The house has been like New York's Grand Central terminus this last week: comings, stayings and goings - a whirlwind of activity. The children - and friends of the children - brought with them noise, washing, clutter, consumption and various anxieties. Amid the baking 30 degree temperatures the garden has been switched into Summer mode (pools, gazebo), Daisy acquired a new car that needed fetching, Alice needed driving home from her Rainbow retreat after banging heads/getting concussed at a ceilidh and both Fred and Benedict had respite spells away from Cheltenham. Sailing through all of this, I am eight hours a day stewing in the Library room: tethered to MS Teams and Sharepoint and only emerging for hydration.
On Wednesday, there was so much happening that I just drove off for an hour - aircon on full - to listen to some podcasts and 'get out'. When I worked away in London a lot, in the 2000s, I joked that I was fed up to be paying the mortgage on a house I hardly ever spent time in...now, after 18 months, the whole place can feel desperately claustrophobic. I was planning to take a day trip up to the UK Games Expo, next weekend, but a combination of their confused Covid/masking policy (I'm still not entirely clear what it is) and a general feeling in gamer conversations that it's going to be a superspreader catastrophe, has me taking pause.
My one hope - the shining Grail in my firmament - is an August week away in North Yorkshire; entirely divorced from any need to be in busy places, Goathland is our Sanctuary. Moorland, red water becks, free-swimming pools, country trails, the railway and secluded beaches - all within a 10 mile radius and most within pleasant walking distance.
Living in a cartoon republic is taking a heavy toll on our mental health.
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
Archive for Tony Boydell
- [+] Dice rolls
Below are the play setups for Jerusalem for between 2 and 6 players: the black line is 'The Main Road', the blue line is 'The River' and the white line is 'The Railway'.
It's a small detail, really, amongst all the mechanisms but it, strangely, means a lot; I am unnaturally pleased with the flexibility the 'three lines' framework gives to Matt's and my Great British Bellyache-Off - each player, in every player array, has a sector to call their 'Home'.
Thematically, too, it fits right in: the thoroughfare running parallel with the river is an embankment, bridge points for rail and car and commuters following the 07.25 as it rumbles adjacent to the A-road!
Bloody marvellous, if I do say so myself!
- [+] Dice rolls
For Arthur, school's out for Summer and he decided to celebrate his first non-school night (of 40 or so) with a trip to Tuesday night games! With pal Ian stuck coming home from work around key departure time (6PM), I offered to ferry Adam and Rory and Fred for DnD; the kitchen was filled with campaign chatter so loud that I could hear it at the bottom of the garden where I was tucked away with a hat, a chai tea and my copy of MADI). Arthur - long intrigued by the roleplaying escapades of his brothers and his brothers' pals - asked if he could join in too and they rolled him up a character:
The aircon in the Volvo is borked and not even all windows open mode couldn't put a dent in the stifling heat. The boys yakked all the way to Tuffley, barely pausing for breath.
Those of us in the boardgaming section were split into two tables: a full sixer for Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and our table (Tom, Jack, Dale, Aaron and me) for Kemet; Tom is spending UKGE demo-ing Kemet in the Esdevium* 'play area' and wanted to refresh his memory/hone his teaching technique on us. Dale had prepared by watching a full, five-episode Watch It Played so already had a fair idea of what the 2nd edition was all about; the rest of us were blissfully unaware.
Kemet is a game about fighting; when you're not actually fighting, you're taking worker placement actions preparing to fight: recruit more soldiers, improve your ability to buy combat-related bonus tiles, buying combat-related bonus tiles (some coming with monster combat units or better combat cards) and, generally, staring at the board to work out who you're going to fight next.
Thus, did two hours pass by in the breezeless fug of the Community Centre. Arthur stopped in a couple of times to blag another fizzy drink and/or see how I was doing - dudes on a map interest him greatly - and then returned to his guard-pummelling escapades. It turned out that the 'Snooker Room', in which they normally play, had become so stuffy and inhospitable that they decamped to rolling dice in the dusky car park...until it got too dark for them to see what they were rolling!
Back in mystical, ancient Egypt: poor Tom's citadel seemed to be wracked by extreme, localised earthquakes resulting in his player board and pieces cascading to the floor in a shower of plastic and chits** - a more moderate version of flipping the table, to be sure. Also, for some reason, Jack had taken to calling me "Terry": "Don't you know who I am?!" etc.
The other table - humanity made extinct by the Cylons - had progressed to The Resistance: seemingly a deep-seated urge to experience paranoia, alienation, suspicion and isolation now that we've all been saved from the pandemic by the Tories.
Enjoyable though Kemet was, it's a bit too one track mind-ed for my taste. It also seemed to slow right down in the last 30 minutes when Jack - on the requisite nine winning VPs at the end of his turns - kept losing one before the start of his next turn, when the victory condition is checked: lots of 'stop him!' etc which kind-of took the momentum out of the proceedings. Dale snagged the win having secured 11 VPs prior to the start of the round where not even careful turn-order arrangement could prevent him.
On the way home, Fred and Rory and Arthur briefly recapped their evening's adventures before exploring the nature of DnD 'robots' in (much) more detail: the boys yakked all the way to Newent, barely pausing for breath.
*now, of course, Asmodee UK.
- [+] Dice rolls
Congratulations to Macrobiotic: City of Yoghurt for snagging the coveted Spiel of the Jahres in a ceremony conducted entirely over Skype. While the choice - one of those 'odd numbered year' good ones - is not controversial, it was the Master of Ceremonies - Yurt Freimittagessen - who somewhat stole the show with a virtual background depicting a full Roman Orgy.
Plenty has already been said about this year's short lists (for both the Spiel and the Kennerspiel) so I thought I'd run a few alternative recommendations by you: games you have probably missed in all the fuss and bluster:
DigiWords (Green Orange Games) - there were high hopes at GOHQ for this uproarious party filler: players each snip off a little finger with secateurs (provided) and mix them in a plastic bag before taking one - at random - and popping it into their mouth unseen. On their turn, a player draws a word card from the main deck and must communicate that word to the rest of their team without a) mentioning the word itself or b) giving away the identity of the owner of the finger they have in their mouth while 'clueing'. Not to be confused with Shite Games' (thankfully) hard-to-find Fingerschnüffler).
Above, and Bellow! (Lion Rickets) - "the first shouting Escape Room game" boasts the box...and with good cause! With a nod to classics like Atmosfear and Boo! The Shit Your Pants Game, players simultaneously start a Spotify-streamed soundtrack and work their way through a deck of clue cards, envelopes and pamphlets in an attempt to establish the ultimate solution. Hindering their progress - at full volume - is a screaming narrator who interjects with "Come on, then!"s, "Jesus - haven't you solved that bit yet?!"s and "For Fuck's Sake get a move on, you dribbling, shit-for-brains vegetables!". The first three scenarios - "Escape The Dread Mansion", "The Lost Tomb Of The Maya" and "Awkward, Distant Relative's Funeral" - are available from most good game stockists.
The Sky Is Falling (Cheeky Games Edition) - relive the halcyon days of 1980s video games with this clever, solo board game: you take the role of Chuck N Lichen - a humble corncob farmer - who must protect his crops from meteorites, frozen aeroplane waste, clouds, acid rain and big cows as they plummet to Earth from the Exosphere.
Scythe: Columns of Flame (Smegmaier Games) - a highly-innovative combat expansion that boasts it's playable not just with Scythe but with ANY board game that employs plastic miniatures: Cyclades, Star Wars: Rebellion, Blood Rage and many more! Each player takes a blow torch (provided)...
The Armpit Series (Chris Wristy, self-published) - combining 21st century deodorant technology with simple-yet-deep play, the games in the series are easily portable in your armpit (or, at/with a push, your anal cleft) - GLO, WET and XMR being the stand-outs in this exceptional, musky collection.
- [+] Dice rolls
- [+] Dice rolls
The disciples asked: "Which commandment is the first of all?" Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: Do NOT leave your NO SOUP card until the final round.'"
18 Jul 2021
The guy delivering the chip supper was excessively-tardy, leaving me no option but to trundle over to Jobbers' - for RoW gaming - with a rumbling, empty tum. The stifling heat meant I, at least, packed a bottle of fizzy cordial to see me through the evening.
Le jardin du Jobbers is a wondrous, fecund plot of land packed with vegetable beds, alliums and all sorts of other accoutrements: bird tables, solar-powered lights, outbuildings etc. We would sample the fresh from the vine delights of his tomatoes later in the evening - after Boffo made a Jerusalem turn action in the greenhouse - and very delicious they were too!
Just the core four this evening, hence our return to the Much Marcle Summer House: J, Ben, Becky and me. We started with a time-limited, first exploration of Jerusalem (see yesterday's blog) just to see how the whole thing operated:
There was much amusement to be had from the game's in-built premise and flavour text 'wit' and, as expected, it was far from flowingly-perfect...BUT the central tenet is sound! Highlights included Jobbers turning Boffo's Cricket Pitch into a Public Toilet, Travellers moving in on Jobbers' Trig Point and Boffo setting up his Hermitage (must be put into play in a different room) in the aforementioned greenhouse. Unfortunately, I failed to get any of the others to say 'Commercial' instead of 'Spam' after building my Greasy Spoon Café.
Warming up our gaming muscles, we processed to something a little lighter - but actually published - in the shape of Fantastic Factories:
My electricity -> product engine helped me fly out of the starting blocks, consistently racking up at one each round until the end. A couple of bigger factories saw me to the 12 Product end-game trigger but Boffo managed to have more building prestige than me to see him to a two-point victory. Silly, simple and fun; I sort-of regret not KS-ing the FF expansion last year but the postage - even then - was an absolute bitch.
To the main event, then, and - after 18 months for me and John it was time to revisit the fertile ffjords and the sublime masterpiece that is Nusfjord:
Oh, how every single moment - every single worker placement and action resolution - sang in my heart: gods but I've missed playing this. Thankfully, the long lay-off had done nothing to dull my Nussy senses as I romped home with a 40 point tableau: a clear 10 points ahead of my nearest rival.
That would have been an excellent point to close the proceedings and yet, like the foolish bloody fool that I am, I had to go and pick Too Many Cooks to close. I'm not sure anyone has EVER grabbed the nettle of defeat so firmly from the rosy cusp of victory as I did. Of course, I ignored ALL of the sensible advice - freely and regularly given - and left my NO SOUP card until the final round: dear Christ, from 17 to minus 6 in 5 minutes.
- [+] Dice rolls
Three years ago, happening on a copy of Universal Publications Ltd's Railway Riot set me on a particular path: inspiration that got me working with Gibsons Games AND seriously-piqued my interest in old board games. I now have a couple of large boxes of variations on the Race to find... genre (as I've labelled it): shopping items, posting, houses, trains, planes and automobiles. I thought I'd covered all the bases until - having laid hands on a very early, possibly 'First', edition of RR - I realised I was missing a key variant, about which there seemed zero information beyond a single, advertising strapline: "Go to -".
I couldn't find any details anywhere; even AFTER managing to filter out all modern uses of U.P.L, I had no idea what a copy looked like - there wasn't even a picture...until yesterday:
It popped up on an eBay auction (possibly) as a dual lot with it's better-themed sibling and then disappeared again.
Anyone who's ever committed themselves to collecting a 'set' of something will understand the simultaneous feeling of elation and frustration at finding evidence such as this: so near and, yet, so damn far.
- [+] Dice rolls
After a few months of to-and-fro, edit and re-edit, face-to-face and MS Teams, I've finally put together a first full prototype of my collaboration with Mr Matt Green - part of the best British Game Designer duo (with Sam Mercer) that everyone should know about! As previously mentioned, he was published on over quarter of a million Christmas selection chocolate boxes ('Present Drop') and if you're lucky enough to own Miremarsh or Flicky Spaceships or Beyond the Gates of Antares: The Dice Game, you'll know how great their stuff is!
Anyway, enough of my hagiography and onto Jerusalem - a scenery-building Euro in the manner of Paperclip Railways and Tokyo Highway with, perhaps, the most cynical implementation of theme* ever implemented! Think Suburbia, but with sarcasm.
In summary: play out buildings to foundations/upgrade existing buildings and climb the social ladder in a petty-minded, passive-aggressive English village. Interfere with other players and distribute 'beef' tokens, complete hidden goals and try to be the biggest fish in the smallest, most-trivial pond:
Your turn is to take one action from the following:
Draw a card from the deck of your choice (there are five types of building, each with a deck of 24 cards);
Lay a foundation - put a house into play on ANY face-down card; house pieces are taken from a central Planning Department board that gives you a trigger effect depending on which 'bay' the piece was taken from;
Upgrade a foundation to a face-up building (and gain its benefit); or
Build a municipal building - the same as normal 'building' BUT dependent upon your current Social Standing ('footprints') AND subject to a player vote!
Some Level 2 Municipal buildings - later in the game (close to the end but visible from the start) they set the final scoring
Municipal buildings come in three flavours:
- Level 1 have odd effects;
- Level 2 overbuild Level 1s and have end game scoring effects; and,
- Level 3 overbuild Level 2s and herald the coming end-game.
Time to see how it plays out 'for real': allons y!
*a new category for the Golden Geek Awards?!
- [+] Dice rolls
As a designer who has worked with multiple publishers, it's continually-surprising how little they check in with you after the initial storm of excited, introductory activity. Whether it's someone who has fully-published a game OR just reviewed a prototype, my emails and messages often go for months without reply or acknowledgement.
Of course, I feel guilty about following up 'dead letters': publishers are busy folks with many things on their plate and I don't want to piss them off. However, I'm invariably asking for something straightforward: an up-to-date Sales summary or how I can get hold of a foreign language edition of my game or summarising an expansion proposal or following up for some feedback on an evaluation. Nothing you would regard as unreasonable but the continued need to ping off 'Did you get my last email?' reminders is exhausting and, to be honest, a little humiliating.
Maybe the occasional 'How are you? / Are you working on something that we might be interested in?' would be nice but that's being a bit needy, I suppose. For an industry predicated on social interaction, it can be a lonely old business.
- [+] Dice rolls
It's the anticipation that gets you and, for a sunny Tuesday evening, I was very much looking forward to playing Pax Pamir with the Tuffley folks. The problem is that I don't really know most of the attendees and, thus, have no idea what their thresholds are for complexity or depth; consequently, while teaching the rules of PP is relatively straightforward the 'playing out' can end up being a dog's breakfast.
In summary: take two actions (maybe three) per turn - a choice of 'standard' ones and those available in your 'Court' - with the aim of maneuvering your chosen Faction (and your associated Loyalty) into Dominance scoring. Obviously, there are wrinkles around this core but it's area control with tableau/money management thrown in.
Cue: Mark and Nick and Andy and Chris joining me for 90 minutes of head-scratching and a sudden failed dominance check but Chris going four points clear win. We had no hostage-taking, no battles and the only movement applied to Nick's brace of spies; indeed, while the game 'played out' correctly, none of the deeper elements - those bits that cause screwage and jeopardy and intrigue - made an appearance: consequently, it all fell a bit flat.
About an hour in, it seemed pretty clear that a couple of the players just wanted the overwhelming shenanigans to end: envious eyes cast to the other corner where lighter fayre was being enjoyed
Worried that I'd put them off entirely (and forever), I fretted that this anti-climax was the result of the rules teach OR is this, in fact, perfectly normal for a group who (apart from me) has never experienced a Cole Wehrle game before?
Hoping that "auctions" were going to be more digestible, I turned to the ever-dependable Peloponnes from Irongames:
Perhaps it was the Pamir fallout, but even this one seemed to befuddle and frustrate my fellows! Bad things happen all the time in Peloponnes and the entire bloody point of the game is to manage the damage it will do to you! Lovely, painful stuff but - again - had I misjudged my audience?!
Similarly, in the Warhammer 40K hall (visible in that second pic), pal Ian spent the session walking a new player through the intricacies of a particular faction - clutching fists full of dice and flipping through a 250+ page manual - so that the fellow could enjoy the whole thing more / speed up his integration with the group; both of us were treading the fine line between bringing them onboard and sending them, running, to the Hills.
I think I need to post one more of these:
- [+] Dice rolls