Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell - Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy: www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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A Farewell To Farms

Anthony Boydell
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Well, did today's title generate a little frisson of excitement? Surely it would allude to my favourite game of all-time AND it intimates some kind of cessation / departure! Could this mean that...surely NOT...my long relationship with Agricola has come to an end *gulp*?

No - that could never be the case, it's just a dreadful pun to lead into the latest 'game session' report!

START OF REPORT
- we played 4 player Agricola twice
- I came last in both games
END OF REPORT

Not sure why I did so badly - the farms I built were tidy clay or stone affairs with some crop and animal presence. A better set of card bonuses in game two improved the score over the first, but I think I was hit by too many 'actions taken immediately before I wanted to take them' - this throws off your timing and reduces that hoovering up time towards the end (you know, the last couple of turns of stealing those Veeps here and there). I'm going through a birrova dry patch with the game at the moment, not seeming able to grasp those last few points, making elementary mistakes and MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL: not getting any cards that improve my access to grain. The regular 'one action for one grain' is buttock-clenchingly piss-poor and, as a route for food engines, grain seems to be the most efficient.

But hey! Who cares, right?

I'm just grateful to be distracted for a little time with some good pals.

On a different note, if anyone fancies sending me some burning games-related questions, I'd be happy to act as a sort of Hobbyist Agony Aunt (with a capital 'C', of course) - any takers?

Side Note: The answers to yesterdays piccy quiz are as follows:
1.DRAGSTER - congrats to SPINLI for getting this one!
2.BUNNY BUNNY MOOSE MOOSE
3.CAYLUS MAGNA CARTA
4.FAMILENBANDE (AKA Family Ties)
5.HIVE (an OLD version!)
6.FILOU (FELIX THE CAT IN THE SACK)
7.RACE FOR THE GALAXY: REBEL VS IMPERIUM
8.MONASTERY
9.STONE AGE
10.KRAKOW: 1325 - congrats to PalletRanger for getting this one first!)
11.7 WONDERS - sneaky, I know...
12.PELOPONNES
13.PARIS PARIS
14.KEY MARKET - reminder to self: must design a game with Richard to get his sister to do the artwork!
15.CARCASSONNE
16.ALHAMBRA
17.JUDGE DREDD BOARD GAME - oh yes! a real favourite from my student days: we had an on-going league, you know?
18.HAMELN - signed by the Bro's, no less
19.ICE FLOW
20.CARTAGENA
21.ODINS RAVENS
22.DAYS OF STEAM - the first (JKLM) edition
23.SAN JUAN
24.STRING RAILWAY - but of course!
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Tue Jun 21, 2011 3:18 pm
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Picky, piccy...

Anthony Boydell
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Dearest hearts,

Here's some fun for a Monday (sunny or no) - how many of the images hereafter do you recognize?

Name the game in each case...but, perhaps, be wary of spoilers for those a little late arriving?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18.

19.

20.

21.

22.

23.

24.
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Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:52 pm
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Leaving Sassoon?

Anthony Boydell
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Mother,

Our regular games evenings have resumed after a temporary hiatus from myself; your warehouse-level consignment of fois-gras and fortified wine, recently-received, must have been tainted in some way as I've been defecating like a chocolate fountain for a week! Or, perhaps, I shouldn't have consumed the lot on a single, weekend bender...but he didn't seem to mind much.

As usual, this terrible conflict is taking its toll: our mighty weapons have been banging away all night - which leaves us all exhausted come sunrise - and Smudge has been complaining that Boffo is prone to much tossing. It turns out that Boffo and Smudge are now betrothed! As unusual as it is to see someone like Boffo both engaged and vacant at the same time, I cannot fail to be joyful for them.

The happy couple popped by the dugout this last evening with a couple of pals they met over at the Theatre Society (a dreadful, amateur collective obsessed with Greek Tragedy, Ibsen as black comedy and constant attempts to stage 'As You Like It' in the nude).

The first: an enormous, fruity Oriental by the name of 'Big Ding' who, apparently, helped Smudge 'get a little something off her Pillars' and contributed nothing to the proceedings apart from a stream of sous entendu. He works in the canteen where he specializes in Spotted Dick, serving up his 'gourmet' big sausage, and fried eggs which he only cooks in pairs. Let us not speak of him again.

The second was an Officer on a fact-finding mission from HQ: Captain 'Billikins' O'Neill. Smudge was terribly excited to have a commissioned serviceman in the bunker and kept asking if she could see the Officers' Mess.

Conspicuous by his absence, Jobbers failed to turn up - he sent a somewhat-cryptic telegram, however:
TIED UP AT FLANDERS..STOP..PUNISHING SCHEDULE AHEAD..STOP..HOPING TO MOUNT A DARING REAR-GUARD ACTION..STOP..MAY HAVE TO PULL IT OFF ALONE..STOP..JOBBERS..ON SECOND THOUGHTS DON'T..STOP

A quick TransAmerica opened proceedings, though I only arrived mid-game having been caught short - my linen undercrackers straining under the pressure of goose liver and Madeira Wine. The others called the game early, as Billikins and Smudge were about to hit the buffers while Boffo had still to come out of the Engine Shed.

Polite banter about a recent Concert Party performance of 'No Expo Please, We're British' quickly gave way to the traditional Agricolean delights. Boffo and Smudge seemed particularly on-form this evening and took the 1-2 with 36 and 32 points respectively - I think their deft handling of seed (and Smudge's impressive pumpkins) contributed to a comfortable victory. For myself, I failed to remember that attempting to eat a pig without flame will lead to troubles and was forced to beg for a couple of mouthfuls (Jobbers would have been so proud!) and left me in an extremely awkard position (ditto).

Sensing a resurgence of a Port/Pate rectal tsunami, I suggested we close the meeting early with some lighter (roughage-filled) fare.

First up was Gargon, a colourful and tricky filler from Rudiger Dorn - a bit of a favourite with the group, even though the author's name has a suggestion of the Hun about it. Players lead and follow the play of 1, 2 or 3 coloured cards and then compare the values upon them - the winning card(s) in a colour goes into a score pile, the others discarded. High value cards are worth little or no points at game end, while the trickier low value cards can reap big rewards if sneaked out un-contested! End game bonuses are also awarded to the player(s) who have won the most cards in each of the six colours - my winning THREE of these contributed to a crushing 76 point victory, 20 points over my nearest rival!

Secondly, a loud and heckling round of Coloretto - admittedly it was myself that was loud and heckling - a fine win for me (again) predicated on trash-talk, connivance and sleight-of-hand: I may prove absent-minded and sub-par in the proper games, but give me the light fillers and I'm unassailable!

The final course was Braggart and all of us men-folk were shown up to be the pathetic, dribbling fabricators that we are - it goes to further demonstrate that if you want to be EXPERT at lying, deception and manipulation there's no substitute for being a woman*.

Billikins refused to depart until we had all become fully-upstanding for a few verses of God Save The King, during which we also needed to get to our feet.

Your loving son,
Antonius

*(waits)
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Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:51 pm
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20 Questions

Anthony Boydell
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Ok.

I'm thinking of a game. I've written the name down and taken a photo (which I will post up later).

Your job is to ask me a question to which I will provide only a YES or NO answer.

20 questions and then I win...

...who'll start the proceedings?
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Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:09 am
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That's toast. Mmmmmmm, yeah!

Anthony Boydell
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Login: gaetaf
Password: d00med_un1ped

> vi gamecode.txt

init('Battlestar Galactica')

def main()

def players = (carl, tony, brendan, iain, ray, richard);
def numplayers = 6;
def currPlayer = 1;
active_player = array(players, currPlayer)
def win = false;
until win <> NULL
gosub playerTurn (currPlayer, win);
if currPlayer = 6 then currPlayer = 1 else currPlayer=+1 ;
end;

msgbox 'The $win have won!'

end;

> cat admiral.log
**************************************************
Date: 15-06-2011-1930
**************************************************
Tonight it was Starbuck's (Iains) turn to choose the games in the rec room and, with six of us, SpaceFarmer(TM), Adama-inion and/or For Cylon! were ruled out. Cadet Brendan Cannonfodder joined us for the first time and had to undergo the traditional rules explanation / torque-wrench initiation ceremony. Round the 'old Galactica board' this evening were Callie (Carl), Starbuck, President Gaius Baltar (Ray), Leoben (Richard, infiltrating), myself (Admiral Gaeta) and Kat (new blood: Cadet Deadmanwalking).

I must admit to laying into the cherry wine a little vigorously 'from the off', which meant Leoben's explanation of components and game-play kept getting interrupted with crap 'viper? do you mean vinscreen viper?' jokes.

I was dismayed, nay overjoyed, to see that my first Loyalty Card for the game said 'You Are A Cylon' - not bad for the Admiral, possessor of two nukes, but - unfortunately - the rules do not allow for me to reveal, detonate aforementioned missiles and 'resurrect myself' in a glorious final victory for the metallic Empire (sad synthetic face). So, we would have to do it the hard way.

The few rounds up to the first successful Jump played out quietly - the sycophantic toaster Leoben playing out Investigative Committees and manipulating the Destiny deck to allow safe skill checks and the like (traitor!). I did my best by putting in 1's whenever needed, as well as sneaking in a Zero with a 'before totalling' effect that killed value 5/6 cards. Quite satisfyingly, by the time I chose the first destination card (a zero that also lost us some resources - feigning the old 'rock and a hard place' choice - over a jump 2 and GAIN some fuel goodness!), the twitching finger of paranoia was already hovering over the unfortunate Baltar (Ray). Result!

(From left: Starbuck, who's let herself go a little - frankly - and Baltar)

As the next cycle played itself out, it became increasingly obvious that Leoben wasn't going to be of any help to the glorious mecha-cause and Starbuck was playing like the most loyal Human you ever did see (ugh!) - Iain really 'gets' this game, so subterfuge would need to cope with his optimal plays and spot-on suggestions if I was going to succeed.

At one point, it was mooted that we execute Baltar (isn't it always thus?), to which Callie responded: "I think we should execute Ray...but that's nothing to do with the game!". How we laughed - well, all of us except Ray - obviously.

Things were getting tricky - the humans bogged down in piddling Crises and low Jump numbers, while I still didn't know who my potential ally would be. Come the second wave of Loyalty cards, that question was quickly answered...Baltar was, indeed, 'one of us' (having just received the appropriate notification). Within short order, the Cylon fleet had appeared to wreak Holy, righteous and tin-coated fury against the 'fleshy ones'*. Civilian ships fell in flaming death (hurray!), Galactica sustained unhealthy damage - taking all of the humans into Sick Bay (whoo-hooo!) and heavy raiders circled menacingly for the kill.

(The last remains of the 12 Colonies get all cosy in Sick Bay - LOL!)

With Baltar out in the open, I spent a glorious single-player-turn as both President AND Admiral (voice-synthesized woot!) before doing the honorable thing and joining my made-up Brother. We nearly stole the game at that point with a couple of Centurions, marching magnificently along the track - unfortunately, the crisis card that activated them into 'end of game' range was removed with Starbucks' once-per-game ability (a-boooooooo!!!!!). There was a flurry of Executive Orders that allowed them to shoot our shiny pals into the vacuum (emotion:= sad) and we were back to the tense to-ing and fro-ing, watching the jump track advance depressingly steadily.

Meanwhile, our resources continued amass 'off board' until a double-basestar, raider squadron and full compliment of heavy raiders (4, count 'em - four!) attack force faster-than-light-ed into a colony ship rich space region and began kicking 'last remaining survivor' butt!

Yeeee-haaaaaarrrr!

(Look who's coming to dinner!)

In the end, with a final jump required for the humans, a roll of 5 or more was required - any less and they'd sustain fatal population loss. Starbuck, their expert - their last hope - rolled...

...a TWO!
...a frakkin' TWO!
...not five, or six, or seven or eight...

...TWO!

A win for the toasters! Victory for the supreme, one-God, shiny happy pretend-people! Oblivion for the monkeys and, rest assured Leoben: you'll be boxed soon enough. Ooh - I almost forgot...

win:= 'Cylons';

*an oblique reference to Call-Me-Kenneth...anyone get it?
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Thu Jun 16, 2011 9:35 am
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Testing Times

Anthony Boydell
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The process of games design is like climbing a really big mountain – you know, you struggle up to the horizon bit that looks, for all the world, like you’ve finally achieved the Summit and it turns out to be a teasing undulation combined with an optical illusion…and you still have miles to go!

Today I thought I’d share a couple of play-test stories from Surprised Stare Games Ltd’s past.

[1] Fzzzt! – in ALL of the incarnations of my robotic fantasy right up to (literally) the week before we started laying out final artwork, there was a wholly-different Fzzzt! card in the deck. It was a money card with a good final score value but also, if played in a blind bid, could be sacrificed (removed from the game) to discard the card at the front of the line with the bid resolving to win the next one.

The idea was you’d just bought a pile of crap…

This would usually be timed to pull the rug from under a particular player, usually towards the end of the game when you have a rough idea what people are going for. In the fateful playtest, Richard Breese was a victim of this stratagem and was so horrified by experience that he fore-swore his usual genteel notes and just hit us with a faceful of disdain!

Richard was, of course, right to be upset: Fzzzt! has its interaction in the blind bidding – do I bluff three low cards to put everyone else off? How much do I pay for one particular card and be left with less money/bidding power later in the round? Can I sneak a tie-break on this card? Etc. It was wrong to then introduce a ‘take that!’ element to the bidding resolution – it was too swingy, it was too unfair and it necessitated a paragraph of rules all on its own!

The solution was very easy to come up with – a good bidding robot but useless to for Production Units and a minor VP penalty trade-off: still on theme and fair. This is an example of a mechanic that, on its own, undoes all of the good will built up by the rest of the game.

[2] Totemo – another example here of a mechanic/component that was core to the game from the very earliest jottings, but was cut-away in the final appraisal! Players originally started the game with the same set, in their colours, of joker tokens – a bit like those you get in Finca but Totemo was there first! They did things like ‘place an extra block this turn’, ‘swap the top block in a stack with one from your hand’, put a block(s) back into the bag etc.

These morph-ed into a deck of special effect cards that built on the tokens idea (excuse pun, please); you then hit key parts of the score track exactly to draw more of them, played them to manipulate the stacks and tweak your scores (so you could land on MORE bonus spots) etc.

It was that man again, Mr Richard Breese, who enjoyed the game but felt the card element got too much in the way – they were an extra layer of complexity that a) confused less experience gamers (timing, spotting good combos etc) and b) necessitated that all important extra paragraph of rules!

As much as I was irritated about a favourite part of the game being dissed so, I took the suggestion to abandon the cards altogether away…and came up with the bonus spaces that seed the score track at the start! The only bonus is the ability to play (and score!) another block – no more complicated than that!

The net effect of this change was people were still aiming to hit bonus spots but with less fiddling – it was about simple numbers. This is an example of a mechanic that made game-play cleverer (gamer-y) but at a cost to simplicity and elegance.

[3] Scandaroon – this is my much-maligned and mostly-ignored card game ‘with a score board’. It looks really bland, but it plays in a satisfyingly rich and interactive manner – honestly, it does! Scandaroon started life as a single, 54 card deck with a two-card score track; players built their lines and manipulated scores with the aim of either winning a round (most points, take their highest value card into their score pile) or coming second (second most points, take their lowest value card into their score pile). When a fixed number of rounds was played, whomever had the most points in their score pile was declared the winner. Full stop.

In this example, play-testing and development – see, I introduced a new word there – felt that the game was lacking a layer of interactivity and new ways of fighting for / earning victory points were introduced: highest score pile total was just ONE criterion, add points for 1/2/3 in a round and ‘highest overall’ score in the game were others. The score board expanded and, for some of the original players, the feel of the original was lost. Did we spoil the game at this point?

My view of the whole Scandaroon story is clouded, ultimately, NOT by it’s structure or even the flat presentation, but by the Essen at which it was launched (2007). I would be surprised if we sold more than 50 copies across the whole five days. On the Saturday, doors open at 10AM, we didn’t conduct our FIRST demonstration to a prospective customer until 3PM…FIVE HOURS of standing at the front of the booth, hands behind your back, smiling at the throng as they walk right passed.

That experience was compounded by International ATM transactions not working for the first two days of the show and there was a train (and U-Bahn) strike on the Saturday. Utterly bloody miserable.

The experience was nearly recreated when we set about producing Confucius a year later - but that's a whole different story with a cast of exotic characters, intrigue, deceit and missed opportunities. Maybe I'll get round to telling that another time - just need to get a Lawyer to look over things first.
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Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:35 pm
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I'm Ever So Wound Up

Anthony Boydell
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There's another expansion for Dominion! Woot and double woot! Woot so hard you need to take a spatula to your underpants, you dirty dog.

Wow! I may just ejaculate into my pants: AEG are releasing another card-based money-printing engine with flash artwork on. Who cares if it's any good (clue: the new one isn't) when you've got a painting of a former member of Evansescence with big teeth and nasty, rippy claws on?

Lord! Save Me! I may just expire on the spot: there's another cube-pushing, resource management thing with a board and a deck of cards and probably a rondel and picture of a bloke stood in front of a boat or a carriage or a f*cking castle or something. And he's holding a scroll or a sextant or his f*cking c*ck or something.

Or something.

There goes the neighbourhood! I just can't stop squealing! Another big-box Civilization game that we all know works much better on the PC coz it takes all the fiddling out of it. But it comes in a BIG BOX with LOTS OF BITS! Or maybe its a minute-by-minute recreation of All Time - from the Big Bang right up to yesterday morning, just after you pee-ed? Board-gasm!

Hark - dost thou hearest it? Something based on a mathematical equation or hypothesis this way comes...who cares about the theme? At least you can play it with the family in complete safety - it comes with a built-in antiseptic. Like Harry Potter cribbing from the half-blood Prince's potions textbook, surely this numerical fart-arsing-about will come to an end soon? For the love of Christ.

I'm feeling quite angry today - mainly because I let someone down REALLY BADLY and that's making me tetchy: a secondary emotion predicated on massive guilt and mortification.

And the Meeples Choice Nominations, the Spiel Des Jahres shortlist (direct debit option available) and every other piece of panty-wetting 'here comes the new King just the same as the old King' tip-of-the-hat / tug-of-the-forelock fawning, preposterous hogwash is just making it worse.

Interact with me, FFS - it's getting awfully quiet around here.

angry
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Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:03 pm
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Come into the garden, Maude

Anthony Boydell
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Enter! in welcome, attend!
Come! Make ingress
to my gardens and feel
(full in the chops)
the gusty wind-whips and the hot-throbbing sun-pulses (south-facing).
O! sweet stinking flora of my Elysian precincts; deeply breathe - breathe deeply!
close both or more of your peepers and, rump-downwards
(on my lounger, pool-adjacent)
sip the Pimms No.1 which, into your sweaty palms, I have proffered.
For herein is offered chitter-chatter on this or thatter matter.

My goodness, but the Spiel des Jahres once more,
rules changing, confounds and confuses:
Asara? Hardly sets the globe aflame
Forbidden Island? Matts got a nom with another game!
Qwirkle – new to the Deutsche, old to the World
And Kennerspiel? A new categorium un-furl’d
SdJ is out of touch, I’d posit
Coz 7 Wonders wasn’t properly nominated, was it?
The dull clouds are looming – after-napwards in the noon.

Following earlier seed-time, a fine crop is growing,
deep-rooted
(photosynthesising,
sugars accumulating)

in the vege-patch, games for the vegan in all of us: San Marrow, Big Zucchini, Through The Cabbages, Modern Artichoke - Don't be so ungrateful - I broke my back, tilling.

the summer house, extended,
smelling of creosote and melted plastic, floor dead-flied,
it holds the bits: no games for me for ages, not even a sniff of working anything out – injury and lethargy conspire. I think I may explode with the frustration of it all! Looking to a Wednesday salvation…

the pond (safely bounded for fear of little tragedies): w-w-weedy-bordered, lilies roughly ordered in amongst. the coy and the carp (harp on), so many tadpoles.

Oh to be a Heron in the Summertime.

Skip into the bloggodendrons, darling, and count the thumbs therein – ne’er many, so scarce this time of year, whither? I’d love to peek how many geek do read but there is no viewing nummer (bummer).

BLYTHE SPIRIT
Act I Scene I

(A beautifully-appointed 1930's entrance hall with hat stand, coat-hooks, and elephants-foot umbrella store. Copies of 'Country Living' and 'Posh Folk Messing About In Boats' lie, stylishly, upon a bureau. Reggie and Bunty burst through the stain-glassed, oak door in sodden raincoats. Reggie is carrying a steering wheel, Bunty is carrying Hepatitis B)

Reggie: (throwing his hat onto the hat-stand and his coat to the floor) What ho! Bingo! Frippery and japes! Benji's Gaming Party was a topping do, what?

Bunty: (fainting, and then getting up again) O, Wedgie! I find those Cons such a bore. Donchaknow that Earth Reborn is so passe?

Reggie: Is it, really? Well, we'd better give it up, then!

Satisfaction? I don't think so.
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Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:40 pm
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Pod People

Anthony Boydell
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As a young man I bought a LOT of music; when I say a lot, I mean a LOT! There wasn't a week that would go by without at least one or two albums being added to the collection - either re-issues on 'cheap' labels or new releases.

I have always been open to new material, as suggested by the various music magazines that I subscribed to at the time: Q, Vox, Select, Mojo and the like. In recent years, and with the advent of the digital (and older) age, I find my interest has waned - oh, I still enjoy my iPod and there's a few Gigs of music on the old iPhone, but my audio delight is now provided, in the main, by Podcasts.

This is, perhaps, the greatest indication of my growing in to middle age - listening to people talk about stuff rather than singing along to a melody.

Heretoforewith is a glimpse into that verbal world - some of my favourite podcasts described:

Gaming Podcasts:
I don't listen to as many of this type of 'cast as you would think - though this is still a category that can (at peak) provide 4 hours a week of hobbyist banter!

[1] The Dice Tower (via iTunes) - not as frequent a listen (for me) as it used to be, Tom's vintage vehicle continues to provide a solid stream of info and opinion. In a way, I kind of regard Tom Vasel as a treasure I first discovered back in the hey-day of the news groups (rec.boardgames.misc etc) when he would regularly (and facelessly) post his reviews - now that he is so universally-regarded (and ubiquitous), I feel I've lost that connection - he's been taken away from me (and I don't want to share him). Perhaps its just me but I also feel TV is groaning under the weight of work being sent his way...

[2] Into The Gamescape (via iTunes) - the Top Gear of gaming podcasts! Mike, Si and Paul (three Gloucestershire-based gamers) had a gentle, friendly demeanor with a casual to medium level take on games (until two of them became obsessed with War Games). The guys have been on an extended hiatus which, sadly, looks to continue indefinitely. I miss their warmth, their generosity and their undivided loyalty to Surprised Stare Games' games! Pick up some of the back-catalogue and enjoy some rambling Brit wittering!

[3] The Spiel (via iTunes) - an occasional delve for me, this one, but one of the highest quality gamer podcasts out there. When they do something, they do it well and thoroughly! I particular recommend their Christmas Gift Guides. They first came to my attention about five years ago when they reviewed Coppertwaddle, thinking it was REALLY a 700 year old CCG-style card game! I just had to write in to correct the error - though I waited a week or so before I did!

[4] The Little Metal Dog Show (via iTunes) - Michael Fox drives this new pod-shaped vehicle into the naughteens with style, professionalism and an almost nauseating enthusiasm! Recently tethered into the Dice Tower network, Michael and friends have been (and will be) getting some of the biggest names in gaming (Richard Garfield coming soon) 'in for a chat' - who'd have thought Milton Keynes could be so inviting? This is definitely the one to watch...

[5] The Royal Society of Gamers (via http://www.royalsocietyofgamers.com/?p=21&utm_medium=twitter...) - VERY new boys on the block indeed (this week sees their podding debut)! I know at least two of the chaps from London On Board, the excellent bi-weekly club in Gresham Street, London. Treat them gently, they still have the umbilical attached...

Comedy Podcasts:
[5] The Collings and Herrin Podcast (via iTunes) - Richard Herring (stand up comedian, one-time partner of Stewart Lee in the 1990s) and TV journalist Andrew Collins swear their way through news stories and general chitter-chatter (about thisser and thatter). Crude but compelling - now in the 170s...I've been listening since the beginning (phew!). Also check out Richard Herrings 'internet stand up show' As It Occurs To Me (also iTunes) - this one is VERY rude, stacked full of in-jokes and one of the episodes (from June last year) contains me shouting a question from the audience. Hilarious.

[6] The Friday Night Comedy Podcast from BBC Radio 4 (via iTunes) - oscillates between The News Quiz and The Now Show, topical satire from Brit panel show comedy favourites. You're probably listening to this one already...

[7] The Adam and Joe Podcast (via iTunes) - Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish have known eachother since childhood. They did a Channel 4 TV show in the late 90s / early 00s and have hosted radio shows on various stations ever since. Joe just directed 'Attack The Block'. These guys are genuinely inventive, warm and hilarious - even the chatty highlights from their BBC6 Music radio show last for an hour and are stacked full of quirky jokes, chat and in-jokes. The semi-regular Song Wars segment is utterly delightful - they write songs on a common theme and ask us, the audience, to vote for the best. Silly jingles pepper the proceedings. Awesome.

Side note: I don't know if its still available, but Timeghost featuring UK comedy duo Armstrong and Miller is worth seeking out - approx 26 twenty-minute nuggets supposedly about current cultural trends but really an excuse for the pair to pretend to be two grotesque pseudo-intellectual types bickering about their partners, their cats and everything else.

Other Podcasts:
[8] A History Of The World In 100 Objects (via iTunes) - quite simply the best thing I've heard EVER. A compelling, rich and fascinating glimpse of world history told across 500,000 years and 100 not-necessarily-the-most-famous-of objects. If you get into this (which I can't see you failing to do unless you're an intellectual sprout), I heartily recommend getting the accompanying (very big and heavy) book from Amazon...what the BBC is famous for: as much a piece of history as the objects it describes!

[9] Starbase 66 (via iTunes) - for the sci-fi (and speculative fiction) fans amongst you. This is a genial, chatty weekly podcast that mainly mentions Star Trek but covers lots of other stuff too. It's like having a few mates around for a water-cooler discussion about last nights screening of 'V' or 'Battlestar Galactica' or the latest 'Green Lantern' movie trailer.

[10] The Word Podcast (via iTunes) - tailor-made for me and my generation, this is an older mans music podcast. Hosted by the editors / producers of UK magazine 'The Word', David Hepworth and Mark Ellen, this is funny and informative - at least about things 30+ folks are interested in. Recent podcasts have featured Van Dyke Parks, Neil Tennant (formerly employed by Hepworth/Ellen at Smash Hits magazine in the 1980s), John Grant and others. Like an comfy armchair...

[11] Mayo and Kermode's 'Wittertainment' (via iTunes) - this one's been going for 10 years and is all about movies, movie interviews, movie news and (most importantly of all) Mark Kermode's reviews of movies. Witness the glory of Transformers 2 and the utter sphincter-clenching fury of Sex and the City 2...and what's more, Mr Kermode is pretty-much on-the-button 95% of the time!

Wow - looking back on the above, its a wonder I get to do anything else with my life between that, playing games and writing this blog...
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Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:45 pm
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Automatic for the People

Anthony Boydell
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(This is in lieu of my usual sous entendu-filled write up of the Friday night Ross-on-Wye Boardgamers session. My middle son fell and broke his arm yesterday afternoon at school - this meant he and my wife spent 5 hours in A&E while I looked after the others - normal lewd 'service' - snigger - will be resumed next week)

When putting the final touches to my card-game Fzzzt!, two and a half years ago now (blimey!), and after having drawn and re-drawn the robots / painstakingly come up with a detailed 'factory background' shot for Charlie Paull to colour in, I had the idea of putting a little extra thematic puzzle in to the game.

This isn't anything new for us at SSG: I spent absolutely AGES coming up with an intricate conundrum for Coppertwaddle which required formatting text on certain cards in a certain way, and the whole our website devoted to Bloody Legacy is about finding out where the legacy of the title has been hidden!

The Fzzzt! puzzle is not quite so elaborate - more of a Geek trivia quiz than a brain-burning enigma. I gave each robot a Hexadecimal code number and a name - you simply have to spot the source/reference for that name.

Here is the full list:
•01 Dewey
•02 Huey
•03 Louis
•04 ED-209
•05 Johnny
•06 Robbie
•07 Ash
•08 Alandroid
•09 CP-30
•0A House Robot
•0B Maximillian
•0C H.A.L.
•0D Fembot
•0E Box
•0F B.O.B.
•10 Gort
•11 Maria
•12 Cutie (QT1)
•13 Eliza
•14 Priss
•15 Herbie (HRB-34)
•16 Roy
•17 Hammerstein
•18 Collossus
•19 Proteus
•1A Gunslinger
•1B D.A.R.Y.L.
•1C Wintermute
•1D A.M.
•1E Tik-Tok
•1F Bishop
•2A Marvin
•20 Deep Thought
•21 V.I.N.C.E.N.T.
•22 Twiki (TB-TB-TB)
•23 Archie

It's been long enough 'out there', so if you fancy a go for the first PLEASE AVOID MOUSE-OVER THE BIG BLUE BOX BELOW, wherein the answers are contained!

For the others who have suffered enough...

Spoiler (click to reveal)

01 Dewey, 02 Huey and 03 Louis are the gardening robots from the wonderful eco-friendly, sci-fi poem “Silent Running” starring a grouchy Bruce Dern (who turned up, recently, as "kooky old guy" in 'The Hole').

04 ED-209 is the Battletech-inspired, dome-nosed machine gun-totting mecha-maniac from “Robocop” - generously giving you “15 seconds to comply” and then shooting the be-cheeses out of you anyway!

05 Johnny – Johnny FIVE is alive and the hero of “Short Circuit”’s saccharine-infused tale of self-awareness and that bloke out of Spinal Tap

06 Robbie – “Forbidden Planet” provided us with this enormous pepper-mill of a mechanoid – prone to guest starring in cheesy TV sci-fi nonsense such as “Lost In Space” and synthesizing whisky

07 Ash – Ian Holm and a mouth full of yogurt; decapitated and then interrogated by a miffed (understandably) Sigourney Weaver in “Alien”

08 Alandroid – not a literary or movie robot, but a reference to Alan Paull who is credited under this name in the Fzzzt! rule book

09 CP-30 – Definitely NOT the camp, golden sex-toy from Mr Lucas’ franchise, but a play on Charlie Paull’s name – also credited under this name in the Fzzzt! rule book

0A House Robot – Desperate for ‘The Orb’ and played by Woody Allen in the brilliant “Sleeper” – watch this movie for the best ‘banana skin’ joke in the world!

0B Maximillian – rotary blades and general nastiness from this Disney-created robo-bad guy: see “The Black Hole”

0C H.A.L. – ‘nuff said about the most chillingly-voiced sentient machine in a movie ever made

0D Fembot – Made to tackle Austin Powers (International Man of Mystery) - is that a machine gun in your bra or is it very cold in here?

0E Box – Lunatic custodian of what is, effectively, a futuristic branch of Iceland – freezes escapees from Logans world and nearly does for Michael York and Jenny Agutter* in “Logans Run” (the movie)

0F B.O.B. – another “Black Hole” automaton - a bit naff compared to Maximillian's slice 'n dice antics!

10 Gort – Klaatu Barada Nikto etc – giant silver destroyer from “The Day The Earth Stood Still”

11 Maria – Beautiful and terrible: “Metropolis”

12 Cutie (QT1) – one of several Fzzzt! robots inspired by Asimov’s “I, Robot” short stories. See? I read as well as watch movies!

13 Eliza – part of the ultimate Turing Test to develop an AI system that would be indistinguishable in its responses ‘on-line’ to that of a human being – lots of fun when you’re 13 and typing swear words into the interface

14 Priss – Daryl Hannah: skin-suit? Legs wrapped around your head? Excuse me for a moment…

15 Herbie (HRB-34) – another Asimovian automaton

16 Roy – a bleached Rutger Hauer in “Blade Runner”– poet, lost child, crusher of people’s heads and eyes…

17 Hammerstein – demolition robot and ABC Warrior – 2000AD fans form an orderly queue, please

18 Collossus – built by the Americans in DF Jones’ classic novel to manage their nuclear defences more efficiently and instantly hooks up with a Russian counterpart: the world is then held to ransom. Filmed as the bleak “The Forbin Experiment”

19 Proteus – “Demon Seed”s insane, desperate to procreate super-computer. Imprisons and impregnates Julie Christie; decapitates a bloke using a giant Rubik’s Snake.

1A Gunslinger – Yul Brynner + Michael Crichton = “Westworld”

1B D.A.R.Y.L. – 80’s yarn that presages the mostly-abyssmal A.I

1C Wintermute – William Gibson’s awesome debut “Neuromancer” gives us this Artificial Intelligence….

1D A.M. – Vindictive son-of-an-IBM that spans the earth in a complex system of tunnels and chambers and tortures five remaining humans in Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”

1E Tik-Tok – from L Frank Baum’s “Oz” series

1F Bishop – after the cold-hearted Ash, the Alien franchise gives us the loveable and noble Lance Henriksen as Bishop in the romper-stomper sequel “Aliens”

2A Marvin – The Paranoid Android from Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy - and the 2A joke is a corker!

20 Deep Thought – Chess computer and also another HHGTTG reference

21 V.I.N.C.E.N.T. – also from Disney’s “The Black Hole” - shoulda bloody stayed there...

22 Twiki (TB-TB-TB) – mainly from Buck Rogers (the TV movies and series) but the ‘tweaky-tweaky-tweaky’ catchphrase has been bastardized to pun of my own initials!

23 Archie – robot Archie, hero of Lion comic annuals. A bit rubbish, but better than Dusty Bin (ooh! a VERY British reference there!)


However, that's not EVERYTHING! In last years' 5-6 player expansion, I added a few more robots - can you spot/deduce the references for these? Clue: one of them is about my youngest son...

•24 Agat-9
•25 Talos
•26 Guardian
•27 R.U.R
•28 Hadalay
•29 Boilerplate
•2B RT-B5 Arty
•2C AP-RU
•2D Joanna Eberhart
•2E Wonderbot

*I'd certainly like 'to do for' Jenny Agutter
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5 Comments
Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:28 am
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