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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 What was that beardy bloke going on about?

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A Castle For All Seasons

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Goodrich Castle, April 2017.

This is the castle that I've probably visited the most in my life: on school trips, both before and after my family had moved up the Wye Valley from Newport; on cider-drinking, school-bunking afternoon's off from the Sixth Form; and, countless times, with our own - and extended - families.

It's a brilliant place; sunk in to a square 'well' on the hill, it overlooks the River Wye on two sides and has everything one could possible want from a visitable castle:
A dry moat? Check!
Towers you can climb to the top of? Check!
A dungeon you can go in? Check!
Spiral staircases by the dozen? Check!
A restored Chapel? Check!
A deep, DEEP Well? Check!
A cannon and some cannon balls? Check!
Outbuildings? Check!
Big rocks you can climb? Check!
Battlements you can walk along? Check!
Garderobes? Checketty-check-check-check!

It's just perfect...and only 15 miles down the road!

On this occasion, we met up with Mrs B's cousin and her family (whose parents live just a 10 minute walk up the hill a bit further) and took the same paths, scrambled over the same rocks and wobbled vertiginously at the top of the same towers as we ever did:
























Naturally, once we had had our fill (this time) of goodly Goodrich, it was off to the Uncle/Aunts for tea and hot crossed buns. Oh, and Arthur discovered the joys of sliding, face-first, down a staircase on one's belly:


He's such a special child.
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Clip Quip

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Recently, I've been working on a redesign of Paperclip Railways; now, if only I had something to help me keep my notes gathered together in the one place: like such as a stapler?

*baddomp-tish*
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Sun Apr 23, 2017 6:30 am
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Almost 'gypt by Arthur!

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Just a quick one: yesterday I managed - Shock! Horror! - to fit in a board game with the peeps who happened to be in the kitchen: a proper spur-of-the-moment thing! It was just for 30 minutes:



...but it was a perfectly-formed 30 minutes!

Me, Mrs B (whose birthday it was), Benedict and Arthur for an Imhotep with added (essential) boat-sailing dickery! I won, but only just, from Arthur - who seems to have picked up an evil streak from somewhere!
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Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:36 pm
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Volume 2: My Mother, when...

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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In an occasional series, leading up to July's 2000th post, I'll be scanning the first year's blog outpourings. I'm not looking for any kind of personal revelation, just curious as to what was occupying my thoughts six years ago. It's a fun, melancholic, sometimes confusing and/or anger-inducing exercise: a lot has happened and I'm glad I committed it all to a digital diary!

British comedy shows are, quite simply, the best in the World and there is no argument that can contradict this statement. My favourite writers/performers have a surreal and often viciously-satirical edge to them (Christopher Morris, Armando Ianucci and Stewart Lee) or are just plain silly (the Pythons, Fry & Laurie). Naturally, their 'style' leaks in to my blog voice and it's no more obvious - to those who have seen the Armando Ianucci Show - than in this early 2011 homage:


Quote:

(Tony sits in a large, inflatable armchair covered with so many puncture-repair plasters. His back is straight, his knees are together - in the Catholic fashion - and his hands placed,palms up, on his lap. A partially-eaten Eccles cake dries slowly in front of a log-burning stove. An adjacent, pristine inflatable chair stands empty)

Tony: (directly to you, dear reader) I'm just waiting for my grandfather…

(A log cracks loudly in the flames and a shower of sparks lands on the hearth)

Tony: ...he'll be along in a minute…

(a short cough)

Tony:…here he comes…

(The door bell rings)

Tony: (calling) Come in, grandfather!

(An aged gentleman enters - he looks exactly like Tony, but with bad Hollywood 'age' makeup on. He totters over to the spare inflatable chair and falls face-first into it. It bounces away onto the stove and pops. Acrid black smoke from the burning plastic quickly fills the room)

Tony: Hello, grandfather; I was just thinking about adapting life-jackets for colostomy patients who spend a lot of time at sea.

Grandfather: We never used to have colostomy bags in my day…we used to have a hole in the ground and a wheelbarrow. When you fancied a little walk, you'd put the hole into the wheelbarrow and took it along with you.

Tony: And what about board games? How was it different when you were a "wee bairn"?

Grandfather: There weren’t so many Reiner Knizia games for a start – you had only three or four hundred to choose from. Of course, we were at war with Reiner…and Friedemann Friese…twice.

Tony: Did that affect the games that you were able to play?

Grandfather: Of course! When you’re at war with someone, you don’t buy their excellent boardgames at the same time – every copy of Die Macher would fund a doodlebug; every Adlungspiele deck another tank shell!

Tony: So, what games DID you play?

Grandfather: We used to sit around the hearth of an evening looking at a picture of Settlers of Catan that we got off the Black Market. Munchkin was very popular, but only for the first 3 minutes of any given games evening; we used to get them off the GI’s in return for ‘favours’…

Tony: ‘Favours..?’

Grandfather: (blushing) I’m not proud of it, lad, but they were hard times and if you didn’t ‘go’ with the Yanks, you ended up with half a Monopoly set or worse…

Tony: Snakes and Ladders?

Grandfather: (angry; stands and waves his false elbow at the mantel) I’ll not have that name spake in t’house, lad. (calms down) During the Coronation in ’52, after the war, we went round next doors and saw a colour version of Carcassonne on their television – it were only the basic set then, of course.

Tony: The television?

Grandfather: No – Carcassonne. And we used to play Finca with real fruit, though figs were hard to come by so we used shriveled Ox scrota instead.

Tony: (pausing, a grapefruit speared on his thumb) Was it about this time that you met Grandma?

Grandfather: Yes it were! There used to be these Theme nights down at the Town Hall; you know the kind of thing: ‘Big Games In A Small Box’, ‘The Letter P’, ‘Games you will Hate almost immediately’ – that kind of thing. Your grandma was demo-ing a session of Illuminati: New World Order and I was on the next table playing Agricola: Farmers of the Moor. Our eyes met across the animeeples.

Tony: Sounds wonderfully romantic!

Grandfather: Not really – when I say ‘our eyes met’, I mean that my glass eye and hers had popped out and rolled across the floor like marbles. According to the Cambridge Rules, MY eye bombsie-d HER eye so it were mine to keep.

Tony: (aghast) You both had glass eyes?

Grandfather: Oh yes. It was all the rage then – like ear-piercings or Thunderstone. My friend Bill lost a thumb in Sicily and had it replaced with a miniature set of Villa Paletti…and my old Sergeant had his cock and balls swapped for a dice tower….nice one...with stickers and everything.

Tony: Let's go back to the war, grandfather; after all it was a difficult time for the gaming community and, being an old fart, that's all you want to bloody go on about anyway…what was it like playing tournament –level Ticket To Ride against the Hun?

Grandfather: Churchill banned all pens as they were being converted into knives, submarines and wotnot, so that ruled out Railway Rivals. The Yanks dropped demo copies of Ticket To Ride all over mainland Europe and it quickly became a propaganda nightmare. The Bosch were better at it than us, you see. Some of the lads down ‘the Legion’ still won’t talk about the Marklin edition.

Tony: You mentioned the Blitz - how did you cope?

Grandfather: Multiplayer Magic: The Gathering began to get popular back then. It's natural when you're all cooped up in a Nissan hut - it's either Emperor or talking to Mrs Scroggins about black-market bacon.

Tony: Was there a black market for TCG's too?

Grandfather: Oh yes! Spivs would come round the pubs offering "Carpet Of Flowers for the Lady?" or "Genuine Spectral Tigers?" or (singing) "Cockles and Netrunner Boosters - Alive, Alive-Oh!"

Tony: That sounds like a jolly song - were there any others?

Grandfather: "Roll Through The Barrel" was quite popular; so was "Hitler Has Only Got One Power Station", "My Old Man's A Semi-Professional Backgammon Player", ‘I’ve Got A Lover-ly Bunch of Macao-nuts’, ‘Rondel, Rabbit, Rondel’ and ‘Knees Up, Mother Bauza’.

Tony: (standing) Would you like a cup of tea before you die?



Genius.
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Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:40 am
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Another True Story

Anthony Boydell
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I was so pleased when I turned up and found the Games Club buzzing with excitement and was two-thirds of the way through our Sushi Go starter before a passer-by asked what I was doing "sitting in that bee-hive"; noises confuse me, which is why I always get into police trouble when a church bell goes 'bong'.

In the actual venue, quite a few tables were setting up; I thought, for a moment, that I had become magnetic because every time I approached a spare chair, it would slide - seemingly of it's own accord - away from me and under the table; when I remarked that "We must be the same Poles", someone replied: "A pole of some sort, certainly" and turned around to let me see the attractive design on the back of his tee-shirt.

Wondering if Sod's Law would apply - that there would only be space for me at the last table I tried - I decided to visit the last table by the fire, second-to-last, and vice versa and managed to slide on to the cushioned caquetoire before my new-found repulsive field could take effect. The other players did that funny thing they always do when I join a game - it's sort of a club tradition - ie. simultaneously roll their eyes and tut. I can only do one of those two things at a time, so that's why we don't bother when anyone else comes in late.

The man who spoke the loudest and, therefore, seemed to be in charge, was messing about with an enormous box labelled 'nevahmoolG' - the box was facing away from me and I could only see the name in the fireplace mirror. There was a lot of stuff and he had some stickers that he set to one side as he gave us all piles of special cards. The stickers were coated with quite a strong adhesive and I was able to cover an entire beermat with them – on both sides! – before the leader started shouting and waving his arms around. “You want to be careful” I warned, as he flailed about with his face turning redder and redder; “you might knock someone’s drink over”. I showed him how this might happen by picking up my neighbours bottle of fizzy Mexican ale and pouring it over the landscape board: “See? That would be a total bitch to clean up afterwards.”. My mother always appreciated me trying to help and would often send me on errands along the Dual Carriageway: picking up litter, repainting the chevrons, washing the windscreens of passing “Artic”s etc. The man lunged across the table at me, oblivious to my warning, scattering chits and other components, and we fell sideways on to the enormous box; I am not a small person and neither is he, so the combined kinetic energy of our tumble made quick work - and a musical, tearing rasp - of the carton's vertical structure. There were several small packets of playing card-sized playing cards pressing in to my head and neck, so I pulled them free and they scattered and slid across the carpet to where the Pub's dog was sleeping: he awoke and began chewing at the shinier ones, as dogs do. The man, having been lifted by his friends, was vigorously using his feet to get me off the 'nevahmoolG' box; once more I was reminded of my recently-acquired corporeal magnetism, this time in an attractive sense, when his steel toe-capped boot kept landing on my face regardless of which way I rolled. I was leaking a lot of blood from my nose at this point; the sight of blood always makes me feel cold and nauseous so I heaved the remains of the crushed papery 'Glo/en' mass on to the glowing embers of the fire for warmth.

The man, now being restrained by the Bar staff, was still making a lot of noise and upsetting families who had only come in for a quiet supper, for Christ's sake!. I wiped my ensanguined chin and nodded to the other players, who didn't know where to put themselves now that their friend was being so (frankly) embarrassing. "I did tell him to be careful", I said. "I think you'd better just go" one of them replied.

Outside, the noise of the traffic roared in my ears and I climbed on top of the Bus Stop in case the lion would end up eating me.
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Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:30 am
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As Above, So Below

Anthony Boydell
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So I sat in my car watching the Prestatyn tide roll in, the sea-windmills turn and a fat lass chase her toddler across the sand and nearly collapse of a coronary. I did this to the gentle soundtrack of Nick Drake whilst scoffing a cheese and paté roll and, intermittently, reading an interview with Steve Jones (of the Sex Pistols).

It's been a week of curious encounters, as evidenced by the following public sign:

I doubled-back at the next roundabout to double-take this particular piece of ludicrous phonemic orthography


The party from last night's Abergele FCM conference were joined by Mark and Paul at The Beach House bar and we split in to two threes; the others (Mark, Yvonne and Daffydd) tootled off with Imperial Settlers whilst we (me, Ed and Paul) got our teeth in to Above and Below:


Pretty and straightforward: a non-taxing pleasure.


In summary: It's sort-of worker allocation and pseudo-set collection/push your luck (a bit) VP chaser. Your people can build things (for enhanced abilities, resources and points), recruit other people AND go off an 'explore' an underground world rich in more abilities, resources and points. Tying it all together is an encounter book - sort of Fighting Fantasy - that offers you a selection of 'explore' options in narrative form - go for the easy option or push for something juicier? Your explorers roll dice to see if they look hard enough to reach your selected 'explore' goal: if they do you get stuff, if they don't you get nothing or - maybe - you suffer a consequence.

A&B was quick, engaging and enjoyable (I won 49:39:27) - if a little light for my own tastes - and I'd be glad to play it again in similarly-genial company...so it's a good job I know Ross-on-Wye's Boffo has a copy secreted about his person.

The others were still flopping cards, so Ed - who was King of Picks tonight - landed an old friend on to the red-clothed pool table:


Paul won his debut at my sentimentally-storied pick-up-and-deliverer, pipping me by just a pair of well-proportioned sheep: 31-29-27


With still a good hour to go, Yvonne swapped tables to join me and Ed for one of my absolute all-time faves: Suburbia


My airports, and my 'highest reputation' secret goal, kept me just out of Yvonne's reach; I absolutely adore Suburbia and seem to have a particular aptitude for it. Unlike my colossal catering clumsiness on Tuesday, Wednesday evening found me more relaxed and in-tune with the games: it proves the benefits of intricate, melancholy guitar folk music over pissed tourists as a pre-session warm-up technique. Next week I'll try some Brian Eno to see if I can't chill myself out even more.
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Thu Apr 20, 2017 6:45 am
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The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Anthony Boydell
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I left the house at a reasonable hour, still sluggish from the long holiday weekend, after making the awakening beverages: a whistle-stop visit to Llandudno with, hopefully, a couple of evenings of gaming thrown in for good measure. With the sun out, and the sky blue, it seem churlish not to go the scenic (Llangollen) route so – despite the fuel light angrily-blinking ’50 miles’ and ‘Please refuel’, I swung left on to the A5. By the time I got to Betwys y coed*, the car was rasping it’s thirst so I pulled in to a garage for Diesel and lunch; while paying, my phone joined in with a trilling alert that Theresa May, our Prime Minister, has called a ‘snap’ General Election for June – and just after she’d triggered the EU-vacating Article 50 too?! I must admit to being shocked and, simultaneously, not in the least-bit shocked at all: we live in corrupt and terrifying times.

I trundled across Betwys’ Waterloo bridge, tank creakingly-full, and ready to rejoin the last leg of my journey, when I was flagged down by a couple of rucksack-laden hitch-hikers; normally, I would bimble merrily along and give them no further thought but – today – I was extra conscious of being in a big, mostly empty, people carrier and (perhaps) the foreboding of a Tory Government until 2022 made me think “What the hell; let’s extend the hand of friendship while we still can!”.

Hannah and Miriam are German students – one on an internship, the other over for a short holiday – and had spent the week walking (and hitching) from Machynlleth through the Snowdonia National Park (the Trawsfynydd lakeside nuclear power station, Mount Snowdon etc) and were looking to spend their last day in Conwy which – of course – is about 2 minutes from where I work when ‘oop North’. Oddly, they were the first Germans I’ve met who have NEVER heard of Essen Spiel, so any tales I might have woven about my (tenuous) link to the Snowdon Mountain Railway (which they didn’t use anyway because they walked to the summit, which was misty and cold when they got there) would’ve been confusing and irrelevant**. I dropped them off by Conwy Castle’s suspension bridge and wished them a cheery farewell before re-setting the day to it’s more conventional path: office, emails and analysis.

Dumping my stuff at the B&B, I was soon back on the road - this time to Abergele and a restaurant/bar called The Departure Lounge; I was plenty early for the rendevous with Daffydd, Yvonne and Ed so I ordered a burger-with-the-works and refreshed myself with the rulebook for Food Chain Magnate. As I was sipping my lime-and-soda and running through the milestones appendix, a couple - who must each have been in their mid-60s - sagged in to the booth adjacent: he was orange-skinned with a Duran Duran haircut and the skinniest jeans, she a be-furred and heavily-sighing heap of drunken complaint. With a thick, slurred Birmingham accent, she informed me that "I'm afraid I am very drunk" as my stacked meat-in-a-bun arrived, dripping with BBQ sauce and coleslaw, with a side-order of fries (served in their own miniature fryer pan). She eyed my maris pipers hungrily and demanded an omelette from her patient partner. Thankfully, Ed arrived to rescue me from this old lush and we scarpered to another room with a long, tall table excellently-suitable for gaming:




I was inspired to suggest Food Chain Magnate at the weekend after watching the superb Heavy Cardboard live teaching and play-thru video (I saw the beginning and the end and filled the intervening couple of hours with Arthur's bedtime routine); it is a game that scares and intrigues me in equal part.

Last night, I followed a simple Training-first/Get a Fridge plan (T1: Trainer, T2: Train in to a Pizza Cook and get 1st to Train, T3: Produce and throwaway Pizza to get Fridge + Pizza milestones) but then found myself locked out of most deliveries by Yvonne (I forgot about the Business Developer, which would've opened up plenty of new choffing custom on my - lonely and sparse - corner of the board and trained a Discount Manager too late). Daffydd was tuning and fine-tuning his corporate structure but only just selling enough to cover costs with a bit left over. Ed, on the other hand, was rounding up Waitresses like a Human Trafficking Syndicate and produced only just enough fizzy drinks and junk food to keep the Vice Squad off his sordid little tail! Thankfully, the Just-ness of Yvonne's straight-forward "feed the people" approach pipped Ed's 1950s-themed knocking shop by a paltry $12.

Tonight, in Prestatyn, it could be Above & Below or Snowdonia or something else entirely from the evening's Captains of the Selection: Ed and Phillip. See you in the morning with my next report: good day.

*(as opposed to ‘by the time I got to Woodstock’)
**(no change there, then)
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Wed Apr 19, 2017 6:35 am
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Small Post, Big Image

Anthony Boydell
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Once again an opportunity to continue dredging the murky corners of the Shed presented itself over the long Easter weekend; this time, an A2 art portfolio - sandwiched between the shelving unit and the back wall - long thought lost was revealed in it all its dusty glory...and within?
Graphic projects from times passed: some of which go back to the early days of parenthood!


(clockwise, and spiralling, from top left)Aliens for a bedtime story; flying turtles; an A3 poster of the IT Project team from my days in Swindon (2003-2005); beautiful female robot variations for Fzzzt!; box-art for 'the game that shall not be named'; Confucius line art for part of the final cover; a tee-shirt design for a pal's National Final pop-quiz team; riffing on my long-standing cartoon character.


The dust raised gave me a blocked nose and 'the sniffles' for the rest of the weekend but - hey! - that's a price worth paying for a bit of time-travelling
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Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:30 am
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The Long, Good Good Friday

Anthony Boydell
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With a prior Good Friday engagement cancelled, my original plan of popping over to Chez Bateson for an afternoon of games extended - pleasingly - in to staying for (delicious) fajitas and the evening too. The Ross-on-Wye club traditionally aims for a Bank Holiday Leo Sayer at the regular venue but, given that the "very good" restaurant of The White Lion (spits) has been enforcibly-replaced by the functional (and mostly bland) menu of The Prince of Wales, that wasn't going to happen this time: hence, the kind invitation from Boffo and Smudge. Of course, as we shall find out a little later in this narrative, hosting duties afford the pleasure of being able to consume alcoholic beverages...which is absolutely fine despite it being the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary (though many of the UK's imbecilic and corrupt newspapers would have one believe otherwise)*.

Thankfully, Ben and Becky - along with Hereford boardgamers Charlie and Kat (whom we have discovered are also conveniently-proximal for Ross-on-Wye attendance!) - were winding down to the final tiles of the patently-awful Pickomino. Pausing to pack it away nicely (I'd have just swept the whole thing in to a dustpan and thrown it on the glowing fire to burn), we repaired to the front garden - while the Sun was still warming the afternoon - for some Molkky.

The pins were clustered and, alarmingly, Smudge's choice of a 'no further than this' launching line suggested she was out to nobble the opposition from the off: six large, rusted nails protruding from a splintered bar of 4x2! These shenanigans were seen off pronto and we were able to commence lobbage shortly after; two wins on the trot for Yours Truly elicited nowt but disappointed groans from the others - even 'new friends' Charlie & Kat - whilst the third's Smudge-ic triumph garnered a smattering of applause and a cheer.

*sulk*

We went inside, chased by a darkening of the cloudy sky and a pattering of drizzle, to introduce 'the noobs' to Agricola. It was slow going with the full (old edition) five and a combination of Boffo (to my right) correctly anticipating - and countering where possible - my schemes with Charlie's seemingly random worker allocations killing my Plan B too. Still, all that frustrated inward mental screaming was good practice for Codenames later.

With the dusk, and Jon, fast approaching the Batesons disappeared in to the kitchen to get supper ready leaving Charlie, Kat and I to break out Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King; I'd just given Charlie (the only one unfamiliar with this triumphant KdS) the once-over of the rules when Jobbers did indeed hove in to grinning view to take the fourth spot.


(from L to R) Smudge's 'throwing line' for Molkky; a randomly-dealt selection sees me playing with myself in 'Gric; and, a pre-fajita IoS.


Bellies bulging with spicily-stuffed tortillas, we were also delighted to welcome a long-absent Dan back to the fray and duly split in to a 3 and a 4...after a rather elaborate "What shall we play, then?" dance. Initially, Boffo and I were well up for Steam but each had assumed the other had taken the trouble to sort out the rules in advance ("It is his copy, your honour m'lud!"); Smudge wanted to terraform Mars but felt unable to teach if neither Ben or I were playing; Charlie wanted to play Terraforming Mars too but was denied because it was off the cards because I was playing Steam and Smudge had suggested Lancaster instead. As the others drifted in to the living room to share some choccy cake pudding, Boffo and Jobbers and I duly swiped the sci-fi hotness from my box and just started playing:


Stuff happens, things get done: Mars - there ya go.


The whole thing cantered along briskly and engagingly, though Jobbers began to get rather a stranglehold by claiming a pair of Achievements in quick succession and, similarly, two Awards as well as foresting the rusty-red terrain like Hellboy's The Last Elemental! Well, his surname is 'Plant', after all.

*baddomp-tish!*

We closed with Codenames - naturally - as I had but barely an hour before the usual late-night offspring pickup; my team was to be both Batesons, with everyone else in direct opposition. The usual Spymastering hilarity ensued with the shuddering climax being Smudge's turn as the clue-giver: "Spy: 3" she doth proffer and, in response, Boffo and I quoth "Bond" and "File" and "Agent" - we 'touched' "Agent" first to be met with an innocent bystander tile! What. The. Eff?!



Glowing from a heady mixture of Archers Peach Schnapps, embarrassment and frustration, Becky continued to clue in a similar vein whilst being heckled by her own shameful team; Ben topped up his glass of red wine and was simultaneously met with a completely-out-of-the-blue command from Jobbers: "Get her another Archers, you c*nt!". Well, dear reader, I fell off my chair laughing. Justice was served, eventually, when both teams tied 2-2: sharing moments of hearty triumph and woeful ineptitude equally.

Given the special occasion, it seemed ironic that the only fasting and abstinence to be found in the whole day was on Charlie's Agricola farm board: board gaming, of course, rises above religion. God Bless it!

*a UK supermarket chain offered heavy discounts on alcohol 'for Easter' and was met with much sanctimonious wailing and gnashing of teeth.
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Mon Apr 17, 2017 6:15 am
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Bossman

Anthony Boydell
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At this very special time, when one considers the sacrifice paid for the redemption of humanity, one's thoughts also turn - naturally - to promotional Snowdonia trains. That and chocolate.

It's nothing to do with Easter...unless by 'Guvnor' you mean 'Jesus Christ' and by the ability you mean 'Is always with us'? Anyway...


(this is actually a little pressie to my favourite Facebook board game group)

At the end of the round you may leave one of your workers on their action space; in the next round the worker will take that action.


Happy Easter!
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Sun Apr 16, 2017 6:25 am
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