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Welcome...to my Shed!
Not so very long ago in a galaxy just over by there
A NEW HOPE
(rum-titty rum-titty rum-titty diddle-bomp
rum-titty rum-titty rum-titty diddle-bomp
POM POM DE-POM POM DE-POM POM DE-POM
POM POM POM POM DE-POM POM DE-POM
POM POM POM POM DE-DIDDLE-POM
POM-POM POM DE-DIDDLE-BOM etc
POM-POM POOOOOM-DE POOOOOOOMMMMM POOOOOM-DE POOOOOOOMMMMM
After the first War of the Nine Aeons(TM), the Galaxy is ruled by the oppressive, hairy, fist of the Empire of the Midnight Beard. The Silent Stars have researched joss stick and Venetian blind tech and hide behind a veneer of bartering with carved wooden statuettes and pot pourii cushions. The Red Nebula stews in a resentful alliance with their hirsute overlords, jealously eying the territories of the Pessemistic Hegemon who, in their own turn, are now so petrified of ‘outsiders’ that they won't even answer their e-mails.
However, stirring in the deep reaches of space is a new hope: the Dominion Academica Perpetuata (motto: ‘Deadlines Are There To Be Broken’) and their jovial (but calculating) leader Baron Harkon-Iain:
Thu May 24, 2012 10:11 am
Welcome...to my Shed!
SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a gaming table.
Thunder. Enter the three Players – Becky, John and Tony – Tony arrives somewhat later than the other Players, finding them in the middle of a swift (!) Jambo.
First Player (Becky): Thrice the pork-based snack hath scratched.
Second Player (John): Thrice and once the Inn-dog whined.
Third Player (Tony): Ross-on-Wye cries “Tis time, 'tis time!”
First Player: Round about the table go;
In the Qwirkle pieces throw.
Star, that in the darkful night
Twinkles with the circle bright
Square and diamond, four-leafed clover
Another star (four points) left over.
ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Colours, six, mayhap be-fuddle.
Second Player: Play some tiles and score your points
Extend a line or marry joints
Ensure their colours match each-other
Or shape’s the same as each his brother
Doubled glyphs are not permitted
Scrabble-wise your score’s remitted
Thou playest till the bag’s bereft
And one has ne’er a game piece left.
ALL: Double, double Saint and Sinner;
The one with biggest score’s the winner!
(Tony 125, John 123, Becky – ahem, moving along)
Clips of paper, ways of rail
John has never heard this tale
Stations, squared, with odd effects
Combos sure to get thee vexed
Strings of metal, pins for track
Did I say ‘Strings’? I take that back!
Evolving board, a visual treat
Attracts the diners there to eat
“Tis like the Clue! Or Monopol?”
They query, in a manner droll
Alas! The curse of Britain’s people
Most know shit ‘bout chit or meeple.
At end, the vict’rys closely won
When final station’s scoring done.
(Tony pips Becky by 8 points, all scored off the final station examined)
Double, double clamour and din;
Let's play something John might win
Only time remains for filler
Shall we fill her with a killer?
Enter SAN JUAN to the other three Players
SAN JUAN: O well done! I commend your choosing;
Mayhap wilt end your streak of losing?
Player one and player two
Have played me more than times ‘a few’
Select thine roles, produce and trade
Build and prospect, council’s made
Soon John thinks he’s gained the gilt
But Becky shows a Palace built!
And second in tonight’s repast
Someone’s won upon the last!
Music and a song: 'No spirits just a pineapple juice and lemonade,' & c. SAN JUAN retires
Second Player: By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Pick up your box!
All players exeunt, not chased by a pig
Welcome...to my Shed!
The UK Games Expo is a week away and the butterflies are already churning my little tummsy-wumsy! It's a brief affair in the grand scheme of things (2 and a bit days, all told) but I like to think of it as the gaming equivalent of canapés: a small package, but exceedingly delicious!
If you’re going this year, then pop by to chat and play some games (we’re in the Blue Zone).
If you’re thinking about it, then stop prevaricating and get yourself to the venue tootie-Clarendon-sweety (see what I did there?).
If you’re not coming, then keep an eye out for the video demos which, I believe, will be making there way to a BGG near you!
What I’m looking forward to THIS year:
- having that excited anticipatory feeling as I drive up the M5 to Birmingham to ‘set up’
- having some final art mock-up copies of Snowdonia
- PLAYING the final art mock-up copies of Snowdonia
- video-demo-ing Snowdonia at 15.45 on the Friday (25th)
- watching Sebastian Bleasdale win the Best Card Game award for On The Cards
- seeing Vicki Dalton do arty stuff from our stand
- participating in the Designer seminar on the Saturday (3PM, I think)
- if it’s there, finding a way to watch ‘Going Cardboard’
- selling some Totemos
- giving away 12 Scandaroons in a fun ‘visit us on the hour’ competition
- playing games in the Strathalan Hotel in the evenings
- buying more games
- seeing new games/prototypes from UK designers (Miles Ratcliffe, Gavin Birnbaum, the Lamont Bros, Ragnar and so many more)
- seeing the Imagination Gaming ‘family zone’ in its full ‘up and operational’ glory!
- crispy duck at the Chinese restaurant just down the road
- seeing all our occasional gaming buddies / trying to blag my way into any ‘live’ podcast recordings that may be going on
- doing some of that Industry schmoozing thing
- picking up a copy of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small from the Lookout Games stand
- the traditional Frankley services ‘wind-down coffee’ on Sunday evening with the Paulls where we dissect how fantastic the weekend has been
What I’m NOT looking forward to THIS year:
- the oxymoronically-titled ‘Quality Hotel’ accommodation
- ‘bangers and mash’ in the gentlemen’s toilets
- being hassled by some bloke in a Dalek outfit...AGAIN
*hops from foot-to-foot*
Fri May 18, 2012 10:42 am
Welcome...to my Shed!
Welcome...to my Shed!
Circumstance conspired to keep any form of familiar routine out of the start of the week for me; what with ‘car troubles’, ‘work niggles’, my eldest daughter developing a grumbling appendix (which merited a 4 hour hospital-flavoured diversion) right in the middle of her ‘A Levels, Part 1’ and my youngest daughter turning 15 and giving us a mountain’s worth of teen angst. Right up to the wire yesterday afternoon, it was unclear whether I would be London-bound for wage-earning and a couple of evenings of gaming.
With the sun shining (relatively) benevolently, I eventually departed circa 5.30PM and rumbled my VW Polo-way across the Oxford plain to Wycombe to find the usual suspects awaiting my pleasure, along with Uncle Steve – long time gaming pal (right back to the M:TG days) and subject of various Kickstarter-related digs in previous blog posts *ashamed*
Steve and Carl wasted no time in their Zong Shi defensive digs – water off a ducks back, in my case, as a simple witty retort along the lines of ‘What that game needs is T’ would suffice. However, we were all resolved to be a little more cheerful and a little less grumpy/pendantic/moany this week, so I held my tongue.
The folks had just finished a swift game of Dallas – a throwback economic auctioner from the 1980s that everyone purred good purrs over in the post-match analysis – and Uncle Steve had pretty much finished setting up Olympos.
Olympos is a recent offering from Mr P Keyaerts and is, simply, a Civilization game for people who like Small World. It’s bright, colourful, comes with bits and has iconography in extremis. The game revolves around you either moving pieces around a map board to gain resources OR cashing in resources for ‘techs’ that further improve movement, VP gaining, protection from the ‘Gods’ etc. Everything you do costs ‘time’ and ‘time’ is tracked (and turn order determined) in exactly the same way as Thebes etc al – it’s your turn if you’re ‘at the back’ or ‘at the back but on top’. At various points along the timeline, ‘Gods’ (events) happen that generally punish the less devout (Zeus icons are vee important) and some random bonus effect cards are distributed. The game ends when everyone runs into the ‘escape lane’ at the end of the time track and we all ‘pass’ (the escape lane has VPs to be gained, the further away from the finish of the lane you are the more extra VPs you gain). It’s a visually-pleasing and straightforward affair and should scratch the same itch as SW for the lighter gamer/family crowd (60 to 75 mins max) – no mean feat when going for a Civ flavor! Some of the setup elements introduce mild changes in where ‘techs’ appear on the tech board (costs for placeholders are fixed, but techs can appear across a row – randomly - so there’s variety from game to game) – and little combos might appear. I won - 10 points clear of Carl and the others - after heeding the pre-start advice that 'Zeus icons are really good'.
With ‘about an hour’ left of Uncle Steve’s ‘pass out’ remaining, I suggested a swift 5pl Snowdonia and it was quickly arrayed. As usual, things were tense and much concentration was invested by all; at the end, however, Uncle Steve was very despondent and negative about his experience. He’d failed to remember a number of key things other players took (cards, a train) which meant he wasted two or three actions (they fizzled due to things not being gained/there upon resolution). In a 5pl game you’ll get circa mid-20s actions, on average, so squandering 10% of those is going to ‘make things difficult’! As a consequence, he failed to complete his two end-game bonuses by the merest sliver - something that put him in 4th place rather than 2nd.
There followed some discussion about how it punishes mistakes too harshly (not a completely true statement, but no bad thing in my mind if there is an element of that); players must pay attention to what each-other are doing/taking as well as having to watch out for how the Weather will affect actions and anticipate/prepare for the game Events. Perhaps such situations are magnified if you have a mix of new and experienced Snowdonia players; by way of clarification I’ve asked we add a short note in the final rulebook along the lines of:
“Rules hint: Bonus cards are very important! Not just for end-game scoring but remembering what effects people have taken: especially those keyed to the Stock Yard [A] as these may disrupt what you take! You don’t need to remember EVERY card players take, but there are certain cards - and Train abilities - you would do well to ‘track’ around the table”
Nobody said digging and building up a mountain would be easy - but it's much harder if you try and do it in blissful ignorance!
Welcome...to my Shed!
Woodward and Bernstein had “Deep Throat”, Varys had his birds and Mulder and Scully had to contend with the carcinogenic ever-presence of ‘The Cigarette Smoking Man”. What does Uncle Tony have? A Firefox-shaped window on to the world and a couple of illicitly-obtained passwords, that’s what! Do I use these tools for my own personal gain? To further my own selfish interests? Well, maybe a little bit – but, in general, I use them for the good of the wider gaming community. Really I do!
So here are some juicy ‘you heard it first’ nuggets of hobby-game sotto voce gossip:
 Kickstarter has announced a new Kickstarter campaign to further enhance its own facilities. There are the usual multiple reward levels from ‘GW Basic – Access to the new functionality’ ($20) through to ‘Crunching super-primes on a Cray – An AI modeled on your own personality‘ ($25,000). The keen-eyed will also notice the ‘Prolog’ reward level ($400) that gives you the chance to subscribe at the same reward level in a recursive loop until your Bank Account is dry.
 Staying with Kickstarter, Shite Games – media whores and baiters-of-controversy extraordinaire (they released ‘Biohazard’ in 2011: a brown paper bag containing 20 used hypodermic needles in 5 player colours) – have announced their next project, Vacuum, is to be subscriptionally-funded. The campaign notes describe Vacuum as a “serious attempt to model the theorems of null space / dark matter in under 90 minutes” and are accompanied by a series of ‘prototype stills’ (all of which are blank), specifications for the ‘voidbox’ display (again, blank), a draft of the rules (a 0 byte Word document) and a YouTube video link that seems to have been shot in a lightless cellar. The reward levels promised include a series of promotional Protoneeples (custom, zero-mass player pieces), a non-enhanced deep field A0 postergraph (almost entirely black) and the ‘The Yet-To-Be-Proven-To-Exist Parallel Universe’ expansion. Speculation that Shite Games will be Fed Ex-ing empty packing containers come the Autumn have been re-buffed as ‘a typically-cynical swipe at the small publisher…albeit completely true’.
In related news, Shite Games are rumoured to have commissioned a new Agrarian game from Uwe Rosenberg called ‘Animal Farm’, based on the 1970s ‘cult film’ and further exploring the mechanisms of animal husbandry.
 It’s almost June which means its almost time for ‘NatureCon’, the popular nudist gamer convention held, every year, in a gated community in Santa Barbara. As well as the usual crop of board and card games, there will be a Pubic Topiary competition (firm favourite ‘The Meeple’), the return of the popular ‘Tit Bausack, the less popular ‘Sack Bausack’ and a seminar about ‘Eurogames: Too Much Wood?’. Organizers are hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year’s series of snap-shut box/spring-loaded door incidents. All attendees for 2012 will receive a set of promo cards for ‘Nipples to Nipples’ – er, I mean ‘Apples to Apples’.
 With the Essen Spiel exhibitor numbers expanding almost logarithmically in recent years, it comes as no surprise to hear that another small hall is being opened in October for the ‘new wave of Inuit’ designers: Bluβerspiele, Sealskin Entertainment, Igloo Games, Rotten Fish In A Barrel(TM), I.C.E (Icy Component Enterprises) and Where’s My Whale? etc. The release schedule is somewhat overly-focused on the ‘frozen precipitate’ theme with products such as ‘A Few Million Hectares of Snow’, ‘Aput to Aput’,’Fagins Gana’, ‘Piqsirpoqtomania’ and ‘Patuqoney Island’, but there’s also a number of firm favourites like ‘Hey! That’s My Minky!’ and ‘Last Walrus’.
 Noobs to the industry ‘Hospital Corner Games’ are bringing a prototype of their 2012 release ‘Accident & Emergency: Orifice Rescue‘ to the UK Games Expo in a couple of weeks. A nice twist on Operation and Buckaroo!, ‘A&E: OR’ comes with a 36” latex figure, posed on all fours, and a variety of miniature moulded-plastic household objects that need to be inserted into its anus as part of the setup (hoover pipe, duplo truck, video cassette etc). Players then take turns removing the objects and playing ‘Excuse’ cards to minimize the distribution of ‘embarrassment points’ – the least mortified player at game end is declared the winner. Comes with special ‘Birmingham 2012’ rubber gloves.
 Reiner Knizia, previously a victim of car crime when he was found ‘on bricks’ outside his Berkshire home (see previous bulletin) has once again been the victim of the degredation of Society (and ‘kids today’ etc). The renowned, and beloved, designer has recently been the target of a sustained campaign of graffiti tagging; the situation has been further compounded by the appearance of a Banksy ‘rat’ and an ‘Invader’ mosaic on the Teutonic Spiel-Arkitekt – this has delayed his ‘clean up’ because tourists now flock to view the vandalization ‘in situ’ making it doubly-difficult for him to get about. It is expected he will be given a thorough redecoration after next month’s ‘Thames Valley Festival Of Art’.
 Finally, in a piece of news close to my heart, I hear that the emerald-bonced ‘effer’, Friedeman Friese, is working on another Powergrid spin-off in the vein of last years ‘The Robots’. Code-named ‘Powerclip’ (aka Funkenklammer), FF makes use of the humble paperclip as part of this network-building, auctioner – expect the usual fall-out.
Tue May 15, 2012 11:22 am
Welcome...to my Shed!
No matter how many times you left the house for an evening of games, Dr. Tony Boydell told himself, the excitement never really palled. He had been to Baycon once, to Gencon UK three times, and to the various London-on-Boards, Swiggers and Ross-on-Wye meets more often than he could remember. Yet as the moment of drive-off approached, he was conscious of a rising tension, a feeling of wonder and awe - yes; and of nervousness - which put him on the same level as any gamelubber about to receive his first baptism of Ben Bateson and John Plant.
The Ross-on-Wye club is going through a worrying decrease in attendance at the moment – from the dizzy heights of eight (yes! EIGHT!) at the tail-end of Winter to the barest quorum of three. Ben and John have become the true stalwarts in recent months: the binary star core around which this rural solar system orbits – always to be seen hunched, concentration-deep, over a Babel or some card-based confection recently-acquired via the befuddling medium of ‘the Maths Trade’. Having been jilted at the bath-side by youngest son – (him) distracted and delayed by Cartoon Network and iced lollies – I made it to the White Lion a full 15 minutes(!) earlier than usual to find the dynamic duo messing about with an Asimovianly-miniaturized version of Ingenious. Ben and I had briefly-Facebooked the idea of a Caylus tonight, but John’s punched and prepared copy of Eclipse – accompanied by what was almost a ‘challenging glower’ from the Marcle-dweller – proved the dish for the night.
Eclipse is typical of many ‘big’ games that intimidate me when I know almost nothing about them – tales of a ‘3 hour plus space conquest’ – because I rarely have such an open expanse of free time that I can devote to just the one game; the same was true for Dominant Species which barely gives you change from 4 solid hours. When I texted ‘the Beard’ for an indication of how long we should expect Eclipse to go on for, John barked a somewhat tetchy ‘I play all the new games YOU bring along!’ – expecting me to cry off with ‘early-to-bed’ excuses. In my defence, I wanted to play Eclipse now that I’d seen it ‘in the room’ (having heard lots of ‘good things’) and just needed to know if my background headache/sore eyes was/were going to be late in getting home or not.
(I think someone at work generously gave me their head-cold this week; generous to a bloody fault)
Ben reluctantly agreed to some space-operatic Ameritrashing, sensing the Vesuvian pre-eruption groundshocks from John and the capitulation-to-curiosity from myself.
Eclipse - despite the ridiculous amount of wood, cardboard, paper and plastic – is a simple and straightforward game at heart. Each player has a board upon which to track their current ‘blueprints’ for ship building, their bought technology (mostly to improve your ship blueprints – faster, meaner, more protected) and their current stocks of the three resources: orange=money, pink = laboratories or something like it and brown = manufacturing. Cleverly, as you increase your access to resources, you place population cubes on to the ‘galaxy’ (central bit) thus revealing bigger numbers – your production rate.
There is also an ‘influence track’ which contains your stock of wooden discs – these are used to mark your ownership ‘in space’ and what actions you have taken in the current round. As you utilize these discs, an ‘upkeep’ cost is revealed – this is how much you need to pay at the end of the round: the more money you have, then, the more actions you can take/systems you can control – VERY neat little twist!
In the centre of it all is an array of large hex tiles (the galaxy) that contain planetary systems – these provide sources of resources and the main focus of the game – expand, exploit and conquer!
The rounds, of which there are nine, comprise the usual replenishment of available-to-buy techs and then a ‘round-the-table’ action-taking phase; the actions are:
- EXPlore: turn over a hex tile adjacent to somewhere you control. Some tiles are easy to exploit, others come with free ‘derelict alien ships’ that need to be conquered before you can use the hex for your own ends. Helpfully, hexes with alien ships come with (randomly-drawn) relics that can be cashed in for tech bonuses or, if you don’t like the tech, end-game VPs.
- INFluence: put markers on hexes you have beaten (if not already there) and activate some colony ships; the latter allow you to increase production rates by moving the population cubes from your board tracks.
- RESearch: ‘pay some pink’ to take a technology from a central board and place it on your own board – you can now use the ‘upgrade’ action to pimp your ships. If you want bigger guns then buy the tech (RES) then UPG.
- UPGrade: take one or two items matching tech you have bought to improve your ship blueprints – ships already built inherit new capabilities immediately.
- BUIld: pay brown to put more ‘nice plastic ships’ on to a system you control – small, medium or large for fighting with.
- MOVe: move your ships around the systems – including into other players’ systems when its time to kick some ass.
Combat, initiated whenever someone enters a hex with someone else (including dead aliens) in it is dice-based and simplistic – hit on a six or more. You can improve your chances with computers, reduce an opponent’s role with shields and do more damage with better weapons. Combat also gets you random VPs in the form of ‘reputation’.
All very straightforward and, to be honest, nothing startling or particularly new – a little bit of Battlestar Galactica here, Through the Ages there and a dash of Cosmic Encounter for good measure. But is gels; it's a cohesive and well-oiled mix of the old in a shiny, slicker package.
The game started somewhat darkly for me – I watched as Ben and John both explored to ‘easy’ systems and quickly populated into better production rates. My own excursions resulted in being surrounded by derelict alien ships that needed beating up first – no easy task when all you’ve got is a glass-jawed light cruiser! In hindsight, being ‘hemmed in’ like this was actually a boon – it forced me to concentrate on beefing up my ship tech. When I was finally able to commit to kicking some mysterious rusty-hulk butt, I got a shed load of reputation VPs (points for being in fights, basically) and netted a couple of cool alien techs: targeting computers, a massive energy source and a free ‘big ship’!
With just the one round remaining, and my military might gleaming in the light of a thousand suns, I felt confident enough to hyperspace into the centre of the galaxy to gain more VP goodness. No-one was going to try taking this away from me – at least, not if they wanted to continue to function as carbon-based life-forms!
The final reckoning was 25 (me), 24 (John) and 23 (Ben) – such a squeakily tight, lube-requiring result eliciting a snort of derision from Ben – he’s not enamored of the theme and hates combat dice systems like this even more. I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting and look forward to giving it another go – at least, with a little less brain-pain and a little more time. It was also good to see John so pleased that a) he’d finally got to play with his new toy and b) it wasn’t half bad at all!
Final note: even me playing snippets of the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack on my phone failed to lighten Ben’s mood...”this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye”
Sat May 12, 2012 10:55 am
Welcome...to my Shed!
We’ve just had a long weekend in the UK, everyone gaining an extra 24 hours (the Monday) to enjoy the damp conditions at home, with family and/or with friends. The Bank Holiday is, for the typical Brit, an opportunity to mess up some home-decorating, fall out with your partner or drift into a coma in front of stultifyingly-dull television scheduling. Except, that is, for the fair chaps (and the occasional chapess) who made it to Wrightcon in South East England. In between bouts of familial diversion and World Championship Snooker, I kept half any eye on what was being played at this informal gathering of friends (scale = far, FAR smaller) via an accompanying Geeklist – partly because I wanted to see how people were enjoying a first look at Snowdonia and, more tellingly, because I was insanely jealous and wanted to be there myself. Four whole days of gaming, from the Noddy delights of Pizza Theory and Tsuro to the cerebrum-frying torture of Through The Ages and a mid-range 18XX – via Mage Knight, Hawaii and many more.
As a consequence of this meeple-bothering marathon, our usual Tuesday night of games at ‘Big Man Carl’s was cancelled, leaving be-bearded Richard and myself (less fully-bebearded) to BBT and LotR:RotK by way of a tasty Chinese takeout.
Normal service resumed for Wednesday evening, however, and having finally torn myself away from the ‘just ONE more chapter’ Hell that is A Storm of Swords, I rocked up to Castle Crook to find Iain ‘The Student’ in attendance also.
Carl had had a bad day and was vocally expressing his wish for a ‘good evening of games’; he was in the middle of explaining how Zong Shi worked when I knocketty-knocked and tap-tap-tapped at the portal. I saw a copy of Zong Shi briefly at the start of the year when occasional gaming pal Steve popped by to one of our Wycombe sessions with a few spare copies to sell but I was unimpressed and unconvinced. Steve is, unfortunately, a Kickstarter-dependent and we have been unable to muster enough people (currently) to initiate an ‘intervention’. Steve has produced an excellent Geeklist (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/140540/games-ive-purch...) describing his KS experiences, but - frankly – this does nothing to better my image of games being released through this medium: poor quality control, a startling lack of basic play-testing and – most irritating of all – the accepted idea that if it looks lovely we can forgive it a certain level of uselessness! Not so! Really, REALLY not good enough – though it seems my voice, and that of other conscientious-objectors is being drowned out by the lowing of the great cattle herd.
And so, again, I come to Zong Shi – a recent purchase of Uncle Carl’s (from Steve's KS pool) and something he obviously wanted us to like. I am ashamed to say that it is TERRIBLE; not ashamed for the game, but ashamed because my response to it upset Carl last night and it will no doubt upset him all over again today.
Zong Shi is a ‘meh!’ worker placement game AT BEST and, at worst, a tiresome mélange of ill-thinking, laziness, clichés and appalling swingy-randomness. Like the Yin-Yang, everything about it is composed of opposites:
- the art is nice and it is also terrible: the board has some lovely paintings of characters in various situations, but tokens and resources gained are ugly resin tablets or cardboard chits. Most of the high VP items you can ‘build’ are rendered as 256 shades of brown statuary – doubly rubbish when one of the resources is Bronze (a brown square) and its brown square icon is printed on top of a brown dog/horse/dragon/water buffalo/whatever;
- the rules are simple and yet they’re complicated by a Master that can do things well and an apprentice who can do them less well with NO game information printed on the board as a reminder. Never mind templating and clarity, take a look at the transparent green Buddha start player marker! Look at it it’s smiley face and big, jelly belly!
- a deck of randomly-drawn (blind) cards offers the usual array of short-cuts and rule-changing temporary tweaks BUT their powers veer wildly between the practically-useless to the ridiculously over-powered. Oh wow – my card says I get one random resource from the (too small to hold the resources properly) bag, but yours says complete two projects simultaneously instead of the usual one…oh, and YOUR card is unique in the deck, is that supposed to make me feel better? That you ‘lucked’ into drawing it?
- the theme is nice; we have an historical setting with some poetic terminology/titling to accompany it BUT we also have cards titled ‘The Kickstarter Bonus’ (or similar) and ‘A Gift From Gryphon Games’ – buzzkill! Disbelief well-and-truly unsuspended.
I could go on but I’m sick of thinking about it all over again. Reading back the above, I hadn't realized quite how much it had got to me.
Carl was visibly upset by our response: my good-humoured, but constant, sniping and Richard’s more abrupt (but no less valid) dismissal. Having spent two hours wading, chest-deep, in this mire we progressed to a 5pl Agricola – the big man’s heart was not in it: sulking his way into 4th place come 2330HRS as Richard and I had sulked our way through the first half of the evening.
No doubt three of those in attendance were still weary from the weekend’s long distractions and it proved a mistake to try something wholly new when tolerance levels were so depleted.
Welcome...to my Shed!
The river Wye was hell-for-leathering in a swollen, tea-brown, whirl-pooling torrent as I reversed my little Polo up against the crumbling stone wall of the White Lion’s car park. It has not been unknown for the waterway to rise the extra metre or so and, if it had still been raining, it could’ve been a serious possibility that my petite Deutsche hatchback would’ve not been there (but half-way up Symonds Yat) when game proceedings terminated 3 hours later. Pausing to straighten up my parking and gaze at the mighty power of H20, I trudged into the crowded pub.
Once again we were relegated to the ‘overflow’ room while the main bar hummed, thrummed and thronged with a large family gathering – a retirement? An 80th? A 90th? Who knows – all I saw was fifty people pressing themselves against the main entrance making it ridiculously-awkward for the rest of us to get in and about. I will not be denied my soft drinks and salty pork nibbles, so nonagenarian or no: get out of my bloomin’ way *shove*. Oh do stop whining, you get a new hip easy enough!
Ben and John were entrenched in a game of Innovation while a youngish party gossiped and suppered on the next table – one of their party needed to get a proper haircut (and probably a job) while they were at it. Bloody hippies. It seemed quite heavy-going for the pair, with Ben doing far more with his two actions per turn than John seemed to; though it ended somewhat damply with Ben forced to ‘draw an 11’ (a dogma allowed him to draw a card of 2 higher than his highest purple card – a 9) and his bigger score pile stealing it – not that it mattered, as Mr B had four of five achievements to John’s zero as well. John’s brow remained so furrowed during that game, I feared a local farmer would sow turnips there – I say sow, not plant, because John’s surname is Plant so sow avoids a so-so pun.
Talking of ‘planting’ and ‘sowing’, Ben remembered to bring all elements of his copy of Agricola this week, so a 5 of each E/WM deck (keep 7). From early on the result seemed pretty clear, Ben following an obvious hand-guided strategy; almost all of his actions were accompanied by quips of satisfaction and/or disdain that we’d ‘left him this’, while ours were greeted with light snorts and chuckles. John continued his trend of brow-wrinkling brain-ache which slowed proceedings down a smidge – 44-32-30 proved the blessed release 90 mins later. A new party of diners paused briefly to remark that our table, with it’s Rosenbergian delights spread liberally across the cloth, looked very complicated to which I replied ‘it’s not really - its about farming and you collect things and turn them into other things’. The liberally-coiffeured punter then spent the next 30 minutes loudly repeating my summary to his fellows as if we’d left the room and couldn't hear; did he not BELIEVE my explanation? Was he trying to shame and embarrass me for my cheery précis? Or was he just a pompous tosser?
John went to top up his beverage and so Ben and I took the opportunity to avoid an awkward and/or grumbling Democratic process and agreed to set up the delightful Santiago de Cuba. This was only my second game, but it flowed much more richly – the variation in the action spaces and the ‘people’ setting up opportunities for little combos, screwage to other players and the like. Unlike my debut, VPs and money flowed a lot more easily (apart from a hiccup in the late mid-game) and the final result was a wholly-satisfying 44-42-41 – Ben taking the highest podium again with a second 44 of the night! This one will certainly see a lot more play, I think – and it’s gone on my ‘to buy’ list.
With hairy criticizer and his pseudo-intellectual posse having rightfully fucked off, the silent over-spill (and just gone 10PM) played host to the final distraction: Genji. Playfully described as ‘a highbrow version of Braggart’ by the still-brooding John, this stylishly produced and decorated affair proved somewhat obtuse and (tbh) gonad-shrinkingly dull. In summary, you move around a circle of Princess cards who have a pair of symbols printed on them, with a season symbol and a ‘current fashion’ symbol in the middle. You play cards from your hand that represent the Start and End of poems, each of which have a number of symbols on too. Each symbol match on your poem with the Princess / Season/ Fashion increases the poem’s score. Players can discard your poems on a Princess if they ‘write a poem’ with a bigger score. At the end of the Season (four will be played in the game), some confusing scoring processes are followed and it’s off once more. Not so much Oriental poetry as Chinese Water Torture – knuckle-crackingly slow and un-engaging IMHO and we called it after just the first round when the scoring seemed wholly unreflective of all the work we'd just done! There was ONE moment of pleasure to be had from this hand-painted turd, however:
My poem reads:
“Like the wave driven
By the wind against the rocks
So am I: alone,
Let us welcome now the plum,
And all the pleasures it brings”
Parapharased that's “I’m alone, so I’ll play with my plums”.
Dirty, dirty little man.
Welcome...to my Shed!
Too much heterosexual reproduction
Agricola has ‘family growth’, Helvetia and Sammarkand have their ‘marriages’- even the Stone Age tribes-people rut like there’s an ice age tomorrow! We need more ‘adoptive’ paths to increasing actions; we need reduced pressure to fill the world with more mouths to feed and, most importantly of all, we need better internal decorating decisions.
Suggested titles: Bi-opoly, Rudiger Dorn’s Gaya, Who’s the Lesbos?, anything from Queen Games etc
The ‘Bank’ does not reflect real-world Financial practices
Bad investments/decisions should really affect everyone AROUND the decision maker, rather than the decision maker themselves; all the better if you can disrupt the financial goings-on of a game on an adjacent table! Power Grid needs to allow you to big-up your companies profile by exaggerating how many cities it can power, borrowing capacity from other players, taking control of land-based gas pipelines and the like. You should be able to fountain cash against barren earth, like a burst water-main, and watch as someone else has to pull in their belts. Imagine Monopoly with a Prime mortgage system or, perhaps, the ability to burn down your hotels and claim the insurance?
Suggested titles: Go For Someone-else being Broke!, Rogue Traders of Carthage
Eco-terrorist levels of Resource squandering
Why all this wood and paper? It doesn't grow on trees, you know! What’s wrong with shiny, weightless and slippy plastic components? You save money on manufacturing and postage and massive damage to ecosystems through the exploitation of oil, coal and gas are a small price to pay for deluxe copy of Carcassonne for less than $40, surely?
Suggested titles: Toc Toc Plasticman, 221B Bakelite Street, The Resinstance, The Open-Cast Mines of Zavandor, Upon A Salty Oil-slicked Ocean etc
Could you REALLY get a Cloister Courtyard for 2 Wood (Ora Et Labora)? How about a full-blown Bakery for just 3 Stone and an Oven (Agricola)? And don’t even start me on the giant windmills for €13. For such a tiny investment you’d be lucky to get a sign knocked-up with the builders name painted on it and a bucket to piss in! Let’s start having some realism here.
Suggested titles: You’ll Need More Than Brass, Lets Catch The Loan/Dungeon Debtz, Last Will (Less Legal Fees), Mortgage Im Arosa, 10% Deposit Up Front, Samurai-o-u etc
Textspeak and abbreviation are rife in everyday linguistic intercourse – it’s time that board-games reflected the voice of the new millennium (as ugly and grating as it may be!)
Suggested titles: ProFl (Princes of Florence), Wrld (Small World), Tkt2Rd, NdevR, Go-MG! etc
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