After waiting patiently for a further week, following last session's Cosmic Encounter overload, Paul finally got to give Viticulture Essential Edition a five player run out. Everyone had played before - some, like both Paul and Dave, have spent a goodly lockdown hour pushing through the solo scenarios - so it was a quick and easy start.
For me, slightly inexplicably, Viticulture presents a mental problem that I just can't seem to address: the timing. As well as having not enough workers to do everything you want, 'Vitz' spreads those workers out over four seasons. I am, it seems, utterly blind to the solution; while the others were setting up and then running their engines, I bimbled about trying to get fields planted and maybe draw a card or two that didn't involve the discounted building of buildings. Thus, for me, the clever and alluring timing puzzle is further confounded by my inability to draw cards seemingly as useful as the cards the other players draw. This aspect has always bugged me in what I otherwise regard as a very fine game: I'm sure the spread of good and bad draws evens out over the long game/term but, for someone who only plays this every 18 months or so, it's a persistent frustration.
Dave launched away, early doors, with more workers than the rest of us BUT Paul and Tom and Gerv made a great fist of clawing him back; indeed, as I remarked during the putting away ritual, those three seemed to be doing a LOT of nicely-thematic action sequences in a rich recreation of the hard vineyard life...while Dave seemed able to do everything he wanted, at the time he wanted, without even breaking a sweat. My own slow progression quickened (eventually); set up, as I was, for THREE order fulfilments in one Year (16VPs), Dave ended the game with the default Winter 'sell a wine for 1 point' action, taking him to 25 points. That'll be the Winter before my Year of Fulfilment could take place, then? I can't even remember where I gained my solitary VP but I do keep getting a flush of embarrassment when I think back to the game: two hours, a lot of fannying about and not even the chance to finish what I'd found so painful to pull together. I just don't get this game at all and I feel mortified that I demonstrated this wanton ineptitude in public: not so much a brain fart as a full-on, mental prolapse. I'm shuddering as I type this.
There was talk of continuing our appreciation of Stonemaier Games with a 'big' Scythe session next week: something I'm very much in favour of as a) I love the game immensely and b) am passably proficient at it. That's a date in the calendar marked right there, then!
To ease the mental strain a little - and after some lovely words from Paul and Dave about recent family plays - we played the Museum's demo copy of Ivor the Engine:
Oddly, and sweetly, my quick overview for Gerv's benefit was assisted by the occasional prompt from Paul; sometimes I forget the fringe details because it's been such a long time since I last played myself. There were no timing issues for me this time, however, as I blasted my way to some lucrative Town-based jobs in Llanmad and Tewyn (chuffing down the right-hand side of the board). The mean streak that the card play can elicit was in evidence - both Gerv and I hit by 'Runaway Sheep' tokens. Paul had a monopoly on Tan-y-Gwlch jobs and missed out on the linked bonus card at the last moment; Tom gathered plenty o' gold courtesy of helping Mr Dinwiddy at his Gold Mine (no stuffed wombat, though) and both Dave and Gerv mixed up their sheep-acquisition with a little more travelling and collecting. It was a pleasingly-tense finish with three of us all very much in contention right up until the last card was flipped: 32 sheep for me, 30 for Dave and mid-to-late 20s for everyone else. I can't 'do' Wine but, evidently, I can 'do' Sheep!
Tom had a long-ish drive back leaving us four to have a go at Island Racing, tweaked again since Tuesday's outing with events now on the Wind Direction cards; the Events certainly added spice and Dave didn't quite have it all his own way...but he still won again. Almost there; indeed, it should be "ready" for The Gathering of Chums where I hope to a) have a 'giant' copy for competition play and b) produce PnP packs as a delegate gift.
Jesus Christ: that Viticulture game just flashed back into my mind again - I feel a little bit sick.
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Father, Grandfather, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer.
Archive for Session Report
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A welcome return, after several weeks hiatus, to the Tuffley Community Centre where the background noise amounts to tolerable levels of Warhammer victory song (ie. the occasional, distant and strangled 'Ye-es!' and the half-hearted 'Jolly Good Fellow'-ing of the local Skittles team heavily abusing their wood in the adjacent alley). The table of five, behind us, were very well behaved during their play of The Godfather: Corleone's Empire (I think it was this GF IP cash-in) - Tom, the club's head-honcho and figurehead* obviously setting a sober and respectful atmosphere for new visitors Shaun and Sarah; this left someone with the duty of kicking things off a bit on our Puerto Rico table: Mark was too busy teaching, Jerick too calm, Ben too sleepy (he had a late-shift at work looming) and Jack** just hadn't consumed enough E-numbers yet - sigh I guess it would have to be me then?
When he's teaching, Mark - like me - drops in play tips before and during the actual game to help keep the new players engaged and, hopefully, wanting to come back for another go at another time. Noble sentiments, of course, for which he deserves righteous praise BUT that's no bloody use when I am trying to win! It's all very well keeping Ben awake by suggesting he gleefully fuck me out of the boat space for my tobacco glut with The Captain action OR fill up the Trading House immediately before I get to sell my tobacco OR take all of the remaining supply tobacco during the Craftsman before I get any because the rest of it is still on the boat(s) BUT it's this kind of negative play that goes against the spirit of the game...and my chances of a rare P.R triumph, of course.
Good-natured ribbing aside, it was a fabulous game; we barrelled along at a brisk old pace, emptying pretty much ALL of the buildings board AND depleting the VPs to trigger the end. After several attempts at adding up the points, I emerged two points clear of Mark with tallies of 58, 56, 51, 51 and 44.
The game also offered, from Ben, the 'Best Quote of the Night' during a particularly theatric Boydellian protestation: "Use your inner voice, Tony" - quite the loveliest way to tell me to shut up***!
Having experienced one of the true boardgaming classics, I offered something much lighter - but with enough room for screwage - in Eggs and Empires:
Simultaneously, play roles to get to take - or avoid taking - dragon eggs and build up the richest score pile; score after a round and, when three rounds are done, the most points wins. Mark was having an absolute (Dragon) mare of a time: it was like every role he offered and every negative-scoring egg available were magnetically-attracted - oh, how we laughed! Jerick snuck in on the final round for a 108 points victory.
We closed with a go at my Island Racing prototype; still trying to sort out a bit of a runaway leader issue and, again, failing:
Jerick managed to stay out of mine and Mark's constant colliding to race off to an easy win; mind you, it's supposed to be a filler so, maybe, I shouldn't worry too much? I still think I need to find a die-value limiting rule, though; something will come to me, I'm sure.
*DID YOU KNOW...?! The menacing appearance of toothy and bug-eyed carvings on Viking ships were considered a form of apotropaic magic, serving the function of warding off evil spirits
**Get enough corn-based snacks inside of him and he's like the hamster someone fed their hash cake's 'speed icing' to at a party in the 1980s.
***Jack and I were being rather impish at our end of the table: hence, the faux-outrage, ribbing and gamesmanship!
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We congregated, again, in The Prince of Wales pub; last week must’ve been some kind of aberration because we were deafened - to the point of head pain - by the jukebox / caterwauling of the drunken punters.
We played some games. I’m not sure anyone was enjoying them.
Absolutely no fun at all.
I'll not be going there again.
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07 Oct 2021
It all gets dark really quickly so I make sure The Shambles' 'Staff' toilet is open - with light on - as one of the first things when arriving for evening games at the Museum. There was a brief period when I didn't know it existed, which would've meant the Club might've been nix-ed before it even got going: access to evacuatory facilities is a major priority that we take for granted.
Tonight, we were back to a single table's worth but determined to fill the evening with things to stick our teeth into; we kicked off (while waiting for Jobbers) with the bright fun that is The King of Frontier:
Paul found himself one cube short each time a 'Build' action was taken but managed to claw back the VPs through consumption (feeding cities) and a couple of large, completed areas. Dave romped away with a Special tile - the Carpenter - that rewarded him for having wood while consuming: this hoovered the VP chits and ended the game one turn before I could complete my board for the juicy 10 point bonus!
Newly-arrived and safely seated, with low-alcohol ciders in arms' reach, John unpacked his beloved 90s edition of Cosmic Encounter and set-to with the rules explanation. It wasn't long before both Paul and Dave were furrowing their brows at the intricacies of their special powers and I was designated 'Start Player' to launch this whole inter-galactic war thing. The first game was wrapped up in an hour; predictably, it was a head-to-head between John and myself with Dave snivelling enthusiastically all the way: the "sniveller" race get the power to complain about their planets, their cards and/or the warp for a small benefit OR a penalty to the rest of us (we choose) - much good it did him in this instance, however. Paul went with the flow, being a little rabbit-in-the-headlights, but picked things up in the immediately-reset-and-play-again Game 2 (which he very nearly won).
That second game was dominated by a couple of magnificently-combined powers on mine and Dave's sides: he had 'Warpish' which meant all tokens in the central graveyard - the warp - counted toward his attack/defence totals while I had 'Pacifist', meaning I auto win battles if I play a Compromise card and my opponent doesn't: that's a problem for Dave right there - as he DOESN'T want to "compromise" himself - and it's a problem for me if I can't keep up a supply of Compromise cards. Somewhat dispiritingly for the other three, I had no issues replenishing my hand and batted away all attempts to rein me in; for Paul, this was doubly-annoying, as he was just the one successful card-play from winning outright himself!
It was late - much later than we'd expected - as the second game of CO had rolled into a bit of a Space Opera; Paul needed to get off, so Jobbers completed his evening of 'Birthday Games' with something he loves to pieces and is entirely brilliant at: Divinare.
Dave was justifiably agape at the simplicity of rule combined with deliciousness of gameplay and put a spirited fight for second place; John, however, was far ahead with a score greater than we other two combined: the man must be actually psychic, or something.
The sublime AND the ridiculous...
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Love is like riding or speaking French: if you don’t learn it young, it’s hard to get the trick of it later.
03 Oct 2021
Gerv picked me up on his way through from The Big City to Ross-on-Wye - and The Prince of Wales (a former club 'regular venue' because The Plough is still closed) for the first, proper venue-based Ross-on-Wye Board Gamers meeting since February 2020. Already grabbing a drink at the Bar was young Peter - who we've not seen AT ALL since that gloomy, sniffly 10th Birthday month - and following through the doors, before they'd swung closed, were John and Ian. Shortly, Dave and Phil - fresh from being at Wednesday's Museum meetup - ambled in. Bringing up the rear was Boffo; laden, as per, with a
EuroSovereign-pallet of offerings...but no Smudge?! Apparently, the many woes suffered by the Batesons this week culminated in a leaking boiler and Becky remaining at home to await emergency repairs: "the boiler needs servicing", he said...
cue: CARRY ON BOARDGAMING for about 10 minutes.
Anyway, it took but a moment to get our arses sat down for two tables of gaming:
Gerv, John, Phil and myself got well stuck-in innit to Obsession: Downton Abbey with deck-building, Gosforth Park for gamers, Rebecca for resource-jugglers...with a little bit of under-the-stairs-worker placement for good measure!
I prepared by watching the Heavy Cardboard solo play-thru and had a pretty good handle on the main elements; Phil had played before, so helped with the rough edges. In summary, you're either 'Passing' to reset your deck and servants OR using your cards and servants to put on an Event which will get you money, reputation and/or new guests (gentry). Along the way, you're improving your Stately Pile so the events can be more Grand, more profitable and attract the interest (and powers and VPs) of the uber-desirable Fairchilds.
John and I availed ourselves of a couple of Servants' improvements that gave me a free 'reputation steal' and him a 'super-recovering servant' every turn. Gorgeous and thematic stuff: it was a proper delight assigning guests and staff to Tea on the Lawn or a gentlemen-only Political Discourse: the luck of drawing randomly from the Gentry deck led, at one point, to John exclaiming his hand was "a real sausage-fest!"
Of course, being in the pub again meant that we would be questioned by curious, non-gaming fellow punters and - this time - it was "Are you all playing Chess?!" that won the Golden Fuckwit Award...I mean, when one table is sprawled with Noble Estates and the other by a busy, Norwegian fishing village, from what kind of mind could that query come from? Aaaaa-and talking of slime molds, we had a rather interesting mid-game, pause-in-the-proceedings table chat about how slime molds have been proven to navigate mazes...
The final courtship won me a Fairchild suitor - mainly thanks to my doubled 'Sports' improvements - from John but he was still 13 points ahead in the final scoring: 147 to 134 to something under 100 to something else under 100. I really enjoyed Obsession; really, really enjoyed it!
The others having packed Nusfjord away and moved on to Specu-something, we duly un-packed it and cast our gaming nets:
Again, John and I processed in extreme comfort through the seven rounds and, again, a powerful early building purchase set Jobbers up for a comfortable victory: 37 to 34 to twenty something and twenty something else. We were interrupted, briefly, by the arrival of Ross-on-Wye's finest police men and women who were cheerfully-intrigued by our table-hogging antics: the quality of questioning was vastly-superior to our earlier interrogation.
We were also joined by a pair of muscle-shouldered,
boxerbulldogs - trotting hither and thither, snuffling, we were trepidatiously expecting a canine evacuation or two (just like the last time we were in The Prince of Wales public house in 2017!)...fortunately, the laminate flooring remained unsoiled.
We four finished with a tweaked Island Racing foray (see Wednesday's sessiom report) along the Solent; no Glory for Jobbers or I, however, as we spent the first three rounds colliding with each other and letting Gerv sail off into the distance for the Gold Medal.
Ah, to be back with the dim lights and intrusive 'modern' music of a Public Bar: it's like we'd never been apart.
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Last week I was mournful of the lack of a hubbub at The Museum during our Wednesday evening of gaming; this week, we got one: we got ourselves a hubbub!!!
I was joined by Gerv - the stoutest of gaming yeomen who has been a rock during the setting up of this bijou enterprise - and also by Dave (of the Ross-on-Wye gamers) and Phil Dennis (an occasional RoW-er when he was 'down' from Aberystwyth and a fellow collector of gorgeous antiquities). The latter two arrived bearing many donations for the 'Mu': some duplicates excellent for spares/making up a single 'good copy' and some rare and as-yet uncollected! I joked, back in the Summer, that I might need the smaller unit at the other end of the Museum's building: the way it's going, that could be a serious possibility for the 2022 Season!
Anyway, as delightful as it is to see familiar gaming faces it's even MORE delightful to meet NEW gaming faces and the club was joined by three locals in the form of Sedge, Paul and Tom:
As you can see, there was a requested teach of Snowdonia for my table and the various RoW-ers were left to their own devices with Grand Austria Hotel (which they all loved) and Knizia's LAMA.
The first Snowdonia was a quick one: coming in at around 60 mins (including the explanation), the weather was mostly-sunny and the events helped push the work through. It was a great introduction to the lessons of 'watch the weather', 'watch the contents of the bag' and 'get yourself contract cards'! Being rather familiar with the opportunism of the short game, I snuck ahead for the win.
The second game, in stark contrast, was a wet and foggy affair with barely any Sun at all; this meant a bigger focus on building (using stone and steel), Surveying to the top of the Mountain (Tom made it to Yr Wyddfa first) and really making the best of a couple of collected contracts. I failed to get my fifth station space token thanks to the last slew of events - denying me 20+ points (boo hoo!) but Sedge stormed it with a whopping 50+ points on buildings AND 50 from contracts for a 100+ winning score: chapeau, monsieur!
The Snowdonians departed leaving me and Dave and Gerv and Phil to try out yet another matchbox Museum prototype; this time it was my wind direction/compass rose/dice-for-speed setting Island Racing game:
Each round the wind direction shifts (backing or veering) which, in turn, modifies your speed depending on whether you're now sailing with or against the Wind (you choose the speed and direction you want using your die and 'Tacking Rose'): beware, however, of colliding with others (ending in the same space having allocated the same speed) or sailing off the edge of the board, as this will force you to use a speed of ONE in the next round! The joy, for me, with Island Racing is that I can have additional maps introducing other wrinkles to the core racing mechanism: marker buoys, whales, hurricanes and who knows what else?!
Tonight, we even got an excited 'Wow!' from some of the yoga students as they looked in to the bright room, curious to see what all the noise was!
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24 Sep 2021
Another Wednesday evening session at the Museum and, again, another dearth of new blood. Despite plenty of 'engagement' on 'social media', the thumbs are failing to result in the appearance of the rest of the persons...
...just gotta keep on keeping on, though; these things take time to establish themselves. It would be gorgeous to have TWO tables spinning of an evening: the buzz increases - and the atmosphere develops - when multiple, divergent discussions/conversations are held!
A hubbub: I want a hubbub!
On the plus side, The Shambles wasn't entirely devoid of activity because the yoga group - back on stream - filled the car park with scrunched gravel noises and tight lycra for a couple of hours before drifting off in the Autumnal dark; meanwhile, in the blazing lights of TMoBG, Gerv and Boffo and myself blasted our way through quite the full menu of pastimes!
We opened with a quick Atlantic Crossing followed by the stick-measuring shenanigans of Froschkönig:
Waiting for a possible Jobbers 'show', a couple of rounds of Coloretto followed THEN one of my own personal favourites Pi mal pflaumen:
It was a toss-up between my as yet unplayed copy of Obsession or Boffo's played by everyone else apart from me and Gerv Pan Am and the Catch Me If You Can image of the stylish and sexy stewardesses in blue won us over:
Pan Am is a streamlined worker placement/bounce-out auctions affair that tickles along at a pleasingly brisk pace without losing depth. The Directive cards (one-shot effects) are, undeniably, very powerful and certainly provided all of us will much-needed boosts throughout. However, it was the positive feedback of getting to build routes and cash them in, buying and using bigger planes and, generally, trotting about the globe making money that made it all so enjoyable: Pan Am is stress-free fun! The only negative is the "most money left over" tie-break rule as you should really be investing as much as possible all the time; I only mention it because Boffo and I were tied for 'No. of Shares' at the end and he won on the 'break'...though we adapted it slightly as he had just enough to buy 'half a share' extra and you know how Ben and I love half a victory point!
We weren't done yet - even though the courtyard was now eerily silent post 9PM; we closed with Knizia's Indigo - which is Tsuro WITHOUT the cod philosophy tripe BUT WITH an actual game behind the twirl-adorned tiles:
A tie, again, between Boffo and myself but we were equal in all categories so the victory was shared.
There followed five minutes of me locking doors and gates and checking for lurking intruders before Gerv gave me a lift home.
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There is no finer moment as a gamer than when you've just taught three noobs the rules and processes of one of your favourite games, and when you're done, they all ask if they can play it again right away! Thus was it so with the exemplary Glass Road; a game that, by itself, would grace the CV of any designer but, in Uwe's case, is a further example (among many) of just how fucking great he is:
It all began with me packing a big IKEA bag with medium weight Euros (and a couple of daft fillers - see later) and Jerick - popping in for the first time in a while - spotting Glass Road from the doorway. Apparently, he'd never seen a copy in real life and was (slightly) in awe of its presence...the PERFECT opportunity to rope him into a game, then! Jerick and I were joined by the ever-enthusiastic Jack (part-man, part-sugared up kitten - always willing to throw himself into any game offered) and Ian (my driver for the night and taking a day off from W40K).
Methodical though the teach should be, it only takes the first round before everyone 'gets it' - especially the unique pain of always having a split action of your own while everyone else seems to get away with being not interfered with. Jack, in particular, seemed to be progressing nicely with a plan BUT, unfortunately, that plan didn't garner him enough points. Ian came in second with a thumping 18pt debut, Jerick had an absolute mare...and I punched the air with an unheard of (for me) 20! Jerick mused that he would've done things slightly differently and this led to the unanimously-carried vote for setting it up again immediately.
Everyone got a better score than before (apart from Ian, who suffered with a couple of 'Oh, I can't actually PAY for that action' situations) and, in a possible Apocalypse-heralding feat, I won AGAIN: this time with 21.5 points (definitely equalling my personal best).
Something to do with Kung Fu Panda was happening on one of the tables and O! My Goods was flopping out on the other, so we four stayed together for a run at another one of my Museum Gift Shop prototypes: Atlantic Crossing
It's a race game in the same vein as Formula OviNE but also includes Weather and Event mechanisms (a tiny deck of cards): this led to everyone sinking in stormy weather in the first race to New York! In the second race, it was all nip-and-tack* until the whale spotting, an iceberg encounter and some nasty storms that Ian managed to stay well out of the way of: he swooshed passed the Statue of Liberty soaked in salt spray** and glory.
The roleplayers - who filled the rest of Ian's car - were still resolving some Boss Monster encounter (an Orc 'riding' a Troll, apparently), so there was just enough time for me to embarrass myself at Sushi Go!.
*see what I did there?
**no; just no.
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On Friday, we christened The Museum of Board Games in the full(-ish) company of the Ross-on-Wye board gamers: a Baptism by wine and lo-alcohol cider (despite me offering to nip over to Cobblers for a round of whatevers) - the Batesons picked Ian up on their way, Jobbers revved in from 'the Marcle' and Gerv from Gloucester.
Evening functions at The Shambles are a bit angsty TBH; various parties upset that gates are open without paying attention to the fact that one or more of the Units is correspondingly open! I had a series of messages from 'the Management' enquiring as to whether I am locking up correctly (which I am) so there's obviously been some grumbling in my direction. Ah, well; I know my own anxieties mean I'm double checking everything so I remain innocent!
We started, as a six, with Medici - just to warm up the gaming muscles, you understand:
It was a foregone conclusion, however, with Jobbers lucking into big cartons for no money in Round 1 to establish a hefty margin of error that steeled him against a late game Boffonian comeback.
Splitting, then, for some mancala-esque fun courtesy of the hard-to-find-for-reasonable-money Gold West:
And the much easier to find SdJ also-ran (but uber funtimes) Luxor:
We closed, together again, on a single table (as I'd started a playtest run of Tiddly Rails - another Museum matchbox game - but not finished) and howled along in an entirely inappropriate manner to Viva il Re!. Folks made an excellent fist of pronouncing the characters' Italianate names but - shortly - we descended into boppity-boopy accents and offensive arm gestures:
However, we did genuflect respectfully whenever a character ascended to the Throne but was voted out with at least one 'No' (i.e. assassinated).
It seems that Cockroach Salad and Dobble! vie for Club's Favourite Closer and, tonight, the former won out: cue some hilarious "calling a lettuce a cauliflower/you're not allowed to say cucumber" fun.
Done, and glowing with an evening well-spent in good company, I made sure EVERYTHING was locked up (twice!) before Gerv dropped my back home.
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My love/hate relationship with Magic: The Gathering Arena continues with a forthcoming 'rotation' in Standard-legal sets leading to lots of interesting reworkings for my - and other players' - favourite decks:
The pressure-free 'Play' mode is awash with folk trying out variations on the old decks with newly-legal cards as well as rehearsals of the latest sweep of Vlogger deck tech.
As usual, I have absolutely zero tolerance for opponents who play 'Blue/Black Rogues' - which is, perhaps, the single most dull and irritating 'Tier 1 Deck' in the environment. I'm not going to waste a second more waiting for you to play a Ruin Crab or 'flash in' in a Soaring Thought-Thief. Sometimes this results in 'loss of Ranking' when playing that Format but who gives a tinker's cuss? It's a pox and will soon - rightly - be gutted (as should its "players").
My July/August success with the 'Wide and White' deck has dribbled to a virtual standstill as everyone (and their Mother) knows of its existence and is either
a) playing it themselves, or
b) able to add cards to cope with it while keeping their own 'deck goal' intact.
Thus, for shits-and-giggles, I often return to my Blue/Red Ominous Seas / Mill You To Death-With-Teferi's-Tutelage deck.
For those of you disinterested by this card-flopping, booster-cracking addiction: thanks for staying along to the end (and I hope you liked the Deck names in my MTGA library)!
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