I'm noticing it more and more, recently: folks commenting - in person and online - about how, out of the blue and unawares, they have suddenly felt overwhelmed; ranging from a wobbly tum or a sad reflection to fully-formed anxiety attacks and deep grief - nought to sixty - in a fraction of a second...and then it's gone again.
I am trying to remember - with no little difficulty - if the Past felt any different - any less chaotic - than the years since the 2016; I think that they did, but not because the news wasn't always so depressing or concerning or important (it was - this is the natural state of a planet of 7 billion people). No, I believe the one thing that cements the horror and the panic is that we're dealing with the same Actors in this long-playing drama: whatever the catastrophe, whatever the tragedy or travesty, it's the same damn people grinning down the lens.
A black woman gets shot while asleep in her home, or a black man's windpipe is crushed in full view and you're just a couple of lily-pad hops to the gurning, lurching Cheetoh-in-Chief. Fancy spaffing £100 million on carbon-lock tech while every theatre in the country spirals down the business toilet? Pull back the curtain and - Presto! - the Charlie Corolli of posh-boy politicking bluffles and bloviates his ignorance/full support/gape-mouthed confusion (delete as applicable). Sailing, serenely and lizard-lipped, through the whole dumpster fire is Vlad the Man's Man: bare-chested and riding in to fabulous SuperMachiavellivision shot like Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia...
Off-shore tax havens; children in cages; "Stay Alert"; paedophile Princes; "do as I say, not as I do!"; xenophobia; "the Will of the People"; "...many people say..."; food banks in the 21st century; currency-shorting; Nazi salutes in front of Churchill statues; a fully-formed, actually-happening-to-us-right-now-and-not-just-in-a-movie Pandemic.
For my own part, I was searching the drawers for a tee-shirt this morning and found my passport - purple and emblazoned with 'European Union', in gold, across the top*. In March, I was sat at my 'hot desk' in the Aldersgate 200 building gazing over at The Museum Of London and planning my Leiriacon itinerary - a little over a week-and-a-half away at the time; by the end of the same week, my daughter - Daisy - was self-isolating (after showing flu-like symptoms) and I've not been in the Capital (or out of the County) since. I recall speaking to my dear pal Rob on his birthday weekend (almost 10 years ago now) and being told, by his parents, two weeks later, that he had passed away - the fucking SPEED of it!..news that has been all-too-similar for 60,000+ families and friends in just the last three months.
Is it any wonder, then, given the Abyssal fecundity of the Spring of 2020, that we find ourselves ambushed by reality checks? It's more important than ever that we keep our eyes open to these lightning strikes in others, as well as ourselves; your mileage may vary, of course, but we're all - undoubtedly, indisputably - functioning at a heightened level of stress.
It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back and, at the moment, it's raining fucking straw.
*this is not a euphemism for my knob
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk
Archive for Miscellany
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It's official: I am Patron to an Artist...as if I needed another excuse to waltz about in a frock coat and a fake cig-in-a-holder, flicking my head back (as if suffering a whiplash twitch) and calling everyone "Daaaaaaahling!!!".
Like Charles Saatchi - but without the wife-throttling bit - I can rest easy of a night knowing that there's an independent creative talent able to flower his visions upon the World without recourse to Food Banks or 'model agency shoots' he might layer regret! Okay, so a (small) fist of Australian dollars isn't going to pay Kiwi Tim Molloy's mortgage, but it does wash in to the wider stream of monthly supportive funding so he doesn't have to become a "Project Manager" or someone in HR to pay the bills instead.
It will be no surprise to note that Tim's work has a definite Moebius vibe - as does the Lux Aeterna art from cousin-in-law Mr Alex Lee. I'm a sucker for colourful alien dreamscapes, monsters, intricate machines and mostly-naked cartoon women:
Set in a idyllic paradise, Tim's current Period places smoking 'tourists' in the company of 'emissaries': the beach, the forests and in the middle of strange beastly parades.
As a Patron of my level, Tim sends me a unique postcard painting each month; so far, my collection comprises the following:
If you'd like to see more of Tim's work and - if you're FAST - grab yourself one of his bijou, hand-painted pictures, why not visit his website (above) or subscribe to his Instagram feed:
P.S. Talking of great Antipodeans, I heartily recommend watching another Tim - Minchin - in the superlative black comedy Upright:
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My little bro has been "stuck" in Australia for the duration of the lockdown with his fiancé Aki. Aki's mother passed away and both had met up in Oz - Aki currently lives in Japan, Stuart in West Wales - to sort out her affairs. On Friday, Stu reached 49 years:
My little brother who, while I reclined on the familial sofa in the late 70s to watch Swap Shop or World of Sport (for the 'wrestling'), would sneak up and fart in my face and run away with a merry cry of "Smell THAT!".
My little brother who roadied, occasionally, for Carter USM and cut his face open on a collapsing half-pipe on a 1980s Christmas Eve.
My little brother who makes ukuleles and guitars and furniture, has a degree in Quantity Surveying and taught Italian Cookery at a South Wales college: you thought that I covered a lot of ground in the average day?! Well, dear reader, I present Stuart 'Boydellini' Boydell. Stuart was conceived shortly after my mother had suffered an ectopic pregancy and there was much mooting that his own gestation would come to naught; of course I am delighted - despite the childhood guff attacks - that the kind, gentle, softly-spoken and talented fellow made it through to the real World.
For the rest of the day, the failing battery in my Macbook needed regular 'ice pack' cooling as Teams and Skype sucked the life out of it; come the evening - and a brief respite for the chippy supper - it was wheezing again to support BoardGameArena and Yucata japes avec les Batesons:
Three brisk iterations of the entirely wonderful Innovation (2 to me and 1 to Smudge) was followed by an aborted boiteajeux.net 'Gric - because Boffo remembered that Troyes was also available on BGA:
I love this game and don't play it nearly often enough; consequently, the first round is me remembering what the Hell I am supposed to do...which puts me the round (and about 5VPs) behind everyone else. I made a brave fist of abusing the military (Archers) and scooping a generous hand of Event cards but failed to hit my hidden goal 6VPs by a couple of coins. All told, this is still a brilliant piece of work; I wonder how different Black Angel is? Can anyone inform?
We closed at 2130HRS after a speedy, banter-fuelled The Downfall of Pompeii; my own trio of '4' building cards and a generous helping of drawn Omens had me 50% more peeps on the board come the eruption - it should be no surprise, then, that I managed to get the most people to safety:
With a healthy suite of games played and it still light outside, Mrs B and I settled down to watch Ocean's 8: a crime caper (fifth in the series?!) admirable for its extensive female cast but risible for the stale, slack-paced, clichéd and clumsy storytelling. Still, the company was great so much else can be forgiven.
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Me and one of my favourite ever Germans, Mr Ulrich Blennemann, chew the fat:
(Uli is very quiet - uncharacteristically - in this one)
Here's fun: how many times do I side-eye my live 'room next door' stream from Dominic Cummings?
I do miss my European friends so very much.
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The sun was back out in glorious heat and light today: no grey clouds to separate us from a good ol' English globally-warmed Summer! I made use of a convenient break between meetings to drop off a stack of parcels and, as I drove through the town, it was like a regular, balmy Monday. Folks gathered in the shops, chatting outside the Library, kids huddled under the Market Place, an orderly - socially-distanced - queue for the Post Office and Mums returning from the Primary School drop-off; a queue for the bus and masked OAPs out for a stroll and a bottle of milk from the supermarket. To be completely honest, I'm not clear whether we're out of lockdown now or not - it's been over a week since I left the boundaries of Chez Boydell to do anything except take the dog for a walk in the empty fields.
Most children won't be going back to school until September but the zoos are open; the R-number is only just below 1 but the beaches are open. Tens of people are still dying each day - well, some number are because we don't get informed of the figures with any regularity anymore - but at least that statue of Winston Churchill is safe (feel free to piss over any Police memorials, though).
Black Lives Matter, unless you lived in Grenfell Towers or are part of the Windrush generation. If you're a farmer, or a fisherman, then you've got six months to retrain before the hammer comes down: chlorinated, hormone-soaked tariffs for everyone!
Every little bit of good that happens in the World is, almost immediately, obscured and/or belittled by the relentless imbecility of those who profess to serve us. Consider the United Kingdom: currently under the tutelage of a lolloping, tousle-haired whoopee cushion of liquid turds and his merry band of Beano horrors (all the clichés are here); it's like a sitcom but the laughter is canned because the audience is, in fact, dead. If I hear the phrase "doubling down on the lie" one more fucking time, I may scream and never stop.
For the Boydell household, the lockdown has seeded boredom, resentment, frustration, rage, emotional retreats and emotional outbursts; it's a bit like walking on eggshells...while they're still coming out of the chickens. There's nowhere for anyone to go, no-one to offer any help. Arthur barely holds interest in anything away from the XBox or YouTube and is just buffeted about in the wake of the older kids' outbursts; he has bags under his eyes, isn't eating or sleeping properly, misses his pals and is prone to sudden tears. I. fucking. hate. this. country.
I can't trust the news, so I retreat to gaming BUT a quick glance at boardgame Twitter and - Jesus in a tin-foil Mankini! - you're castigated for not believing enough in X or complicit in the persecution of Y or simply enabling the perpetuation of Z by your 'inaction': fucking hell, I've got quite enough to worry about within the curtilage of my property without being flamed-then-blocked for not being part of the foam-mouthed mob at every. fucking. sleight!
To distract myself, I watch videos of Magic: The Gathering booster packs being opened; of combo-decks being combotastic on MTG Arena; of ornate, wooden puzzles being solved by a man with heavily-tattooed hands; of movie trailers for films I can't go and see because the cinemas are closed; of theories behind HELLRAISER and the ALIEN franchise; of a bloke lathing tree-trunks in to marbles; of a fake BBC TV News presenter ranting at the ugliness of it all.
I designed a game where you're trying to successfully summon a Demon; why did I bother? There's plenty here already.
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I'm a vivid dreamer; I don't think a night has ever gone by without me having been drawn through a narrative of some kind. Diaries and notebooks are peppered with first-awoken scribblings trying to get the whole episode down before it evaporates. I love dreaming; it's always something to look forward to. In recent weeks, houses - large, labyrinthine houses - have been a major theme; indeed, as any amateur psychologist kno, the Covid pandemic and associated lockdown must be the key trigger here: rattling about Appleton House, its garden and the Shed and (pretty much) nowhere else.
However, I've always loved 'big houses' and often designed my own as a teenager: peppered with the usual 19th century staples like a dedicated library, a billiard room, an orangery and so-on, there would also be an excessive number of secret passages, false walls, tunnels and hidden chambers. I can trace this mild obsession back to my grandmother's cottage in East Anglia (I say 'cottage' but it was pretty huge): "Kettle Hill". Stables and a stable-yard abutted the back of the house along with greenhouses, a walled vegetable garden and miscellaneous sheds; while the core of the building was four rooms up/four rooms down, Kettle Hill had been built upon - and the "builded upon"s further built-upon, such that the Boot Cupboard in the Hall led to a utility room led to a walk-in cupboard led to a side porch on to the garden. The sitting room linked a small dining room, my Great Grandmother's sewing room (south-facing to catch the morning Sun) and a bijou conservatory. In the outbuildings, a staircase 'up' linked a length-long corridor and a return 'down' staircase at the other end: how utterly entrancing for a young child to get lost in the dusty spaces.
My best (early secondary school) friend, Paddy Martin lived in a Vicarage in a village outside Monmouth; he and his two brothers each had enormous rooms, his Father had a converted stable-cum-garage in which to keep his vintage cars (he had a particularly-gorgeous Wolsey with flipper indicators, an MG-B and a frog-eyed Sprite) and - best of all - the house had an Attic that was open across the entire footprint of the building: the detritus of their lives scattered away from the step-ladder in to the pitch black of the gables. We shot air rifles at Action Men filled with tomato sauce across the Christmas decorations.
Having recently re-vamped The Black Overcoat Game's central board, it now illustrates this architectural preoccupation most succinctly:
Alas, nothing short of a National Lottery win (I don't participate) OR a spectacular Bequest would let me bring my grand dreams to reality so - instead - I get to wander its ever-shifting Halls, nightly, pursued by a dinosaur / trying to leave and get to work on time / wondering why I am naked and where on earth are my trousers?
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Our protagonist, Vasel De GAMA, is the Mayor of Gamertown: a fabulous, colourful and energetic settlement of designers, players, media stars, writers and publishers.
Every year, Gamertown celebrates its industry (and the Industry) with a big Festival and the people are content. We join Mr De GAMA at a difficult time: the wider World is very sad and the ideals of 'fair play' and 'equality' - so integral to Gamertown - have been Weighed and found, very-much, Wanting.
The people - angry, confused, afraid - have taken to the streets of Gamertown to turn words into action, looking to their Mayor for affirmation and guidance: Vasel de GAMA cannot be found; indeed, he has not been seen in a while. Confident that their leader has sought a quiet place to formulate his guiding response, the people wait: gathered beneath his ceremonial balcony in anticipation.Act II
"Where is our Mayor?" they cry. The crowd have waited through the Day and through the Night; they have been rained upon and had the rain dried by the hot sun - there is still no news of Vasel de GAMA.
At the front of the seated, patient crowd a number of Gamertown's more illustrious citizens are to be found; familiar to - and beloved of - the masses. One of them stands: "Why will the Mayor not speak?", she cries plaintively; "at this time of great Trouble there has been no word and no comfort!". Another calls in response: "He has abandoned us when we needed succour. Therefore, I must go elsewhere to serve my brothers and sisters.". Slowly, one-by-one, they drift away.
A murmur of discontent ripples through the wider crowd.Act III
Vasel de GAMA steps onto the balcony clutching the work of many days in isolation; while the wider World span around him, he watched and considered and wrote. The crowd churns in its growing anxiety: "Speak to us!"
Vasel de GAMA clears his throat: "Beloved Citizens! Goodness, but you all seem very upset - and you're right to be so - because bad things ARE happening: I can definitely see that. I regret to have to announce that our Festival, this year, is to be cancelled - it's not really possible to go ahead without our departed 'friends', you see. And, besides, I can see you've all lost your enthusiasm for it. I'm sorry that you're disappointed with my protracted absence but I really wanted to get the words of this speech right: no-one wants a knee-jerk response full of raw emotion, do they?! Anyway, let's make sure that next year's Festival is twice as big and twice as lovely, eh?
The Mayor steps forward to the balustrade and raises his arms in a celebratory salute; the anticipated roar of approval from the crowd is not forthcoming, however; a moment of cold silence then a single voice:
"We waited all this time for that?" it calls; in continued quiet, the crowd turns and walks off leaving Vasel de GAMA alone: "How rude and ungrateful; after all, I did what they wanted."
Moral: If you're the Leader of a community then your voice needs to be heard FIRST, not LAST.
See also: Bez's Words
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Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter Who?
Black Lives Matter Full Stop.
But that's not funny.
No; no it's not.
Edit: Comments hidden for everyone's safety and sanity
Wed Jun 10, 2020 12:25 pm
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This, truly, is a World of Pain: oppression, racism, misogyny, intolerance, corruption, murder-in-plain-sight, poverty, cruelty and Death. I stand with those who oppose these horrors; as an Adult White Male, I am entirely the demographic to blame for this stinking mire of fetid turds. I try and help wherever I can; I try and learn wherever I can. I do seem to have missed a meeting, though; because, apparently, fonts are also part of the problem:
This I did not know and, honestly, I struggle with the premise a little; however, there is a corner of Boardgame Twitter that is winding itself up against this specific typeface, referring to it as (I quote): "the Ching Chong Font" - if that's its true(type) name then, Jesus, who can blame them for crying out?! Attempting to find out a little bit more, I turned to Google and found a single - very brief - article entitled "Is Your Font Racist?"; it briefly groups the font as part of a damaging caricature whole.
The Twitter thread scoops in a couple of images of Indian fonts with a more convincing argument that English-izing the font - ie. replacing the native characters and glyphs with the 'regular' (!) alphabet - is an example of cultural appropriation. Again, while some might view all of this as 'a bit of a stretch', it does feel like scales falling from your eyes when it's pointed out...yes, it is a bit unsettling, isn't it?
I love to chortle in to my beer at the frothy-mouthed ravings of the anti-Comic Sans crew - how is something as seemingly innocuous as textual presentation damaging?! - but these examples of quiet stereotyping are just another 'nick' in Society's Death by a Thousand Cuts.
To be completely honest, I had started this post with the intention of gently taking the piss out of the Twitter thread but, instead, the process of drafting and re-drafting my 'joke' has swept it entirely away: the insidious nature of subtle musical, costumery, anatomical and artistic 'caricature' is the background radiation that persistently-poisons.
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So I received my brandly-spankly-new copy of the KS High Rise pack the other day and noticed - almost immediately - several rulebook quirks*:
If I was 'a mainstream gamer', I'd be back on to the forums demanding a full reprint of the whole thing (to correct errors) AND a short YouTubes vid of Gil Hova apologising profusely AND some free things to en-smoothen my furrowed brow and calm my justifiable anxiety.
But I'm not one of those twats* so I won't; I'll just dress up my disdain and confusion as a jocular blog post seething with passive aggression. Oh, did I type that last bit 'out loud'? Damn!
*Grogan is gonna be ALL. OVER. THIS.
**I am an entirely different kind of twat.
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