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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...the other day...

Anthony Boydell
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All of the games in small boxes were talking about me so I left the library room and huddled underneath the stairs with my copy of Spielbox.

The standard card games are the worst; just because they’ve got an insert that keeps two decks separated they think they’ve got the right to criticise.

What do they know? I mean, drop in some wooden cubes and a couple of dice and they’d be singing a different tune, I can tell you.

Stacked on the top shelves, they think they’re so superior; but I know better and, if they don’t want to end up as part of a Bring-and-Buy Sale £10 parcel, they’d do well to shut the Hell up.

I told myself this from the shelter of the shoe rack but had to move when the missus came buy with the vacuum cleaner: “You’re always in the way!” she sighed, and rammed the stiff hosepipe in amongst the Espadrilles.

That got me thinking about a design idea - a game about being a cobbler – so I ran to the Shed.

I’d accidentally locked the cat in the Shed a few weeks before and it wasn’t looking very pleased to see me, if I’m honest; it was sulking so hard it was losing fur: “Your food’s in the utility room” I said and prodded it. It sighed a smelly sigh and continued to ignore me.

I managed to find enough brown cubes to represent ‘leather’ and other colours to represent suede and velvet; I drew two player boards with lathes on and then got a bit demotivated – no card sleeves left – so I stared out of the window. A duck landed in the garden and waddled up and down by the Buddleia, honking; I watched it until it was too dark to see (by which time it had flown off anyway) and then went inside for my Supper, with the cat, tucked under my arm, leaking.

I’ll just put it in the utility room with it’s food” I called, but it wouldn’t stand up so I left it lying, face-first, in the Whiskers.

After supper, I took my pudding in to the library room but sprayed lemon sorbet all over the Pratchetts when 6 Nimmt said the shoe game sounded like a knock-off of Rokoko.

Luckily, the Fire Brigade were very quick in responding to my flaming wheelybin but they weren’t quick enough to save those bastard fillers; I warned them, didn’t I?

I’m nothing if not a fair man.

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Testy McTestface

Anthony Boydell
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Another gamified weekend (that's the second one this year, already) with, this time, the good company of Mr Brettwell J. Gilberton. We're on to the next leg of hammering out The Great (Air) Race because recent independent test sessions have suggested we need to have a bit of a rethink. As per, Brett also brought another prototype along and some juicy goodies for the Boydell household:


Fussball!


First to arrive was young Stu Burnham bearing gamer snacks (which I can't eat because of my diet) and beers (which I can't drink because of my diet). No sooner had I popped the kettle on than the three of us were trying out Brett and Matt's 'abstract thread-maker':



It's a tiny bit Azul-ish but immediately had me thinking of a train theme: a line of bonus cards are stocked with 5 discs from a bag (five colours). On your turn take 1, 2 or 3 discs from an end card (carrying over in to the next card when that one is depleted, taking the depleted card too) and place it/them in to one space of your player board (see photo). If you take a single disc then you can 'split' any hex of >1 disc, sending the disc(s) of your choice in to adjacent spaces. Why? To connect colour spots on the outside of your board with that colour of discs in a line (straight or circuitous). At the end of the round, cash in any taken cards for bonuses and extra disc placements THEN score edge-to-edge connected lines. Scored lines use a disc at either end to cover the edge spot and wholly-completed segments of those edge spots score more points at the end of each remaining round. It plays very smoothly and I was pleased to have almost completed the entire border but I was pipped in to second by Stu.

Not much to feed back, really - apart from it being very clean - so we took advantage of an arrived Boffo and launched straight in to a pair of simultaneous Foothills:



Stu and I had a monstrously white-cube-heavy first game which was contrasted by a steady and normal-paced second. Brett and Ben struggled through their singleton being waylaid by Brett's anxiety about the card play; it's a mechanism that takes a little getting used to as you can't just race through the actions doing everything you want, one after the other. Forward planning and good attention to what your opponent is doing/can do is essential. The net result of their discussions was a win for Brett and a suggestion to build a set of 'starter' action cards for each player. For Stu and I? Well, he may chime in below with his thoughts...

A quick bite of lunch and then we flew from London to Dover and then from London to Paris. *Tchoh* Not really, dear friends; we were, of course, testing The Great (Air) Race Again, Stu may chip in a tuppence-worth but it was an incredibly valuable test generally: some nagging fears were (sadly) reinforced but a new direction was revealed - onwards and upwards.

The least said about the appallingly dumb Danse Macabre try-out, the better.

Ben had to go - something about Dancing - so fresh beverages were brewed and, at Arthur's suggestion, we treated Brett and Stu to the eclectic delights of The Black Overcoat Game:



Arthur enjoys the (many) opportunities for shenanigans that B.O.G presents and it was particularly funny when Stu took severe damage from a bomb and was then forced by the young tyke to pick that bomb up again, fatally, a turn later! Following the tradition that house guests seem to always win their first game of B.O.G, Brett raised the treasure chest high in game 1. We played again, straightaway, and it was Stu who found the treasure location first only to then get stuck in the Gardens trying to get his Jet Boots to work - this gave me enough time to shimmy up the front in my ballet shoes and race to the Guest Bedroom for victory!

Supper was a Mrs B classic Lamb Curry to which I only had to add some boiled brown rice (brown rice smells like a drain!) then we sneaked a quick Bärenpark (me, Brett, Stu) and a Nusfjord (joined by Arthur) before Stu had to go home:


Stu shows his appreciation for my robust score of 39. Arthur got a personal best of 32 (tied with Stu) and Brett scored the same as he did the night before: 31.


With Arthur safely snoozing, Brett and I chatted over the findings of the day and then retreated to the living room to watch Event Horizon with eldest lad Fred. Quite the productive session, all-in-all.
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Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:15 am
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A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Anthony Boydell
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Give me a moment to explain.

It's not what you think, honestly!

It didn't mean a thing to me; it was just a passing fancy:


Spoiler (click to reveal)


Look what I went and bought:



You see: it's customizable! It's Monopoly: Legacy!



With personalised, slot-able Property tags and Chance/Community cards, I'm gonna have a ball working up a Tony version: 'Tonopoly', if you will.





In fact, it would be a lot of fun to get my friends and fellow designers to assist with this defacement modification at the UK Games Expo!

If you're coming (or you're there with a Stand), feel free to stop by the SSG booth and scribble something: let's make this a real work of (f)Art!



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Mon Apr 23, 2018 6:35 am
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An Irregular Expression

Anthony Boydell
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Sometimes I don't look where I'm going and yesterday I took a wrong turn without realising and ended up in a dark, hitherto unexplored corner of Surprised Stare Games Ltd Towers*. In amongst the food wrappers, scattered DVD box sets and cats I found the lair workshop of Mr Alan Paull and I was stunned to my very boots:


Mission Command - In action.


Alan has been working on his magnum opus - Mission Command - for about 10 years now. Amongst such non-trivial tasks as organising print runs of our games and booking conventions, he's been nurturing his own (and the Irregulars') wargame system. Now, I don't pretend to find this genre of gaming particularly attractive (because I don't understand it: it's too fiddly, too long and too 'war-y' for my taste) but I absolutely acknowledge the depth of research and commitment that Alan and pals have put in to it! Alan is a massive military history buff - he has proper qualifications and he's overhauled Martin Wallace's Waterloo system to boot - so it's warming to see him bring it to fruition.


Mission Command - Amazing art from Alan's daughter Vicki Dalton.


This weekend hosted the Salute! convention at the London Excel arena and Alan, with SSG's Blessing, has produced a batch of Mission Command Beta prints and got himself a bijou Stand. This is one of the joys of running one's own game publisher: you can, on occasion, afford to print something just for yourselves. Heaven knows we've all worked hard enough for the privilege!

If you'd like more details about Mission Command then please contact Alan via our usual email address: feedback@surprisedstaregames.co.uk

*the towers are a sham; they're papier mache on chicken wire.
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Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:50 am
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We needed a bigger boat!

Anthony Boydell
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The Ross-on-Wye club end-of-the-week meet was called off thanks to Fate kicking each member - apart from The Good Batesons - in the figurative testes; for my own excuse, the Boydell household is home to a wince-inducingly injured Ziggy The Dog who, during a hop-and-a-snuffle in the nearby woods, snagged himself on something sharp and tore a chunk out of his front leg (!). The poor chap is feeling ever so sorry for himself with a shaven foreleg and a Cone of Enforcement encircling his bonce.

Spoiler-ed for those of a sensitive disposition:
Spoiler (click to reveal)


Thus, with Friday evening jinxed, we'd all resigned ourselves to having to wait another week; it was fortunate, then, that a window opened in Boffo's schedule and he popped over Saturday for an impromptu gaming session! Stowing the goodies he'd purloined from the Huntley Farmers' Market in our spare fridge, we made excellent use of a table in the library (to ourselves) and played a testing brace of Foothills: The Great Little Trains of Wales's:



With just the one arising situation that required a rulebook clarification, it proceeded so smoothly that Boffo and I were almost playing for the simple game of it (sharing a victory each). We're both very pleased with the progress indeed.

With the afternoon proceeding lazily and everyone quite happy to drift along, I brewed some more tea and we invited Arthur away from his Kindle for something tabletopping:



We certainly know how to pack 'em in! Arthur acquitted himself admirably to steal second in both New Bedford and Kodama and a joint-second with Boffo in the afternoon's closing Nusfjord (Arthur's board is in the left of the Nusfjord image). He certainly seemed to have a better plan, better executed, in Nussers (as no one is calling it); the wonderful variety of buildings (and paths to points) certainly engaged Arthur's attention, so this is a game I think I'll bring out with him again (and soon!).

Shockingly, it was almost 5PM - this Ludic dalliance having eaten up the best part of four hours - and there was just time for Boffo to retrieve his Wild Boar sausages and stinky cheese before we sent him off in to the quiet dusk. What a marvellous, and wholeheartedly-embraced, way to spend a snoozy P.M.
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Mon Apr 9, 2018 6:20 am
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Time Was

Anthony Boydell
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Easter comes around (quickly) once more and an all-dayer game sesh at the Bateson residence has become the must-do Good Friday distraction. Time was* that I'd get some spiritual business out of the way before beetling across a drizzling Herefordshire but the last couple of years have soured my soul to Catholic influences so, instead, it was chores and eggs Benedict. Gaming over a long holiday weekend is not a recent, post-Surprised Stare thing as I was startlingly-reminded when eldest son (Fred) reminisced over a long-dusted family photo album (Volume 2: 1995 thru 1996, complete with actual photographs):


Remember how I said we used to use Alice as a start player marker?


I was struck by an overwhelming emotional wave looking at these 23 year-old snapshots: how young we are, how new everything is (that's our first home, that's our first child) and how much I miss my dear friend Rob who passed in 2012. How I wish my Now self could step in to the picture and chat for a while and, it goes without saying, join in with the Black Overcoat Game too.

Returning to 2018 and we call a cheery 'Halloo!' to modern Euros. Stepping across the Lilliputian** threshold - narrowly missing a shelving unit (is it on it's way in or on it's way out, I wonder?) there's just enough time to get a brew on before our hosts and us two 'first arrivals' (that's Garry and me) get stuck in to the wonderful Nusfjord:


Fjishing and Flying.


Garry was new to this condensed Uwe classic but not unaware of the babble surrounding it; I can precis the babble thusly: people who have played it think it's brilliant and those that haven't say it's crap because that's how things work these days. The solution is simple: play Nusfjord because it's absolutely fan-bloody-tastic (and I'm not just saying that because I won (again)).

With Mark and son, Max, expected in due course - with Jobbers and Wendy promised a little later - it was the perfect opportunity to try out the re-engineered prototype of The Great Race. We played the 'basic' version - ie. the version without the asymmetric powers - which was, as one would expect, a little bland: it worked, for sure, but for a table of proper gamers it lacked the crunchiness/wrinkles/combos that the extra mechanisms bestow. As it turned out, I lost by one point to Becky despite being the sole flyer in Paris at the end of the main race; the scoring is the other major element on mine and Brett's watchlist, as it needs broadening a bit more.

Happy at yet another productive and thought-provoking play-test, we raised our heads and greeted Mark and Max (who had occupied themselves during the last stages of our air racing with Star Wars Dobble). Jobbers, too, bounced merrily through the portal carrying an armful of (delicious) low-alcohol cider so we could immediately split for a Becky pre-requested Terraforming Mars:


Squeaked it: Tony takes Mars!


Please bear in mind that our first meeting with Mark - just a couple of weeks ago - revealed him to be a keen Chess player and that's all. In the ensuing fortnight, we've dropped him right in it with introduced him to Peloponnes, The Castles of Burgundy and Scythe and, now, we were dumping in the thin atmosphere of this card-driven trickery without so much as a potato! He gave very good account of himself - asking for advice and clarifications, as needed - and pulled clear away on the TR track; he came a cropper (as many do) on Mars itself by failing to build stuff there. He enjoyed the experience immensely though (huzzah!) and was impressed how it felt like his favourite sci-fi series: KSR's Mars trilogy, naturally!

It was dark outside - but still pissing-it-down and chilly - and we persuaded a knackered Garry to stay for just one more game:


Beering it down the Wye Valley with Smudge. Jobbers (off to the right) played an absolute blinder and was a comfortable victor - much to his chuckling satisfaction!


Another play-test but, this time, not a recognisable one unless you looked really closely; we were chuffing up-and-down the Wye Valley in search of tunnels to dig, bridges to build and beer to sup! Oh, yes; the Surveyor really gets his whistle whetted in a quest to tick off the sights on his Postcard. So enthusiastic is his quaffing that when he's lifted his elbow in one station, he's forever barred from drinking there again and must take his custom elsewhere! Not be scoffed at, there are twenty four points and a number of VERY useful triggered-effects awaiting the thirsty traveler; the tunnels, too, can prove a tasty source of points for the track builder (completed tunnel spaces count as track for Contract scoring). All-in-all it was a tremendous game that only reminded me it was a prototype when a couple of contract cards identified themselves as unworkable in the scenario; the rest of the time you'd never have known it was a WIP!

All that concentration had taken it's toll and I withdrew in to a sleepy, mostly-silent end-of-the-evening El Grande:


From dead (and dribbling) last place to a gnat's whisker second!


Things weren't looking too good at the start when Boffo snagged a 'send everyone home to the Provinces' card on Turn One (!) and was "punished" a round later by Wendy gifting him an easy 10 points (score all 'fives'). By the mid-game, I was a good 20 points from the leader(s) and resigned to limping home at the last; it didn't help that Boffo kept (loudly, fortified by his transfer from Earl Grey to red wine) announcing which cards and actions benefited which player(s). I quietly chipped away at the deficit (always late in the turn order) until the very last round, which set itself up to be an absolute corker: all five players within a couple of points of each other! Boffo stole it - he went after me in the final sequence meaning I had to hedge my bets somewhat - but I'm happy to have pulled back so much ground. I've said it before and I'll say it again: El Grande with the full complement is one of the finest board games in existence.

It was still raining on my 11PM departure:

driving home to you
dancing diamonds in the road
lay-by emeralds,
rubies,
and wet smoke obscure my view
driving home to you


*I am suddenly reminded of this:


**The Batesons' bungalow - or should that be FUNgalow?! - is called Lilliput***
***NOT after the 1950s-era 'gentlemans periodical'
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Sat Mar 31, 2018 12:39 pm
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How blue is my valley?

Anthony Boydell
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The Wye Valley Tourer is pretty much done, now; the 'tea' has become beer which means my drunken worker blog promo 'train' can now find it's rightful place (see next pic)! Tunnel-building and a prolonged pub crawl for veeps provide the wrinkles in this scenario.



You may notice that the Bluebell Railway has come along in great bounds since my blogular brainstorm a few weeks back BUT the details have yet to be filled in (literally!). I know there will be a ghost 'awakened' when the Sharpthorne Tunnel is started (the first tunnel section on the line) and I think I want it to be adding a cube to the bag (colour TBC) that acts like an extra Event - so it hurries the game along - but also triggers something else (not sure yet). The cricket pitch is going to be a lot of fun: I am thinking that if players can move their surveyors to - and place their third workers on - the Cricket Pitch then this will trigger a Match (but not if it's raining). Each player also has a Bonfire card (see bottom-left) that's themed to the Lewes end-station; each provides a third worker (as per) but if the worker is used to perform the Bonfire card's (unique) bonus action (instead of either regular working or hanging out on the Cricket Pitch), it also counts toward the society's Bonfire space (the 3 coal space). Lots going on, indeed.



While Arthur was at his swimming lesson, I mused and scribbled a little more.

Wow! It's been an extraordinarily busy and fecund week for my game designing!
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Fri Mar 30, 2018 6:40 am
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Springing Forward

Anthony Boydell
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Hot sun pounding the dewy lawn as dawn brings the first fecund stirrings in the garden: ripe buds a-bursting, pert stamens and the plaintive call of birds with the avian equivalent of knobache. Yes, Spring is here and, despite having lost an hour on Saturday night (we're now in B.S.T), it is time to start the fiddling (and yet soul-easingly satisfying) process of a top-to-bottom, side-to-side house clean! First job on the list is to clear all the crap out of - and sweep - the 'lock-up':



Out it all came (on to the lawn) then in with the straight-backed lifting and the large-bristled brush; I found a couple of fat spiders hiding amongst the Ivor the Engines but, thankfully, no sign of a Scandaroon infestation.

The second job was tackling 'the Shed'. The plasterboard ceiling is still cracked-and-bowing in want of repair, but there was much 'consolidation' to be done: re-sorting loose wooden bits, by colour, to their respective drawers; the stowing of bubble-wrap and the breaking apart of 'dead' prototypes! This process - deep in the ephemera and equipment of game design - got the creative juices flowing (in line with the new Season!):


Bones of Offa - a rather obtuse, Werhle-esque co-design (with Ben Bateson) surfacing for the first time, freshly-reprinted, in three years!



Starting up the Danse Macabre once more; my Gothically-themed round-and-round 'drafter' re-sleeved for 2018!



Fzzzt! 2.0 - Robots and dice-drafting. Previously, the prototype was robbed of it's plastic sleeves but now it shouts for a revisit!



The Great Race: My collaboration with the King of Clean Designs Brett J. Gilbert gets a beautful and evocative face-left and a reprint ready for more testing!


I even found an hour to cycle along the canal - and around the lanes of Newent - with Arthur as the Sun began setting: my muscles, and brain, are really feeling the effects of the exertion this morning!
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Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:36 am
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Bravo Tsavo!

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Last Summer, I was as keen as the keenest of English mustards to help get a fine gaming cause off the ground: the Ugandan 'Gamechangers' convention: (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/67657/whats-good-geek...)

Being a small but enthusiastic part of the overall campaign (Matt Leacock joined in most mightily as well) was incredibly rewarding; the funds were (generously) raised and the children have been well-stocked with gaming opportunities ever since. Indeed, shortly afterwards, Ben Maddox (of Perfect Information and 5Games4Doomsday fame) organized the collection and dispatch of loads of donated second-hand board games to the gamechangers too - so their Ludic cups ran-eth over!

The World spins ever onward, of course, and the success of their first proper convention has whetted their appetites for more; thus:

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/uganda-village-board-game-conv...

One thousand pounds is the target but - for Heaven's sake - we can do a lot better than THAT, can't we, my dears?
To this end, I am offering the following to you splendid Geekfolk:

For every pledger who pledges at least £15 there will be one of these (a "Snowdonia Train") - postcardified - sent to your door at no further cost...


(you won't find out exactly what it does until you get a copy)

...and:

At the end of the campaign I will draw one person, at random, from all of the peeps who have pledged any amount (however large or small) and send them a FREE copy of Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea when it becomes available later in the year! You can't say fairer than that, can you?!

Now, get a-pledgin'!
(and don't forget to please tell your friends!)

heart heart heart
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Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:15 am
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Tom Tom Club

Anthony Boydell
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Today I bring you a scrapbook of the weekend just gone: a curious couple of days where I was temporarily handed the reins of Casa Boydell so Mrs B could drink Prosecco and sing along to ABBA tunes without me tutting away in the background. Only Arthur really needed to be kept occupied - the others old enough to sort themselves out - so it was a vee relaxed (ie. lazy) period with nought to get worked up about.

With some Newent shopping on their agenda, the Batesons popped around mid-morning on the Saturday for some Foothills: The Great Little Trains Of Wales (oooh, get the new title!) testing which went very well indeed:


(from L to R: Boffo, Boffo's tableau, the railway lines (and action card supply at the bottom), Smudge's tableau and Smudge.


This was Becky's first bash at the re-vamped version (now circa v5, officially); that's the one with the 'flipping card actions'...which is not (oddly for this blog) 'swearing' but an accurate description of the physicality of the mechanic. A couple of ability tweaks, some card layout suggestions (for clarity) and a graphics refresh would see me through the subsequent Monday evening: have laptop and printer, will prototype!

There being no particular hurry, it would've been wantonly careless to have missed out on a chance for some Agricola and, with Arthur's semi-reluctant agreement, we set out the Revised Edition with the Artifex deck shuffled in for good measure:



I settled upon a delightfully-abusive combo that let me slip in to already-occupied non-accumulation action spaces and was loudly-whinged by the others as being a runaway leader; in the end, Boffo was tickled in to second by just a few points. Arthur got distracted by trying to get enough grain to brew himself some whiskey and was lucky to make it in to single figures! Mustn't grumble, though; a game of Agricola is a game of Agricola and is always savoured!

Bidding farewell to the Batesons, we soon bade welcome to my brother-in-law Tom who was here to help us watch some Saturday night movies; on the agenda were Annihilation* (recent Netflix-ed sci-fi-er) and Cronenberg's The Fly**. Neither were suitable for young Arthur so it behooved us to spend some time with him (always worth it because he's a splendid fellow) before his bedtime:



Bärenpark didn't really catch his imagination so we closed - pre-pyjamas - with my oldest, daftest and most beloved design: the treasure hunting, card-driven cartoon antics of the Overcoat family. It played to great hilarity and I found myself - FOR THE FIRST TIME IN AT LEAST TWO YEARS - the winner! Huzzah for me! We all had such a hoot that we set it up again the following (snowbound) morning (over elevenses) for a couple games more.


On the far right: please note my opening hand of cards and Benedict's tableau after the opening turn - in B.O.G terms, I would be 99% certain to gain the requisite three Map Pieces on my first turn and - if the draw of the Treasure Location went my way - win it then too! I didn't, of course, because every picked on me.


*It was okay.
**Everyone was too tired and, besides, my taped copy was very grainy; we have postponed until Tom can bring his Blu Ray disc over.
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Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:15 am
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