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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

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Four Years Ago...

Anthony Boydell
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This coming weekend marks yet another of the Paull's most excellent Games Weekends at their deluxe Cambridgeshire pile and, yet again, it won't be possible for me to attend. I miss these crowded, genial events and haven't been to one proper for a couple of years now; they always seem to coincide with family events or unavoidable household chores or both - tomorrow I have a large Skip to fill, for example.



However, browsing around the blog I happened upon the following post - 4 years ago to the day - that describes one of these weekends and - shock! - my attendance at it! Note, please, the curious mentions of prototypes for A Few Acres of Snow and Snowdonia (oh, what wonders would follow!) and my exposure to both Dominant Species and the excellent 51st State which has, of course, now transformed in to something less apocalyptic...and more cute(-ish)!

Quote:

Yesterday I was able to spend a goodly amount of time at Alan and Charlie Paull's Games Weekend, a tetra-annual gathering of friends in the sunny, picturesque wooded hills of Gloucestershire. I normally only make it for a few hours or so, on account of other commitments related to Chez Boydell but THIS TIME, after dropping No.2 daughter off for a sleepover on the way, I was on a much longer 'come home when you're done' clock!

Passing the be-felined portal, room one contained a haunted, hollow-eyed party in the middle of Dominant Species. As I popped my head round the door, there were chair shuffles and low moans as the damned gazed pleadingly at me: 'Kill Us Now...we're only half way through...'. I fail to understand the appeal of this game - expensive, a huge box of bits and pieces, ridiculously fiddly play and a running time that would impact GDP in lost man hours. Someone remarked, wittily, after Essen that everyone who paid 70 euros for this game absolutely loves it. I left the condemned to their fate - it wouldn't help to get involved and I may end up being cast into the fiery pit of tactical minutae for all eternity myself *shudder*

In the kitchen, Charlie was laying out the magnificent luncheon spread - hams, cheeses, breads, pickles...perfect timing on my part, as usual! There was also a shoulder of pork bigger than many of the guests lying in the roasting tray - scored for crackling and awaiting a full layer of lard. My guess is they took the kitchen window out to get the meat in...

In the computer room, a long table was set up for a play-test of Richard Breese' new Project (codenamed 'Inhabit The Earth'); Richard sent me the draft rules for this a few weeks ago and I was looking forward to giving it a go - only Alan Paull, Andy (Ride Me For a 100 Euros) Unwin and Richard were already in full swing. I watched the last half of the game and look forward to giving it a go myself in a week or so.

Alan and Andy departed to have a couple of games of A Few Acres Of Snow (Alan has been play-testing this), leaving Richard and myself and a yet-to-be-disclosed third – to have a go at my Mountain Railway prototype. Happily, we were joined by David Brain (Mr Key Market) and I set forth with the rules explanation. Mountain Railway is a worker placement game themed around the construction of the Snowdon, er, Mountain Railway. You excavate, forge and lay track and build parts of stations, viaducts and halts – some of which can be affected by what the weather is like in Snowdonia! I was a little worried by the frowny vibes being given off by Richard and David – I didn’t know whether they were just tired, ribbing me, displeased with the game or just totally confused! It was a very useful play-test, however; the weather element is an important thematic, and mechanical, element to the game and it still needs tweaking (as the early game gets literally and metaphorically ‘bogged down’ if you have a run of rain and/or fog!). Lots to think about.

David ran off and Simeon arrived, so we stayed where we were (because tables are at a premium) and Richard recommended we give 51st State a go. The Wycombe group has a copy of this but it’s never made it to play, so I was pleased to see what it was about – especially as Richard seems quite taken with it! It’s a card driven game in the San Juan / Race style, but there are lots of resource tokens that you gain and use as part of a number of available turn actions. A round begins with a short card draft, then players take it in turns to perform single actions until all have passed. Actions involved putting buildings into play in your tableau, setting building cards up for one-shot resource bonuses next round and/or using building cards as ‘every turn’ resource generators (VPs included). At the end of every round, spare resources are lost (unless you have storage buildings) and VP count is checked and updated. The game ends when someone has >30 points, with the most VPs winning.

It was a very satisfying experience – marrying up the multifunction cards: do I build this, use it for one shot or use it for reliable resource generation? How can I get VPs? Should I draft a card because its much better for someone else? Etc – you know the kind of thing! The art is excellent – having a sort of ‘Escape From New York’ dystopian future feel (it IS set in the Neuroshima Hex universe). Recommended as a nice, meaty filler.

Hot diggedy, but time flashed by – and while we were packing up 51st State, I glanced at my watch to see it was going home time (7.30PM). As was usual, I didn’t get to play a game with either Alan or Charlie, though I was happy to breathe their air and consume their supplies (*burp*). As I cheerily waved my farewells, I notice the Dominant Species crew had managed to finish and were n the prowl for a new kind of Hell…I suggested High Frontier or, maybe, Reiner Knizia’s Flea Circus on a perpetual loop.

Unsurprisingly, my ideas were met with the contempt they deserved.
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Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:07 pm
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I don't want to seem ungrateful, but...

Anthony Boydell
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I'm not one to scorn free stuff as there's precious little of it about these days, however (email received today):

Quote:

Congratulation Tony,
to celebrate one year of Giochistarter activities we glad yo send you a special coupon of 3 euro. You can use this bonus on Bomarzo campaign, which starts this after-noon.

To use it, you have to put the code: [CODE GOES HERE] in the corresponding input field on Shipment Options page. This bonus expires in 4 days from today and can be used only 1 time.

Best Regards
Giochix Team


Three euros? Taking a closer look, Bomarzo is a 35 euro game if you get in as an Early Bird (39 euros standard) so I suppose getting this email could save me a grand total of seven shining euros if I rush off and book it between days 1 and 4 inclusive...after which the promo code expires anyway.

I don't want to seem ungrateful, but...this doesn't seem MUCH of a first anniversary celebration! If you offer me free stuff, matey, it's gotta be some meaty free stuff like "Free delivery within the EU" OR "10 euros off" OR "...a back rub and 20 minutes having your feet nibbled clean by fish at Essen Spiel 2015".
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Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:06 pm
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NOT!

Anthony Boydell
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(we are in a conference room; several gentlemen are sat around a circular table; there are papers strewn across it. The men look tired: sleeves rolled up, sweat patches on their shirts and top buttons undone. One of them looks like Martin Wallace but, of course, it ISN'T him...just a remarkable coincidence, obviously.)

Exec 1: (scanning a stack of papers) So, we're agreed then: we get a game about 'Shipping' and one about something to do with railways...

Exec 2: (interrupting) ...or Victorian engineering in general!

Exec 1: (acknowledging this excellent point) ...OR Victorian engineering in general...

Exec 2: (interrupting) ...with black cubes and orange cubes!

Exec 3: (interrupting, sarcastically) ...obviously...

Exec 1: (trying to take control) ...with black and orange cubes and those cheap plastic discs in gold and silver...

Exec 2: (mimes being sick) Eurghhhhh!

Exec 1: ...and in return you'd like...what, exactly?

Not Martin: Well, I'd rather like some money.

(the Execs burst out laughing; they're bent double in their mirth: slapping the table, wiping the tears from their eyes etc)

Exec 1: (pulling himself together) Money, you say?

(Execs 2 and 3 continue to snort and giggle)

Not Martin: Yes please. Quite a lot of money, please.

Exec 1: Well, that's not what we had in mind...

Exec 2: (moping his brow and taking a sip of water) ...we were thinking more along the lines of (makes the air quotes sign) "royalties"

Not Martin: "Royalties"?

Exec 1: Yeah, they're a bit like money, only a 'delayed' version!

Exec 2: Inker-ah-mental...

Exec 3: ...with the emphasis on mental, as you'd have to be to accept them!

(Execs 1 and 2 loudly shush Exec 3)

Not Martin: Why can't I have money?

Exec 1: (patiently, as if speaking to a child) It doesn't work that way in this business, mate...

Not Martin: How does it work then?

Exec 1: YOU give us the game designs...

Exec 2: ...we make them and sell them...

Exec 3: ...and then we all move on to other Projects...

Exec 2: ...by mutual agreement, of course; and with best wishes all round.

Not Martin: What do I get out of it, though?

Exec 1: YOU get YOUR game published!

Exec 2: All over North America!

Exec 3: Yeah, exclusively all of North America and the rest of the world

Not Martin: Hang on! The 'rest of the world'?

Exec 1: North America? The Rest of the World? It's basically the same thing...

Exec 2: Yeah, it's the Internet that does it! Shrinks the planet, it does!

Not Martin: But I don't get any money?

Exec 1: You get our gratitude!

Exec 2: And our respect!

Exec 3: And full exposure to our Legal Team if you piss us off!

(Execs 1 and 2 loudly shush Exec 3)

Exec 3: ...which you WON'T, of course, because we LOVE your work!

Exec 2: And we love YOU!

Not Martin: (his palms to his temples, obviously letting it all sink in) So, let me get this straight: I give you my designs and, in return, you don't give me anything at all...

Exec 1: ...correct!

Not Martin: ...and when I chase up these, how you say, "royalties" you will set your Legal Team on me...

Exec 1: ...absolutely!

Not Martin: ...you will publish the games and retain all of the profits...

Exec 1: ...yes! You're getting the hang of this!

Not Martin: ...and I will have nothing?

Exec 3: Not even the shirt on your back, if you get unreasonable.

Not Martin: (considering) Hmmmmmm....

Exec 2: Would it help convince you if I say we will never return your phone calls and/or emails?

Exec 3: ...AND We could snub you at all the major conventions?

Not Martin: Would you consider offering me creative control and final art sign off without any intention of granting it?

(Execs 1, 2 and 3 exchange glances then, one-by-one, begin nodding)

Exec 1: We could go with that, yep.

Not Martin: (reaching out a hand) Then, gentlemen...you have a deal!

FIN.
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Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:55 am
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Roolz Out for Summer!

Anthony Boydell
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I'm at that Stage with Guilds of London where the rules I've been tweaking and carrying around in my head need to be gotten down, clearly, on to paper. I've been maintaining a central document (of course) but, as any fule no, what you think is 'up-to-date' is really at least a couple of versions behind the bonce-contents!

Another good reason for getting the rules down is so the remote playtesters can give their understandability, clarity and intuitiveness a good pasting; after all, I can't be at every game when it comes out to help guide players through! All they'll have is the rulebook...and Boardgamegeek (and a bit of me loitering on the Forums).

There is an odd sort of blindness that afflicts me after a certain point, which is why I have long-since passed on these duties to Mr Alan Paull. Alan, when not building immense works of Wargaming goodness OR being a Grandpa OR running Surprised Stare Games Ltd OR doing his real job, is our go-to Rules Guru; he patiently sifts drafts, asks the obvious questions, challenges unnecessary complexity and generally makes life difficult for me at such a sensitive*, pre-publication time...AND SO HE BLOODY SHOULD! After all, YOU lot will be merciless in your disassembling and your questioning! Better to get it all out of the way now, and from friendly sources, than from 'the masses', eh?

So, in a few days I hope to post up the LATEST GoL rulebook for some good-natured and well-meaning commentary...but don't expect ME to look! I'll just point everything towards the ever-implacable Alan P and go hide in a corner!

*I'm an artist, me.
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Tue Jun 23, 2015 8:12 pm
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Moanday

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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One
thing that
is abundantly clear
today is that I'd rather
be back in my garden. I'm
finding the usual whines, gripes
and moans of users and stakeholders
especially vexing because they're making
ME whine, gripe and moan in return. I'm finding
it hard to give a stuff: problems with your dashboard?
Pah, not interested! Accidentally marked a task as complete
when it's not? Talk to the hand! Meetings? Bollocks!
Documentation? F.U! On the PLUS side, I have
3.5 blind testers/reviewers taking the
time to cut and stick copies of
Guilds of London together
and so I await, with
breath a-baited,
feedback. Is
it Friday
yet?
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Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:32 pm
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Lawn

Anthony Boydell
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A Sedentary Saturday Snapshot Sunday Snippet



Under the shade of the Hazelnut tree: (some of) my Kingdom and Dominion.


After pottering about in the garden (mowing the lawn, strimming the edges etc) while the weather was glorious, I parked myself under the shade of the Hazelnut Tree with a huge glass of cordial (the friendliest of all drinks, ho-ho) and Asimov's Foundation. Pausing to bask, my thoughts returned to the growing of things and - in particular - the production of tea. I have been noodling about with the idea for a Snowdonian scenario for the Darjeeling & Himalayan Railway: the one with an agony curve and, well, plantations at the top. There are so many stations on the famous route, as the railway puffs up through the middle of town-after-town (and the middle of road-after-road), that this would have very few Track cards BUT the main thing it needs is Tea - think Snowdonia: The Daffodil Line, but you have to grow the tea first! Here's my idea: modify the excavation action to include the harvesting of Tea (tea can only be harvested if it is 'ready') and use the Excavation Work Rate track to make tea 'ready' for harvesting, as follows:

Use green cubes to represent Tea (so this is a 1-4 pl scenario)
At the Start of Game put a 1/2 tea cubes (1-2/3-4 players) in the two spaces on the Excavation work rate track to the right of the 'current rate' marker.
During the game, the cubes are adjusted according to the weather ie.
- Sun: all cubes passed/landed on by the moving marker are transferred to a 'Ready' state ie. put on to the Coal Stock Yard space for harvesting
- Rain: after the markers have moved down, put a Tea cube on each space to the right of the 'current rate' marker (it's growing!)
- Fog: Don't stock any Tea; remove a number (two?) of Tea cubes from the Stock Yard to represent decay/theft etc

There would consequently be some tweaked Contract Cards and a number of Station spaces needing a supply of tea; also, the Lay Track events would need replacing because so few track cards are in the setup.

It's all WIP, of course, and I really ought to get on with The Wye Valley Tourer scenario which, as you may have seen previously, involves the Surveyor's excessive consumption of the aforementioned, brewed-and-stewed leaf! There's plenty of time, though; the lawn won't need mowing for another week...
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Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:39 am
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Hot for Teacher

Anthony Boydell
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The thing about hot, new games is that lots of people
a) want to play them, but
b) can't get them for love nor money.

Consequently, when one is one who has (or has won) one's own copy of one, you're the go to peep to get a taste of what all the fuss is about! Having been taught Roll for the Galaxy by Surya and Myrium on their last visit to the UK, it's been my duty - since acquiring a copy at the UK Games Expo - to provide "the experience" to others. This is not a huge problem in that I am happy to play this superb (and Meeple's Choice Award winning) game BUT it is STILL a problem because every game has been a TEACHING game.

"What's wrong with that?" you may mutter, obviously envious of me having a copy of this fantastic re-boot of a true classic.

Well, how can you get a proper 'game', full of intrigue and interaction and skillful nuance, if you spend 75% of your time clarifying rules / assisting in admin / 'reminding' / all of the above? Truly, it's exhausting watching out for the flow of the game for the noobs as well as trying to do something - anything - vaguely proficient yourself*!


(Left) The boys learning RftG and (Right) the boys learning RftG


As many of you who have experienced similar will know, this investment will pay tremendous dividends in the future if the game 'sticks' with your club; then all that fussing and fretting and tireless repetition will have been worth it. My own experiences of Agricola and Glory To Rome and Libertalia testify to this but, sometimes, you do all that 'climbing' only to fall off the mountainside 30ft from the summit!

Oh, and while I'm on the subject of teaching:



*Which you absolutely HAVE to do because you want to show people how things can work well ie. demonstrate those shining game moments.
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Sat Jun 20, 2015 9:13 am
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The Big Blue Sky

Anthony Boydell
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Thursday dawned bright and full in my eyes at 0600 when I really wanted the extra hour-and-a-half. Staying in a boutique B&B, only ten minutes from work, offers the potential for something called "a lie in"; I vaguely remember experiencing something similar 21 years ago, or perhaps it was a dream? Probably an interrupted, first-thing-in-the-morning-while-it's-still-dark dream. The A.M. was fairly light on Business Analysis duties and, come midday, my To Do List was 100% struck out: it was time to make my way home.

Despite the beautiful blazingness of the afternoon, I needed to be back in time for an evening meeting; I'd have to fore-go the usual spontaneous 'lets take a look at THAT!' diversions...well, most of them, because staring at the moving tarmac for 4 hours is depressing. First stop was just outside Oswestry: a couple of road bridges span deep valleys, one of which is also crossed (just around the road's field of view) by the Llangollen Viaduct/Aquaduct (see https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/42225/llost-llangolle...). I've driven over these many times now and always caught sight of, and ignored, a disused/blocked access road leading to who-knows-where? This time I pulled over to explore:


From Left to Right: Under the Oswestry bridge; my car resting and nestling-in-nettles EXACTLY on the Wales/England
border; and Hampton Court Castle (just 20 minutes from home)


Fearful of a rogue articulated lorry running amok and smashing my Touran into the cut, I sighed a deep Summer-perfumed breath and resumed the journey. Next stop - a literally last-second hard left turn - was ninety minutes later in the outskirts of Ludlow (charming Marches Market town, awesome castle and superb Oxfam secondhand bookshop): the lush, pumping rhythms of the Blue Nile's Headlights on the Parade* and the warm air streaming through the fully-open windows sent me to Clee Hill along six miles of rising, rising-all-the-time lanes until I got a picture of Shropshire and everywhere else in a 30 mile radius:


Clee Hill Common - looking East to Kidderminster and South to Worcester. I should've brought a picnic.


It was lovely up there and reminded me of the Horseshoe Pass I curiously nosed up a few weeks ago; hot and still, wide and breathtaking. A watering stop near Hampton Court Castle (see above) was the last break in momentum before crunching the gravel drive of Chez Boydell; welcoming hugs duly dispensed, there were some packages waiting in the Library room:


From Left to Right: Huzzah, it's that time of the month again; oooh, first edition (my trade PB is missing, so...);
and my M80 Kickstarter pack**


The M80 stuff is curious and wonderful - they're Taiwanese and Japanese games - but, for most of the decks I cannot find ANY rules...at least not yet!

*Just brilliant:


**all purchased before my Commerce Junkie rant, I hasten to add!
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Fri Jun 19, 2015 10:51 am
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Let's not wish for the Moon(gha) when we have the Stars

Anthony Boydell
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Oh dear...and to think we were expecting our copies of Moongha Invaders: Mad Scientists and Atomic Monsters Attack the Earth! THIS year soblue One day Martin is going to have a bit of luck and we will ALL, truly, have cause to rejoice #deathbyathousandcuts

Re: shipping


Europe. Slightly more difficult. 40-50 days estimated shipping but issues with the weight of the game. It has turned into a hefty 2.5kg which means that our usual UK fulfillment company, Spiral Galaxy Games, are not going to be able to ship outside of Europe unless by private courier, which I am aware is a problem in some countries and a problem for Treefrog Games paying shipping costs!
I am talking to a Chinese fulfillment company who also have a base in Germany as to the feasibility of them taking over Europe and the rest of the world...will update when I know more.
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Thu Jun 18, 2015 8:41 am
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Nant & Deck

Anthony Boydell
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While waiting for the startlingly-early traditional-up-here 1830HRS start, I'd parked up in a shady portion of the grounds and gorged on my bi-monthly fried chicken treat whilst browsing SFX and listening to Simon Callow (excellently) reading Animal Farm*. Things were intimate at The Nant, Prestatyn for some Wednesday gaming; just Paul, myself, Lee, Jeremy and Mark, cut-off in a disco-floored annex with no ventilation for the evening. The corner bar was festooned with salt cellars and the chairs smothered with stretch fabric as if they were embarrassed to show their legs.

To open the session, Paul's recent Expo-obtained copy of Roll for the Galaxy was tabled and, though I thought I'd remembered it from a few weeks back, it took a good five or six rounds before it was fixed again in my brain. I pipped Mark in the first game courtesy of some beefy Reassignment developments and then out-settled Paul in the second thanks to Alien goods. Mind you, those little plastics cups don't half amplify the rattle-factor of the dice; man, you could see the windows shaking in their frames and stray children pressed their noses against the glazed partitions in curiosity at the racket.

Paul was somewhat under-the-weather and suffering, so he decided to leave around 8PM; this left us four to take a punt at Guilds of London - certainly Jeremy had expressed a preference at my last visit. What was so pleasing (again) was the proving of the intuitiveness of the icons on the cards and tiles; after a brief component description and rules explanation, we were able to get right on with things. Experience proved only a bit of an advantage, however, because despite my excellent five-out-of-six scoring Reward cards, Jeremy was just the single point behind. Indeed, my rookie mistake of putting a man on the Plantation just to watch him die** and, thus, nix my 'No Men In General Supply' bonus almost cost me dear!

Ninety minutes, and 12 rounds, of Guilds-ing in the asphyxiating function room had given me thinky-headache, so it was out in to the still-light seaside night for the gentle drive back to Llandudno.

*I plan on paying blog homage to this extraordinary piece of literature at some point in the near future.
**We know a song about this don't we, children?
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Thu Jun 18, 2015 6:37 am
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