Via the usual channels, I heard - yesterday - that Grand Austria Hotel is about to get some more Lookout Games love: an expansion and a touch of deluxification!
Ok, so you'll have to wait until - coincidence?! - digital Spiel to get yourself a pledge but it's a testament to the enduring appeal of this now-hard-to-get-for-a-sane-price dice-drafter that my favourite German publisher whose name begins with 'L' are taking it forward.
Although I think it's a pretty miserable experience experience with the full four players (because of the weird bouncing turn order), that's no particular criticism as Carl Chudyk's Innovation and Uwe's Le Havre are also bags o'shite at more than 3 players (and so are many other perfectly superb games). Otherwise - with three - GAH is a hoofingly splendid 75 minutes of figurative-and-literal recipe fulfilment, dice drafting and panicked pandering to the Emperor*
Lookout Games is, like Hans im gluck, a plum jewel in the crown of the German games industry; they have an unerring nose for quality designs which they back up with wonderful (Klemens') presentation, total confidence and the fullest support. Just remember that they were a relatively tiny publisher sheltering in the hopeful minor Halls of Spiel in the naughties and put - it seems - almost everything they had in to a game about medieval farming with hundreds of wooden pieces, cards and chunky cardboard tiles! To be so resolute, to have complete and total faith, in the product is admirable; these are the guys who discovered the boardgaming Beatles. It's testament to their success that both Mayfair Games and, now, Asmodee wanted a slice of the Talent Pie.
Long time readers will know that I have always loved Lookout Games with a passion - fanboying for promos when I should've been setting up my own tiny SSG stand - and that working with them on Snowdonia, Foothills and lots of other things is an utter pleasure: a 100% joy in every aspect.
Kind, generous, funny, dedicated people who have given us nothing but good things for 20+ years now: send Lookout Games your own good vibes, pick two good gaming pals and get yourself some Hotel goodness in October.
*me and He are pretty good mates, you know; I can get you a couple of influence if you see me right (nod and a wink)
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk.
Archive for Tony Boydell
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28 Sep 2020
The glorious weather of most of the Lockdown has seen me happy to decamp to the garden, come the end of the working day, with an icy draught and a good book.
I can't quite remember where I heard about The 3 Body Problem but it wasn't that long ago and - after a frankly disappointing Axiom's End - I was rather desperate for some meaty and engaging sci-fi: I ordered all three volumes at once, risking 20 quid on a potentially-duff recommendation.
The Three Body Problem* starts off like a Michael Crichton-esque thriller-with-a-science-twist but quickly develops into quite the most vivid and bonkers imaginings since I first discovered Iain M Banks. Where Banks' outlook for a Universal future is, essentially, bright and (mostly) optimistic; Cixin Liu's vision is deeply-philosophical, unfriendly and steeped in real theory; it is also rather depressing!
I'm not going to give anything away because, quite frankly, it just gets more and more mental - the books relating the story of the Earth's next 500 years or so - and I want you to have as much fun as I did on this journey. "The Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy is inventive, stunning, powerful space opera. It's cold too - there's very little room for distraction - as the saga gallops from crisis to solution and back to crisis again. It's an exhausting. but exhilarating, read.
If I were to bone-pick then it would be with the saga's ending: after 1500 pages of utterly-satisfying, hypnotic sci-fi there comes an astonishing conclusion and then we get another hundred pages of insane premises, all stacked one-upon-the-other until, frankly, my poor imagination couldn't take it anymore!
Putting my bone to one side, this is the best money I've spent on books in a long time: everything I wanted and so much more. Fate rewarded me further with a copy of Liu's short story anthology "The Wandering Earth", in a Newent charity shop, for a quid - three stories in and it's just as full-on, inventive and crazy as it's big brother.
*coming to a streaming service near you soon, apparently.
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A small-ish, thin box; hardly any creases or tears on it at all, and a simple but effective art style makes this copy of Jungle King (1960-something) - a Waddingtons First Edition - a rather pleasing find:
AKA 'Animal Chess' (and many other names), this is a little bit Shogi and a little bit L'Attaque: your animals can 'take' opponent's animals of a lower number - apart from the Rat who can 'take'
anything it likesout an Elephant! Movement is orthogonal, with the aim of getting one of your animals into your opponent's den before they do that to yours:
Large, thick cardboard animal discs are comfortable to move and even the box insert serves as a colourful accessory: home for the rules rather than the (then) trad 'inside of the lid'.
Compact and bijou - like today's post!
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I'm afraid today's post is one of those non-gaming ones; a post about Tony the person and his woes. It's not pretty, so if this is not what you want to read then I bid you a cheery good day and see you tomorrow for some more knob gags! Otherwise, bless you for staying around.
In my life, I wear a number of hats and there are two versions of 'Online' Tony: the one you see here and the one who occasionally loses his shit on Social Media (and comes a cropper). I'm not really THAT sweary (I'm more 'silly') and, despite the protestations of some, I am certainly not racist or misogynist or 'phobic'. Like everyone, I have my troubles and sometimes, when those troubles run amok, emotions drive harder than they would normally.
In recent weeks, things have been rather overwhelming at home: with lockdown recommencing - though every public figure refuses to acknowledge it - the household is heaving under the stress. Our eldest daughter wants to focus on her artistic business but being at home is a constraint; our youngest daughter is moving 10 miles up the road to be closer to work AND have the peace to start her Open University studies; our eldest son is desperate to get away and start an independent life, but his condition means he is enclosed in a cloud of frustration, anger and anxiety; our middle son has been sofa-surfing for two months after he and eldest son got in to a middle-of-the-night fight; and Arthur is trying to get back to the School routine - after the first week, he came down with a vicious cold and, what with all the noise in the house (see above), he continues to struggle.
Enough worries to keep one busy, you would think? But, no! Add one more to the list - a fresh, liquid cat turd on the Bake-off Showstopper of Life - in the form of a trio of interfering busy-bodies; misinformed, judgemental do-gooders; pompous, ignorant catastrophe vortices - my own Father, his new partner and his new partner's son - swooping in to give us respite for a few days and ending up fucking the situation right good and proper. I've been called many things in my life but it's never been suggested that me and Mrs B are abusers. Thus, I find myself steeped in my own boiling piss: one parental relationship dead but, mercifully, one eldest Son not.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
And 2020 is the gift that keeps on giving.
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So, Mrs B took it upon herself - prior to a visit by my Pa and during a lull in the room re-locating/re-decorating works - to give the downstairs loo a makeover. It always had a loose musical theme courtesy of a collection of pop star memorabilia (my Kate Bush concert programme and ticket stubs from 1979, my Live Aid ticket, Alex Lee's wonderful portrait of George Harrison and more) but I was dispatched to the scrap books to locate anything and everything from - in particular - my Liverpool Polytechnic days. Thus, with various additional cuttings AND Alice's brilliant Queen re-paint of the medicine cupboard AND Mrs B's insistence on a sparkling, gold seat, 'twas done:
I also stumbled upon this nostalgic Ascent of (the) Man...
Extra fun: Games that would be appropriately displayed in one's smallest room? I'll start you off:
Shakes & Bladders?
Cistern & Taxis?
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(we are in an FLGS and it's a sunny Autumn afternoon; and, as one would expect and fervently hope, a customer enters. There is a steaming cup of tea and a small stack of biscuits on the counter..)
(the cashier is elbow-deep in a piñata shaped after Chris Handy, merrily stuffing chewing-gum-sized boxes in to the back end)
Customer: (approaching the counter, cheerily) Good morning, shopkeep!
Cashier: (pulling his arm out) *Phew* Excuse me just a tick, Sir; I've been packing these Pack O Gamess for nearly an hour and there's still plenty of room in "Chris". Probably best that I take a break!
Customer: (a flicker on his furrowed brow and it's gone) Indeed.
Cashier: How can I help Sir, Sir?
Customer: Well, I've been playing modern board games for a while now: Carcassonne, Stone Age, Wingspan and so on -
Cashier: - Good for you, Sir -
Customer: - and I think that I'm very much ready to go to the next level!
Cashier: (delighted) Splendid, Sir! What excellent news! Might I suggest Agricola? Terraforming Mars? Or, perhaps, a foray into the Gloomhavens for Sir. Mrs Sir and Sir's gaming group?!
Customer: (a little doubtful) Well, yes, um - of course that type of game is laudable, yes; but I was thinking of something a bit more...well, um, "merch"-y.
Cashier: (confused) "Merch-y", Sir? As in Merchants of Venus? Merchants and Marauders? Dale of Merchants?
Customer: (shifting his weight from leg to leg) Not really. More like Tee-shirts, Badges (pin, cloth or button), stickers and/or dice.
Cashier: (still confused) Do you mean promos, Sir? We do have a variety of Essen and Gencon 'specials' but only for a limited number of games.
Customer: Again, no; I was thinking more of a Drickerslips eye-patch, a Hadron Shouts Thru mousemat, an Uli Lusts After Wargames "I'm only here for the Critical Misses" sleeveless tee, an Anarcho Syndicalist Meeple Shanty Town Podcast Cookie Cutter. That sort of thing?!
Cashier: Well...(looks about)...I'm not really sure that we -
Customer: (points to a high shelf behind the counter) What's that up there?
Cashier: It's a spare teapot, Sir.
Customer: Oh - I thought it might be a self-straining leaf-tea porcelain mug with the printed signatures of the "Shut The Fuck Up, Sit The Fuck Down And Play The Fucking Game" YouTube Channel presenters.
Cashier: No, Sir.
Customer: (perks up) Well, that's exactly the kind of thing; you don't have any Official Licensed Material for No Pus Included, do you?
Cashier: Well not really, Sir; this is a game shop -
Customer: (a little indignantly) That seems a little narrow-minded, if you don't mind me saying?
Customer: This is the digital age, after all! Where would designers and publishers be without the enormous community of supportive media types?
Cashier: Well, they'd be exactly where they are al-
Customer: - they'd be stuck with warehouses full of product and empty Bank accounts!
Cashier: That's not strictly -
Customer: - this is the 21st century! Folks don't wander about in shops / surf the wide Internets just buying things!
Cashier: Well, that goes rather against why you're here, Sir -
Customer: - one has to be told, nowadays! To be frank, I have absolutely no respect for my own opinions - I don't even go to gaming websites unless its by following a Social Media-posted link! I depend, entirely, on the auspices of the media community!
Cashier: I'm not sure I can help you, Sir.
Customer: Surely you must have a Rules of Gaming! coaster, at the very least?! I mean, Phil is everywhere nowadays.
Cashier: Sorry, no -
Customer: A My Brain Hurts! Dennis the Hippopotamus musical jewellery box? A The Apocalypse Playlist mirkin?
Cashier: None of those things, no.
Customer: (disappointed) Well, that's disappointing -
Cashier: (has an idea) Hang on a moment, Sir! (picks up his mug, tips the hot tea on to the floor and grabs a marker pen) By sheer luck, I've just found a very rare 'FLGS' mug (scribbles on the ceramic); it might even be (scribbles) one of a kind!
(the cashier hands it over to the customer)
Cashier: That'll be £39.99 please!
Customer: (reads out the fresh writing) "My FLGS thinks I'm a proper mug!" - that's BRILLIANT! Thank you ever so much! (the customer pays and leaves)
Cashier: (picks up his remaining biscuits then realization dawns) Bugger!
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As part of making the most of a gorgeously hot Sunday, I mowed the lawn (while it was still relatively cool) and cleared a forest of weeds from around the raspberries.
Nettles - the gardener's arch-nemesis* - impeded my progress a little, swelling my tanned and hairy hands/arms with itchy welts BUT it doesn't matter because it all looks wunderbar and is well worth the irritation. Loins girded, I proceeded to the greenhouse to salvage some green tomatoes (for chutney) and purple carrots; the latter - in a giant pot of their own - had been overrun by nettles AND an unnerving, berry-ridden common Nightshade! Both intruders had sucked away all the water so the carrots were smaller than one would've liked ie. they were tiddlers.
Over in the main patch, however, and previously hidden by the hogging weeds, several forgotten beetroot made their chunky presence known:
...which rather reminded me of this:
*unless you're one of those tree-hugging, harem-pant wearing hippies who like to brew tea from the new budding leaves/smoke the flowers/chew on the roots to improve one's virility or whatever
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20 Sep 2020
Miss UK is what every little girl in 1970s Britain wanted to be, apparently: glamourous, chic and glittery.
Still: the shelves of a Christmas be-decked Woolworths would be woefully incomplete without board games like this.
Plastic standee bases and 24 'regional town' winners vying for supremacy (players get one from each 'Region').
For some reason my copy has a d6 but that's not the prescribed determiner of motion in Miss U.K; that would be the spinning TV camera:
Spin, move, collect a card and tell everyone how you did in that 'round':
Collect a set (with no limit on the number you have of each of the four types) and you go in to 'Regional Scoring'. A grand finale of all regional winners is a once-around-the-board-on-your-own affair where you collect as many cards as possible - without revealing their contents - and hope they have a bigger positive score than your rivals.
Games specifically for girls aren't quite so common: the TV and movie tie-ins, economic Monopoly-alikes, the abstracts and the abstracts dressed up in history's clothing dominated - the presentation predominantly masculine. To find one in such excellent repair, too, is quite the document for the time.
The sublime Antony & The Johnsons
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