Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell - Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy: www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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Brett-spieling

Anthony Boydell
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I mentioned the weekender guest attendance of Mr Brett J. Gilbert in my write-up of Friday night’s session but neglected to explain what the Fellow was doing at Boydell HQ in the first place. This was, of course, a deliberate tactic to elicit curiosity and increase tension which – perusing the response to the post – achieved neither, in the final analysis. Never mind, for I shall tell you more whether you want me to or not because – as you might imagine – it’s a real bugger putting something together day-after-day:

Brett and I have been noodling about with a light-to-medium weight card game with an Air Race theme (qv. Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines) for about a year now and, to be honest, Brett’s been far too busy getting his games published and garnering SdJ-type award nominations to give it his fullest attention: thus, it seemed a wholly sensible idea to trap him in invite him over to the hoose (rhymes with ‘moose’) and properly sort it out. And, goodness, ‘sort it out’ we did! To aid us in our quest, I invited the Friday night attendees for a spot of Saturday lunch and some play-testing, sprinkled with the intimation that some published games might get a look-in too. So, around/about lunch time the Batesons and Jobbers scowled through the front door, eager for ingress, and the latter laden with as much low-alcohol Stowford’s Cider as he could carry.



I sat out of the first game (to let Brett dip in for his first multi-player experience); my job being to observe (natch) and, as is traditional, make snarky comments about Boffo’s play choices. Though our RoW pals have played ‘MagMen’ before, Brett and I had already – over a strong coffee and an early-AM ‘two player’ – tweaked and clarified the card play/resolution sequence and several card effects. It was pleasing to see the drafting phase (‘the Practice Race’) merge seamlessly in to the main Race phase though Jobbers’ violent outburst during final scoring - when he, as ‘the most villainous’, was penalised by 5VP – threatened to bring the afternoon to an abrupt “I’m going home and taking my crisps with me!” end! It was clear, when we’d talked him down off the highest gable, that:
a) ‘most villainous’ was better converted in to ‘every one loses VPs based on how villainous they have been’; and,
b) this should only be applied in the advanced mode of the game ie. not the ‘intro’ game.

Catastrophe-averted, we reset the board and swapped seats and started again (removing ‘most villainous’). Jobbers, obviously adrenalized by his previous outrage, drafted a solid deck that garnered him a heady pot of free-to-play wildcard tokens and whizzed in to Paris while we were still admiring the Kent coast! Both Brett and I had spotted some card effect quirks but there would be too much of a delay to do that thee-and-then (it would take us a goodly couple of hours later and on the Sunday morning) so, strong cheese and crackers in hand, we gathered our testers in the library room for their ‘proper games’ reward.

First up was a belter – and another one unknown to Mr G (what the Hell does he do with his gaming time, eh?!):


It looks a bit like a vomit-strewn table but - unlike Aquasphere - Notre D is not a massive pile of Arse.


I am usually pretty good at ‘the Dee to the En’, but it was Boffo’s turbo-charged Carriage/ignoring the Church that pushed him comfortably to a win.

Second up, Libertalia, was under the G-meister’s belt already BUT he’d had (another) sour experience and remained trepidatious and unconvinced (WTF? Someone seems on a mission to cloud the poor chap’s eyes against the good stuff!); not that he let this spoil his first week’s performance, ending with an astonishing total of FIFTY-THREE doubloons whilst the rest of us were well-chuffed with our own ‘in the 30s’ totals!



Arrrrrrrrrrr! Etc


That 20 point gap looked unassailable but, then, this IS Libertalia and the second week played out with CURSES EVERYWHERE tomfoolery and Brett wheezed to the Sunday with just 12 doubloons, the rest of us able to catch back up. Week three, always tense, came down to a head-to-head of Me vs Boffo and there were just a couple of points in it; my saved-until-the-very-last Monkey (pass all your curses to the left), kept me safe from penalties and a Blackbeard-y whisker ahead of Ben and a late-sprinting Smudge!

In other news, Brett and I managed to brainstorm a lovely Trad-feeling children’s game design for a pitch next week AND he played Lux Aeterna without tearing it to pieces at the end!




Setting all of that incidental stuff aside, it was an excellent couple of days where important work was completed and excellent progress was made; Brett even found time, in the stillness of a Newent Sunday morning, to mock up some new MagMen card layouts (courtesy of Google clip-art, for now):


Beautiful, aren’t they?
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Today 6:20 am
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angry, jealous spies (got telephones for eyes)

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Pull out pretty much any old game - and I'm talking about pre-1990s now - and you'll probably find a TM or circled R somewhere on the box top: those old timers were shit-keen on protecting their IP with superscript-ed glyphs and 'Patents' both 'Pending' and 'Applied For'. It still amuses me to either ear-wig on / participate in conversations with 'fresh' game designers who are nervously-reluctant to talk about what they're doing for fear of being hijacked by a treacherous, shadow-dwelling plagiarist; I have even heard of them demanding NDAs of the companies to whom they are presenting/demoing! How, simultaneously, charmingly-naive and lumberingly-stupid.



We at Surprised Stare Games got a cease-and-desist email when we were producing Tara, Seat of Kings back in the mid-2000s; a chap producing a game also called Tara: his was a 3D tile-laying puzzle thing, ours a card-driven area control thing with a (Celtic) twist. He got quite aggressive in his missive, banging on about how his game was older than ours, how he had started using 'Tara' as a name first etc etc yadda yadda blah blah; naturally, having sent the files off to Ludfact, we took advice from a mate who was also a Solicitor: the upshot was that we registered Tara, Seat of Kings as a Trade Mark for £200 and told the other chap (respectfully) to piss off! Awkwardly, he had a Stand at the Essen Spiel that year which was about 200 yards away from ours in Hall 4; we passed no words until, on the Sunday, he remarked upon our Tara's 4th place in the Fairplay scouts' Top 10 of the show: "People obviously voted for your game thinking it was mine.".



There's absolutely no point in being paranoid; there's nothing new under the Sun and most offenses are committed by those already close to the victim: a co-designer with a gripe, a chancing play-tester or that bloke in the stripey black-and-white shirt and the "SWAG" rucksack. If you want to get worried about anything then get worried about the mass production of copies of your games by unlicensed groups in countries over which you have no jurisdiction - but only if you're the designer of a BGG Top 100 game, which you're not, so...

I believe that you should be unashamedly PUBLIC about your endeavours; sing from the rooftops, post plenty of WIP pictures and articles and put yourself - and your prototypes - about at conventions. You're more likely to see the Path of Success open up to you by being confident than shivering in the basement having blacked out all the curtains.

Why have I muted the camera shutter noise on my iPhone? Er, no reason; now, if you'll just open the box and tell me ALL about it...
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Fri Sep 15, 2017 6:47 am
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Bake/Off

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Here in the UK, it's that time of the year when all-and-sundry drop everything for an-hour-a-week of scrumptious cookery in the form of recently-'poached'-from-the-BBC The Great British Bake Off. Twelve amateur bakers sweat it out in a tent in the grounds of a posh house for 10 weeks making everything from biscuits and pies to obscure Teutonic cake-breads; we, the adoring Public, will descend upon our supermarkets to recreate these delectables for weeks after.

Last night, in the Showstopper round, the contestants had to bake biscuit-based cakes with a boardgaming theme! Huzzah! Excited, I lay back on the sofa expecting Shortbread Qwirkle, Dampfnudeln Abalone, a sponge "Climbers" and/or some Gingerbread Suburbia action...only, being mainstream Brit TV, it all turned out a little (literally) 'flat'. Here are the intended recipes:


Note the startlingly bland choice of source material


And here's the final result:



A triumph? Not particularly...but then I couldn't do any better, could I?


The episode's winner!


So, if YOU were to bake a boardgaming cake what would it be? Twilight Strudel? Profiterole For The Galaxy? Macaroms? Personally, I was well impressed with the Totemo birthday cake someone made a while back:



And Seb Bleasdale's Wedding tower was a wonder to behold:



Is anyone else feeling hungry?
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Wed Sep 6, 2017 6:20 am
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Wards - ugh! What are they good for? Quite a lot, actually!

Anthony Boydell
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It's been a while since I mentioned The Wards of London - the almost-as-big-as-its-parent expansion for Guilds of London so, um, here's some more information!

I've been distilling everything down to the following basic elements:
(1) losing the 'central' London and replacing it with YOUR Ward and those adjacent; this means some radical re-jiggeration of setups and the growth phase;
(2) adding Coin chits that can be used to power card effects rather than cards themselves (VERY powerful for uber-combos!);
(3) adding Veto chits (safety from those evil neutral liverymen);
(4) adding more 2nd place chits for delicious "I don't want to win that tile" shenanigans; and,
(5) a simpler 'default' colour fixer (pay 2 coins to move 1 liveryman to any tile in your range), along with some other tweaked rules.

Here are some pics supporting (1) and (5) particularly:













Feels good; feels VERY good!
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Tue Sep 5, 2017 6:20 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

Anthony Boydell
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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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Coming along very nicely...

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Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:25 am
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The Keeper of the Keys

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This is my favourite time of the year: Richard Breese sets out the whys, wherefores and whatsadoodads of his latest 'Key' game. For 2017, it's Keyper...



(Splendid artwork by Vicki Dalton)




I am, naturally, very much looking forward to picking up my copy of the super-pimped KS edition at Spiel...as, I should imagine, are quite a lot of you loverly peeps.

A new 'Key' game is a thing of beauty and a joy forever.
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Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:50 am
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You'd all better share the heck out of THIS post - unbelievable prizes await! No, SERIOUSLY!

Anthony Boydell
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Ok - read this on Matt Leacock's blog:

http://www.leacock.com/blog/2017/8/7/gamechangers

In case you missed it (these are HIS words):

If you do pledge, leave a comment below and let me know, because on Tuesday, August 15th at 12:00 noon PDT, I’ll randomly select one of the commenters who has made a donation to the program (however large) and send them a personalized care package. It might include…

a new, never-before seen prototype role card for Pandemic with your name on it
or a game
or a lenticular Forbidden Island postcard
or a special, hand-made “Box 9” for Pandemic Legacy Season 2 that only YOU will ever know the contents of
or all of the above … who knows?

Whatever it is, it’ll be a surprise and I’ll ship it anywhere in the world if you win.


Now...will you donate?

I thought so!
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Tue Aug 8, 2017 8:53 pm
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Oh! What's this?

Anthony Boydell
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Coming soon (when it's finished) to an Essen Spiel 2017 near you!
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Tue Aug 8, 2017 6:30 am
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