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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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Off the Grid and then back on it again!

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
Unspecified
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By the fluorescent mirkin of Friedeman Friese, but its ‘cold out’ and no mistake. Great Britain (yes – it’s STILL great) is caught in the grip of a Siberian gust that’s freezing everything and anything not wrapped in fabric or stapled to a shaggy dog. Luckily, the inhabitants of High Wycombe – my place of temporary residence in the middle of the week – had the foresight to clear the roads of powdery snow before it hardened into a suitable Winter Olympics venue; while it might SEEM like fun to be bob-sleighing down a frosty A-road (hence the ‘High’ in it’s name) with your scarf trailing, it’s not so much when you’re in a VW Polo with the automobilic equivalent of a glass jaw! Anyway, I mention the roads because it let us pop over to CC’s place for some dobber-shoving action without fear of stranding, slipping or vehicular-abandonment – just needed to put on an extra pair of socks, that is all.

Tuesday night
...saw an early arrival for The Beard and myself, the former trailing medicinal bottles of ale. With Mrs C joining us for games, and her two daughters still up, I convinced the group to try out a recently-exhumed Boydell protoype from the earliest days (we’re talking mid-90s, while I was still happy to play a round of Monopoly or cajole a drunken friend party into a ‘Team Triv Pursuits’ ie. before my Damascene conversion by way of *gulp* Magic: The Gathering). The game is titled ‘Ecology’ – a terrible, terrible name – and is a family-oriented, card driven light affair themed on clearing the Earth of pollution and then returning animals to (clean) habitats; all for points and the first one to a set total = winner.

The turn sequence is very simple:
- Draw
- Remove a Pollution from where you are
- Play card(s) and/or move
- Discard down to 4 cards

Plays 2-5 in about 30-45 minutes. I’ve been trying to beef up the core of the game ie. remove the luck of what cards you draw from the shared deck without making it too complex – after all, I’m DELIBERATELY wanting this to be accessible in an ‘old me’ type of way ie. something my Dad would pick up and get something out of. I’m basically content with the look and feel of the game and now have a few more mild-spice ideas. BTW, Chantelle stole the win from the rest of us. Apparently, this diversion has inspired the girls to try and design their own game...job done, I think!

Next up, while we waited for the delivery of the traditional Chinese supper, Richard broke out The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game – recent inspirer of the filmic re-watches, it was fun to try this one out as a 4-player. Clumping of locations and monsters lead to an interesting pace – Carl ever keen to kick bad-guy butt with his ‘armoured dwarf’ (that is NOT a euphemism) while Mrs C concentrated on doing the questing, I swooned over Aragorn and Faramir (they’re SO rugged) and Richard did stuff with his cards (lots of exhausting, healing and stuff). We played the intro scenario – you know, just to give a flavour and a gentle start – and took a bit of a beating before making it out the other side. It’s a game that gives a lot of tension – certainly with the pre-built starter decks – and I wonder how satisfying it all becomes if you set up some more rare-driven, combo-tastic decks? Are we just back to power RPG-ing again?

Supper consumed, we progressed to the main event for the night: Power Grid. Carl, bless his enormous Y-fronts, has been bleating for weeks - like an especially whine-y ram stuck in a car door - about how he wants to play this more, how it’s his favourite game, how we keep bullying him into playing Agricola etc etc. To ease him back into his Frieseian addiction, I suggested the Japan board (mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) – long, thin and with some slightly-confusing rules about double 10 starter cities, 10/15a and 15/20s. The usual bidding, resource buying, turn-order manipulation shenanigans ensued but it was fairly clear by the mid-game that Richard and I were better placed (a couple of 5/6 city power stations were purchasable early). It was also very audibly clear, from the direction of aforementioned Ovine-resembling PG superfanboy, that he wasn’t enjoying this return to Electro-heaven: sulking into his windmills and huffing about ‘never getting a chance to buy a big one’.

In the end, Richard made one good decision more than me (I ducked out of an auction I should’ve stayed in on) and garnered the laurels. I’m happy to play the game and doubly-happy to have come second (STILL no win for me at this), with Elizabeth third and Carl fourth...actually, score-wise Carl was third but, for moral reasons, after feeding Elizabeth some VERY dodgy station-purchase advice near the finish, I’ve switched the order*.

The post-match analysis, always fun when Richard’s had a beer and Carl’s feeling hard done by, provided the tetchy soundtrack to our departure...not QUITE as tetchy as my telephone call with the missus earlier that evening when I grabbed the wrong end of the stick firmly and waved it about like a pompous arse for 10 minutes (much to the surprise and mild-embarrassment of the assembled company); I retracted my nonsense, apologized for being a twonk and made it up with my better half tootie-sweety.

Wednesday night
...equally cold and nut-shrivelling of climate, saw just liddle-ole-me bim-bim-bimming across town to the big man’s abode. The Beard was at his works leaving do and, by later accounts, was quite stunningly ‘refreshed’ before 6PM! He certainly seemed quite ‘philosophical’ when I picked him up from the train station around 11!

Carl, Mrs C and myself were left to the quiet joys of ANOTHER Boydell protoype (“Darjeeling Mountain Railway” – a spin-off from Snowdonia which involves cube-shifting up and down the Himalayas) followed by a couple of games of the splendidly colourful, thematic and only-a-little-chaotic Discworld: Ankh-Morpork. Frustratingly, I managed to be hammered with Fools Guild and Whiteface taking my card-drawable potential to only 3 per turn which rarely happened anyway because I usually had >6 cards in hand at any point anyway (playing one card per turn = piss-poor) – still, I managed a creditable second place behind the disruptive (and Moist Von Lipwig-abusing) Mrs C with a grumbling ‘man of the house’ clattering along in last place like a Morris dancer with a broken leg. The second game was far more successful for the big, moany one – he rightfully abused the lucky draw of multiple interrupts and established a money engine that kept him fully in control of the board until the deck ran out and he won with Commander Vimes! Some dignity salvaged for the man mountain at the very last!

Cold it may have been outside, but the cockles of my heart have remained toastingly-warmed!

*it’s my party and I’ll lie if I want to
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