Archive for Wales
Welcome...to my Shed!
Another week, another journey through the top-hole topography of Wales; this time I'm in the office for the morning then returning to a route I used to follow a lot - before arranging it such that I'd "go there, straight from home" - which takes me right up the big, bleak, brilliant middle:
Built on mining, in modern times they're digging away an entire overlooking mountain for it's coal (exclusively train-ed to a nearby power station). Currently aspiring to be "just a shit-hole" but falls somewhat short...though there ARE traces of a more architecturally-beautiful Past:
The Cefn Coed Viaduct - I love a good viaduct, me!
Trevithick's tunnel - part of Trevithick's Tramway, which (kind-of) started the entire railway thing.
In to the Brecon Beacons
You only need to go North a few miles from the modern day grimness of Merthyr to find yourself driving along a valley chained with reservoirs; part of the way homes the Brecon Mountain Railway - a relatively-recent Heritage line that follows some of the original Brecon/Merthyr route:
(taken by me, the first time I ever went that way)
The road (the A470 that takes us all the way to the tippety-top) loops back on itself (due to the big, rocky things) to a gentle Brecon arrival:
Now, if I take a left - at this point - I'll head off West towards Cardigan Bay where my Pa, little sister and little brother live BUT straight on it is and sort-of parallel with the Black Mountains to my right. I'll be getting hungry about now...Builth Wells
Home of the Royal Welsh Showground (and not much else TBH), Builth is a third of my journey completed; a good milestone to pick up some lunch (and petrol).Rayader
It only takes a few moments to pass through the centre of this little market town but it's the FIRST town on the banks of the River Wye, 20 miles from it's source.
Around-and-about is the Elan valley, extending 30 miles West to Aberystwyth and Cardigan bay; a few miles more and I'm about halfway between North and South Wales and entering the Snowdonia National Park.Dolgellau
For a couple of years (2013-15), there were some major roadworks re-building the main route up to Dolgellau with attendant LONG queues and waits; it's all clear now, however, and a good forty minutes of surrounded-by-mountains-and-not-much-else will ensue.
Falling short of entering Dolgellau town itself, I'll skirt around (foregoing a visit to the Fairbourne railway and passing the Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Station - see above) to head for the slate-mining capital, and blue Snowdonia game end-station, of:Blaenau Ffestiniog
50 Shades of Grey.
From now on, it's regular going on a well-familiar road; I'll give a cheery wave to Dolwyddelan Castle (on the hill, on my left)...
...as I beetle along towards Betws y coed
This is a bugger to drive over; you are quite blind to traffic coming the other way!
...and, finally, up the (River Conwy) estuary to:Llandudno
If I gauge it right, I'll just have time to grab a fast-food supper and scoot along for a session at the Conwy Golf Club with the Snowdonia Dragons
So, all of this (above, and below) is what I'll be doing today.
Welcome...to my Shed!
A week's work in Llandudno always sweeps by in a blur and, come Thursday lunchtime, I'm klump-klumping over the car park's speed bumps and approaching the main road. It's a key decision point, this junction, because:
- going LEFT is the Eastbound A55 North Wales Expressway to Chester, Wrexham, Oswestry and down the Marches;
- going straight on is the Conwy river road to Llanrwst, Betws-y-coed, Llangollen (Telford's A5) and Oswestry etc etc; and,
- going right is the Westbound A55 North Wales Expressway to the Menai Straits and either Llanberis (and Snowdon) OR Bethesda and Pont Pen-y-benglog (Telford's A5), joining up - eventually with Betws-y-coed and the rest.
Actually, it's not all that complicated: do I go along a boring-but-quick route or one of three progressively more scenic routes? This time I plumped for the Menai Straits / Bethesda path: clear-and-sunny views of Anglesey, the Straits and a stunning long valley:
Beginning to get a little overcast but breathtaking nonetheless!
There's quite a lot of this sort of thing for the next 40 or so miles until one pulls in to Llangollen...and I had plenty of time to take it all in because, as one of the main thoroughfares to North Wales, the A5 is peppered with temporary roadworks.
I encountered ELEVEN of these. AND a convoy-led resurfacing stretch. AND at least four giant trailer-pulling tractors.
Staring out at the darkening clouds, my large breakfast had worn off and I needed some (late) lunch:
From Llangollen, a Lamb Oggie that was bigger than my face
Unfortunately most of it was thick, dense hot water crust pastry and inedible; the thin smear of lamb and carrot helped me survive as far as Craven Arms (on the Marches, 50 miles from home) when a bag of your finest beef hula hoops topped-up the 'engine'. I also managed to find some loot (secondhand bookshops FTW!):
Whomever shall build a Train in Snowdonia
shall...gain a scrummy choc too!
That's all I've got to say, really; to be honest, I just wanted to share that magnificent (9Mb) panorama with y'all!
Welcome...to my Shed!
Yesterday I was working...
...at a Staff Event, all morning, with my back to the window and _this_ view.
Mind you, I _did_ manage to sketch/summarise a design I've been noodling with for a couple of years now...
...during the workshop exercises, obviously, because (the rest of the time) I was paying 100%, fully-wrapt attention. Of course.
The afternoon was a lot of blah-blah though I did manage to salt myself away for 30 minutes with a Latte and a couple of chapters of Ready Player One
The evening's entertainment came courtesy of my morning shift at Llandudno's Venue Cymru
, where I'd noticed a movie I really wanted to see
Fifteen minutes of driving along the Promenade and up-and-around the Little Orme to Colwyn Bay saw me with the place to myself, for a short while: pick a seat, ANY seat...
a visualisation of the (above) 1970s Pop Legend's classic but a provincial theatre replay of November's blockbusting intelligent science fictioner!
I thought it was wonderful, smart, heart-rending, hypnotic and utterly-satisfying (as was the late-night, all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet supper upon my return to the slopes of the Great Orme).
Welcome...to my Shed!
Back in the Autumn of 2016, I was graciously invited to be a guest at Leiracon 2017 (Hotel Cristal Resort); I'd received the A-OK from Surprised Stare Games Ltd HQ to cover the cost of the flights and the hotel was gratis, so we only needed to cover the food and drink! Essen Spiel was awesome and the Heavy Cardboard gathering - a roaringly ale, burger and conversation-fuelled evening - allowed me to meet up and chat with Leiracon officionados Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade and Vital Lacerda (look at me with all my name dropping: watch your toes, my dears!). Unfortunately, circumstances at home meant that the planned long weekend away in Portugal for Mrs B and me had to be cancelled: this weekend I have been perusing the Leiracon 'live photos' and reading the commentary with envy.
However, sweet are the uses of adversity because I was contacted by my good Designer pal Cédrick Chaboussit (Lewis & Clark, Discoveries) asking after the chance to play games while he was in Wales with his real work. 'Real work' would be in Aberystwyth, by no means an easy or quick jaunt from Chez Boydell, so we hit upon an alternative plan: pop over to mine at the weekend then nip off to Birmingham airport early on the Sunday morning - that would give us almost an entire day to talk, play-test and take the children out for a walk! Of course, that still left Cedrick with the dilemma of being in West Wales for three nights and not having anyone to play games with _so_ I rustled up an appeal on a UK Facebook forum with startlingly-generous (and quick) results: the Aberystwyth Boardgaming group was born (and long may it now continue)!
Fresh from watching enormous metal tanks being installed at a Yoghurt factory*, an evening listening to the Sea on the Aber seafront while gaming and a second (quieter) session with good chap (and occasional Ross-on-Wye attendee) Phil Dennis**, Cedrick rolled - crunchingly - on to our drive yesterday lunchtime (it's a long journey across the middle o'Wales) bearing gifts: pie, chocolate, wine and a suitcase full of teasing prototypes!
A present passed on from Phil: a subtle (and delicious - thanks!) reference to Friday's blog post!
All of my boys were in the living room watching Voltron cartoons and nodded their 'Hello's when Cedrick popped his head around the door; most excellently, Arthur's first words to our continental guest were "Bonjour, monsieur" thus making me simultaneously proud-fit-to-burst and twinge-ingly melancholy at the pallid gloom Brexit has cast over our country. No matter! Beverages were made and consumed then, while Mrs B whipped together a delicious bacon & lentil soup with homemade bread, the rest of us popped our shoes and coats on and walked in to Newent. It is our custom to take a weekend wander: to browse the charity shops, pick up something fleshy and well-aged from the award winning butchers, to purchase a large bag of sweets for the young 'un and - most importantly - add another 4000 steps on to the rolling FitBit counter. After a damp, chilly hour or so, we returned from our foraging with way too much rump steak (the proposed Supper), English toffees and - for Cedrick - a generous wedge of Stilton cheese, which cost him about a 1/3rd of the price en France!
The soup was incredible and only the merest smears remained in the pot; bellies full, we retired to the Library for some gaming - soundtracked by a wittily-shuffling 2008 iPod (Psaap merging to PJ Harvey to Autolux to Crowded House and so on):
(A quick note: most, if not all, of the following prototypes are 'under consideration', so I present pictures for appetite-whetting but no more detail than appropriate)
Working name 'Dicequest': Arthur, Cedrick and I drafted cards and dice for rolling, assignment and scoring. Smooth, accessible and fun!
Name unknown: a tough, attacking two-player card game. Cedrick hammered me four-nil; we swapped decks in the middle to check 'balance'.
Snowdonia: Foothills - still very early days but taking shape; lots of notes taken.
Sizzling steak with caramelised onions, cheese bread and watercress served in fresh ciabatta with horseradish sauce*** provided a magnificent interlude before
a) I settled Arthur (after he had said farewell to Cedrick with a handshake and cheery "Bonne nuit!" - I'm so proud of my cosmopolitan lad!) with some more Harry Potter (almost done with this odyssey of a book); and,
b) Mrs B was able to join in the gaming fun:
: Cedrick wiped the floor with all-comers - it was so comprehensive it was bordering on the rude!
Working name 'Nemo': a quirky, fun little 30-card deduction game with some set collection elements (the first game of the day that I managed to win!)
The camera has been drinking (not me).
The boys, by now, had all gone to their rooms leaving us grown-ups to wax lyrical about current news, parenthood and life in general. Cedrick's flight was around 9AM, so after further farewells, I agreed to get up early and see him off the property safely while the rest of the household snoozed. A fantastic day of warmth, laughter and companionship with a member of our International family!
*cue: jokes about "Having a Sherman" etc
**It's a small world: Phil knows my Dad. My Dad built him a stable block once.
***Yes. This _has_ become a food blog.
Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:08 am
Welcome...to my Shed!
I'm off to Carmarthen ('Merlin's Fort') today (see above) for a 'long one' (meeting) and, rest assured, I shall be plowing my way through the December backlog of downloaded podcasts: Heavy Cardboard, BBC Comedy, Wittertainment and more. However, now that my post has popped up on the Geek or up your RSS, I would very much like to recommend this short (but extremely concentrated) piece from Ben Maddox of the Perfect Information Podcast; in fact, it's only 7 minutes long so stop what you're doing and listen right now:
He made me cry.
What did you think?
Welcome...to my Shed!
They like to start early at the Snowdonia Dragons, as evidenced by a full-but-silent car park when I arrived on the dot of six thirty pee-em. The Bar of the Golf Club was also full but chatter volume was muted until, upon my entrance, Aaron halloo-ed a cheery "Tony!" and I nearly shat/dropped my box of games in response. Aaron suggested a try-out of an iPad-integrated dexterity thing and - given it's always a pleasure to play games with Aaron AND he might get to teach me Flamme Rouge later - I tagged along for the ride; how bad could it be?
In summary: Choose a piece (animal, 'food' or 'mutate'), scan it on the base unit and then place it on the current stack (if any); the scanning & placement is picked up on the iPad and a colourful cartoon app shows you what's been added, what's been boosted by the addition, if anything has been changed (similar to Pokemon evolutions) and your current score. If the stack collapses, you have a limited time to rebuild it before 'you all lose'. Some pieces give you bonuses at the cost of mini-games interrupting your stacking.
Well, it's chunky plastic Tier Auf Tier meets Bausack meets 21st Century tablet tech to make a harmless-enough party distraction. After three (short) games, hitting an all-time high score of FIFTY EIGHT points (!), I think we'd all got the sense of it and were quite happy to move on to something a bit more stimulating. It was fun...but I don't feel the need to ever play it again.
After the amuse bouche, it was time for something more substantial and we dug, once again, in to Aaron's bag for First Class: All Aboard the Orient Express:
Russian Railroads: The Card Game?!
In summary: over six rounds, with scoring at the end of every second, players draft actions from a central pool and execute them:
Build carriages, upgrade carriages and move your conductors along the carriage(s): Carriages grow in a line (you have two lines to extend) and can be upgraded from 0 to 1 to 2 to 4 to 7 to 12; they only score if your conductor(s) have been moved on or passed them.
extend your railway line and move your train along the railway line: instant points and scoring round income are generated by how far your little train has followed this track.
gain contracts and gain money: money buys 'free' versions of some of the above actions and/or game end bonus cards.
...at least THESE were the actions for THIS setup of the game. First Class comes with a variety of alternate themed mini-decks (think Elysium's God decks) plus a standard (every game) 'X' deck, so while you may be playing with 'Celebrities' or 'Postcards' in one game that will not be true if you exclude the decks with those elements in the next time.
After the six rounds, most points is the winner.
First Class is excellent and, as I alluded in the picture caption, feels very much like Russian Railroads: The Card Game - instead of worker placement, you have action drafting/selection. I elected to avoid using my little chuffer because the other three were doing LOTS of train movement and concentrated, instead, on building the plushest carriages possible and housing 2xVP celebs in the best ones for extra goodness ie. do the thing that everyone else ISN'T. It almost worked but a brainfart on my part allowed Aaron to snaffle a juicy 20 point 'first to finish a line of carriages' (10 long) bonus. Unlike 'Beasts', I want to play this again AND VERY SOON INDEED!
Cranking up the difficulty once more, the table's players swapped (Dan and Denise OUT for Tim and David IN) and Aaron convinced us to tackle the mind-jellifying complexities of the An Infamous Traffic PnP prototype:
Hard. On. My. Poor. Squishy. Brain.
In summary: Er...chits can be bought, if you have the revenue and - by association - the spare 'actions'; they can be 'placed' if a region is open or has a die matching a die off the board (!) and there are other chits that set demand (which removes dice from the pool) OR get rid of chits OR other things. Dammit - it's about Opium trade in to China and has 'police' and 'outrage' and Missionaries too.
It's a Pax Pamir-type affair - all history and detail and pain: not my cup of suspicious tea at all TBH. I'm not sure that we managed to do much, really; some chits were moved about but we only managed two of the four rounds before triggering an alt-game-end condition (all dice in the dice pool 'removed'); money (revenue) was also extremely-tight and we felt it was quite difficult to do anything. I think we, collectively, were glad when it ended (David killed the last die and won 3-2-2-1 on the alt-win-condition). Tim sighed a deep sigh and ran off home before we could suggest "maybe trying it again?"
To close - needing to let the brain cool off for a bit - Aaron did, indeed, consent to teaching me Flamme Rouge and we had a forty minute blast struggling along mostly-uphill route:
I want to ride my bicycle etc
David took a flyer of a start and managed to keep ahead all the way - though things got VERY tight come the final bend (see above): brilliant, and I predict it shall be Spiel des Jahres for 2017 (you heard it here first, remember?!).
After a famine of nearly THREE WEEKS, a single Monday evening in North Wales managed to fill me with quite the eclectic-but-delicious meal of gamery sustenance...the only problem is that whenever I burp, I taste chits again.
Welcome...to my Shed!
Currently, as I type, it's very quiet; unusually so given that I'm in a seaside town, in Season, at around 11PM. No cars, no people noises outside (or in), no birds and - oddly - no weather; the sea isn't so much rolling in and out as puddled in the Bay - it's a relaxing vibe, but a bit eerie too.
Previously, in Llandudno...
I've just gotten back from an evening in the good company of the Prestatyn Prometheans (a bit of an ostentatious name for a genial and generous group) and tomorrow (today) is my going home day. My pre-gaming Supper was hand-assembled corned beef & cream cheese rolls whilst parked on the sea front, thousand-yard-staring at the beach; ten minutes of that and I felt like I was in a Ken Loach movie, so high-tailed it over to the Pub for some colourful chittery and dobberbizniz:
In summary: auction land tiles which contain cities producing money, technology, veeps and/or recycling in various combinations; pass and buy a technology tile (modifies/enhances your tableau of land tiles somehow); bounce-out auction using technology as currency to avoid the horrible catastrophes the place new tiles, gain income and score the round. Repeat over five-and-a-half rounds, final score (garbage is bad, unhappiness in bad) and see who's won.
Verdict: a lot of thinking but I never felt I had much of a choice in proceedings; I mostly bought the things I wanted and I mostly kept my happiness track in check and I definitely kept my landscape clean but...it all feels hollow, somehow.
In summary: place a tile from a replenished hand of three then execute any combination of four actions (load, unload, move, build a colony, attack a ship, attack a settlement); repeat until all tiles are laid. Score on various scales for different animals collected, dead vikings, colonies established, islands controlled and settlements conquered etc.
Verdict: Fun with some nice decisions about what to collect, where to go and when to build BUT the tile-laying seems flawed - island bits/sea are printed against whole and/or half edges of the hexagons and all edges must match exactly which means - unless you draw 'well' - your mandatory tile placement can rarely go where you'd want (or need) so ends up in the middle of nowhere instead.
It's bloody Imhotep
, innit? What more can I say? Apart from the fact that I came last.
There! All written up! When one has been out for the evening, the blog post - supplemented by some (hopefully) evocative photographs - writes itself...but that's only the first 15 minutes of my recounting; there are still flourishes to be added, jokes to be crafted, curses to be uttered, tangents followed, an angle identified and - most important - some intimacy imparted. It takes an awful lot of effort to make this look like it's just been thrown together, you know!
Welcome...to my Shed!
One of my guilty pleasures, when travelling to the northern Welsh wilds, is to sit in the dusty Conwy marina car park and scoff a KFC, listen to a podcast (this time: Billy Crystal on Marc Maron's WTF) and watch the boats bobbing up-and-down on the estuary. This idyllic (if greasy) scene is further enhanced by an evening in the company of the Snowdonia Dragons group at the nearby Golf Club and, yes, I _do_ wash my hands before touching anything!
It was a crowded Lounge Bar on Monday and allowed Aaron, Tim and myself to slightly-selfishly take ourselves off in to a corner to luxuriate in Le Havre. It's been almost exactly FOUR YEARS since I played this 'for real' (many, many instances since on the iOS app, of course), so it was perversely delightful to be shovelling chits about and hopping one's action piece from building to building 'by hand'.
The return of an old friend! How I have missed thee...
I managed to grab myself a number of the key buildings that meant a steady income of food and francs from the other two: Abbatoir, Marketplace, (upgraded) Wharf, Brickworks, Shipping etc; Tim went heavy fishing/smoking and Aaron stocked up on Coke for a couple of big, lucrative sailings. No longer paralysed by the fear of 'loans', I - and Aaron - happily hocked ourselves up to the ears (we both hit NINE at one point) in order to power our greedy expansion; Tim was far more cautious and, consequently, found himself squandering actions for feeding rather than building up his Harbour empire. In the end, after an hour and forty-five (!), it was a double-action 'game end' (courtesy of one of the Special Buildings) that allowed Aaron to ship AND get his hands on the Bank for a 179-159-117 win.
The other tables were still in full flow (there was a Poseidon that would go the 4 hour distance and STILL call it 2 rounds early), so we three filled up 30 mins with Sail to India:
It was an odd game (see above) that went right down to 'no cubes left to recruit' and all of mine were either sitting on Strongholds/Churches or my VP card: 24-23-23 to Aaron, with Tim winning the tie-for-second by virtue of 'discovering' India. What a curious little thing this is.
It was now 21:15 (and still light outside!), so Aaron's suggestion of Cosmic Encounter seemed relatively sensible; I say 'relatively' because CE can be done-and-dusted quickly OR can last 2+ hours, depending on the chosen Races and/or the belligerence/malevolence of the players!
Not a single ship left my system...except to end up in The Warp!
As it turned out, my selection of 'Genius' followed by an essential single-minded determination to draw cards / ignore bases saw me hitting my alternative win goal (have 20 or more cards in hand) in 45 minutes DESPITE the best efforts of the others who:
a) kept letting me join in attacks (if we win, 'Genius' can convert my ships in to cards rather than a Base), and
b) when attacking me, let me be the sole player of a Negotiation card in order to get a consolation draw!
It was also fun to have Ed's time-travellers rollback my play of an 'Attack: 23' in a move to prevent my gaining four more cards...only for me to slam down an 'Attack: 40' as an alternative (pulls air, punches neighbour etc)! Ed would have his revenge in a quick round of No Thanks! to close: pulling five cards in a row to complete a run of 24 thru 31 and, with a fistful of plastic chits, a splendid minus two final score.
As I returned to the B&B, my dusky fast-food treat came back to haunt me: a car filled with the smell of stale chicken...seasoned with a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. Someone PLEASE open a window...*retch*
Welcome...to my Shed!
Another week, another trip around Wales in the name of 'work'
This time it was an early-start Westward (from home) to Aberystwyth
to deliver some 'Inspector' training at the well-appointed Government offices then, via a quick sea-front diversion for a bracing blow on the Promenade and a quick 'Hello' to the Funicular railway:
The 'Down' station house (see photo) was sporting an 'end of the season' scruffiness; in fact, if a building could be said to look tired, this one was effing knackered! The tram car was pulling out
as I pulled in
so there was just enough time to catch a quick snap of the two disinterested punters staring up the hill, glassy-eyed.
The only reasonable way to get to Llandudno
is to go North via Machynlleth
so, with the weather quite-the-nicest it's been for a few weeks, that's where I headed. Determined to press on, I ignored the signs for the Corris
Railway but - inevitably - the call of lunch diverted me down the Cadair Idris valley to Abergynolwyn
, where a plain-and-unfussy station café (on the Talyllyn railway) furnished me with a cheese & bacon baguette:
Later, journey resumed, I had no
time to pay my respects to the Fairbourne
Railway (30 miles up the road) and there were no trains in the station at Blaenau Ffestiniog
when I passed through in the mid-PM. To be honest, throw a stone in any direction in North-West Wales and you'll hit a bloomin' heritage railway...it's Heaven.