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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A Normal Week

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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This week I have mostly been playing boardgames (honk, tweet).

Tuesday’s session of distracting goodness involved a swift Agricola – because I’ve not been playing enough of it ‘in the real world’ recently. With the agreement to ‘draft’, I was singularly distracted by Braggart in my opening hand (lots of points if you manage to build lots of improvements) – this is a horrible card for stealing the attention away because I spent the rest of the draft hoovering up free/cheap minor improvements and this, ultimately, ‘did’ for me. I confidently placed another card – Manufacturer - from that ‘booster’ on top for Richard to pick (which he did) and confidently predicted he would abuse it FTW (which he also did, in conjunction with Social Climber –free stuff off the back of naturally good actions - and Guildmaster – more free stuff off acquiring naturally good improvements). Cutting a long, agrarian story short – Richard won (42-39-27-20) with a useful Braggart clogging up my rather sparse tableau – nothing for him to boast about.

Of real note in this game, though, was the arrival and immediate use of Carl’s new ‘family member’ pieces – shipped hot from the U.S of A and priced at a high street fashion house’s Far Eastern sweat-shop tariff of just a $1 a figure…surely the Fimo alone was more than that?

My man gives his missus a goose...

Good grief - it's like Piccadilly Circus on this board!

What IS the chap in the middle doing with that pig?

In the manner of Vivian Stanshall’s excellent “Sir Henry At Rawlinson End” (seek out the MP3s, it’s astonishingly beautiful, witty and unique), I suggested I bring along some adhesive putty next time “to make them all a length more masculine”.

Anticipating the imminent arrival of supper – ooh, talking of ‘imminent’ that reminds me: this morning as I arrived at the train station for the usual commuter chug into the metropolis, I brushed passed a familiar face in a soft, furry top and trailed by a cloud of sweet perfume – Tracy Emin*. Normally, I would be unimpressed on account of her always looking so bloody stern, frowny and (tbh) not-a-little-unattractive BUT, on this damp April morning, I was quite taken; she can set up my easel any day...or wash my brush...I’d certainly like to 'daub' on her 'canvas' etc etc

Anticipating the imminent arrival of supper, Richard slapped a tiny Adlung box on the capacious dining table (rattling the fizzy drinks and nearly up-ending Carl’s vast, precariously-balanced, array of media inputs that sustain him through any given assembly): Verräter (Traitor). I am ashamed to say that I had never played this universally-regarded classic of the 60-or-so cards-only genre – this, of course, is even more unforgivable given my own design obsession with all things served in a tuckbox (Coppertaddle, Fzzzzt!, a million unfinished prototypes)! Verrater is a fantastic (and quick) game of groupthinky, role-selection goodness – born from Adlungspiele’s golden period of lots-to-do with a tiny packet**

In summary, a round comprises the selection of a conflict between two factions – there is a ring of locations in the centre alternating A and B; each terrain has a base strength and a key of VP assignments – VPs are allocated after a conflict based on how many players were on the winning side (the fewer, the more points gained). Players begin the game allied to either faction A (Eagles) or B (Roses).

Each player, starting with the Start Player, selects a role from (initially) five available – a sixth is randomly removed at the start of the round to befuddle everyone apart from the Start player. Players then use ‘grain’ cards (of ranging values) to reinforce (or not)the conflict – of course, the reinforcement LOOKS LIKE it’s for their current faction BUT they could be ‘turning cloak’ (the ‘traitor’ bit). Players then reveal their selected roles, the conflict is resolved, the victor(s) gain points and other roles are processed. At round end, some grain cards may be gained to replenish your hand.

The roles are (very briefly:
- Traitor: flip your faction allegiance. If timed correctly, you can gain good VP-age whilst diluting the VP gain of your fellows. You might also have lulled your pre-revelation ally into playing out lots of their cards, thus royally screwing them over!
- Diplomat (2 versions): they add points to the combat score for your faction
- Farmer: Lets you draw three grain cards at the end of the round
- Builder: Lets you build one of the three buildings you start the game with – they give grain cards during the game (if they’re built on a location allied to your faction) OR end game VPs (some, but can be significant)
- Strategist: Lets you decide where the conflict will be next round.

The game plays over 8 rounds (2 per player, I think – though we never asked Richard about other player variations) and should come in around 30 minutes. We racked up a second game immediately after the first (always a good sign for a new game to the group), though Carl’s coming last in both seems to have soured the experience for him. There is MUCH to explore with this one…

Rounding off the evening with Power Grid: France/Italy at least once in the week has become a bit of a tradition – I DO enjoy playing this very much and am glad we’re giving it some regular play. We elected on using the French map and a satisfying 90 minutes ensued – there was a particular tense couple of auctions towards the end, but I ended up in a ‘must buy it or die’ race with Richard which left an opening for Elizabeth (Mrs Carl) to pick up a station to equal my capacity for a third of the price – this meant she and I ended the game tied on powering 17, but Elizabeth was 60 Elektro ahead on the money! Much kudos should be given to the venerable Mrs C because she’s endured many games of this over the last 18 months in a group of cock-swinging, boasty males all fighting for ‘Alpha’ – quietly tolerating our pronouncements, predictions and general poppycock.

Wednesday, yesterday, opened with not only the arrival of intermittent-attendee Iain (the student), but with a first-time exposure of Last Will to Mr and Mrs Elizabeth Crook. You all know how this game works and if you don’t, you should seek out someone and give it a go! Suffice it to say, the theme is delightful and the engine is a bastard – it’s got to be easy to spend your money, right? Richard explained the workings and then selected £120 as the ‘figure to lose the fastest’. Annoyingly, like PG the previous evening, I was pipped to the laurels by Iain…and by a single English Pound (his 7 to my 8)! Not even my lavish £17 Ball in the final round could mark me out as an extravagant spend-thrift…we should’ve guessed that the ‘University student’ had this technique sewn up from the very beginning!

With an early night needed by all, there was just over an hour to kill so we set up a 5pl Snowdonia - fresh and glowing as I am from the recent 'news' about our production partnership with Lookout Games. Words cannot adequately describe how thrilled I am with the game and the developments - it's been a long slog and there really is no substitute for hard work! Anyway, a typically-wet start to the game didn't dampen our spirits much and pretty quickly three of us had trains (though Richard would lose his to a double event-cube 'upkeep' trigger). Carl, in particular, was bestriding the Stock yard (resource gaining) spaces like the Colossus he is - bullying cubes out of the rest of us with his card play and 'take an extra cube' train bonus. This didn't phase the rest of us who managed to explore more excavational and 'climb up the mountain' routes. For the second time this week, Mrs Crook - silent in her corner, but obviously 'up to something' - emerged victorious, pipping her husband into second place by a point and myself into a close third. Iain, long of absence, trailed a miserable fifth - obviously still locked into the Last Will 'lose points' mind-set.

I tried to make use of the spare hour or so before my usual bedtime with more of A Storm Of Swords, but I nodded off briefly and the Kindle smacked me full in the face as my hands relaxed!

Lights out in more ways than one.

*Google is your friend should you be less than au fait with the world of modern art

**no…it’s gone. I’ve forgotten what I was going to say about this.
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