Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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Under the weather

Anthony Boydell
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After the grousing, griping rainclouds of Tuesday came the clammy, oppressive doldrums of Wednesday as an ‘off mood’ I seem to have drifted across developed into an all-day, low-level sulk. Usually when I feel this way, its because my ‘Temple’ is fixin’ to get sick – aching eyes, sore joints, heavy sleeping broken by thick-headed and stumble-prone awakenings. Most noticeably (for those in my immediate circle) I become mute; not saying very much at all, I eschew the obvious filthy rejoinder.

Last night we were all eagerly pre-scheduled for some Agricolean action – in the form of Agricola: Farmers of the Moor – followed by the further worker placement tastiness of Belfort (which I have not played yet, but comes with MUCH recommendation – and not just from Ser Stephen of the House Walker with whom I have a fractious ‘new game’ relationship). I got in from ‘work’ quite early and, with a background headache that needed ‘cetamolizing, I tried to snooze off the general grey fug. It became quite clear, after arriving at Carl’s, that my head was not going to feel any better – that the fog wasn’t going to lift.

Carl, Elizabeth and Iain had already set up FotM - pre-warned that this version elongates the normal game by a hefty percentage – and we were able to get going quickly after a brief rules change/addition explanation. While the extra playing time is a spoiler for this expansion, I think that’s more than outweighed by the excellent ‘twist’ it gives. FotM is NOT just ‘more of the same’ like the various decks you can get – it changes the flow and focus of the game and introduces more tough decisions. It still surprises me that FotM is so cheaply available and Agricola fans aren’t snapping it up (maybe they all have, already?)

As well as needing to heat your home, you have the Special Action cards; wood flows much more freely and, as a consequence, you’ll see the large-value accumulation spaces filling up and overflowing before anyone takes a second glance! You also get more Major’s and Minors to spice things up. It’s a feast of difference that makes your head hurt a little bit more – NOT a good thing when you’re feeling the way that I was – but I’m not important so c’est la vie etc

(La vie, etc)

Richard and Iain spent much of their time playing out Minors and Occs, with the latter hoovering up not so much a ‘display kitchen’ of Majors, as a fully-blown Regional Distribution Warehouse. Richard was doing it because he had Braggart, Iain was doing it because…well…that’s just the kind of thing Iain does. As it transpired, Iain’s woeful farm sucked away any advantage he might have gained from 32 (yes, THIRTY TWO) points on cards and he pulled in third, just ahead of fellow hand-emptier Ricardo. Carl and I played a more traditional game, though Carl seemed to have caught the ‘cards in play are good’ bug – I made do with a paucity (6 cards) in comparison. Elizabeth quietly followed her own path – well away from the posturing, combo-gloating boys.

In this instance, I think my melancholic mood proved an advantage as I bantered-not and ne’er-quipped, focusing on my farm board and my throbbing head*:



A proper farm, a little troublesome to heat (that’ll be the Round 5 double-room build, Tony – big house = harder to keep warm), but a text-book Agricola treat nonetheless. Once again, I kept my head down and let the others tornado around the actions and it paid off: 45 (me)–42–40–39-25

Softly, softly catchy monkey – oh, that’s not right, monkeys are in Cave Farmers...

*sigh*

*Yes…I know…
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Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:25 am
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Plan 9 From Outer Guildford

Anthony Boydell
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I feel sorry for ‘Uncle’ Steve – I really do. He works all day then navigates the motoring sewage outfall that is the M25; he lugs an enormous caddy of 6 player games up the Wycombe hills and for WHAT? To hear ‘Uncle’ Tony complain YET AGAIN about something he’s brought to the table for the first time and ends up in the middle of several belligerent ‘discussions’. My recent record of success with Monsieur Marcheur and ‘things he thinks I would like’ is, like a resident of Kibera (Kenya), woefully and global media-attractingly poor.

Steve: (all smiles, places Zong Shi on’t table) You’d like this!
Tony: (vomits)

Steve: (reaches for Edo) The NEW Kickstarter-ed one from Queen Games…

Tony: (vomits again – this time into a freezer bag, wipes chin then holds up bag) I’d rather play THIS than Edo every again.

Steve: (pleasantly-demeanored, digs Olympos from his bag) There’s much to love in this one, Tony!

Tony: (keeps supper down) Meh? What’s next?

Steve: (tentatively Strozzi is placed upon the Hallowed gaming arena) I got this from The Works for 8 quid AND it’s by Reiner Knizia...

Tony: (prolapses) I like everything about it apart from the theme and the mechanics…and the art…and the wooden player pieces stolen from Goa...

Ickle-wickle Stevie-Bobbins (with ribbons in his hair) would be forgiven for thinking that I regard his choice in games with a massive, and U.N-mobilizing, contempt; that I have somehow settled into a cerebro-jouer vendetta the like of which has not been seen since Bruno Faidutti crapped into Martin Wallace’s green, suede titfer at the IGA nominations ‘cheese and biopsy’ party in 2008.

He couldn’t be (like that hat story) further from the truth, though; I love Sir Stephen of Shanks’ Pony and, by association, all who have sailed in him. I have the utmost respect for his tastes – it’s just that 1 out of 4 in the last 6 months is a batting average we need to work on; perhaps a little more attention of the ‘Forward Defensive Stroke’ and less on the ‘Look what I got cheap/on Kickstarter’…

Strozzi, for the unknowing, is as follows: four ‘scoring tracks’ are available for players to advance on and, three times in the game, score against. One advances on tracks by ‘winning Ships’ in an ‘auction’. Ships contain icons for goods (matching three of the four tracks), occasionally a scroll or two (the fourth track) and maybe the chance to choose a bonus chit for end-game scoring. As far as the auction bit is concerned, each player has a set of three chits for the round:

- Extra Goods: if I win the auction, I get one more thing for the ship

- Extra Speed: if I win the ship, my ship will be faster (nearer the top of the round scoring heap), and

- Pirate: that’s MY ship and no-one else can take it

If you’re the Start player, you reveal the top ship of the deck and either bid on it with one of your chits OR pass (and let someone else have a go at it). Cue: a tedious period of very little decision making (you either want something or you’re too far away in the bid order to even get a chance on it coz someone steps in with a Pirate or a bid which can only be beaten by a pirate etc). People win ships, they advance up some tracks, there’s some end of round scoring and you might also pick up some bonus chits to get more VPs at the end if you have ‘the most of that type’ etc etc ad infi-bloody-nitum. I’m now predisposed to NEVER look at a Reiner Knizia game (new or otherwise) ever again*. He famously ‘isn’t interested in theme’ and ‘never plays games for fun’ and, by the mirkin of Michelle Obama, does it show. Strozzi is a soulless, by-the-numbers abstract – cliché-filled, boring and wholly unremarkable. I may be alone in feeling like this but where (in this colostomy bag of average-ness) is any indication that he CARES about the game or, more importantly, the people who will play it? He is a veritable one-man hurricane of Meh! that hoovers up publishing slots like WOOD fills up ship spaces in the excellent Santiago De Cuba!

The Universe (as we know it) pre-Big Bang:


Contrast the bland-leading-the-bland guff-attack of Strozzi with the gorgeous, sweeping, atmospheric, elegant and – take notes for your next lecture, Mr K: ‘fun’ - Eclipse – a teaching game for Lord Walker of Stephenford that even several semi-serious play-mistakes couldn’t dampen! With a late start due to supper and having to ‘end’ the risible Strozzi, the return of the Empire of the Midnight Beard, the Pessemistic Hegemon (still, comfortingly, prone to boxing themselves in) and the mutated (now Alien) Red Nebula had to be called with two rounds to go. While I found myself severely hamstrung for most of the game, I enjoyed the whole experience – even when a full compliment of six seemed to drag the hours out!

Part of our problem, as a gaming group, is we’re prone to ‘regular discussion’ during play. By this I mean, of course, endless side-conversations about disconnected subjects (football, Carl’s sexual beard-fantasies, Tony’s latest game etc), long verbal tracts** re: players options, players current last/next move, the game ‘as a whole’ etc. All these serve to distract and confuse – perhaps accidentally, perhaps as a deliberate ploy for gamesmanship? All I know is we ended up in a five minute heated debate about why turns were taking so long! Carl was growing ever-more frustrated as, at one point, the time-elapsed between two of his turns was TWELVE MINUTES!

Mr S Walkerington (of ‘the South’), however, very much ‘liked’ the session and was ‘ahead’ on the scoring when the Universe collapsed into it’s own Singularity at 23:50; this means I’m out-performing the SW-meister quite considerably in the ‘successful introductions’ league.

Ho-McDiddly-Hum.

*apart from the gorgeous Modern Art, of course
**talking of long tracts, see ‘prolapse’ comment from earlier
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Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:43 am
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Old MacBoffo had a Farm

Anthony Boydell
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Mother,

I apologize for the delay in my correspondence but the M.Ps have tightened their scrutiny of my muddy trench and I suspect they’ve been taking the Epistle behind my back. I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the security services probing my passage, but it seems there’s a leak they’re looking to staunch! My dugout’s seen rather too much action recently!

With Boffo and Smudge about to take a short camping holiday by way of Leave (apparently Smudge is rather adept at erecting poles in all weathers and loves a good mountain), yester-evening’s gathering for games returned to some Club favourites by way of comfort. We were joined in the foxhole by a recently-promoted Jobbers; it seems he has impressed the NCO with the way he handles his Privates – and his Oral skills are to be admired also.

First on the agenda, while I was seeing a man about a very large and stubborn fecal canine, were some fillers or other – I pay little attention, to be honest, as they’re invariably tedious, abstract card-based affairs. Boffo has quite a collection of these moribund time-wasters – one will often find him happily palming an over-sized deck or creaming Smudge after a vigorous two-hander.

When I’d finally extricated myself from the latrines, it was just in time to set upon Agricola – a fine diversion indeed – with the added ‘amuse bouche’ of using Occupations and Minor Improvements from the E, I, E, I and O (Austrian) decks. It took several minutes for us all to calm down enough to begin actual play, what with the hysterical guffawing and projectile-vomiting that ensued from the MacDonald-based punnage.

Boffo found himself a delightful, bijou combo-ette with Cook and Lovable Vagabond – meaning a FULL family compliment only cost him 6 Food per harvest. Boffo tends towards monologue-ing during such games and didn't disappoint on this occasion – a constant sound-track of play-narration, amateur punditry and aloof patronization of others’ turn choices. My own massive collection of Major Improvements proved disappointingly inadequate, garnering a 3rd position (34 pts) ahead of a brow-furrowed (but seemingly directionless) Jobbers (30) but behind both Boffo (40, in full-volume ‘smug’ mode) and a contemplative Smudge (37).

Next up was a cursory attempt at Panic Lab – a tin-box, pattern-recognition party game that I’d picked up for free from Corporal Crook. I’d got as far as a first pass through the (simple, childish) rules before both Boffo and Jobbers lapsed into a veritable arse-gas typhoon of whining and complaining – you’d have thought I’d skipped my pre-session toileting and, instead, evacuated an enormous ‘Box Brownie’, on the table, in front of them! Boffo sat wheezing like punctured bellows and Jobbers had fallen into a deep, catatonic sulk.

In an attempt to spur the comatose Jobbers into a period of observable activity, a noble Boffo stiffened his resolve (he also girded his loins) and posited Modern Art. In a gesture of support I put my best foot forward (well, best 11 inches) and Smudge was as accommodating as usual. Several astonishing auctions (including the admiration of Smudge’s fine pair of Yokos) and 30 minutes later, Boffo emerged (again) victorious by a paltry (but enough) $4000 ($514,000 played $510,000). Most remarkable was a Boffo-induced ‘double auction’ that immediately garnered a $75,000 Jobberian bid – I was so shocked by both the immediacy and outrageous (nay ‘foolhardy’) generosity that I burst into song! Fair play to Jobbers, his aggressive approach almost-but-not-quite did the business – but $75,000? To Boffo? Sweet Jesus Christ of Nazareth on a book-signing Tour!

As the evening seemed pre-ordained to be ‘a classic of the genre’, we rounded off with Braggart – I say ‘we’, but fully fillered-out Jobbers played the ‘work tomorrow’ card and departed in a cloud of muttering. Braggart is not his cup of tea as it presents little in the way of ‘decisions’ – though the rest of us love it intensely for the singular decision it ALWAYS presents: “Do you want to have fun?”. Despite an oddly-unbalanced shuffle – and a consequent uneven distribution of green and red cards (essential) – we still managed to slip in enough sous entendu, double-meanings and just plain ‘rude things’.

After helping Boffo with his swollen sack, I bade the cheery pair a fond farewell...and said goodbye to Boffo as well.

Your loving son,
Antonius
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Sat Jul 7, 2012 5:56 pm
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Titters

Anthony Boydell
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A: Knock Knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Puerto Rico.
B: Puerto Rico who?
A: I didn't know you could yodel!

A: Two board-game designers walked into Ludofact's staff canteen. The barman asked 'What wood a-you like?'

A: Knock Knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Ra.
B: Ra who?
A: What have YOU got to cheer about?

A: Why did Martin Wallace cross the road?
B: I don't know - why did Martin Wallace cross the road?
A: He didn't, in the end, and now the road is aggressively litigating!

*BOMP-TISH*

A: Knock Knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Here I Stand.
B: Here I Stand who?
A: Here I Stand outside the door - LET ME IN!

Q: What's the difference between Jurassic Park and Boardgamegeek?
A: One's a high-tech environment full of aggressive, genetic freaks...and the other is a movie by Stephen Spielberg.

*DRUM-ROLL*

Q: What do you get if you cross Uwe Rosenberg with an Australian?
A: Agrikoala

*THUMPETTY*

A: Knock Knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Snowdonia
B: Snowdonia who?
A: (sings) "Snowdonia bird in a gilded cage. A beautiful sight to see..."

Q: Why does everyone think Rudiger Dorn is miserable?
A: Because every time they ask him what his best game is, he says 'Goa!'

(waits)

Q: Why should you play Le Havre as quickly as possible?
A: Because he who Le Havre's Last, Le Havre's longest!

A: My friend Emma asked me where sado-masochistic gamers go to play? I said: "Essen, Emm"

Q: Why did William Attia get in a Djam?
A: Because he couldn't Caylus!

A: Knock knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Reiner Knizia
B: Reiner Knizia who?
A: Oh, that's CRUEL!

Q: What's the difference between Glory To Rome and Uchronia?
A: [DELETED DUE TO A CEASE AND DESIST INSTRUCTION]
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Fri Jul 6, 2012 12:17 pm
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Janet and John play Powergrid

Anthony Boydell
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John is in the garden today.

John likes to strangle voles.

See John laugh.

See John laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.

Do you know what a severe behavioral disorder is? John does.

Janet is clearing the table for gaming.

Janet is singing a song.

Hear Janet sing: “My milkshake brings all the boys to the Yard…”

Do you know what hormones are?

Janet does.

Janet and John’s friends are coming over to play this evening – see the smile on the local Chinese Takeaway Owner’s face. Do you know what MSG is? He does.

Janet and John have friends called Rob, Richard and Tony.

Rob goes to the same school as John. Rob has stolen a fast, shiny car.

Richard has something the other children do not have – that’s right, Richard has a beard. See the hairy bits around the sink. Richard has brought Vinhos. Do you know how to lose 3 hours of your life and never get them back? Richard does.

Tony likes to say rude things a lot because he thinks he is a big boy. See soap and water.

John has finished torturing small mammals and suggests they play Powergrid. John has a new map that he is unsure about – see John scowl.

Rob has never played Powergrid before. See Richard and John and Tony rub their hands together in glee.

The children play with the Quebec map. See the congestion. See the game stagnate at 6 cities.

Tony complains.

John complains about Tony’s complaining.

Richard starts talking about football.

Tony is an Italy fan. See Tony shut-the-hell-up-immediately.

When the game is finished everyone congratulates Richard on his win. Tony went from third to last place on the random turn of a power station. Do you know what a massive hissy-fit is? Tony does.

John is fed-up with the new map. See John set fire to the map, then bury the ashes in the garden next to the cooling corpses of the voles.
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Thu Jul 5, 2012 8:19 am
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Derek & Clive Get The Dobber

Anthony Boydell
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(with apologies to Peter Cook & Dudley Moore)

DEREK: (chanting) ‘Ohmmmmmmm-om-om-ommmmmmm’

CLIVE: I'll tell you something, er, that religious singin’ reminded me of something.

DEREK: (chanting) ‘Om-ommmmmmm’’

CLIVE: Did you, did you see that, er, game “The Pillars of the Earth”?

DEREK: Yeah.

CLIVE: That worker placement ‘fing from Kosmos/Mayfair?

DEREK: Yeah.

CLIVE: With stone and sand and craftsman and metal and stuff?

DEREK: Yeah, right.

CLIVE: Didn't half give me a dobber! Seeing it laid all out on the table like that. It looked so f*cking playable, didn't it? I mean, like, I couldn't prevent myself, you know, having a wank immediately 'cause it looked-, it looked so “well presented”. Somebody had, er, gone to the trouble of setting up a sample ‘mid-game’ with the rulebook…

DEREK: Well, the graphics and iconography was fantastic; who done the artwork?

CLIVE: Er-r, was it Michael Menzel, was it?

DEREK: Was it Mr Doris & Frank?

CLIVE: Mr Doris & Frank or…

DEREK: Yeah, I don't know...

CLIVE: ...or Mrs-, could be Mrs Doris & Frank done it? I dunno.

DEREK: Yeah, I dunno.

CLIVE: 'Cause he does a lot of things does Menzel.

DEREK: It was bloody beautiful. But it's interesting, gave you a dobber.

CLIVE: Well, I-, I find I'm, you know, I'm attracted by, er, highly-detailed and (to be honest) un-necessarily intricate pictures of buildings.

DEREK: By little buildings. Yeah. I can understand that. I can understand that. It's enough to give you a dobber. Anything gives me a dobber, I find. I, you know, can look at anything. I look at, er, a picture of dice, I get a dobber.

CLIVE: You get a dobber?

DEREK: Yeah. I get a very haaaard dobber – almost ‘start player’. I mean, not just any old pawn…

CLIVE: What, any particular, just 6-sided? d8? Percentile? What?

DEREK: I don't distinguish, I don't distinguish: any polyhedral randomizer will do.

CLIVE: Anything gives you a dobber, does it?
DEREK: Anything gives me a dobber, I'm very lucky that way. Except my wife: Valerie. - she doesn't give me a dobber at all.

CLIVE: No, she's an ugly bitch, isn't she?

DEREK: I've explained to her, time after time. I said, "Val," I said, I-, "f*ck knows what it is, love, but you do not give me a dobber." I said, "You f*cking don't give me a dobber!"

CLIVE: I'll tell you what...

DEREK: ...but everything else gives me a dobber. I opened my copy of Thunderstone: Advance - that gave me a dobber, I looked up the English rules for Furstenfeld: that gave me a dobber. I bought a couple of WoW boosters from Waterstones last Wednesday: that gave me a dobber.

CLIVE: Yeah.

DEREK: You know, everything gives me a dobber.

CLIVE: Yeah. Table Top?

DEREK: I like that.

CLIVE: Watching them reviews gives me a f*cking dobber.

DEREK: Yeah, oh yeah.

CLIVE: I reckon it's the way they explain the rules what does it

DEREK: Yeah, yeah.

CLIVE:...really gets me going.

DEREK: Yeah, oh yeah.

CLIVE: I see Will Wheaton just come back from Gencon or Origins

DEREK: Yeah.

CLIVE: He's so f*cking fanciable, that Wheaton.

DEREK: Oh f*cking hell mate, I tell you

CLIVE: 'Cause I only see him in photos and-, and on Big Bang Theory and that, but...

DEREK: Yeah, yeah.

CLIVE:... in the flesh I imagine he must be fan-f*cking-tastic.

DEREK: Hmmm. I bet he gets-, I wonder if he gets a dobber?

CLIVE: I'll tell you another thing gives me a dobber.

DEREK: What's that?

CLIVE: Being told off by the BGG moderators.

DEREK: Oh, yeah!

CLIVE: Whenever I see that message in my Geekmail…

DEREK: You-, you've picked a favourite of mine there.

CLIVE: ... I get so f*cking horny!

DEREK: Oh, f*cking Geekmail, mate. Ohh, Jesus, .....

CLIVE: (quoting) “Forum moderators have reviewed the content detailed above and found it in violation of our rules.”

DEREK: ... don't I- fwoarr! There's such a lot of it about!

CLIVE: "Forum" gives me a dobber, "violation" gives me a dobber.

DEREK: "content"-, and "rules", oh f*cking sh*t!

CLIVE: I get such a f*cking hard-on I don't know what to f*cking do.

DEREK: I'd-, I wrote to the BGGNews editor…

CLIVE: W. Eric Martin? He’s another one gives me a dobber.

DEREK: …I wrote-, well I, I sent a-, I sent a-, a round robin.

CLIVE: Yeah, that's no f*cking good, why didn't you send an e-mail?

DEREK: Well, I sent an e-mail later.

CLIVE: What, with the robin?

DEREK: No, I sent Robin, and then that, you know, it didn't do f*ck all, so I sent an e-mail.

CLIVE: Robbin' Peter to pay Paul that is, it's just f*cking stupid, why didn't you write an e-mail?

DEREK: I did write an e-mail.

CLIVE: Instead of sending some round-f*cking-robin.

DEREK: I sent Robin round because I thought that would be the way to do it.

CLIVE: What, Robin had the e-mail?

DEREK: No, I just sent Robin round!

CLIVE: What good is Robin going round?

DEREK: Until I realised I'd f-, I thought I might 's- .....

CLIVE: Where di-, where the f*ck did Robin go round to?

DEREK: He didn't go round nowhere! I just sent him round!

CLIVE: Round where?

DEREK: He came back, he said, "Where the f*ck am I supposed to go?" I said, "I don't f*cking know, I sent you round, why don't you f*cking go round?"

CLIVE: Why didn't you send an e-mail?

DEREK: C**t.

CLIVE: Well, have you sent an e-mail?

DEREK: I did send an e-mail, yes.

CLIVE: Who to?

DEREK: I don't know!

CLIVE: Well-

DEREK: …I don't know! I sent a f*cking e-mail, I wrote the e-mail and put it in my Outbox, I don't know who I sent it to!

CLIVE: What, you didn't put an address it or anything like that?

DEREK: No! I didn't-, f*ck that!

CLIVE: Why?

DEREK: Waste my time looking it up? F*ck that! Write the e-mail and press f*cking ‘Send’…

CLIVE: What, with no address?

DEREK: No address.

CLIVE: Well, did you get a reply?

DEREK: No! I was f*cking furious so I wrote another e-mail.

CLIVE: What, the same method?

DEREK: Yeah. Got no f*cking reply again! The tw*ts! They're all tw*ts out there!

CLIVE: I wrote to Dale at the Opinionated Gamers last week.

DEREK: Yeah, well, .....

CLIVE: I said, "Dear Mr Yu," you know, respectful…

DEREK: Mmm.

CLIVE: "Pardon the language, but I've got a f*cking dobber on."

DEREK: (sniggers)

CLIVE: And, you know, I thought I'd put it bluntly. "I have got a f*cking dobber and I want to know what you, as a respected gaming journo and developer plan to do about it." You know, ah, I was expecting a reasoned reply of some kind.

DEREK: Yeah.

CLIVE: What'd I get? A f*cking letter come back, saying: "Mr Yu has read your enquiry with interest but it will not be the subject of any article, review or Board2Pieces, though we are sympathetic to your cause." Well, in my view he hadn't even read the f*cking thing.

DEREK: Right.

CLIVE: I think some f*cking secretary looked at it.

DEREK: Tossed it on one side, if you'll pardon the expression.
CLIVE: Martin Wallace gives me a dobber.

DEREK: Oh what? (sucks in) Oh blimey, Martin! Oh, you know, I wish I didn't get a dobber so much, though 'cause my knob aches.

CLIVE: One day-, one day, you know, when you're-, when you're very old…

DEREK: My knob don't half ache!

CLIVE: ... you won't get the-, you won't get a dobber any more. And then when you don't get a dobber you'll say, "I wish I had a dobber." That's what you'll say.

DEREK: Reiner Knizia doesn't give me a dobber. I'd forgotten about him, actually. Valerie and, yeah, Reiner both. Maybe it's that suit she's got?

CLIVE: Has it ever struck you that Valerie might be Reiner Knizia?

DEREK: F*cking hell!

CLIVE: Knizia doesn't give you a dobber, Valerie doesn't give you a dobber, they both have suits! She's obv-, you-, you've obviously married Reiner Knizia

DEREK: Ohhhhhhhhhhh…

CLIVE: ...who's masquerading in the form of Valerie.

DEREK: Ohhh, that's-, Blimey!

CLIVE: Well, you'd better…

DEREK: I feel like-, I-, ohh, that's-, that's given me a massive dobber!

CLIVE: But Jesus, you-, no!

DEREK: I'VE GOT A DOBBER! DO YOU REALISE? I'VE GOT A DOBBER!

CLIVE: But you don't get a dobber for Knizia or for Valerie, .....

DEREK: No.

CLIVE: ...but the thought of Knizia being Valerie gives you a dobber.

DEREK: Yeah.

CLIVE: Well, that's proof, isn't it?

DEREK: F*cking hell.

CLIVE: I think Valerie is Reiner Knizia. If so, you're in schtuck, mate!
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Mon Jul 2, 2012 5:13 pm
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Past Magic

Anthony Boydell
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Look what I found in my attic:

(Taken from THE LAST PROVINCE, Issue 4 - June/July 1993)


"The exciting thing about this project is that it's not just a new game, but it's a new gaming "form". Personally, I think it's going to be the most innovative product in gaming since roleplaying itself. Yes, I know that's a huge claim, but when you see it I think you'll agree. But, I can't tell you any more than that until our financing is secure and we know for certain that it's really about to hit the press."

How's that for archaeology, eh ? (Proudly dusts collar, tightens knot of tie, and grins in affectionately smug manner)
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Sun Jul 1, 2012 10:51 am
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Walnut Weep

Anthony Boydell
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Brother Antoine stamped, smiling, into the Refectory from the Brewhouse; his tabard crusty with dried albumen and his Stubby peeping out from the rough fabric.

“What a most satisfying evening’s work!” he remarked, “I’ve emptied my Tun of mash, removed the wort from by Brune, laid down an effervescent Blond and corked a couple of Growlers! I’m completely spent!”

Brothers John and Benjamin where hunched over an oaken trestle, locked in cerebral conflict.

“What are you playing?” queried Br Antoine as he laid down his basket of bottles and filled a bread roll with Roquefort.

“Junta!” Br Benjamin retorted.

“I only asked” replied a crestfallen Br Antoine, thrusting the cheesy baguette into his hungry mouth.

“No,” continued the wheezy Monk, “we’re playing Junta – a sort of Chess cum Stratego cum Draughts affair from the mid-1970s. By the way, can you fetch some milk from one of the large jugs in the pantry?”

“That reminds me - any news of Sister Rebecca?” asked Br Antoine.

“She won’t be joining us tonight.” said Br Benjamin dejectedly, “She’s attending a Spiritual Festival of Rustic Music and Poetry. She’s no doubt enjoying a feast of Wynkyn and crumhorns, perhaps partaking of a hearty blow herself?”

The stooped Brothers completed their diversion and turned to Br Antoine for inspiration.

“Why have you brought so many 2 player games?” asked Br Benjamin, fingering his butt beaker.

Br Antoine replied: “I had assumed Br John wouldn’t be joining us this evening – especially after your epistle – the one where you expected to be playing with yourself all evening and were longing for someone to fill the hole.”

First from the hessian holdall of delights was Walnut Grove, a pleasingly brisk worker placement/rondel/resource-pushing item from the Continent - brisk in the sense that it took Br John less than a week to take a turn! Luckily, most of the game can be progressed simultaneously hence the removal of aforementioned bottleneck. For the uninitiated, you have some workers to allocate to fields - fields are extended during the game and contain resource types. Workers harvest these resources which can then be used to buy more workers, buildings for the Farm, end-game bonus tiles or converted for money (VPs or wild-card resources) - you have a piece that wanders around the town (a rondel painted to look like a typical Western settlement) in order to do one of these things. Workers need to be fed and, if not in a house, kept warm; eight rounds of this balancing and you're done.

Br Antoine proved most efficient (26), with Br John tailing not far behind on 23; Br Benjamin failed to understand one of the rudimentary harvesting rules of the game and picked up 'less than he should have' for two thirds of the play. Br Antoine (kindly) called him a vulgar synonym for the human vulva and let him return 5 of the 10 'neighborly Help' (punishment) tiles he had collected.

Keen to give the goatee-ed huffer a second chance, Br Antoine selected The Pillars of the Earth from Br Benjamin's worn sack and they refreshed themselves of the rules before commencement. Br Antoine seemed to be making quiet but consistent progress but fell fowl around turn 4 when the other Brothers managed to get first crack at some excellent craftsmen and his 8VPs/turn accrual paled in comparison to their 14+ VP engines. There were 10 points between first (Br B) and last (Br A) at the resolution, but the gasping Friar remained untroubled 'at the top'.

Keen to get some lighter fayre to the bench, Br Benjamin suggested the small but perfectly-formed sheep/lighthouse carder Turn the Tide. A deck of weather cards numbered 1 thru 60 are distributed, in part, to the players at random with remaining stock returned to the box. Some of the weather cards have half or whole 'lifesaver rings' which players collect after summing eg. if I have 4.5 rings on my set of cards, I pick up 4 ring cards. These are your 'lives' with, at the end of each round, lives equaling VPs. There is a separate deck of 'sheep' cards that are auctioned off X at a time (X being dependent on the number of players). Player's blind bid one of their weather cards - the highest bid wins the LOWEST VALUE sheep card, the second highest bid wins the HIGHER VALUE sheep card and everyone else wins nothing. The cards won go on top of a pile in front of the player (so only the top card is visible) - then, the player with the HIGHEST VALUE visible card loses one of their lifesavers. Play continues until a player cannot lose any more lifesavers OR all of the sheep cards are auctioned. You score points for the round equal to the number of life-savers you have remaining (or -1 if you ran out and triggered round end). Cleverly (aka irritatingly) you then pass your hand of cards to the player on your LEFT, so they get a chance for a round with them.

What to say about this? Hmmmm...if you can remember the key high and low cards other players have (as the hands move around) then that might help, but mostly its an exercise in massive group-think luck. Bluff? Not really. Skill? I'd argue strongly that this is not required IN ANY FORM. Being Rain Man would probably help, but this tiresome drilling in guess/counter-guess just frustrates. The best of the three rounds Br Antoine had was when he chose to play cards, unseen, at random. It's not as deep or thinky as it thinks it is and, given the Designer's pedigree, I'd much rather play For Sale! instead - at least in that game you have SOME INFORMATION to work with. And it's certainly NO FUN AT ALL. It reminded one, somewhat, of Fragor Games' debut Leapfrog, where a similar "everyone chooses simultaneously" mechanic leaves one feeling there's nothing to hang any kind of plan onto.

Br Antoine was feeling rather jaded at this point and decided to return to the privacy of the Distillery for some 'contemplation' - grasping his Nips and furiously-polishing his Pijpje until the Cock crew.

In Nomine Pret-A-Porter Et Fiji Et Spiritu Niagra.

Amen.
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Sat Jun 30, 2012 10:49 am
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(and a magazine to read)

Anthony Boydell
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The grindingly-mundane necessities of life often leave us with precious little left-over time and/or money to escape. It's nice to have a drink every now-and-again, I occasionally visit the cinema, read books and (of course) buy and play boardgames.

Newspapers and periodicals are at the fringe of my attention, but I do subscribe to two magazines:
- Spielbox (English edition): you know what this is, and
- The Word: music, movies and books for 'men of a certain age' (ie. >35)

Nothing eases the passage of a troublesome stool more effectively than a 15 minute sit-down sesh with the latest issue.

Today, however, I heard that 'The Word', of 9 years standing, will cease publication after the next issue. To say that I'm upset is like saying "Pirates are fond of Treasure" ie. a colossal understatement. It's rare that one finds a regular publication that is so in-tune with your tastes and for it to be taken away, cruelly by 'the current financial climate', is heart-breaking indeed.

But Tony! It's only a magazine! Get over yourself!

I know it's just pen and ink, but it was MY monthly dose of pen and ink! When I bought the 1st issue back in 2004, it was like someone had read my mind! Articles about cartoonists, classic albums, niche acts, hoary old rock anecdotes, all my favourite bands and actors and authors and comedians and the rest. They wrote with a humour and wit that I adore - they were imaginary mates in a virtual bar with whom one could metaphorically discourse and theoretically get rat-arsed with. I'll miss the flop of the 'special subscriber issue' as it drops through the post-box on to the mat, I'll miss the 'what delights await?' anticipation when unwrapping to cellophane BUT (most of all) I'll miss the two and a half years worth of subscription money that will now be 'un-used' *upside-down smile*

Of course it's happened now, it happened before and it will happen again. Long consigned to the box-file storage units of my mind are previous paper-based diversions as:

- GM (short for Games Master) - role-playing and some board-gaming - ran for 20 or so issues in the late 80s and had several articles written by my pal Mark

- White Dwarf - still going, I know, but I thought it died when it morphed into a miniture gamers catalogue. Gone were Thrud The Barbarian, Dave Langford and the odd Dredd RPG scenario

- Deadline - a sort of wise-ass, graphic-novel cum table-topper spin-off from former 2000AD contributors that gave us the joys of Tank Girl and a lot of 'trendy street gob' masquerading as articles

- Crisis/Toxic - more 'grown up' comic books from the 2000AD spin-off universe; the former was quite worthy, satirical and campaigning while the latter seemed preoccupied with violent dismemberment (Marshall Law, Accident Man) and big-breasted Celtic squid Goddesses

- Crikey - an incestuous comic-about-comics that took the self-referencing so far that they disappeared up their own Editorial

You may have seen the recent news that COUNTER is also coming to an end in its current form, which may mean a) an alternative medium/presentation or b) current form is 'alive' in this case.

So, what will become of the aforementioned Spielbox? This respected informer of 30+ years is surely immune from 'the Fate' that awaited the others above? I hope so, as this is now the only thing thrust through my slot that's giving me any satisfaction whatsoever...
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Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:53 pm
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Cry-babies

Anthony Boydell
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Sunny it was, driving across country for a pre-meeting meeting followed by a proper meeting meeting followed by a steak pasty lunch in a graveyard. Grass-strimming Local Authority chap (iTunes headphones installed) and drip-drippy summer shower aside, it was a very pleasant way to spend the working day. Yes, indeed.

It’s a shame that the evening of game-playing turned out to be the day’s big disappointment *sad face*

First on the table was Alien Frontiers. Richard reminded us of the (very straightforward) rules – though Elizabeth and Carl were new to it, we were very quickly ‘off and running’. AF plays very smoothly: OYT, you roll a number of dice and these can be assigned to buy bonus cards, collect some resources (rock or energy), build colonies (the heart of it – spending rock and/or energy), ‘raid’ from other players or build more dice (ships). The bonus cards are all simple and well-balanced and three variations on colonization give you great options – there’s no such thing as a bad dice roll! Carl used a lot of 6s to terraform his way around the planet (cheap on resources but loses you a ship that needs to be re-built) – this was combo-ed by taking control of the ‘clear dice’ (accessed by the owner of a particular planetary region) which rolled for 6s too, powering his terraforming strategy more. Card hogging from me (and some judicious discards to swap domes about) helped me into a tie-broken second place (more cards). Lots of details in the mechanics of this game really please me – it feels like its been carved, sanded and polished to a statuesque finish. Excellent.

So, a positive start – and ‘why the sad face, Tony?’ must surely be hovering on your lips (if it hasn't already dropped on to your chin).

Well, next up was Power Grid – decanted from the massive containers that Carl forced (nay whipped) Elizabeth into transporting from the living room into the dining room on wooden rollers! I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure she was humming the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco (though it MAY have been just the hamster tearing at surplus TCG cards).

I was first of the group to grab a copy of the recently-released Ltd Ed Quebec & Baden-Württemberg map. In setup, we decided to NOT use the ‘red zone’ which shut off lots of cheap connections and Montreal South. Setting up the Power station deck involves isolating the eco staions first, then adjusting the deck, them putting them back in. Unfortunately, Richard’s idea of a shuffle seemed to be just putting all of the separated eco stations (Eco’s are never discarded) into the middle of a cut deck which lead to outrageous windmill-clumping and the mid-game Market clogged with utter crap!

Forty five minutes in and no-one was able to build into Stage 2 without guaranteeing they would immediately come last, so we all sat there powering and powering and powering and powering. With the skewed map AND tiny stations, we all sat back powering 6 cities and ramping up huge quantities of money. It looked like we would have to initiate the ‘18XX rule’ for a busted bank at one point, instead Stage 3 arrived and it became very clear that we could all easily build 11+ cities but that Elizabeth’s early [7] station would get her the win.

The football was on the telly – Spain v Portugal in the Semi-Final of the European Championships. This was always going to be an emotional tie, on account of Portugal needing to be bailed out 18 months back and Spain laughing into it’s Paella and then, in recent months, Spain choking up its eggy vegetables now that it needs a financial bail-out itself. Portugal also have ‘Ronaldo’ – purportedly the best football player in the world, only from my own experience of seeing him play I would adjust that title to: “The most petulant, talent-wasting, faux-foulling cry-baby”. The Iberian Peninsula in sporting ‘war’ notwithstanding, Elizabeth picked Santa Cruz over Peloponnes as our ‘closer’ for the night and I launched into an appallingly-bitty and rambling rules explanation. I’d only played it once before and had read through the rules but none of it flowed back out of my mouth. It really didn’t help that ‘the Soccer’ kept drawing Richard and Carl’s eyes and ears away from the game on the table and it felt like what should’ve been ‘easy rules to understand’ were being labored over. Because they weren’t paying attention, and me hashing the spiel in slightly-narked response, there followed a brief period of pronouncing how the game seemed biased and unfair and broken and yadda whiney yadda blah moany blah ie. the starting hands are massively unbalanced, the score cards are massively unbalanced, the wooden pieces are massively unbalanced, _this_ discarded biscuit is unbalanced etc – without even a single turn of ‘proper gameplay’ having been taken! I was all for just packing it away and calling for an early bath (or, failing that, just going home).

When everyone FINALLY got their huffing arses into gear, ‘the Cruz-er’ played smoothly and Round One ended with Richard about 20 points in front of Carl and Elizabeth and me about 15 points behind them. Hands swapped, I turned my ‘lagging behind’ into a final second position (Richard was just too far ahead), with the grumbling Carl having got himself boxed in a bit.

Key points about Santa Cruz:
- everyone should know what the score cards are, this helps you determine what other players might be going for and/or help you to ‘bluff’
- time the play of your score cards to max your benefit/min everyone else
- its designed by Marcel-André Casasola Merkle and published by Hans im Glück so 'broken' it will NOT be
- don’t get boxed in: pay attention!
- box other people in, if possible: pay attention!

I think this is a lot nastier a game than might first be evident from it’s family-friendly presentation and I look forward to playing this with the Peeps again when their not quite so distracted.

On the bright side, Richard and I made it home WITHOUT spontaneously-combusting. Small mercies, eh?
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Thu Jun 28, 2012 1:36 pm
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