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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 What was that beardy bloke going on about?

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Drive!

Anthony Boydell
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Another week, another journey through the top-hole topography of Wales; this time I'm in the office for the morning then returning to a route I used to follow a lot - before arranging it such that I'd "go there, straight from home" - which takes me right up the big, bleak, brilliant middle:



Merthyr Tydfil
Built on mining, in modern times they're digging away an entire overlooking mountain for it's coal (exclusively train-ed to a nearby power station). Currently aspiring to be "just a shit-hole" but falls somewhat short...though there ARE traces of a more architecturally-beautiful Past:


The Cefn Coed Viaduct - I love a good viaduct, me!


Trevithick's tunnel - part of Trevithick's Tramway, which (kind-of) started the entire railway thing.


In to the Brecon Beacons
You only need to go North a few miles from the modern day grimness of Merthyr to find yourself driving along a valley chained with reservoirs; part of the way homes the Brecon Mountain Railway - a relatively-recent Heritage line that follows some of the original Brecon/Merthyr route:






(taken by me, the first time I ever went that way)


Brecon
The road (the A470 that takes us all the way to the tippety-top) loops back on itself (due to the big, rocky things) to a gentle Brecon arrival:



Now, if I take a left - at this point - I'll head off West towards Cardigan Bay where my Pa, little sister and little brother live BUT straight on it is and sort-of parallel with the Black Mountains to my right. I'll be getting hungry about now...

Builth Wells
Home of the Royal Welsh Showground (and not much else TBH), Builth is a third of my journey completed; a good milestone to pick up some lunch (and petrol).



Rayader
It only takes a few moments to pass through the centre of this little market town but it's the FIRST town on the banks of the River Wye, 20 miles from it's source.



Around-and-about is the Elan valley, extending 30 miles West to Aberystwyth and Cardigan bay; a few miles more and I'm about halfway between North and South Wales and entering the Snowdonia National Park.

Dolgellau
For a couple of years (2013-15), there were some major roadworks re-building the main route up to Dolgellau with attendant LONG queues and waits; it's all clear now, however, and a good forty minutes of surrounded-by-mountains-and-not-much-else will ensue.


Dangerous beauty.

Falling short of entering Dolgellau town itself, I'll skirt around (foregoing a visit to the Fairbourne railway and passing the Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station - see above) to head for the slate-mining capital, and blue Snowdonia game end-station, of:

Blaenau Ffestiniog

50 Shades of Grey.

From now on, it's regular going on a well-familiar road; I'll give a cheery wave to Dolwyddelan Castle (on the hill, on my left)...



...as I beetle along towards Betws y coed, Llanrwst...


This is a bugger to drive over; you are quite blind to traffic coming the other way!

...and, finally, up the (River Conwy) estuary to:

Llandudno


If I gauge it right, I'll just have time to grab a fast-food supper and scoot along for a session at the Conwy Golf Club with the Snowdonia Dragons!

So, all of this (above, and below) is what I'll be doing today.


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Mon Mar 6, 2017 6:26 am
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(a) Black Sabbath

Anthony Boydell
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Apropos of nothing at all, an hypothetical question:

*ahem*

(deep breath)

When you bring a game along to a meetup and you teach it (as best you can despite heckles and arguments and blank looks) and then you play it and people seem to have ignored the explanation given and/or not listened at all and/or complain you didn't tell them something when you bloody well did and/or they make loads of mistakes which you point out during the first hour but then just give up because it's sodding exhausting and/or they start challenging YOUR moves because you're doing interesting things and you have to re-explain everything again because you're basically being accused of cheating when all you wanted to do was play a bloomin game...is it okay to take out a weapon and kill them?


Poll
Is the above sufficient grounds with which to claim self-defence when murdering members of your gaming group?
No. Now...take this flower and let's hug, you poor angry person, you.
No. Killing is always wrong and, besides, you'll be one Club member down.
Yes. Killing is always wrong BUT you'll be one Club member down...so the range of compatible games for the average attendance will go UP!
Yes. And the justification extends to people who post fatuous Polls on popular websites too.
Er, I'm scared; can we have something about Gerdts & Uwe again, please?
      183 answers
Poll created by tonyboydell


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Sun Mar 5, 2017 6:35 am
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What an atmosphere!

Anthony Boydell
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At the risk of being a bore, here's a couple of pictures of what we played - last night - at the Ross-on-Wye club:



It was the full 5-player and there was a satisfying divergence of paths to victory displayed by four of us (poor Gary got a little side-tracked and forgot you need a presence on the board too). Jobbers. Boffo and myself snaffled up an Achievement AND an Award each, while Smudge continued her usual goal of 'greening up the red planet'. The final scores - see below - have just five points between 80% of us and it was proper tense as the final reckoning concluded.


Twenty one pets on my Pets card was a LOT of pets.


A lovely, LOVELY game indeed. However, things were not looking QUITE so rosy (red) at the outset when Jobbers - having stated (resolutely) there was absolutely no need to re-explain all the rules - launched, as Start Player, in to a 10 minute first turn comprised of clarifications, expressions of exasperation, take-backs, re-takes and general hurrumphing. Boffo, sat disconsolately to his right - head in hands - not looking like he'd get to take HIS turn for the foreseeable future; the poor chap done given up 'beer' for Lent so had nothing but a slimline Gin & Tonic to keep him company during this enforced (painful) hibernation! Mind you, despite his close and hard-fought victory, Boffo - once again - pronounced that he had no meaningful decisions to make throughout and that it was all, pretty much, a scripted exercise - please feel free to agree/disagree with him hereafter.



Aside: Though not as crowded as last week, there was still quite a lot of peripheral activity in the Prince of Wales pub; particularly a young, muss-haired student type who variously asked us to watch his beer while he went to play pool and tried to scrounge a hair-tie (wtf?!) because it was "going all - eurghh!!!", apparently. I believe the effusive, possibly-stoned, youth was also responsible for putting modern rap music on too loud on the hi-fi thus forcing us all to shout our terraforming intentions even though we were no more than a couple of feet apart!



None of us had bought any fillers, as such, so the game least-likely to keep us from annoying the Landlord after 11PM was Santiago de Cuba:



Another sleeper hit with the club, SdC comes out three or four times a year and is one of those games that makes you wonder why its not played more often because it's fantastic whilst, simultaneously, filling me with trepidation because the others have played it far more often than I (only three times in five years). I did alright, though; a series of appalling 'ship dice' rolls meant there was precious little cargo-loading occurring at each sailing, so points were better garnered from the special building tiles. Left with a stock of citrus I couldn't convert to points, Smudge (orange-)pipped me by a point for the win. Amusingly, Boffo - who had ended the game with an "I am in charge!" flourish - only just avoided dead last, grumbling "I can never seem to win a game of this!"...and then went on to explain how his early-doors 'convert starting veeps to cash' strategy should be a sure-fire winner every time (despite it, patently, NOT being so).

We're a right bunch of characters and no mistake.

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Sat Mar 4, 2017 9:49 am
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Hiding One's Light Under a Bushel

Anthony Boydell
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Pretty much all game designers do it - games design - as a side-line; a hobby that provides a bit of extra cash for holidays / a new tea towel and an escape from the mundanity of the regular working life. For example, did you know that, 'in the real world' Cédrick Chaboussit gets paid to stand in fields watching giant metal containers being put in place? That Richard Breese does clever financial things (probably with spreadsheets and,maybe, with quills)? That Stefan Feld works in an abbatoir?* Or that Phil Walker-Harding is really Hugh Jackman? More often than not - unless it's me banging on about everyday shite - you'd never hear of these secret lives at all!

Now: my esteemed British colleague, pith-helmeted goonster, head honcho of YAY Games and all-round good egg Andrew Harman used to be a writer! Yes! And not only THAT but a PUBLISHED writer too!


Comic Fantasy: that Pratchett comparison was probably more of a curse than a Blessing, TBH


We always have a laugh when gathered together so, putting my Amazon Account where my mouth is, I've determined to hoover up his oeuvre (bring your own cloth next time please, Andrew!) and see what all the fuss was about. If his publisher bio photo is anything to go by then these are going to be fucking HILARIOUS!


Gotsa luv that quiffage!


I'll be reporting back on my progress in a future post but - in the meantime - why not check out Andrew's (marvellous) CURRENT occupation:



*this may not be correct**
**he may 'volunteer' rather than 'work'
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Fri Mar 3, 2017 11:13 am
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Gerdts and Uwe can't sleep

Anthony Boydell
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(we are in the home of Uwe Rosenberg and Mac Gerdts; it is time for bed but Uwe is having trouble getting to sleep)

Uwe: (lifting his head from the pillow) Hey, Gerdts –

Mac: (sighing) What is it, Uwe?

Uwe: I can’t sleep, Gerdts.

Gerdts: (rolls over) Why can’t you sleep, Uwe?

Uwe: My head is full of game designs, Gerdts

Gerdts: Well, try thinking of something else

Uwe: Like what, Gerdts?

Gerdts: (sighs again) How about sheep? Try counting sheep?

Uwe: (gratefully) That’s a good idea, Gerdts; I’ll do that…good night!

Gerdts: (fluffs pillow, settles down) Goodnight, Uwe.

(they both settle down; it is quiet for a short while)

Uwe: (lifts his head from the pillow again) There’s a problem, Gerdts

Gerdts: (rolls over, irritated gasp) What’s the problem, Uwe?

Uwe: I haven’t got enough space to keep all of the sheep, Gerdts; they keep running off

Gerdts: Then imagine building a pasture, Uwe –

Uwe: That’s a great idea, Gerdts; I’ll do that…good night!

Gerdts: (exhales) Goodnight, Uwe.

(they both settle down; it is quiet for a short while)

Uwe: (getting out of his bed and walking around to Gerdts’; he shakes Gerdts) Wake up, Gerdts! There’s still a problem, Gerdts!

Gerdts: (rolls over and sits up; he is angry now) What’s the problem NOW, Uwe?

Uwe: It’s the pasture, Gerdts; it’s now completely full of sheep!

Gerdts: (irritably) Then build some Stables, Uwe!

Uwe: (happily, returning to his bed) That’s a great idea, Gerdts; I’ll do that…good night!

(the bedroom, once more, is silent for a short while. Uwe starts making loud moaning noises. Gerdts sits up suddenly, shocked with eyes wide)

Gerdts: (furious) Uwe! Uwe! Why are you making that noise, Uwe?!

Uwe: (painfully) Because I’ve had to build a Fireplace, Gerdts; there’s so many sheep that I’ve started eating them and now I’ve got indigestion! I’ve got a tummy ache, Gerdts.

Gerdts: (exasperated) Aaaaaaaarrrghhhh! Just go to sleep, Uwe! Stop counting sheep, stop moaning, think about something else and just go – to – sleep!

Uwe: (settling down) Good night, Gerdts.

Gerdts: GOOD NIGHT, UWE! (hurrumphs and settles down)

(there is silence for a while.)

Uwe: Gerdts -

(Gerdts ignores him)

Uwe: (slightly louder) Gerdts -

(Gerdts still ignores him)

Uwe: (slightly louder still) Gerdts!

Gerdts: (sits up again, violently, ranting) WHAT, UWE? IS IT ABOUT MORE ANIMALS? IS IT ABOUT RESOURCE WHEELS? IS IT ABOUT TESSELATING TILES? IS IT ABOUT DWARVES? IS IT ABOUT 101 PLACEMENT SPACES? IS IT ABOUT PUMPKINS OR GRAIN OR GLASS OR BRICK? IS IT ABOUT VIKINGS, UWE? WHAT? WHAT IS IT NOW, UWE!!!

Uwe: (meekly) No, Gerdts; I just wanted to say that my head is no longer full of game designs, Gerdts -

Gerdts: (sighing deeply) - that’s good, Uwe –

Uwe: - no, Gerdts; the sheep are no longer going round and round in my head, Gerdts -

Gerdts: (perks up) Round and round?

Uwe: - round and round and round, Gerdts.

Gerdts: (inspired) Round and round and round? Like a roundabout? Like a rondel? (he is wide awake now)

(there is no reply from Uwe)

Gerdts: (excited) You’ve just given me a great idea, Uwe! I’m excited about it so let’s get up and work on it together!

(silence)

Gerdts: (looks over at the other bed) Uwe?

(there is the sound of gentle snoring)

Gerdts: Uwe?!

(the snoring continues; Gerdts looks at us, raises his eyebrows and wails, frustrated)

Gerdts: Uuuuuuuuuu-weeeeeeee!
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Thu Mar 2, 2017 9:48 am
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Back to the Drawing Board

Anthony Boydell
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A recent Tweet sang the 140-character praises of the Guilds of London rubric:



Struck by a wave of nostalgia, I scuttled off to the Shed and had a good rummage for the original artwork:



I’m still tickled by the graphics and the fact that bigger companies are happy to preserve them over their own branded panels is especially-pleasing!

The presence of the skull means that it was all put together for the production of Bloody Legacy – dating it to around 2003 – when my cartooning output was prodigious; the game, a daft take-that affair, needed over fifty unique pictures which came together over a three-month period. With a drawing table set up in the spare room, and a constant supply of sharpened 2Bs, I hit a groove of sketching and inking; and when I’d done the cards, I carried on producing pieces for the SSG website ‘adventure’ too.

From Bloody Legacy, I moved immediately on to the intricate Celtic knot-work of what would become Tara, Seat of Kings – the ‘master’ box image being an A0 composite of hundreds of distinct sections:



Then came Scandaroon (though not much effort went in to that, TBH) and then straight in to Confucius – which was a much more “serious”.





Fzzzt!, a return to a cartoonish style, was probably the last major piece of illustration work that I’ve been engaged in – Snowdonia’s box art excepted – having discovered the talents of far better (and more efficient) graphic designers after 2009.



Half of me misses the intimacy of ‘everyone pulling together’ in the production process while the other half is relieved to not have to worry about it any more (it certainly saved us an AWFUL lot of money when we were starting out). Mind you, nowadays, public expectation means that the cost of the art/presentation can be a serious barrier to whether a game can (or should) be produced AT ALL!
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Wed Mar 1, 2017 9:41 am
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Heavy, heavy, heavy!

Anthony Boydell
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There was a bit of controversy last week when the most excellent – and Golden Geek nominated – Heavy Cardboard podcast was denied an entry in the BGG Awards list for it’s Golden Elephant Award. Given that a Yahoo newsgroup (Meeples Choice) gets it’s own entry - as well as strangely unheard-of baubles such as the Goblin Magnifico, Spiel der Spiele Griffin Scroll and Bunty Skanktwozzle’s Thing-in-a-Box Award – it seems somewhat unjust that the premier professional podcast about heavyweight games should be brushed aside so casually: not allowed “under current policy”, apparently; a policy known only to the sacred tabernacle of moderators.

Now, this refusal/rebuttal would seem less harsh if it was just a couple of fanboys/girls burping on about their favourites for 3 hours at a time BUT the Heavy Cardboard podcast is a proper, professional and well-subscribed entity: this ain’t no YouTuber in their bedroom at their mum’s house! No, indeed; let me break it down for you:

It has a regular, well-defined schedule of shows (to which it sticks) and averages 30K downloads per month!

It runs it’s own annual convention...in a proper venue and everything!

It’s online profile stretches across all of the major (and important) channels and is maintained (!)



The Golden Elephant is a physical and beautiful thing (see above) that has been presented – in person, for three years now – to excellent, INTERNATIONALLY-BASED designers! In fact, the last Award ceremony, at Essen Spiel 2016, was attended by more than 100 people including many designers (eg. Lacerda, Risthaus, Ode, Soledade/Sentiero, Hova, Joris & Jeroen from Splotter) and publishers (eg. What’s Your Game?, Stronghold and others).


Suitably 'refreshed' with Lucian, one-of-many new pals, at the 2016 Award ceremony!


Personally, I would put this in the same category of importance as the IGA or the DSP and would love to see it flower and flourish in the years to come – encouraging a wider appreciation of where board games can take you (when you avoid the Kennerspiel des Jahres turn-off and just keep driving)!

So, I'm starting a petition to gather support right here:

Poll: I believe that the Heavy Cardboard podcast's GOLDEN ELEPHANT AWARD should be granted official status on BGG
With regard to granting the official status of the Golden Elephant Award:
I STRONGLY-AGREE
I AGREE
      339 answers
Poll created by tonyboydell


Finally, if you're a famous game designer and/or publisher, why not add a testimonial statement (comment below) too? Thanks, in advance!
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Tue Feb 28, 2017 6:08 am
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My Sweet (Greb)Lord

Anthony Boydell
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Peter 'Greblord' Armstrong R.I.P


Peter and I met at the Maidenhead M:TG club back in 1999/2000 when he popped in for some Monday-evening drafting; he noticed me hawking copies of Coppertwaddle, parked his behind - and his beer - beside me and said that he was a game designer too. The following week, he arrived sporting a fat Deck Protector box containing his infamous - at least to those of us who knew him well - card game: "Card" - a maniacal, rainbow-themed festival of Chaos and Absurdity that makes Fluxx look like Food Chain Magnate! Games of Card could last anything up to TEN MINUTES (!) and, with player counts above six, you'd be lucky to get a bloody turn in...but that was the splenge-ing point. Talking of 'splenge'...and 'vwaarb' and 'gluntch': these aren't the next three games in the GIPF Project, but exclamations of surreal pleasure often spilling from Peter's mouth when words, frankly, weren't up to it.

Peter and I met regularly for lunch, in the late noughties, when we'd both secured jobs in Central London: a hearty sandwich and a board game seeing us through our working week! He once told me that while working at Games Workshop, in the 1980s, he was paid £50 cash-in-hand to teach George Harrison's son to paint miniatures (he went to the house in Berkshire and everything); 'the boy Dhani' was a bit of a spoilt little sod, apparently, but there was a twinkle of pride in his eye as he related the story.

In recent years, Peter and I had kept in touch; bumping in to each other on our travels (we shared an extraordinarily-noisy bed in Eindhoven - his snoring was like an earthquake!) and exchanging updates via Social Media.


This Charming Man: Essen Spiel, 2013


In January we had a long messenger session discussing the merits & de-merits of Scythe and Kingdom Death: Monster, how his Guernsey steam tramway scenario for Snowdonia was coming along and how he'd been a bit poorly recently. Today - a peaceful Monday - Sarcoidosis and accompanying complications have robbed a beautiful family of their devoted Husband & Father and many, many people of an outstandingly-good friend.

Farewell, Mighty Greblord! Sleep peacefully, my dear chap.
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Mon Feb 27, 2017 7:30 pm
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The Wisdom of Gengulphus

Anthony Boydell
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Gengulphus is our guinea pig.

He likes to speak his mind.






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Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:20 am
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Licence & Licencibility

Anthony Boydell
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When we at Surprised Stare Games Ltd were setting out on our indie path, we were too small to sustain products much beyond a deck of cards, having no deep pools of cash to draw upon at will; instead, our business model was simple: produce a small run of a game (750-1000 copies) , sell them all and then reinvest the money in the next game. If we could manage to tempt another company in taking a licence for a wider volume/distribution then that would be amazing BUT, for the time being, it was baby steps.

In 2007, now on our fourth game, we co-produced Scandaroon with JKLM Games; not really a licensing deal as such - because JKLM would be distributing it - but it felt quite good to be extending our humble reach. We were building a network of contacts, dammit!

In 2008, JKLM put us through the wringer with the production shenanigans for Confucius; the whole episode had nearly broken dear Mr Alan Paull and sunk our little company! Where could we possibly go from here? Given that we'd reached rock bottom, the only way was - indeed - up.

In 2009, SSG was saved - both as a company and as an emotional entity - by me and Alan and Charlie paring things right back to the bone: we did everything ourselves, just the three of us: the design, the art, the layouts and the manufacturing management for Fzzzt!. My little pseudo-deckbuilder with a cute robot theme quickly sold out its 1500 copy First Edition, won Best Card Game at the UK Games Expo and was picked up for a reprint by both Eagle-Gryphon Games and Lifestyle Boardgames Ltd: our FIRST EVER LICENCES! It had only taken nine years and six games! Since then, of course, things have taken off in a way we could only have dreamed about in those early, post-millennial Essen years: Snowdonia with Lookout Games, uplay.it edizioni and Indie Boards & Cards; Ivor the Engine with Esdevium and Guilds of London with Tasty Minstrel Games, Frosted Games, 2Tomatoes and Czacha Games!

All of which, naturally, leads me on to...

In the post, yesterday, my library copy of the Italian/Spanish/French edition of Guilds of London came; it's been tweaked a bit from the TMG original and is an utterly cool thing to have in my possession:


Box: new art on a slipcase!



Rulebooks: one for each language. Please note the smart addition of the colour-changing cards at the top of the reference sheets: the only cards missing in their entirety from the original sheet (causing MUCH consternation)



The Solo Variant - honed while the First edition was actually running through the printing machines - makes it in to the core rulebook WITH the Essen solo guild promo included 'as standard' too!



Almost a complete set...just the Polish one to go!


Pretty soon I may need a bigger Shed.
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Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:30 am
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