Global warming seems to have pushed the meteorological concept of April Showers in to mid-June, so a week of hotness rounded out - on Sunday - with glowing warmth cycling in to gusty drizzle in to five minute drenches and back to glowing warmth; fortunately, Mrs B and Arthur and Ziggy and me had light coats and a dense forest to wander through in the PM. Queens' Woods, near Dymock, on the border between Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, is a favourite area to lose oneself and a couple of hours; indeed, our Holy Day excursion took us to an entirely new section of the woodland along a baked, twisty-turny tunnel-of-tree-trunks path:
Even though the Heavens opened on a couple of occasions, the dense canopy kept most of it off.
Shafts of golden light spotlighting the humus; be-fungused roots a trip hazard - all giving a Mirkwood vibe.
The last sludged remains of a forest pool; come Autumn, this will be a cold mirror to the grumbling sky:
With the help of the iPhone's compass app, we headed hard-East to the car park and, thence, home for a cup of delicious tea.
Later in the evening - nursing a bowl of re-heated, home-made curry - I signed in to Tabletopia and Zoom for a first go at pal Nick Case's* new prototype: Pilgrim
In summary: the central mancala mechanism lets players seed the pointed Duty (action) tiles with their meeples and then choose one Duty - in which they have a presence - to execute: a majority for you gifts TWO instances of the action, parity (a 'level with someone else' majority) gifts ONE and a minority gifts ONE at a cost of one coin. The actions get you more peeps (serfs) in to the game, let you build roads and shrines to pilgrimage sites (worth LOTS of points), increase your piety, produce resources (wheat, stone), build booster buildings (except the useless fucking BARN) and give Alms to the needy (for end-of-Season scoring boosts). All in all, it's a sumptuous soup of interlocking mechanisms and opportunities for both scoring and screwage - and not nearly as complicated to learn/follow as you might think. In short, like TotN before it, Pilgrim is a heavy gamers' game with much to explore and plenty of time to explore it!
I came last - but only by one point - and now that I know what's going on, here's hoping I can make a better
fistpraying palms of it next time. A rather lovely Sunday, then: restful, scenic and rounded off with some cerebral exercise.
Amen to that.
*see also Tales of the Northlands: The Sagas of Noggin the Nog, Nimbee and The Front Nine
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
Archive for Session Report
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My little bro has been "stuck" in Australia for the duration of the lockdown with his fiancé Aki. Aki's mother passed away and both had met up in Oz - Aki currently lives in Japan, Stuart in West Wales - to sort out her affairs. On Friday, Stu reached 49 years:
My little brother who, while I reclined on the familial sofa in the late 70s to watch Swap Shop or World of Sport (for the 'wrestling'), would sneak up and fart in my face and run away with a merry cry of "Smell THAT!".
My little brother who roadied, occasionally, for Carter USM and cut his face open on a collapsing half-pipe on a 1980s Christmas Eve.
My little brother who makes ukuleles and guitars and furniture, has a degree in Quantity Surveying and taught Italian Cookery at a South Wales college: you thought that I covered a lot of ground in the average day?! Well, dear reader, I present Stuart 'Boydellini' Boydell. Stuart was conceived shortly after my mother had suffered an ectopic pregancy and there was much mooting that his own gestation would come to naught; of course I am delighted - despite the childhood guff attacks - that the kind, gentle, softly-spoken and talented fellow made it through to the real World.
For the rest of the day, the failing battery in my Macbook needed regular 'ice pack' cooling as Teams and Skype sucked the life out of it; come the evening - and a brief respite for the chippy supper - it was wheezing again to support BoardGameArena and Yucata japes avec les Batesons:
Three brisk iterations of the entirely wonderful Innovation (2 to me and 1 to Smudge) was followed by an aborted boiteajeux.net 'Gric - because Boffo remembered that Troyes was also available on BGA:
I love this game and don't play it nearly often enough; consequently, the first round is me remembering what the Hell I am supposed to do...which puts me the round (and about 5VPs) behind everyone else. I made a brave fist of abusing the military (Archers) and scooping a generous hand of Event cards but failed to hit my hidden goal 6VPs by a couple of coins. All told, this is still a brilliant piece of work; I wonder how different Black Angel is? Can anyone inform?
We closed at 2130HRS after a speedy, banter-fuelled The Downfall of Pompeii; my own trio of '4' building cards and a generous helping of drawn Omens had me 50% more peeps on the board come the eruption - it should be no surprise, then, that I managed to get the most people to safety:
With a healthy suite of games played and it still light outside, Mrs B and I settled down to watch Ocean's 8: a crime caper (fifth in the series?!) admirable for its extensive female cast but risible for the stale, slack-paced, clichéd and clumsy storytelling. Still, the company was great so much else can be forgiven.
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The Pubs will be opening again in a couple of weeks - apparently - but there'll be no barfly-ing OR sharing-of-complimentary-peanuts for the foreseeable. Social distancing will apply but not the full 'two metres'; I guess spooning is definitely out but everything else is fair game? Who knows: we've transitioned from 'all in it together' to 'everyone for himself': small British companies must absolutely not be allowed to fail at this point...otherwise there'll be no-one left to fail come 01/01/21.
The Ross-on-Wye board gamers are not clear whether a reinstatement of Friday nights at The Plough Inn would allow for us to be huddled around Jobbers' A Jackson Pollock from his bollock "painting" table. All that dobber-fondling and deck-manipulation's gonna share a lot of microbes (and not in Smudge's favoured Terraforming Mars way); never mind Boffo's H-number, what about the bleedin' R-number?
A robust five on the dot of 7.30PM and Boffo mooted Snowdonia (Yucata.de): Boffo, Smudge, Dave, Ian and me. Everyone's a veteran of this brilliantly-designed worker placement affair, so there was no pissing about when it came to a) exploiting a beautiful run of good weather and b) getting stuck in to some hot train-building action!
Boffo almost made it - being the only loco-less player - but a well-anticipated grab for some contract-fulfilling rubble and an almost-sacrificed Snowdon engine in favour of a fourth track build (and a second, 31 point contract!) took me to a comfortable, rather sudden Victory (5 track laid in one round). It really is quite the oddest feeling to play one's own game without worrying about the playtesting process; I played it a lot before publication, obviously, but 100s and 100s of times since for the sheer, revelling pleasure - I shall never to cease to be in awe of it.
Gerv popped up - no camera for the first few minutes because he'd self-administered a haircut so bad he'd been forced to shave everything off; we gently coaxed him in to the visible realm with coos and billows of chirpy encouragement.
Now at six, it was a hop to BGA and the first Libertalia in which I have participated for many a month:
Much 'hurr'-ing and 'harr'-ing ensued - peppered with Blackadder 2 'Red Beard Rum' quotes - prompting a churlish "Well I'm going to fetch the gin, then!" from Smudge: we shall surely miss the risk free-drinking that accompanies these lockdown sessions. It was neck-and-neck after two campaigns but an appalling Monkey-based brainfart in the third saw me fall to an avalanche of cursed masks (ending negative 2 for the week); with the play of a single card, I dropped from victory contention to ignominy. A glorious way to spend 30 mins, though; there's no denying the greatness of Mr Mori's piratical diversion.
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Ok - so here's a video illustrating the gameplay of Aleph Null. It's taken me MANY attempts to get a whole game done; ideally, I'd like to show a victory BUT my ineptitude often gets in the way. Additionally, I keep finding little edge cases mid-game and try and rationalise them in to the general framework as I go along!
Anyway, here's the (flawed) video:
BTW - here's a little (spoilered) post-game analysis:Spoiler (click to reveal)This game should've been a probable LOSS rather than a (low score) WIN because the Brazier generated three power in a single turn - around 16 mins in - and should've destroyed itself at the end of that turn; the resulting confusion about Brazier triggers in the last few turns wouldn't have occured after all.
Also, I was outrageously lucky using the Cursed Hourglass when one of the three cards available was a major piece of the Baphomet-summoning puzzle and a managed to NOT draw it - normally, I wouldn't gamble on it!
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While the Ross-on-Wye gamers have - as far as I am aware - been pretty fortunate in their experience of Covid-19 (though we think Gerv might've had it, early doors), the whole lockdown has had some curious effects overall:
i) Jobbers seems to have disappeared from the face of the communicative Earth; occasionally, he'll take his turn on Navegador (fourteen weeks and counting - Jesus) but has refused to come online for even a single "How is everyone doing?" session. I wonder if Boffo might flip his usual 'RSVP if coming' email to 'Let me know you're ok, for Gods' sake!'
ii) a wildly-enthusiastic series of Friday nights 'online' (myself included), at the start of the crisis, has dwindled to barely hitting three (two of them being the Batesons); for myself, it's a combination of being in front of the laptop on teleconferences during the day - locked 'officially' in the library room as if I were actually away in work - and being distracted by other goings-on in the evenings (later supper serving, box sets with the Missus, Lego with Arthur etc) because I've not actually driven off to another town.
iii) online gaming just isn't the same. I've got new stuff I'm itching to play but it's not available 'online' and, besides, there's no tactillity to be had on BGA; even the taking-away of tedious upkeep, admin and manual scoring reduces the enjoyment: there's no 'packing up bants' when all you have to do is click the [Play Again] button.
I can't keep myself away from the RoW-ers forever, though; I need a top-up fix of the bickering, guffawing, self-deprecating, daft chatter that's kept us together for ten years: play games, talk about the news (a tad), exchange recommendations and generally take the piss.
Even if I decide to cry off early - 10-ish seems about right, as Arthur's bedtime has stretched to 'when it gets dark' in these 'no School Night' times - we still manage to get some quality dobbershovin' in:
To open, Yucata's pretty implementation of The Downfall of Pompeii: new to Smudge, this game of four halves (non-relatives placement phase, relatives placement phase, initial volcano tile placement and "Run for your Lives!") tickles along breezily enough. Not sure what happened in the mid-game, though: on the cusp of what seemed to be a mass Antoninus evacuation, sticky-fingered Omen-hoarder Smudge started pitching citizens in to the sulphurous cone and Boffo - not the lithe-est of patricians - put on an impressive turn of speed to get his folks to safety!
Decamping to BGA, a trio of Innovations provided a thick slice of thinkery-mixed-with-explosive-chaos; Gods, but this is an astonishing piece of work - in particular, I would have to single out the TUCK and SPLAY mechanisms as being Hall of Fame-worthy, for sure!
The first game was a simple first-to-their-fifth achievement, taken with aplomb by Yours Truly and his score pile of immensitude.
The second was a no-more-10s tie-breaker after I went crazy-ape-bonkers-with-a-drill-and-sex using my Clocks.
The third saw Smudge grabbing Defeat from the jaws of Victory by allowing us to meld-like-bastards and Boffo more-bastardly to get his required pair of tableau-triggered Achievements! Smudge's gin-soaked protestations of horror were drowned out by mine and Boffo's equally loud howls of insane laughter - manic, you might say - and that was the perfect note upon which to depart.
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Pal Richard - with whom I was staying for my London-wards working periods - was off-loading some old bits-and-bobs and offered me 'first dibs' on stuff in lieu of Petrol-to-Essen money: barter is a wonderful thing and barter involving board games is simply the best*
Amongst the crop of boxes that got mixed up with the Essen haul - and then stacked on the highest shelf - was The Downfall of Pompeii; a classic from the early noughties. Attempting to lure Arthur away from Sea of Thieves, Fortnite and his recursive viewing of the entirety of The Simpsons on Disney+, I mooted the idea of a game where you throw other players' pieces in to a volcano...and he was hooked:
We played a couple of games: firstly, I edged the win on the 'charred corpses' tie-break and, then, a second - joining us was Arthur's younger bigger brother Benedict:
This time, Arthur won on the tie...having gleefully pitched my noble citizens in to the liquid rock. He also displayed an unerring preference for 'cutting my guys off' first...before slowly enveloping them in molten death. Kids today, eh?
*better than all the rest.
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Matthew Dunstan is a great game designer, an annoyingly-good game player and a bloody nice bloke. He, recently, acquired a copy of Nusfjord and now he and his partner really love it - I have only one thing to say: "What the Hell took you so long?"! It's not like I've been raving about it's beauty and form for two bloody years now.
Anyway, glad that he's finally stumbled upon the Fountain of Gaming Youth, he challenged me to a Solo comparison. Fully expecting for the enormously-brained Aussie Cambridgian to spank my gaming botty, he sent me pics of the cards he drew.
He kept his final score secret until I'd had a go at this setup myself:
Interestingly, there is a 50/50 crossover in our buildings/elders and - it seems - we both hit off with the Labourer Square; for me it's a welcome avoidance of the Deforest action that I find quite inefficient - I'd rather get the Wood as a side-benefit of something else than having to go 'a-choppin' directly! In a major parting-of-the-ways, Matt seems to have become quite attached to his boats whereas I quickly settled in to Sloop->Cutter-->SELL!SELL!SELL! with a last minute collection of all three types to a) get out the Museum and b) clear the Haul decks for a last action build of the Fishhouse. Indeed, it's that Harbour manipulation - aided by the ever faithful (and cheap!) Stilt House - that took me the 11 points ahead.
I very much look forward to continuing this challenge - it's now on ME to 'go first' - and, hopefully, I'll manage a few more wins before Robot Dunstan's optimization programming kicks in!
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For the first Friday in a while, I rocked up to Skype and let the laptop get all hot and bothered in the company of Ian, Boffo and Smudge. No Dave this week - thanks to a BSoD - but four is plenty when you've got a couple of hours and BoardGameArena hasn't collapsed in a gibbering bandwidth heap.
I suggested Can't Stop as an amuse bouche but after 30s there was nothing amuse about it. Bland and turgid 'on the screen' and it wasn't finished nearly fast enough: this is fab little game but one that needs to be 'in real life'.
We continued - me sopping to Smudge and Ian in an attempt to make up for the CS fiasco - with Stone Age: a lovely implementation on BGA and it breezed along contentedly. I'm not sure what the Hell I thought I was doing but it was a nothing sort of effort from myself.
Never mind, though! Gerv joined us - with Ian and myself settled in to several pints of Plum Porter and Boffo 'on the wine' - for a five player 7 Wonders. Without all the titting about that usually accompanies the Ross-on-Wye board gamers' less-than-wonderful Wondering, the whole thing whisks along and you're all done in about 10 mins (if that)!
Three games on the trot (and nothing but ignominious last place for Yours Bleary-Eyed Truly) and I decided to call it a night around 10PM. I attempted to watch The Graham Norton Show with Mrs B but the exhaustion of the working week (and the heady 5% ABV of the Porter) had proper done for me and I went to bed.
Saturday is a lie-in day; served coffee by the quart by the kids, Mrs B and I recline in the audio comfort of the Shag, Married, Annoyed podcast. By the time we can be bothered to get movin', it's lunchtime so food and out-and-about in the garden for a bit.
After errands and chores, the family - having taunted me with promises of "...play some games, Dad?!" - kept true to their word and we sat around the kitchen table for larks!
First up was Full Moon: resplendent with its simplified - and magnet-friendly (flexible metallic sheet) - board:
Arthur was the first to lock all the locations of the face-down cards and sped his way around, about, up, down and through the Moon to complete the requisite three quests and win easily.
Time for one more before supper-cooking and it was Hare & Tortoise that caught Mrs B's eye:
Chewing lettuce, tortoise-ing, hanging back and streaking ahead for a tense finale between myself and the good missus: thankfully, she gambled too hard on the Hare cards and missed a crucial turn - this allowed me time to get rid of some surplus carrots and trot over the line with 19 carrots remaining (just ONE inside the maximum allowed)! Mrs B loved it and is itching to play it again...and have her Leprine revenge, no doubt!
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For me, at least, solo gaming has become a mild preoccupation and it's nothing attributable to this Covid-19 catastrophe. No, indeed; the combined pushing of Lux Aeterna across the production line and the breadth of 'on my own' testing for Attention All Shipping, Rome Sweet Rome and Aleph Null has me quite used to pushing bits around the square, dark-mahogany coffee table in the Library room. Now I won't go as far as committing myself to subscriptions for the SGOYT threads BUT (let's just say, between you and me), I'm quite happy to be alone with the bluetooth speaker and a free afternoon.
On Friday, I received a rather pleasant surprise from the senior managers on our Project:
As we're all contractors (and, undoubtedly, handsomely-remunerated for our hit-the-ground-running endeavours), this kind of team-building gifting is entirely possible and smiled-upon - unlike the sour-faced world of the 'permie' with their 'Declared Gifts', 'Conflicts of Interest' and all that other stiff-necked, humourless guff! The rationale, over the final MS-Teams call of the day (all video feeds switched ON), was that we'd all have been out for a team beer by now so why not keep the faith, albeit by the (tricky) medium of myHermes?!
Saturday brought sunshine and an urgent wish for shopping; thus, scribbled list in hand, I took the Volvo out - for its first run in two weeks - to Morrisons in Ross-on-Wye. One hundred and seventy pounds later, I returned the triumphant hunter/gatherer with 12 bottles of Titanic Plum Porter and other, miscellaneous, piffling foodstuffs.
I rewarded myself with a lovely sit down and a first run at recent 'splurge' Assembly; a say 'splurge' because I've had my eye on this since Wren Games missed out on Spiel'19 and paid for the all-in bundle: neoprene mats, core game and expansions plus it's sister game Sensor Ghosts (also 'with mat'). After the initial shock of a storyline about a trapped crew member facing a glitchy computer (*gulp* Lux what?! Aeterna who?!), this is a simple - but delightful - spatial-manipulation puzzle:
You need to get the get the modules (blue discs) out on the 'clock' and then shift them (rotate, swap) onto their matching system card. Once in place, you can lock them (1 or 2 at a time with a certain card); you have three runs through the (very small) deck to get them ALL in place:
As you would expect - and this is another lovely wrinkle - there are glitches (oh! not again!), Malfunctions (events/conditions that apply when the positions 12, 3, 6 and 9 are 'locked') and an interfering A.I that fucks with the system cards between deck shuffles: it may have been easy for me on my first plays because I've been playing on 'Easy' mode! The next phase is for me to use the differently-able Crew Members, with their asymmetric powers, to beat the system at a sensible difficulty level!
There's plenty of quick-playing fun (10 mins a game) to explore in this hidden gem; so, it's a bloody good job we've all got plenty of time on our hands, then.
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Here's a quick post - to counteract the miserableness of today's 'other' - showing my eldest puddin' (Alice) playtesting my new solo prototype:
More on this tomorrow
- or should that be
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