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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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You can kiss a Monk but you mustn't get in to the Habit

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Yesterday was the height of satisfying mundanity as a whole stream of Bills Due congregated in my Inbox clamoring for their renewal/settlement. Mrs B was off for the day on a whistle-stop visit to youngest daughter, Daisy, in Guildford leaving me - and Ziggy - alone and in-charge of Chez Boydell. Any illusions that I'd spend the day, feet-up, watching the Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge archive were scuppered by the aforementioned invoices; however, when a list of unavoidable things needs sorting, there's nothing more pleasing than crossing them off one-by-one until it's empty. By way of a distraction while bank transfers were scheduled and helpline phone calls recorded for training purposes, Messrs Alan Paull and Klemens Franz were spamming me with The Cousin's War graphic updates of the most gorgeous and mouth-watering kind:


Question: How beautiful is this? Answer: Utterly.


Aside: to be honest, David J. Mortimer's compact but meaty two-header has been a labour of love for the other half of Surprised Stare Games Ltd - Alan & Charlie - as I've been busy with "other things"; it's a bit odd to be watching from the side-lines, but no less exciting!

Come the sunny evening after the sunny day, I finally hauled myself over to Ross-on-Wye for games at The Prince of Wales after Boffo had sent a cryptic FB message enquiring as to my plans:



It was another woefully-small turnout - just him, me and Jobbers - and only serves to reinforce the 'stir crazy' feeling that's been brewing in me these last few months. Still, there was enough of us to get stuck in to something relatively tasty, so Boffo set out Monastery*


You can't move for penitents in the Monastery!


What the Ken Russell is going on HERE?!


Our (Holy) work done, it's time for the final Judgement reckoning! I pipped Jobbers thanks to some carefully saved Blessings!


In summary: it's sort-of Carcassonne with set collection because as you move monks around to work and/or build tiles they score immediately and you spend the points on letter tokens or more Monks. Letter tokens go on any player's board; each player has their own 9 letter word which shares letters with others. Putting a letter on your own board is worth 3VP at game end; alternatively, you can buy a letter and put it on an opponent's board to block that space and deny them 3VP as a consequence. Unspent points can be converted to Blessings which, in turn, can be spent as points to buy more tiles or saved for VPs at game end.

The rules were a little fuzzy to begin with: Boffo soldiered on and ended up reading them out line-by-line until we sort-of agreed an understanding. It was a nice enough diversion and the theme is fun (especially as the monk pieces hilariously resemble a Brother lifting up his Cassock and flashing) but if I want a tile-layer to suck up a full hour, I'd probably plump for Isle of Skye instead.

Grasping the opportunity while Jobbers nipped off for a piss and a drink, I laid out the new - post-Gilbert/Dunstan scrutiny - version of Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines:



We played with characters on their special power side: Jobbers had Patricia Rawnsley (she gets VPs if she remains non-villainous), Boffo was Count Emilio Ponticelli (he likes to crash) and I was Richard Mays: the 'hero' who gets VPs if villainy is done against him! It was a tight race, between me and Jobbers at least; Boffo seemed reluctant to leave the airfield during the Practice (the deck drafting phase), though he did keep up with us in the actual Race. In the end, the other two being tied for 'Most Villainous Player' dropped Jobbers to just a couple of VPs behind me and I - heroically - won the day. It whistled along in about half-an-hour and it felt really good: clean, uncomplicated and the final race was a gratifyingly-close affair! Boffo expressed neither pleasure, disappointment nor any other comment apart from me having spelled 'Fusilage' wrong; Jobbers purred in a Jobbersian manner and then we moved on to the closer:



It's been a while but we were all rattling (!) through the rounds within a couple of minutes. I rushed the game to a finish and just managed to keep ahead of Boffo: mid-40s/early 40s/mid-30s. We probably could've run straight in to a second but got chatting about the evening's Jukebox obsession with 70s Prog Rock: it's always good to hear a bit of Gabriel-era Genesis or a 10 minute Wakeman keyboard twiddle-solo.

*Interesting story: Boffo had this a while back, courtesy of one of those unfathomable "Maths Trades" and it languished, unplayed, until he offloaded it to a subsequent MT. Later, he saw it on a subsequent (subsequent) completely-different MT and ended up with it. Upon receipt, he recognised the 'little bag with the Blessings in' as the one he'd added to his original copy. The Lord moves in mysterious ways, no?
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Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:27 am
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The Family That Playtest Together Stay(test) Together!

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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Friday afternoon: after powering down the (makes the sign of the cross) work Windows laptop, a weekend of larks and japes and pranks lay in store. The Boydells are currently fasting from chip shop suppers, for Lent, so a home-cooked repast was followed by a Gloucester drop-off for two of my boys then having to hang around in order to pick up two completely different boys from the railway station (steady!): Messrs Matthew Dunstan and Brett J. Gilbert.

I have quite a serious game designer affliction at the moment; it has been getting steadily worse since 2013 when I finished by sojourn to London: a profound lack of play-testing resources. As you might expect, I have a number of prototypes in progress (including collaborations with the above-mentioned) but they (the games, not the collaborators) have not been given proper scrutiny (aka 'a good going over'). Inspired by Cédrick Chaboussit's recent visit, I resolved to organize a miniature “Playtest Convention”: hence, the presence of M & B.

Poor Brett had been in Gloucester for several hours by the time I ambled onto the station concourse; not even a tour of the splendid cathedral - and a blast of Evensong, therein - could wash away the foul taste of this most grizzled of cities. If any conurbation could be said to suffer from low self-esteem then it is this former jewel of West of England transport and industry: self-harming with ghettoized communities, filthy streets, seedy food outlets, threatening gangs of loitering youths, disproportionate parking charges and fascistic traffic enforcement officers. But I digress: Brett and I waited five minutes more for Matt to make it down the longest railway platform in the UK and then we beetled back to Chez Boydell.

After introductions to those left in the building (Mrs B, Arthur and an excitedly-peeing Ziggy), we three retired to the Library - supping on a rather delicious Carmenère - for chinnywags and banter; we ran the conversational gauntlet through games, gaming, movies, books and music (Picture 1 - Brett had this exact LP as a youngster; both of us big fans of the 1970s children's TV sketch and music show) for the next three hours without any sense of time-passing. When eldest son, Fred, popped his head round the door to say 'Hi!', we realised it was already 11.30! Matt, being the baby of the group, kept making notes of the many (mysterious) cultural references so that - in slower time - he might get up to speed; here is that list:

Quote:
10 (Dudley Moore)
Toms Midnight Garden
Play-by-mail (PBM) games
"Jazz" magazines
Ray Brooks (Actor) / "Big deal"
Weetabix - 'save up for' Lego Town / yellow Aston Martin
The Wombles / Sir Bernard Cribbins/ "Right said Fred" (song)
Playaway albums / Derek Griffiths
Oliver Postgate
Movies: The Last of Sheila, Don't look Now
Jenny Agutter / The Railway Children / Logan's Run / Walkabout
Nicholas Roeg: Man who fell to earth
Joe Haldeman - The Forever War
Not the Nine o'clock News
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1980s TV)
All Creatures Great and Small / Christopher Timothy
Lionel Jeffries
Hellraiser
Swapshop / Noel Edmonds
Jasper Carrott
Old printer paper (alternating white & green lines, spool holes either side)
Mr Nosybonk
Missile Command (video game)
The Dead Kennedies
Getting the cane at school
Ripping Yarns
1970s TV Public Information films (Dark Water, Kite-flying near pylons, "Charlie Says...")
Battle of the Planets (7-Zark-7)
Smack the Pony / Reginald Perrin & Sunshine desserts


Before retiring - at an unheard-of at my age 0100HRS - we managed a quick Mondrian: The Dice Game (Picture 2).



*


Saturdays always begin busily for some of us so, by 8.30AM, all bar the teenagers, were up-and-doing. The game designer trio's first review of the day was half a run at Foothills (the 2 player Snowdonia); as is Brett and Matt's modus operandi, much 'challenging' of design decisions ensued and more notes were duly added to the 'To Do' list. We didn't have time to pack it away there-and-then, though, because I had arranged another distraction: one of Arthur's school friends was having a Birthday Battlesports session inspired, directly, by Arthur's own laser-tagging mud-crawl in February; with adults able to join the group for a nominal fee (just £10 each), it seemed an opportunity not to be missed! Myself, Brett and Matt and me, camo-ed up and jumped right in to The Big Shoot (pictures 3a - before - and 3b - after); the birthday boy's team (ours) - the Blues - proved victorious over the next two hours, shaming a party from Cheltenham Boy's College Prep School. (Aside: there is nothing quite as satisfying as your gun saying: "Hit Confirmed - Hit Confirmed - Hit Confirmed - Kill Confirmed" in quick succession.)

Exhausted, but 6000 steps 'up' on my Fitbit, we returned - boots caked in earth, glowing with perspiration - for a Summer lunch (summer this, summer that) which included a delicious spur-of-the-moment Mrs B-special Mushroom Soup. Having dutifully cleared the pots away, we were left to ourselves. Warming up on the soon-to-be-publically-available PnP Good Little Trains (picture 4), we moved on to my MAIN anticipated event for the weekend: Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (aka The Air Racing Drafting Game, picture 6).

In summary: I'd gotten to the stage where it works: a combination of the drafting-to-build-a-deck PRACTICE phase followed by a use-your-deck RACE phase. Mostly-happy with the card effects and core mechanisms, I was aware it was running a bit slow and a bit 'gamey' overall; I very much wanted Brett - my main collaborator - and Matt (Mr Sound Advice) to help me smooth it out...and smooth it out we bloody well did! It was like Edward Scissorhands and his ice-sculpting: dazzlingly, we pruned away a number of awkward extremities after PlayThru 1 and re-ran it with great success for PlayThru 2! If nothing else came of the subsequent hours, this was reason enough to count the entire weekend a roaring success!

Mrs B likes to have the kitchen to herself during the Suppering process - loud music and chopped vegetable detritus ahoy! - so we scuttled in to the library room for First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express and then, joined by Arthur (at a loose end), for Hotel. About a third of the way into the three-dimensional, Monopolistic flummery, I remembered I had to pick up older Sons (plus pals) from the Cinderford Palace cinema ("Logan", thank you for asking) so I bequeathed my healthy game state to the young 'un. Upon returning, Arthur had been cruelly-shyster-ed by our so-called "guests" and, apparently, I was still liable for all of his debts!

*sigh*

By now, well in to the Spring evening, Loopin' Louie was causing much loudness and hilarity from the library (picture 8); indeed, Brett was getting so worked up that I feared he would have a seizure/cardiac arrest/aneurysm! Luckily, Mrs B called us to lay the table and tuck in to several hearty, home-made pizzas (some with a scone mix and - get this - one with 'riced cauliflower' for the base). More wine and more games (Cubist, Pi mal Pflaumen) and another late turning-in.

*


Ah, Sunday - the last leg of our impromptu convention - dawned peacefully. Mrs B nipped off to Church (conveniently-located at the bottom of our garden) leaving us to brew generous vats of tea and coffee and hunker down to Matt's intriguing Perspective (Dixit meets Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective); Brett and I barely managed to 'solve it' when Mrs B hoofed us back out of the cooking area so she could conjure up an enormous Brunch (vegetable-stuffed roasted giant mushrooms, muffins, sausages, bacon and eggs). Brett and Matt were dice-rolling a Matty-Dee prototype (with Benedict and Peter) then moved on to a full-five player of the splendid Adrenaline - Arthur suiting himself up in to the last combatant exo-suit.

Things were beginning to wind down - tiredness leading to a little tetchiness during a Snowdonian scenario 'first tickle' - so we decided to get some air and take the dog for a walk; despite the increasing rain, it was good to get out for an hour. On our return, there was time for one more beverage and then the household were hugging their goodbyes and we were off to the accursed metropolis once more.

Exhausting, frustrating, thoughtful, hilarious and hearty: that was MY weekend, how was yours?
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:19 pm
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Blessed are the Cheesemakers

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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My sojourn to the wilds of Cymru up there drew sedately to a close on a fine yesterday evening (I'll be homeward bound around lunchtime today); it was so warm that I had to roll the windows down to alleviate the stuffiness. Pausing to grab some picnic-like vittles from M&S (rolls, paté and dangerously-strong cheddar), I parked up on the Prestatyn promenade and watched the sun setting over the sea windmills; a stark contrast to Monday's damp, floaty-boaty repast:


From workPod (the smell of new carpet hanging in the air much like bricks don't) to beach and, then, to moonlight. A passing school of be-hooded teen lads, one on the obligatory BMX bike, paused to hurl insults at the seagulls and their empty energy drink cans on to the sand.


A compact turn-out of seven meant a 3/4 table split: Jeremy, Ed and Mark running with Mythotopia; Alex, Phillip and Basia being taught the Golden Geek-nominated Guilds of London by my good self.


The rules explanation was followed by 90 minutes (or thereabouts) of low-scoring - but neutral liveryman-heavy - Guild hustling and card-driven meeple play:
- Phillip (blue, the winner) was ever confident, firing off efficient turns of combotastic cheekiness and even managed to snag a so-so bonus from one of the Adentskalendar promos;
- Alex (green) shut the hell up and wouldn't start talking but managed to accrue six Mayoral Reward cards, scoring off 5;
- Basia (yellow) cursed under her breath but made sure she had a couple of neutrals to hand at all times 'just in case'; and,
- Me (red - oh dear, red!) - I bimbled along, never properly-focusing on my Mayoral cards which - in the end - garnered me just eleven points!

I have no idea what happened in 'Mythy-Poos' - which finished at the same time - because none of those present would speak of it e'er again; Jeremy also left shortly after so who knows what haunting and traumatizing horrors had arisen during play?!

Us six Remainers slapped 7 Wonders on to the livid red pool table cover and arranging the randomized seating. As it turns out, Basia is quite the expert at 7Ws, pulling in a 90+ victory to my close-but-not-good-enough Lifetime Best of 84. Basia celebrated by doing a LOT of gloating, her triumph over all-but-yours-truly being comprehensive and humiliatingly 'utter':


(that's me to the West-South-West)
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Thu Mar 9, 2017 6:20 am
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Stormy Front

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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I left the silent house, yesterday morning, gloomy and downcast - a bit like what the weather would be later - knowing I'd be away for the next few days and it felt rotten. Anxiety about home, work and politics - national and international - is beginning to grind me down; my patience is non-existent, my fever dreams especially-fevered and dread sits heavy on my stomach from waking until sleeping. How fortunate, then, that Mrs B pulled out a proper winner of a Sunday supper - worthy of a victory lap around the kitchen, indeed! There was just enough to pop in to a tupperware pot, leave on the car seat to remain cool overnight and take in to work with me on Monday:


Lemon-roasted organic chicken served with maple-syrup carrots, griddled courgette with goat's cheese, roasted onions and broccoli fried with chilli and garlic.


Washed down with a coffee and a couple of chapters of The Hydrogen Sonata, it kept me well-stocked for the long drive up to Llandudno after I'd got the ugly business of 'software showcases' out of the way. If I wasn't idling at temporary traffic lights, I was squinting through the greasy windscreen in the middle of a heavy shower: it was a miserable, grey and boring journey - certainly nothing like the pastoral, choir-soundtrackingly poetic picture I'd painted yesterday, nosiree Bob. Eye-achingly tedious, coccyx-numbingly relentless: Wales is fucking horrible in the black rain. Even the mountains hid themselves in the dirty clouds.

Having finally arrived at the tippetty-toppingtons, I grabbed some supper and sat in the car park of the Conwy Marina watching the bobbing boats in the grimy dusk, mouth full of savoury chicken and fizzy pop. I had 20 spare minutes before the early birds at the Snowdonia Dragons would be rocking up for some cardboard and plastic fun, so it was all a bit shark feeding-frenzy on the reef, to be honest. Scattering bones and gristle in my wake, I wiped my fingers until they were as lemony as my lunch earlier and wandered in to the Golf Club bar with Terraforming Mars under one arm and an urge to run off and hide under the other.

In stark contrast to the woeful paucity of our Ross-on-Wye club, the Dragons were noisily alive with another 20+ gathering and quickly-settled in to five tables of buzzing excitement. I always like to see what Aaron has brought with him whenever I visit, so me and Dan and Yvonne and Dafydd joined him in the corner by the big window for a couple of warm-up games of The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game:


I am Harry Dresden, apparently; feel the wrath of my flaming rod. Missus.


In summary: Two rows of cards need dealing with - monsters (which need 'hits'), mysteries (which need 'clues'), obstacles (rules modifiers in your disfavour) and advantages (effect in your faour) - at one end they are range 1, increasing in range as you move toward the other. The idea is to solve more mysteries than there are monsters left at the end of the game, which is when everyone has run out of cards and passed. It should be noted that each player is a 'character' from the books and has a mini-deck of cards from which you will draw a hand - unless something else says so, those are the only cards you will get for the game. Thus, everyone either plays out cards for effects (hits, clues etc) or uses them to recoup 'fate' (the currency for playing out cards in the first place).

It was pleasantly puzzling and we managed to 'win' twice - probably because we were playing on the standard 'setting' (start with 8 fate tokens) but, with five, it didn't really feel like we were in real trouble at any point. I'm not familiar with the franchise upon which it is based - books and now a popular TV series(?) - which might've made it more engrossing had I been, I suppose.

The main event was that game again and I make no apologies for being rather taken by this deliciously-flexible and explorable distraction. I was pleased with my bouncy-energy production combo racing me up the TR track to an easy first-to-35 Achievement claim THEN plentiful Steel and Titanium to the Miner award. Board presence? Check! Cities with a woody outlook are all the rage this Generation, but I fell short of Aaron and his devious floral and faunal shenanigans in the final reckoning (I am 'blue' this time); I may have been 9 points behind but I'd almost doubled my debut game score and achieved another PB! God, but I love this game:



Done-and-dusted, we departed; all the roads shone in the street-lighting, running with flat mirrors of rain and hissing spray and the squeaking thump of the windscreen wipers; scurrying up to the door of the B&B, a fat drip found it's way between neck-and-collar and dribbled, coldly, down my back. Oh, to be tucked up and dreaming...just as long as they're nice dreams, of course. Goodnight.

And, now, good morning.
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Tue Mar 7, 2017 6:20 am
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What an atmosphere!

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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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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Spice Up Your Life

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Once more 'twas the end of the working week; taking a break from the to-ing and fro-ing of electronic mail and version controlling documents like-a-bastard, Mrs B and myself found ourselves out for delicious luncheon and happening upon an excellent-condition, secondhand hi-fi midi system with separate turntable and CD player! An odd thing to mention, perhaps, but I'd not seen one of these for literally YEARS: it had a double-cassette auto-reverse tape deck, a tuner with AM and FM aerials AND - hold on to your trousers - a GRAPHIC EQUALIZER too! Sweet Moses in his thai chilli sauce-flavoured basket!

There was a chance, this week, that the Ross-on-Wye club would be joined by a passing visitor but this fizzled out at the last minute. Indeed, come 4.30PM it seemed that both Smudge and Jobbers would also be absent leaving just Boffo and myself to haunt a corner of the Prince of Wales pub: "Bring Foothills" he messaged, a somewhat disappointing juxtaposition to my earlier (pre-lunch) epistle demanding he bring Steam. Oh, the frustratingness of it all! Still, it seemed like a good opportunity to dig out some old favourites for the two of us so I packed Le Havre, Foothills, Agricola and Innovation.

There was only one space left in the pub's car park as it seems the wake of Storm Doris was broiling with old folks desperate for a carvery supper; you'd also think that the Pool table was a new-to-the-Town pastime given the crowd of excitedly-rowdy punters laying out their line of 'me next' pound coins. In order to cope sufficiently with this shocking increase in demand for stuff, I believe 'the boss' was having to do a stint behind the Bar: what's the world coming to, dear friends? It's all gone pear!

Smudge opened the doors for Boffo the Pack Horse then disappeared off to the Theatre to fiddle with some knobs; both were, additionally, tail-gated by a looming/grinning Jobbers: thus glinted the cloud's silver lining...though Agricola was definitely out-of-the-question now *hurrumph*



To start gently, I shoved Innovation under their noses and we got started. It's been several years since I last played this wonderful work and I'd just got myself in to the remembered swing of things when Jobbers claimed his fifth achievement and we were done. There was a rather flat response to me suggesting an immediate second - Boffo claiming to be playing this again 'next week anyway' so that was short-and-only-slightly-sweet.

Having made my choice for the evening, it was next up to Boffo and he most-excellently posited Goa - one of my all-time favourite games of all-time:



We had to run Jobbers by a few of the rules to refresh his ailing memory but were quickly off-and-spicing! It all looked a bit gloomy after the first round, when Boffo had bought a twofer field off the main board AND successfully colonised Quilon, but I managed to settle back in to a comfortable routine having nabbed the '1 Free Ship' and '1 Free Restock' tiles myself. A minor brainfart, that left me short of cash, meant I had to give my dibs-ed 2VP 'Temple' to Boffo in Round 4 which, in the final reckoning, proved wholly-decisive: Him = 42, Me = 40, Jobbers = 38. A superb game in all aspects.

Our closer would be another Ross-on-Wye favourite: the incontestably-best example of Mr Rosenberg's recent work - Glass Road. Glass Road is a shining, flawless diamond in a sea of overblown, overwrought, overweight, chit-shitting nonsense.


The Church in the Woods...


Jobbers doesn't like it (which only goes to prove how excellent it is) because he doesn't "get it"; he floundered on 13 points behind me - on 19.5 - and the inevitable victor, Boffo, on 22. Boffo is VERY good at GR and plays it far more frequently than the rest of us; no matter, it's an astonishing piece of work (like Boffo himself) and always a pleasure to spend time with (unlike Boffo himself).

A full, fruitful and fabulous evening in the company of old friends, then; in game and human form.
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Sat Feb 25, 2017 10:53 am
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Are You Ready For The Country?

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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The Chef at the Prince of Wales pub, a cheery young chap with a 'man bun' and a stripey apron, limped in to the restaurant with a happy "Halloo, board gamers!" and asked if we were "going to be playing Clue this evening". Well, the face I pulled must've been a picture because he laughed and said "What's wrong with Clue?". There is, of course, a parallel Universe in which I spent the rest of the evening explaining to the catering fool the error of his flippant ignorance but it wasn't this one; no, tonight was a Boy's Night Inn *ahem*

I arrived with nothing but a phone full of podcasts - a lovely milestone in the week - and some re-pasted Foothills: A Snowdonia Game components (Ben and I have sorted out the Vale of Rheidol railway and tweaked the action board yet again); as for any actual games for a-playing? I left that to our Huffing Overlord. Given it would be me, him, Jobbers and the occasional Byll, it was prudent to avoid anything spankingly-new and potentially time-hoovering so that was my minty copies of Railroad Revolution and Great Western Trail most-definitely out. Instead, Ben presented us with the colourful Automobiles to start:


Boffo (purple) performs a celebratory drift upon winning the Inn-dy 500 (500 being the number of times we had to remind either Jobbers or Byll of the very simple rules!), closely followed by myself. The other two honked along in their jalopies an entire lap behind us: *toot-toot*


In summary: It's Dominion with cubes. Assign coloured cubes for their special effects (actions; each colour has a number of alternate actions that are randomly assigned to a game) or to move (gear cubes). 'Wear' cubes (akin to Trains' Waste cards) are collected the faster you go and must be 'chapel'-ed from your bag. Play a certain number of laps and the first/furthest over is the winner.

Boffo and I had no problems at all with the simple - elegant - mechanisms and were quickly powering our bags with higher gear cubes and trimming out the 'wear' and the useless other cubes. Jobbers engagement with the whole thing wavered because he kept arguing about how the coloured cube effects worked - despite the wording on their summary cards being VERY CLEAR INDEED . Byll just shoveled cubes about, accompanied by his usual mumbled narration, but managed to stay ahead of a seethingly-grumpy Jobbers. I thought it was tremendous fun and it breezed along briskly (after the other two had finally understood what was happening).

A long-neglected class act was our next course: Key Harvest. It's Isle of Skye, basically, so Herr Pfister and Herr Pelikan should really give the splendid Mr Richard Breese a belated 'chapeau'!


Me playing the 'Hoarder Next Door' but a bit of a crushing win for young Byll, TBH


In summary: You're 'buying' tiles to fill up your player board (all boards are identical) as two of the areas you build will score at game end. Tiles generate resources with which to 'buy'. You don't buy things directly, you buy them off player stores (yours and/or others) for the asking price and - for your store tiles - YOU set the asking price. Each tile has a unique ID, so when someone has bought the E7 then it's (pretty much) theirs for the rest of the game.

Becky arrived (having diddled with her spot all evening down at the Theatre) in time for a session of three-way Wizard. Byll and I departed early, me being on Gloucester pick-up-the-Sons duty, and so-ended another quiet night in Ross-on-Wye. Dammit! There must be more than five people in the area that like to play board games, there simply MUST.

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Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:59 am
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Blink and you'll miss it.

Anthony Boydell
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How life quickly passes by, dear friends; and I was forcefully reminded of the fact, this week, by a double-whammy! Firstly, the following pic popped up on Social Media via the medium of a Timehop:



Arthur, then three, and I used to go on (Fri)day trips (when I should've been WFH) to nearby towns for lunch and, wherever possible, cake; shops would be browsed, bridges traversed and castles explored - we even made it up to Worcester on the train one time! Monmouth, Ledbury, Hereford, Cheltenham, Newport, Abergavenny, Ross-on-Wye, Cinderford, Malvern, Coleford, Chepstow...all were visited by the Dad 'n Arty Dynamic Duo in search of cheap paperbacks, toys and an excellent victoria sponge.



Yesterday, whammy 2, we gathered in a chilled and misty field in the Forest of Dean to celebrate Arthur's forthcoming (Wednesday) 9th (ninth) birthday; school pals, big brothers and his old Pa suited up and spent a couple of slippery, damp but exhilarating hours shooting at each other with Laser Rifles from behind fences, ditches and burnt-out vehicles!


Just call me Deadshoteye...


Catch the Flag, 'VIP Extract' and straight-up Team vs Team turkey shoots! 120 minutes of the very plush 'toy gun' telling you 'Hit Confirmed' or 'Kill Confirmed', clicking due to an empty (virtual) ammo clip and/or screaming in agony when you'd got one-too-many headshots and needed to respawn. It was brilliant - I felt like I was nine again myself...until I looked around and saw my youngest bud: so tall, so smart and so grown up.



Unlike 2011, he no longer holds my hand when we need to cross the road; however, despite an afternoon of war games and swapping kill stats with his mates, he still cuddled up on the sofa with me when we all watched The Life of Pi (the Tiger effect is amazing and scary)!

I am savouring every rare minute because if one blinks, one will have missed it.
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Mon Feb 13, 2017 6:25 am
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I only wanted something else to do but hang around

Anthony Boydell
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Smudge handbrake-turned the hatchback in to the Prince of Wales pub car park - the passenger door simultaneously swinging open - and decanted an adrenalised Boffo on to the thick gravel. He hit the ground, running, his enormous carry-all slung across his back, Smudge calling after him: "Go! Go! Go!". There was a cascade of stones as the car reversed on to the main road, crunched in to forward gear and squealed off down the hill in a cloud of atomised rubber!

Apparently, she had to "go to the Theatre to sort out the lighting but I suspect this was just an allusion to nipping off to catch a screening of Middle Class gusset-trembler Fifty Shades Darker. This left Boffo, still sweat-soaked from leopard-crawling across the Beer Garden, myself and Jobbers occupying 'the round table' for some Friday evening games.

First up, because I'd brought it with me and am currently a bit obsessed with it, was play-testing Foothills (A Snowdonia Joint) (formerly AKA The Great Little Trains of Wales). Boffo watched while Jobbers and I danced a cautious dance: a few more thoughts about Surveyor Action distribution had occurred to me earlier in the day, which played out very pleasingly, but I'm still a bit worried about how the sole Excavation space is leading to inevitable mandatory responses ie. because there is only ONE space for worker to occupy BUT many lines against which the excavation can be applied, players are always driven to gamble on a Build action as first placement (which comes after the digging in resolution order) otherwise the excavating player is gifted free-reign. There have also been periods of total excavation lock-down in all the games I've (seen) played, so it's an important niggle to eliminate (one way or the other); I think I might add a second excavate space...

Two pints, and an hour in, Boffo muttered that he'd quite like to play a game himself; we were almost done anyway and, with me taking the win by a single veep and Jobbers pronouncing that it was "fucking brilliant!", we moved on to a game thoroughly-detested by Smudge but adored by the rest of us:


Suburbia (aka Hex & The City!)


I love the way this game flows: Jobbers' first action was to build a Nuclear Waste site (border) for the quick income boost but then found himself slowly-but-surely running out of cash and ended the game on -5 income and fizzling. Unfortunately, his crash also kibosh-ed my personal goal (fewest non-lake tiles - he resorted to building only lakes while I still needed 'real stuff') and left Boffo free to hoover up green parks to win three goals (to my one); the final margin, just five points, highlighting what a splendid little tussle this was! Personally, my Water Purification plant - costing me $50+ in total (initial build then 2x build) - gave me a massive boost leaving me maxed out on both tracks (REP and INC) twice!

Quote:

Dear Ted Alspach,

Suburbia is a work of complete genius!

Love from,
Tony, Jobbers and Boffo xxx


It was still quite busy in the Pub and, despite being overheard and giggled-about on an adjacent table, we three proceeded smartly to the evening's closer:


Fleet:
I'm all 'bout that (Sea) Bass, 'bout that (Sea) Bass, no turbot


Despite me accruing a Dunkirk-sized flotilla of Tuna, Cod and Processing vessels, I could only come a close second to Jobbers' proficient piscine performance; Boffo, newly-joined by a flushed-looking Smudge (three hours spent c-clamping her spot, extending the end of a Prong Base and frosting her Fresnel) floundered in last plaice *ahem*

It was late. It was cold. We went home.
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Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:56 am
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Triumph & Disaster...

Anthony Boydell
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It's mostly my turn to get up first on a Saturday morning and make the beverages; this week I had time for the former and none for the latter on account of a pre-booked day trip to Wolvercote for an all-dayer with the Oxford Meeples (as alluded to yesterday). In the gloom of 7AM - my FitBit proclaiming I'd managed just 4 hours of 'proper' sleep (as opposed to all of that tossing) - I immersed myself in a hot, deep bath and the closing chapters of Ready Player One*.

The drive was a familiar one - a route I have travelled many, MANY times to-and-from working away in London - and mercifully free of rumbling trucks. In just over an hour, I was sat in the Peartree Roundabout branch of Starbucks with Messrs Stuart and William Burnham:


Playtesting The Great Little Trains of Wales (formerly Snowdonia Foothills).
Think 'All Creatures Big and Small' but with railways.


Since last weekend's stop-and-start test with Cédrick Chaboussit, I had completely overhauled the Stations, moved the fixed station surveyor actions on to separate (randomly-assignable) tiles and rebuilt the Contract Card mechanism. I'd even made some proper VP tokens! Stuart 'won' after William brain-farted in the final Round to end the game and gift his Pa 9VPs.

Watching Father and Son Burnham get royally stuck in, there were a few moments when the game stalled due to unavailability of a decent action to perform or rule clarifications were required BUT the new framework immediately offered some clean solutions and I - beard frosted with the foam from my Venti White Chocolate Mocha (no cream) - was very satisfied indeed! Back to the laptop-and-printer Sunday afternoon, then.

We swapped the warm sterility of the Service Station - pausing to recommend both Dobble and Codenames to a bloke who "drives big buses for famous people" and wanted something for them "to do when the booze and drugs have run out" - for the cool, echoing Wolvercote village hall and 'real' (printed) games. The Batesons had also just arrived and Boffo, as per, was decanting a bag of boxes the size of an SUV (after putting the kettle on, natch). We were the only free agents so, to put Smudge at ease, acquiesced to Lancaster as the opener:


Left: Boffo, 10 minutes in and already fuming at our perceived ineptitude in setting up a mix of Base and Expansion Laws.
Right: Smudge generally wins this game (like my arsing-about Squire) standing on her head!


Despite a valiant attempt from Boffo, Smudge was able to (once-again) load up on all her low-power Knights and sprint passed everyone to victory fuelled by Nobles and getting second places in all the game-end categories! Boffo pronounced that Start Player "is not very advantageous", so it ended up being gifted to Smudge on almost every occasion which gave her free access to the first 'War With France' bonuses (money or nobles usually). Everyone (apart from me, I hasten to add!) seemed to be FOR the Laws that benefited her much too well so I regard this instance not so much a win for Becky BUT a combined loss by the other players! At least I wasn't dead last...that honour fell to William.

A call to come and play/teach Harbour quickly-distracted Boffo a Terraforming Mars was already being unpacked and laid out: Smudge, myself, Stuart, William and Alan (the latter already having expressed his eagerness to play upon my entrance) sat down to a non-Corporate Era BUT drafting included two hours of card-combing, asteroid-diverting fun:


(bottom, left) My Noctis City had probably the WORST outlook ever: an erupting volcano and a smouldering, radioactive crater: the TripAdvisor reviews are AWFUL.


Building the Capital next to three oceans and beefing up my plant production, I was able to nurture some excellent greenery for a pleasing hop-skip-jump in to third behind a tied Smudge and Stuart. Alan had been busy paying large amounts of cash for big effects (mainly temperature-focused), leapt up to an Award winning 35 TR but had just the one Forest on the board thus stalling in the end game. Stuart had lots of points on cards and Smudge - like me - reaped veeps on the map to win (on the tie-break) with the most money. And of William? I think he'd gone to his Martian Room to play Martian video games and eat Martian chocolate cakes and came in dead last.

Smudge, glowing with yet another 'big game win', nipped off to kindly 'brew up' (once more) leaving the others to The Princes of Florence, a newly-arrived Mrs B (Stuart's, not mine) joining them. William and Smudge and myself recruited the day's organizers - Andy and Joanne - for A Nice Cup Of Tea: it's Snowdonia, but a bit heavier.


If you build a train, you get a choccy! William and Andy built trains twice, the greedy sods!


The weather was outrageously excellent for crop-growing and we had (I think) FIVE tea harvests during the game; this gifted both Smudge and Joanne with around 50 tea EACH come final scoring and - with the her East India Company 'train' - Smudge 100+ points in that category alone! A little tweakage is needed, I fear; I am currently noodling with Daffodil Line-like 'bunches' for scoring or - more accurately - 'bales of tea'! Poor William, distracted by cocoa I fear, failed to set the Himalayan foothills aflame and clanked across the finish line in last place.

Glancing up at the Hall's clock, it was already 1630HRS; by the balls of Theresa May, how time flies! At that very moment, I also received the traditional 'Eta?' text from Mrs B (mine, not Stuart's) which - as any fule kno - is a summons ne'er to be ignored; not that I have anything to complain about, of course - it was a fantastic day!



*it's light-as-a-feather but enormous nostalgic fun
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Mon Feb 6, 2017 6:26 am
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