After almost a week away, I returned to find the most pleasurable of sights: a table positively GROANING with parcels all addressed to me!
(pulls some air)
And then, in one of them, I opened THIS:
That most awesome of artists/graphic designers - Mr Klemens Franz - has received his complimentary copies of this and Bohemian Villages and, in an act of generosity that may break this blog completely in half, sent ME the extras beyond the first!
What's IN the box?
The segmented main board; no more 'player variant overlay cards'
Chits and tokens...and a couple of extra action options (one worker hogs the whole selection) of you're playing 'without cards'!
The 'new' Occs and Minors: if only they'd have let me proof read some of these first, eh? "Cottager" means something rather un-Agricolaean in the UK!
Some of the familiar icons are still there, albeit moved, as well as the addition of 'play category' icons (those clay-brown circle things); these illustrate the effect of the card eg. food provider, action booster and points provider but also (according to the rulebook) "...and may be used in the future as requirements and in the card texts.". The 'A' and 'B' notation is the start of a re-envisioned expansion sequence; we shall see extra cards later including - as specifically shown in the rulebook - 'Lover' in the C deck.
The new core cards *dribble*
...all punched, sorted and baggy-ed!
Straight in to the bag for tonight's Ross-on-Wye board gamers it goes!*
EDIT: Oh, just spotted this little cheeky detail...
*to those who might mention the C-word at this juncture? There's an interesting mix of new, reworded and familiar cards in this base set to make it worth having a go at; indeed, reluctant 'Gric-ers like Jobbers may well feel more comfortable with the less explosive series of options this set presents.
Every time I work away, the peeps in the Regional Office joke that I've brought the sun with me. Indeed this seems to be true and on Tuesday evening, with no gamer meetups in sensible commuting distance (ie. <=30 miles), I decided to go for a wander up The Great Orme.
The Great Orme (Y Gogarth or Pen y Gogarth) is a prominent limestone headland on the north coast of Wales, next to the town of Llandudno
This looming behemoth has been the backdrop to my Llandudno bed-and-breakfast and, in the three years of working on this contract, I had yet to explore it's precipitous delights! Oh, I'd quickly managed to locate some excellent Eateries and an FLGS plus TWO game clubs but had somehow neglected to get off my chubby arse and get some exercise. Well that all changed on Tuesday as I popped on a jumper and trousered a well-charged iPhone and ambled upwards instead of the usual downwards.
Following the Tram lines...
Not actually knowing the way, I figured it would be sensible to start at the Orme's tramway base station and follow it's embedded cable trench from there. It was quite an incline and the regular pauses to 'take a pic' provided some wheezy respite: Dear Christ I'm unfit. I could see my destination promontory behind a sea of holiday homes and hotels washing up against it's craggy slopes, so I just headed in that general direction and joined a gritty track towards the 'Artificial Ski Slope'. A short, grassy path through a darkened copse later and...
...I emerged from the buildings in to the open sky!
Set iPhone to 'Stunning'!
A stone's throw from the plummetting edge, I stood proudly on a boulder and effected my best 'Bloke Modelling Outdoor Clothes in a Catalogue' pose ie. legs akimbo, hands-on-hips and chest out...and just drank in the astounding view.
And drank it in.
And in some more.
From the Little Orme and the East Beach Promenade, across the town via the Railway Station and the Sports Ground to the West Beach and - over the Estuary - Conwy Castle and the Golf Club and the distant peaks of Snowdonia.
You probably think this blog is about you...
The breeze was cool enough to dry the sweat from my brow and make my ears ache so, after 15 minutes of statue-like vista-worship, I snapped a few selfies to prove that I'd done it and plodded - legs aching - back down below.
Being the middle of April, it's pretty much the height of our Summer here in Merry Old England. Give it a couple of weeks and we'll all be bealing on about the rain/cold/overcast sky until the clocks go back in October and I've gone to - and come back from - Essen Spiel. The point of this self-deprecating introductory paragraph is to alert you to the fact that it's been quite a lovely day. Warm, cloudless and bright and see-for-miles clear as I drove along the coast to Prestatyn.
There was much dancing around a selection so I and me and Lee, joined by Dean, sided with Phillip and voted Agricola: Farmers of the Moorwith Occupations. Jeremy and Mark, still chipper despite being relegated to 'doing a two player', grinned the grins of those who know something the rest of us didn't and promptly set up Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization in the shadow of the Dart board.
Aside: TTA is an odd beast for me as I've only played it a couple of times (with the Wycombe folks of old). The abiding memories of this toe-dippage are a) the others had played it a LOT by the time I sat down to the table and, somewhat inevitably, b) I was thoroughly (mercilessly) violated on both occasions.
I also recall being utterly bewildered by the 'Happy Face'/action pips mechanism; thus, playing it without an understanding of the rules (let alone the strategies) against a group of 'experts' has made me actually properly really Phobic: it scares and confuses me.
My, oh my; WHAT a beautiful spread!
The Prestatyn group are a ludicrously relaxed bunch and the pace of play is, let's just say, 'leisurely'; not something that works for everyone and - to some extent - I could feel my anxiety rising during the more extended comfort breaks BUT it wasn't really an issue: A:FotM was going to be our only game of the evening anyway. You see, my car has developed a bulb-ic issue with one of the headlights, so I was dreading the dark 20 mile drive back; being a law-abiding citizen, I imagined - and stressed about - being pulled over by the rozzers and having my collar felt for 'dangerous driving'! All of this despite the real-and-oncoming evidence that 50% of the other road users were Cycloptic themselves: even the one Welsh Police Car I saw on my trepidatious homecoming had dipped/main beam problems: they were flashing on-and-off FFS...AND he was driving over the limit for that stretch of road!
My end farm; do you notice anything unusual?
The game itself - sorry for getting side-tracked just now - seemed very tight on the conflict-of-actions, tighter than normal; everyone was stepping on everyone else's plans and the added FotM 'free actions' and the heating overhead just ratcheted up the tension. Despite not playing a single Occupation, I managed to survive a couple of hairy harvests and construct a meaningful looking Agrarian Domicile with all mod cons in the Kitchen and Utility Room (not that you can find a Corgi-registered Furnace engineer in the 17th century). Phillip, the only other person in the room who's Moor-farmed previously, lacked anything in card bonuses so fell just behind me in the final tally. Dean, on the other hand, found himself with a delicious Two Occ/One Minor combo that let him take a Veg with a Grain then Lettuce Patch the former and Master Brewer the latter for 7 food a time; this release of the usual nutritional pressures allowed him to scoop up a rich - if acridly-bouqueted - herd of braying, lowing and grunting animals...and I don't even mean those guys down in the 'Adult Bar' neither!
Ha ha-ha ha.
Edged in to second by Dean...and his monstrous Animal Farm
After everything, I made it back to the B&B safely and, most importantly, without incurring the financially-inconvenient wrath of the heddlu; talking of 'avoiding wrath', tomorrow (today i.e. Thursday) brings Mrs B's birthday - that's MY Mrs B NOT Stuart B's Mrs B, whose bona fide BGG ID is Mrs B,see? - and I've found her a nice pressie from my travels. So all's well that ends well, eh?
R.I.P Victoria Wood.
Thou art a c*nt for taking away some our dearest friends. Please fuck off and be quiet for the remainder.
I have, on occasion, taken to talking with my friends over the medium of the Internet and they - in return - have recorded the whole damn thing and put it up for everyone to hear; thankfully I don't say "piss", "dangleflaps" or "Jizzbadger" so it's pretty much S.F.W. This time I'm in relaxed, gentlemanly conversation with my fine U.S-based gaming geek chum
Aside: This is Shed Post #1500; 1500 is also: the starting game ELO (ranking) on boiteajeux.net and for Magic: The Gathering when first-registered with Wizards of the Coast a Leap Year in which the last surviving Wolf in England was killed The number of English-language copies of Snowdonia in the 2012 1st Edition How many copies of Scandaroon I've set fire to.
The I.T woes of Friday have not interfered with my work plans and I still made the journey up through 'nice countryside' to Llandudno and the North Region's offices. A pleasant afternoon of conciliatory meetings was brought to a thankful close by the need to get an early supper and check in to the B&B. A long, hot bath rounded things off very satisfyingly - I always ask for a room with a bath (rather than a shower) now - because there's precious little opportunity at Home what with all them children and 'ting.
The Bar at the Conwy Golf Club was a heaving hubbub of happy players...though not OUR KIND of player, oh no: about thirty septuagenarians shagged out after whacking their balls in to neatly-maintained bushes, getting well up a 'fair way' and finishing with 69 in the Clubhouse. Board gamers, normally a thriving mass, were conspicuous by their absence this evening so we ended up with just the two tables of four. Myself, Tim, Dewi and Aaron - keen to avoid the abject terribleness of Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game* - noodled briefly with the idea of 504 before settling on the excellent Macao:
Feld at his very before the rot set in best.
Tim and Dewi had never encountered this tense, brain-tickler before and it was evident from Aaron's - and my own - play that 'experience would out'. For the first time in my history with this game, I managed some Game End scoring cards and combos and was particular happy to not take a single Punishment Marker. Aaron, however, took three but never seemed in real trouble / short of cubes on his turn and was victorious by 10 clear points.
The zombies were still a-shambling on table 2 (Thank the Good Christ I wasn't suffering with them!), so Dewi excitedly reached for his newly-acquired copy of They Come Unseen; playing in teams, Tim and I were the Russian 'Tubs' with Aaron and Dewi the 'Subs' in this simple-but-engaging search & destroy-er.
Peeyowwwww-bip! Peeeyowwww-bip! etc
In Summary: During alternating turns, the subs plot their moves behind a screen and only pop up on the MAIN board to recharge their batteries or blow the shit out of our Real Estate - they need to destroy four named locations selected from a pool of six. The ships chug about the place in full view, accompanied by some chit-carrying logistics vessels (fuel, salvos), doing sonar scans and dropping depth charges in to the iron-dark water. There is also a weather system that royally fucks things up for those of us on the surface but leaves the undersea prowlers pretty much unscathed.
It was tense and fun but came to an inevitable conclusion (a sub win) after Tim ran his boat in to a chain of acoustic mines and limped off to get his bow scraped. I was left to chase Dewi's almost-dead vessel, leaving Aaron with a massively-open goal! During the post-mortem, we marvelled at some of the player combination variants in the rulebook including - this is true - one player (presumably the most unpopular player in the room) being assigned ONLY to control the logistics fleet ie. shunting fuel and weapons about.
The other group had finally all survived / died at the teeth of the Undead / been betrayed or something and were now rolling dice and offering each other wood, rock and sheep (Dear God, release them from this torment!); thank goodness Dewi had a popular Russian trick-taker with a light D&D re-theme to close: Battle of Durak
Crazy 8s / Pick Up Two meets Cheaty Mages (sort of)
I did try and fit an 'In Summary' here; however, I got quite tied up in the explanation so please click on the hyperlink and look it up for yourself. It's not clear that I enjoyed it much on the first play but there certainly feels like something lurking under the rather-distracting theme; maybe a return to the truncated 'regular playing card deck' original would be a sensible course of action?
*Zombies are boring; The Walking Dead is rubbish etc
(we are in a friendly local game store; there is a sign in the window proudly announcing a “Twice-the-Price Sale on ALL Asmodee North America products” and directing one to a website URL. A customer stops at the window, reads the sign, shakes his fist at it and then enters the shop)
Door Bell: *ding ding-a-ling ding-ding-ding*
Cashier: (looking at us) Whoops! Here comes another one! (turns to the customer) Good afternoon, Sir; can I help you?
Customer: (looking toward us, like the cashier did) Who were you talking to?
Cashier: When, Sir?
Customer: Just now…when I came in...
Cashier: I wasn’t talking to anyone, Sir; as you can see, there’s no-body else here
(the Cashier turns to us and winks)
Customer: (confused) You’re winking too!
Cashier: (innocently) Am I, Sir?
Customer: (turning around and pointing at us as he speaks) Yes! You definitely winked in that direction!
Cashier: It’s a bit dusty in here, Sir; perhaps something was in my eye and a blinked more noticeably than usual?
Customer: (ruffled, but seemingly placated) It is rather dusty in here, isn’t it?
Cashier: (holds a flat hand – thankfully his - against the side of his mouth and says to us) *phew* That was a close one!
Cashier: I’ll just go and check in the stock room...
(the Cashier lifts the entire counter top off and carries it away with him through a nearby door. The customer examines the space and pulls at a couple of loose wires)
Customer: (muttering) I bloody knew it!
(moments later the Cashier returns carrying a box)
Cashier: (handing it to the Customer) You’re in luck, Sir; we have just the one copy left! That will be ninety pounds please.
Customer: (examining the box) Um...
Customer: This is a Morphy Richards 4-slice Electric Toaster box with the words “Star Wars” and “Rebellion” written on in marker pen! I’m not paying ninety pounds for THAT!
Cashier: It was worth a try; how about thirty quid...and I’ll throw in the actual toaster?
(they shake hands then speak simultaneously)
Cashier: You certainly have been! Customer: You certainly have been!
(the Cashier retrieves a solitary button from his pocket and sniggers; he presses it and a 16 ton weight suddenly crashes through the ceiling, crushing him completely; the sound of spontaneous applause breaks out)
UK Games Expo 2007 (the first one); note how Surprised Stare Games chose to celebrate their presence...
...something rare and unusual:
My Kickstarter Pledge bonus for Glory to Rome (Black Box Edition)*: $175 - MARBLE - All the benefits of "CONCRETE" support plus hand screen-printed poster signed by Heiko, handwritten letter of apology for bad art from Ed, rulebook credit as "Marble" sponsor, one foreign language edition of the game of your choice. The post to which Ed is referring can be found here: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/3777/cease-and-desist... We did meet up a couple of years later at the London Toy Fair (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/26989/toys-boys) and refrained from killing each other! Anyway, it's all water under the Bridge (Ignore Pallisades; take from anyone; take from Stockpiles too) now!
A streaker during a tense game of JamSumo, yesterday!
It wouldn't be unusual at this juncture to author several paragraphs of light-hearted sniping banter about the Ross-on-Wye board gamers: about how Jobbers did this ho-ho-ho OR how Boffo and I came to blows about that OR a self-deprecating quip WRT sulkiness and so on. However, today there shall be none of that frivolous (and slightly cruel) nonsense because last night - in The White Lion pub - the three of us (Ben, John, myself) had one of the most civilised, amicable, thoughtful, competitive and downright enjoyable games evenings in the Club's history. No, really; this isn't a wind-up or a wordy prelude to a sarcastic pay-off: it was an absolute pleasure to be in their company.
Though I'd packed a bag of goodies (Finca, A Nice Cup of Tea, La Granja), I held little enthusiasm for them after I'd seen what Ben had brought along!
Brilliant; despite a collapsing reputation engine in the last couple of turns, I remained in front...just!
Not having played anything but 'vanilla' before, I was intrigued by the two bonus tiles that appeared on top of stacks B and C: "have at least 3 green tiles = +5 Income" and "have at least five civic buildings = +3 Reputation". The latter combo-ed nicely with my secret goal of 'most contiguous civic buildings', so I kept my eyes open for greys; the public goals were also quite powerful for me as "Most Airports" and "Fewest Yellows" offered John and Ben the chance to fight over the former and gift me the latter. Ben picked up Waterfront Realty on his first action but found it wasn't particularly powerful as the game evolved because other tiles - other combinations - were earning him much more money much more efficiently! The previously-mentioned Airports came out in "Did you fix the stacks, Tony?" numbers (six, I think, in total) as did affordable greys for Yours Truly. In fact, none of us seemed to have ANY money worries at all and found the last couple of rounds needed careful financial management as we jostled to gain the 10pt "Least $" goal: I thought I'd nabbed it but John crossed five red bars in one with a "2x"-ed Redistricting Office (steal 5 population from each other player), collapsed in to negative income and lost his remaining small change!
It was a corker of a game and - as you can see by the final results (above) - an incredibly CLOSE one!
Suburbia is fucking awesome. Please stop wasting your time on 'party games' and get back to doing more stuff like this.
Love, as always, Tony
We paused to top up our drinks, then it was back in to Ben's bag (John's choice) for Courtier. The whole Tempest concept from AEG is a noble one (!) but, ultimately, has fallen upon deaf ears (no-one wants to read five pages of a thematic novella before even the component list appears in the rule book, do they?).
Pretty layout, if hard work at times; nice, tense little game.
In summary: An area control game where one can cash in matching controlled areas ('people at he King's Court') for VP-scoring cards. The area control is card-driven ('put a cube on the King', 'put a cube in any Royal Family member, 'swap two cubes' etc) and there's quite a lot of "Take that!" to it. Having the most cubes in a 'set of people' also gives you access to a bonus effect card and these will move between players and supply VERY regularly during play! Then, as scoring cards are completed, the matching areas are reset (cleared) and an Event is resolved, which fills up 'people' with neutral cubes and fully-neutral people count as 'yours' on your Turn - which makes scoring a bit easier. Whomever has scored the most points at the end is the winner.
John had a very busy game but despite placing his/messing with our cubes a great deal, didn't seem to translate this activity in to decent scoring cards; consequently, he came in last by quite a long margin, with Ben and I separated only by a single card play (in my favour). This was quite a surprise - certainly to me and to John - as I was feeling a little 'left behind' in comparison to the combos and effects firing off on the other side of the table! John, in particular, seemed quite taken aback and said little - if nothing - until we set up the closer:
A beautiful game in all aspects.
A Castle for All Seasons is very well regarded in the BGG world - quite rightly - and provided a fantastically tense finale to a splendid evening. There was nothing in it all the way through and - as you can see from the final result - nothing in it at the end; John took it on the tie-breaker (most money) but even that was just a matter of a couple of pennies! Corking stuff.
Having got some coffins in - and then published their availability and processed Paypal payments - I was ?beholden/behelded/beholded? to get them all down to the Post Office today. As regular readers will remember, visits to my local branch of the Royal Mail are fraught with financial dangers and inexplicable changes of 'rate' and 'package categorisation' on an almost minute-by-minute basis:
Scenario 1: Me: "Good day. How much to send THIS letter-sized package to the United States, please?" Operative: "Is it a letter?" Me: "It's some playing cards" Operative: "So that makes it a parcel then..." Me: "Eh?" Operative: "If it's not a 'letter' then it's a 'parcel'" Me: "Which means what?" Operative: "A letter would be £2, a parcel would be £4." Me: "What the f..? It's the same size and thickness as a letter! Operative: "But it's NOT a letter, is it?" Me: "It's 'printed paper'!" Operative: "Do you want to send it to the U.S or not? I mean, how else are you going to get it there?" (sods off for 2 hour lunch break)
Scenario 2: Me: "Good day. How much to send THIS package to the United States, please?" Operative: "£4" Me: "Great! I'll come back this afternoon with another 20 of these and we can process them in one go!" (later) Me: "Right! Hello again! I'd like to send 20 of THESE please" Operative: "They will be £5.05 each..." Me: "Eh? You told me they'd be £4 each this morning" Operative: "That's what the computer is telling me." Me: "But..." Operative: "Do you want to send them to the U.S or not? I mean, how else are you going to get them there?" (sods off for 2 hour lunch break)
Scenario 3: Me: "Good day. How much to send THIS large parcel of Christmas gifts to my daughter in New Zealand, please?" Operative: (performs arcane weighing ritual) "It's over 5KG, so that will be £90." Me: "Ninety shitting pounds?!?!?!" Operative: "Please don't swear, Sir" Me: "But...why?" Operative: "If it's over 5KG then it gets more expensive" Me: "So...if I open it and re-pack it in to TWO parcels instead..?" Operative: (looks up on reference card) "...£18 each..." Me: "£90 as ONE parcel OR a total of £36 if I split it in to two?" Operative: "Yes." Me: "...giving you an EXTRA parcel to track and manage..." Operative: "I don't make the rules. Now: Do you want to send it/them to New Zealand or not? I mean, how else are you going to get it/them there?" (sods off for 2 hour lunch break) Me: (sods off and uses iPost instead: total cost £23)
If I didn't laugh about this then I'd probably shamble down there at some point and go crazy ape bonkers with a drill and sex; thankfully, however, there was a kindly old gentleman behind the glass who saw the coffin letters for what they were ('large letters' rather than 'packages') and - FOR THE FIRST TIME IN LIVING MEMORY - Surprised Stare Games DID NOT LOSE MONEY because actual postage charges ended up unexpectedly exceeding quoted postage charges!
Postage rates are the bane of the 21st century consumer so I suspect this mild rant-age will not fall on completely deaf ears!