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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Getting the Band back together

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Finally, they guys have set aside their differences;
Polish 'George' joins 'John', 'Paul' and 'Ringo':










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Auctions Speak Louder Than 'Burbs

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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A cool and tranquil Winter's evening in the Forest of Dean as I returned from my foraging - woolly hat pulled firmly over my ears - with a bag of hot burgers and chips. The pic doesn't do justice to the clarity of the Moon - the dark circle and the silver sliver - or the blue-blackness of the dusk, but it's evocative (at least to me). The dog padded around the kitchen in hope of a dropped morsel while just me, Mrs B and Arthur scoffed in silence; the world felt oddly-empty as we were filling up. No such worries at The Plough Inn who, this (Friday) evening, were hosting a Skittles League match; the tables were liberally strewn with sausage rolls and egg sandwiches, the Bar with strangers. Jobbers performed a delicate dance through the crowd with this folding table and managed to avoid sparking an incident eg. knee-capping the Away Team's Star 'thrower' or thwacking a pint-retaining elbow. Heaven knows how Boffo managed with his 'Body Bag'; he must've parted the Sea of Punters like a wailing ambulance on a peak hour motorway! Byll wandered in shortly after and quipped as to whether Becky was "in the bag too?": how we laughed.

With Becky NOT secreted about the hold-all but, instead, swinging her Fresnel for a room full of amateurs, this was the perfect opportunity to play something she unfathomably doesn't like:



Normally a low-functioning amoeba at Suburbia, Jobbers managed to go 'Border Crazy!' and kept himself on a steady climb to victory with me tailing comfortably behind with a healthy income and no troubles. Boffo dipped in-and-out of bits-and-pieces and built the most aesthetically-pleasing (if only the third most-valuable) City - a ring of tourism-themed tiles around a lake and proximal to some airports with a dedicated quadrant for houses and parks and schools. Byll seemed to be settling a Mad Max: Fury Road-esque post-apocalyptic slum next to a ribbon of a lake - not a lot of points but he seemed to have been enjoying himself. Bless. Actually, NOT Bless because - in an act of outrageous Kingmaking - he gifted Jobbers $2 via a triggered tile that allowed the latter to afford a Blue building, tie with me for the Blue Building Goal and deny me 15 points as a consequence!

There was time for a quick round of Beyond the Gates of Antares: The Dice Game - Boffo's brand-new copy that has now been christened "Bugger The Dog" in reference to it's clumsy title's even clumsier abbreviation - before Becky returned from her lighting booth and we - now five - took the only possible gaming path:



Expecting the usual catalogue of auction sniping and figurative elbow-barging, it was rather exciting to see Becky plump for a little-seen strategy having been gifted access to three builders in the first three rounds ie. build everywhere and drop in the occasional Work and grab the occasional Prestige card - this worked a bloody treat and she was only foiled at the very last by a Boffonian double-Works whammy in the final round! I feel a little guilty, however, as I had brought great shame and ignominy upon myself by handing back some change and inadvertently-spraying everyone's score markers across the table (!). Did everyone go back in the right place? Did I give Boffo one more point than he rightfully-had? We shall never know but - by way of some sort of justice - I came in dead last.



Modern Art to finish, then, though we did have to retrieve it from quite the most horrifying mash of game components (see above-left) - how can Boffo live with himself? He blamed the capaciousness of his new carry-all (everything rolls around inside it) before we got on with the serious business of racist accents with the occasional Art auction thrown in for good measure.

We may be a small club but, by crikey, we're a perfectly-formed one!
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Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:20 am
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Hair!

Anthony Boydell
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One of the advantages of getting older is an improved capability at growing facial hair. As a child, I suffered disproportionately from a chilled chin and so the onset of puberty proved a monumental (and mentumnal!) relief: at last I could discard the improvised, inverted balaclavae and go forth, be-furred and naturally-insulated, in to God’s Great Earth. Gradually, I began to discover the joy of digitally-manipulating the results of my pogonotrophy, be it twiddling my mouser with wicked glee or a vigorous pull-down stroke of the goatee to aid contemplation.

Sporting a beard is not, as those pasty, gloss-cheeked, testosterone-lite naysayers* would have you believe, a 'symbol of hiding something'; au contraire, it's a sign of burgeoning fecundity ie. your face is so fertile that it's literally pushing material out of itself! Every single moment of the day!

If God hadn't meant us to grow beards, he wouldn't have invented soup.

Here, then, are a few examples of how beards make our gaming experiences better:





and






*Ladies
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Sat Jan 20, 2018 6:30 am
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R.T.F.M.

Anthony Boydell
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Czech Games Edition unveil their new information marketing strategy:



A free, miniature Paul Grogan in every box!
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Fri Jan 19, 2018 6:20 am
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Fox News

Anthony Boydell
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Couriers? You gotta love 'em! With their chirpy smiles and wry whistles, they carry the very lifeblood of our hobby from door-to-door (OR from door-to-wheelie bin OR from door-to-neighbour-with-whom-one-has-fallen-out's door). If you're lucky, they won't have thrown it off a tower block just to record the impact as a text ringtone or driven a fork-lift truck over it because no-one was there on the Induction Training Course to teach the 'How To Use A Fork-Lift' module. Indeed, my favourite FB group has a regular post appear - every fortnight or so - that exhibits a fresh, new MyHermes' maltreatment of some unfortunate's hard-worked-for hotness.

To be honest, you're lucky if the bloody thing turns up at all; I mean, it took FIVE attempts to get a box of Counter magazines from Kent to my house and each time the website took the Tracking Number and told me it was 'In Transit to Main Depot' when I knew, for a fact, it was still in Derek's porch! And there's the depressing thought of some shady streak-of-piss driver half-inching a couple of those 'tasty lookin' boxes' only to find something nerdy and valueless (to him) within: "What the f*ck is Gloom-f*ckin'-Haven?!" and cue dumping the evidence in a quarry.

It was with a sigh of reassured pleasure, then, when my latest impulse purchase of The Fox in the Forest (just £20 incl. P&P) plopped on to the door-mat surrounded by proportionately as much packaging as an apple pip is surrounded by apple:



God Bless You, Karl! And better luck next time, Mr so-called Postman!
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Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:19 am
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Con(temporaneous)

Anthony Boydell
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Time was when UK gamers had GenCon to look forward to and Baycon and, perhaps, a smattering of other bits and pieces around the place - usually hosted University campuses 'off Term'. I remember catching the train with pals for a Play-by-Mail convention in Sheffield, for goodness sake (we're talking mid-to-late 80s). Manorcon and Midcon, The Cast Are Dice, Dragonmeet, Dragondaze, Salute, Sorcon and the UK Games Expo. One's calendar is now bursting with a fecundity of gatherings that would make my 20 year old self blush with embarrassment; for example, in the next few weeks alone we have:



I'd actually penciled Handycon in to my mental diary but forgot to book any tickets; I'd love to go up to North Wales but - oddly - I'm going to be in the area during the weeks either side of the Con but not available at the weekend. OxCon was fun a couple of years back but I shall be holding the Fort at Boydell HQ that weekend and can't get a Pass out. There's a long haul, via Shrove Tuesday, through February until March where there's something happening oop North:



Too bloody far away? Not really, it's just that I couldn't get permission to sneak away twice in the same month and - to be honest - it was never going to beat this St David's Day (and long weekend) beauty of International gaming shenanigans:



I missed Leiriacon in 2017 but, with the blessings (and euros) of Surprised Stare Games, I get to go along this year! Four days of beer-ing it up networking with some of the best designers and players Europe has to offer and, I believe, Heavy Cardboard's Edward and Amanda flying in too. Mac Gerdts is a special guest and, of course, one can't escape the larger-than-life presences of the most excellent Messrs Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro!

It's going to be a hoot, I'm certain and it'll be enough to keep me ticking along until the Expo in Birmingham in June and then the long Summer haul towards Spiel. Phew! This gaming lark is ruddy hard work!
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Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:20 am
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My Time Machine is made of Paper

Anthony Boydell
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Just before Christmas, I managed to secure a batch of ‘old gaming magazines’ from a seller on my favourite FB group. He wasn’t sure if they were worth anything and asked for reasonable offers; there were 15 or so, so I suggested £15 and the deal was duly done. The main attractions in the batch were an early Duelist and three issues of GM from the mid-90s; the latter was a briefly-lived organ for, mainly, RPGs but with occasional forays in to the tabletop world PLUS my mate Mark used to write articles for them (in fact, I believe august gaming celebrity and good egg James Wallis was also a contributor). I had a complete set – two years worth – but they ended up in a skip after a particularly-brutal spring clean.



The Duelist was purely for nostalgia and, at the time of committing to the purchase, I’d not realised it was Issue 0; this was a most pleasant surprise upon unwrapping...as was the Contents list:



This is an issue packed with innocent enthusiasm and optimism; remember that this is 1994-ish and Richard Garfield and the WotC folks have absolutely no idea about what Magic: The Gathering was about to do to the gaming world!



It's like that meme-d photo of Taylor Swift going to her Prom with an unnamed Joe or of the village that would be knocked down forever and become Heathrow Airport or the million railway books I have bowing my shelves: a moment captured before everything changed. Time travel is real; you can hold it in your hands every day.
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Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:31 am
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I...have...the...POW...ERRRRRRRRRR!

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Sort-of.


I mention my mate Matt Green's game in a sleepy, weekend blog post and "Hey! Presto!" he sprints in to The Hotness?!


...and I've just mentioned him again!


Today, also:

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Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:00 pm
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Never Say Never

Anthony Boydell
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After the business of a Winter Sunday is done, it behooves one to settle down - after drawing the curtains and fetching a hot beverage - and watch some trad. Sunday evening fayre.




In the UK, we have - for 40 years now - been avid viewers of other people falling down mountains with grace: Ski Sunday provides us with a glimpse of how other people deal with snow ie. slipping around on it, the faster-the-better! I can't really be doing with the short-range slalom events, though; all that bouncing left-and-right and the whacking poles - ouch! No, for me it's got to be the Downhill: long, fast and tear-squeezingly exhilerating...even if it is vicariously through a big, flat TV. This week was 'Wengen', in the shadow of the Jungfrau and LITERALLY sliding under the Jungfraubahn railway; no sign of dynamite but the train did rattle over the heads of a couple of racers which, apparently, is lucky.

Mrs B quipped that "You should design a game about this!, ie. downhill skiing. I curtly replied "No, it can't be done" and then - for a few moments - it got me thinking...

How about a dexterity game a la PitchCar? Well, why wouldn't you just play PitchCar instead? A Flamme Rouge-esque race game? Well, it would be hard to get the feel of whisking along 4.5K in 2.5 minutes while one is agonising over a hand of cards and the most efficient way to play them out!

However, it might suit real-time dice chucking as a core mechanim?! Lay out a track printed on multiple card-sized cards; each has multiple spaces in 'lanes' containing fixed die value icons (banks, jumps, awkward stuff) or blanks. Roll a set of dice and then allocate them to spaces sequentially down the track:
- never more than one space away orthoganally or diagonally; and,
- the placed die either matching the die vlaue icon on the space OR one pip difference to the last die placed (blanks).

When you cannot place a die, take a TIME penalty and re-roll all the dice again. Repeat until you cross the line! Ok, that's waaaaaay too luck-based, so need to think about mitigation effects...

I should never have poo-pooed Mrs B's suggestion in the first place but, inevitably, the lot of the game designer is never being allowed (or able!) to switch off...regardless of whether it’s any good or not!
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Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:25 am
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Hills and Highways

Anthony Boydell
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We'll make a board game designer out of Ben Bateson yet! These last few years he's been known to dabble with the occasional intriguing idea and then get distracted with 'real games' and nothing ever comes of it. Our current collaboration - coming up on it's first birthday - is a Snowdonia-esque two-hander called Foothills which has, in it's most recent incarnation, become everything we feared and vowed to avoid: overblown.

At the very start, Ben had come up with an interesting - but ultimately frustrating - mechanism for handling Contract (scoring) cards; we reined it back in to something more conventional and, by doing so, drifted off course. Late November, Ben began chuntering about the card mechanism again and proposed a pretty major change: ditch the worker placement element altogether! Yesterday we tried out a first run of Foothills using his refined card-driven action selection mechanic which can only be described as "twisted Concordia"! It was certainly an inspiring and reassuring session for me and, I hope, for Ben who has been able to return us to something more sympathetic with his original imaginings!


Still the variable railway setup but there ain't no place for workers, Bach!


Topping up our mugs of tea, we relaxed with a couple of games of the frankly-ridiculous Tokyo Highway:


Both games ended with fat-fingered collapse!


Frustratingly, neither Ben nor Arthur nor myself (we mixed) seemed able to get even close to 'spending' all of our cars before a nudging catastrophe brought the daft knot of lollypop stick roads crashing down. There was more fun to be had watching me trying to stop my scored car perpetually sliding down a 5 high -> 3 high ramp; in the end I had to place it cross-ways so it looked like a disaster movie taxi about to tumble off the road into the river!

There wasn't enough time for an Agricola - even though Arthur was well up for it (!) - so we closed this impromptu Saturday distraction with Beyond the Gates of Antares: a Yahtzee-esque dice-chucker from good pal Matt Green.



I remember playing this back in the way-back when it was called 'Escape from Dicelantis' which is a far better name and a far better theme than the naff sci-fi one the publishers slapped on! Underneath the blah-blah about star gates and offensive manouvres and factions is a corking little push your luck-er with asym player powers that rattles through - both audibly and temporally - in 10 minutes; after a couple of rounds, Ben was straight on his phone trying to source a copy!
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Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:45 am
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