John Shepherd(MrShep)United Kingdom
Just a quickie from me today; Ben Maddox’s new project (in collaboration with The Dice Tower) is live. It’s a YouTube show where — instead of being a boardgaming content creator, interviewing other boardgaming content creators, about the act of boardgame content creation. He actually — now hold on to your hats folks, this might come as a bit of a shock — SPEAKS TO A GAME DESIGNER. ABOUT MAKING GAMES!
Revolutionary stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Please watch, like, share, amplify and elevate this. We absolutely need more of this in Board Game media. And less of the other nonsense.
In other news: the Golden Geek nominations are open. That game about a train going up a welsh mountain had a new expansion out last year, which appears in the noms list. I'm sure there used to be somebody around these parts who would remind us whenever things like this happened... so I just thought I’d mention it
Nominations link: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2639250/15th-annual-golden-...
It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...
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There’s a point where you realise that you keep making the same, seemingly-stupid mistake in typing a web site address.
“booardgamegeek. boaordgamegeek. Hey… wait a minute… didn’t that happen yesterday too? And the day before. Am I losing the fundamental ability to type here, or does it mean…”
Alas, after 3 years of pounding this nonsense out to you day after day, it would appear that my poor, much-abused laptop keyboard has developed a fault. Well… more specifically… the “O” key now has a tendency to double-register. In a somewhat annoying doesn’t-do-it-every-time sort of way, and sometimes … if I’m typing particularly quickly … I can even manage to get another letter in before the second “o” appears.
The sudden need for continual correction of my typing is… as you would expect… a right pain in the arse.
Alas, popping the keycap off (definitely not POOPING the keycap off!!) has revealed nothing obviously mechanically wrong or gummed-up beneath. It’s a butterfly keyboard … a super-thin keyboard mechanism which was once hailed as being a revolutionary breakthrough in keyboard design … right up until the point where it was discovered that it wasn’t, actually, a particularly revolutionary breakthrough in keyboard design, because it has an appallingly high failure rate, and they don’t make them like this any more. On the bright side… that stupidly-high failure rate means that apple will replace/repair them for free. On the downside … I’ll have to schlep over to an apple store, and likely be without the laptop for at least 24 hours. Given the fact that UK shops are opening for the first time in months from tomorrow (or “toomorrow” as my poor, broken computer has just helpfully interjected), and will likely be crazy-busy …and the fact that I haven’t had my nanobots injected for quite long enough to give me baseline plague immunity yet … I’ll probably just struggle on with the dodgy keyboard for a bit longer. So please forgive any extraneous vowels which slip through over the next week or two.
“Customer Service” has, however, been a bit of a reoccurring theme for me this week, with not one, but TWO replacement game parts turning up in the post.
You might recall that a couple of weeks ago I bemoaned the mangled envelope that my Button Shy board game of the month package arrived in. Well… that very same day (coincidence, I’m sure) I got a despatch note from Button Shy for a replacement, which has now arrived. I’m glad I made a fuss; the enclosed 9-card mini game — The Forest Watch — (which was missing from my original package) is way more interesting that I expected.
At first glance (lots of fantasy-trope-anthropomorphised cats and mice with visible hitpoint tracks) you’d be forgiven for assuming that this is going to be a typical dice-chucking push-your-luck fantasy skirmish affair. But — mechanically — it’s actually a very clever, open information, zero-randomness solo logic puzzle. Each turn you move one of your little mousy heroes into the semi-circle of feline protagonists, and then resolve a bunch of card interactions based on that little half-clock-dial of icons and numbers depicted at the top of each card. It’s an interesting puzzler. Not one that I’d come back to again and again … but definitely worth a few plays. The game started its journey as an entry to a BGG 9-card print and play contest here on BGG, and the 1-page card sheet is still available to download, if you have nothing better to do this afternoon
And secondly… my Kingdom Death Spidicules saga came to a close! You might recall me mentioning that my Spidicules expansion came with a missing sprue (I had too many spider legs, and not enough survivor parts). Well, despite the fact that there was an 18 month gap between me buying this expansion, and actually noticing that something was missing from the box, KDM’s support operation sprang into action and sent out replacement parts.
By DHL express.
I’ve got no idea how expensive DHL express is vs regular air-mail … but, the replacement package was on my doorstep — New York to deepest darkest Northumberland — within a couple of days. Wow!
At which point I would have been shouting the praises of KDM support from the rooftops … except… they sent me the wrong part. More spider legs! I mean, it wasn’t my fault that they shipped the wrong bit — I was very clear in my explanation of what was missing — but it did feel a little bit awkward, after the excellent response to the first replacement request, to go back again and ask for more.
it’s probably karma that the second replacement part (not sent through DHL express this time… but you can kind of forgive them for that) got caught up in some covid-related shipping issue and took nearly a month to get through the US postal system. However, last weeek (weeek? … you know what? I think my “e” key might be playing up now too!!) the package finally made it through. And it turns out that they simply shipped me a full silk armour kit this time, rather than the specific sprue that was missing (RRP: $40). I’ll definitely not complain about that. So… yeah … awesome customer service there. Good stuff!
Oh… the pink dice? A purchase which arrived the same day, in a separate box, shipped in the same consignment by pure co-incidence. Which reminds me… I still owe you a post on my KDM dice-collecting obsession, don’t I?
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The Shed has gone. It’s barely been a week … but my favourite corner of BGG — the user blogs — already feels like a very different place. I mean, I still check in here each morning … to make sure that whatever auto-scheduled post I’d intended to appear that day did actually appear (not always a given!) and whether it’s picked up any thumbs yet … but the excitement of coming here as “reader”, rather than a “writer”, is definitely somewhat dulled.
Not — I hasten to add — because the other writers in the BGG blogosphere aren’t perfectly entertaining; there’s a handful that I follow daily, and it’s interesting to check in on their thoughts and musings. But if there was a reason why BGG was the very first web site that I opened up each and every day — a reason why I even discovered the subscription feature of BGG — then that reason would be: Every Man Needs a Shed. Joined, for a stretch of time, by It Beats Watching TV … two blogs with a gloriously-british-humoured perspective on board gaming, board gaming culture, and … well… just life in general, really.
And when things like this disappear… it’s a loss.
Because… to be frank…the board game media landscape of 2021 is — for the most part — a tide of un-opinionated, infomercial-grade, cookie-cutter sh*te, delivered by an endless parade of gurning wannabe-youtube-famous presenters with perma-smiles, interestingly-coloured hair, and nothing to really say. By comparison, there’s only a tiny proportion of un-filtered, critical, rough-around-the-edges and occasionally-but-forgivably-flawed commentary in this hobby … and THAT’S why I love(d) the shed. And also because… well… because it could be really bloody funny at times too. Many’s the morning that my day would be started with a shed-related LOL. Even in the barren times of 2020/2021 (take it from one who knows first-hand: it is far, FAR harder to produce this kind of thing daily than it used to be … I’ve definitely struggled) you could rely on something popping up at the shed to keep you amused over your breakfast toast.
And yeah, sometimes Tony went too far. I don’t think anybody was massively surprised when he got kicked off BGG for few weeks that time that The Shed featured a photograph of an erect penis wearing a Trump wig. And then some spectacularly-misjudged stubbornness over a meme doing the rounds of board game twitter last year spiralled into a situation that it should never, ever have become (I fear Mr B is still experiencing the mental health fall-out from that episode. Possibly way harder than his persecutors appreciate).
But this morning I realised that … for the first time in as long as I can remember … I hadn’t tuned into BGG as my first-website-of-the-day.
Why? Well… I guess I didn’t have a post-in-flight to go and tend to … and it wasn’t like there’d be a shed post to lure me in this morning.
Odd feeling, that.
Everybody needs a shed.
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Well, let’s face it… if you bought a limited-edition Easter-themed re-skin of a game -- which lives in a special Easter Egg-shaped box -- then you’re going to have to get it out every Easter …aren’t you?
So Oh My Goods (“Royal Eggs” edition) was back on the table on Monday
And I had way more fun with this than I was expecting to. I mean… I remember it being a reasonably good game … but I can’t ever remember playing a game of OMG where my resource-producing engine slotted together quite as well as it did this time around.
You don’t have a lot of wriggle room in OMG; it’s very lean. Nine(ish) rounds doesn’t give you the leeway to just-build-what-you-fancy and hope it all churns out points in the final reckoning — you really need to get focussed on a production strategy very quickly, or all of the high-price, impressive-looking buildings will just slide through your hand without stopping …taunting you with their loveliness, but never getting (usefully) built.
Your ability to get the necessary infrastructure out isn’t something that comes easily until you have a few games under your belt (and definitely isn’t helped by leaving slightly-too-long between plays! *ahem*). However, this time… for maybe the first time… we both seemed to get some really decent production chains up and running in time for the end game. And when you do that — and get to execute some “big” resource-transforming plays — then… yeah… Oh My Gods definitely steps up to a new level of gaming gratification.
So much so that I’m eyeing up my copy of Longdale in Revolt again. I mean, I know I said exactly the same thing when we had a spell of (Easter) Oh My Goods around this time last year… but I think its moment to shine might finally have come.
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Regular readers will be aware that I very rarely feature guest posts. (And, frankly, once you've seen what it is, you'll probably wish that I featured them even more rarely) ... but, apparently, as Mr Boydell was hammering the last couple of nails into the steel shuttering on the shed door, he remembered that he still had one or two pieces of business outstanding.
So, with that in mind, I present to you: shitgamerpun 118 -- the prize(?) piece in the 2021 Jack Vasel Memorial Fund auction. Congratulations Steve!
And in addition to this fine(?) piece of art, a small note regarding a new kickstarter from Paul "Mr Handycon" Harris. Having met (and played the wares of) the aforementioned Mr Harris, I am more than a little intrigued. Well worth a look, I think. Over to Tony...Tony Boydell wrote:...well... this little lot saved me having to think up a proper blog topic for today, didn't it? Thanks Tony!Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all and sup from the fizzy barrel of Scrumpy goodness from my pal Paul Harris:
I wrote about it HERE; but don't just take MY word for it, have a listen to this thin bloke (50 minutes in):
It's really rather good, you know.
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Bank holiday Monday. I couldn’t remember if we’d planned to do the usual monday-night-online-gaming sesh in face of the bank Holiday or not … but a quick check in with the chaps suggested that at least some of us had nothing better to do that evening. So that’s what we did.
First up: Snowdonia, with the somewhat-new-to-Yucata Daffodil line. Daffodils? Spring? … seemed vaguely appropriate
Fate was not on my side with this game. The white cubes tore through the board at breakneck speed … and frustratingly managed to snatch away the one-big-play-I’d-been-building-up-to at the very last second. That’s Snowdonia, I guess. And yes, that’s me placing 3 surveyors in the final round. And no, it wasn’t a mis-click -- that was pretty the only thing I had left in the bag to scrape a few extra points in arrived-all-too-quickly final reckoning. Still came last though.
Bah. Stupid game. Who suggested playing that one?
(Urm… oh yes. It was me. And of course I love it really )
Snowdonia was followed by a “first time we’ve tried this one online” play of Marrakech, as something light to round off the evening with.
Even without the tactile pleasures of tiny felt carpets to play with, this is a jolly enough version. Marrakech is a fun game. It does, by nature, kind of play on auto-pilot for 75% of the time … but the 25% that requires brain intervention … well… that’s enough to make it work. And you can’t help but feel a triumphant sense of glee when somebody moves onto a particularly high-scoring bit of your carpet, and the money flows in your direction. I enjoyed this.
…and it was over so quickly that (despite Board Game Arena’s very best attempts to crash) we managed to squeeze in a quick game of 6 Nimmt! before we bade our farewells. 6 Nimmt! with 3 players? Does that even work?
With the expert mode… (3 players = play with cards numbered 1 to 34) …. yeah, it sort of does. Way better than you might expect. I mean, perhaps not quite as well as it works with 4 players … but, no complaints here. It still managed to be satisfying in all the ways that 6 Nimmt! usually is. Good stuff* * * * * * *
All in all, I had a good Easter for board gaming. In addition to the games mentioned above, I still have a few others to blog about, played face to face with Mrs Shep -- though I do try to shy away from making every day a post of “Today I played X, and it was nice”. Because… seriously… do people really want to read a blog that only says that kind of thing, day in and day out? I’m sure I wouldn’t.
Speaking of blogs which very much don’t do that kind of thing: it would appear that Tony Boydell quietly left his shed, and hung up his blogging trousers (for at least a while) over the weekend. With … to be fair… a mic dropped so softly and carefully (so as not to anger the moderators) that I’m not sure that many even people noticed. I’m sad to see the shed … the reading of which has been a regular fixture in my daily routine for way too many years now — and which has obviously been a big influence on my own path into blogging — go off-air.
I’ll probably write more on this when I’ve had time to reflect. I had a short chat with Tony this morning, and understand his reasons. Everything you need to know is in his last couple of posts. (And for sake of clarity: all his own choice, not a ban).
I normally end my posts with the little green sheep icon, asking you to click the like button. Instead, today, I’d urge you to go and read Tony’s last post, and amplify that one instead. Even if you normally skip the FLGS episodes (YOU FOOL!) ...it deserves it.
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Forget your fancy speckled eggs, your neoprene scoreboards, your 3d-printed birdhouse action markers, the deluxe start player token you bought off etsy, and the hand-painted laser-cut all-new dice tower that you can't even fit in the game box....
...because THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is the new must-have Wingspan accessory!
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Does a thing that you really bought with the intention of playing with multiple players still, spiritually, sit on your shelf of shame if you’ve only ever managed to play the solo version?
Maybe. I got a copy of Petrichor back in a sale, in mid-2019 … and although it then went into my game bag for a couple of trips to Newcastle Gamers, I could never raise enough enthusiasm amongst the crowd there to get it played. So -- apart from a short dalliance with the solo version -- it’s stayed on the shelf.
...Until yesterday, that is. When Mrs Shep spotted it on said shelf, and expressed an interest. (“Nature” boardgames definitely seem to be a thing that appeals to Mrs Shep at the moment). And… well… it doesn’t take much to goad me into playing a game when somebody expresses a random interest in something in my collection. Especially if it’s been sitting on the shelf-of-almost-shame for so many months
For those of you who haven’t encountered Petrichor before… it’s a bit of an odd one. You play cards from your hand which depict an assortment of weather conditions (which I didn’t really manage to get into the photos here, oops!) … which allow you to load raindrops into little cardboard “clouds”, nudge them around a modular board depicting various types of crop, and then rain your drops down on the aforementioned crops to score points. There are some clever thematic things about two clouds merging into one whenever they collide — often increasing the payload of the “merged” cloud to a point where they’re likely to burst and instantly disgorge their entire contents onto the land below … and all the different crops have their own quirky rules on how scoring works and how and when it would be advantageous to have your particular raindrops sitting on them. Plus, there’s a sort of meta-game that you play each round where every card played allows to you to vote for bigger, significantly-game-state-influencing weather effect at the end of the round, and some clever risk/reward pacing stuff which allows you to play 2 moves a turn, but only by burning through your hand at a faster rate … which cranks up the thinkiness by an order of magnitude.
It was good fun. It is, fundamentally, area-control-with-all-that-that-entails (a core mechanism which can be a bit hit or miss for me!) … but done in a very unique way … and a bit less mean than I was expecting from the rules read-through and the solo game. I hadn't anticipated the way that many of the opportunities that you get to mess with your opponent tend to play out in a tit-for-tat sort of way -- if I do something super-mean to you, then you can often instantly revert that super-mean-ness on your next move -- unless I've put in some solid groundwork to cover myself. Which is, really, just as it should be in a game like this.
It’s a shame that I never got to play this with the Newcastle crowd; it doesn’t run for too long, and I think they would’ve liked it. But sadly… I’ve got some real corkers sitting on my shelf-of-opportunity for when we do get back to face-to-face gaming … and, although Petrichor ‘aint a bad game at all … there’s the cream of a year-and-a-half of other acquisitions that I’m way more eager to put in front of those folks first. And their appetite for learning new stuff only stretches so far …so it’s likely going back onto a shelf-of-something-or-other for at least a little bit longer.
But… one day…
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Easter weekend … a couple of days off work, and — since the “Stay at Home” lockdown restrictions were lifted this week — a good opportunity to go on a bit of an adventure. Though nothing too ambitious; too much sunlight after all this time in the bunker might be a bit of a shock to the system. Best to take things by stages, right?
Living close to the course of Hadrian’s Wall, there’s no shortage of ancient Roman remains to be found hereabouts. In fact, they’re so abundant that you’d be surprised where they crop up. A few weeks ago, Mrs Shep saw at TV show where they were digging up some back gardens in a suburb of Newcastle upon Tyne in search of roman remains … which drew our attention to a couple of not-too-far-away ruins which we haven’t seen before. So yesterday seemed like a good opportunity to go and take a look.
The temple of Antenociticus is a bit of an odd thing to find in a tiny gap of land on a 1930s housing estate. And yet… there it is...
Antenoociticus isn’t a Roman deity that you’re likely to have heard of before; only a single temple to Antenociticus has ever been discovered, and this it it. Apparently he was worshipped by the locals long before the Romans turned up, but the invading army decided to adopt him as their own — a practice not uncommon in such circumstances. I guess they wanted to keep on the best side of any indigenous deities… just as a precaution. And it seems to have worked out well for them; one of the inscriptions on the shrine is apparently a note from a person of some importance, thanking Antenociticus for helping him out with a significant governmental promotion.
A couple of streets away is another bit of Roman ruin; a gateway and crossing point for the vallum — a huge defensive ditch, marking the perimeter of the military zone south of Hadrian’s wall. Sadly, this one was in a locked enclosure … to stop the local kids from playing on a site-of-historic-importance, I guess … but there was a decent view over the railings.
Returning home after all of this ancient-roman excitement, there was only one obvious thing to play, right?
Concordia … on our newly-acquired (and as-threatened-last-week) Britannia map!
Another surprisingly non-confrontational game (even on the more confined map) … I got an early Minerva card for tools, and promptly set about plundering my way through the tool-providing midlands and south wales …(what?!) …while Mrs Shep shot off along the east coast, pursuing entirely different goals. Still a bit of a points gap and a few take-backs as Mrs Shep gets to grips with the finer points of the game … but she likes this one, and is keen to get better. Further plays may be in store
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02 Apr 2021
Hmmm… I seem to have missed a few days, haven’t I? It’s been a busy week. And I while some people resort to extreme measures like having a new child in order to take some time away from doing a daily blog (congrats Alex!), I’m not nearly organised enough to plan my time off 9 months ahead
Anyway… what do I need to catch up on? Hmmm… Obsession! Let’s start there
We had our 5th play last weekend … and we finally took the leap to playing with the Upstairs Downstairs expansion. And yes … just like the comments below my previous Obsession posts have stated… this massively improves the game. Aside from the luck mitigation, it seems like you have a far higher proportion of “big play” turns with the Upstairs Downstairs servants in the mix, and the change brought about by a hire action being added to the passing phase makes everything flow that little bit better. Good changes.
It does feel like a bit of a “Patch” release though. Especially if you consider the expansion elements which were back-ported into the second edition of the base game. And as such, some of the modifications feel a little bit inelegant … perhaps most exemplified by the fact that the “Useful Man” worker has 5 different, not-entirely-intuitive uses, which have you repeatedly reaching for the player aid card just to remember the swiss-army-knife array of functional tweaks and bodges that he gives you access to.
But, inelegant as some of the Upstairs Downstairs alterations might be… they do seem to result in a far better game.
In fact, the way that objective cards are now handled (get dealt 5 at the start of the game, discard one in round 4, draw 2 new ones in round 6, then discard one in rounds 8, 12 and 16, leaving you with 3 cards which you’re evaluated against at the end of the game) looks appallingly over-complicated and tortuous when described like that… but in practice, this flow of cards gives you a really pleasing level of control over your final scoring conditions. It’s a massive improvement on the “get dealt some objectives at the start of a game, and then pick which ones you want to pursue before you’ve got any idea how the rest of the game will unfold…” way of doing things.
So… yeah. Things are now a little bit messy in places … but the game is definitely improved, despite this messiness. To an extent where I’d say Upstairs Downstairs is pretty much an essential addition. And I think, when I teach this to my heavy-euro-loving friends, I’m going to have to throw them straight in at the deep end with the full-on version.
But I have mixed feelings about this whole business. On the one hand … yeah, I own both halves of the package, and I’ve got a pretty decent and very-uniquely-themed game now. But on the other hand … this is yet another example of a problem endemic to crowdfunded games (particularly first-timer-indie-developer-crowd-funded-games), and my inner grumpy-old-gamer feels the need to whinge about it. The designer clearly took the game as far as he could (I’m not, for one moment, doubting the fact that there was a whole load of internal testing and revision to get it to its current state) …got a pot of money to produce it from the kickstarter fairies, and then put it out into the world, without that extra layer of scrutiny + 3rd-party development that the “old” way of making games involves. And in doing so… missed a bunch of ways that the base game could’ve been that-little-bit-better from the outset. Quite a few of the 2nd edition tweaks seem to have been sourced from the fan community … and there’s some very smart, extremely solid mechanical solutions within those tweaks, from folks who very clearly know their stuff. But they’re retro-fits … and, by nature, retrofits tend to be inelegant. You can’t help but think how brilliant / more-fully-baked the base game might have been if that same level of developer input had happened prior to the initial release.
I do feel a little bit guilty about writing this… I know that Dan really engages with his player community, will almost certainly be reading these words, and that Obsession has been a very clear labour of love for him. And, to his credit … this title was way more complete than 95% of the nonsense kicked out by the kickstarter sausage machine, and he HAS gone back and polished things… raising the game up to a level where it’s way more satisfying for a heavier/more serious gamer to play. Which is awesome.
But yeah. There is much about the way that games come into existence these days which disappoints me. And this bypassing of the old publisher/developer gatekeeping step is one of them.
Anyway let me be clear: despite this whinging … Obsession is a good game, we really like playing it, and it’s definitely staying in our collection.
…and it’s not like post-release-patches-bundled-with-an-expansion ever did the likes of Jamey Stegmaier any harm, did it?
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