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Welcome...to my Shed!
Greetings, Earthlings, from the very tip-tippetty-top of the World.
Yes, I’ve managed to find my way into the elvish workshops of Santa Clause himself! It’s not all beeping electronic wizardry and mountain bikes, you know – St Nick has also been eye-wigging the Conventions and Shows of 2011 to find out exactly what to get the hardened* gamer!
(sound of scrabbling through thick ice in unsuitable shoes)
Here I am in one of the storehouses – it looks a lot like the basement in any given Ikea. Now, what do we have here?
(picks up crate and rummages inside)
Ah! A Martin Wallace doll! It’s got two sets of clothes (business meeting and Spielbox cover shoot – sexy!), ‘real hair’ (!) and a draw-string at the back...
“Please don’t sue me any more”
“I’ve invented a railway game”
“Where’s my van?”
(puts the doll down)
Oh, it’s part of a Designer series! Here’s Friedemann Friese – he comes with green hair; this one is Stefan Feld + detachable halo; this one’s Uwe Rosenberg – not as good as his previous dolls...and here’s a box labeled Carl Chudyk...oh, it’s empty apart from a post-it note that reads: ‘To be delivered December 25th’. Figures, seeing as he's the Gaming Messiah 'n all.
Next to these is a complete set of Knizia Bears: ‘Traditional’, ‘Abstract’, ‘Card-game’ (10 to collect, each in 6 colours), ‘Frothy’, ‘Lazy Handle-cranker’ and ‘Why?’.
Moving along to Transformers(TM): ‘Loyang’ – changes from a board game to a crushing disappointment in just a couple of hours.
Books? There’s all the classics here for filling one’s (fish-net) stocking:
- Oliver Twist-Bust!
- Tourney To The Centre of the Earth
- Moby Dick Dealer
- The Very Hungry Caterpillars of the Earth
- 101 Dominions
- The Babel
- Jane Eyre-ships / Tess of the D’Urban Sprawl
- Before The Wind In The Willows
- The BFFG / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Fun
- Swallows and Amazonas
- Love In The Time Of Coloretto
- The Complete Works Of Schokko & Co
Films, TV series and Box-sets? Something for everyone on DVD and Blu-Ray(TM):
- The Thurn & Taxis Chainsaw Massacre / I Spit On Your Walnut Grove
- Last Will & Grace (Complete Series)
- Thomas The Economic Engine / Bob The Kingdom Builder
- Spartacus: Sun, Sea and Sand / Gormanghost Stories
- Men In Blokus I & II
- The Fast-Flowing Forest Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Tier Auf Tiers / The Return of the King of Tokyo (with over 10 hours of 18XX-tras)
- Yourgo in 3D
- We Need To Talk About Cavum
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, I Spy
- The Tree Of Le Havre / True ‘Gric / Kiss Merkator
- The Coney Island of Dr Moreau-Moreau
(shuffles across to the far corner where shelf-upon-shelf of console games rises into a misty ceiling)
...and here’s the software section of Santa’s stockroom...
(Tony sets light to the whole thing)
...that’s all they’re good for...
(warms hands against the rising inferno)
...eye-brows are overrated, you know...
*Stop that NOW – it’s Christmas, for flips’ sake!
Welcome...to my Shed!
'Twas the mageknight before Christmas, when roll through the ages
Not a creature was stirring, not e’en Dragon Rages
The Take Stocks were hung by the rummy with care,
In hope that St. Petersburg soon would be there;
The children of Catan were all snug in their beds,
While visions of dungeon petz danced in their heads;
And mamma mia, in 'kerchief, and I in balloon cup,
Had just settlers down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the luna asara such clatter,
I sprang from my board to see what was the matter.
Away to the window ice flow like a flash,
Tore open shut-the-boxers and threw up the sash.
Blue moon on the brass of the new-fall snow tails
Gave the lustre of Midway to objects below,
When, what to my 7-wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and one-more-than-seven reindeer,
With a little steel driver, so lively and neat,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Pete.
More rapid than Eagle his coursairs they came,
And he whist-led, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dune-ser! now, Pandemic and Moxen!
On, Tichu! on Caylus! on, Dixit and Knizia!
To the top of the parchesi! to the top of the wall!
Balderdash! Balderdash! Balderdash all!"
As dry Le Havres that before the wind hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstgarten, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursairs they flew,
With the sleigh full of troyes, and St. Petersburg too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the slates
The prancing and pawing as nine seven ate.
As I drew in my head, and was tourney around,
Down’t chimney St. Petersburg came with a bound.
He was dressed all in Ur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashardalon and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his backpacker,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his bausack, er.
His eyes -- how they tiddly-winked! his dimples how pretty!
His checkers like roses, his nose like villa paletti!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard was as white as a few acres of snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the steam it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broadsides and a round hab & gut,
That shook, when he laughed, like a grove of walnuts
He was ora & labora, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in I-spy of myself;
A win by a nose and a dungeon twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing mordred;
He spoke not a word, but kept up his endeavor,
And filled all the take-stocks - it took him forever,
And laying his digit aside of his hooter,
He gave me a node and switched off my computer;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a call,
And away they all flew like the down of a fall.
But I heard him cry havoc!, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goa-night."
Welcome...to my Shed!
Tonight, we’re having a games evening at the childrens’ school – nothing to extravagant (or too long), just a chance for peeps unfamiliar with the hobby genre (up to which WE’RE all signed) to see what joyous spielappeal is out there! I’m a little trepidatious because I was up at the very same school LAST Friday trying to sell boardgames at the fund-raising Christmas Bazaar – a few Dixits here, a handful of Cubikos there, the odd On The Cards for the traditional gamer parents.
The response was sphincter-puckeringly awful. No, really. My first ‘customer’ asked me how much to ‘play Cubiko’. “It’s free to play”, I said, “because I want you to see how great it is and maybe buy one for the grandchildren!” (smiley salesman demeanor).
“Oh, we don’t buy games…” he retorted.
“How about card games, then” I rejoinder – expecting elderly grandparents to know one end of a Whist Drive from the other and maybe find On The Cards intriguing.
“No.” comes the clipped response from the grandmother.
“Not even Canasta? Rummy? Crazy Aces?...Snap?” I gasp.
“No.” (and they walk away)
Even Dixit proved to be too complicated a concept for some, FFS – I’m amazed these people can find their way down a shopping list without crumpling into a weeping heap, if that’s TRULY the case!
With that experience in mind, what SHOULD I take along tonight that won’t result in explosive decapitations all round? Here’s the list I’ve settled upon:
Tier Auf Tier
On The Cards
Will this be ok? Or will I be cleaning up iddy-biddy bits of brain from the upholstery for the foreseeable?
The UK games market is lamentably poor; yes, of course there are ‘gamers’ who will thrive on the output we read about here all the time AND it’s not DIFFICULT to get proper games here BUT, realistically, Great Britain couldn’t give a wasps gonad about Qwirkle or Knizia or Dominion or Agricola or anything else.
Yesterday I was visiting workmates in Taplow and one of the staff, knowing my love of all things thinkyplay/tacticomental announced she had just bought the ‘best boardgame ever’.
“What is this marvelous beast?” I enquired – intrigued and delighted.
“The Only Way Is Essex Boardgame” she happily replied.
Would this ‘spin off’ of a lamentably-lowest-common-denominator UK reality television vomit-puddle masquerading as ‘entertainment’ be based on the ‘trivia questions’ mechanic, per chance?
“Yes” she spake, all jolly and excited.
For the second time this week I must exclaim: “Fuck my old boots” – I’m not even going to * the ‘u’ because I feel so strongly about it.
Aside from the source material, the ‘inspiration’ if you like, being so utterly devoid of humanity, joy, ‘good things’ etc, the fact that it’s a bloody ‘trivia game’ as well really grinds my gears.
Arse-fistingly lazy, that’s what it is.
Glans-spankingly vacuous and as undeserving of the categorization “game” as poo-ing into a box and writing ‘Spiel Des Jahres’ on the side.
Oh, and ‘The Only Way Is Essex Boardgame’ is the ‘biggest selling game in the UK this Christmas’, apparently.
Come friendly bombs and kill us Brits!
Our gaming tastes are really shit.
I’ll let you know how it all goes, probably.
POSTSCRIPT: Actually, it’s not ALL doom and gloom; I must make a special mention of Nigel Scarfe and the peeps at Imagination Gaming who are trying to rectify the rectal catastrophe that is the UK attitude to gaming: http://www.facebook.com/imaginationgaming - keep up the superb work, chap(esse)s!
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Carolus Girthus Maximus, generous host and pioneer of the portable Vomitorium, welcomed the early arrival of Antonius Lewdus and Ianus Semper Studentum with sparkling water and a cheery smile. The ritualistic 'Salve's and 'Quo Vadae' were dispatched and an appraisal of the shadow upon the sundial showed 30 minutes until the expected appearance of Clynny the Elder and so they commenced a most satisfactory 3 player simulation of agrarian planning, animal husbandry and distribution of (probably Gallic) slaves in the gathering of materials*.
Clynny arrived with barely two seasons of the exercise still to be executed and watched with distant interest as Ianus took the laurels by a single point from Antonius with Carolus a disappointing country unit-of-distance behind. Wishing to make use of the simulatory accoutrements already availed across the splendid dining table, Clynny agreed to a reworking of the agricultural model with an additional source of input**. Revenge, in this new cycle, fell to Antonius who proved most adept with 45 to Ianus’ 41 with Carolus and Clynny languishing in the doldra of mid-to-low 30s.
With plenty of oil left to burn in the lamps, Clynny tabled an item retrieved from a recent campaign in the Germanic regions – Trajan. Much of its structure, bright and colourful and resolutely cardboard, remained (as yet) housed sprew-ward and, like the most analytically-paralyzed, needed a lot of punching before play could commence.
Clynny ran, vocally, through the laws and tenets of the ludus variously describing:
(a) the operation of the mancala, the central mechanic to which one looks for what (single) action to perform in one’s turn: pick a ‘bowl’ with >0 pieces in it, announce their number and then move them clockwise around the six bowls leaving one behind in each. The bowl into which the final piece is placed will be the action you are allowed to take. If you manage to coloured pieces to match a Trajan tile allocated to that bowl also, you get additional benefits (VPs, draw cards etc)
(b) the actions one can take:
- forum: take a tile which you might need to pay for a DEMAND (see later)
- senate: score VPs and get Ist or IInd pick of a game-end bonus tile
- shipping: draw goods cards or cash them in for VPs
- trajan: select a Trajan tile and place it next to a specific bowl (for later matching/completion)
- military: send a leader or centurion to a distant land
- building: take a tile to get free actions and/or game-end bonus sets…oh, and score VPs too
The number of pieces you migrate around your mancala counts off time in a ‘quarter year’ – once this has been reached/overshot, a DEMAND tile is revealed – at the end of four quarters, three such tiles need ‘satisfying’ by each player else you lose VPs.
Thus, much of the game is spent:
- cursing either the position of your mancala pieces because you can’t ‘end up’ on the action you want, or
- you struggling to get colours to match Trajan tiles, or
- someone keeps talking about centurion polishing their helmets
It made absolutely no sense at the beginning, feeling like a bucket into which any-and-every flavour of Euro-mechanic had been thrown. By the end, it proved to be quite simplistic – the whole success-or-failure fulcrum being the management of your mancala. While I liked it (finally), I’m not sure it will shriek ‘play me again!’ after one or two more outings. Ianus and Clynny naturally gravitated to the victory podia with Antonius pipping Carolus by a point in the outskirts.
Come mid of the night and the happy congregation departed - chariots rattling into the dampening dark. I narrowly avoided a Legionnaire who was triangulating horse-rapidity from behind a shadowy pillar - it was a residential area and you're not supposed to rise above a trot.
Romanes eunt domus? I should bloomin' well coco!
**Agricola, with 4 players
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Last night we played Industry, described as 7 Wonders: The Board Game by some BGG wags (o! how they josh!). Five 'eras' with 12 auctions in each era. Buy factories and then develop them for VPs or 'to generate a resource'. Syphon the resources (your own, or bought ones from other players) into factories further down the era's. S/he who has most VPs is the winner.
If the auctions don't kill you, the god-awful board layout will - Mr Pillars Of The Earth artist, i think, has painted some wonderful buildings and then they're all 'joined up' by roads, pipelines, railways and a river. Within 5 minutes of the rules explanation, we were asking 'does THAT railway touch THAT factory?' etc. There IS a reference sheet that shows whats connected for each building - would it have pained anyone in the graphic department to lose SOME of the aesthetics in favour of decent, clear game information?
It said 60 minutes on the box, but we didn't get much change out of 2 bleedin' hours - THREE of us, that is! THREE PEOPLE FOR TWO HOURS! F*ck my old boots.
Here's to something a little less tortuous this evening.
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I suspect that whenever there’s any level of (re-)decoration to be done in the house this makes any request I have to ‘go off for a bit and play some board games’ much more likely to be accepted (and positively shone upon). I am notoriously intolerant to indecision, mess and other peoples ideas in general in this area, so the missus just sends me out with a packed lunch and a portable Agricola. It’s so much calmer. And I invariably like the result of their labours anyway...ah, to be less opinionated and up myself (sad, but still handsome, face).
This weekend (well, this first bit of Saturday) saw one of the Paulls’ quatrannual Friends & Family Games Weekends and I felt sure I could fill 6 or so hours with some happy cerebral gymnastics. After an early awakening (and a dizzy stumble to bladder-drain), I bade farewell to the Von Trapp-like Boydell clan and – pausing only for a Village Shoppe red bull and cheese pastie breakfast – vroomed and dugga-dugga-dugga-ed around the lanes and up the Gloucestershire hillocks to Nailsworth. I tipped the nod to the lonely Nympsfield windmill and parked up Chez Paull with dew still a-melting and the whole mother-funtering ‘bon jouer’ ahead of me.
Yawning over sausages and Ankh Morpork, scrambled egg and Last Will, the residential delegates gobfull-ed a half-hearted (fried breakfast) halloo and I was dragged into the bottom, back bedroom for Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 2 – India & Switzerland. This crowded, tense and rich board was designed by pal Ian Vincent who, possessing a mind like Viz Comics’ Mr Logic, finally has an outlet for his analytic overbearingness – it’s a beauty and no mistake (the map, that is, NOT his mind). The ‘Grand Tour’ mechanic of rewarding (unshared) multi-route ticket completions utterly distracted me from more basic ‘build stuff’ fayre and I ended up roundly pasted into last place – failing to score regular points AND being blocked out of the Grand Tour bonuses too! All congratulations must go to progeny of The Beard (who popped in for the day with the Carlossus of Wycombe), who completed almost the entire deck of tickets to take the laurels – exceptionally well done indeed, Ms Clyne!
Smarting from the humiliation received, my sulking into a strong coffee restorative coincided with the arrival of Mr Richard Breese – esteemed designer of many most-excellent tactico-mentalisms (look him up, the list speaks for itself). We chatted about prototypes and play-tests in general and he was just running me through a quick overview of Key Seven (the latest in the fabulous Key series, all cut’n paste and placeholder clipart!) when The Beard and Carlossus emerged from the chilly broken-ness of A Few Acres Of Snow and we were suddenly up to a foursome. Having thrown some Metro-ers off the largest available table, we were running through the rule-set once more for clarity when TTR:India victoirette, Halina, and Key Seven co-designer Sebastian Bleasdale (On The Cards, On the Underground) made up the fullest compliment.
Key Seven had not yet been given a six-player thrashing or, indeed, a name! Something I hope that I have rectified...never one to pass on the opportunity for a pun or two. Obviously, I cannot divulge most of what we got up to in the next two hours – broken for a 20 minute scrummy luncheon – but, fair to say, this is a fantastic addition to the canon: thinky, smooth, tense and rewarding. It’s worker placement, but with a sneaky twist. Put this one on your pre-order lists NOW, you will NOT be disappointed!
Hoovering up the last of the fatty ham, it was already 3PM and time for me to return to the family bosom. Only the two games ‘logged’, but both were tremendously involving and, like the olive pesto pasta meal I improvised later, quite delicious.
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With the headlights of Toy Fairs (various) fast approaching the mid-Highway (and woefully-squidgy) rabbit of boardom, there is much to be anticipated in 2012: more 7 Wonders? Twenty five more Kingdom cards for Mr Vaccinations magnum opus? Another four disappointing sets for Magic: The Gathering? etc.
However, we should spare a thought for those less-eagerly awaited games to be published in the ‘Year That Is The End Of The World According to the Mayans’; I’m thinking of the following:
Paint Drying: Das Kartenspiele – Likely-to-be-as-unpopular portable variation of the universally-ignored ‘Evaporation: The Boardgame’ - recreate the tedium of internal decoration ‘on a budget’.
Die Tod Maus (aka ‘No Cheese!’) – Haβa attempt to break-away from their normal genre mechanisms by selling the corpse of a common field mouse in a bright-yellow, branded box. Pre-schoolers compete in a dextrous race to pass the rodentine cadaver anti-clockwise before it bursts.
Boiling Kettles! – roll 2d6 and note the value, secretly, on your wipe-able game-board. As soon as the bubble-forming rate reaches your number, reveal it and be the first to get some mugs from the sideboard.
Cockslap Armageddon – Shite Games’ next attempt at a shock-hobby, press-baiting cerebral repast; ‘C.A’ comes with a deck of 56 cards, wooden cubes for up to 6 players and a 18” fluorescent-orange dildo with which to ‘discipline’ the player in first or last place (it depends on the weedy rule-set as to WHO gets the knob-lashing). Tiresome, but useful in a crisis.
Hammering Nails Into My Eyes - It does what it says on the (literal) tin! Deck-building with tacks, pins and spikes – an opportunity missed? Plays up to 12 (ideal for those looking for a Werewolf alternative).
Where Are My Keys? (Fantasy Flight Twilight Imperium tie-in)– hide the keys to the Behemoth Starfighter DeathNova Ultima Plasma Raygun…then find the keys….to the Behemoth Starfighter DeathNova Ultima Plasma Raygun.
Fundamentals! – wacky (the ‘mentals’ bit in the name) party game - in time for Christmas, no less! - where players are encouraged to insert a wide variety of Bausack-style wooden blocks into their backsides (the ‘fundament’ bit). Tacky, in more ways than one.
One-Hit Wonders – players take it in turns to punch each-other in the temple and then select the ‘reason why’ from a face-up line of Dixit-style picture cards.
Meh! – colorful worker placement vehicle with multiple victory paths and an innovative economic engine. Every time someone asks ‘what shall we play next?’ you must take this off the shelf, wave it about (in the one hand) for 30 seconds and then put it back when everyone plumps for something else instead. Likely to remain ‘in shrink’ until eBay time.
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With a strange pressure in my bonce (pushing against the sinuses like I was some kind of Scanners extra), I bim-bim-bimmed my way across a drizzled Wycombe to the big man’s abode for a sedate evening of 3 player cerveaujouer (avec quick Tesco diversion to pick up cheap drinks and paracetamol). University-challenged Sir Iain of Shirley was already hogging the arse-buttering benches so the customary introductory chinny-wag was completed in no time at all and, with no one else to ‘wait for’, we could commencer a joggin for the noggin tooty-sweetie.
I had brought a number of delectable Meepling items for consideration: Guilds of London and Mountain Railway (Boydell prototypes in an advanced state of tweakage) and Walnut Grove - though the dining table was subject to the magnetic presence of the leather-clad, twiddle-fiddle Dominatrix that is Agricola (Occupational whips and Minor Gimp-themed Improvements at the ready); we shall, like sailors to the Siren, come to her later.
Carl has been banging on recently, like a latch-less privy door in a God-mothering hurricane, about Welcome To Walnut Grove so it seemed appropriate to give it a go (a first for myself and the so-called Student). The explanation took almost as long as the first thinkyplay in its entirety; Iain exhibited a frantic fervor for ‘hiring’ itinerant laborers (‘growing his family’ and earning the temporary epithet ‘rent boy’) to take the game by a whisker from Carlossus. Play was smooth (and uncomplicated) but seemed rather prescriptive and lacked tension/jeopardy; it seemed that my lack of a bonus tile or two was the decisive factor in my loss. In the immediate re-match, Iain tried the same use ‘em or lose ‘em approach to manual help and ended up in a right old Branston and no mistake! By game-end, his tableau contained so many neighborly help tokens you’d think he was the State collection point for Christian Aid. My own score had improved (better tile placement, I think – enclosed areas = good), but again Carl snuck the victory with a double bonus-tile whammy. Nice, light game – though the print quality is lamentably-poor.
Moving swiftly along, the next bullet point in our timepasswell agenda was Mountain Railway – one of the Hagridesque Carl’s favourites from my hobbypensive stable. It’s been a while since I racked up a 3pl (as I’ve been testing the dimpled-derriere off the 5pl, in particular) and with card-abusing maestro Iain also ‘on hand’ (nice card-ic pun, there) it was promising to be a tasty treat. There is nothing left about which I am concerned / apprehensive WRT to the game – it flows smoothly, there are multiple routes to victory and (as I constantly repeat in a Buddhist mantra-type way), it’s not ALWAYS about getting a TRAIN and having lots of extra actions! As was proved last night, I managed to pip the redoubtable Iain by 6 points and Carl by a further 10 or so EVEN THOUGH they had ‘grown families’ and I didn’t...it’s all about completing those card bonuses.
Do you like trains? Do you like worker placement? Do you like being up to your soft, sensitive inner thighs in mud under a black, hailing sky? Then MR is for you...
Positively glowing from every orifice (though that MAY have been the chilli sauce on my Stir-Fry Beef), the elephant in the room could no longer be avoided. Pausing for an ablutory interstice, Mr Rosenberg and Lookout’s finest hour (by a country mile) flashed the necessary coquettish smile and we were ‘into her decks’ and wood’n banter-ing before you could say ‘Ee Eye Kay Draft?’. Forty five of your earth minutes (and some Olympic-level dobbershoving) later, we reclined – panting and spent – with a 43/38/33 Carl/Tony/Iain final result. ‘Gric’s a filthy, wanton game-whore and we adore her!
Now wash your hands.
Welcome...to my Shed!
Thanks to all of you who participated. Heretoforewith is a list of terms and titles to be, henceforth, utilized in place of boring old 'games' or 'gaming' when interacting with 'the Geek'...
 wood'n banter
 ludo vitae
 ease yotun
 "joggin for the noggin"
 Shuffle mufflers
...er, we were unable to make it to FIFTY, though.
Welcome...to my Shed!
Not that I'm obsessed or anything, but I bought the new Kate Bush album a couple of days ago and have listened to nothing else since. It's lush, sublime, atmospheric and - as per usual for this precious musical treasure - just a little bit bonkers!
The penultimate track is called '50 Words For Snow' and is an attempt to come up with existing and NEW words for snow for the English language - shimmerglisten? Stellatundra? anklebreaker? mistraldespair? She's just perfect.
Anyway, the point is that finding REAL synonyms for games and gaming is rather dull and difficult and I wondered if we could take some inspiration from the warbling Goddess and come up with fifty of our own?
How about it?
Let me start you all off:
 wood'n banter
 ludo vitae
Form an orderly queue, if you please...
Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:58 am
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