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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Son and Sun

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Well, I don't know about you lot but I made the most of the lovely weather in Gloucestershire and went out for lunch with my youngest boy then out and about the country lanes on my motorbike.

No time for games or gaming.

Ahhhh...tilting into those corners, gliding along the rolling tarmac - feeling the wind rushing through every tiny gap in my trousers.

Who could wish for anything more?
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Fri Mar 25, 2011 8:02 pm
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Power To The People

Anthony Boydell
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Behold! The sun doth rise in the morning!

I told 'em sacrificing that virgin would work.

Last night saw us tootling over to Carl's palatial abode (and dining room*) for an evening of cerebral delights - which turned out, not unexpectedly, to be Power Grid: China/Korea and 7 Wonders (with a side order of delicious beer and spicy, hot shredded chilli beef).

With six of us, we decided to have a go at the Korea map and a great, close game ensued. I'm a relative PG newbie and the rest of the guys are much more au fait with it's subtleties and procedures. Of course, such familiarity breeds lots of in-game debate - who's able to do what? who wants THAT power station? Can X build more cities than Y this turn? etc etc ad infinitum. This, for a newbie, can be quite overwhelming when one is trying to get a solid grasp of the under-lying basics.

At one point in the game, the available power plants (the market?) were of no use to any player - at least, they might have been bigger than stations we already had but were FAR SHORT of the levels needed to prepare for that end-game rush. As a consequence, the market clogged and I found myself a) wanting to get a better station to replace a [1] I'd picked up at game start but b) unable to buy one because they were rubbish (comparatively) and it would bring a better station in to play for the other players. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. In the end, I passed and we all waited...

I was pleased to come third out of six in what was a very tight finish (and, to some extent, I had been 'written off' in the mid-game because of being stymied by the market clog!)

Anyway, several beers and the sweaty effects of one hot Chinese meal later, we progressed to the more genteel world of 7 Wonders-style Civ building. We've all played this a lot (certainly getting our purchase costs worth) but I feel it's beginning to jade a little - here's hoping that the Leaders expansion will re-invigorate this smashing little game.

On the development front, I've pasted up a first play-test copy if Ticket To Ride: Ivor the Engine! I hope I can get a game this coming weekend, though 'first ever' tests are often utterly disastrous! Things play out in your head far differently than in real life...

...that's why I have to return that ladies' underwear to the washing line and my case comes up next Tuesday

Now wash your hands,
Tony

* Though a damp cloth run over here and there wouldn't go amiss
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Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:29 pm
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I used to be a Good Man

Anthony Boydell
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I’m a nice person – no, really I am – but I found my good nature and patience tested to the extreme last night. I feel terrible about it. I don’t want to be a grump and I don’t want to seem a prig, but what can I do? I feel awful…

Three of us were looking for a game of Agricola (as you do, well – as I do on an unhealthily-regular basis) and were joined by two newer members of the club: one had played with us before, so this would be his second game, and the other professed to know the game. So, we set-up, dealt cards and made ready…

There followed a rather frustrating two hours of explaining (and, sometimes, re-explaining) how every action works, what good and bad options were available, delays in the taking of turns, rolling-back misplays and generally being distracted beyond a gamers natural endurance!

Agricola, of course, needs the players to consider a number of particular options during play:
a) what resources/actions are available – sometimes an opportunistic action is better than ‘sticking with the plan’;
b) what other players look like they’re going to do – this allows you to time your moves correctly and not get stiffed OR take an action too early

This is all fine if you’re playing with gamers who know Agricola and how this all works. Any good player will also have a back-up plan in case of any mis-calculations of (a) or (b).

However, there is a third option or, rather, an alternative flavour of (b) – which is having to deal with players who take seemingly random actions because although it seems they should have a plan (given their board position), they are really skiing off-Piste.

Example: take 6 wood or ‘Plow and Sow’ even though you don’t have any grain or Veg? Pay 1 food for Cattle OR take two reeds?

Logical vs Illogical.

In the purgatory that was last night’s game, I actually wondered if the ‘played before’ guy was hustling us (he won by two points: 39, 37, 36, 34, 20-something); we spent a good deal of the game pointing out options and take backs and he was effectively playing with the constant help of three other players – those three being desperate to get the game moving!

God, but I feel a sod re-telling all of this, but I HAVE to express it! I may just burst otherwise.

Earlier in the evening, three of us tried Pergamon – an archaelogically-themed Euro-game, from eggertspiele, with all the usual stuff in it. There were a series of inter-locking mechanics: getting money, buying rows of artifacts, slotting them together to make exhibits and score VPs, in- and end-game scoring etc but the whole things was desperately un-engaging. Nothing about it made you want to play again - I won by a country mile, but I couldn’t say that I followed any deep stratagem to do so – I just happened to get the right tiles without too much effort.

In a way, Pergamon is typical of a lot of the Euro games that flood into the market each year (this argument is raging elsewhere, I should imagine); they’re colourful, they have nice components and solid production values. They mix-and-match familiar mechanics and are pleasant and diverting…but that’s not enough, is it? They’re also LAZY designs.

Where is the Innovation?

Where is that spark?

Go ahead - sling your rocks! I used to be a good man, but that was a long time ago :-(

FOOTNOTE (for the curious):
Shed Details: Portakabin approx. 3m x 4m x 3m - fully wired (lights, sockets, electric heater); one window, IKEA shelves and a draughtsman's drawing board. Numerous wooden pieces, paper, cardboard, glue, paints, Thrift Shop hoarded goodies and my wife's 12 speed racing bike...and a deflated inflatable Dalek. Happy now?

Some photos:
[geekurl=http://www.meetup.com/LondonOnBoard/photos/1316117/22211294/#22211296]Me playing Pergamon[/geekurl]

[geekurl=http://www.meetup.com/LondonOnBoard/photos/1316117/22211294/#22211311]THAT game of Agricola[/geekurl]
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Wed Mar 23, 2011 11:20 am
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What's It Got In It's Pocketses?

Anthony Boydell
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I was interested to read of Nigel Buckle’s ‘work in progress’ last week and thought I should purloin this good idea and let you know what’s in the Boydell coffers, currently.

There’s always a variety of bits and pieces knocking around – and there is a shelf, in my shed, of old notebooks containing scribbles and half-baked moments of inspiration (usually received while stuck on a non-moving train). These sacred tomes contain, amongst many doodles, the first seedlings of designs that would become Fzzzt! and Totemo, as well as all of the text that would become our Bloody Legacy mini-web site: a sort of pseudo-adventure game cum puzzle that I really recommend you take a glance at [geekurl=http://www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk/BloodyLegacy/index.htm]HERE[/geekurl]).

In play-testing:
- Guilds of London: a CCG-style card-based game with a tiled playing area comprising the major Guilds of the City of London. Area control, card-playing combos and lots of wooden cubes make for a sneaky, tactical game in the vein of El Grande / Blue Moon City. I have been hacking away at this one for three years now and it’s currently ‘being looked at’ by powers greater than myself!

- Mountain Railway: the first part of a railway game trilogy (it just happened that way by accident) with Paperclip Railways and Ticket To Ride: Ivor The Engine (see later). This has been described as Agricola with Trains (though it’s not REALLY that) – a worker-placement train game where you’re all building just the ONE railway…up the side of a Snowdon (in North Wales). Your labourers get in there and dig out the foundations, forge and lay the tracks and endure the fickle weather of the mountainous environment. This one is about ready ‘to send off’ – but progress was put on pause by my enthusiasm for Paperclip Railways.

Almost in play-testing:
- Ticket To Ride: Ivor the Engine – the recent Days of Wonder competition is not going to accept this licensed property, but its fun to have a go anyway. Anyone who is familiar with the charm and delight of Messrs Postgate and Firmin will know about this one: one train, various stations, towns and halts and a bunch of stuff for Ivor to do (invisible cubes to ship). Using the regular TtR actions, players collect cards, build links and send Ivor off to do various jobs – players score points for their track crossed during a work (ticket) action etc – and all before the Main Line is built to Pontypool Roads.

In The Maelstrom Of Construction
- Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines: a deck building game in two halves: building your deck (and sabotaging others) followed by the race from London to Calais itself. You and your henchman variously build/repair your plane, sabotage other planes, schmooze with the big-wigs at the Grand Hotel, take your kite up for a quick practice spin or recline in the company of the Fire Truck after an unfortunate ground/plane interface event. A fun film and, hopefully, a fun game too!

- I’ll See You In Court: Dixit meets Doolittle & Waite – a story-telling, negotiation game where players are plaintiffs and (once in the game) a defendant trying to accrue the most ‘damages’ from crimes and misdemeanors.

So, there ya go! Given the other blog posts only about four of you actually read this, so I think my intellectual property is safe!

God Bless You...and all who sail in you.

A demain...
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Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:54 pm
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Monday, Monday *atishoo*

Anthony Boydell
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A weekend of lighter fayre with the younger members of the Boydell household (Let's Catch the Lion!, For Sale etc) was followed, this evening, by an excellent 4pl Key Market and a particularly dull Thunderstone.

Key Market saw Richard hopping in and out of villages generating ridiculous amounts of luxury goods which was kind enough to sell, thus enabling me to buy some cheap! I very quickly decided the best way to go with these worker types was to become Master of the Marshals Guild and simply pay them nothing at all - of course, once they'd reached the end of an industrious life I retired them to my (palatial) Manor House - a benevolent dictator, of sorts! Key Market is a splendid game that suits our little groups style - we shall endeavor to play more of it over the coming months. Richard compared it, obliquely, to Dominion, in that you want to exploit combos between the Guilds wherever possible (just like the card pool in D). We were hoping the game would finish in time for us to fit a 4pl Agricola in too, but we were short of about 25 mins at the venue *sad face*

Thunderstone involved a dungeon of VERY tough monsters, who only liked fighting with REALLY strong heroes, and a village of magical curios and useless by-standers. Forty fives minutes of visiting the village almost exclusively, I was glad to see the game come to an end (my final tally being ZERO points) - it seemed every time it came round to my turn the dungeon comprised a massive golem (1 light), a blink dog then another less massive (but still enormous) golem.

It didn't help that my cold has turned my nasal passages into channels for a never-ending stream of mucous - I think I will have sneezed / blown most of the water out of my body before the morning.

*honk*
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Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:47 am
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Feeling sorry for yourself?

Anthony Boydell
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This cold has really sunk itself into my nasal passages - filling them with a viscous gloop that puts games-playing at risk: if I sneeze, we'll all be playing 'green'.

Anyway, this miserable, self-pitying situation got me to thinking which games are best played when one is feeling under the weather / poorly?

Here's my initial list - can you add any more?

Headache-gricola
Nuns with the Runs
Reiner Knizias Flu Circus
Paris Paracetamol
Viagara (controversial for Zoch)
Chess X-Ray
Anal Mania
Through the Agues
A Few Aches of Snow
Thurn und Toxic
Bausick
Steam
7 Chunders / Chunderstone
Goa (and keep having to Goa every 10 mins)
Race for the Laxative
Army of Frogs (in the throat)
Highly-strung Railway
Runny Runny Poo-Poos / Perpetual Motion Machine
Haemeroid Of The Scots
Kidney Stone Age
Dominion: Seasick
ill Doctor Lucky
World of Wartcraft
Polyponnes
A Brief Hysterectomy of the World
Rickets to Ride
Commands and Colostomy: Ancients
In the Ear of the Dragon
Bedpandemic
The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by Proxy
Die Stomacher
Pusstop: The Boardgame
Bruise of Empires

*barf* Better out than in...
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Sat Mar 19, 2011 1:34 pm
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Comic Relief Relief

Anthony Boydell
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Tonight, in the UK, is Comic Relief night – the summation of weeks, nay months, of charity fundraising with comedy as its main tool: ‘do something funny for money’ is this years slogan.

Ironically, Comic Relief night is probably the most least amusing night of any given year filled, as it is, with 5 minute skits involving ‘celebs’ desperate to prove that they care by pretending they’re Take That, swimming up the urinary tract of a Blue Whale or otherwise ‘demeaning’ themselves to raise a couple of quid for ‘those who need it most’.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for charitable giving, but take my money and get on with the job – please desist from filling up a perfectly good evenings’ entertainment with half-arsed piss-takes of the X Factor, Downton Abbey or more ‘truly heartfelt’ ballads of inconsolable sadness from screechy, albino woman-man Annie Lennox.

Anyway, on the plus side, this meant I had no trouble getting out to the White Lion in Wilton, Ross-on-Wye for an evening of games – well, I say games but we started at 8PM with a 5pl Agricola and finished with Gargon.

It was an excellent Agricola (isn’t it always’), however I pushed my luck a little to much (and too often) and ended up being stiffed out of that all important ‘big fencing action’ in Round 14 - costing me quite a few points and earning me a final placing of 3rd. Still – I had the Stone Oven, Clay Oven, Basketmakers Workshop, the Well and a Fireplace – my efforts obviously concentrating on some kind of medieval kitchen showroom rather than filling those all-important farmyard spaces!

An amusing interlude occurred when club wrangler, Ben, went over to another table to explain what Agricola was to members of ‘the general British public’ – I don’t think they were any the wiser AFTER the explanation – one of them came up with a variation on the classic phrase: ‘Is it like Monopoly?’

All credit should go to Becky for a well-fought evening of agrarian confrontation - she deserved to win, but was edged out by husband Ben at the last moment (all kudos to the G-deck ‘Astronomer’). Ben, fuelled by Welsh ale, made the most of his victory with some well-aimed digs – but being a gentleman, I ‘responded not’, departed with good grace and then backed my car into a high kerb and dinted the flipping exhaust…

…and Ben said rude things about Scandaroon.

If anyone wants me I’ll be in my room.
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Sat Mar 19, 2011 12:46 am
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How to win friends and air-lock people

Anthony Boydell
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IF day=Wednesday AND londonOnBoard = FALSE THEN GOTO Carls END IF

With six of us known to be attending, Richard grabbed some games able to accommodate that number on the way out: Battlestar Galactica, Porto Cathargo, Peloponnes and League of Six.

When we arrived, we had to wait a short while for Carl's family to finish their supper - so we retired to the family room for HOLLYOAKS (*gag*) and a wrestling session with Carl's enormous, and aggressive, adjustable chair.

Having barely broken away without snapped limbs, we repaired to the dining room to play King of Tokyo (Richard Garfield's latest). As expected, it was a little chaotic and not-at-all to Richard's taste. What was cool was Carl took a photo of a game in progress, posted it to Facebook and RG himself responded to it with a comment! We are in the presence of the gods themselves!

Hurrying onward, it was decided that Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game would be perfect and was duly arrayed across the table. All of us had played before, bar one, so a little rules explanation allowed me time to play Land-A Panda for a few more levels!

I played Tory Foster (no spoilers, please!), Iain was Boomer, Ray was Apollo, Blaine was 'The Chief', Richard was Gator and Carl was Callie. Some ridiculous cards and abilities (and NO cylons in phase 1) meant we'd traveled a mighty distance of SIX before second loyalty cards were distributed - a hard task for the new cylons! Callie proceeded to cruise over to Colonial One and execute kindly human Tory (me! I came back as Kat). We responded sympathetically by first trying to air-lock Callie (we failed, she dumped her hand into the skill check) and ended up brig-ing her instead.

We jumped further and reached a distance of EIGHT, with one jump remaining, before our cylons revealed themselves! Far too late for them to stop us piling into Pegasus to guarantee jump symbols, sacrifice three population and jump early into victory!

*phew*

We needed a quick game of 7 Wonders to calm down - tensions were running wild with accusations and spicy noodles flying around the room!
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Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:20 pm
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Precis - 2011 so far...

Anthony Boydell
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7 Wonders 39
Agricola 20
Unpublished Prototype 10
Paperclip Railways 6
Glory to Rome 5
Braggart 4
Dixit 4
Dominion 3
Le Havre 3
Magic: The Gathering 3
Totemo 3
11 nimmt! 2
Balloon Cup 2
Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion 2
PitchCar Mini 2
Race for the Galaxy 2
Saint Petersburg 2
20th Century 1
Acuity 1
Alhambra 1
Beer & Pretzels 1
Callisto 1
Canal Mania 1
Caribbean 1
Caylus 1
Crude: The Oil Game 1
Familienbande 1
Fast Food Franchise 1
FITS 1
Key Market 1
King of Tokyo 1
Labyrinth: The Duel 1
Livingstone 1
Man-Eater 1
Monopoly Deal Card Game 1
Olympus 1
Peloponnes 1
Power Grid: France/Italy 1
The Princes of Florence 1
Railroad Tycoon 1
RoadZters 1
Sid Meier's Civilization: The Board Game 1
Thunderstone 1
Wits & Wagers 1
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Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:34 pm
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Now Wash Your Hands!

Anthony Boydell
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This morning I wake to find myself feeling a little dirty – a low, dark cloud of guilt hangs over me as the memories, of the night before, return. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do it again – it’s been a year since I last dabbled/lapsed and two since I’d made the decision to stop altogether (albeit MOSTLY successfully).

Perhaps I could be regarded as weakened? Maybe it was their fault for preying on me in my moment of weakness? Can I really be held wholly complicit given the situation I found myself in?

I went to Hemel Hempstead to play board games…but I ended up playing in a Magic: The Gathering draft instead.

I know! I should be ashamed of myself…and I am, to some extent, but while I feel tarnished (and I know I’ve let people down) I have to admit that it was…fun.

Your Honour, if I might plead extenuating circumstances?

A group of us arrived early and, suitably be-French Fried, we set about a game of King of Tokyo, the new Richard Garfield board game from IELLO (innocently I paid no mind to this omen). It’s simple, colourful, quick and fun! It was while we were rampaging across the Far East (the irony was NOT lost on us, I assure you) that the rest of the Magic players arrived as did a small group of the board gamers.

The board gamers immediately set about a game of Hamburgum (with the Londinium side) without asking me ‘my plans’ (for info: they know I prefer board games) and when we had finished King of Tokyo to allow the draft to start, they were well into the rules explanation. It wasn’t, in theory, too late to be the fifth player but I find Hamburgum tedious and overwrought.

This left me with the unenviable choice of sitting in the corner of the room playing on my iPhone (Land-A Panda!) or making up the 11th in a Mirrodin Beseiged / Scars of Mirrodin draft.

What would you do? Really...can I be blamed for the choices I made?

I plumped for the draft and proceeded to build a blue/white control deck around a meaty Plainswalker, a card-drawing Sphinx and damage reduction / counter spells / some deck milling.

Round One was against Joel who recently Q-ed for the Pro Tour in Paris (go, Joel!) – our first game went long and I won with the Plainswalker (gaining too much life and soldiers). The second game was a quicker affair, but having milled him down to a single card in his library, he stole my flyer (the only means of blocking his assault) and attacked for the win (0W-1D-0L)

Round Two was against club card-pusher Rob. His Red/White affair proved too quick (and too fat) to bring under control – I was especially dismayed to be hit by a 3/3 Golem and his triplet siblings. Made me look a little ‘easy’ (0W-1D-1L)
Round Three was against the very epitome of ‘a good chap’, the wonderful Graham. His three colour affair seemed to be struggling – I milled away some of his tidier cards, beat him up with 2/1 creatures, prevented most of the damage his creatures tried to do to me, and abused my Plainswalker and Sphinx for a comfortable 2-0 victory (1W-1D-1L).

It was like old times playing against these guys; I enjoyed the drafting process, the matches, the decisions etc – it was a really fun evening but I won’t be doing it again any time soon, oh no!

My name is Tony Boydell and I am a Magic: The Gathering addict.
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Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:11 am
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