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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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Laboratory Conditions

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
Unspecified
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The laboratory* was wreathed in aromatic, silver tobacco smoke as the gathered Academics – white coats neatly pressed and breast pockets appropriately be-penned – sucked on their corncobs pensively, enjoying a rough shag with their fellows. The low mumble of pre-experimental chit-chat was punctuated by the occasional ‘tap-tap’ of bowl against ash-tray, hacking expectoration or the wheezing whistle of good pipe-cleaning ‘blow’.

Professors Alan Paull and Tony Boydell, clip-boards at the ready and nibs pinched in anticipation, welcomed the assembled scholastic body to the first Ross-on-Wye “new technology prototype assessment review”. In attendance were, in no particular order, the following luminaries:

- Doctor Benjamin ‘Boffo’ Bateson (PhD, BSE and TTFN) – Lecturer in Light to Medium Board Games at the White Lion, Ross-on-Wye.

- Miss Rebecca ‘Smudge’ Bateson (BSc Hons in Quantum Pork Snacks) – currently working under Dr Boffo Bateson. Custodian of the Car Keys.

- Visiting Professor Sir Richard Smok-Hirsute (PhD in Economic Engines in Train Games and Bar)

- Doctor John Fussion-Plant (Emeritus Professor of Fermented Apple Studies and combined Cream Cheese Recipes at Marcle College)

On the agenda this evening was a first stressing of Mr Paull’s recently-engineered heavyweight material (Origins of Civilization) and, if time permitted, a pre-accreditation bench-marking of the compound Snowdonia (formerly Mountain Railway). As with any rigorous session of probing, liberal lubrication is recommended and the professors made sure that all parties were sufficiently 'whet' before commencement.

Professor Paull unsealed his item from its casing and provided an intimate lecture as to the material’s evolution, structure, variations and mechanisms. This being the first run at a full-five frontal assault, protective clothing was recommended (in case of shrapnel / fall-out / negative feedback).

The lengthy introduction dispensed with, experimentation ensued and a profitable / productive session it turned out to be. Each assistant is attempting to control and/or influence actions performed by a number of thematically-distinct clans as they emerge, blinking and semi-naked, out of pre-history and into the growing light of knowledge and technological/cultural development (summary: it’s a Civ game – only it ENDS when all the other Civ games begin…).

Seeding of people in the clans, of different types and in different quantities, allows clans to progress – each progression is good for the clan leader and good for the player who initiated that progression...and it’s even better if those two are one and the same! The material has that thinky Euro feel and, within the current molecular structure, allows for both screwage AND co-operation (it depends on the circumstances as to which of those two paths a player might take) – unfortunately, the system proved rather unstable with so many observers (Heisenberg again?) and planning outside of one’s turn was mostly a fruitless exercise.

Happily, the gathered illuminati very much enjoyed the experiment and the Professor had enough information from each of our logbooks to take back to his laboratory for further evaluation – expect a paper in Nature in the mid-term!

Next (and last) to the table, for a thorough pumping, was Professor Boydell’s recently re-titled Snowdonia**, a worker placement building game set in the weather-beaten Welsh mountains that just happens to have a railway in it. Players compete to build elements of the Snowdon Mountain Railway – clearing the route, laying track, building stations and passing loops etc.

Resources are collected and, in some cases, converted for final use/allocation. Work packages (bonus cards) are collected and, if satisfied, provide further points at the end of the game. Play is impeded / improved by a mechanism representing the Welsh weather and an Event system means the game will continue to play to the end even if the players get a little way-laid. The system under test is almost-certainly the final one – the Professor sat out and wanted to watch the flow as an observer.

Pleasingly, despite a miserable run of weather compared to other tests, players settled in to their own personal goals and the result was a close victory for Sir Richard (110) ahead of Professor Paull (102) (both of whom have encountered this Project before) with Dr Bateson coming a creditable third (with 88) after deciding to ignore any metal-related activity whatsoever – an unusual and brave, if ultimately fruitless, tactic. Only Doctor Plant seemed a little distracted – perhaps it was the lateness of the hour, or having to sit to the left of Sir Richard who kept taking spectacularly-combotastic actions?

The cold February night greeted an exhausted Bunsen*** with temperatures of minus 4 nipping at one’s pipette, shrinking one’s mercury and rosying one’s nosey.

*a corner table in the back-room of the King’s Arms, Newent
**much more detail to come on the BGG page for this very soon
***the collective noun for academics and experimentologists
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