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.
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 Essen
- [+] Dice rolls
News of German event bans has been dribbling through the aether and, yesterday (Thursday), mumblings of August being extended through to the end of October began twittering.Quote:Sidebar: I'd love to have been able to ask for more info but, again, my Twitter account has been temporarily-suspended after textualising my wish that Alexander Johnson - our worthless, grubby, enema-hose-stuffed-with-rancid-ox-liver of a "Prime Minister" - "had died of Covid-19" like 52,000+ others have (40% of which were sacrificed to his eugenics 'herd immunity" strategem in UK Care Homes). Twitter is a cunt but Johnson, in the only example of him excelling at anything, is a monumental cunt. Anyway - as is pretty normal when I start any sidebar about "BoJo" - I have wandered away from my original point.With gatherings of 5000 or more being 'out', it's surely inevitable that Essen Spiel 2020 is not going to happen and that makes me more than sad: it makes me feel bereft. This is not hyperbole - I am not exaggerating for literary effect - because Essen Spiel has been as much a part of my life since 2002 as Christmas with the family: it is, quite simply, the one week of the year that I look forward to the most. If you don't believe me, then read back over all the October blog posts since 2011 (when this blog was delivered, screaming, in to the World)...
...the 'crush' and the queues
...the long-distance travel
...the U-bahn commute
...the chilly mornings
...the international community
...the hidden gems
...the giant haribo!
What fixes this particular star in the Heavens of my life is that my family have variously - and in their own way - shared in the experience too: when I talk of 'the huge Halls' or 'the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet' or the cheer on a Sunday evening, they all go - briefly - misty eyed with their own recollections. They get it; they understand why Dad goes a bit mental-with-anticipation in September.
No other show does this; Essen Spiel is a behemoth that simply cannot be compared to. UKGE? Not even close. Origins? You wish. And GenCon? Pah! A pale, inferior imitation in all respects!
Quite how we move on from 2020 is shrouded; with UK schools likely to be 'out' until the Autumn (despite the ridiculous, murderous howling of the right-wing press), it would seem increasingly-sensible that children be asked to retake this academic year. Nothing 'sensible' can relied upon with our Government, however; hot on the heels of this unprecedented Societal upheaval, you must remember that the UK is careering for its baffling Brexit suicide. Next year's Spiel may, for me at least, continue to be an unattainable oasis amid the lunacy as we find ourselves living in a John Wyndham-esque landscape of suburban breakdown, persecuted minorities and toxic vegetables.
(with apologies to Rupert Brooke)
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of an English field
That is for ever Europe. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom Europe bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam;
A body of Europe's, breathing Europe's air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by Europe given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under a European heaven.
- [+] Dice rolls
The anticipation is all: September was a steady ramping-up of excitement as news of signed-off proofs and confirmed quantities began to dribble in. Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea was going to make it; the nervy last-minute transfer of Lux Aeterna to Ludofact manufacturing was confirmed and absolutely-fine. There were 400 Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Sets in a German warehouse in need of a fork-lift truck and, well, the ferry and hotel had been booked in plenty time. All that was needed was getting through the seasonal transition - Summer warm to Autumn damp - and the best week in the Year would be upon us.
Time flies by when you're having fun (and when you're the driver of a train, apparently) and long weekends of rubbish removal, wasp stings, driveway refurbishment and fence painting eased October over the line; even work was providing enough of a daily documentation distraction to stave off boredom!
Then, the day before I would be driving over to my pre-Ody(E)ssean digs at pal Richards, we had a phone call from a local vet: our cat - Boo (Babooshcat) - had been run-over: she had a mangled tail and a horribly-broken back-leg! Oh my. Progress updates soon morphed in to plans-of-action and a potential (no pet insurance) bill of £2000 should we go ahead with recommended amputations! Oh double my. With all of the children at home for the foreseeable, that's an amount of cash we just didn't have access to OR would be able to commit to paying back in regular installments. The vet suggested a local feline charity but no-one answered the telephone or returned our messages so, by midday on Monday, it seemed that our life with Boo in it would be coming to an end. I bade farewell to the family as they were about to travel to the vets to 'say goodbye'; I felt nauseous as I drove off with a car full of games for a fun week in Germany. However, as I was droning down the M4 motorway to some calming Dvorak, Daisy suggested trying the charity one more time: success! As a life-or-death situation, they agreed to cover all costs just as long as we made a £200 donation (we have now set up a monthly standing order for the foreseeable)! My return (a week later) - the car's back-axel groaning under the weight of my ridiculous haul - found our puss in tranquil state, fussed over by all-and-sundry and gently (if only occasionally) making her way across the floor on three legs.
The work at home Tuesday was a Blessed relief and there were no significant emails to deal with; in between the Teams chatter, I unpacked and sorted my stuff from Boffo's, handed out the traditional sweets and gifts to the kids and started exploring/punching the brighter boxes. I didn't appreciate having to get up for the two days travelling in to Bristol, however; bleary-eyed in the dark after the clocks-went-back and (on Weds) stuck for three hours in Gloucester traffic courtesy of a body having been found on the nearby M5 motorway!
Friday is here, though, and games in Ross-on-Wye await; a week ago I was spinning the SSG booth on my own (no trouble at all) and looking forward to the Heavy Cardboard meetup. The Doppler Effect, in full force, has Essen Spiel 2019 (with its 209,000 visitors!) receding and accelerating away in my memorial rear-view mirror. There is talk of a swift 2nd printing of Lux Aeterna, heavy interest in Attention All Shipping, the Coming Soon mass market-ness of Games from the Deep, Dark Wood (the Gruffalo game) and Off The Rails; a player's expectancy for Gathering of Chums 3, Gridcon, Bastion and Leiriacon; UK Games Expo (more new stuff from SSG), Summer holidays and - of course - Spiel 2020. Like the one just gone, the next will be upon us in the blink of an eye.
- [+] Dice rolls
blah blah gifted this old game by Heiko Günther yadda yadda played it a lot when he was young etc
rhubarb rhubarb quite a few other folks who saw the box said they had played it a lot when they were young as well
blither blather usual roll and move affair on the dice has/have gone missing (as have the player tokens?)
jibber jabber there are some cards
waffle but maybe not ALL the cards?
chunter chunter everything smells of smoke and mildew filibuster highlighter pen $5 on the box top blah blah
*sigh* something about 'the history of board gaming' and the mandatory mention of an aspirational museum and we're done for another day.
- [+] Dice rolls
Two coffees and a Microsoft Teams work conference call in to the day and I am surrounded by a stack of ex-Snowdonia Deluxe boxes stuffed with the fruits of my German odyssey.
A single box - overflowing - awaits (to one side) for a Boffonian pickup this evening; a final carton with miscellaneous odds, sods and jetsam is sitting in the Hallway waiting to be absorbed in to the ShedMAss at some juncture.
My side aches, my back hurts, my ears are ringing, my stomach gurgles and there is a tiny rasp in my voice that feels like the seed of something phlegm-ier: all of it a small and tolerable price to pay for another fabulous, amazing, fantastic, stupendous, incredible week at my favourite Event with some of my favourite people.
- [+] Dice rolls
Alan and I were up-and-out ambulating to the Hauptbahnhof when I got an emergency text from pal Richard who had lost his wallet: "Did we have a spare exhibitor pass?" he asked, so he could sign in to work at CGE. "Sure" I replied, "meet us at the platform because our train will be 20 minutes.. As soon as I disconnected, the arrivals board flickered and showed an U11 to the Messe/Gruge due in 1m - what the hell? Richard and I caught up later at the corner of Hall 1 to effect an exchange; it was on this corner that I saw Mr Uwe Rosenberg trudging up the street, kicking the autumn leaves, and where I selfied in my shiny new, silly tee-shirt:
After a quick (re-)wander around Halls 3, 2 and 1, I returned to 4-F121 to drop off my stuff and then piss off for the day; in fact, I managed to sneak in a demo of Attention All Shipping before spending a couple of hours demo-ing
Now...who wants to flip cards with me?!:
Pleasingly, I won my only full game by building just enough station spaces to create the capacity for scoring cards THEN motored through a single-minded track building campaign / regular emptying and refilling of the stock yard to pull the game to a close. Despite settling on a three action VP generating cycle, my opponent ran out of passengers for the recipe and by the time he'd blinked, I'd ended the game for 38.5 plays 26. I guess that if I'd video-ed the game, it might go someway to assuaging the 'game goes on too long because no-one builds the track' crowd? Anyway, later in the day I heard the Footers was No.6 on the legendary Fairplay Essen Scouts list - no easy feat in a show with 1200+ options!
Lunch in the Hall 3 café was a tasty penne bolognese in the company of Matthias Cramer & family, Cédrick Chaboussit, Matthew Dunstan, Ben Maddox, Morton and Steve. Talk was subdued on account of everyone seemingly ravenous - though there WAS a discussion about why being an actor was more stable and lucrative than being a game designer.
Being the day off, it is traditional that I search for suitable non-gamey gifts for the family; as usual there was a fine selection of tee-shirts and mission accomplished after a mere two hours of zig-zagging through Hall 6. It was post-lunch and the place was Saturday-heaving with knee-shattering trolley budgers, swinging rucksacks stuffed with breeze blocks and children with shrieks that burst one's ear-drums.
Dobble, The Arse Elf jiggled its way around the open-skied atrium/lorry park; later, the site of his oscillations and air-humping would be adorned with fresh vomit: coincidence? I think not.
It was time for a sit down and I decided that I'd quite like a game of Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea without having the pressure of explaining and clarifiying; no, indeed, I wanted to just play! I told Fabien to not tell anyone I was the game's designer and so proceeded my attempt to actual win one of my games for once and left him to a full, uninterrupted rules overview:
Surprising though it may seem, I stay pretty quiet throughout and quietly nurtured some fine contracts for a 70 point hit at the end; I avoided correcting misplays wherever possible and actually looked something up in the rulebook at one point! In the summing, my grand total of 144 points was significantly ahead of everyone else (what a bully, eh?!) and then Fabian spilled the beans and my subterfuge was revealed. Happily, they didn't kick me to death in the corner.
The show was soon over and so we - Doug & Shelley Garrett (Garrett's Games & Geekiness), Surya & Myriam (having journeyed back from NZ for Spiel) and the Alspachs / Team Bezier Games* - meandered over to Vapiano for a delicious lasagne, rocket & parmesan salad and tiramasu dessert. Games followed, in a conference room at the hugely-expensive Atlantic Hotel with Doug, Surya and Myriam:
First up was a half-game of Mint Condition: Sushi Go! without the cute food pics and a pretty flat atmosphere. We abandoned it after the first 'draft' round on account of being bored off our tits.
Second was King Thief Minister: one of the Iranian games at the heart of this year's Spiel controversy (the two-times-in-a-row number one issue "Stolen Cashbox" has been usurped by new entry "Racist As Fuck!"). It's basically Faidutti's horrendously-overwrought and mind-numbing Masquerade using just six cards and some coins:
In summary: lay down the six roles face down - one in front of each player and those without an order complete an imaginary circle. On your turn, you could a) pay one coin to see the card in front of you b) rotate all cards counter/clockwise OR announce who 'you are' (what role is in front of you (the usual challenge/penalty shenanigans ensue) OR pass. If the challenge fails - or is not forthcoming - then it is assumed everyone believes you and you get to do the character's action (they all involve the money).
The game ends when the last coin in the supply is taken and 'most coins' is the winner. Alternatively, a player could announce they were The Peasant and then name all of the other face-down cards without error to empty the pool in one sweep!
I managed to trigger The Peasant with a fair idea of all the card positions and won the game thanks to a veritable Fort Knox of tiny, metal currency.
We closed the long evening with Bruxelles 1897, which was a proper thoughtful - and quick! - card game:
I'm not going to attempt a summary of this one because it's now 1AM and I want to go to sleep! Goodnight, pals!
*Yes, Ben; I know.
- [+] Dice rolls
26 Oct 2019
A better night and, most satisfying of all, a 5AM 'wake-up' followed by a falling-back-to-sleep until the alarm went off at 7.30AM: bloody marvellous! Down for brekkie (early) with the Paulls, Mr Brett J. Gilbert and Mr Matthew Dunstan; I have quite the routine now:
- fetch coffee and cutlery;
- make up two brie & salami rolls for lunch (which I invariably forget to eat);
- fetch boiled egg (one) and bowl of yoghurt mit muesli
- forget serviettes and fetch a glass of 'sparkling water' that tastes like Andrews' Liver Salts
- look around and realise everyone else hs finished and fucked off.
Alan and I dropped Charlie off to fetch our traditional glazed nutty buns 'elevenses' and bumped in to the Harmans (Yay! Games) in the P9 car park. We chatted and then I realised that Alan had walked right passed us, unseeing, and made his own way over to the Halls! For myself, having gotten the wave thru from the security guard around the enormous gathering crowds (even at this early hour: 90 mins to opening), I nipped to the Studio H booth to say hello and have a reccie. A long chat later, I realised I'd have to actually go to the actual booth and do some actual work!
Alan and Charlie were busying themselves with reorganisation, so I nipped back in to Hall 2 to a) sell my War of the Spark Magic haul and then b) use aforementioned funds to buy Arthur his Essen souvenir ie. the biggest Lego Ninjago robot mech I could find (a bargain and 79 euros!).
Cue: chat - sell - chat - move some boxes - sell - chat and so on for the next few hours.
The steady Lux demos and Lux/Snowdonia sales was broken by the arrival of a smarmy, twenty-something Rep from an Eastern European manufacturer; his opening gambit was to stand legs-akimbo, smile his cheesiest (shit-eating) smile and pronounce: "I am sure that I can make you guys have success with publishing your games!". The arrogant fucknozzle seemed to think that because we were in one of the Not-Asmodee halls and had a huge pile of boxes rather than a slick, ten thousand euro stand, that we needed saving from the Abyss of small publisher obscurity. My first instinct was to tell the greasy tit to fuck right off to Hall 8 and, when he got there, to keep fucking off until he reached the Baltic Sea BUT fellow SSG-er (Alan) is much nicer than me and ended up in a 10 minute conversation (!): sweet mother of Christ, the world would need to see Ludofact, Carta Mundi and Treffl fall in to the fucking sea before we'd think about using his half-arsed, come-from-nowhere shysters! Anyway, I calmed myself down by receiving a long, delicious almond pastry from a Snowdonia fan (and Baker) who needed 2nd edition plastic Surveyors for his Surveyor brother (I had muled the tiny packet from the UK).
The Paulls left for their afternoon off around 1330, leaving me in sole charge of the cardboard fort that is 4-F121. I set up the long table (at last, now that we had room for it!) and spent the next couple of hours watching people stress and panic playing Lux Aeterna! It was fair belting off the stand with 9 out of 10 demos ending in a sale; people seem to find the combination of real-time anxiety, simple gameplay, difficult decisions and ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS AND EVOCATIVE ARTWORK pleasing!
Around teatime (4PM) - after a lovely, gentlemanly chat about things with Jeroen Doumen (Splotter is right behind us), the crowds had thinned enough to get four people sat down to play Attention All Shipping - including, yes!, two-time Kennerspiel des Jahres winner Andreas Pelikan:
He's a lovely chap but the bugger only went and broke part of the game; the other players had to sit and watch as he abused the 'free in-and-out' effect of Lighthouses to fish the seas empty and lap all of the others on the score track! One poor chap - who I met later at the Heavy Cardboard gig in Fritzpatricks - ended up with 2 (two) points only! To be fair, Andreas also suggested a fix so that was alright. A second game followed shortly after - ie. shortly after we had ejected Andreas from the Hall (!) - and was much more 'as expected'; of course, I immediately implemented the change to prevent further embarassment!
We finished a little after 7PM as the main lights dimmed and the polite tannoy told us all to fuck off in to the good night. Mr Cédrick Chaboussit took me over to the Repos party in Hall 3 where I was absorbed in to the cytoplasm of the entire French Spiel 2019 contingent: I sucked on a delicious beer while discussing review ethics with Guillame from Tric Trac. Bottle drained, we made our way on foot (much to some of our party's members' dismay) to Fritzpatricks on Ruttenheidstraße for the Heavy Cardboard Essen meetup:
The Train Rush's Craig embarrasses the United Kingdom by wearing shorts and crocs (?!) to a serious gaming event.
Edward gave a lovely speech and quick tribute to the late Francis Tresham before the entire room raised their glasses and paid the great man the respect he so richly deserved - it was quite the spectacle.
Much Guinness, chatter and rumbustuousness later I bade my farewells, flagged down a taxi and came back to the Ibis. It is now late and I really ought to be going to sleep but - hey - we're already HALFWAY through proceedings and don't want to miss a thing.
Wish you were all here too!
- [+] Dice rolls
The day begins early with a bleary inability to cool my hot legs (?!) down; tapping the side of the Fitbit reveals 05:29 and I let out a rasping sigh. A niggle about what to say/do if Alubari doesn't a) show early or b) show at all begins to keep my befugged mind from re-sleep: it's a long journey from darkness in to light.
Brushing aside the terse complaints of the Ibis' breakfast staff about "you are overfilling the waffle maker!", the Paulls joined me for a calm repast before braving the U-Bahn commuter traffic up the U11 to the Messe/Grugepark. I took the long way around via Halls 1, 2 and 3 with David J. Mortimer:
We caught a glimpse of Bruno Faidutti - hovering like a mouse outside its hole in the Foyer; indeed, Mr F popped up later in Hall 4 equidistant between our stand and Splotter's. He also appeared by the entrance to Martinstraße station when I was plodding home after a pork-knuckle supper: i think the guy is stalking me!
My stomach dropped when the stand looked entirely the same as last night ie. with not a shred of Alubarian evidence to be had! A quick call and the sitrep was more positive: it was NOT in Duisberg but in the Messe itself! In the back of Schenker truck. Somewhere.
The angels sang and the clouds parted at 0959 when - with just a minute to spare before the Grand Opening - our pallet of 100 'Lubes rocked up in the custody of a hairy German. He coughed an apology for lateness and then disappeared in a cloud of stale cigarette smoke and dandruff:
Thus commenced the dance of the queue as a happy band of early-risers secured themselves some green-and-gold goodness. Of course, with so few copies I was expecting it to be a short burst of Adrenalin and done BUT Deluxe Snowdonia and Lux Aeternae rolled in to eager sacks with equal rapidity: it was quite a buzz!
No rest for the wicked, however, as a prior 'guest spot' at the Board Game Box stand called:
It was supposed to be for just an hour but I was having so much fun curating the 'full 5' (excluding me) that I stayed for 90 mins, earned four sales and a box of Swiss chocs (yum!) for my easy trouble! We had a lot of fun!
Lording it from my evolving Fort, I was paid a visit by the most excellent Parishoner loofish: a genuinely-delightful interlude with a Shedman and fellow (though recently-lapsed) BGG Blogger. Peeps stopping by and saying 'Hi' is wodditzarlaboot TBH.
When not chatting - or sneaking off for a crafty collect of outstanding stuff - I began rationalising the scruffy innards of the booth: stacking, re-packing and generally making a lot of space available:
The Lookout Games stand was throbbing with happy punters including six tables all spinning Foothills, which was nice:
Supper was a pig's knee at the Brauhaus and a brace of non-alocoholic shorles (for me, at least); the company our Swedish pals the Tyrland boys and their friend Lucas.
I bumped in to Gil 'The Networks' Hova and Heiko 'GtR: Black Box edition' Gunther on my way home, the aforementioned Mr Faidutti at the crossroads(!)
I close with the selfie our our tremendous supper guests
My feet ache, my calves cramp, my head hurts and I am quite spectacularly-exhausted already: only three more days to go!
- [+] Dice rolls
Sort of. The halls of Essen's Messe were thrumming to the squeals of dragged MDF shelflets, the clatter of trolleys and the chugged monoxide of the bijou forklifts; paint still required slapping on, the buzz of electric screwdrivers and the snow-crunch of statically-charged pallet wrap. The SSG elves set, immediately, to work stacking the great many cartons of Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set and Lux Aeterna; by the time I had to shoot off for the BGG demo feed, we were pretty much 'Fort Ready' and were just awaiting the imminent arrival of Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea.
To break up the thumb-twiddling, I ran some errands between the Halls and racked up the 10,000 steps on my Fitbit at lunchtime:
Early doors: Studio H begin the construction of the Alubari railway car demo area - a photo of the final scene will be included in tomorrow's report.
Slowly and steadily, I began ticking off the games on my Tabletop Together sorted print-out; one stop, naturally, was to see my bestest gamery pals at Lookout Games:
...and pick up a surfeit of goodies including some Foothills promos, Ben Bateson's L-deck Agricola card and a veritable Wedding Party of wooden passenger meeples! A straw hat and a copy of Expedition to Newdale also found their way in to my loot box.
4PM came-and-went and news of Alubari promos (yay!) but the games themselves still stuck on a van awaiting a driver somewhere near Duisberg.
By 6pm we were done: feet and calves aching, tummies rumbling, noses sneezing and eyes-sagging we trudged to the P9 car park and back to the Ibis. Our intention was to wander along to 'The Essen Warm-Up' at The Unperfekthaus but we ended up walking through the wrong shopping mall and exiting the wrong doors and found ourselves in what seemed to be a haunted, abandoned theatre and park. Scared for our very lives, we avoided the near-constant waves of Hire-A-Scooter hooligans (there were THREE young tikes on one of them!) and wandered back through the evening commerce until we found a Chinese Buffet restaurant and somewhere to rest our weary bones.
One of the mall shops was selling nothing but prints like this of a kinetic, oily future/now.
"What's Tony looking at?" quoth Charlie; "Oh, it's a train" she self-answered.
Despite being October, it was very warm in the town centre as we trudged up the constant incline to the Hauptbahnhof. Nothing else to be done tonight and to bed: hopefully there will be Tea in the morning?
Postscript: Actually, I'm pleased that Alubari didn't show TODAY - the setup day - because we would've sold them all to the exhibitors and Press that stopped by. As it turned out, Lux Aeterna proved tremendously popular: the theme, artwork and esoteric gameplay piquing much interest from passers-by.
As you're reading this, of course, the real Essen experience begins at last:
- [+] Dice rolls
- [+] Dice rolls