All the kids were over for Pa's Day - apart from Alice (eldest) who is journeying around Devon and Cornwall on a meditative/creative odyssey. Showingly-pregnant Katie was here too: baby Lyla bouncing around in utero and Benedict getting his first taste of 'the day'.
Those of us, in a chilly Newent (where HAS the sun gone?!), had no choice but to play back-to-back Mario Kart tournaments, eat lasagne/home-made truffle chocolates, watch Doctor Who and play board games:
Trying to avoid the heavier fayre, Benedict and Katie and Daisy and I raced through the excellent family favourite Eco-Links:
Race to complete paths that connect the animals - on the edge - to each other without dead-ends, 'go nowheres' etc.
Dynamic and fun, Eco-Links was Cédrick Chaboussit's gift to me at Spiel'18 - he has a habit of highlighting family-friendly hits that you might otherwise miss when prowling the Halls.
It was sheep racing next and, once again, my daft and tiny-boxed filler keeps winning fans:
For myself, the day presented a small-but-perfectly-formed collection of gifts:
...but a houseful of noise, laughter - and no little expectation (2 months to go) - was the best present of all*.
*mind you: that deluxe edition of MADI (signed by writer/director Duncan Jones) is a bloody close second!
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
Archive for Session Report
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With the news, from the bloviating sack of be-shitted mashed potato and straw that passes as our 'Prime Minister'*, that Freedom Day* is to be postponed absolutely, positively, definitely, no-more-delays-we-promise, just the one more time (to be completely certain) until mid-July, the basking Summer welcomed we masked attendees to the Tuesday Nights At Tuffley**. There's a Leo Sayer ('all day-er') planned for this coming Saturday which is still going ahead but, of course, the previously-anticipated freedom to move between Table Bubbles has now been withdrawn.
Three tables of four, though, for this evening and - being as I'm on a promise to Jeric to play Glory to Rome - that was two of us already 'placed'. We were joined by pal Ian - my erstwhile driver for the evening who's always up to try something new - and Ben, the most recognisable member of the Club because he always wears his Sainsburys uniform: he's either just finished - or will be on his way later to - work. Not wanting to scare the horses, we started gently with a couple of games of For Sale THEN into the eye-popping, zone-traversing, lead/follow maelstrom that is The Greatest Card Game Ever Designed.
GTR is a Hell of a teach despite the core structure being pretty normal, by today's standards: multi-use cards, card 'zones', six core actions, buildings equal effect amplification and 'most points win.
My tactic is to:
a) describe the player board and how influence affects your capacity
b) the six core actions - paired as 'BUILD' (Craftsman, Architect), 'GATHERING MATERIALS' (Labourer, Legionary) and 'GAMER' (Patron, Merchant)
c) how leading and following works (including 'clients') and
c) the end game conditions / final scoring.
That's usually enough to get everyone going with the subtleties of out-of-town sites and other fringe rules being saved closer to when they might be relevant. As you'd expect, the first few rounds were shaky; Ben, in particular, visibly in conflict with the rules as they tried to settle into his brain. The I.V player boards are pretty good at summarising the actions - you even get big 'stuff goes here!' arrows for gained Lab/Leg resources - but if you don't get it then you just don't get it. An hour of me spinning both my own and Ben's tableau was exhausting for both of us: there was a "Kill. Me. Now" vibe to poor Ben's glassy, thousand yard stare.
It seemed only fair that we decompress with something light and easy - cue: my sheep racing game (Steering Wools aka Championsheep). As with every other outing, SW went down an absolute treat and - for the first time - I managed to 'nose' Jensen Mutton over the finish line ahead of Merino Andretti (Ian).
The Lords of Hellas table was ploughing on - still stacking plastic as the Sun went down - but the third table had finished and were looking for a closer. Just the ticket was my Race The Rails (packed for just this eventuality); eight, sweaty players huddled over a large table sharing breath and looking for railway stations as quickly as possible! The winner - Jeric - arrived home fourth (the last of the 'chance of winning' spaces) with the most money and, therefore, won; he'd helped a lot of folk find their un-locate-able stations (for a Penny reward each time) along the way and was rewarded for his Public-spiritedness.
As the sacred packing up ritual completed, Mark and Jeric and I mused on the possibility of fitting an 18XX into a future session; indeed, from there it's just a short hop-and-a-skip to Splotter Spellen and the glorious historical worlds of Cole Wehrle. Now you're talking...
*have you ever heard such ridiculous, jingoistic, Nationalist fetishism
**Five Nights at Freddy's without most of the horror
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You're very lucky indeed if you have friends that have travelled with you for most of your life and, it seems, that friends made at University (and equivalent institutions) are the most persistent of all. It must be the shared experiences in an environment we chose for ourselves - unlike school, where we had to be there and our choices were woefully-limited. In Further Education, you're - hopefully - finally working towards/doing what you want to do in life and - also hopefully - now have the requisite social skills to bond with like-minded souls!
Malc and Angie are two such granite pillars of Mrs B's and my - lives: student housed together, becoming parents around the same time, growing into mortgages, careers and the old age together. Had there been no pandemic, the Boydells and the Instone-Halls get together three or four times a year (alternating venue) for long weekends of chat, games, walking the dogs, food and plenty of ale. Having BEEN in a pandemic, M&A's visit this weekend was the first in 15 months (apart from a socially-distanced walk along the Malvern Hills last Spring).
This rekindling was planned with as much 'outside time' as we could muster: walks in-and-around Newent, barbecues and much reclining in the (newly mown) garden with - of course and naturellement - the clacking of balls and the tossing of wood.
11PM and you can still bleed a garden photo out of the iPhone: the Molkky had been dispensed in a sunset glow and all that remained was to slowly intoxicate oneself next to the open fire.
Recently-repaired (by Mrs B), the home-made family Croquet set (50 years old) graced the baking green for several highly-competitive rounds:
There were no tabletop games - not due to any reluctance but with the continuing presence of both beers and glorious weather that simply refused to go away! Even a couple of inflamed insect bites on us Gentlemens' fat legs could not distract from the simple bliss of a weekend at home with best friends.
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What better way to get back into IRL Ross-on-Wye board gaming spirit than with some good, old-fashioned, highly-interactive favourites? When I say 'highly-interactive' I do, of course, mean 'brutal and unforgiving' (wherever possible): it's so good to be back home again.
Boffo messaged, mid-Friday, informing me that we would be joined - at Jobbers' Garden Palace - by Xander (a VERY occasional attendee these last 10 years) and tentatively-suggesting The Princes of Florence. I replied: "Oh good Christ! Yes!!!" and we had the main course in our figurative Friday Night Dinner menu*. I slipped the excellent Senators in the bag (the ONLY thing in the bag, this week) relying, instead, on Boffo to fill in the rest of the 'Best with 5' blanks:
We opened with Northern Pacific: simplicity itself when it comes to the rules (place an investment cube OR advance the railway) but rich in turn-order importance, tiny alliances, follow-my-leader and opportunistic dickery. The first round was so nervous that three players placed just one cube and two none-at-all before the train steamed into Seattle (!) Round two, however, had more meat on its bone ('Meat' is the MVP word for this week's club), with a spread of cubes and some nicely-timed 'right turn's getting us all scoring and hustling into round 3. The last round was properly tense: who would break first in the blockade of the West Coast before the locomotive would come steaming home?! A high scorer for almost everyone, I managed to sneak just the one cube ahead for victory. The game, as a whole, was a potted example of the players' journey from 'New game, who dis?' to 'Ah! Now I get it!"
On to the star attraction, then, and The Princes of Florence: one of my 5Gs 4D and, if the Club were a person, one of its picks too**! Xander was new to the delights of this tetris-y, recipe fulfilment, 21 actions (7 of them auction purchases) leviathan of repute and perfection. Xander, I think, added an interesting spanner into our Works (literally!) as he hoovered bonus cards to help power some lucrative professions; we all followed and never have I seen the Bonus Card deck punished so hard! Boffo played a 'long game', quietly nurturing a couple of 'easy' Prestige cards and a trio of heavily-boosted Works: it wasn't enough to come from a distant last to a win..but it was more than sufficient to pip the usually-reliable Jobbers into third position for second. Smudge, as always, maintained a steady hand on the tiller: it'll be a cold day in Gamer Hell when she doesn't end in the top Two.
The sun had still not set over the Much Marcle church, so out came Senators: keeping 'on message' with the knife fight in a phone booth theme. Previous outings had been a little subdued with Senator movement a bit sluggish; this time, however, there was a LOT of to-ing and fro-ing! Free Senators, stolen senators, War and other Event card Senators, big 'cash-ins' - the whole lot! Senator markers danced up and down the track with a remarkable fervour! I, myself, managed three substantial 'cash-ins', buying the loyalty of at least two nobles each time (with money to spare); indeed, my final cash-in lured 5 money each from Xander and Jobbers (to 'join in my action'), giving me the funds for a third! It wasn't enough, though; Jobbers pipping Ben for the laurels in this superlative, chewy filler.
We closed the session with one last bastion of the unforgiving in the form of Knizia's amazing Too Many Cooks or, as we like to refer to it in RoW: "Soup!". Yes, indeed; a quick rules explanation from Boffo elicited repeated "Don't leave NO SOUP until the final round"s from Jobbers, myself and Smudge - it's good to be clear about potential pitfalls. Terrified of this trap myself, I opened the first round with my NO SOUP goal predicated entirely on surviving-without-taking the first trick...which I singularly failed to do: gah! Round one down and I went from plus 5 to minus 4 (the rules say you cannot go below zero but this is the RoW variant and all the better for being so). Boffo - half a bottle of red wine into the evening - almost suffered an embolism at my catastrophic ineptitude; his enthusiastic ribbing of my clumsiness would, unfortunately, come back to bite him in the ass (along with several carpet tacks that Jobbers had used to fix the fabric to Ben's chair! - Ouch!). Jobbers sailed away with the win - ably followed by Xander and Smudge, who both survived their own NO SOUP rounds with relative ease. I, pleasingly, clawed my way out of the minuses to end on nine points; Ben, not so gloatingly now, languishing below zero.
We could really get used to this open-to-the-elements gaming environment: the cooling Summer evening, the fresh air and bird song. Xander might be up for an Eclipse (Jobbers too) if I can a) rustle up Ian, Daffers and Dave Wood as fellow Hegemonics and b) set up a Gazebo in my garden to assuage Jobbers' lingering Covid transmission fears.
Gazebos are cheap compared to the priceless experiences we have as a Games Club.
*Paul Ritter R.I.P. Who, in the Club, is Jim?
**A 'Club' interviewed? That would be interesting!
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Eldest son - Fred - has taken up D&D, again, with his long-time pal Adam; the latter runs LOTS of roleplaying campaigns and is universally-regarded as an excellent G.M. The venue is the Tuffley Community Centre - home to my non-Ross-on-Wye gaming at the tail-end of 2020 - which has opened up in a masked movement/table service for drinks type-way. Adam's dad (Ian) did the driving last week with Fred bussing over from Cheltenham; last night Ian had to work so I thought I'd whet my in-person/wider club whistle by driving Adam into Gloucester and picking Fred up along the way.
Fred's been just-about coping in his supported living for 9 months now: the restrictions of the pandemic have seen him up-and-down emotionally BUT he's been coping and I'm burstingly-proud of him. His younger brother - Benedict - was with us for a couple of days to help with various garden projects and I dropped him off as I picked Fred up. I had a momentary flashback to when all the children were living at home: younglings - before the dramas, the traumas and the growing pains. My heart aches for the simplicity of that time.
Anyway, with the boys safely ensconced in the RPG cupboard (it IS a cupboard where the Community Hall keeps the fitness club crash-mats and foldable tables), I settled into the Darts Room for board games:
Ah, Cubist! Straightforward rules and 40 mins of dice-rolling, dice-stacking shenanigans: the perfect opener! Cubist has just the right amount of luck (the rollin'), planning (the bonus effect cards) and opportunism (Jack didn't a marvellous about-face from one complex template - 70% done - to another complex template that was now 90% done). Andy somehow snuck in four MUSEUM builds (a difficult setup meant at least three other chances to add fizzled with no valid play) to sneak the win from Siona. Jack and I tied in failure - but it's the artistic process that's more important than the final Art itself, right?!
Next was something family-friendly (and daft) from Siona:
It's Jenga with fuzzy, cloth balls and forfeits when you drop a fuzzy (or two, but not the whole tower). The penalties - you can have up to three simultaneously - apply for your next turn only; play continues until someone destroys the tower:
"Elephant arms using my off-hand" + "Pick with Index and Middle Finger"(not the provided tweezers) + "Must be placed as the Highest Fuzzy" = Lancing pain in broken shoulder and ineptitude"
Next: two goes at the 8-bit aesthetic of Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game:
It's Dungeon Lords without all of the tiresome Euro-ing about: lay out a line of room cards, entice heroes to your dungeon and kill them before they make it to your 'Boss' at the end of the line. If they survive, they count as damage (5+ = you're out; sole survivor = winner); if dead, they're VPs (first to 10 wins).
May I just point out - at this juncture - that I'd also packed the following games into my bag: Agricola, Glory To Rome and Senators. I fear I was being rather optimistic because these were all new to the folks at the table and would, therefore, require a full Boydell teach - not something I - or, indeed, they - should suffer so early on in our hibernation awakening!
A quick round of Perudo followed - using the dice from Cubist - and we closed with a six-player 6 nimmt! extravaganza: oh, the joy of watching the expressions of new players as the catastrophes play out!
Fred and Adam were kicking stones around the car park - waiting for me to pack up and get them home - so we beetled back to Newent to a soundtrack of their evening's adventures: bandit attacks, wolf-taming and self-harming Goth wizards. It takes all-sorts.
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For a game designer with game designer pals, perhaps the harshest side-effect of the pandemic has been the inability to get ourselves together to eat and drink and push our collaborations forward. Some work has been possible via Skype/Zoom/whatever but nothing quite beats being crowded round a table with a bottled beer in one hand and shoving components around a taped, paper board mock-up with the other. This weekend just gone, long time gaming pal Matt Green (Miremarsh, Flicky Spaceships, Beyond the Gates of Antares: The Dice Game a.k.a Bugger t'dog) journeyed up from England's garden - the South East - for a few sunny days.
Showing him to the spare room, I assured him that the shelves of museum stock were secured to the wall and presented no potential crushing hazard in the middle of the night. Then into the garden for sunshine, a welcome cup of tea and his first attempt at Aleph Null. The six hour journey - it's really NOT a good plan to travel around the bottom of London on a Friday afternoon - had knocked the wind out of Matt and, after a cod-and-chips supper, he retired to his room for a short nap...which turned into a full settle-down-for-the-night, leaving Mrs B and I with a couple of hours in which to catch up with the usual Friday evening TV.
The day dawned gloriously and, over tea and coffee, we set to work on the business of the visit:
Matt had started on a sort-of Tokyo Highway-ish, String Railways-esque every-game-will-look-different-at-the-end scenery building game; he mentioned it, in passing, on a Tweet and I chimed in with an urgent desire to know (much) more. What has ensued, these past months, has been a Google Docs exchange of ideas, schemes and assorted noodlings. With no particularly-easy way of just moving things around while apart, the main goal of this first face-to-face was to do shit 'for real' and see if we could settle on some clarified rules, currency and flow.
Ninety minutes later, we were patting ourselves on the back having established some clear - and elegantly-lean - parameters for the game; quite a bit of rework to the original docs is required but that's a job for another
dayevening this week. Gerv, the third aspect of the gathering's Holy Trinity who'd have to be away again by 7PM, turned up on the dot of 10AM and we were straight into the first playable prototype of the day:
Gerv likes RSR very much; indeed, it was the last game he played at a Newent meetup before the World went Covid. Matt is more than comfortable with multi-use card card games - though his oversight in one particular area would have to be rectified the following day (see later) - and was soon settled and complaining about the quality of his draws It was a tentative first twenty minutes as we danced ourselves into comfortable positions then things began to kick off - and kick-off quickly - with Gerv achieving the TECHNOLOGY crown, me the POLITICS crown and Matt (in the same turn as me) the CULTURE CROWN. I took the laurels thanks to a well-stocked CATACOMB and a "two points per" crypt bonus.
In summary: use MAJOR or MINOR actions to progress up (and down) the four attribute tracks, build buildings for points and track-affecting abilities, survive EVENTS and seek out combinations.
From a test perspective, RSR flowed well enough but Matt's initial discomfort at his perceived lumpen start - and the slow, first twenty minutes - suggests I need to find a way of getting things moving much quicker: the solution is to start everyone further up the board tracks so they are closer to INCREMENT-ing into the meaty effects BUT ALSO able to DECREMENT on tracks to use any MAJOR or MINOR action from the beginning.
More drinks and to something already-published by way of a palette-cleanser; Matt taught us Fort. It has suggestions of all of your favourite complex card games - eg. Dominion, RftG, GtR - with a joyful 'gangs of kids playing through a long, hot Summer' theme. Pizza and Toys are your resources, building a better fort is one of the goals and scoring points along the way is essential. The turn sequence goes as follows:
i. cards in your YARD go into your discard pile (cards are friends; if you don't "play with them" in your turn, they may go and play with someone else instead - see iii.)
ii. play a card from your hand for an effect - possibly boosted with other cards of the same suit (or wild); resolve it and/or a 'only for you effect' (if there is one) then all the other players may follow the open action by playing equivalent card(s) of the suit.
iii. draft a card into your discard pile from the deck, a tableau OR the YARD of any other player
iv. cards for your 'board' are discarded to your discard pile; and,
v. all other 'unused' cards go into your YARD and you draw 5 new cards.
Simple flow, simple actions: deliciously tricky little race game!
We wandered into a deserted and Sun-dusty Newent for lunchtime snacks and returned via The Shambles: the bijou retail courtyard home to the two potential Museum sites - both Matt and Gerv agreed that the 'Vape' shop site was, by far, the better option.
Bellies stuffed with salad, quiche, rustic breads and cheese, we moved onto the Patio for some train-based, Cluedo-inspired murder investigation:
BE has morphed from trad. worker placement to an Obsession-style WP: the train is now populated by a variety of workers who are allowed in some - but not all - carriages of the train. The WP replaces the roll-and-move but accusations must now be fueled by gathered resources: tobacco, money, wine, time, food and 'heat' (as in 'suspicion', rather than warmth). Workers gather resources and then convert them in to clues - accusations a la "PERSON in the CURRENT CARRIAGE with WEAPON" - that elicit card revelation in a Cluedo style (one or none, stop when someone has shown 'one' or everyone has shown none etc). There is another wrinkle in my design that allows you to reveal card(s) from your hand to gain a benefit for them being in play - as well as letting everyone else know what to eliminate from their investigations: the only feedback - after I'd Marple-d my way to the win - was that the card revelation effects should be less wordy and, if poss, more powerful. Excellent notes, gentlemen: I'm on it!
Not wishing to waste the gorgeous day, I took the boys - and Ziggy - for a medium-sized walk: toward May Hill and back again in a 75 minute tramp through tidal wheat fields (Gerv doing his best Maximus Decimus Meridius impression). It was more humid than we'd anticipated on 'set off' and, thus, arrived back at the house a little 'glowing': big, icy drinks please!
To let our brains relax a little, we played a couple of games of Res Arcana with Gerv dominating both.
The dart board attracted some attention until it was time to make fire and cook meat with pointed implements.
It was quite the palaver getting the sausages to brown but, in the end, everything was in place for the household to gather for a feast and, of course, the best garden game ever devised:
Everyone but Mrs B and "us lads" drifted off after my 3-0 drubbing of all-comers; Gerv had postponed his evening appointment to stay for just one more in the form of Rüdiger Dorn's SdJ nominee and aesthetically-pleasing Luxor:
It took just 60 mins to find our way into the central chambers and
lootpreserve the treasures for future generations; poor Matt was a little irked that he'd missed my mention of 'explorers score for the space they're on' as his last turn had him shunting a chap onto a 'gain a key' tile for '0' location points instead of any other for >0 location points: the difference, my friends between a WIN and THIRD PLACE! Gerv departed on a victorious high while we repaired to the Living Room.
Leaving LUXOR on the patio table.
For the overnight rain to despoil.
And my loverly cartoons notebook as well.
An even slower start for the Boydells on the Lord's Day apart from me. Matt and I got stuck into hot drinks and Fort, a teaching game of Glory to Rome (merciful heavens: how has Matt not ever played this before?!) and Gosu: Kamakor:
Gosu is a rather splendid shared-deck, tableau builder with plenty of CCG-esque combos and clashes to be milked from the six mini-decks (clans) that are shuffled to make the main deck. In summary: you play out, and sometimes pay for, cards into a virtual 3 row x 5 column tableau. The rows - Levels I, II and III 'ascending' - contain increasingly powerful creatures that support each other (part of the tableau-building rules) and provide strength for the 'Great Battle'. All of the tableau shenanigans are in preparation for this Battle: the winner, of which, gets a victory token. Reset tokens, leave the tableau in play and proceed to a new phase of preparations: the first to THREE victory tokens is the winner.
I enjoyed Gosu very much; it's chock full of 'I'm buggered...but, wait, no I'm not!' moments, lure plays, take that!s, exasperation and exhileration. Shame it's almost impossible to get your hands on in English.
The only prototypical treat was Matt's run at the third in my solo game trilogy: Triskaidekaphobia. I sat back and watched him wrestle with the ebbing and flowing of the zombie hordes; his stress level slowly increasing. He managed to survive the full 13 rounds of relentless, undead attacks - amusingly spending one long turn agonising over what to do about an 'Overlooked Doorway'. Matt, alone (one survivor point), walked away from the horrors of that long night: his mind haunted by the loss of the other 39 survivors in his community.
Ah, but all good things must come to an end; Matt departed, as he had arrived, in glorious sunshine. What a bloody fantastic working weekend!
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The tentative return to normality saw its first proper milestone this week but it wasn't my expedition to a bustling metropolis, eating out ("to help out") or the ability to chug a foaming ale while inside.
No, it was this:
Our last in-persons session was early March 2020 (see HERE) and the report gives a light (slightly dismissive) account of Ben and Becky having to stay at home. Despite being (I believe) the most famous board game club in the World**, we're out in the sticks and relatively cut-off from the the World's main arenas; at time of writing, the County of Herefordshire has had a total-to-date of 300 deaths from Covid-19.
Boffo's sterling efforts to keep us all digitally shoving dobbers and palming chits fizzled out after a couple of months; the surreal internment in an escalating crisis saw Jobbers and Peter as the first casualties - the former would surface in three "Hello! Have you seen this..?" emails spread out over the next 15 months! With the Batesons and Dave W as the reliable hub, the rest of us - Gerv, Ian and myself - have been but occasional spokes in the Club's wheel. Ian and Gerv, of course, actually suffered with the bloody virus themselves: cut-off from the loudest Societal noise but not immune.
Ben and I had a brief discussion about what to bring along after John's unexpected - but joyfully-welcome - gathering call a couple of weeks ago and a mix of old and new was deemed sufficient. Having spent quite a lot of 2019 complaining we always play the same bloody games over-and-over, I was jonesing for one of the club's cliché 'go to's.
Directed to take the side entrance and make our way to a newly-refurbished Summer house (and keep the bloody noise down because the Jobbers' B&B has some guests in!), I took the fourth seat in front of an improvised 'cut-and-shut' gaming table: an low, dark-varnished coffee table bracketed with what looked like a 1970s, skinny wardrobe door panel.
Re-opening the proceedings with banter and a coca cola, we got back on the horse with On the Origin of Species:
A visually-gorgeous recipe-fulfillment distraction with an annoying feeling of ongoing turn order importance and the gut-punch of random card draws (some cards being far better than others).
In summary: place cubes on tiles that show a resource(s) then, later, take those cubes off as 'spending them' to buy tiles (the recipes) from an available line. Those tiles give you cards and points when 'built' and, according to their level, offer more resources 'per cube placed' than the default starting ties; they also push the game toward it's end (The Beagle sailing in-and-out of tile spaces on the board). Continue until the ship reaches the end - via three intermediate scoring locations - and tot up any final end-game points.
At four, there seemed to be no room for planned play as the tableau of 'recipes' one was allocating cubes toward changed violently from one turn to the next; opportunism, should a tile suddenly be available, was an irksome side-effect BUT, most of all, an early animal discovery blocked one of the three recipe ingredients from being practicable for two thirds of the game: when your choice from seven recipes has six items needing a fair amount of that resource, you end up stuck. You could mitigate this by digging for card-based shortcuts but that only worked if you were able to snaffle a tile that didn't need the colour...and there were three other players getting them before you.
Nope: didn't like this one at all; mainly because the early Penguin - a level four tile that provides NO resource space when placed on the board - ground everything to a tiresome crawl. Tile placement cares about adjacent resource sources for legality: the Waddling Twatbird cut-off blue, in relation to the other colours, entirely. A 'fix' would be to have the Level 4 tiles provide SOMETHING - 'one of anything', perhaps? Fans will, no doubt, wank on about how this 'cut-off' scenario adds spice/challenge/skill to play bit this is fallacious 'deeper than it looks' hogwash - OTOOS is a brisk, 45 minute affair NOT Food Chain Magnate. Actually, all griping aside, something like my proposed fix would've solved the sargasso effect and I would've found it, instead, a wholly charming filler: an uncommon situation that leaves a bad taste torpedo-ed my rosy first impression.
We moved to far, FAR safer ground in Goa - using the original ruleset - for a typically superlative Ross-on-Wye boardgamers experience. My own misremembering of the 'no more than one bonus tile/card is usable with an ACTION' rule, tripped me up on a couple of occasions and kept me one point away from the magical 40 point threshold. None of us were close to stopping the Boffo spice behemoth - seven easy points clear at the top. Seven points is, indeed, a monumental margin.
We closed with Steering Wool - my ridiculous sheep-racing matchbox game. It certainly got everyone up and out of their seats as Boffo and Smudge wove in-and-out of each other's racing lines. Jobbers took advantage of his ovine's 'touch the barn then come back' special ability - and bid the same as Smudge less often than me or Ben! - to trot over the line.
*This is a VERY clever blog title INDEED
**two documentary blogs; a fully-realised cast of characters; comedy, tragedy; Pathos, Bathos and Aramis
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When the kids were young, Mrs B and I procured a (then) new-fangled/all-the-rage Nintendo WII; happy hours with WII Sports*, WII Play, WII Fit and more - mainly in the jumping about and shouting / playing along genre. Occasionally, the kids' uncle, James, would stop by of a Saturday evening with Mario Kart and a shopping bag of extra WIImotes...
The WII is now packed up and boxed somewhere in an attic recess: broken accessories, dodgy drive and scratched discs. Apart from Arthur's XBOX - all about giant Mechs shooting shit out of the Universe and each other - there is one a Nintendo Switch. Now - because all of the boys have their own console (while being geographically separate most of the time), Mrs B and I felt it might be fun to revisit the best of those Nintendo Family Days; thus, we gifted them all copies of the new Switch Mario Kart iteration, sourced a couple of extra controllers and gave it a (wheel)spin:
The simple, but overwhelming, pleasure of racing each other across psychedelic landscapes to a bippy-boppy soundtrack; the ridiculous rush of adrenalin, the shouting and, goodness, the swearing..!
...the elbows, howls of indignation and the laughter - my, but the laughter
Arthur is VERY good at video games, of course, so Tuesday evening's Grand Face-Off was particularly exciting: we were tied going into the fourth (and final) race and it was a proper bring everyone into the room from around the house to see what's happening moment! Arthur finished 1st and me 2nd - pipped in the final straight by the young pretender.
Good times, my friends; good times.
*Personally, my main achievement was to visit every special site in WII Sports Island's Island Flyover game.
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After a weirdly topsy-turvy week at work, I ended on a high with a quick shopping trip with Mrs B. Having failed to restock the Titanic Plum Porter last weekend, I'd made do with Titanic's Iceberg American Pale Ale and VERY delicious (and glug-able) it was too. Having hoovered my way through those, the intention was to restock a goodly amount in time - an hours worth of refrigeration - for showing up to this week's Ross-on-Wye board gamers! The gods were smiling upon the Boydell household for the Iceberg glittered, seductively, at eye-level on the shelf...right next to an eight-tray (the ONLY eight tray) of Plum-ptious heaven! Add in a 6 pack of Curly-Wurlies and the evening was replete!
After chips, and a giggle at Rob & Romesh vs Usain Bolt, I decanted myself and a second beverage to the Library room where Ben, Becky, Dave and Ian were already elbow-deep in Can't Stop.
Ian was returning after this 10 week, Covid-19 inspired hiatus: no longer missing the Senses of Taste and Smell - or subject to fevers, coughing and long, afternoon naps - he was appointed Chief Game Chooser for the evening. First up - following a recitation of BGA's implementations suitable for 5 - was Sushi Go!:
A lovely detail in the BGA implementation - not visible in this screen grab because I am an idiot - is that drafted Puddings go into (and visible in) a little, glass-fronted fridge prior to end-game scoring!
Famous in the club for my appalling (and entirely accidental) mispronunciation of 'nigiri'*, Sushi Go is a firm - if occasional - favourite for us in the 'sticks. Two swift iterations were completed before something more substantial was selected:
Huzzah-ing for the five player option in Stone Age, we'd all signed in and accepted the invitation before realizing the fifth player only came with the Jewellery expansion...about which none of us knew (or could, at least, remember) the slightest thing. In a pragmatic sort of way, the first four players did the 'usual' moves: Field, Tools, Shag Hut and one-resource-card before Ian - in fifth - found himself sort-of forced to push up the Trade track. We read the online summary as the rounds rattled through and soon everyone was content with the tusk iconography etc. For my own part, I kept with just five tribe members for the entire game and sucked up green artifact cards and three builds in the last two rounds (my third ending the game) to put in a highly respectable third place.
Both Ian and Dave had to retire around 10-ish, so the Batesons and I finished off with a brace of Innovations. My chain sipping of the Titanic Brewery's finests meant that the first game started, made a series of steam train noises and suddenly ended with a win for Becky without me having any idea what had gone on. The second was a much more focused affair - with me pressed nosey-against-the-laptop-screen - and close right up the very last Age 10 card draw: it all looked inevitable for Boffo until a triumphant tootle pronounced a sudden score-pile leap-ahead for Becky and we were done. Again.
A rather lovely range of games accompanied by the sweet/bitter fizz of chilled ale and all topics of banter: more than ever, we're Jones-ing for a return to The Plough Inn.
*a sort of Tascini moment, if you will
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Hot off the Sunday PM session a week (or so) ago, Friday night at the Ross-on-Wye gamers comprised something 'in the flesh' for a change. Well, I say 'in the flesh'; it was more like having a bacon bap in front of the telly watching a medieval banquet - physical interaction "of a sort":
I opened with a large gin-and-tonic, to help warm up a chilly evening, and a games room table laden with the latest Bones of Offa materials. Boffo had sent over a new link to the source files with the brief covering note "The Stewsman effect has changed" - all good, then!
As it transpired:
- a third of the professions had received name tweaks
- as had about 20% of profession effects
There followed a rather haughty Boffonian reaction to the simple request of "Tell us what has changed - just list 'em out".
"But I've sent you all the new files!" he protested.
"Yes, but then we have to read everything and try and work out what's changed!" we replied.
"But I've sent you all the NEW files!" he continued - emphasis not really helping to firm up his argument.
"..." we sighed.
"I'm not coming up with a full-blown document management system!" he wailed.
(pause to think about what Google Docs could provide, should it be used)
Anyway; bickering - wonderful, joyous bickering - aside, it was an absolute STONKER of a game! Settling in to perhaps NOT training up a Goldsmith from the off AND not going first for once, I spent the game trotting up and down the middle Marches claiming Noble titles and filling up the scoring tracks. I was especially pleased with my (planned for) last-action-of-the-game domino rotation in the RELIGION line that docked Becky of 6 valuable points and relegating her (for once) to the ignominy of 3rd place while staying - powerfully, triumphantly - in 1st with a thumping 66 points!
With the whole thing still buzzing in my brain, I spent most of Saturday afternoon - broken up by a long walk - formatting a bigger, single game board:
I even managed to convince Ben we needed our 'raiding Welshmen' element (lost from an early version); they now show up when a scoring track hits a given value to snaffle the juicy VP professions (not so much 'raiding' as 'opportunistic' or 'gazumping')
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