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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Sunday Lunch

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Another sunny morning beckoned us on a short drive to our friends house and a Sunday lunch followed by chit-chat and some family games.

One of their children, Mary (7-ish), is my wife's God-daughter and for a recent birthday, hearing that she was quite the gamestress, we took along a copy of Totemo as a present. Once we'd taught her this, we proceeded to roll-out a few of her own favourites and a more 'normal' afternoon of gaming followed - at least, more normal than I'm used to because of the geeks I usually pass the time with!

First up was Labyrinth: The Duel - one of Mary's absolute favourites - a game of sliding blocks with 'passages' on in the manner of those plastic puzzles of old, trying to create a path between where you are and a destination on a revealed tile: the first person to make a connection on their board wins the tile for end-game scoring. Hmmm...I was roundly-whipped by 11 tiles to 5...then so was my daughter Daisy...11-5 again.

*owned*

In order to salvage a little dignity, we moved thenceforth to Monopoly Deal Card Game - ahh! now we're talking! A card game with bona fide special abilities, hand management, attack etc...oh! what's that? FIVE TURNS IN A ROW FOR MARY? *sheesh* Her Dad and I eventually succumbed to another embarassing defeat...why didn't I bring Power Grid?

*loser*

To finish, her father suggested Acuity - a pattern-matching affair with pleasingly simple rules and colourful tiles: lay out a 6x6 grid of tiles (each with four icons on) - draw a tile from a face-down pile and reveal to the everyone - the first player to find a match for the four icons on the board wins the tile into their score pile...easy! At last - I was doing rip-roaringly well! A lovely stack of victory tiles at the game end and Mary, that demon in a four-foot mop-haired seemingly-innocent disguise, with only a few...surely the laurels must fall to me?

Hark - what's this? Mary's Dad and I have the SAME points?

What's that - Mary to decide who should win?

*sigh*

Call myself a gamer? I'm off to by some wax crayons, a bib and some finger paints...I'm fit for nothing else in this world.
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Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:14 pm
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Paull the Other One...

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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The sun was shining this morning when I set off in the direction of Stroud to attend at least part of Alan & Charlie Paull's games weekend (aka Paullcon, well - only aka-ed by ME, but what do I know?). I had second son, Benedict, in tow so I wasn't going to get a marathon HIGH FRONTIER in, as I'd need to keep the young chap occupied and, preferrably, well away from the sweet bowls.

Our arrival coincided with Si and Arlo's, Si being one of the Holy British triumvirate responsible for the INTO THE GAMESCAPE podcast (go listen, it's marvellous) and they chit-chatted for a bit while Alan, Benedict and myself finished a game of MEGASTAR (a quirky Friese card affair that I picked up for €3 last Essen).

We retired to the back room, with the long table, for a 5 player of Paperclip Railways - the first one for quite a while in my recent play-test schedule! There was me, Si, Arlo, Benedict and Mike (a railway game enthusiast) and we took about 75 mins all-in-all. Good reception and a pleasingly aggressive game - lots of building to interfere or poach: just as it should be! Very, VERY early incarnations of the game were quite solo in their feel with players pretty much ignoring everyone else BUT NO MORE!

Next Beebs and I joined Richard Breese and Jenny for our first introduction to the excellent FITS - looks simple, doesn't it? It was all I could do to end any round with ZERO, let alone get positive points! Good fun and one game now on my shopping list.

In a similar vein, Richard suggested we tried Callisto (from honorary German: the British designer Reiner Knizia) - but this seemed like a varied (and inferior) BLOKUS, so I gave a second game a pass - though Benedict enjoyed it very much (but he's never played BLOKUS)

As is always the case at these weekends, the hours simply breezed by and I had to leave, with a tired son, around 3-ish. I was also acting as courier for Ross-on-Wye club supremo Ben (ousgg), taking him one of the few remaining copies of Key Market - it was a great excuse to nip out on my newly-refurbished motorbike in 'courier' mode.

And then it rained...

But you really couldn't take the smile off my face - it's been a delightful day, all-in-all, and garlic chicken awaits for this evenings repast.

Yum!
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Sat Mar 12, 2011 5:25 pm
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Water, water everywhere...

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Alas, another evening loomed and passed without the opportunity to play games. A general change-of-the-seasons malaise has stricken various family members, including myself: sneezes, snot and headaches :-(

I had hoped to persuade a new attendee with wargaming tendencies to turn his swords into plowshares, followed by another playtest of PCR (I've been tidying up the rulebook, the graphical layouts and - most importantly - started the costings process).

A delightful few hours spent with my youngest and eldest children in the middle of the day proved a refreshing, if tiring for us all, interlude.

Today also marks the start of the Paull's (as in Alan Paull) games weekend which I'm hoping to be fit enough to attend - if only for a couple of hours. Given the way this gaming sargasso of a week has gone, I remain cautiously pessimistic.

Finally, a quick shout out to SMOK, who is embarking on the epic 18C2C tomorrow - the 18XX game with map thats almost 1:1 in scale...and playing time.
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Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:25 pm
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Every Man Needs A Shed...

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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…I carry mine around with me all the time like some kind of psychological snail.

Not a day goes by where I’m not thinking about a game from yesterday, a game design / new idea I’m mulling over today, or where I’m going to be playing games tomorrow. If I’m not thinking about the games then I’m considering game-related ephemera (shows, BGG, artwork – I like to dabble).

Some would think this is some kind of Obsessive / Compulsive scenario, but is it really any different if one is a music fan, an avid cinema-goer or anyone who has a decent hobby? Gardeners can be insufferable about their pastime (or should that be life-style), sports fans scour the back pages of papers in search of ever more reports, news and rumour.

We huddle together in the shelter of a pub back-room or cellar, or dimly-lit restaurant tables or, to be truly free of scrutiny, in the privacy of our own homes.

Hunched and chin-stroking, we mull and ponder.

But I have a secret…one that some of you may also be privy to…the truth is that ‘normal’ people are curious about what we do – like drivers passing a motorway accident, or witnesses to a decent piece of criminal activity, these ‘others’ are fascinated by the colourful papers, the dice and cubes and cards and markers. If I had a pound for every time someone stopped on their way passed our mid-games of Agricola, Glory To Rome, Age of Steam or Loopin’ Louie, I’d have about 20 quid! They see a world of intellect mixed with kindergarten – and who doesn’t want to be a child again (especially one that gets to pretend to run a car manufacturing plant, a medieval farm or rebuild Rome in cards only)?

So, we need to push ourselves out there – leave the boiler-fumed basements and the ‘converted dining rooms’ and advertise our delicious hobby by ‘doing’ – an evangelistic fervour needs to be whipped up and some!

Let us not be afraid any more!

Good Techniques for Promoting the Hobby:
- Talking to your friends and family – they’re around you most of the time, they know you and will probably be the easiest to convince (especially if you turn up every weekend with Dominion tucked under your arm)

- Setting up a group in a local hostelry – beer, food, tables…everything you could need for a decent night of hobbyist pleasure (no – not THAT one!)

- Demos in Libraries, Schools – a soft, comfortable and non-threatening environment that will also lend your session with a worthy level of gravitas…make sure you have copies of the rules in LARGE PRINT, mind!

- A poster campaign in toy shops and newsagents, or perhaps use local radio – the former may lure TCG-ers away from opening boosters into 18XX share-dealing whilst newsagents ‘advert boards’ are a fertile ground of second-hand fridges and Yoga classes…your natural market!

- Devote a regular slot to gateway games – ease newbies into our world gently and with patience. Nothing will send them screaming from the venue quicker than Age of Steam with the Sun map, Twilight Imperium (7pl) or three hours of Pickomino…

Bad Techniques for Promoting the Hobby:
- Standing at Tube Stations shouting and pointing – you’ll be inviting nothing and no-one but contempt and a possible overnight stay with the local constabulary

- Setting up a group in a local abattoir – nothing ruins a good end-game strategy more than the shrieking of self-aware pigs as their throats are widely-slit and their hot blood splashes to the cold floor…a deep, glossy puddle of life washed into the drains, a metaphor of working life and all that awaits us when the…oh, I’m so sorry, I seem to have drifted for a moment.

- Demos in Emergency Rooms of local Hospitals – when it’s Bobs turn you may find Bob is pre-occupied with stopping his liver from flopping out over the Formula De track or unable to see the board position due to the saucepan wedged over his head

- Expensive tele-visual advertising campaigns and/or Formula 1 sponsorship – while it would be utterly delightful to see ‘Play more Sid Meiers Civilisation’ on the side of Schumackers Ferrari, or have this weeks episode of Stargate: Anusverse interrupted by talking heads re-playing Bunny Bunny Moose Moose, I would suggest the garnered response would be disproportionate to the investment

- Devote a regular slot to Historical Re-enactments of the Skirmishes of the 100 years war – do I really need to explain why this is a bad thing?

Good luck with your efforts - now, go to it for the good of us all!
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Thu Mar 10, 2011 8:58 am
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Where for art thou, Ray-meo?

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Ah, Wednesdays! Traditionally an evening of all you can eat vegetables and meeple-play. However, as has been the general pattern this week, only our cousins from across the Atlantic (with or without whiskers) can be counted on to give some good game!

Jimmy? Working two jobs and can't even come out to play when his family are out of the country!

Carl? Just spent a looooong weekend officiating at a major TCG tournament, so probably needs time to wash the stink of Powerade, loneliness and despair from his wardrobe.

Iain? Somehow the hedonistic pleasures of University life (moots, hustings, beer) have proven too overwhelming to be interrupted by an Automobile or two...

...and Ray...currently 'resting' between jobs, dependent-free and singularly unwilling to give London a fling, run through a quick Powergrid or two, or even Furstenfeld into the early hours.

Who the bloody hell can you rely on nowadays, eh?

(retreats into room in a big sulk)
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Wed Mar 9, 2011 10:53 pm
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London On Board - 08 March 2011

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Having spent a relaxed few hours sipping OJ & lemonade and reviewing a training presentation I'm due to give tomorrow, I hot-tailed it to The Red Herring (Gresham Street, London) for this evenings proceedings.

Nominally, there is usually a 'theme' to inspire and entice - but I usually forego this in favour of Agricola - it's fun trying to justify medieval farming when the theme is Czech designers (it has a 'Czech deck) or Party Games (who needs a pinata when you have wooden wild boar?) etc

After the disappointment of no games last night, I waited for the arrival of Conrad - beardy, American - and his precious cargo of Lookout Games' 'turning point'...surprisingly, while Conrad (hirsute, foreign) had yet to appear and my meal of 'Crispy Pork Belly with Black Pudding and Lentils' lay cooling on the table in front of me, I noticed that someone elses copy of Agricola has magically appeared in the 'game supply'.

Lord, is this a sign?

Within a few seconds I was laying out wooden discs, shuffling the Occs and Improvements and dibsing myself the red pieces. Conrad, follically generous in the buccal region and from the other side of the Atlantic, duly arrived to find us all set up and raring to go! Us being: Gabe (a clean-shaven fellow USA-ean), Martin (English through-and-through) and myself (balding, greying, slightly-unfit).

90 mins later and I reigned supreme: 44-35-28-26 - not merely a 'victory', but the Agricolan equiv of rubbing everyone else's face in it!

Conrad reacted to this Olympian triumph by getting food poisoning from his Caesar Salad and having to go home early - leaving Martin and Gabe to join me in a 3 player play-test of Paperclip Railways (ha! got 'em!).

Play-testing is an odd fish and no mistake - I dearly want people to try out new designs but I feel ever so guilty for dragging them away from stuff that's already been released. There's that awkward moment when the question is asked and the surrounding group of waiting gamers fragments...off to the loo, the bar, or to 'Dave who's just starting up a quick Dominion' etc.

To round off the evening, someone in the same carriage on the home train let off the most outrageous arse-stink and it brought most of the rest of us to tears. Goodness, what has the world come to?
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Tue Mar 8, 2011 11:48 pm
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By way of an introduction

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Not sure I really want to fill up this first post with a huge amount of 'back story' but suffice it to say that I am lucky enough to get to play a wide variety of games during the 'working week'.

I play with four groups, mainly, with varying frequency:
a) my family - though they're not enamored of the more complex fayre, they're usually up for something reasonable like Alhambra, St Petersberg, Stone Age, Coloretto and the like. Often roped into play-testing my designs.

b) mates in Berkshire - the area where I tend to stay when having to work away; this lot are a much more serious group and will happily Through The Ages / Civ, 18XX, Age of Steam, Agricola / Le Havre the night away.

c) mates in Ross-on-Wye - a Friday night mix of casual gamers and hard-bitten geeks - one week it'll be DIXIT and LIVINGSTONE, the next it might be GOA, CAYLUS or KEY MARKET...

d) the fabulous folks at London On Board (look it up via Meetup) - central London pub-meet now twice a week - you really do get all sorts here!

This week has been somewhat quiet - half the Berkshire group are either 'to busy with real life' or returning from a TGC event in Paris. Monday nights would normally spell multiple 7 Wonders and a 5-player Agricola, but Richard and I ended up eating take-away chinese in front of 5 episodes of Battlestar Galactic Series 4 - not a shameful way to spend an evening, but disappointingly devoid of Wood, Clay, Reed and Stone.

My hopes pick up for tonight - London on Board with a play-test copy of Paperclip Railways (see Geek entry) and, perhaps, some farming? Probably more of the same tomorrow night and maybe rounding the week off with a second 'go' at the excellent KEY MARKET (Go, David!)

It would, of course, be remiss of me not to let you know how it all went!
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Tue Mar 8, 2011 11:28 am
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