At the end of 2019, which ended on an extraordinary high, I had proudly seen the delivery of Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea, Lux Aeterna, Foothills, Guilds of London: Wards of London, Games from the Deep, Dark Wood and Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set as well as solid interest in Attention All Shipping and other prototypes. Two years later (and a year since I left Surprised Stare Games Ltd), I have to admit to feeling rather detached from the gaming world I so relish. And while I'm very much looking forward to getting out and about to Bastion in 6 weeks time - and Leiriacon at the end of March - the Omicron wave is already throwing both into jeopardy; is there no end to this Limbo?
Of course, I have the Museum to keep me occupied (eyes peeled for a Designer Diary about the Gift Shop Games range I've been noodling with) and Aleph Null is on-track for a UK Games Expo launch (sample artwork coming VERY soon); everything else, though, feels very much in stasis.
Since I took that (Spring) break from blogging, I think I've settled into a calmer writing mode; I have been consciously avoiding Hobbyist kerfuffles - though the occasional Politics-based jibe creeps in from time-to-time; after all, there's only so much corruption, ineptitude and gaslighting I can put up with before the steam valve needs releasing. Sadness, too, and a consistent level of general anxiety mean I'm more watchful of what I express and how I express it.
There's been some good games playing, of course; however, I've completely given up logging what and where and when as a pointless exercise. Consequently, several requests I've received for 'What's The Best Thing You Played This Year?' have fallen on stony ground as my Old Man Brain can't remember anything outside the past 3 months. The Gathering of Chums was undeniably ace, though, and the nearest thing to normality I've experienced in 24 months.
Ah, "normality"; how we yearn for thee.
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Father, Grandfather, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
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Apart from actual games, the Museum Curator (that's me) is also obsessed with books and other ephemera; in particular, he (still me) is Jones-ing to get a suite of Publisher Catalogues - you know, just lists of products with their codes, pictures and specifications?!
There's someone on eBay who has, recently, been nipping in at the last moment to steal items - that are rightfully MINE - from under my nose: a 1930s Parker and a 1950s Waddingtons catalogue were particularly-galling! However, I managed to fend the bugger off with regards to a very personal item:
Now, it's probably just me BUT I find this stuff utterly fascinating so, today - as I sit here in the Museum (it's that day of the week again), choffing down on my breakfast bap, picture me devouring every paragraph: mentally ticking off the 'haves' and adding the 'have nots' to my shopping list!
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I wandered down to the Holts Road Docs', mid-AM, for my anticipated Covid vaccination booster; my brush with this serum has been mostly light and peripheral in the Past but - good Christ - last night was a long, black tunnel of fitful, feverish sleep and a howlingly-achey torso. With a relatively quiet working day ahead of me, I downed a couple of paracetamol and admired a newly-arrived large consignment of museum goodies:
Back to an Industrial, rather than a Spiritual, revolution and one of my happiest gamer places - the train game:
From the sublime to the superficially-ridiculous and we have Bill Oddie's Great Bird Race Game which could be elevator-pitched as set-collection Wingspan-esque race game. Sort-of.
There were more delectibles in the parcel but my headache is returning and I need to curl up in a corner somewhere: eurgh.
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December came in chilly: nose-numbingly, finger-tip pricklingly, light-the-goddamn-fire-ly chilly. Having put out the customary social media 'call to gamer arms' in the A.M, the Newent Knights went from a potential 'full' Scythe to just one-on-one in the space of an afternoon. However, not wanting to miss anyone dropping in on the off chance, I managed to fit in gravy sausages and an episode of "The Orville" before wandering down to The Shambles.
The reminder posts often get 'thumbs' from Newent locals who haven't turned up yet but I live in hope; anyone who takes on the responsibility of running a group knows that once you start you're not really able to stop: I recall Boffo Bateson playing solo games in the side room of The White Lion just 'to be there in case someone showed up' - that's proper dedication.
The electric heater struggled to keep itself warm in the Museum yestere'en, never mind spread to the rest of the space*. I mooched amid the displays: adjusting a box lean there, swapping an exhibit out there; a couple of goes on the Safari elastic-band shooting game and then Pete - Ross-on-Wye gamer - swung the door open and joined.
Best games for two? Well, the room is full of allsorts but I'd packed my house copy of Glory to Rome for this very eventuality:
My rules explanation was slow, meticulous and full of examples and, as you might expect, the first game was a walkover; albeit a heavily-narrated, exposition-filled walkover. Not so the second game, though; Pete managed a Bath as his first completed building and I encouraged him to heavily abuse its Patron power - which he did very ably. There was a brief moment where I might have levelled scores and gone for a Catacombs quick-finish, but he was off with successive Merchant actions and more insane Bath-triggered combos...I let it all play out so he could claim a 30 point score. The third game - now, enticingly, a decider - was nip-and-tuck: Pete got himself a Scriptorium (use one marble to complete any building) but I managed to stay one Rubble in the Vault ahead of him after using the last two foundations to end the game. It was obvious that the core zone movements were settling and I hope we get to play each other again: folks who know how to play this 'already' are now a rare resource.
It was getting colder - if that was at all possible - so I pulled an unopened copy of Coppertwaddle from my Vanity Corner shelves and literally cracked it open ie. the cards were 'stuck together' by the gloss finish (a long problem with 'Twadz), showering the table with a tiny plastic dust:
Though not as intense a teach as GtR, I still took my time and liberally sprinkled the first few rounds with narrative; obviously, if any of you know Coppertwaddle you'll remember that it's already soaked in its own (albeit false) narrative (Learnéd articles, hidden puzzles, fake history) - so much so that a BBC TV researcher telephoned me, in the mid 2000s, to get more info for a programme about Medieval Leisure pursuits**. While it's always great to play GtR, I was rather pleased with Coppertwaddle too; maybe it's due for a reprint?
Having heard the Yoga class come and go, Pete and I decided that our noses were rosy enough - and our extremities commensurately nipped - so we shut up shop around 9PM. Thankfully, Mrs B had stoked a sizzling fire so I was able to defrost in front of some easy TV; the enveloping, soporific glow and mug of chai tea rescuing me from game-induced hypothermia.
*sometimes I fear it gets so cold that I might find a British Prime Minister hiding in a corner to avoid media scrutiny.
**I bottled and confessed it was all hogwash, piffle, bunkum and balderdash - what could have been on prime time telly, eh?!
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The Tuffley-based 'Gloucester Tabletop Gaming Community' celebrated its third birthday yesterday; there were speeches (apparently), cake and a group photo:
It's a shame that the roleplayers - who formed a small branch of the club hidden away in the mildew-ed, musty 'Snooker Room' - weren't around; they've been 'banned' by the Community Centre for infractions of 'drink policy' and leaving liquid ring stains on the baize. The story is a bit muddled - and filled with outrage from innocent parties - and I know this because I'm now delivering Fred and Adam to an industrial unit a mile down the road for their Tuesday night fantasy fix.
Tom brought donuts - not 'Krispy Kreme' but 'Tim Something', the differentiation is very important to connoisseurs of the fried bakery good. I had an iced, cinnamon-dusted and brown sauce-oozing thing that was very tasty but has completed my allowable sugar limit for the next week.
Lighter games was the requirement, so I complied (mostly) with fayre like Tea, Scones, and ARSENIC, DANY (aka 'Sexy Dixit'), A game about WEE WHIMSICAL CREATURES and trying to identify them after someone makes noises. and King Thief Minister. I also snuck in Northern Pacific and Free Ride because 'Trains' and I couldn't wholly commit to playing 'fillers' for three hours. As it turned out, Northern Pacific snuck in after some poisoned biscuit-dunking fun but sexy Dixit fell apart after Dale "accidentally" revealed his hidden role during an early round and they weren't going to let me besmirch the festivities with a Friedemann Friese!
Cryptid - a club favourite for sure - made an appearance the general delight of Cheltenham Nick for whom it was a new experience; he was the only player to remain pretty much off the board with 'Yes' markers and deduced our 'easier' clues against his own 'within two of Cougars'. No-one bit at my 'What's the difference between Bears and Cougars' riposte ("One's got a beard, one likes toyboys") so we hurried, quickly, on to the 'take that' flummery that is Truck Off: The Food Truck Frenzy. Truck Off is about allocating 'vans' to venues to earn money by selling your particular thematic refreshments then using a mini deck of cards - all players have the same - to interfere with the others, re-roll 'shared profit' dice and so on. It's not complex and has enough dickery in its DNA to keep the young-at-heart happy; I rather enjoyed it despite being quote "bloody old".
We closed with both gamer tables uniting for Wavelength, which is where today's title originates: Dale, gifted with "Very Risky vs Not Risky" and a '4' in the "Very" 25%, clued "Juggling with Blunt Knives" when - thanks to a suggestion from the opposition - perhaps "Tonguing a Shark" would've been a clearer hint. Mind you, Tom's card of 'Dirty vs Not Dirty' was greeted with a cry of "Your Mum!", which very nearly brought the house down. There was an emerging discussion that everyone is a bit sick of Codenames - largely due to the long, thoughtful Spymaster pauses - and that the ribaldry and interaction that accompanies more direct genre-clones like Wavelength and Decrypto (and not forgetting the glorious noise of Balderdash) is far more satisfying. Certainly, the spaces between the actions are a problem criticism was also directed at DANY not an hour earlier.
Who'd have thought that simple, party games were so damn complicated?!
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My copy of The Sorcerer's Cave doesn't have the 'Extension Kit'* but it does have a mini expansion from its original owner - courtesy of the 'blank' cards folks were enamored of including 'back then':
Let us take a closer look at what perils await the unwary adventurer:Quote:Wisky (sic) Bottle - If used as Bribe adds 2 to dice score when testing strangers but deducts 1 from its fighting strength for 5(?) turns.Quote:Slobbering Goblin nicks up to 100kg of Gold, Silver +/or Gems from Party and buggers off - for everQuote:A Pudding Cat appears demanding yeast tablets. You don't have any so she gets mad and runs away. Lose 1 turn looking for her.It's a shame they only used three of the half dozen or so blanks as I'm very much enjoying the cynical edge to these effects; what the Hell else would they have come up with if given a bit more time, eh?! Bloody marvellous!
*hens' teeth etc
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Having travelled, figuratively, into a Jules Verne-ian Universe of lost-and-nearly-forgotten board games through my Museum curating responsibilities, I'm finding the pleasure of discovery all the sweeter for applying a little more patience to my buying schedule. In the beginning, it was a scattergun approach: hopping from decade-to-decade, from thematic group to thematic group, and gathering "a little bit of everything" to provide a solid foundation. Of course, as the exhibits began rolling in I began to refine my tastes; particular manufacturers and genres, the quality of art and (naturally) the rarity: my Museum must have beautiful things that other museums don't!
The 1930s, 40s and 50s are an angler fish lure to me; hypnotised, I scour my eBay 'Saved Search' emails for a new Geographia map-based affair, a small-but-perfectly formed Waddy card game, something with trains I've not seen before from anyone (frankly) and/or the A-Hoy! Series (Robert Ross & Co./J. Dring Ltd.). Thus, this week's Saturday 'in the shop' saw me protectively-mounting boards for Safety First and Shipping, and cataloguing the contents of this absolute super-rare corker:
From elsewhere, here: "This is a game of Privateers vs. Spanish Galleons. The Galleons, one carrying the Treasure, are attempting to deliver it to their home port while the Privateers are attempting to capture the gold. All ships have equal speed, strength and vulnerability."
As is usual for this period, the box insert is a work of sculpted genius; of glued compartments and ridiculous dimensions:
Preposterous components include:
tiny, wooden beads to 'thread' over the mast(s) of the ships (they represent the health of the ship and, as they're removed due to player/sea-inflicted damage, severely affect its speed and ability to ride the winds efficiently);
six wooden galleons with their (detachable) masts;
the chance to get expert instruction(!);
a plastic tee-totum;
a rolled, map (see below) and a set of brass weights to hold the map flat on the table (one for each corner)!
"...the map, which shows wind direction in each diamond as well as ports, forts (gray areas with letters and gold triangles), calm areas (diamonds containing blue sea serpents), sandbars(yellow diamonds), dry land (gray diamonds), ice flows (icebergs in the diamond) and coral reefs (orange diamonds). The ships move around the map based on the wind direction and are really only limited to changes in wind direction and decisions to change ship direction. Chance only comes into play when you move on to a calm area, the teetotum is then used to determine whether the wind comes up."
Another day, another wild and intriguing mechanism for simulating movement at sea! Indeed, I also managed to nab a cheap copy of Cape Horn (1999) which, at first glance, certainly seems to have taken some major inspiration from its Ahoy! Ancestor.
Given the current Industry obsession with cranking out the same turgid Euro mundanity, miniatures-based borefests and "more interesting things to do with dice", I feel like I've got a real head-start on finding new-and-interesting directions for my games - what with having unfettered access to a motherlode of historic design creativity that's been largely dismissed and forgotten. The Museum, it seems, is morphing into a laboratory!
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Last night I received an email from the Head of FISA (Fédération internationale de safari animalier) - MrShepp Blatter - alerting me to the recent reporting of a new Coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529.
The World Championships were, of course, cancelled in 2020 and run under strict social distancing rules in 2021 so I was initially bemused at there being an official notice when the whole Competitive Play infrastructure had already closed down for the Winter.
As it turns out, MrShepp was outlining the Federation's P.R response to the new strain's nickname: the 'Botswana Variant'. MrShepp, and official spokesperson Sohn von Bate, want to avoid the situation that saw Corona Beer suffering a dip in sales at the start of the pandemic, and asks the Affiliated Members (us) to ensure the general public understand Botswana has been a renowned, abstract strategy game with an enormous global subscription well before it was a mutated strain of a respiratory tract-affecting RNA virus:
So I’ve put this in my front window.
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Black Friday is, perhaps, the greatest example of FOMO to date: an exercise in mass hysteria whereby millions are convinced to spend money they didn't originally intend/couldn't afford to spend on stuff for which they have no immediate need because they think they're getting a bargain.
Supply where there is no original demand that, by the very act of supplying now invokes an illusory demand: you couldn't make it up. Physical confrontation, online abuse: no-one needs a flat-screen TV that much.
So, just for today, I am raising the 'online' prices of all of the games in The Museum of Board Games' Gift Shop in protest against this Lemming-like commercial con:
Formula OviNE - £10 plus PnP (originally £5)
Atlantic Crossing - £10 plus PnP (originally £5)
Island Racing - £20 plus PnP (originally £10)
Race The Rails - £30 plus PnP (originally £15)
Ivor the Engine - £20 plus PnP (originally £10)
Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set - £150 plus PnP (originally £75)
Roll-away! Roll-away! Don't get 'em while they're hot!*
*Come back on Monday
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