep everything moving, picking actions with the best number of dice in for maximum resolution power and so on. I came dead last but DID enjoy it: I was money-poor in the second half of the game and found it impossible to recruit (ie. pay for) any game-end scoring staff (despite LOTS in my hand). Both Aaron and Tim seemed to be chaining Guest resolutions with great success, often topping up their money and/or getting new guests/ resources/ prepared rooms for free. However, in the great “what did we just learn?” post-Match analysis, no-one could put forward/explain their overpowering strategy/approach as it all just “seemed to play out right”.
The second game of the evening was something I’m already very happy about: Dadaocheng – the game with the connect four/reversi resource-generation mechanic. David joined myself and Tim for a three-hander that tickled along pleasantly for the next 60 minutes or so. David went for Mansions early, leaving Tim and myself to gather some utility buildings in an opium fug; we later exploited an historical event to turn these buildings in to Mansions ‘for free’, which jumped me ahead of David for an eventual win. In the dim, ambient lighting I had forgotten Tim is colour-blind, so he struggled a little with the resource flipping/swapping – though my politically-incorrect assistive narration wasn’t any help either: “you could flip THIS grey chit and THAT grey chit to generate some grey cubes”, “you could pay THAT grey chit to roll those two dice and gain two grey chits”, “THAT card costs four chits: three grey ones and a grey one” and so on.
The wind had died down to barely a puff as I trudged across the 10PM car park; and by the time I was plodding through the foyer of the delusions-of-grandeur Hotel, you couldn't even hear the Christmas tree decorations rattling on the door-side wireframe reindeer! A Silent night indeed.
IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME!!!(for the duration of this Festive countdown I shall open a window on the awesome
Brettspiel Adventskalender 2015 daily (no advance peeking), present my opinion on it's contents and
(because what lunatic would have an Advent Calendar without processed cocoa?), I shall find
something chocolate-y to witter on about too)
"Made it, Ma! Top of the world!
". It's a pity that I don't play Catan
that's the fault of my London-ward gaming pals who, when first introducing it (mid 2000s),
absolutely crushed-and-humiliated me. I hated it then and I feel no love for it now; I'm
sorry, but there you are.
And now, because every Advent calendar must come with chocolate, here's something chocolate-y!Schokolade des Tages:
Been on a long walk in the woods with the dog and the kids? Cleared the garden of woody and leafy
detritus, possibly with the aid of a blazing inferno? Gone Carol Singing in the nude? Then you simplyMUST
reward yourself with a cup of creamy, marshmallow-y, chocolate-sprinkley Hot Chocolate (with
spoon for the decanting of gloopy sweetness) - because you're worth it!http://luvoinc.com/blog/best-hot-chocolate-ever/
A gusty, drizzling Sunday was a baton-down-the-hatches / put the central heating on affair. Brother-in-Law Liam and his missus, Meg, popped over for Sunday lunch (roast chicken, all the trimmins) and to try out some board games suitable for two; as Liam puts it "I've always liked board games and I'm sick and tired of watching the TV!". When he says "board games" he means, of course, the traditional Brit fayre; thus, this damp and blowy Sabbath was my opportunity to show him some choice cuts from my own collection (with a special eye on being 'suitable for two').
First up was Pick-a-Polar Bear, not so much for two but for when they have mates around; while the quick-fire grabbin' is easy to explain, everyone needs a couple of plays to settle in to the 'the same or one difference' rule before it sticks and you get competitive. As it stood, I wiped the floor with everyone and my score pile was taller than all of theirs combined - not an auspicious 'salesman' start, but I have several spare copies of Pick-a-Pig around the place so a freebie donation softened the humiliation. Not that we're playing for the victories, of course; this is an awakening!
Keen to get Liam and Meg actually playing together for real, I unpacked BraveRats. Hilariously, Liam opened with 'The Prince' and Meg 'The Princess', which gave her an immediate automatic win! Not having seen ANYTHING of the neat power interactions, they kicked off for game two and Liam found himself outclassed AGAIN by a quiet but merciless Meg. They didn't opt for a third, so I added that copy to their 'take home' pile and pulled the next item from the stack:
'The Cup' - pensive and beautiful, though a little bit broken
I've gotten a lot of mileage out of Balloon Cup; so much that no-one will play it with me any more (I am undefeated). However, it can get deadlocked on occasion ie. it becomes impossible to progress due to cards stuck against uncomplete-able 'races', and this has happened a couple of times in the 30 or so games I've played...that's quite a high percentage, all told, so I've gone off it a bit. For L&M, however, this was a longer and more thinky demo and one which Meg picked up (and ran away with) very quickly; Liam was beginning to seethe with frustration (0 for 3), so I cheered the room up with Best Treehouse Ever and brought myself, Benedict and Arthur in for the numbers. Megan was taking a breather from winning stuff and was plating up the excellent chocolate orange pudding she'd made and brought along; us boys got on with some arborial architecture:
Arthur considers revenge upon Benedict, who built a Robotics Lab.
More colourful, balancing fun in this light drafter; Liam and I specialised in Red only to find it excluded from scoring in all three rounds. Benedict won with young Arthur, aided by Meg as she passed back-and-forth decanting pudding, a close second; Liam and I bimbled about near the stubby roots.
To close, how could it have been anything else but Patchwork?
Fresh from dropping off eldest son and then taking the dog for a walk (at least I THINK that's the right way round), Mrs B brewed everyone a mug of tea and sat down opposite gameshark Meg for some quilty/buttony carnage! Karen opted for a button-poor but very tidy build strategy (which got her the 7x7 bonus as well) while Meg went down the full-of-holes but buttons everywhere path. The latter proved effective - a final score of +2 as winner - because the button income was big enough to absorb the empty square penalty. So, apart from the pattern matching free-for-all of Polar Bear, Mrs Lee-Hynes remained unbeatable through the entire afternoon! They left in a shower of glory, hurricane weather, some items to go on their Amazon wishlists and with an empty bowl where the chocolate pie had been.
Sensing this was a chance for someone ELSE to win something for a change, Karen and me and Arthur and Daisy (freshly arrived home from a Catholic pre-Xmas weekend retreat) got flicking with JamSumo:
The girls crushed us.
Over the last six months or so, Arthur and I have been enjoying the YouTube delights of DanTDM and all things Minecraft. It's a special treat, normally reserved for a lazy afternoon, and we settle down in front of the laptop and work our way through his voluminous back-catalog. There are several things that I really like about DanTDM:
a) he doesn't swear (apart from the occasional 'Jeez!'), which is perfect when there's a 7 year old in attendance; and,
b) he covers a pleasing variety of subjects within the overall Minecraft oeuvre: mods, stories, adventures, mini-games and reviews!
While some may *tut* and scoff at 'watching someone else play a game', I've always regarded it as an essential social activity; more specifically, I remember doing just the same when I was a youngster...
I went to Secondary School in Monmouth for the first three years and, during breaks, our happy little band of pals would wander 800 yards up the road from the Chapel Gate to a tiny independent record shop called Round Ear. Being 1979-1982, the soundtrack was true to it's independent label so we were treated to punk, new wave, reggae and indie - some of it encroaching upon the Pop Charts but most of it resolutely off-RADAR to the general populace! Whilst it was fun to browse the picture sleeves and coloured 7" vinyls to a blaring Dead Kennedys or John Foxx new release, Round Ear really came in to it's own when they installed three video game machines:
From L to R: Missile Command, Battlezone and Defender
Almost instantly, a trip to the store would reveal a press of uniformed bunker-offers, three or four deep behind 'the Gurus'; those chaps with the hand-eye co-ordination skills AND a seemingly-bottomless pocket of ten pence pieces. More often than not, one would be willing to divvy up a coin from one's own supply to get the vicarious pleasure of seeing it turned in to 15 minutes of hypnotic mayhem! I know I sound like a heavily-bearded grandfather rocking on his porch when I say that "kids today take games for granted" but, of course, they DO! Games are ubiquitous, they are a natural part of how we interact and yet - in 1980 - I remember the FIRST video game in the entire town of Monmouth...a Space Invaders in the local supermarket; it was like someone had opened Tutankhamen's tomb right in our little country town.
Translate this theme, if you will, to the world of board games; the idea of pressing around the table to WATCH rather than PARTICIPATE seems preposterous, no? At least, voluntarily sitting to one side...
There is some joy to be had, of course; if the game is short then it's just a queueing mechanism BUT pity poor Byll - of the Ross-on-Wye boardgamers Parish - who, earlier this year, turned up 15 minutes late to find four of us well in to Round 2 of Eclipse: too far to rewind (given the need to start promptly given time and accommodation constraints) and too far to 'slot him in' (we'd have needed to give him a comprehensive rules refresher) and we'd not brought anything ELSE to play anyway! Byll could've gone home at that point yet elected to stay and treat his observance as a learning process; given the general awesomeness of Eclipse, and my predilection for turning the 'game' in to a ongoing space opera narrative, he seemed to have had an excellent evening regardless!
So, while I am happy as happy-can-be to hug up with Arty for some DanTDM or to remember the days cheering on those nimble-fingered 80s heroes, it'll be a cold day in Hell that sees me happy to 'sit this one out'...
Sun Nov 29, 2015 11:55 am
"O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!": as Friday afternoon turned to a drizzled evening and it was time to go and play board games! Benedict wanted to come along, and there'd been plenty of 'See you there!'s via the email round robin, so it was with a joyful heart that I packed plenty of good stuff for 3 or 4*: Grand Austria Hotel, Best Treehouse Ever and Dadaocheng.
Beebs and I sat at a relief table waiting for a couple of early-evening/a-quick-one-after-work wine chuggers to get the Hell off of our [Reserved] table; being a sociable being with an understanding of social etiquette, we did this with quiet grace and seething British passive-aggression. Jobbers broke the facade upon entry by calling out (for all in the Bar to hear): "Not kicking those guys off our table, then?".
So much for courtesy.
Resolutely not taking the hint, we waited a few moments more until we'd realised Boffo had snuck in and was already 'a welcome sip' (ie. half a glass) in to his first Wye Valley ale of the evening. It was either Boffo's stern, authoritative demeanor and beer-foamed moustache that made the squatters to leave OR perhaps it was the arrival of their taxi - I like to think it was the former. Conspicuous by her absence was Smudge who is on Am-Dram Theatre duties this evening (one down already); she helps out with the lighting and sound, so regularly has a hot Spot for the lead actor and is rigorous in oiling her Fresnel.
No matter! Just a few more minutes and we should see Suzanna and Ed pull up...except that an email has just popped up apologizing for cancelling at the last minute (three down now). Luckily, Byll - who had been a 'probable' since Wednesday - kept good his word and joined us in his George Smiley garb. Thus: Me, Boffo, Jobbers, Benedict and Byll.
Five - that most a-cursed of gaming numbers - meant almost everything in the Boydell and Bateson bags was redundant; not really fancying an evening of deafening dice-rolling, I tucked Boffo's copy of Roll For The Galaxy surreptitiously under the table and we opted for the Ragnar Brothers 2010 Canal Mania-esque Workshop of the World (recent Boffonian Trade goods).
In summary: Take some money. Each round take a card, in bidded-for turn order, from a tableau of five and place a dobber in that Town/City then (for money) build 0, 1 or 2 'links'. If you cause your dobbers to be linked by your canal/train track ((phase 1/phase 2 a la Brass) then your score points according to the value of the Towns/Cities connected. At the end of the round, those scored points are taken as cash in to the second Phase. Most money is the winning criterion.
Misshapen dobbers, plastic money and an ugly 'functional board'
I admit that I was hugely underwhelmed by the game, after the rules run-thru, and began moaning and grumbling from the end of Round 2 when, due to the randomness of the tableau and Jobbers/Boffo pipping ahead in the turn order auction, Jobbers/Boffo picked up a wild card placement each; this proved - for Jobbers at least - the game winning 'move'. This is, of course, arse-water of the brownest and stinkiest kind but I think my disappointment at yet another failed attendance threshold (and the loss of options for play) was lying heavy on my heart. I was royally pissed off. In reality, WotW plays cleanly and lightly and shouldn't be worried over to deeply; in the final reckoning Jobbers was, indeed, miles ahead (190-130-108-107 and 100) but I'd managed a creditable 3rd place despite the ungracious sniping. Boffo is correct: this is a nice little Wallace-light filler; the component quality is horrible, however.
At least my latest card game prototype, Danse Macabre, can cope with five so we gave it a run - at the risk of breaking poor Byll. After the straight draft, I'd tweaked the play structure from 'resolve lowest number to highest' to a simpler 'Start player plays-and-resolves, then clockwise around' and this worked far, FAR more effectively! Some interesting combos and options surfaced but I still need to fine tune to range of card abilities - some of the 'do something to someones score pile' effects just take too long to process. It's very early doors on DM but it was pleasing to hear a couple of the attendants reassure me that "there is definitely a game there!".
Benedict managed to guide the group in to game number three: Too Many Cooks, a game that is difficult to locate in BGG because there's a bollocks piece of frippery with the same name that keeps hogging the result set. Anyway, my overall demeanor in Too Many Cooks is one of bewilderment as I fail to capture cards for the current round's Soup and, when tackling the notorious 'No Soup', acting as a magnet for value '10' cards (which doom one to at least one unwanted trick). Luckily, Beebs was sat to my right and also 'No Soup'-ing; he was hit with the gleefully-stacked tricks on several occasions, saving me from the ignominy of dead last place! What a good and loyal son he is.
Smudge had emerged from her booth but didn't want to stay; neither did Byll, who has a longer drive home than the rest of us, so there was an opportunity to try Best Treehouse Ever (fresh from the postal jiffy):
In summary: Draft five cards out of six (in each of the three rounds); a drafted card is placed, if possible, on your tree-house, growing it up (overlap style) to five or six layers. Careful, though - you can only add rooms as long as the tree doesn't bend too much and tip over AND, if you already have that colour of room, it's touching. After each round, some score cards are manipulated and then everyone scores by room colour: most points is the winner.
It was an entirely lovely experience though, in the head-spinning trance of his 6th or 7th pint of the evening, Boffo objected to the score manipulation rules: the adjustment cards - something scores more (x2), something does not score (x2) - are 'picked' in Leader-then-clockwise order but then assigned in reverse. This did not sit true with our sagely Patriarch, so the second game was played with an alternative approach: pick in score track order (Leader down) and played in reverse score track order. However, while still fun, it was clear that Mr Scott Almes didn't come down with the last shower of rain and was right in the first place (of course he was!). Game designers, eh? Why don't the players trust us?
*given that we'd be splitting in to multiple groups
I'm sure BGG would like to think that it's truly International but given that it's Thanksgiving and it's quieter than choral recital by the school of the Mute & Mortifyingly Shy, it's not an equitable split!
Mind you, I'm working from home so it could be just you lot are more industrious? It certainly can't be because you've got something better to do because that's not actually possible!
I've mocked up the cards and the board for A Nice Cup of Tea, the tea-based spin-off from Snowdonia, and they're available for Print-and-Play here:
The rules are in DOCX and PDF format, the cards (and a copy of the board) in PPTX and PDF and there's also a png of the board. I've had probs in the past with Mac-generated PDFs, so if they're odd/unusable then PLEASE LET ME KNOW and I'll produce some PNGs instead!
I'll also be starting a Forum post on the main Snowdonia page to log and discuss the play-testing - one each for the two scenarios.
Finally, some bits-and-pieces:
because the Tea Estates can have high numbers of rubble cubes on them, I've included a 5x chit template to help with 'space' (stick on to cardboard etc)
you will need something to use as TEAPLES in the Tea Gardens scenario
if you chop it up right, you can stick the new board on the back of your existing Snowdonia board...this may, of course, utterly horrify you OR make your copy a super-rare one!
Let me know who you are!
Photos (broad, close-ups etc) during, and after, games then posted to the Forums would be excellent!
Please be honest with your feedback!
I'll see you over in the Forums, whenever!
No stranger to getting hooked in to sci-fi/horror serials, me and Mrs B were X-Files nuts in the 1990s, I was a Twin Peaks obsessive and you won't get much sense out of either of us when Doctor Who is on! Always on the lookout for something 'a bit different', a few years ago we were recommended a French series by - of all people - my In-Laws! They were getting rather immersed in the strange, slow and intriguing production: The Returned.
It's set in a remote French town where, suddenly, people who had died, over the last 30 or so years, start turning up - seemingly fit and well - to find and meet their loved ones; the opening scene is of a bus full of school children plummeting off a cliff because a young boy (who has 'returned') steps in to the middle of the road. The bus is important because one girl, an identical twin, returns 4 years later to rejoin her family - including her grown up sister - with no memory of the period between her death and subsequent return (seemingly true for all of 'them'). Cue: a serial killer, a burst dam, time loops, a submerged village, a Christian cult, subtitles, deadly hallucinations, murder, madness, sinkholes, a housing estate of the Dead and other oddness - all set to a creepy Trance soundtrack and filmed with a cold lens. It's coming to the end of season two and it's fantastic!
* * *
The other day, while letting my ears be assaulted by the aurally-brutal monologues of Mark Maron...
...I was alerted to the quirky sci-fi podcast play The Message: a team of cryptologists is engaged to decipher a possibly-alien message with consequences. Eight parts, each about 10 minutes long, trace the progress of this team in a similarly cold and creepy manner. It's a lot of fun!
Are there any other curios and box sets out there that I should be aware of? And I don't mean the usual 'big' superhero spin-offs et al; I'm looking for something darker...
...and talking of things 'dark' and 'transmission'-y:
Despite my general feeling of employment malaise, there IS some fun to be had in the work environment.
For Example 1:
Today, I managed to lure Tim the Head Statistician down to the canteen with a promise of a vegetable moussaka and a board game:
There's nothing patchy about the excellent Patchwork!
Tim is curious about the kinds of games I constantly evangelise about and will often lament the lack of time spent, with family and friends, on this kind of pursuit; the curse of the television preys hard and heavy on his domestic life! No matter: he managed to "name" our IT system and won a minty-fresh copy of Ivor the Engine for his trouble. I've also persuaded him to get Ticket to Ride: Europe and have almost sealed the deal on Risk Legacy, Hive and Kamisado! Not quite a regular lunchtime group, yet, but certainly the rare raw materials! Needless to say that Patchwork is also a likely candidate of something to get for his Missus; so, he's buying a game only he has played as a present for his non-gamer wife? His potential is obvious, the 'geek force' is strong with this one; it's only a matter of time before he's fully one of us.
For Example 2:
Our IT system generates random four-letter suffixes to append to Unique Reference Numbers (combating a Microsoft bugette). Somewhat inevitably, this 'notification ID' turned up, in full view, recently: NOT-00043273-CUNT. How we laughed (inwardly, of course, maintaining a serious and professional exterior at all times)!
Every cloud etc?
man is beset on
all sides by the in-
equities of Users and
the tyranny of Ineffectual
Management. Blessed is he who,
in the name of a Day Rate and good
will, shepherds the weak through the
valley of the darkness. For he is truly
his brother's keeper and the developer of a
new IT system. And I will strike down upon thee
with great vengeance and furious anger those who
attempt to poison and destroy my System. And you will
know I am the Business Analyst when I lay my Requirement
Specification upon you! I hate my job; please give me a new one.
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