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Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk What was that beardy bloke going on about?

Archive for Tony Boydell

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Going out on a school night?!

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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*click*

(whistles; sound of unbuckling)

Laughter is, indeed, the best medicine; last night I drowned my Brexit sorrows in the sharp and sardonic wit of Mr Stewart Lee (Britain's finest stand-up comedian). I picked up some in-the-middle, at-the-front tickets last year while checking in for a different show and my has the time between flown by! I shook and sweated with laughter and my stomach ached from the exertion. It was fantastic.

I don't wish to spoil the show, of course, but perhaps this little snippet from a previous production will sufficiently-illustrate his furiously-smart style:



Anyway...

(klank-fsssssssssssshhhhhhhh)

...time to get on with my day, albeit with chuckling flashbacks!
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Today 9:25 am
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Message In A Bottle

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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So, today, in the UK, our Prime Minister (who looks like an am-dram Miss Haversham and for whom the electorate did not vote and was gifted the role by a posh, spam-faced pig-rapist) - along with her herd of mooing, money-grubbing, rancid cronies - is pushing the Article 50 button to remove the United Kingdom from the European Union (and the single market too). And she's doing it without any idea of the consequences, without any plan (that she's prepared to share with 67 million citizens) and in spite of continued and fervent protest.

Consider the country in which I now live: greedy con artists in Government, an insignificant wet fart (who quite likes the whole idea of leaving Europe, actually) in the role of 'the opposition', a rampant-and-racist media gleefully pumping out it's poisonous arse-gas and a population numbed by (induced and unfounded) fears for their own livelihoods. You are seeing the asset-stripping of an entire Nation, perpetrated in plain sight, and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it except rage against the open, undaunted sky.

I am thoroughly-ashamed of this hateful larceny, this deplorable fraud: not in my name, you thumb-on-the-scales merchants...

Not

In

My

Fucking

Name!




P.S. Any help from 'outside' would be much appreciated.

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Wed Mar 29, 2017 6:20 am
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Playing Those Mind Games

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Wow! A Spring cleaning of the shed unearthed a clipping from way back, ie. 10 years ago, when Scandaroon was an exciting 'Coming Soon!' on the SSG web page and we'd yet to get our greedy hands on Agricola;gosh, was there really a time without that masterpiece? 2007 was also the year of the first UK Games Expo, of course.

Anyway, the following bijou article is from the BBC (yes, that BBC) magazine Mind Games: basically, an A4 sized periodical filled with Sudoku, Kakuro and other miscellaneous picture puzzles. They got in touch after a BBC History programme - What Did the Tudor's Ever Do For Us? - thought Coppertwaddle was real medieval card game* (the Internet back then, eh?) and wanted an interview; I had to tell them it was all made up and that I was the game's real (modern day and alive) designer. They thanked me for not stringing them along and asked me if I could recommend any similar games for their readership; they wouldn't let me advertise CT, so I picked the next best thing (to me, at the time):



The magazine, like it's many glossy pages, 'folded' shortly-thereafter.

(BADDOMP-TISH!)



*They were duped by this lot of online horseshit: http://www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk/CopperTwaddle/index.htm
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Tue Mar 28, 2017 6:20 am
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Mums, Microdots and Molkky

Anthony Boydell
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Up, bright-and-early, yesterday because the clocks all went forward an hour and there was a big roastie lunch to cook for Mothering Sunday as well (my In-Laws were coming over). I haven't seen my own Ma for a while - we have an awkward relationship but that doesn't mean I don't miss her - so I resolved to nip over to Monmouth for a visit; I stopped off at the Ross-on-Wye Car Boot Sale on the way because they always have an excellent Plant Stall (a local Nursery) and I wanted something to plant in the garden as well as a lovely bunch of daffodils (her favourite) for the table. I also picked up a massive bacon & cheese butty (a ridiculously cheap £2.80 for half a pig and half an udder's worth!) and, because it's a Car Boot, I brevetted the surrounding trestle tables and happened upon this three quid bargain:


Microdot

It is in pristine, possibly never-played, condition with just ONE component missing: the Yellow 'Passport'








It's a roll-and-move (!) with a set collection element...





...but the 'hook' is are the two special card decks that have letters and numbers, respectively, printed in 1 point font on to a dot somewhere in the word Microdot...for which one needs the assistance of a handy magnifying glass!

What a curiosity, indeed!


To round off an excellent afternoon, bellies full of roast pork and veggies, we retired to the newly-mown lawn for the first Molkky of 2017...


...and the first (comfortable, it has to be said) win for Yours Truly!

Spring has well-and-truly sprung.
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Mon Mar 27, 2017 6:20 am
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The Little Train That...

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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This is an actual, fondly-remembered, misty-eyed childhood nostalgic thing:


So, naturally, someone 'meme'-ed it thusly:


And, consequently, I felt it my duty to extrapolate further:
Spoiler (click to reveal)




Happy Sunday!
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Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:30 am
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You can kiss a Monk but you mustn't get in to the Habit

Anthony Boydell
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Yesterday was the height of satisfying mundanity as a whole stream of Bills Due congregated in my Inbox clamoring for their renewal/settlement. Mrs B was off for the day on a whistle-stop visit to youngest daughter, Daisy, in Guildford leaving me - and Ziggy - alone and in-charge of Chez Boydell. Any illusions that I'd spend the day, feet-up, watching the Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge archive were scuppered by the aforementioned invoices; however, when a list of unavoidable things needs sorting, there's nothing more pleasing than crossing them off one-by-one until it's empty. By way of a distraction while bank transfers were scheduled and helpline phone calls recorded for training purposes, Messrs Alan Paull and Klemens Franz were spamming me with The Cousin's War graphic updates of the most gorgeous and mouth-watering kind:


Question: How beautiful is this? Answer: Utterly.


Aside: to be honest, David J. Mortimer's compact but meaty two-header has been a labour of love for the other half of Surprised Stare Games Ltd - Alan & Charlie - as I've been busy with "other things"; it's a bit odd to be watching from the side-lines, but no less exciting!

Come the sunny evening after the sunny day, I finally hauled myself over to Ross-on-Wye for games at The Prince of Wales after Boffo had sent a cryptic FB message enquiring as to my plans:



It was another woefully-small turnout - just him, me and Jobbers - and only serves to reinforce the 'stir crazy' feeling that's been brewing in me these last few months. Still, there was enough of us to get stuck in to something relatively tasty, so Boffo set out Monastery*


You can't move for penitents in the Monastery!


What the Ken Russell is going on HERE?!


Our (Holy) work done, it's time for the final Judgement reckoning! I pipped Jobbers thanks to some carefully saved Blessings!


In summary: it's sort-of Carcassonne with set collection because as you move monks around to work and/or build tiles they score immediately and you spend the points on letter tokens or more Monks. Letter tokens go on any player's board; each player has their own 9 letter word which shares letters with others. Putting a letter on your own board is worth 3VP at game end; alternatively, you can buy a letter and put it on an opponent's board to block that space and deny them 3VP as a consequence. Unspent points can be converted to Blessings which, in turn, can be spent as points to buy more tiles or saved for VPs at game end.

The rules were a little fuzzy to begin with: Boffo soldiered on and ended up reading them out line-by-line until we sort-of agreed an understanding. It was a nice enough diversion and the theme is fun (especially as the monk pieces hilariously resemble a Brother lifting up his Cassock and flashing) but if I want a tile-layer to suck up a full hour, I'd probably plump for Isle of Skye instead.

Grasping the opportunity while Jobbers nipped off for a piss and a drink, I laid out the new - post-Gilbert/Dunstan scrutiny - version of Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines:



We played with characters on their special power side: Jobbers had Patricia Rawnsley (she gets VPs if she remains non-villainous), Boffo was Count Emilio Ponticelli (he likes to crash) and I was Richard Mays: the 'hero' who gets VPs if villainy is done against him! It was a tight race, between me and Jobbers at least; Boffo seemed reluctant to leave the airfield during the Practice (the deck drafting phase), though he did keep up with us in the actual Race. In the end, the other two being tied for 'Most Villainous Player' dropped Jobbers to just a couple of VPs behind me and I - heroically - won the day. It whistled along in about half-an-hour and it felt really good: clean, uncomplicated and the final race was a gratifyingly-close affair! Boffo expressed neither pleasure, disappointment nor any other comment apart from me having spelled 'Fusilage' wrong; Jobbers purred in a Jobbersian manner and then we moved on to the closer:



It's been a while but we were all rattling (!) through the rounds within a couple of minutes. I rushed the game to a finish and just managed to keep ahead of Boffo: mid-40s/early 40s/mid-30s. We probably could've run straight in to a second but got chatting about the evening's Jukebox obsession with 70s Prog Rock: it's always good to hear a bit of Gabriel-era Genesis or a 10 minute Wakeman keyboard twiddle-solo.

*Interesting story: Boffo had this a while back, courtesy of one of those unfathomable "Maths Trades" and it languished, unplayed, until he offloaded it to a subsequent MT. Later, he saw it on a subsequent (subsequent) completely-different MT and ended up with it. Upon receipt, he recognised the 'little bag with the Blessings in' as the one he'd added to his original copy. The Lord moves in mysterious ways, no?
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Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:27 am
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The Magnificent Severn

Anthony Boydell
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Anyone hanging around the Chepstow end of Wales cannot fail to notice that there are a couple of bloody great big bridges spanning the River Severn:



I have many misty memories of being driven across the the top one of the two (see above) as a child, on our way to see my Uncle and Aunt in Swindon; the newest one I crossed just last Thursday on my way to pal Richard's. These are both road bridges and, up until about 18 months ago, I was under the impression that the railways had tunneled their way under the River and that it had always been thus. However, scouring maps of the railways of the Forest of Dean (including the eye-wateringly scenic Wye Valley Line), I noticed that there was a railway river crossing ABOVE the ground and it was a proper bridge and everything:


The original Severn Bridge Railway Crossing, Opened in 1879.


Now, knowing my love of rediscovering remnants of this golden age in the modern landscape, it won't surprise you to hear that I sought out the location of this noble and statuesque construction. Of course, my background reading informed me that it was almost entirely disappeared:

In 1960 two out-of-control petrol barges in the Severn struck a pier of the Severn Bridge and brought it down, severing the line. After much deliberation the decision was taken to close the line permanently and to demolish the Severn Bridge.

As with other pieces of local-to-me railway architecture, there was barely the blink of an eye between the decision to close and the actual (and, often, entire) removal of it from the face of the Earth! Luckily, while the steelwork and pillars of the main bridge have gone, the massive groundworks to bring the line up to the crossing still remain; so, with a sunny afternoon welcoming my exit from work, I diverted up the river road to Chepstow then Lydney then Purton to walk the site for myself:


Clockwise, from top left: the bank rises to empty air now that the viaduct and bridge are gone; a train toots passed as I walk along the track bed; the real-life platform, choked by brambles; something trolley-like lost in the undergrowth; the track from the side; centre: in it's hey day and a tiny GWR route map; sleepers, piled high and sleeping; yours truly getting another long shot of the line; the tunnel - matches nicely in that central photo; more of the platform; an archive pic of the signal box.


I shall never cease to be delighted by uncovering these treasures of the landscape; they only serve to make me love railways even more. Rest assured, I'll be doing something about this for Snowdonia - after all, anything that I can do to keep the memory alive is a very good thing indeed.
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Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:30 am
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(Not so) Kissing Cousins

Anthony Boydell
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Coming soon from SSG Wargames (basically Surprised Stare Games Ltd with a fancy new themed logo!):

Cousins' War
2 players, 30 minutes.




The Wars of the Roses were fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for over 3 decades during the 15th century in England. The houses were both branches of the royal family, therefore the Wars were originally known as “The Cousins’ War”. Each player represents one of the houses as they fight battles and gain influence to control England.

Cousins' War is a new game from David J. Mortimer (Twilight Squabble, Pocket Imperium, [microfilms], Flock and Dragon Slayer). Artwork and layout is by the utterly-wonderful Klemens Franz.

Come and pick up your copy at the UK Games Expo (June 2nd-4th, 2017 at the N.E.C, Birmingham)!

Oh, and we'll have a new Snowdonia mini-pack there too!
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Thu Mar 23, 2017 6:25 am
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Two-Face

Anthony Boydell
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Every few months we get another 'monumental' announcement about what Asmodee is doing / wants to do / has just done and the Forums flare, briefly, with pessimism and rage. It's been a year since the OLGS vs FLGS "policy launch" and it's certainly starting to bite; listen, here, to one man's story:



For me, the main point of frustration is Asmodee's unwillingness to talk out the gray areas; a one-side-or-the-other approach NEVER works in the real world. Simply replying to all pleas and pressure with "Sorry, but that's our Policy" is just a smart uniform away from "We're just obeying orders". Patently, the new rules are harming the FLGS's purported to be protected and, yet, all dialog is stifled.

Of course, there ARE exceptions - mentioned in the interview - that make it even more ridiculous ie. if you're big enough, Asmodee will compromise. Is this the real reason for the policy, then? To protect the online bottom line of the major players? Certainly such situations occur; for example, in the U.K., we have had the ghost of a particular piece of tax legislation hanging over the IT contractor market (IR35) since the late 90s when large IT providers (Cap Gemini, EDS etc) lobbied the (then) Labour Government to penalise independent businesses so they could clean up.

What, if anything, is left for the rural FLGS to do but give in and fold?
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Wed Mar 22, 2017 11:58 am
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FLGS 37 (Public Information Film)

Anthony Boydell
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(we are in your everyday, run-of-the-mill, plain-and-simple FLGS; the cashier is operating a forklift truck and elevating a single copy of Gloomhaven to the top of the ‘New Arrivals’ shelf; he is sniggering, profusely, as the pallet rises, in anticipation of the larks that shall surely ensue when a customer eventually tries to retrieve it for purchase. In the window display, unopened Star Wars Destiny booster packs are being fanned out in an elaborate and decorative manner by the store assistant who has also, that morning, cleaned and polished the front window’s glass so that the display is clearly visible; spot-lights and ‘flash’ signs further emphasise the availability of these sought-after products. Thin slivers of razor blade are being affixed to the rim of the display’s back so that any customer invited to “lean over and pull them straight out of the window” will inevitably receive horrific chest and/or stomach wounds. A pyramid of Anachronys shines from the far corner and is signalled by a line of floor tiles with bright “Follow me!” arrows pasted on; each so-decorated tile is several millimetres proud of the overall flooring level because anti-personnel mines have been secreted beneath. The assistant meets the cashier at the Sales Desk and they take, examine and prime a pump-action shotgun each; the barrels of both weapons sport the stencilled phrase “Free Rising Sun Kickstarter Stretch Goal Inside!”. The Stock Room door has, itself, been re-decorated with an enormous 3D PoS standee for Terraforming Mars and a banner announcing 'Self-Service Inside'; if you were to listen, briefly, at the portal you would hear the unmistakable growling of a large cat or cats. A guillotine, primed and horribly-sharp, provides the frame and frontage to a shelf of Santorinis. By the Till, a mass of slithering, writhing and spitting Cobra are contained within a 'Pledge Jar' inviting customers to "Post Your Pandemic Legacy: Season Two Pre-Orders HERE!")

Door Bell: Ning-nong-nang: clang!

(a customer enters)

Cashier: (rubbing his hands, he speaks under his breath, to the assistant He we flipping go!

Cashier: (brightly, cheerfully) Good morning, Sir! Can I help you? (he waves his arms as if receiving adulation from the room)

Customer: Yes, indeed; I wonder if you might have a copy of -

(both the cashier and the assistant lean in a little closer)

Cashier: (excitedly) Yes?

Customer: - a copy of -

Cashier: Yes?

Assistant: Yes?

Customer: (innocently, without a trace of irony) Monopoly?

(the scene freezes; a smartly-dressed Narrator type wanders in front of the image and speaks)

Narrator: Little did that Customer know how close he came to his doom; let this be a warning to you all: the cult of the new is The. Cult. Of. Death.

(fade to black)
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Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:20 am
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