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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It was nice to see you

Anthony Boydell
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Bruce Forsyth (1928 - 2107)


No matter how far back I go in my memory, there are people and places that remain constantly-present; close relations, of course, but also celebrities who - thanks to their ubiquity - can also be regarded as part of that inner familial circle. Growing up in the 1970s, variety artists were vigorously piping their colourful musical, dramatic and comedy wares through the television. The TV brought us all together; there was no mechanism for recording, so one watched when it was actually broadcast. Supper would be scheduled to ensure there was ample time to 'do the pots' and settle down on the sofa to see the latest exploits of Doctor Who or James Herriot or who was number one in the pop charts or the football results scrolling up the teleprinter or a thousand other blink-and-you'd-miss-them programmes.

Bruce Forsyth was a true variety artist; he danced, sang, told jokes and presented game shows in an 80 (yes, eighty!) year career and he was always 'on the telly'. He was as much a part of my everyday life as the teachers at my school or the folks that lived next door. Of course, it's no real surprise - or particular tragedy - that he grew old and, just yesterday afternoon, passed away BUT the BBC News notification popping up on my iPhone made me feel sad for a little while. In the UK, actual millions of people will have felt the same way, just for a moment; what a powerful sea of emotion that adds up to.




Goodnight.
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Today 10:39 am
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The Means of Production

Anthony Boydell
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Surprised Stare Games has had its fair share of production woes since we set ourselves up in 2000; some down to our naivety, some to bad luck and some to jaw-dropping incompetence (not ours!); the important thing is that we have always learned our lessons and moved forward a little wiser. I don’t pretend that we are now complete experts but we do know where the traps are likely to be hidden! Here’s a little peek in to our manufacturing experiences over the years…



Coppertwaddle (2003)
We had no idea what we were doing and, consequently, this cost us three times as much as it should’ve done. We engaged fine artists to do the art, an agency in Tewksbury to lay everything out, a box-maker to make the boxes and a book printer to print and pack the cards. We even had to shrink-wrap the final package ourselves when they were delivered! Strictly-speaking, the whole exercise should’ve killed Surprised Stare Games then-and-there after we sold about 400 copies at Spiel 2003.

Bloody Legacy (2004)
We met John, from Carta Mundi, at our first Spiel (see above) and he offered us a smoother, quicker and – most importantly – cheaper path to production. BL was the first time we opted for a dual language product, so hired a translator to help us Deutsche-up the cards and the rules (particular favourite is the literal translation of ‘Giant Mincing Machine’ coming in as ‘Flesh Wolf’!). I drew the line art and Charlie Paull coloured everything in/laid it all out print-ready. The 1000 copies were bright and compact but (still) un-shrinked, so they took a bit of scuffing during various transits.

Tara, Seat of Kings (2006)
Our first ‘big box’ game needed more experienced love and, at the advice of our new pal Mr Richard Breese, we plumped for a slightly more expensive Ludofact. We got so excited by the project that a) I took three months to draw the highly-detailed Celtic art cover and b) we opted for a 5th colour in the print: gold! 750 copies arrived on a couple of pallets and were – huzzah! – shrink-wrapped (finally!), but…for some reason the units were all separate ie. NOT packed in to larger boxes of 5 or 6, so the buggers slid around my dining room for a month before being ‘poured’ in to my MPV for Essen 2006 delivery!



Scandaroon (2007)
Our first production experience (though I still did the art and Charlie the layout) with a partner company – the infamous JKLM – and ‘Scandy’ arrived, on the eve of Spiel 2007, as both ‘in shrink’ AND ‘in boxes of 6 (!). I think manufacture had reverted to Carta Mundi (I have spent many hours of therapy trying to erase the experience from my memory); 1000 copies were allocated to us and 1000 to JKLM; unfortunately, Spiel 2007 was an appalling travesty for SSG – not just because of cash access failures and transport strike but because Scandaroon is an awful looking box of ‘meh’. Strangely (or perhaps not, given the financial creativity of the JKLM ‘empire’), this deterred our partners not and they were 100% on board with our follow-up product…

Confucius (2008)
Our biggest ‘big box’ game to date – still, graphically, mine and Charlie’s responsibility - and one that not only nearly killed SSG but nearly killed Mr Alan Paull as well (to which a 1000+ emails attest)! Carta Mundi, ably assisted by our contact John, helped us navigate some VERY choppy financial waters (we paid X but X never paid Carta Mundi etc) and we got the first 1000 copies in time for Spiel 2008. Thankfully, we had pre-sold a pallet to the US and Confucius, being a heavier affair, had piqued enough gamers’ interest to ensure we’d sold everything (pretty-much) by going home time. With us just managing to ‘break even’ on the whole fiasco – and Mr Paull in a seriously-depressed state – we, SSG, decided that if you want something done properly then you have to do it yourself.



Fzzzt! (2009)
A single-deck card game, in shrink and packed up 120 to a carton, project managed by ‘just us’ and printed by Carta Mundi proved to be the major turning point in Surprised Stare’s fortunes: 1500 copies arrived in plenty of time for UK Games Expo (we sold 200 there) and the buzz built up for a Spiel 2009 ‘sell out’. Famously – at least in my mind – I drove a van load of Martin Wallace’s product home that year because we had nothing left! After the woes of the previous two years, the whole Fzzzt! experience was a delight and an affirmation. Fzzzt! was the first time, since Coppertwaddle, that we got someone to help out with the artwork: Vicki Paull did the box!

Totemo (2010)
An ambitious project, we worked with two suppliers to bring my 3D family game to life: a component supplier in the Czech Republic and a fabric printer in the UK (for the cloth board and bag). Monstrously expensive compared to our other projects, Totemo brought 489 copies together in time for Spiel 2010; indeed, I remember Alan Paull, Charlie Paull and myself sat in my library room forming a human conveyor of box-dipping assembly. Totemo cost us 18 euros per copy and we sold them for 28 euros each, so we couldn’t offer shops any sort of deal they’d accept BUT we did sell out just on our own endeavours. Totemo built up our confidence again – we really COULD do this game company thing after all! Oddly, there was nothing for me to do art-wise for this: Vicki Paull returned to do the bag, board and rulebook and I stayed out of it, pretty much.

Paperclip Railways (2011)
The ultimate in do-it-yourself handicrafting, PCR was a two-phase project using local-to-us small printers (literally 5 miles down the road from the Paull’s house!); we had the cards, box and boards done in Stroud, the wooden pieces shipped in from Carta Mundi, the paperclips from a wire factory in the Forest of Dean, bought some sensitive scales (£40) to ensure we could quickly pre-pack 64 paperclips in to a baggie and borrowed a mate’s shrinkwrap machine to seal everything up nicely! We did 120 Brake Van edition copies in time for the UK Games Expo (all pre-ordered and sold) and 300 of a re-jigged Network Edition for Spiel 2011 (240 of which were pre-sold by the time I got on the Ferry with the van!). We’re not making fortunes, here, but we ARE maintaining a flow of interesting products AND managing them all in-house AND staying happy while doing it! You can read about the physical packing experience for PCR here (as we’re now in to Shed blog chronicling territory):
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/2634/busy-bees-part-1...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/2658/busy-bees-part-2...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/5262/no-kittens-died-...

On The Cards (2011)
While I was co-ordinating the relatively-easy task of getting Paperclip Railways sorted, the Paulls were – once again – in cahoots with Carta Mundi to get Sebastian Bleasdale’s smart, mutating trick-taker ready. In a retro-twist, the 1000 copies arrived without shrink-wrapping leading me to wonder if the machine at the CM factory was broken! I was pleased with my anthropomorphic suit characters on the box art, though; and the game is an underappreciated gem (we still have copies – see our website).



Snowdonia (2012)
Having vowed to ‘do it all ourselves from now on’, Snowdonia - and the partnership with Lookout Games - saw us renege on that promise and (like Fzzzt!) led a significant step up for the Company; all of the production was taken out of our hands as was the art and layout work (apart from the cover) - we just had to wait for the pallets to arrive on the stand at Spiel 2012 and get to the business of selling it!

Since Snowdonia, of course, we’ve made use of (the incredible) Klemens Franz wherever humanly possible (Ivor the Engine, the Snowdonia expansions, Guilds of London and The Cousins' War) and now move in licensed-from-the-start territory too (Guilds of London, A Nice Cup of Tea); patience, hard work and fruitful, professional partnerships have led to moderate (in the grand scheme of things) success, a little Fame and – most important – many wonderful friendships. There’s no factory in the World that can produce the latter!
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Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:35 am
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Coming along very nicely...

Anthony Boydell
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Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:25 am
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Oh yeah, baby!

Anthony Boydell
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Scythe makes me happy.

This makes me happy.



It's good to be happy.
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:18 pm
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The Art of Farming

Anthony Boydell
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I'm loving this idea of the (current) BoardGameGeek Artist Series (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1829941/boardgamegeek-a...) where the box art for classic games is re-imagined by new artists. First up was Blood Rage followed, a week later, by this wonderful piece for Agricola:


(Jacqui Davis - https://jacqui-davis.squarespace.com/)


Luscious and lovely, I shall certainly be putting an order in for one of these; but, in my travels I have come across other pieces / styles that I think would make equally-scrumptious re-skins:





(Pisarro)



(Pieter Bruegel)


Though, frankly, another Bruegel sort-of sums up a lot of peoples' Agricolean experiences:



The Triumph of Death


But, in the final reckoning, I think this last piece - by a favourite artist of me and Mrs B - is the one _I_ would choose:



(Jo March - https://www.facebook.com/JoMarchArt/)

Gorgeous!
Gorgeous!
Gorgeous!


Of course there will always be a special place in my gamer heart for Klemens' original:


Did I ever mention that I f*cking LOVE this game?
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:28 am
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Boomerang

Anthony Boydell
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Courtesy of my favourite (only) Facebook-based gaming group, a couple of packages landed on the Monday doorstep.

The End of the Triumverate, apart from being a Lookout Games game (already a seal of quality), emerged from my memory of a session at pal Richard's house during the late London-working noughties where he - and a brace of Uncle Steves - where playing it as I came in from a hard day at the office. There was a map and several types of wooden piece - some stacked one upon the other, some not - and a trio of furrowed brows and stroked chins; it looked intriguing then and equally-so last week when it popped up for a tenner (incl. P&P)!

The second parcel - Hawaii - is a game I sold off a while ago in a fit of cleaning pique only to miss it when it had gone! Not that I've played it much when I had it the first time around BUT I do recall a pleasing Yokohama-esque travelling worker vibe, very pretty aesthetics and it's Hans im gluck, for goodness sake.

Talking of Hans im gluck: isn't it about time someone formally recognised the long-running consistency and excellence of this publisher? I mean, their (back) catalogue is inspiring.

Anywho. Enough of this distracting banter; I've got a mountain of work emails to catch up on and our Dev/Test environment is down for the fourth day in a row...I wish I'd brought some games with me!
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Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:20 am
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...but I only just got BACK!

Anthony Boydell
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Pulling in to the drive after the long haul down the M6, I let out an enormous sneeze and - it's official - the holiday is over and now I've got a cold. I made myself a cold drink and then, nose-dripping between further sternutations, I unpacked the car. The second vehicle in the Boydellian convey rumbled on to the gravel about an hour later by which time I'd lain on the bed to check emails and couldn't get up again! Ouch!

Today, the 'resting up' day, is surprisingly full of stuff-to-do before I'm back in to the I.T / real work phase tomorrow; here's the (current) check list:

(edited for progress!)

Send 48 x The Cousins' War to Mr Alan Paull (DONE)
Post out some dribs-and-drabs of The Cousins' War orders (DONE)
Sign the publishing contract, just received, for A Nice Cup of Tea
Finalise the Guilds of London expansion ready for artwork
Look at the proofs for the new Snowdonia expansion as they're finalised between (aforementioned) Mr Paull and Klemens
Sort out a box of games for Uganda for dispatch to PIP HQ (Germany) (DONE)

There's no rest for the wicked.
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Mon Aug 14, 2017 10:06 am
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Training Day

Anthony Boydell
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It wouldn't a Yorkshire holiday without my traditional 'Rail Trail' walk and, once more, a grey-but-dry morning dawned in readiness. I have often threatened - as the teenager grumbling has increased over the years - that I'd be quite happy "to do the walk on my own" but there was no need for the Solo variant on Friday as I was ably supported by a party of six others!


The red line, black dotted route




We took our time, wandering along-and-around the cinder path and skimming stones underneath the stout remains of the bridges; there was no particular hurry as I was aiming for the 1330 Pickering departure and so we had hot drinks and cakes in the Grosmont School café. We had a diesel for the down trip and a couple of steamers on the way back so 50% of the journey was smuts-free, at least. The others played Shithead and Dobble while Arthur and I hung out of the window, grinning from ear-to-ear.



Choo-choo! huffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffettyhuffettypuffetty
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Sun Aug 13, 2017 7:00 am
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The Keeper of the Keys

Anthony Boydell
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This is my favourite time of the year: Richard Breese sets out the whys, wherefores and whatsadoodads of his latest 'Key' game. For 2017, it's Keyper...



(Splendid artwork by Vicki Dalton)




I am, naturally, very much looking forward to picking up my copy of the super-pimped KS edition at Spiel...as, I should imagine, are quite a lot of you loverly peeps.

A new 'Key' game is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:50 am
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Bridestones Revisited

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We promised everyone a lie-in yesterday morning, followed by a colossal fry-up brunch...only they took the mick a bit and peeps were still emerging from their hibernations around 11AM: good God but the best part of the day was escaping us! I used the opportunity to finish off my second book of the holiday (Nod by Adrian Barnes) and sip a massive mug of coffee on the patio in the baking mid-morning sunshine listening to the steam train in the distance (that's Friday's - today's - singular joy!).

Eventually, though, we were off in to Dalby Forest to seek out a favourite walk combined with some fabulous climbing opportunities: the Bridestones, weather-worn and -beaten fat fingers of rock thrusting from the thick bracken sea:






Ziggy had a whale of a time scampering up-and-down the 'big rocks'...as did the rest of us, of course!


There was a minor drama on the final leg of the walk - knee-deep in grass by an iron-rusted stream - when Ziggy the dog disappeared with a "Yelp!" for five anxious minutes; no response to our calls and whistles, the party grew quickly-and-genuinely worried for the pup's safety. He then emerged, scampering down a muddy bank, panting in the heat with blood dripping from his cut tongue: oh, but the fuss that followed! He was alright, though, and we calmed the group down with cold drinks and ice-creams at the Dalby Forest Visitor Centre. A minor drama in a major panorama.
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Fri Aug 11, 2017 7:00 am
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