Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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Why Don't You Switch Off The Television Set and Go and Design a Boardgame Instead?!

Anthony Boydell
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One of the infrequent board game design weekends chez Boydell kicked off - as one would've already seen - with Matt G joining in The Plough Inn festivities; on Saturday, however, the serious business of playing and dismantling prototypes began in earnest.

Despite a number of absences, myself and Matt and Boffo Bateson made the whole endeavour quorate and - later, after a slap-up curry, we even managed to rope Mrs B and Daisy in to Off The Rails (see much further on, below): a Dobble-esque observation/race game that encourages players to help each other as one winning stratagem. OtR was a blast and received warm murmurs from the assembled; this will be perfect for trying out at the UK Games Expo, for sure.

Anyway, the busy (busy) day started with Coppertwaddle v2.0 or, as I'm now referring to it: "Danse Macabre" (having abandoned the drafting idea).


Danse Macabre


What began the weekend as a single, shared 80 card deck (that's about 30 more than its ancestor) morphed in to two partial-identical and partially-asymmetric decks: loosely, Science vs Religion. Plenty of scope for combos and card-manipulation have been enabled by these extra cards and mine & Matt's Sunday morning 'duel' was an intense 60 mins of pleasing back-and-forth.

Next up - having refreshed everyone's hot beverages - was Boffo's return (and Matt's introduction) to Attention All Shipping:



The new mechanism for 'contracting' - forged in the balmy atmos of Leiriacon - was universally loathed by both gentlemen and they suggested the contracts eschew fish (as that what everything else on the board is about) and, instead, poach some of the Events and make them in to non-fishy tasks. Resting our full bellies in the library room after supper afforded us the chance to brainstorm a huge list of thematically-true 'mini quests':



Matt G brought out his bijou card-based deduction game - Under Siege - where players are manipulating their hand of cards (number 1 thru 10) against an enemy deck of cards. Each round has a different resolution effect for the card(s) played with the main aim to either let the enemy win and be left with the highest card (you held back the most) OR win for the King and be left with the lowest card (you played as best as poss). A devious, and addictive, little piece that runs for 5 minutes and immediately demands re-play! As I type, Matt left his prototype at the house so I shall be posting it to him tootie-sweetie to take even further.

While we waited for Mrs B and Daisy to hunt-and-gather a snack lunch, I presented the chaps with the weekend's 'fun design project': Matchbox Railways. It was named by Mrs B after I showed her the book of matchbox covers I'd bought last week and quipped that I should invent a game; for the exercise, we had a match box (tubular outer and inner tray), sixteen matchsticks, six tiny d6, six small card pieces and a wooden train marker.



The idea was to brainstorm something we can offer as a fundraiser for the upcoming Ugandan 'Gamechangers' project and, to be honest, it took Boffo about 30 seconds to come up with the skeleton of a work of genius:


The outer is a railway tunnel, the top of it - and the flipped tray - are mountains which could have a match(es) laid between them as a viaduct; the dice are number passengers wanting to be delivered (by the train piece) to ANY numbered station (the card pieces) that match: travelling over the obstacles to the destination gains extra points AND connecting to other player networks (on their own sheet of A4 'base') is actively-encouraged! It's a bloody blinder of an idea and we spent the next hour playing and re-playing it until we'd sanded all of the rough edges out! Add a five minute period in which to build (carefully) and connect matches AND run the deliveries and you have a delectable amuse bouche of a quirky filler! Keep an eye on this blog as there shall be more news VERY soon - look for it under the title: "Fireboxes" (or, maybe, "Rail Strikes").

Pausing for afternoon tea - and a little bit of a creative break - we three retired to the library room for Citadels and a bit more Under Siege (playing it as if it were a final product...and then tweaking it). Arthur had completed his Lego mech and wanted a game of BOG (Black Overcoat Game), roping in Mrs B too:



Sitting out the round in my 'Comfy Slippers' (card) - warm of toe and completely invulnerable to the games and the players' machinations! I won, in the end, in the slowest race to the treasure I've seen in many a year!




Off the Rails is very much On Track!


Brains aching - rinsed of ideas by 12 solid hours of concentration - needed resting, so Boffo went home and the rest of us watched some TV comedy.



Sunday was bright and scrummy-warm in the sunshine but chilly in the shade so, toast browning in the toaster and coffee bubbling to brew, Matt and I decanted the latest version of Escape from Dicelantis: a push-your-luck dice roller that is an absolute delight to play but currently languishes as a brown&grey, sci-fi themed, published edition.



Escape from Dicelantis adds a whole bunch of colourful and cool extras to the mix - think the way powers and races combine in Small World - while leaving the central dice rolling/scoring mechanics unchanged; this is an absolute peach with its shiny new costume and accessories and I'm pretty insistent that SSG bring it to market in 2020!

The day moved quickly on and the (long-promised) game of the highly-entertaining (and a bit daft) Miremarsh with Arthur saw off the hour-or-so that Mrs B had taken to visit Church. I managed to 'Steal a Baby', Jareth-style, to take the win...and I was only on my second Goblin life (having previously been devoured by a Giant Freshwater Crab).



It's hard to feel any more satisfied by the proceedings: six games put under the spotlight and six games making it through, intact and more finely-honed, to their respective next steps. Quality work, people; absolute quality!
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Living In The Plastic Age

Anthony Boydell
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We are joined, this week, by visiting game designer and long-time gaming pal Matt Green. I have known Matt since the late 1990s when I'd spend my working week in a crappy B&B in Reading and playing Magic: The Gathering in the evenings. Matt was part of the Snooks/Hemel Hempstead club and, like me, attended in all-weathers on his motorbike: that's dedication for you when the cold, slithering drip of a torrential downpour has wormed its way through your 'leathers' to the crotch. An icy creeper along ones Pont de Biffin.

He was a little waylaid by a crotchety SatNav, leaving the four of us (Becky is absent this week) to catch a quick Boffo40 For Sale. Matt refused to be drawn in to a potential re-deal ten minutes later on account of loathing For Sale and everything it has ever stood for. No matter, John triumphantly announced what he thought was the winning score only to have his golden moment snuffed out by a quietly-spoken, slow-counting Gerv: how quickly one can go from glee to gloom, eh?

It would've been very rude to enjoy Matt's attendance without getting a game of Wildlife Safari in so, of course, it was decanted from Boffo's body bag sharpish. There followed much trash talking and chin-stroking until, in a viciously-tense fifth round, Matt edged in front of Gerv. Quite alarmingly, Matt - at one point - referred to his 'zebra shit' hand as 'an Attenborough'! The Ross-on-Wye club will have no truck with such disrespect and, forthrightly, adjusted his nomenclature to the correct 'pulling a Nutkins'.

Sticking with the quick-but-devious theme, Matt introduced us to the nasty Northern Pacific: a railway racing game.



In summary: place a 'share' cube or extend the game's single route; any time the route connects to a station with player cubes in, those players take additional cubes. Routes are 'one way' so if a station is bypassed, it is bypassed for the whole round and will be a penalty at scoring.

As you can see from the pic above, my red score markers bookend the track in a triumphant manner: no accrued penalties at all. Not a one. Nowt. None. Zero. Null string. So enamored were all the RoW-ers that I '1-Click'-ed for an eBay copy upon returning home!

More cubes followed immediately in the form of not-played-for-a-while Calimala; Fabio's brisk(ish) and sweet festival of area majority/action resolving was well (re-)received (especially by Jobbers who stayed out in front despite late charges from myself and Boffo). I did get in all of pickle around how the tie-breaking worked and I'm still not convinced we did it right:



To close (we had just over an hour):



An unusually-civil game of Chinatown given passed shoutfests, grumbletrades and snipemarkets! Folk seemed entirely happy to be a little more patiently-speculative in the businesses they were collecting - a distinct lack of the aggressive 'I need all the pieces RIGHT NOW' / pay through the nose because you SO need this Dim Sum etc. Keeping a stern eye on Jobbers - who was my major trading partner this time - I set up a couple of steady-payers early and sat back selling dribs-and-drabs for the remainder. The result was a ridiculously-marginal, slump-back-in-the-chair-and-cry-"Phew!" neck-and-necker where I just failed to top $1,000,000, Jobbers $40K behind and everyone else lined up with similar gaps between.

A session of figurative elbowing, shoving and kicking-under-the-table then, much to the satisfaction of all attendees. Bravo!
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Sun Mar 24, 2019 10:04 am
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A camera, some beer and some mates...

Anthony Boydell
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Leiriacon 2019 from a slightly-different (sometimes-inaudible) perspective;
this - along with the latest 5 Games 4 Doomsday meditation
(https://fivegamesfordoomsday.com/2019/03/21/leiria-con-a-5g4...)
- really illustrates how utterly wonderful this convention is:

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Thu Mar 21, 2019 6:19 pm
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The Cult of the Old

Anthony Boydell
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Another week, another slight wobble in the numbers at the Ross-on-Wye gamers; we were expecting four-ish with Gerv being a "possibly cancelled at the last minute" and Lydia (aka 'Lydia Gamebox') also a "perhaps, depending...".

(they both made it in the end)

Come 7.30PM and a previously-confirmed Jobbers was nowhere to be seen BUT we were joined by two middle-aged gentlemen carrying pints of ale and a scrumpled plastic bag with a colourful box inside: John and Mark.

The two gents (non-identical twins) were keen as mustard to join in 'the gaming' and, both being extremely local to The Plough, it was pleasing that they finally ventured out to see us; they are, however, old school gamers and know nothing of the explosion in the hobby over the last 40 years. They brought - as an example of what they're 'in to', this colourful piece from 1967:


Exploration is as old as me!


It's a typical roll-and-roll-and-roll-and-roll festival of die rolling with random equipment and personnel draws and random dice rolling; the first third of the game is roll-and-move to collect stuff and the remaining two thirds rolling-and-not-moving-because-you-don't-have-the-right-icons-on-your-equipment-cards. There is no skill at all; indeed, during the first phase I collected a bunch of equipment thinking I could 'sell it back' to the others when they set off mountaineering (or whatever) at a profit - most money = the winner - but, as soon as I actually got going on my quest ('diving a sunken galleon') - I had to discard all the irrelevant equipment for no return! To be fair, some cards had biro on them and there were 'our house rules' pointed out from time-to-time so I'm not convinced we were playing the ACTUAL rules or just their lifelong customization. It's a terrible game but it is lovely to look at and sort-of fun for the hour it took for John to roll better numbers than us other two. They were very brotherly in their treatment of each other during play (much to my amused delight): bickering and chivvying the other on, John calling Mark a 'bastard' whenever the latter rolled a useful face - it was like they were both 10 again! Having treated me to their beloved gaming treasure, we split tables and I treated John (with Gerv's help) to a couple of mine:


'Birds' followed by a couple o'For Sales


John picked this up - tentatively - and needed some coaching throughout; I should think it's quite a leap of the imagination to cross over the threshold; we take so many ideas for granted in gaming nowadays. It was good to see Lydia back again too; she was treated to Wingspan (which she has already played) and Cuba and we all closed (the new fellows catching an early lift) with Too Many Cooks. For once, I managed to get through a NO SOUP round without catastrophe and was pipped in to a close second by a loudly-complaining Boffo; he's very good at this kind of trick-takey game and I don't believe a word of it when he grumbles.

Hopefully John and his brother will return; I may just start packing a few oldies from my own collection to keep their evident comfort zone close-by. And because, sometimes, it's rather fun (if masochistic) to time-travel.
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Sun Mar 3, 2019 6:15 am
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Windy Pigs

Anthony Boydell
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At the generous invitation of the Batesons, I joined them for tea and playtesting at Lilliput (their domicile) after the (Wednes)day's work was done. Now that the Severn Bridges have removed their tolls, its a free ride across the river and up the Wye Valley - especially with a relaxed stop at Stella Books in Tintern, purveyors of many precious bibliotic treasures. With the bookshop behind me, I gazed out at the dreaming Wye and the Abbey and the sunset-over-the-cliffs:



A cup of tea and an all-hands-to-the-pumps lamination and cutting session followed my first proper multi-player (with separate, real players) game of Attention All Shipping:



Becky struggled a little with the movement mechanic - the most complex (and, yet, hopefully intuitive) part of the game - but managed a close second to my lighthouse-servicing, self-harming (happy to take a bit o'damage to the old 'tug' if I can get an extra halibut out of it!); we were playing in 'Easy' mode ie. four hold spaces for fish (and damage protection should things get blowy).



We played it all the way through in about 90 mins and it was very smooth indeed - that'll be the three weeks of relentless solo-ing paying off! The weather conditions escalated in all the right (ie. inconvenient) places as be bobbed, bounced and chugged our way around the British Isles. Boffo, when asked if he'd had fun, replied "I'm not sure" which - for him - may be a bit of a win for such an early prototype! Some tweaks were duly noted and some trims stored in the 'to be considered' tray (ie. for in the car on the journey home). I was very pleased indeed because I now feel I can take it Leiriacon for a more serious evaluation.

thumbsup


In the interest of balance - and because it sounded like a proper treat - our last-minute manufacturing had set us up for a three player 'Happy Guinea Pigs': Boffo's 'the more, the merrier' simulation of G.P. life: huddling, squeaking, chasing, eating, mating, squeaking and sleeping!



Each player has a deck of cards for their Boar and their Sow and a hand for each drawn from them. Players are attempting to get up the pecking order (males), interfere with the other pigs' actions (chase) and general eat as much food from the Feeder as possible. Simultaneous-squeaking makes the humans refill the pot when it gets bare. And if you're lucky, you might get yourself a Baby Pig or two!



It was very raw - and the laminated components were a bit irritating - but the thing is not far off being a very respectable party filler at all! Between Foothills, this and Country Gents (qv), Boffo is turning in to the Herefordian Wolfgang Warsch. Or something.

It seemed churlish to leave without ticking another item off Boffo's H-40th Birthday list, so we played Citadels for three...and doesn't it work well (and is a lot of quick fun) with that number?



Despite being assassinated OR thieved OR both for the first four rounds, I managed to hog the Architect and build my way to a comfortable victory: all in under 30 minutes! I can see us flopping this one over the magic line in plenty of time if Wednesday night's speedy hoot was anything to go by.
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Fri Mar 1, 2019 6:50 am
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Whose Tern is it?

Anthony Boydell
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As recent Internet-based disciplinary actions will have illustrated, I find myself agitated by World events and have expressed my rising fear and frustration in (mostly) strong Anglo-Saxon. A picture tells a thousand words, of course, and I have been admiring the superlative work of a number of political cartoonists; Steve Bell (of the Guardian) has been an idol of mine since I was a doodling Teen but I've also discovered some rising stars - in particular, the (Francis) Bacon-like grotesques of Wefail:


"Wefail paints monsters" - https://wefail.art/


More positively, my obsession with Attention All Shipping continues apace; indeed, every evening this past week has been taken with solo run-thrus, note-taking and re-printing/rummaging for the right bits in the Shed. A quick call on my favourite FB group garnered some excellent suggestions for 'hazards' to spice up the 'Perfect Storm' shenanigans; in particular, RoW gamer Gerv - who attended this report's evening - has a fascinating tale of a relative whose boat pulled in a WW2 mine: I shall let him (hopefully) tell that story in the comments below:


New additions this week include: hazard cards (taken in certain fishing scenarios), lighthouses needed new light bulbs (!) and the discovery of lucrative (but dangerous) ship wrecks. I've also tweaked the fish market a bit.


It didn't help things at all when I also found out about The Liverpool Overhead Railway; some of you may recall that my alma mater is Liverpool Polytechnic and, for the first two years of my attendance, saw me riding the Mersey ferries to-and-from my Byrom Street studies...and, yet, I had never heard of this fascinating enterprise until a week ago!



I have eBay-ed research material. I think I may be turning in to a Sierra Madre-esque game designer (historically-inspired, theme-tied mechanisms, tighter gameplay).

Anyway. We were a sigh-of-relief-inducing six for the evening at The Plough Inn; the core five plus visiting London occasional 'Michael' who is taking a working holiday away from The Big Smoke: have laptop, will travel.

Peloponnes is an excellent opener at that number so, with the main Bar filling up boisterously with skittles teams, we retreated to the balmy-and-yet-calamitous times of early the European civilisations:



Previously dis-enamoured of 'Ploppers', Smudge successfully navigated the twin paths of building and population growth to pip Michael by a single point. A warehouse full of luxury goods couldn't cover for my woeful crop production and I fell victim to a closely-timed double feeding: my population never rising above five throughout. Still an absolute peach of a punishing auction game, though.

We split for Ulm (Jobbers, Boffo, Michael) and jeu de jour Wingspan:



Smudge managed to set up an egg-collecting/card-tucking engine that left Gerv and I tied and 20 points behind; as you would expect, there were many puns - not least from the Ulm end of the table involving swallows - and much coo-ing over the art and simple-but-addictive gameplay. Smudge stayed on to teach it to Jobbers and Boffo - Smudge NEVER teaches ANYTHING - and Gerv remarked that it was the best new game he had learned at the club...ever!

For Gerv, Michael and myself, we closed with Symphony No.9:



It was quite the most disastrously-inept example of concert organization I've experienced to date: just three out of the six performances made it to an audience and we ended up having to sell off our furniture to keep up with benefacting. Happily, I managed to finally win a game of this - not that I need much convincing TBH: it's a doozy. It should be noted that while I referred to the composers as 'brown', 'purple', 'green' etc, Michael was much more sophisticated and used their proper names: it's so lovely when someone brings a bit o' class to the club.
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Sat Feb 23, 2019 10:06 am
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Rolling Waves

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Saturday, after the usual ritual of awakening was performed, kicked off in gaming style with a PM visit from Ben Bateson; the idea was to present several brewing protoypes and try and get them pointed in the right direction. If we could rope one or more of the household in to some 'published fayre' a bit later then all-well-and-good.

First up was a roll-and-write from Ben and Becky which has a delightful English theme: a show is being organised for the same day in neighbouring (player) villages, and each 'village' competes to put the most exciting and enticing roll-call of stalls and exhibitions.

In summary: It's a Bingo-esque affair in that a number of dice are rolled (4) and made available to everyone: three are summed for the 'event' and the fourth restricting where it can be 'placed' (four quadrants, an 'anywhere' and an 'In The Main Ring'). The events are tetris-like and are drawn on a 'field' sheet; at the low and high ends of the 3d6 (3-18 range) bell-curve, they can be lucrative by rarity, while the middling rolls are off-set with placement penalties (do NOT put the tractors next to the Young Farmers and/or the Cider tent otherwise points shall be lost!). You must ensure that, by the end of the 15th round, you have also installed toilets, food and drink AND that all exhibits are accessible (ie. un-drawn spaces on your sheet).

Country Gents (the working name, tho' something more pastoral is needed shortly eg. A Fête Worse Than Death? The Village Show? Etc) takes about 20 mins once you've gotten used to isolating the die totals (like you would in Can't Stop) and results in pleasingly-obtuse 'final layouts'! A number of tweaks were suggested by my good self (never one to keep an opinion to myself) but these are really sanding off the rough edges of a corking little filler. I have been (self-)tasked with mocking up a better prototype in time for the next Ross-on-Wye gamers session on Friday...

Ben was short-and-to-the-point re: Bazelgette/The Sewers of London - "It sounds exactly like Tinners' Trail," he said; "so best try playing THAT before you take it any further."

Finally, while still maintaining a steady input of hot tea, I pitched my VERY early concepts for Attention All Shipping: a fishing-themed pick-up-and-deliver-er built around the UK's famous 'shipping forecast' ie. the weather in the North Atlantic, the North Sea and around the rest of the UK affects the efficiency (and safety) of your little trawler - and, most importantly, the progression of the weather is laid out exactly as in that shipping forecast ie. REGION - WIND DIRECTION AND SPEED - VISIBILITY

"Hebrides, Fair Isle, Cromarty - North, 3 or 4. Good."


A couple of days brainstorming has already resulted in a solid trawler-movement mechanism that takes the conditions in to account PLUS the chat with Ben focused the fishing bit a lot more too. The enthusiasm for this one is burning rather bright at the moment:


Attention All Shipping!


Arthur had exhausted his Lego mech-building inspiration and began bothering us to play something in the Kitchen; Mrs B was also amenable to something diverting (she was procrastinating the Moussakan aubergine-slicing):


Gingerbread House - Ben enjoyed his first play but Mrs B thumped the lot of us!


The Eggplant could be avoided no more so Ben and I retired to the library (again) for my first go at the vintage Vikings; this is a game I have managed to avoid at the club (not for any negative reason) but am extremely-glad I've finally gotten to see what all the Batesons' fuss is about:


Vikings is a nice, mildy-thinky filler; an OLD one too.


Ben left as the evening drew-in but Arthur wanted ONE more game while the mood persisted; he picked one of his favourites:



Youngest elder Bro, Benedict, made us three for 45 mins of blood-spattering carnage (mainly against MY person); Arthur was rather too excited when taking Benedict or myself 'out' with his Chainsaw but my tractor beam prevailed: why spend one's movement points when one can bring one's quarry straight to one?!

The moussaka was utterly-delicious.
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Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:15 am
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Do I take seven points or a pint?

Anthony Boydell
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Smudge was off dancin' this week: eschewing the pleasures of 'The Pensive Table' in favour of getting her zipper down / pulling off a bouncing grope at the village hall. The back room of The Plough Inn, therefore, found itself a curious tableau of a Gentleman's Club - Boffo, Jobbers, Dan, Gerv and myself - with Gerv providing the sartorial elegance in the form of a spotted cravat and a flat cap. You might assume that seeing as it was a bit of a 'lads night out', the language would be 'fruitsome' and the atmosphere 'bawdy' but you'd be VERY wrong; this week would see three very thoughtful, tense, competitive and highly-enjoyable games!

Much of 2019 will be taken up reporting the playing of Boffo's H-40 list (an attempt to hit an H index of 40 by his 40th birthday) and the opening Small World kept him substantially on-track in that regard:


And people complain that you spend your first game of Guilds of London consulting a reference sheet?!


A surprisingly coherent and intriguing series of race/ability pairings meant this was no random gateway-er; all of us, facing our own positional dilemmas, played a very cagey game of nip, tuck and judicious 'Decline'; indeed, my own Homunculi disappeared after just ONE round of migration thanks to Boffo's No Entry/Heroic Hobbits on one side and Gerv's corrupt Pixies on the other (I had nowhere the expand to, so cut-my-losses in to oblivion). There wasn't a clear leader, as such, as everyone seemed to be having solid turns...but Gerv and I kept bloody quiet at our end of the table and ended up tying on 81VPs each.



Having already blown out our go-to 'five player' for the month (Princes of Florence, last week), I thought it might be fun to take the chaps on a pub crawl down the Wye Valley with Snowdonia: The Wye Valley Tourer: digging tunnels and drinking beer:



There was no way these folks were going to let me get away with Bastion-like shenanigans and, like Small World, it was a jolly-competitive affair. Particularly impressive was Jobbers building 7/8ths of the game's two bridges (the Viaduct and the Duke of Beaufort's), Dan and I tunneling like maniacs and all of the 'beer' spaces 'filled' come the half-way point! Boffo snuck in a timely purchase of 'The Excursion Train' and high-tailed it to the seaside with our Pub workers for 20 fat, game-winning points!

With 45 mins left of the docket, another rare-to-the-table-nowadays treat with Roll for the Galaxy:



Poor Gerv has ne'er been exposed to the 'Race' games and found himself in a permanent state of 'What the Fuck?!' but admitted to "beginning to get it" by the packing up phase. Boffo, generously lubricated by this point, was loudly-narrating his die-allocating difficulties (usually a sign of frustrating ineptitude) but was only a handful of points behind me when I'd laid the 12th tile down.

All of the above games have, on occasion, fallen flat for some reason but - this evening - the five of us were in a satisfyingly-serious mood and they were all given space to shine.
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Sat Feb 9, 2019 10:09 am
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If 6 Was 9

Anthony Boydell
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The day got off to a nippy, but joyful, start with a tiny dump of snow filling the walk to school crowds with delighted squeals (contrarily, we Boydells live but farting distance from the 'town' Primary and, yet, have insisted on driving all five of our children to a top-of-the-hill/middle-of-nowhere huddle of stones three miles away).

The good news continued when a routine visit to the Doctors' confirmed that not only had my blood sugar levels dropped out of the 'dangerously close to diabetes' (42-48) but they had dropped by almost 25% to mid 30s! Huzzah for my diet regime! Mischievously, we (both Mrs B and I were at the Surgery for routine checkups) saw the aged parents of some good pals seated in the waiting room and, for a brief moment, I toyed with the idea of telling them "Number six is on his or her way!"; not only would it have been a wizard wheeze but there would be plenty of medical staff around to cope with any cardiac or respiratory consequences on their side!

Despite the cloud of toddler prayers throughout the bright Winter's day, the snow had melted to road-grease come sunset and there was no danger of being kept away from Ross-on-Wye gaming; doubly a relief because the evening marked this small-but-perfectly-formed club's 9th (ninth) birthday - we duly celebrated with some self-indulgent gaming.

Gerv was on-time but the rest of us (the 'core four' as we are sometimes known) were early so we kicked off with Knizia's Too Many Cooks. Determined to NOT end up playing 'No Soup' in the final round, I played it in the first regardless of the make-up of my hand and - well - it's a bloody good job Gerv turned up when he did...I lost FIFTEEN POINTS in that single round. FFS.

Moving to safer territory and Modern Art; this was the first game we played - back in 2010 - when it was just me, the Batesons and Jules (son-in-law to the couple we nearly killed at the Docs); Jules has long-since moved on, sadly, but readers with reasonably-long memories will know that MA has been a regular fixture on the banks of the Wye:


Kaminski's famous "Both Ends Of My Pussy" (1926)


There was a brief attempt to convince Jobbers to play a nostalgic Agricola but he was remaining staunchly resistant: "It's just no bloody fun with you lot" he sighed. Instead, we moved to the first PoF of 2019 - and most-assuredly NOT the last - with Gerv nodding that he was up-to-speed:



A lower score than is usual but it was a fantastically nip-and-tuck game. Gerv lost his way mid-game and ended up selling VPs for cash (never a good sign) and opined that he'd "never understand this game". I disagree (having felt exactly the same way 15 years ago when first introduced to it myself): it's a game that becomes richer the more times you play, for sure.

Keeping with the loose auction theme, we dug out the third Knizia of the evening (WTF?!) in the splendid Ra (not pictured); despite feeling a little crippled by always ending up with low bid tiles, I managed to keep my head above the quicksand and was pipped (by just a couple of points) in to second by a shivering, triple-wrapped Smudge (it WAS pretty chilly in that back room).

Nusfjord or Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King to finish? Well, it had to be the (deserved) Kennerspiel winner from a couple of years back: another club staple:





Nothing seemed to go my way at all this time (normally I'm trotting happily ahead of the pack) and was constantly left with a fistful of cash but no bloody tiles! Ah well, it's a corking piece of work and always a joy to play.

We closed - with ten minutes to spare (what a gut-buster of a session, eh?!) - with a group photo:


We happy few...


"Hold up nine fingers to represent nine years!" caroused Boffo, rightly positioning himself - as the Club's Founder - in the middle-rear.

I love the Ross-on-Wye club with all of my gaming heart.
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Sat Feb 2, 2019 10:08 am
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Vertigo

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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It's never too late to teach an old dog new tricks and, after a late evening snuggle-on-the-sofa-and-catch-up-with-Graham-Norton, Mrs B and I were introduced to the musical delights of The 1975. As a younger man, I was as obsessed about music as I am, now, about board games; indeed, not a week went by while on my stint with British Telecom/Ministry of Defence without a couple of us wandering in to the centre of town (Swindon) to clacketty-clack through the HMV CD racks in search of new, old and anything in-between. The 'any five for £20' sticker became a fixed point in many dreams. So, having crossed the age threshold into 'it's all downhill from here', I fully expected to be hoovering up 1980s vinyl and rotating through the same 10,000 tracks on iTunes shuffle until they drop the first sod on to my coffin. So, it was a surprise and a pleasure to see a 'popular young band' with a hearty pop sensibility, whacko lyrics and a vibrant physical performance ethic: I downloaded their latest album* immediately and, dear Reader, it is an absolute bloody corker! A synchronicity of events (the car, a dump of icey snow, no need to be in the office really) kept me working-from-home for most of the week and can you guess what was on constant hi-fi rotation throughout? I'm listening to it now, as I type.

The tail-end of this week has been filled with a storm of email exchanges between myself, Ben Bateson and Grzegorz at Lookout Games as we sand the last few snags and burrs from the Foothills design, review the rulebook and tie a big bow on the whole package before it goes off for Nuremburg scrutiny and manufacturing (!) next weekend. With a little luck (and something happening in/to the UK at the end of March notwithstanding), we might even have copies for sale at the UK Games Expo!

Oh, but you don't want to hear about all of that nonsense! It's a Saturday and what you're dribbling from all orifices to discover is how it went off at the Ross-on-Wye board gamers last night?! Rather well, actually, thank you for asking...

A thumping eight were shuffling about the back room at The Plough Inn; this happy band of meeple shovers in serious danger of outnumbering the rest of the Inn's clientele...at least until the Skittle Teams turned up. There was Boffo and Smudge, Jobbers (avec sa table de sperme), Dan (with Agricola, natch), Gerv (who recently raided the charity shops of Gloucester and mined an astonishing cart of gaming ore!), Gary (without his signature vegetable barrow of salad ingredients), myself and - shock! horror! - a gently-smiling, mustachioed fellow by the name of Byll...yes, that one! Byll is the club's equivalent of The Higgs Boson ie. causes the gauge bosons of the weak force to be massive at all temperatures below an extreme high value hard to find and a source of great rejoicing when it appears!

Eight, then, on a cool damp Friday evening in a rural town: what should we play? Well, I'd barely performed my usual dance-of-the-spare-chairs than Smudge had recruited three of our number, Jobbers' tisch mit Spaff and half-decanted Terraforming Mars. Well, that's THEM sorted then. We remaining scraps huddled around a pair of abutted square tables for The Estates:


An odd perspective for an odd auction game


We had no problems playing The Estates until the final scoring which took us at least three attempts: the first two using the rules I'd recalled from last weekend (Bastion) but showed Gerv and Gary - who seemed to have had an appalling game, coming out clear and decisive winners. Boffo, confused because he'd stayed out of company ownership and tanked as much as possible and had come second-from-last, checked the rules and found we were miscalculating (all blocks having the roof bonus, the top block scoring for itself only like all others). "Oh, that's alright then" we thought, "maybe those scores will be drastically different?" but no...it was confusing and ugly and tiresome and did I already say 'confusing'? It's errors like this that will nix a game in Boffo's mind for evermore and I fear that I have done my fellow players - and The Estates - a disservice; ah, well, nothing I can do about it now.

Wanting to pour a soothing oil-slick on the troubled waters, I proposed Suburbia:





Gerv was a newcomer to this most splendid of tableau-builders and, at the end and rejoicing in his victory over a couple of veterans (plus Gary) remarked that it was like "a complicated Capital". A fine summary indeed and, given how good Gerv is at the latter, a fine explanation of why he picked 'Burbs up so damn quickly! Gary, unwittingly, nixed my combo Lake objectives due to his own financial ineptitude ie. he forced himself to take them for piddles of cash instead of getting a proper money engine like the rest of us! That cost me 20 fat Citizen renown points!

A comfort break and then I returned to a Feldian classic being arrayed - Macao:



All the elements of Feld's great mind find themselves converging in this fabulous design; he's not-yet mired in points-for-everything and the whole thing is packed with painful decisions and painful consequences - which is what every decent Euro should be. Despite Gary and Gerv being unfamiliar (and Boffo's copy being a murkily-printed mark-up German edition), it was almost the perfect game of Macao: competition in the city and on the Wall and on the Sea, meaningful card and dice drafting decisions and a high-tension throughout: absolutely bloody fantastic!



A final round '6 cash for 10PP' took Boffo ahead of me in the final summation; as did him sneaking a 5PP Ginger delivery in before my own (I missed the fact that he had the other goods token).

The other table were running a 'speed Lancaster' which ended in Smudge - our Lancs Superstar - pipping Jobbers by a couple of points. On our table - Gary not ducking off early for a change - we chalked up another play of Braggart for Boffo's H40 challenge.



Not quite the raucous bellow-fest of yore, we plodded to a finish. I believe we, by that point, had worn-out our brains for the evening! It hurts so good.

*A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships - just £5.99 on iTunes!
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Sat Jan 26, 2019 10:05 am
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