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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Roll up! *hic* Roll up!

Anthony Boydell
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I have managed to get 144 bottles of my birthday beer EARLY (!), so I shall be bringing them to Essen Spiel!



For the princely sum of just 3 euros, you can add a bottle of this foamy wonderfulness* (and it's a Snowdonia train too) to the other items you are able to purchase from our Stand (7-G121):

The Cousins' War (15 euros)
Snowdonia: The Siege of Petersburg / The Channel Tunnel 1881 (12 euros)
(special deal: both for 25 euros)

Snowdonia: Rolling Stock #1 (2 euros)
Bad Grandmas (2 euros)
The Cousins' War Events Expansion only (2 euros)



Roll up! Roll up!


*while stocks last.
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Fri Oct 20, 2017 3:34 pm
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Perfect 10

Anthony Boydell
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Ok so you all know the deal, right? Here's what I'm lookin' out for at Spiel this year. I'll not mention the obvious essential expansions that are a must get under pain of someone else's death; just the choicest and juiciest cuts that have caught my GamerEpicurean attention. Bubbling around the outside of my Ludic tastebuds are When I Dream, Nusfjord, Riverboat, Loot Island, Herbalism and Harvest; however, the hypersupralist to end all (my previous) lists is undertaking it's commencement now...just after this underlined bit:

10.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Tulip Bubble

...players buy and sell on a fluctuating market, trying to earn the most guilders. The game flow includes a preparation phase, buying phase, and selling phase, with these phases recurring until the bubble collapses or someone manages to outwit the markets by purchasing a black tulip for 120 guilders before that collapse occurs.

Our group sort-of enjoyed Tulipmania (sort-of) but it looked so horrible that a bit of sick kept coming up whenever you reviewed the board state; TB looks gorgeous (thanks!) and it's surely time for a proper simulation of this historical insanity?
(Side Note: Same Hall as us, so this will be a Setup Day (Weds) acquisition!)


9.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Senators
...is best described as an adversarial bidding game. Players earn money by purchasing resources at auction, extorting them from other players, then selling them in sets to the bank. Cash is required to support wars, defend against aggressive bids, and most importantly to buy more Senators. The game lasts a variable number of turns, and when the fourth war is revealed it immediately ends. At that point, the player with the most Senators wins.

Sounds cute and curious.
(Side Note: Small company with likely limited stock - must get on the Setup Day!)


8.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

The Fox in the Forest
...is a trick-taking game for two players. Aside from the normal ranked- and suited-cards used to win tricks, fairy characters such as the Fox and the Witch have special abilities that let you change the trump suit, lead even after you lose a trick, and more. You score points by winning more tricks than your opponent, but don't get greedy! Win too many tricks, and you will fall like the villain in so many fairy tales.

Looks pretty and hoping to be a hit for me and Mrs B.
(Side Note: Two copies needed (one for me, one for Boffo/Smudge))


7.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Perfect Hotel
...you have a fixed date to open the hotel, so plan properly and be careful not to over-research or misjudge the timing of hotel construction. Perfect Hotel is a card game in which bonuses exist for such things as the tallest high-riser, the most luxurious top-floor, and so on.

I've cut back drastically on my Japon Brand purchases this year due to post-Spiel indifference (to those played and those I have yet to play). Also, the obligatory pre-order selection seemed a bit limited this year


6.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Transatlantic
...players lead their own shipping companies, which transport freight, mail, and passengers around the globe. They purchase new steamships from the market (but) purchasing the best steamships is not enough, if one fails to acquire enough coal bunkers and trade posts...The game is driven by cards; on each turn, play one card and execute the related action. As new cards enter the game, build your individual deck of cards with new or improved possibilities. It's a maritime strategy game with low luck, lots of interactive choices, and tough decisions.

It's a new full game from Mac Gerdts; he's awesome.


5.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Calimala
Players of Calimala are cloth merchants in medieval Florence, with a number of trusted employees that they assign to various streets within the city to carry out actions. (Each street connects two places where particular actions can be taken.) While taking these actions, players produce and deliver cloth and contribute to the construction and decoration of various buildings across the city. Employees stay on their assigned places for a while, carrying out their actions whenever the street is activated, and eventually are promoted into the city council, triggering a scoring phase.

The "placing between" reminds me of Hermagor and Spyrium (both of which I like) and the "stacks trigger scoring" seems familiar too; all-in-all this feels like a comforting, capable Euro.
(Side Note: I have a couple of avenues of early access to this sought-after item so this will be a Setup Day (Weds) acquisition!)


4.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Import / Export
...is a role selection game with a passive and active economy driven by player decisions. You have the power to gain over one hundred unique powers by exporting shipments of goods, specializing into a varied tech tree, and unlocking advanced game engines that will be completely unique to each play!

Did someone say "It's like Glory to Rome"? Sold!
(Side Note: Same Hall as us, so this - and it's hundreds of expansions - will be a Setup Day (Weds) acquisition!)


3.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Meeple Circus
Glimpsed, briefly and from afar, last year this stacking-and-balancing fun looks like, well, fun!
(Side Note: Hoping my forthcoming Tea-based collaboration with Matagot will smooth the way to a 'copy for Uncle Tony'!)


2.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Pioneer Days
Dice drafting and combo-building from two of the East of England's finest designers; I played this at a Wedding last year and was so enamoured that I put in my pre-order with Seth Jaffee!


1.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

Mini Rails
I blogged about this a few weeks ago (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/69067/blink-and-youll...) and I am no less excited about it.
Side Note: Same Hall as us - and I've already pestered Mark with my begging pre-order - so this will be a Setup Day (Weds) acquisition!


Well, there you have it: my picks for 2017. I'll still be snouting for truffles over the five days because, if any of you have any additional leads, there's an ANCOT advance burning a hole in my gaming trousers!

One week to go!
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17 Comments
Tue Oct 17, 2017 6:22 am
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Gated Community

Anthony Boydell
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I'm a lucky sausage and no mistake! Thanks to some brilliant friends what I have made in the industry, I get to see stuff early and (sometimes) I have to button my lip! About a month ago, I was sent the English rules for the expansion for The Colonists: Ante Portas. An extra pair of eyes over translated-from-the-German rules is always handy and I am proud to be a Port(as) of Call in this matter!

In summary: it is NOT more Eras! It's a couple of scenario-based ways to play the first TWO Eras: invaders on the ground OR from the air!



For more info, in German for now, go to:
http://lookout-spiele.de/2017/10/12/die-neuen-2017-die-kolon...
because it's not in the BGG database yet!

You heard it here (almost) first!
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Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:17 pm
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Yet Another True Story

Anthony Boydell
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(Spiel, 2016)

The Hotel man, who writes things in a special Breakfast Book, looked very grumpy as I put the hard-boiled eggs in to my rucksack for day snacks; the bowl was heavy so I had to use both hands to lift it, bracing the lip of the bag with my chin as I poured them in. Some of them were cracked and crushed and when I zipped it up, the bag puffed an eggy cloud over my face.

The Messe security guards gave me a similar grumpy look when I showed my exhibitor pass and wandered in to Hall 1; lying down in the back of the van for the journey across Essen meant I had accidently squashed a few more eggs; the fabric of the rucksack was damp with yolk, as was my branded Stand tee-shirt. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t miss out on the new Concordia expansion, so I stopped by Mr Gerdts’ and paid for 200 of them – I’m pretty sure I’ll be guaranteed a copy now if I stop by early tomorrow.

I was the first person to get to the stand and was horrified to find that everything had been stolen - the games, shelves, boxes, tables and chairs – and replaced by someone else’s games, shelves, boxes, tables and chairs! I ran to the Administrator’s office in an awful tizzy and waited for 20 minutes until it opened; by that time, I’d forgotten what I’d gone there for and had to come away again. I met Alan by the entrance and he told me there was egg-white leaking down the back of my trousers; he also told me that we were in Hall 2 and not Hall 1: “Does that mean you caught the robbers?” I asked. He walked off, holding his nose.

It was very busy just after they opened the main doors; several people wanted to try out Guilds of London, so I poured the contents of the box on to the table. I reached in to my rucksack and offered them each a handful of crushed egg; one of them was a bit sick in the back of their mouth.

Alan suggested I take a break and “get some coffees”; he gave me a 20 euro note and pointed to the far corner of the Hall at a restaurant booth: “There’s a branch of Starbucks in the town centre” he continued, “it shouldn’t take you more than an hour to get there-and-back.”. It is very confusing to be in a foreign city, so I played it safe – navigation wise – and followed the U-Bahn rails back to the Hauptbahnhof; I only had to duck against the wall twice to let a train passed. My mission was a bit of a failure because the coffee, which I had put in to my rucksack to keep warm with the eggs, had all leaked out by the time I returned to the Messe. My back was sticky and, to be honest, the smell was making me gag.

I met a friend from Boardgamegeek who told me that the International Gamers Award was about to be presented at their booth and would I like to come and watch? I thought this would be nice but it was very crowded; I nipped around the back and stood next to a man who looked a lot like Stefan Feld. I put my rucksack at my feet - which took the weight off my shoulders – and put on my serious listening face when the speeches started. When the IGA Man said “Mombasa!”, everyone began clapping and the man next to me stepped forward with his arms waving; he hadn’t noticed my rucksack and caught his feet in the white chocolate mocha-dribbled straps and plummeted off the podium – face first – in to the carpet. The noise his head made was like the sound of the eggs being crushed from the morning. I began laughing, then, because I remembered that I often mixed up Stefan Feld with Alexander Pfister and that I had, ironically, been stood next to the latter famous designer all along!

All this excitement had obviously made him tired because he had fallen asleep where he fell; it’s nice to have a ‘power nap’ in the middle of the day (Ted Alspach does it all the time, I hear), so I did that too with the help of the IGA Man. He used the trophy on me as a soporific.
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Wed Oct 4, 2017 6:25 am
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Spiel! News!

Anthony Boydell
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Let There Be Shite!
The world awaits the pre-Essen Spiel announcement from those argument magnets, and disdain-baiting misanthropes, Shite Games like it awaits a visit from an extra-terrestrial civilisation ie. with deep suspicion, a hat made of tin-foil and probe-proof undergarments. No strangers to flicking the nipples of the easily-outraged, Shite Games' weekend 2017 press release got off to a no-surprises 'bad start' by announcing (!) that all of their rulebooks - effective immediately - will be written entirely using 'Lad' pronouns ie. "him", "his", "he", "geezer" and/or "cocksman"; not stopping when you'd think they should've, Head Designer Wendell Notch-Bedpost added that any references to females would be limited to 'skirt' or 'Tits McGee' and that the gender fluid gamers were getting the "best deal out of everyone because they're welcome to see themselves in both cases". Some reviewers shot their bolts of vitriolic jizz before getting to the main business of the notice which included full details of their appalling new product range: Terraforming Me'Arse (a card-driven Euro about genital/backside cosmetic surgery), The 7th Incontinent (a game about heavy drinking and it's aftermath) and KnutsFjord (a pick-up-and-deliverer themed to dogging in motorway service station car parks).

The Prodigals' Return
Spiel will welcome back FroGar Games after two years of self-imposed exile designing the official board game of British Children’s TV classic “Wallis & Grosmont”; the hilarious adventures of the wife of Edward VIII – the abdicated Prince of Wales – and her pet Venezualan Pot-bellied pig, ‘Grosmont’, have been lovingly brought-to-three-dimensional-life by Welsh brothers Frobisher and Gareth in a scenario-driven (fans of Christmas Day broadcast favourites “The Wrong Thong” and “A Matter of Life Imprisonment” will NOT be disappointed!), co-operative family table-topper. Naturally, as with ALL previous FroGar products, the game box contains components large enough to pleasure an elephant with.

Chris 'Must' Cards?!
From the ridiculous to the sublime: Chris Ankles! Chris is famous for his ever-expanding line of single-card card games including "That Tickles", "Run Up The Lamp Post" and the 2013 SdJ-recommended "No-One Likes Vomiting". October will see the launch of three more of his ultimate unicomponented microgames: "Burst the Guinea Pig!" (set collection), "Runtu-Tuntu-Funtu-Buntu" (social deduction) and "!!!Intruder Alarm!!!" (door-based dexterity).

I think it's all getting a bit much for me, TBH.
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Thu Sep 28, 2017 6:20 am
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Blink and you'll miss it.

Anthony Boydell
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Um...


I have been (like you, probably) robotically-clicking 'Not Interested' through most of the Essen Spiel preview list updates because I don't have an unlimited pot o' cash. All of things of which I was previously aware (and excited about) have had their own entries for ages, so it takes something rather special to catch my eye at this late stage.

Aside: I'm sure it's just me BUT I find it really annoying that some 'big game' announcements are kept all-secret-until-the-last-minute (Exhibit A: that game from Uwe that looks the same as Cottage Garden but isn't...but may well be for all I know); I just can't be arsed to have to research anything more in advance!

However, the game I am going to mention today has been in the preview for a while but was brought to my attention by Good Foreigner Morten*; he directed me to the YouTubes and I discovered this:


(The always excellent) Heavy Cardboard's look at Mini Rails from Mark Gerrits


Okay, so it's 45 minutes long but you only need to watch the first ten to get a full, exciting, must-have glimpse in to this corking little game. I was so thrilled that it immediately bumped (the twice as expensive) Whistle Stop from my wish list! And I mailed designer Mark, in a fever, to reserve a copy tooty-sweetie (PLUS he's in the next aisle to us in Hall 7, so I might pick up a couple!).

I may, therefore, have to trawl through the other 630 things I've dismissed out-of-hand already but feel free to save me time and let me know of something I may have unjustly scratched out; to help, here's my current "NEED!!!!" selection (bold = super-essential):

Games with no location info
Adrenaline: Team Game Expansion - Czech Games Edition
Agricola: Artifex Deck - Mayfair Games
Alien Artifacts - Portal Games
Concordia: Aegyptus / Creta - PD-Verlag
Nusfjord - Mayfair Games

Hall 1
Brettspiel Adventskalender 2017 - Frosted Games (1 - D122)
Deutscher Spielepreis 2017 Goodie Box - Frosted Games (1 - D122)
Oh My Goods!: Escape to Canyon Brook - Lookout Games (1 - F133)
Riverboat - Lookout Games (1 - F133)
The Colonists Expansion - Lookout Games (1 - F133)
Powerships - Cwali (1 - G125)

Hall 2
Calimala - ADC Blackfire Entertainment GmbH (2 - D128)
Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Card Game - Renegade Game Studios (2 - D148)
The Fox in the Forest - Renegade Game Studios (2 - D148)

Hall 3
Charterstone - Stonemaier Games (3 - E102)
Charterstone Recharge Pack - Stonemaier Games (3 - E102)
Meeple Circus - Matagot (3 - E102)
Scythe: The Wind Gambit - Matagot (3 - E102)
Finn Billiards - Ferti (3 - L100)
Photosynthesis - Blue Orange (EU) (3 - M107)
Queendomino - Blue Orange (EU) (3 - M107)
Keyper - Character Edition - R&D Games (3 - O101)
Terraforming Mars: Venus Next - Stronghold Games (3 - O105)
Montana - White Goblin Games (3 - O106)
Outlive - La Boite de Jeu (3 - O108)

Hall 6
Wibbell++ - Stuff By Bez (6 - I102)
The Climbers - Simply Complex (6 - I104)
Lisboa: Heavy Cardboard Promo - Eagle-Gryphon Games (6 - J112)
Hall 7

John Company - Sierra Madre Games (7 - A124)
Harvest - Tasty Minstrel Games (7 - B102)
Pioneer Days - Tasty Minstrel Games (7 - B102)
Perfect Hotel - JUGAME STUDIO (ジュゲムスタジオ) (7 - D100)
Herbalism - EmperorS4 (7 - D108)
Round House: 2nd Expansion – Port City - EmperorS4 (7 - D108)
Mini Rails - Moaideas Game Design (7 - F100)
Tulip Bubble - Moaideas Game Design (7 - F100)
Peak Oil - 2Tomatoes (7 - K120)

*in Brexit Britain, we're now legally-obligated to classify all Europeans as either 'Good' or 'Bad' to ensure we don't provoke a foam-mouthed Leaver in to an unnecessary rant eg. "That Roger Federer - a good foreigner - is quite good at the Tennis, isn't he?" or "Adolf Hitler - a bad foreigner - wasn't a nice person, was he?" or "(Good) French Golden Delicious apples are tasty, aren't they?" etc
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Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:33 am
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The darkest hour is just before the Dawn

Anthony Boydell
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I’m heading for a mid-life crisis, I can feel it. I managed to sail up to, through, and away from my 40th birthday with barely a wobble (though the purchase of a suede waistcoat might suggest otherwise). The presence of a new Boydell baby in the subsequent years most-definitely helped but, now that Arthur doesn’t require bedtime stories and makes his own breakfast, the shiny protective bubble is flickering at last. A growing dissatisfaction with ‘real work’, and a tendency toward dreamy (sometimes melancholic) nostalgia, have raised my anxiety levels and – occasionally – led to some arresting panic attacks. Last night, I woke with a start at 3AM and rolled over on to my favourite side (the left); hand tucked in to a cool pillow gap, I hurrumphed the grumble of the inconvenienced waker.



Settled, I initiated the ready-to-snooze mental mantra: drifting off to thoughts of games; however, Instead of turn orders and component design and board layouts came images of lost friends, money worries, the horribly-swift passage of Time and the stomach-churning dread of Death: in the dark – in the warm stillness of the softly-breathing house – this is a terrifying experience. In order to conquer the oppressive blackness, I gritted my mental teeth and determinedly-returned my waking dreams to the happy place: games and gaming!

What Essen Spiel is going to be like in October (this always makes me excited to think of the travelling – which I love – and the meet ups and the goodies to be collected);

What Essen Spiel will be like next year when Arthur gets to come with me for the week (it could, very likely, coincide with the big release of A Nice Cup of Tea and Snowdonia 3rd Edition); and,

What other gaming projects are coming to fruition (Magnificent Men, Lux Aeterna)

Game nights. Always game nights.

In the blink of a sigh, three hours passed and the alarm on my phone was chiming the 0600HRS; creaking-boned, I rose – refreshed and cheerful – to greet the new day with a cloudless sky.
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Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:13 am
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The Quest for Essen's El Dorado?

Anthony Boydell
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There are currently (8AM on the 9th Sep) nearly 600 games on the Essen Spiel preview and we've got 6 more weeks of feverish catching up to do before the doors open. I fully expect 1100+ by the time the tsunami of ruck-sacked, pizza-breathed dobbershovers washes away all before it on Thursday 26th October.

Using Peat's excellent tool (Tabletop Together) - it's a LOT easier (and quicker) than the BGG equivalent - I have 50 items on my NEED list for a running total of 650 euros. And no space in my car for passengers on the return journey. Or luggage. Or seats.



Of course 50% of the list is the usual suspects:
expansions for good stuff I already have (Adrenaline: Team Game Expansion, Concordia: Aegyptus / Creta, Agricola: Artifex Deck, Isle of Skye: Journeyman, Oh My Goods!: Escape to Canyon Brook, Round House: 2nd Expansion – Port City, TeeMars, Tramways, Scythe);
new stuff from old friends (Pioneer Days, Peak Oil, Wibbell++, Keyper);
the stuff EVERYONE wants (Nusfjord, Meeple Circus, Charterstone, Photosynthesis, Outlive); and,
the stuff most people will miss but really ought to be a priority (Japon Brand, The Climbers, Herbalism, Calimala)

Discarded in my bucket of Not Interested are 500 (and counting) boxes with cartoon animals or trad fantasy scenes on, imported and glyphed small-run card games and - taking up a sizeable percentage on his own - this years F-based offerings from Friedemann Friese!

I'm hoping I can get all the major acquisitions out of the way on the set-up Wednesday and then, on my day off, spend a bit more time in the remote Hall fringes finding the true gold of the show.

Who's with me? Who wants to meet up on the Saturday AM and go on a quest..?

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Sat Sep 9, 2017 9:32 am
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Catalogue Entry

Anthony Boydell
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Essen Spiel 2017 looms large upon the horizon and, I suppose, I should give those of you (who might be interested) some more information about our (Surprised Stare Games') offerings



Firstly: we will, of course, be selling The Cousins' War; David J. Mortimer's splendid Big Game in a Small Box:



...along with a 5-card expansion and a promo card!


Expansion Back, expansion Front and the (separate) Promo.

Secondly: it wouldn't be a Spiel if we didn't cough out some Snowdonia goodies, would it? Given that I have been immersed in A Nice Cup of Tea (see below), I have been ably-assisted on the scenario front by fellow UK designers Alan Paull and David Brain*


Let's take a look at the back of the box, shall we?


Tunnels, Drilling Machines and Crises!


Garrisons, Generals and Conflict!

Thirdly, for those unable to have made it to the UK Games Expo, we have reprinted (as promised!) the Rolling Stock No.1 promo pack:


Quirky locos and a Castle!

Finally, I'll have ANCOT available for demos should you feel so inclined!

That's pretty much everything that we'll be waving at passers-by, so why not come and see us in Hall 7 (we've been moved); if you can't make Essen then don't worry - stuff will be available from our website and (hopefully) we'll be sending copies back to the US some friends!

Oh and by-the-by, excellent progress is being made planning a 3rd Edition of Snowdonia; excellent progress indeed!


*the eagle-eyed amongst you will know that David is about to have a super 2018 with the probable Kickstarter-ing of his superb Key Market!
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Fri Sep 1, 2017 6:50 am
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The Means of Production

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Surprised Stare Games has had its fair share of production woes since we set ourselves up in 2000; some down to our naivety, some to bad luck and some to jaw-dropping incompetence (not ours!); the important thing is that we have always learned our lessons and moved forward a little wiser. I don’t pretend that we are now complete experts but we do know where the traps are likely to be hidden! Here’s a little peek in to our manufacturing experiences over the years…



Coppertwaddle (2003)
We had no idea what we were doing and, consequently, this cost us three times as much as it should’ve done. We engaged fine artists to do the art, an agency in Tewksbury to lay everything out, a box-maker to make the boxes and a book printer to print and pack the cards. We even had to shrink-wrap the final package ourselves when they were delivered! Strictly-speaking, the whole exercise should’ve killed Surprised Stare Games then-and-there after we sold about 400 copies at Spiel 2003.

Bloody Legacy (2004)
We met John, from Carta Mundi, at our first Spiel (see above) and he offered us a smoother, quicker and – most importantly – cheaper path to production. BL was the first time we opted for a dual language product, so hired a translator to help us Deutsche-up the cards and the rules (particular favourite is the literal translation of ‘Giant Mincing Machine’ coming in as ‘Flesh Wolf’!). I drew the line art and Charlie Paull coloured everything in/laid it all out print-ready. The 1000 copies were bright and compact but (still) un-shrinked, so they took a bit of scuffing during various transits.

Tara, Seat of Kings (2006)
Our first ‘big box’ game needed more experienced love and, at the advice of our new pal Mr Richard Breese, we plumped for a slightly more expensive Ludofact. We got so excited by the project that a) I took three months to draw the highly-detailed Celtic art cover and b) we opted for a 5th colour in the print: gold! 750 copies arrived on a couple of pallets and were – huzzah! – shrink-wrapped (finally!), but…for some reason the units were all separate ie. NOT packed in to larger boxes of 5 or 6, so the buggers slid around my dining room for a month before being ‘poured’ in to my MPV for Essen 2006 delivery!



Scandaroon (2007)
Our first production experience (though I still did the art and Charlie the layout) with a partner company – the infamous JKLM – and ‘Scandy’ arrived, on the eve of Spiel 2007, as both ‘in shrink’ AND ‘in boxes of 6 (!). I think manufacture had reverted to Carta Mundi (I have spent many hours of therapy trying to erase the experience from my memory); 1000 copies were allocated to us and 1000 to JKLM; unfortunately, Spiel 2007 was an appalling travesty for SSG – not just because of cash access failures and transport strike but because Scandaroon is an awful looking box of ‘meh’. Strangely (or perhaps not, given the financial creativity of the JKLM ‘empire’), this deterred our partners not and they were 100% on board with our follow-up product…

Confucius (2008)
Our biggest ‘big box’ game to date – still, graphically, mine and Charlie’s responsibility - and one that not only nearly killed SSG but nearly killed Mr Alan Paull as well (to which a 1000+ emails attest)! Carta Mundi, ably assisted by our contact John, helped us navigate some VERY choppy financial waters (we paid X but X never paid Carta Mundi etc) and we got the first 1000 copies in time for Spiel 2008. Thankfully, we had pre-sold a pallet to the US and Confucius, being a heavier affair, had piqued enough gamers’ interest to ensure we’d sold everything (pretty-much) by going home time. With us just managing to ‘break even’ on the whole fiasco – and Mr Paull in a seriously-depressed state – we, SSG, decided that if you want something done properly then you have to do it yourself.



Fzzzt! (2009)
A single-deck card game, in shrink and packed up 120 to a carton, project managed by ‘just us’ and printed by Carta Mundi proved to be the major turning point in Surprised Stare’s fortunes: 1500 copies arrived in plenty of time for UK Games Expo (we sold 200 there) and the buzz built up for a Spiel 2009 ‘sell out’. Famously – at least in my mind – I drove a van load of Martin Wallace’s product home that year because we had nothing left! After the woes of the previous two years, the whole Fzzzt! experience was a delight and an affirmation. Fzzzt! was the first time, since Coppertwaddle, that we got someone to help out with the artwork: Vicki Paull did the box!

Totemo (2010)
An ambitious project, we worked with two suppliers to bring my 3D family game to life: a component supplier in the Czech Republic and a fabric printer in the UK (for the cloth board and bag). Monstrously expensive compared to our other projects, Totemo brought 489 copies together in time for Spiel 2010; indeed, I remember Alan Paull, Charlie Paull and myself sat in my library room forming a human conveyor of box-dipping assembly. Totemo cost us 18 euros per copy and we sold them for 28 euros each, so we couldn’t offer shops any sort of deal they’d accept BUT we did sell out just on our own endeavours. Totemo built up our confidence again – we really COULD do this game company thing after all! Oddly, there was nothing for me to do art-wise for this: Vicki Paull returned to do the bag, board and rulebook and I stayed out of it, pretty much.

Paperclip Railways (2011)
The ultimate in do-it-yourself handicrafting, PCR was a two-phase project using local-to-us small printers (literally 5 miles down the road from the Paull’s house!); we had the cards, box and boards done in Stroud, the wooden pieces shipped in from Carta Mundi, the paperclips from a wire factory in the Forest of Dean, bought some sensitive scales (£40) to ensure we could quickly pre-pack 64 paperclips in to a baggie and borrowed a mate’s shrinkwrap machine to seal everything up nicely! We did 120 Brake Van edition copies in time for the UK Games Expo (all pre-ordered and sold) and 300 of a re-jigged Network Edition for Spiel 2011 (240 of which were pre-sold by the time I got on the Ferry with the van!). We’re not making fortunes, here, but we ARE maintaining a flow of interesting products AND managing them all in-house AND staying happy while doing it! You can read about the physical packing experience for PCR here (as we’re now in to Shed blog chronicling territory):
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/2634/busy-bees-part-1...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/2658/busy-bees-part-2...
https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/5262/no-kittens-died-...

On The Cards (2011)
While I was co-ordinating the relatively-easy task of getting Paperclip Railways sorted, the Paulls were – once again – in cahoots with Carta Mundi to get Sebastian Bleasdale’s smart, mutating trick-taker ready. In a retro-twist, the 1000 copies arrived without shrink-wrapping leading me to wonder if the machine at the CM factory was broken! I was pleased with my anthropomorphic suit characters on the box art, though; and the game is an underappreciated gem (we still have copies – see our website).



Snowdonia (2012)
Having vowed to ‘do it all ourselves from now on’, Snowdonia - and the partnership with Lookout Games - saw us renege on that promise and (like Fzzzt!) led a significant step up for the Company; all of the production was taken out of our hands as was the art and layout work (apart from the cover) - we just had to wait for the pallets to arrive on the stand at Spiel 2012 and get to the business of selling it!

Since Snowdonia, of course, we’ve made use of (the incredible) Klemens Franz wherever humanly possible (Ivor the Engine, the Snowdonia expansions, Guilds of London and The Cousins' War) and now move in licensed-from-the-start territory too (Guilds of London, A Nice Cup of Tea); patience, hard work and fruitful, professional partnerships have led to moderate (in the grand scheme of things) success, a little Fame and – most important – many wonderful friendships. There’s no factory in the World that can produce the latter!
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Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:35 am
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