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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In Cider

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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Day One
The village of Much Marcle has little to distinguish it from any other English rural community save, in the Summer, the descending of Traction Engines and the vast consumption of the fermented apple. In November, midst the cool fog and the early dark, its almost completely lost...as were out-of-County visitors Richard ‘The Beard’ Clyne and Carl ‘Bigman’ Crook. In the usual solution to generic geographic amnesia, they drove up and down the same piece of road repeatedly, texted everyone on their contact list and (this is pure conjecture) moaned a bit.

Tony ‘Part-Timer’ Boydell kissed his family a fond farewell and drove the small car laden with big crates to the country pile, by way of the off-licence, that would be his temporary home for the next 24 hours.

Cidercon 2011 is a small gathering of Herefordshire locals (with other, more distant, guests) holding its inaugural meeting in the home of John ‘Mr Primula’ Plant and his wife, Gail*. Already perusing the skip-loads of boxes, cartons, baggies and hold-alls upon Tony’s arrival were: David and Ali from Maidenhead (old friends of the cream cheese-obsessed hosts), Ben ‘More Tea, Vicar?’ Bateson, Anne and Sam (sometime Ross-on-Wye attendees), the aforementioned Beard and Big Man and (for one night only) Ian M.

Some were mid-chilli, so the non-eaters (Ben, Tony, Anne and Sam) gathered up their Haribo and Pringles and set about a quick Old Men Of The Forest. Much huff-age from the ‘man of tea’ about Wallace’s Charity trick-taker with no-one being able to explain, particularly, what you should be trying to do, when you should be doing it and (possibly) why bother in the first place. Tony quite liked it but couldn’t really argue on its behalf, Anne was concussed by the simple rules and unfathomable strategy (yet still won) and Sam didn’t say anything at all.

Somewhat in the style of a slow ‘yeeeeeeeeesssssss’, they declined a second run at it and, instead, let Tony pull Last Will from it’s packaging. A much more enthusiastic and game-y response followed this Brewster’s Millions meets Go For Broke brain-stresser. Sam set himself up in a wonderful mansion which he then maintained with glorious enthusiasm with a pair of expensive gardeners, the rest of us unable to squander those last few pounds to take us into debt.

The Batester and Tony split from the group to be joined by Bigman for a couple of runs at Discworld: Ankh Morpork; a colourful, chaotic but accessible implementation of Pratchett’s triumphal creation. D:AM proved enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure. I like a nice bit of randomness (y’forced to) and I can see this getting a lot of play with lighter social groups (families, Bible Reading Classes, post-op Transsexual Psych sessions etc) but put this in front of more serious dobber-pushers and you’re going to be deafened by the whining.

Day Two-ish
With Friday now Yesterday (and the previous Tomorrow become Today), it was necessary for Anne and Sam to depart. In honour of all back-woods, countryside and remote habitations everywhere (Much Marcle might be twinned with Mommalovin’, Alabama), by ‘depart’, the Cidercon group meant ‘disposed of’ (by which they also meant ‘dealt with’, ‘taken care of’, ‘exported’ and so on). To this end, John had kindly arranged for an in-bred, banjo-playing serial killer to stay in the village (not at the Cidercon venue as they were all a bit tight for beds – at least on the first night) and I’m sure we’ll never hear of this genial pair ever again.

With the hour still respectable (and ale-consumption having reached a steady, but non-aggressive, plateau), it was behooven to Bigman, Tony, The Beard and the Batester to give Glory To Rome and then Agricola a customary revving (vroom, vroom, beep, Ave! Moooooooo!). A 4/3 split on EIK/Gamer deck draft was followed by a quick, but not hurried, 'game of farms' containing the usual collections, conversions, minor blockings and ‘ting. Tony missed (completely) the purchase of the last oven which cost him victory against The Beards 20-point ‘Tavern’ bonus, with Bigman a creditable third backed up by The Batester in a disappointing last position (40-36-33-25); if prizes were being awarded for ‘blaming ones opening hand’, however, Ben would’ve been an unassailable Champion!

Most right-headed, thinking folk would have called it a night at that point but wait! No! Anyone up for a quick game of Power Grid: First Sparks? It’ll only take an hour or so...if you follow the proper rules, of course! Tony, Mr Primula (our host, remember?), Maidenhead Dave and Bigman relocated to the much-brighter kitchen table with the Part-Timer explaining the half-remembered rules of play with Bigman chipping in like some kind of interrupting man-mountain. Both forgot the key ‘harvest restock’ rule of ‘Base Value for the Number of Players PLUS THEIR AVAILABILITY ON THE BOARDS’ – this meant that food restocked far too slowly, that it ran out all of the time and expanding one’s tribe took almost as long as the bloody Ice Age. Two hours in and Mr Cream-Cheese finally (FFS, finally!) sneaks a thirteenth caveman into play and we can all breath a collective Paleolithic sigh of relief.

To bed then? Yes? Surely, it’s nearly FOUR IN THE MORNING!!! Well, Bigman went...but the rest of us hung on to watch a couple of YouTube viral clips (Cops with Guns, shouting and shouting and shouting: “Where’s the little girl?” etc). By the time Tony was snuggling under the duvet on a rippling air-bed, Bigman was snoring like a back-firing pick-up truck at an Amplified Lion Roaring competition – only discovering the ear-plugs on the window-sill the next morning.

(Ian M disappeared betwixt Agricola and a 5AM, post-St Petersburg, closing time - presumably gathered into the viscera-coated caress of the hacking maniac?)

Day Two (fo’ sho)
The kitchen was a quiet and gentle locale come 0930HRS as a few drifted in and out for cornflakes and a beverage. The Batester and Mr SqueezyCheese were still out for the count as the bijou groupette discussed this and that for a while then, after a mench of PG:FS's venerable ‘parent’, we decided a group attack at basic Power Grid was the order of the Morn. Ben emerged, mid-rules explanation, in time to take a large milkless tea and ‘the sixth colour’ (blue): Bigman was victorious (by 2 elektro)then Beard, Ben, David & Tony (tied) and Ali at the end (two solid hours later). During the game, Jean De La Fromage Plus Doux joined La Cuisine-based congregation and plied us with buttered toast and marmite for the duration – splendid fun!

The Beard went for a shower leaving a short time for Tony to utterly-crush Ben into the Civilizational dust in a quick 2pl Innovation – not as soul-destroyingly epic a defeat as Ben’s recent 43-0 Agricolean loss at the hands of his spouse, but pretty close in the “Wow! You’d think you’d never played this at all…or any games whatsoever!” stakes.

Like the feeling I’m getting writing up this report (and you, no doubt, as visual consumers), many of the attendees were beginning to flag and this was reflected by a period of tetchy indecision as ‘the next games’ were proposed, veto-ed, poo-poo-ed and ‘meh’-ed (farewell ‘Princes of Florence’). Eventually, we settled upon a 4-way Welcome to Walnut Grove and a ménage a trois with Key Harvest...talking of ‘menages’, Mrs Ben Bateson arrived - five minutes in - on a timer of three or so hours. Mrs B’s blog-al reputation precedes her (she’s better known as the rampant Smudge in this august organ) – she seemed to satisfy the probes of the assembled throng after vigorous intercourse (I’m sure she lapped it up, really).

The Batester (Mr), Beard and Tony launched into Key Harvest with as much gusto as can be mustered with a stomach full of muddy tea, yeast extract and five hours of kip. KH is a smooth and thoughtful affair – my own ‘thanks for play-testing’ copy had been languishing on the shelf for a couple of years – and the final result was a satisfyingly close: 29 (Ben), 28 (Tony) and 25 (Richard). The events mix things up a bit (sometimes infuriatingly so), but the meat of the game is the 'price setting' for tiles...a sweet game in a very sweet series!

Now Tony really was on the home straight – with only a couple of hours left on his Exeunt, and daylight failing fast (always the advantage for any mutilatory stalker who might be lurking in the Marcle bushes), there was just time for a terrible (P&P) Car Tricks followed by some rules tweaks and a less-terrible (P&P) Car Tricks and the wonderful Braggart to finish.

Tony managed to escape, in the manner of Jamie Lee Curtis**, the attentions of the Cidercon maniac and returned home for spicy sausages, a log fire and the Wembley Arena edition of Strictly Come Dancing. You can find out what happened for the rest of Cidercon elsewhere ([geekurl=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/6095/friday-november-18th-and-saturday-19th-and-sunday]HERE[/geekurl]) but it really wasn’t as good without me!

*many thanks to this fantastic duo for putting us up so comfortably – encore!

**only he’s got bigger tits
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