Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

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R.T.F.M.

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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Czech Games Edition unveil their new information marketing strategy:



A free, miniature Paul Grogan in every box!
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Today 6:20 am
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Fox News

Anthony Boydell
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Couriers? You gotta love 'em! With their chirpy smiles and wry whistles, they carry the very lifeblood of our hobby from door-to-door (OR from door-to-wheelie bin OR from door-to-neighbour-with-whom-one-has-fallen-out's door). If you're lucky, they won't have thrown it off a tower block just to record the impact as a text ringtone or driven a fork-lift truck over it because no-one was there on the Induction Training Course to teach the 'How To Use A Fork-Lift' module. Indeed, my favourite FB group has a regular post appear - every fortnight or so - that exhibits a fresh, new MyHermes' maltreatment of some unfortunate's hard-worked-for hotness.

To be honest, you're lucky if the bloody thing turns up at all; I mean, it took FIVE attempts to get a box of Counter magazines from Kent to my house and each time the website took the Tracking Number and told me it was 'In Transit to Main Depot' when I knew, for a fact, it was still in Derek's porch! And there's the depressing thought of some shady streak-of-piss driver half-inching a couple of those 'tasty lookin' boxes' only to find something nerdy and valueless (to him) within: "What the f*ck is Gloom-f*ckin'-Haven?!" and cue dumping the evidence in a quarry.

It was with a sigh of reassured pleasure, then, when my latest impulse purchase of The Fox in the Forest (just £20 incl. P&P) plopped on to the door-mat surrounded by proportionately as much packaging as an apple pip is surrounded by apple:



God Bless You, Karl! And better luck next time, Mr so-called Postman!
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Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:19 am
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Con(temporaneous)

Anthony Boydell
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Time was when UK gamers had GenCon to look forward to and Baycon and, perhaps, a smattering of other bits and pieces around the place - usually hosted University campuses 'off Term'. I remember catching the train with pals for a Play-by-Mail convention in Sheffield, for goodness sake (we're talking mid-to-late 80s). Manorcon and Midcon, The Cast Are Dice, Dragonmeet, Dragondaze, Salute, Sorcon and the UK Games Expo. One's calendar is now bursting with a fecundity of gatherings that would make my 20 year old self blush with embarrassment; for example, in the next few weeks alone we have:



I'd actually penciled Handycon in to my mental diary but forgot to book any tickets; I'd love to go up to North Wales but - oddly - I'm going to be in the area during the weeks either side of the Con but not available at the weekend. OxCon was fun a couple of years back but I shall be holding the Fort at Boydell HQ that weekend and can't get a Pass out. There's a long haul, via Shrove Tuesday, through February until March where there's something happening oop North:



Too bloody far away? Not really, it's just that I couldn't get permission to sneak away twice in the same month and - to be honest - it was never going to beat this St David's Day (and long weekend) beauty of International gaming shenanigans:



I missed Leiriacon in 2017 but, with the blessings (and euros) of Surprised Stare Games, I get to go along this year! Four days of beer-ing it up networking with some of the best designers and players Europe has to offer and, I believe, Heavy Cardboard's Edward and Amanda flying in too. Mac Gerdts is a special guest and, of course, one can't escape the larger-than-life presences of the most excellent Messrs Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro!

It's going to be a hoot, I'm certain and it'll be enough to keep me ticking along until the Expo in Birmingham in June and then the long Summer haul towards Spiel. Phew! This gaming lark is ruddy hard work!
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Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:20 am
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My Time Machine is made of Paper

Anthony Boydell
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Just before Christmas, I managed to secure a batch of ‘old gaming magazines’ from a seller on my favourite FB group. He wasn’t sure if they were worth anything and asked for reasonable offers; there were 15 or so, so I suggested £15 and the deal was duly done. The main attractions in the batch were an early Duelist and three issues of GM from the mid-90s; the latter was a briefly-lived organ for, mainly, RPGs but with occasional forays in to the tabletop world PLUS my mate Mark used to write articles for them (in fact, I believe august gaming celebrity and good egg James Wallis was also a contributor). I had a complete set – two years worth – but they ended up in a skip after a particularly-brutal spring clean.



The Duelist was purely for nostalgia and, at the time of committing to the purchase, I’d not realised it was Issue 0; this was a most pleasant surprise upon unwrapping...as was the Contents list:



This is an issue packed with innocent enthusiasm and optimism; remember that this is 1994-ish and Richard Garfield and the WotC folks have absolutely no idea about what Magic: The Gathering was about to do to the gaming world!



It's like that meme-d photo of Taylor Swift going to her Prom with an unnamed Joe or of the village that would be knocked down forever and become Heathrow Airport or the million railway books I have bowing my shelves: a moment captured before everything changed. Time travel is real; you can hold it in your hands every day.
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Tue Jan 16, 2018 9:31 am
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I...have...the...POW...ERRRRRRRRRR!

Anthony Boydell
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Sort-of.


I mention my mate Matt Green's game in a sleepy, weekend blog post and "Hey! Presto!" he sprints in to The Hotness?!


...and I've just mentioned him again!


Today, also:

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Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:00 pm
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Never Say Never

Anthony Boydell
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After the business of a Winter Sunday is done, it behooves one to settle down - after drawing the curtains and fetching a hot beverage - and watch some trad. Sunday evening fayre.




In the UK, we have - for 40 years now - been avid viewers of other people falling down mountains with grace: Ski Sunday provides us with a glimpse of how other people deal with snow ie. slipping around on it, the faster-the-better! I can't really be doing with the short-range slalom events, though; all that bouncing left-and-right and the whacking poles - ouch! No, for me it's got to be the Downhill: long, fast and tear-squeezingly exhilerating...even if it is vicariously through a big, flat TV. This week was 'Wengen', in the shadow of the Jungfrau and LITERALLY sliding under the Jungfraubahn railway; no sign of dynamite but the train did rattle over the heads of a couple of racers which, apparently, is lucky.

Mrs B quipped that "You should design a game about this!, ie. downhill skiing. I curtly replied "No, it can't be done" and then - for a few moments - it got me thinking...

How about a dexterity game a la PitchCar? Well, why wouldn't you just play PitchCar instead? A Flamme Rouge-esque race game? Well, it would be hard to get the feel of whisking along 4.5K in 2.5 minutes while one is agonising over a hand of cards and the most efficient way to play them out!

However, it might suit real-time dice chucking as a core mechanim?! Lay out a track printed on multiple card-sized cards; each has multiple spaces in 'lanes' containing fixed die value icons (banks, jumps, awkward stuff) or blanks. Roll a set of dice and then allocate them to spaces sequentially down the track:
- never more than one space away orthoganally or diagonally; and,
- the placed die either matching the die vlaue icon on the space OR one pip difference to the last die placed (blanks).

When you cannot place a die, take a TIME penalty and re-roll all the dice again. Repeat until you cross the line! Ok, that's waaaaaay too luck-based, so need to think about mitigation effects...

I should never have poo-pooed Mrs B's suggestion in the first place but, inevitably, the lot of the game designer is never being allowed (or able!) to switch off...regardless of whether it’s any good or not!
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Mon Jan 15, 2018 6:25 am
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Hills and Highways

Anthony Boydell
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We'll make a board game designer out of Ben Bateson yet! These last few years he's been known to dabble with the occasional intriguing idea and then get distracted with 'real games' and nothing ever comes of it. Our current collaboration - coming up on it's first birthday - is a Snowdonia-esque two-hander called Foothills which has, in it's most recent incarnation, become everything we feared and vowed to avoid: overblown.

At the very start, Ben had come up with an interesting - but ultimately frustrating - mechanism for handling Contract (scoring) cards; we reined it back in to something more conventional and, by doing so, drifted off course. Late November, Ben began chuntering about the card mechanism again and proposed a pretty major change: ditch the worker placement element altogether! Yesterday we tried out a first run of Foothills using his refined card-driven action selection mechanic which can only be described as "twisted Concordia"! It was certainly an inspiring and reassuring session for me and, I hope, for Ben who has been able to return us to something more sympathetic with his original imaginings!


Still the variable railway setup but there ain't no place for workers, Bach!


Topping up our mugs of tea, we relaxed with a couple of games of the frankly-ridiculous Tokyo Highway:


Both games ended with fat-fingered collapse!


Frustratingly, neither Ben nor Arthur nor myself (we mixed) seemed able to get even close to 'spending' all of our cars before a nudging catastrophe brought the daft knot of lollypop stick roads crashing down. There was more fun to be had watching me trying to stop my scored car perpetually sliding down a 5 high -> 3 high ramp; in the end I had to place it cross-ways so it looked like a disaster movie taxi about to tumble off the road into the river!

There wasn't enough time for an Agricola - even though Arthur was well up for it (!) - so we closed this impromptu Saturday distraction with Beyond the Gates of Antares: a Yahtzee-esque dice-chucker from good pal Matt Green.



I remember playing this back in the way-back when it was called 'Escape from Dicelantis' which is a far better name and a far better theme than the naff sci-fi one the publishers slapped on! Underneath the blah-blah about star gates and offensive manouvres and factions is a corking little push your luck-er with asym player powers that rattles through - both audibly and temporally - in 10 minutes; after a couple of rounds, Ben was straight on his phone trying to source a copy!
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Sun Jan 14, 2018 6:45 am
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Boffo's Got A Brand New Bag

Anthony Boydell
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Obviously things are pretty flush in the Bateson household given the debut, on Friday evening, of Boffo's brand new bag:


Someone looks very pleased with himself!


Its got wheels and an extending handle and enough room for approx. 12 standard euros (that's 3 in Gloomhavens) or an average adult human corpse with the limbs snipped off (and slotted in afterwards) for expediency. While we waited for the arrival of Jobbers - a fruitless task given Boffo read the 'No' email as a 'Yes' email - I'm pretty sure that the fake potted flowers on the corner tables began leaning towards the bag, caught in it's gravity well! Speaking of slow and inexorable forces of the Universe, we were joined this time by club irregular Byll whom we haven't seen since my birthday weekend; it's always a pleasure, albeit a rare one, to welcome him back to the fold.

To ease him in gently, we decided to play three completely-new-to-him games! First up was Nusfjord which is a bit of a hot club favourite at the moment:



Byll managed to get himself a neat little table-serving gold engine but failed to build any actual buildings; his tableau rather resembled Hansel & Gretel's witch's cottage in a deep forest at the end but a fine fleet of trawlers saw him to a very respectable 28 points. Jostling for joint second was myself and Boffo on 32 points, me having plumped for filling my board for once and Boffo possessing enough Elders to fill a bus trip to Blackpool. Smudge quietly did a bit of everything and stole the one point victory courtesy of last action of the game "Take 1 Gold"! Nusfjord seems to have been received as bit of a Marmite game but, for our tastes, it ticks every single box.

Our second, also a Spiel 2017 release, was the excellent Calimala:



I adore how everything is so tightly and seamlessly mortared together; the elegance and simplicity of the mechanisms that opens up a delicious session of elbow-jabbing. Both Boffo and I went heavily in to Trading Houses from the off (guided by our secret goals) with the others, naturally, shipping; in a particular stroke of genius, Becky popped a single cube in to London - which was scoring first and got her 3 exclusive points - and ignored it for the rest of the game until Boffo quipped "It would be funny if London was Becky's secret goal!" and then her cheeks flushed a little! There was a minor flurry of activity but she held out for 5 valuable points and that took her to a solid 30+ victory!

To close - and completing a trio of Spiel excellences (it really was a good year, wasn't it?!) - was the easy-peasy Mini Rails:



Even BEFORE Byll had selected his first disc, he was mumbling and grumbling his discomfort as he immediately realised what a bastard little game this is! Four red discs seemed heavily-signposted as 'Avoid!' (very hard to get red safely paying tax in later rounds) but Byll and Smudge got shares anyway. Boffo, meanwhile, was an outrageously comfortable winner having invested in all tax-paying companies and ably-assisted by some odd track-building choices from the other two; none of that matters because it was corking fun to try and claw my way within six points of him!

A fantastic session of gaming that presented plenty of crunchy decisions and left us all with a pleasingly-warm afterglow. Poetically, Boffo rounded things off by almost falling flat on his face trying to maneuver the leviathan hold-all out of the Pub's narrow doorway - Smudge scuttling ahead to the car calling "He's nothing to do with me!".

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Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:23 am
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Believe in yourshelf

Anthony Boydell
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My library room used to be the dining room but since we built the extension, we have our dinner parties (ha!) in the voluminous kitchen. I bark a derisory 'ha!' in the middle of that previous sentence because this isn't the 19-bloody-70s when 'dinner parties' were all the rage: prawn cocktails, vol-au-vents and enough Blue Nun to fuel the guests AND their cars home. Given the volume of collected crap ephemera, it was pure logic that dictated giving up a dedicated special space for eating in favour of my own personal museum (of sorts).



Above are two segments of seven-segment array that were, in the new days of occupation, wholly given over to books, books and nothing but books; today you can see there has been an 'encroachment'. The damage is much worse if I'd rotated the camera 180 degrees: in fact, it's TOTAL - wall-to-wall games!

The years of collecting have been akin to making a gourmet 'jus' (let's keep the epicurean theme running); I have been progressively buying and releasing stuff - moving, replacing and reducing it down to a rich and concentrated gravy of bits and pieces. In amongst these two panels there is my tween collection of James Bond paperbacks, the first 10 issues of Counter magazine, 12 years of handwritten diaries, First editions, curios (a Weetabix-branded Aston Martin, a shell from the shores of the Indian Ocean, an original Rubik's Cube 'in box'), a complete set of Freak Brothers comics, poetry and a video of my wife singing in the School Choir on BBC TV when neither of us knew who the other was (I saw the same programme at broadcast because my little brother was in the Choir too).

Of course, after 20+ years of boiling down, I've created an eclectic but interesting (to me) jumble of tat. Almost everything comes with a story (two-fold in the case of the books!) and, as my eye wanders, neurons spark and memories flash (which is most distracting when I'm supposed to be working).

In some forums, the idea of the 'shelfie' is spurned and derided - outlawed on pain of expulsion even! - but here, dear Reader, is a safe haven; a welcoming port in a prissy storm. Come, post pictures below of your amply-stocked shelves, your nooks of knick-knacks; let us sigh and nod and weep sweet tears of sympathetic joy at your commendable clutter! Let us ask you what the Hell that thing is?!

I've shown you mine, now show me yours...
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Fri Jan 12, 2018 6:35 am
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Let's play "Spot the Sub-Text"!

Anthony Boydell
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Wow, it's like being a teenager all over again.













Two gaming comfort blankets gone in the space of a month? Man, this kind of thing comes in threes...what next?!

soblue

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Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:30 am
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