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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I...have...the...POW...ERRRRRRRRRR!

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Sort-of.


I mention my mate Matt Green's game in a sleepy, weekend blog post and "Hey! Presto!" he sprints in to The Hotness?!


...and I've just mentioned him again!


Today, also:

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Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:00 pm
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Never Say Never

Anthony Boydell
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After the business of a Winter Sunday is done, it behooves one to settle down - after drawing the curtains and fetching a hot beverage - and watch some trad. Sunday evening fayre.




In the UK, we have - for 40 years now - been avid viewers of other people falling down mountains with grace: Ski Sunday provides us with a glimpse of how other people deal with snow ie. slipping around on it, the faster-the-better! I can't really be doing with the short-range slalom events, though; all that bouncing left-and-right and the whacking poles - ouch! No, for me it's got to be the Downhill: long, fast and tear-squeezingly exhilerating...even if it is vicariously through a big, flat TV. This week was 'Wengen', in the shadow of the Jungfrau and LITERALLY sliding under the Jungfraubahn railway; no sign of dynamite but the train did rattle over the heads of a couple of racers which, apparently, is lucky.

Mrs B quipped that "You should design a game about this!, ie. downhill skiing. I curtly replied "No, it can't be done" and then - for a few moments - it got me thinking...

How about a dexterity game a la PitchCar? Well, why wouldn't you just play PitchCar instead? A Flamme Rouge-esque race game? Well, it would be hard to get the feel of whisking along 4.5K in 2.5 minutes while one is agonising over a hand of cards and the most efficient way to play them out!

However, it might suit real-time dice chucking as a core mechanim?! Lay out a track printed on multiple card-sized cards; each has multiple spaces in 'lanes' containing fixed die value icons (banks, jumps, awkward stuff) or blanks. Roll a set of dice and then allocate them to spaces sequentially down the track:
- never more than one space away orthoganally or diagonally; and,
- the placed die either matching the die vlaue icon on the space OR one pip difference to the last die placed (blanks).

When you cannot place a die, take a TIME penalty and re-roll all the dice again. Repeat until you cross the line! Ok, that's waaaaaay too luck-based, so need to think about mitigation effects...

I should never have poo-pooed Mrs B's suggestion in the first place but, inevitably, the lot of the game designer is never being allowed (or able!) to switch off...regardless of whether it’s any good or not!
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Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:25 am
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Hills and Highways

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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We'll make a board game designer out of Ben Bateson yet! These last few years he's been known to dabble with the occasional intriguing idea and then get distracted with 'real games' and nothing ever comes of it. Our current collaboration - coming up on it's first birthday - is a Snowdonia-esque two-hander called Foothills which has, in it's most recent incarnation, become everything we feared and vowed to avoid: overblown.

At the very start, Ben had come up with an interesting - but ultimately frustrating - mechanism for handling Contract (scoring) cards; we reined it back in to something more conventional and, by doing so, drifted off course. Late November, Ben began chuntering about the card mechanism again and proposed a pretty major change: ditch the worker placement element altogether! Yesterday we tried out a first run of Foothills using his refined card-driven action selection mechanic which can only be described as "twisted Concordia"! It was certainly an inspiring and reassuring session for me and, I hope, for Ben who has been able to return us to something more sympathetic with his original imaginings!


Still the variable railway setup but there ain't no place for workers, Bach!


Topping up our mugs of tea, we relaxed with a couple of games of the frankly-ridiculous Tokyo Highway:


Both games ended with fat-fingered collapse!


Frustratingly, neither Ben nor Arthur nor myself (we mixed) seemed able to get even close to 'spending' all of our cars before a nudging catastrophe brought the daft knot of lollypop stick roads crashing down. There was more fun to be had watching me trying to stop my scored car perpetually sliding down a 5 high -> 3 high ramp; in the end I had to place it cross-ways so it looked like a disaster movie taxi about to tumble off the road into the river!

There wasn't enough time for an Agricola - even though Arthur was well up for it (!) - so we closed this impromptu Saturday distraction with Beyond the Gates of Antares: a Yahtzee-esque dice-chucker from good pal Matt Green.



I remember playing this back in the way-back when it was called 'Escape from Dicelantis' which is a far better name and a far better theme than the naff sci-fi one the publishers slapped on! Underneath the blah-blah about star gates and offensive manouvres and factions is a corking little push your luck-er with asym player powers that rattles through - both audibly and temporally - in 10 minutes; after a couple of rounds, Ben was straight on his phone trying to source a copy!
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Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:45 am
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Boffo's Got A Brand New Bag

Anthony Boydell
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Obviously things are pretty flush in the Bateson household given the debut, on Friday evening, of Boffo's brand new bag:


Someone looks very pleased with himself!


Its got wheels and an extending handle and enough room for approx. 12 standard euros (that's 3 in Gloomhavens) or an average adult human corpse with the limbs snipped off (and slotted in afterwards) for expediency. While we waited for the arrival of Jobbers - a fruitless task given Boffo read the 'No' email as a 'Yes' email - I'm pretty sure that the fake potted flowers on the corner tables began leaning towards the bag, caught in it's gravity well! Speaking of slow and inexorable forces of the Universe, we were joined this time by club irregular Byll whom we haven't seen since my birthday weekend; it's always a pleasure, albeit a rare one, to welcome him back to the fold.

To ease him in gently, we decided to play three completely-new-to-him games! First up was Nusfjord which is a bit of a hot club favourite at the moment:



Byll managed to get himself a neat little table-serving gold engine but failed to build any actual buildings; his tableau rather resembled Hansel & Gretel's witch's cottage in a deep forest at the end but a fine fleet of trawlers saw him to a very respectable 28 points. Jostling for joint second was myself and Boffo on 32 points, me having plumped for filling my board for once and Boffo possessing enough Elders to fill a bus trip to Blackpool. Smudge quietly did a bit of everything and stole the one point victory courtesy of last action of the game "Take 1 Gold"! Nusfjord seems to have been received as bit of a Marmite game but, for our tastes, it ticks every single box.

Our second, also a Spiel 2017 release, was the excellent Calimala:



I adore how everything is so tightly and seamlessly mortared together; the elegance and simplicity of the mechanisms that opens up a delicious session of elbow-jabbing. Both Boffo and I went heavily in to Trading Houses from the off (guided by our secret goals) with the others, naturally, shipping; in a particular stroke of genius, Becky popped a single cube in to London - which was scoring first and got her 3 exclusive points - and ignored it for the rest of the game until Boffo quipped "It would be funny if London was Becky's secret goal!" and then her cheeks flushed a little! There was a minor flurry of activity but she held out for 5 valuable points and that took her to a solid 30+ victory!

To close - and completing a trio of Spiel excellences (it really was a good year, wasn't it?!) - was the easy-peasy Mini Rails:



Even BEFORE Byll had selected his first disc, he was mumbling and grumbling his discomfort as he immediately realised what a bastard little game this is! Four red discs seemed heavily-signposted as 'Avoid!' (very hard to get red safely paying tax in later rounds) but Byll and Smudge got shares anyway. Boffo, meanwhile, was an outrageously comfortable winner having invested in all tax-paying companies and ably-assisted by some odd track-building choices from the other two; none of that matters because it was corking fun to try and claw my way within six points of him!

A fantastic session of gaming that presented plenty of crunchy decisions and left us all with a pleasingly-warm afterglow. Poetically, Boffo rounded things off by almost falling flat on his face trying to maneuver the leviathan hold-all out of the Pub's narrow doorway - Smudge scuttling ahead to the car calling "He's nothing to do with me!".

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:23 am
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Believe in yourshelf

Anthony Boydell
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My library room used to be the dining room but since we built the extension, we have our dinner parties (ha!) in the voluminous kitchen. I bark a derisory 'ha!' in the middle of that previous sentence because this isn't the 19-bloody-70s when 'dinner parties' were all the rage: prawn cocktails, vol-au-vents and enough Blue Nun to fuel the guests AND their cars home. Given the volume of collected crap ephemera, it was pure logic that dictated giving up a dedicated special space for eating in favour of my own personal museum (of sorts).



Above are two segments of seven-segment array that were, in the new days of occupation, wholly given over to books, books and nothing but books; today you can see there has been an 'encroachment'. The damage is much worse if I'd rotated the camera 180 degrees: in fact, it's TOTAL - wall-to-wall games!

The years of collecting have been akin to making a gourmet 'jus' (let's keep the epicurean theme running); I have been progressively buying and releasing stuff - moving, replacing and reducing it down to a rich and concentrated gravy of bits and pieces. In amongst these two panels there is my tween collection of James Bond paperbacks, the first 10 issues of Counter magazine, 12 years of handwritten diaries, First editions, curios (a Weetabix-branded Aston Martin, a shell from the shores of the Indian Ocean, an original Rubik's Cube 'in box'), a complete set of Freak Brothers comics, poetry and a video of my wife singing in the School Choir on BBC TV when neither of us knew who the other was (I saw the same programme at broadcast because my little brother was in the Choir too).

Of course, after 20+ years of boiling down, I've created an eclectic but interesting (to me) jumble of tat. Almost everything comes with a story (two-fold in the case of the books!) and, as my eye wanders, neurons spark and memories flash (which is most distracting when I'm supposed to be working).

In some forums, the idea of the 'shelfie' is spurned and derided - outlawed on pain of expulsion even! - but here, dear Reader, is a safe haven; a welcoming port in a prissy storm. Come, post pictures below of your amply-stocked shelves, your nooks of knick-knacks; let us sigh and nod and weep sweet tears of sympathetic joy at your commendable clutter! Let us ask you what the Hell that thing is?!

I've shown you mine, now show me yours...
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Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:35 am
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Let's play "Spot the Sub-Text"!

Anthony Boydell
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Wow, it's like being a teenager all over again.













Two gaming comfort blankets gone in the space of a month? Man, this kind of thing comes in threes...what next?!

soblue

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Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:30 am
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The Lost Boy(dell)

Anthony Boydell
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We used to have a large, brown sideboard in the living room which – over a period of about 10 years – became an ever-expanding repository for knick-knacks, ‘filed’ post, old photographs, inherited crockery, Primary School projects and a thousand other forms of useful gubbins. In the great Spring purge of 2013, the sideboard was emptied – the contents consigned to the attic / chucked – and given away on a local Freecycle group. The end of 2017 saw a Mrs B pet project come to fruition: a newly-painted, reconditioned and entirely-different sideboard and the attic was relieved of the dusty archive. Buried between the "smash pot" piggy banks and geocache rewards was a two-inch thick deck of small laminated cards, elastic-banded for security: by Jove, it was the lost prototype for my Movie Mogul game!

Discovering Magic: The Gathering in the mid-90s changed my ideas/approach for my Black Overcoat Game and led to a fecund period of designing activity; we’re not talking Euros, here, but lighter fayre with a humourous edge. From this flurry of enthusiastic scribblings came Coppertwaddle, Bloody Legacy and what would eventually become Ivor the Engine; other mock-ups came and went too eg. Car Boot Sale (a card game about negotiating the best price for stuff, some of which might turn out to be antiques), Scavenger Hunt (a physically-active version of Scattergories) and the aforementioned Movie Mogul (Shock! Horror! A game about making and releasing movies).

I don’t have a rule sheet for Movie Mogul - it would’ve been lost to my mid-2000s burgled Dell PC – so the cards themselves must tell the story:


Without the author there is nothing.” ― Michael E. Bierman


Each movie needs a Script and all of the scripts were in a draw deck along with the Actors and Directors (and Actor/Directors); you needed two actors, a director and a script to put the movie in to 'production':
Cost - How much to put this in to play from your Hand (you started the game with 50); a pencil and paper sufficed as I didn't have a copy of Monopoly at the time.
Take - A multiplier, combined with other Take bonuses on cards, applied to a 2d6 dice roll when the film is "released"; the first player to earn over 500 money was the winner.
Shoot - The number of counters to place on a movie when it goes in to production; at the start of each of your turns, you removed a Shoot counter from each movie.
Award - A modifier for a system (now forgotten) of determining whether a released movie also won an Oscar (three Oscars was an alternative win condition).


All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” ― William Shakespeare


Actors and Directors have the same attributes; when in production you add up all the Shoot values to see how many turns it will take and, when on release, add up all the Take values and multiply your 2d6 roll accordingly!

Finally, in a separate deck, are the Events: a miscellaneous collection of TCG staple effects to boost/screw over according to taste (there's quite a lot of 'take that!' which, as I leafed through, made me shudder):


Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


Back in the box it goes, though; there's no place for this kind of thing nowadays apart from being a sweet, naïve reminder of a game designer setting out on his journey - and that's enough in itself, I think.
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Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:10 am
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A Grand Don't Come For Free

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The Bible wrote:

Some bloggers went out to sow their words (ie. write a blog). As they were blogging, some words fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them (ie. they didn't get passed the first post). Some fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much "soil". They sprang up quickly, because the "soil" was shallow. But when the sun rose, the posts were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (they were updated at first but then fizzled to a halt). Other blogs fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked their words (ie. they got trolled over something and were put off forever). Still other blogs fell on good soil and produced a crop—a hundredfold, sixtyfold, or a thousandfold. He who has ears, let him hear*.”

*this is, of course, an excellent pun from the Son Of God


Today sees the It Beats Watching The TV blog reach the shiny, sparkling heights of 1000 posts! Wow! There aren't many other blogs on BGG that have achieved this impressive milestone (eg. A Gnome's Ponderings, Too Many Games!) but there ARE a lot of regularly-updated blogs, though these tend to be weekly or thereabouts. Stu Burnham has been posting EVERY SINGLE DAY, without fail, since May 2015 and has been consistently fascinating, funny and poignant (sometimes all at the same time!). I shall, of course, hate him until Doomsday for doing a box-fart video before me. So, then, I urge you to nip over to his 1000th post and thumb the bloody bastard Hell out of it - and if you've not already subscribed?


Do it immediately!
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Tue Jan 9, 2018 6:05 am
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Safe Space

Anthony Boydell
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The central heating boiler broke down over the Festive holidays and while it was out-of-action (for about four days), the family took to either staying in bed for the duration (the teenage boys!) OR taking up residence in the Living Room (the rest of us) where there's a fine old wood-burning stove and a store full of logs just waiting to be burnt. There's nothing quite so comforting as having toasty toes in a mood-lit space - curtains closed against the storms - with a cup of hot beverage (masala chai being my current favourite) to hand and, maybe, a shortbread biscuit or two. Round this halycon picture off with a good book resting on one's lap and you have the model of Winter bliss right there!



Come Sunday afternoon, with a clear sky and only a mild nip in the air, the fire may be quenched but this safe space is now well-established; I have moved on from Uncommon People (David Hepworth) to The World Without Us (Alan Weisman) and the sofa is moulding itself pleasingly to the Boydellian buttock.

Do you have a favourite place? Could someone please pop the kettle on?
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Mon Jan 8, 2018 6:20 am
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Tick-Tock

Anthony Boydell
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A favourite hobby horse for gamers is to complain about the "accuracy" of the Playing Time, as printed on the side of a game box. Its an eternal game of True or False? where the informed experience of designers, developers and publishers - who have lived and breathed a product for (usually) some years - is pitted against the first evening's experience of complete strangers.



The traditional rubrik of X to Y mins which, of course (and it shouldn't have to be spelled out but...), is an indication of an AVERAGE playing time that takes in to account some experience of the game. Up until now, the world has seen fit to avoid the need to print an extra box labelled "Expected First Game Duration", as this would be more like a vast cosmological equation having to consider:

The intelligence of the group or, more specifically, the intelligence of the stupidest member of the group;

The preparation and/or explanatory skills of the teacher (loquacious vs succinct? coherent vs rambling? audible vs mute? etc);

The environment in which the game is being played ie. visibility (lighting, dense fog etc), background noise (intimacy vs Hen Party) and physical space

Player's susceptibility to over-analysing; and,

The level of general distractions eg. eating a meal at the same time, wandering pets / children and free Wi-Fi.

To expect a number on a box to exactly fit your personal circumstances comprised of many factors out of the control of the game is not just unreasonable, it's bone-headedly imbecilic.

Recently, publishers have started using the X per Player approach which is a smart about-turn as one's natural response is to think about the specifics of each intended player and adjust accordingly eg. Jobbers (a name pulled from the aether purely at random) likes to 'consider his moves more carefully than most', so we'll count him as 1.5 players instead.

In the end, publishers don't just roll a couple of d100s or pull raffle tickets from a hat; we think about these things carefully and honestly - any variance that YOU might suffer is your own fault and you should try a bit harder next time.
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Sun Jan 7, 2018 9:36 am
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