Anthony BoydellUnited Kingdom
UnspecifiedWelcome...to my Shed!
- I first noticed we had a problem at the games club when the table caught fire. It was the second round of auctions and I had significantly less than my initial allocation of funds and a poor abstract by Karl Gitter; as I waited for the next piece, the table loudly combusted taking a double ‘Lite Metal’ - and my eyebrows - with it. Someone screamed: “What the Hell did you do that for?!” and, looking down, I realised I had brought the petrol can in from the car (I worry that the fumes will make it dangerous for me to drive so never leave it in there on it’s own); the still-burning match sizzled against my finger nail and went out. There was a lot of smoke in the room and it was getting difficult to see the playing area what with all the firemen; it must be one of those work’s parties or something. I was forced to set up Nusfjord across the trolley in the ambulance but the fish kept slipping out of their storage boxes when we went around the corners too quickly; also, the crinkled hose from Jobbers’ oxygen mask kept snaking across the action board, scattering the worker discs, so I unplugged it; Jobbers seemed a lot quieter after that. Someone started coughing so I opened the back doors to let some fresh air in (it was getting stuffy) and Jobbers’ trolley slid out, bounced once on the tarmac and then disappeared under the van that was following us; the siren was very loud indeed but you could still make out people shouting so I covered my ears for a bit. At the hospital. I sat next to a policeman that I’d seen outside the Pub when it had got to burning a beautiful shade of autumnal orange and gold; he needed the loo at the same time as me, so I held the door open for him and then he was behind me in the queue for the vending machines: that’s a funny coincidence. I think I must’ve passed out because someone suddenly started shaking me and slapping me across the face; they were obviously worried because they looked like they had been crying – I have such lovely gaming friends. Apparently, Jobbers going home early meant we were now one player short for Princes of Florence (which was a bit thoughtless TBH) but at least he’d left us his folding table: it’ll only take a quick wipe with a soapy cloth to get rid of the blistered plastic and the soot. I had plenty of good, four-player fayre in my bag (especially since Ben’s bags had both disappeared from the Back Room in all the ‘heat of confusion’). It was late and the excitement had made me very tired, so the crowd in A&E helped me grab a quick nap by holding my head down and kicking me repeatedly in the temples.
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
Archive for Session Report
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Gerv has a wonderful way of enjoying a good pun: he raises a single eyebrow and breathes "Oh...hello?!" - it is, simultaneously, both complimentary and condemning. It's as if someone had given him an enormous cake that he neither wanted nor asked for: he's very grateful...but this was entirely the wrong moment. Thus was his reaction to my proposed blog title "Res-On-Wye Gamers": the club having spent much of the evening at The Plough Inn - all seven of us - spinning a couple of tables of Res Arcana.
In a very rare turnabout indeed, Becky pronounced it 'a hit'...and in a not-at-all-rare-turnabout Boffo muttered barely-coherent faint praise ('It's bearable', 'It's nothing special' etc); it's almost as if he is genetically-wired to automatically gainsay the opinion of the rest of us! Jobbers too, on his triumphant table-bearing return, looked as if he'd eaten a wasp-stuffed, sour grape when asked for his opinion of Mr Lehman's delicious, card-based combo-sprint. Maybe I got these two 'gaming experts' in to the drafting mode too soon? Or maybe it's because I managed to comprehensively crush them in both games?
I can certainly see how Jobbers would suffer; he neglected the overriding, do-not-miss-it, 100% essential rule of Res: "It's a race NOT a stroll to the Combo-Kingdom"! However, the good thing about Boffo's theatrically-ambivalent (and Jobber's dogshit-in-my-muesli expression), is that they can fill the evening with 2-player fayre while the rest of us can add the forthcoming expansion to get properly stuck-in. For the entire session, if necessary*
The unholy trinity of myself, Boffo and Jobbers did not start the evening with Our New Favourite, however; we took a first run at Essen Hotness Sierra West first:
I'm looking at designing a new Mode for this thinky, La Granja-esque worker placer and need to get my head around the structure (naturally); on reflection, though, I think trying this out with The Brothers Grim was a bit of a mistake: Christ on his Chocolate Biscuit Go-Cart but the complaining, the interruptions and the snarking!
I'm not sure I quite understood the relationship between the pioneers and buildings <-> Tracker/Trapper <-> Path actions but we seemed to tickle along (eventually, when the sagging jowls could sag no more) healthily by the end. Intriguing and, probably because we're not 100% clear, a little fiddly, I have a clear Mode idea in my head but - with this lot (and all of our Essen-related preparations) - it's unlikely I'd ever get any serious play-testing in; I'll have to dump all of my ideas and suggestions in to a detailed proposal and let the talented designer/Board & Dice guys do all the finessing, I think.
Hmmmmmm...an evening of two-halves: one half of the room was jolly and enthused, the other tetchy and awkward**.
*and judging from the happy noises from the other table, this could - indeed - be 'a thing'!
**It has been suggested that, perhaps, I am a little too candid about club events and emotions and that this sours the blog a bit; for myself, I believe documenting the life-and-times in all of its moods is essential for verisimilitude.
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Ah, the bright pre-Church glow of an end-of-the-Summer Sunday morning! Cool but warming, I lugged a couple of bags down to The King's Arms and found Richard C newly-arrived and settling in, Smudge with Daffers waiting my mule-ing of an open Snod deluxe, and Boffo all dressed up and nowhere to Goa! Before you could blink - and after 10 minutes trying to get a couple of hot drinks organised from the empty Bar - the floating players were deeply-ensconsed in Wingspan so Richard C and I did the charitable thing and made up the spice-racking numbers:
Richard then rudely crushed Boffo and myself with a 50+ finish while I failed, narrowly, to hit my favoured forties. Ah well, time spent playing Goa is most definitely NOT time wasted. No, if you want to waste a bit of time then what you need are the noisy, daft and over-powered fun times afforded by The Black Overcoat Game:
Sporting the full six player count - Boffo, myself, Mr Shep, Matt G, Tim (Boffo's bro) and Floss - a (perhaps) 'left over from the last game' mis-shuffle got Boffo to three map pieces and knowledge of the fortune's location on his first turn (the one after me which was the first of the game)! He was too far away to end the proceedings after barely a minute, so we circled the table with player-after-player drawing one or two map pieces themselves! It was hilarious: trapped in the Picture Gallery by an Art Historian and, then, an elephantine draught-excluder, we all shuffled around the house like we were chained together. Tim failed to successfully use the teleportation device (stolen from Floss) and ended up at the back of the house, which left Matt to open a rip in SpaceTime to the Owlery, get almost-fatally wounded by The Bomb and then he fell out of the attic to the lawn and crawled in to The Boat House to win! God, I loved it: such a lot of stuff going on and all of it utterly-silly!
We were done in 30 mins and left some folk behind to Totemo ("Now we will play one of Tony's proper games!"). Matt and I joined Richard C for our pre-arranged promise of City of the Big Shoulders:
This has come under some sustained disgruntlement recently and I have to say, after playing it all the way through, that I found the complaints to be unfounded. CotBS was engaging, smooth, thinky and - rules wise - pretty straight-forward; while I wasn't learning it from the rulebook, there didn't seem to be anything obtuse or illogical in the architecture. We three were buying in to each other's companies with robust determination but it was Richard - long experienced with this sort of thing - who exploited the timing and the value up-ticks with deftness for an embarassingly easy victory. It was likened to 18Lilliput with the worker placement bit replacing the action card selection, which makes a lot of sense: it's a half-way house between your middle-weight Euros and a full-blown 18XX.
For me this is a fine entry in to the heavier game world and undeserving of the scorn.
Time marched on and folks began disappearing as the CotBS decades passed; before we knew it, it was 4PM and Matt had time for just one more:
Gerv joined us for Res Arcana and it was a blast; however, I really want to start DRAFTING my deck in future, as the eight cards I was dealt were woefully unsynergeous. Matt looked to be walking it with a vicious gold-generating/monument-buying combo train but Gerv gave him a run for his money with a water-based powerhouse and there was just the one point between them in the finish.
And then Boffo and Smudge had to go and then Matt did and then Richard and I left and the party was over: the H-40 completed, many excellent games played and much good food-and-drink consumed. Now, if only more folk could be (insert milestone date here}, we could (and, indeed, should) do this more often.
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It begins! Huzzah!
I'd found the Frank Dickens (old school Brit childrens' author and cartoonist) book in a charity shop about a year ago and immediately divested myself of a few pounds and stored it in the sacred cupboard; the plan was to 'modify' the text and pictures in honour of the 40-year old one which I duly (sparingly) did. It's quite the journey that Ben's nickname - coined in jest to fit a session report themed to WW1 trenches - has taken these last 10 years.
And, so, to business:
Smudge has been extremely gracious in giving over much of the Uterine Celebratory vibes to her hubby because she, herself, had a birthday on Friday! In honour, then, we joined her for a four-player Lancaster:
Pleasingly, I managed to get a slick game going and ended with no money issues AND a full-to-busting Army AND 36 points worth of Nobles (something not ever done by me before)! This was enough to beat the almost-impossible-to-beat Smudge by a single point!
As a post-match aside, it was interesting to see how things panned out with four players as opposed to our usually-mandatory five: everything was hoovered up, three players had full armies and there was a lot less of the 'out-bidding' thanks to the space left by the absent player. I must say that, while it was fun, Lancaster is absolutely at-its-best with the full compliment.
Cue: table swap. Elizabeth, Kevin and Byll joined me for another Season of round Britain fishing antics in Attention All Shipping:
Elizabeth made an excellent fishy-fist of exploiting Tales to leap in to a seemingly-unassailable lead; however, I managed a series of high value piscine sales to race in to a close(-ish) second; both of us well ahead of the salty sea-dogs K & B. The bit I was tweaking this time - and with great success from my POV - was the ship parts: now a central pool of parts randomly dealt from a bigger pool thus not guaranteeing what parts - and it what quantities - would be available to the players.
A lighter diversion commenced with the arrival of Arthur and his best pal Tom:
The boys chugged through their fizzy drinks - and the pool of available Goblin characters ('lives') - while unable to complete a level 4 quest; this meant Arthur, by dint of killing 'Tenty the Bog Monster' more times than the rest of us for fish, was left as the only surviving player and took the win. Matt Green was on-hand to help clarify a couple of queries but the boys had gone again within 30s of packing the board away leaving me to amble over to the next diversion:
Pipeline: this week's hotness and pretty damn good it is too
This, despite the cute Tantrix-esque pipe pieces, is a serious board game and - as such - I am doomed to perform barely adequately. Having pronounced that a winning score would be around 600 and the appalling threshold was 300, I was quite cheered to have crept over the 400 barrier (even though this was still in dead last). Pipeline reminded me of a number of games - the names of which currently escape me in that nagging-at-the-back-of-the-brain way - and is a jolly good experience for it. The eclectic mix of the usual economic shenanigans with the spacial-awareness of the tile-laying is something that (I imagine) plays merry hell with the AP of many a gamer though, for us (Mr Shep, Matt G, Richard D and myself) there were no such delays; we leaned back in our chairs after a couple of hours 'all done' with Richard - he who has played it before - only a touch ahead of Matt ($20 in it).
Supper pizzas arrived at the same time as we reset the table - same players - for an excitably-received A Study in Emerald (First Edition):
This one had us all drooling with anticipation and Mr Shep - to whom this gorgeous copy belongs - took us through the (actually very straight-forward) rules. Scoffing meat feasts, there was an alarm ringing off in my head about not getting this valuable work smudged with chilli oil and cheese grease; I think we managed to avoid any heinous pollution...in the real world, at least!
As a Restorationist, I got off to a sly opening by grabbing Irene Adler and then stole most of the Double Agent tiles off of everyone else; I then got a little over-enthused, assassinated Gloriana
itherself, took over the Agents with the DA tiles and washed over Europe taking cards and cities with me along the way. This gung-ho anarchy was not to be tolerated and Matt (Loyalist - booooo!) picked off a couple of agents with hired assassins and a minor Great Old One before offing Yours-Truly in The Hague: thus exposed, the Restorationist cause collapsed and the SquidfuckersLoyalists, led by Richard, won.
Oh my but what a wholly-engaging, thematically-bonkers and exciting game this is: utter genius.
The light was fading and the garlic bread, cold on the plate, slowly filled the room with tangy scent. Having threatened to play Agricola without Ben for most of the day, it was now the correct time to grab the Birthday Boy and get farmin'.
We opened the mini sets - one each in our preferred colours - and then chose 7 of each to play. It was wonderful, we were all purring with delight, it doesn't get better than this etc. A tie between Boffo and Matt on 48-48-42 seemed most appropriate (we don't do tie-breakers at the Club).
And so, then, to the finish: very late on a Saturday night - and with beers awash with tasty, light beer - it was play 39 of Braggart for 'the list':
Despite Matt playing quite the worst 'brag' ever (see above - what next? "I shat myself in front of a pigeon!?"), he had no trouble bullshitting his way to the victory. A fitting end to a long and extremely satisfying Day One.
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31 Aug 2019
No sign of the prodigal son (Jobbers) this evening, so it was a very good thing that I'd asked The Plough's Landlady if we could borrow a couple of her 'function buffet' long tables. Despite Boffo's calling notice suggesting 'no RSVP is required: just come along and we'll see what happens', our distracted com-padre replied anyway with an unusually-coherent "I shall not be coming" email - as opposed to his normal clipped, phonetic 'R's and 'Y's. Life's looking like it might be too short to be taking games so seriously TBH.
I was transporting Mr Matt Green - loooong-time gaming pal and fellow designer - to the club as he is staying in Newent for the Boffonian celebrations. He had a hempen bag-for-life that disgorged its gaming delights for much of the evening; it also gifted us the tuberic joy of Potato Man:
A trick-taking game where one must, most-definitely, NOT follow suit, L'homme du pommes de terre stuttered through four rounds of 'Is this all it is?' before everyone just kinda got up and moved to their next game. No-one seemed to have any time to do anything; most of our dealt-hands being thrown in early due to someone being unable to not-follow legally. Matt won thanks to a huge score in the fourth - he evidently knows what he's doing - while the rest of us just looked around, dazed.
A proper card game for our next, however, as Herr Kartoffle was buried deep in the recesses of the hessian sack:
A Thomas Lehmann game is a wonderful thing and, true to form, Res Arcana looked gorgeous and came with about as many distinct icons as Guilds of London but with far less whining and bleating from players!
In summary: You get a Mage character and eight randomly-dealt (in the intro game) artifact cards. You collect resources (five types) in order to play out the artifacts which, in turn, provide further resources and resource-conversion effects. The aim is to build artifacts to accelrate in to building special locations and monuments for Veeps/Veep-scoring abilities and then hit 10+ points before the others.
The first game was a confused cornucopia of tapping, un-tapping, mis-plays and low-scores (apart from Matt of course) but with Mr Shep (of that other blog) joining us mid-intro, the second was a stonking festival of combos and card-abuse! Oh yes, one play and it all makes absolute and thrilling sense! Abusing a beast (gain RED equal to the number of BLACK an opponent had) and an item that builds artifacts from your discard pile at a hefty discount, I ended up playing the last few rounds with far more things-to-do than my Passed-and-sitting-on-their-hands opponents! A word of caution, though; Matt advised us that this is a first to 10+ race NOT a languid boat-ride of all-evening tableau optimization: you win big by winning quick!
I'd have happily played this for the rest of the night but variety is the spice of life:
Dicelantis is Matt and Sam's re-working of their Beyond the Gates of Antares: The Dice Game, in the manner of those cheesy Doug McClure movies of the late 1960s and 1970s. A well-hidden (by the publisher) gem, this Yahtzee-esque die-roller needs wider exposure and my plan is for Surprised Stare Games to give it the love it deserves! Mr Shep stole the first victory from under Gerv's nose and then pulled the last survivor from the Whirlpool of Doom in the second for a whitewash.
We closed with Eggs of Ostrich: an exactly-three-players blind-bidding affair that I'd not visited since 2012. In summary: reveal an ostrich card (how many eggs are available) then secretly select a bag number in which to store collected eggs or a 'Skip' card. Simultaneously reveal: those not skipping divide the eggs between them and put them in the bag whose number they played - go over the number and the bag breaks. Score points for exactly- and partially-full bags at the end of 10 rounds. EoO is a quirkly little bluffer and, notably, coaxed a series of odd wails and groans from Byll - so much so that it distracted Boffo from his 40th Too Many Cooks at the other end of the room!
Ian joined us at the very end but, this time, there was to be no Cockroach Poker; just a genteel departure in to the chilly end-of-Summer night.
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Becky was off sick this week so another 'boys only' session was in the offing. Ben and I planned a delicious 'menu for five' (El Grande, Modern Art, German Railways) only for Byll - twice in a month?! - to scupper. Ne'er mind, says I; we'd have a wider choice for threes and in to the bag went my revised edition of Agricola (with the minis sets for random allocation a la World Championship decks) and - after 5G4D's recent effusive discovery - a hankered-for Caylus.
As I pootled down the hill, approaching the car park, I saw Jobbers cheerily lugging his folding-table in to The Plough - I waved but he didn't see. I had some lugging of my own to do (a copy of Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set for Smudge) and ordered my soft drink on the way to the Back Room where an odd sight greeted me...
Next weekend is Ben's 40th birthday 'all weekend of games' - modelled on my own Gathering of Chums - and Ben and Gerv were playfully ribbing each other over Gerv's 'lost' invite. Becky has invited everyone over Facebook and, at the time the Event was set up, it seems a relatively-new-to-the-club Gerv had been missed from her initial tranche; however, Gerv had just been verbally invited by Ben but they were cheerfully role-playing 'outraged' for laffs. Byll watched on with mild amusement and Jobbers? Well, he was curiously silent and glowering; his pint of blackcurrent & soda barely sipped: thunder was in the air. Jokingly, I quipped "Did you not get an invite either, John?"
Oh very fucking dear.
There was a "No I didn't!", an explosion of expletives and insults, a standing up of Jobbers and a folding-down of the table and a curse-strewn departure. A strangled vow of "never coming again!" was clipped short by the shuttering of the 'Staff Only' swing doors and he was gone.
I blame the Social Media, dearest pals; for Jobbers - cynical as ever - had taken himself off of the Facebooks without a) telling anyone and b) removing his account so, perfectly innocently, Becky thought he would've seen the aforementioned Event and taken it to his Calendar: obviously not. The fact that he was one of the very first to be invited was lost on the now-disappeared Much Marclean - not that it would've mattered during his spontaneous eruption as it was very much a one-way vocal transaction.
Oh very, very fucking dear.
My first thought was: "Shit! I've invited Jobbers to my Gathering Of Chums on Facebook too!"; my second thought was: "Bollocks, now we're back to five players for the evening!" and all of the dishes or our previously-obsolete delicious menu had been left at home!
It was, naturally, impossible to entirely erase the volcanic overture and - after bringing later arrival Gary 'up to speed' - we gave a personal fave of mine - Plums - a spin:
Next - keeping things quick-but-crunchy - was the 39th play of club super-hit, Knizia's Too Many Cooks:
Gerv and I plumped for 'No Soup' in the first round - I successfully, he with just the loss of three points - then things began to ramp up in the mid-game when dual No Soup-ers Gary and Byll got royally shafted, picking up 26 cards between them! The final round was a head-to-head between Boffo and myself with my unfortunate last hand gain of a couple of chillis gifting the wheezy almost-Birthday-Boy the victory.
Card games were to be the group's sanctuary as we eased seamlessly in to Modern Art:
A low-scorer thanks to a wide spread of round awards (see pic), I managed to navigate some quite preposterous bidding to pip Boffo by $20,000 or so. The mood was most-definitely lightening as we reveled in the comfort of the familiar and we could've done no better than close with a brace of 7 Wonderses (avec Cities for some interfering good measure):
We closed, at the last orders arrival of Ian, with a Cockroach Poker and sunk Gerv with a trio of Cockroaches. Thus, we were done and the good night awaited.
Smudge, convalescing at the end of iPhone texts, is going to send Jobbers a pic of the Facebook invite as 'proof' of no deliberate snubbage: fingers crossed (but breath not held) for an emotional and joyous reunion before next week, eh?!
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With both Boffo and Smudge away, there could only be one thing on the Friday schedule: Eclipse. Despite Jobbers abandoning at the very last minute, three eager inductees joined me for some spacely-operatic fun and frolics.
The final round saw an utterly-splendid escalation of tensions with SEVEN battles to be resolved as a final reckoning -
Add three more fans of this wonderful experience.
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Despite a vehicular metal-upon-metal-squeal developing as Mrs B and I returned from a meeting/lunch in Cheltenham (with consequent 'drop off' of the poorly automobile at the local garage), Friday proceeded at a gentle and unstressful pace. There was a moment of mild consternation when I sat in the library room trying to decide what games to bring to the club; we would having a couple of guests passing through and our number would be swelling to an impressive eight!
Nick and KT - normally native to the Meepleonboard (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/673/meepleonboard) daily blog* - were breaking up a journey to The North with a Malvern stopover and, because we're on the way (sort-of), asked very politely if they could nip in to The Plough for some dobbershoving. It's always a delight to meet Internet pals for the first time 'face-to-face' and, I have to be honest, Nick was wholly unlike the mental picture I'd been building ie. of a formal, clean-cut, be-suited professional musician; in person he is more Hawkwind than Simon Rattle and the world is a saner place because of it. KT, charming the entire room of fusty old geeks, took the Ross-on-Wye ribaldry with good cheer and joined in the elbows-and-shoving for the evening's opener: Off The Rails:
Despite Jobbers' exasperated 'not again!' response to my suggesting this 'everybody in' warm-up, he demurred when I mentioned the flow-interrupting (and, in some cases, daft) milestones.
Boffo arrived home first with a fistful of pennies with KT and Gerv (who pipped Nick by a finger) coming in second and third; there's still some work to be done on the milestones version - which is the 'gamer' bit. The straight race works absolutely fine for non-hobbyist play but if I want to see this being a convention staple, it just needs an extra wrinkle.
While I wanted to play a game with KT and/or Nick, their selection of London - a game of which I am not greatly enamored - sent me to the company of Dave, Gerv and Ian instead. They were quite enthusiastic about giving Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea a turn:
By the end, they were all - gratifyingly - fizzing with praise! Dave found a sturdy 31pt contract, early-doors, to concentrate his efforts and was a comfortable victor ahead of Gerv who didn't manage to finish a single contract (!), though he did sell all of this tea to Siliguri Town for some healthy veepage.
On the other table they bid astounding quantities of cash in QE before KT and Nick had to make a move. There was an extended farewell and, with the realisation that they're based in nearby Somerset, an invitation to my Gathering of Chums in November - I look forward to exploring the Spiel'19 releases with them!
Both Boffo and Dave were requiring of an earlier-than-usual bath, so we settled on Codenames as the closer. Somewhat subdued by having been on our best behaviour - and with our opponents muttering like a television left on in an adjacent room - the mighty behemoth that is Boffo-Jobbers-Boydell crushed the opposition three to zero.
Next week is looking to be a lads-only event and I've already cued up Eclipse; the last time I played it was at Bastion (North Wales) which, coincidentally, has just gone live for 2020 bookings (https://www.bastionwales.com/) - naturally, I've already secured a lower bunk.
*we are a rare, but prospering, breed.
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And so we come to August.
Shows and holidays and other distractions generally wreak a little havoc to the Ross-on-Wye schedule: Smudge is often away on marrow-sizing, bell-tugging and/or jiving duties which leaves us chaps to sort ourselves out with a menu of things Becky won't play. Tonight would be the last 'normal' Friday until the end of the month when all Hell breaks loose for Boffo's 40th birthday celebration all-weekend-of-gaming(!) and it seemed fitting to open the session with a double of Molkkys in The Plough Inn's grassy derriere.
(clockwise, from top-left) Wood, Farm, Run! and Oooo-eee-oooo-eee (clues for both 'Jet' and 'Whale')
Dodging the ample quantities of air-dried dogdirt, first Boffo and then Gerv showed us how it was done with some admirable lobbing; Jobbers, on the other hand (or should that be 'foot') pivoted, preened and contorted himself to no discernible benefit (apart from nearly causing Boffo to choke with mirth).
The arrival of 'the skittles folk' sent us scurrying in to the back room for a promising start: Boffo, Smudge and me with a thirst-quenching Agricola and Ian, Jobbers and Gerv running out my copy of Finca. An excellent opening that boded well for the remaining 120 mins...only we took an early bath with a 6pl Codenames (fun, but loooooong) and things never really recovered after that: Diamant and Braggart - as good as these games are, I just want games that are a bit more involved nowadays.
Fortuitously, August's Bateson comings-and-goings may present an opportunity for a (rare, uncomplaining) Scythe or Eclipse: a happy medium, perhaps?
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The WayBackMachine is a wonder to behold and I used it to behold my old turn-of-the-millenium personal website: Wow!
Taking a mooch around, I stumbled up a tournament report for the UK Magic: The Gathering Nationals in 2000; I did rather better than I had expected and had a thrilling weekend as a result. The title, BTW, came from my housemate - and landlord - Tony M who, not being a TCG-er, was singularly unimpressed by my adventures.
It is a beautiful morning - blue skies and shining, summer sun. Alan and myself leave my part-time Reading residence at the crack of dawn (a lark in attendance) and drive to Guildford - shining Southern metropolis and home to this year's English Nationals. I should emphasise that they are the ENGLISH Nationals ( as some of you may have already witnessed the raging pedantry of posters on uk.games.trading-cards.misc with regard to this matter), and not the UK Nationals.
Anyway, we stopped off at a garage to stock up on crisps, drinks, and "indeterminate parts of the pig" pies, and find the venue shortly after thanks to a) my excellent navigation skills, b) good sign-posting, and c) asking the bloke in the garage where it is ! The Spectrum Leisure Centre is enormous, and we shall be located on sub-level 2 for the duration, next to the Ice-rink, the Nuclear reactor, and the 300 entombed colonists. It has a burger franchise (mercifully free of slightly-scary clown mascot-age), a swimming pool (with a giraffe slide, for Cliff's sake !), a bowling alley, and a coffee bar that opens 8.30AM on the dot (no exceptions!).
Note: My t-shirt for today is currently a scanned image of BUOYANCY, with the phrase: "I Wouldn't Wipe My Arse On It" across the top.
We play a couple of games with some young chaps in the coffee area; one (Ben) has a 'casual' green decks with lots of high CC phatness but they are missing staple cards like Llanowar Elf, three extra Rancors, River Boa, Treetop Village etc and its very inefficient (note: a little while later, The Fighting Hellfish, the team I have recently joined, will spend a good 15 minutes getting those required cards and adjusting said deck with Ben's approval - he plays in the grinders but fails to get in; I think he had a good weekend, though)
I should point out that The Fighting Hellfish is composed of the following fine specimens of the human race: myself, Brett Antill, Russell Henley, Jamie Moles, Neil Yates, Caroline Mutton, and 'Jimmy' Chung. At 9AM on day 1, only Brett and Caroline have qualified, while Jimmy played in the Welsh Nationals and is, therefore, not allowed to try - that leaves four of us, plus honourary stickleback-of-the-day Alan Paull (my driver ;-)).
We pay 10 English pounds and sign up for the first grinder of the day - SEALED LUCK ! Hoorah ! We sit, we open, we build - I am eminently satisfied with 2 x Massacre, 1 x Cateran Overlord, Power Matrix, blue flyers, Ballista Squad etc but lose to my nemesis Matt Green (of Team Spike UK) in the first round - mainly due to mana screw (3 land only in game 1). Matt goes all the way and qualifies with relative ease (it was only an 8-player grinder, unbelievably !) - he also has the best t-shirt in the building; it's basically a shirt with a horizontal strip of velcro across the middle of the chest and a bag of 'sticky' letters.
I swear and curse and wander the building in search of capaccino until I decide to make another t-shirt (I brought some spares) to take me into the afternoon:
a. take 1 plain white t-shirt
b. put t-shirt on; draw circle around left nipple
c. remove t-shirt and cut hole (using circle drawn in
step b. as guide)
d. write "What's Wrong With Being Sexy ?" above hole.
I decide to enter one of the standard grinders using Russell's ROCK AND HIS MINIONS / MILLIONS / ONIONS (whatever it's called) deck - this I proceed to play excruciatingly-badly against Mr Garcia (sorry, forgot your first name) including horrific mis-reading of Diabolic Servitude, which lets me win (neither of us notice until I am chatting with Russ after the game - it's too late to do anything, as I'd still get the win anyway, but we'd both have received warnings) - I am urinated upon from a great height in the subsequent round by a mono-red Nasticore deck, which is justice I 'spose. At this point, I am hungry and have learned the following lesson: don't borrow someone else's deck if it is complicated or you have NEVER played with it before.
My brother-in-law arrives shortly after this debacle - I greet him with a hearty "halloo" and send him upstairs to the café for some drinks ! It's now mid-afternoon, so I enter another standard grinder (they're free, after all), and use Brett's BEAR-GO deck - much more simple to play, and comprising the following cards (I'm listing it, because it becomes very important later on !):
4 x RAMOSIAN SERGEANT
4 x FRESH VOLUNTEERS
4 x LONGBOW ARCHER
4 x STEADFAST GUARD
4 x MOTHER OF RUNES
4 x PARALLAX WAVE
4 x CRUSADE
3 x REVERENT MANTRA
3 x ARMAGEDDON
2 x DISENCHANT
4 x RISHADAN PORT
20 x PLAINS
4 x WRATH OF GOD (vs Green and weenies)
2 x ERASE (vs Replenish)
2 x SEAL OF CLEANSING (vs Replenish)
3 x DEFENDER EN-VEC (vs Mirror / Rebel Weenie)
2 x TANGLE WIRE (vs Replenish)
1 x Something I never used
1 x LIN SIVVI (vs Rebels in theory - just needed the extra card for the SB)
In the first round I'm against Replenish, which he plays exceptionally well. I lose 2-0, but saying I got him down to 2 life in both games won't mean a lot, will it ? I thought not ! Disheartened, I enter a MM/NM/PR draft side-event, picking up a Waterfront Bouncer, black removal, and phat Black and Green monsters - I go…wait for it - black/green with a splash for the Bouncer (he's just Some Good, obviously) - oh, and did I mention I pulled VITALIZING WIN (deliberate typo) ? Unsurprisingly, I am untroubled throughout and come away with a victory and four boosters for my trouble.
Energised, I meet up with fellow Hellfish Jamie and we play some standard games (Bear-Go vs Goblin Nonsense) - I proceed to beat him up a great many games in a row and sign up for the LAST grinder of the day (and the build-up) - what an evening was to follow !
Round 1 of Last Grinder (vs Sebastian, a genial French chap):
He goes: Plains
I go: Plains
He goes: In your end phase, Enlightened Tutor for a
I go: (mentally) BOLLOCKS !
No prizes for guessing which deck he is playing - my heart sank. Game 1 is over 15 minutes later after resolving some horrendous Parallax Wave dementia.
I side in Tangle Wire and Erase and Seal, losing the Mothers and a Fresh Volunteer and get a turn 3 'Wire followed by some Bears followed by Armageddon - he can't recover and dies.
Game 3 is much the same, though a little tighter; he gets a Seal of Bounce out, but a well-timed Reverent Mantra (to protect the bounce target) followed by more bears and an Armageddon 'seal' it for me !
Yahoo ! I beat replenish and I get through to the next round - please don't let me have to play Jamie (who is in the grinder also)!
I have to play Jamie.
Round 2 of Last Grinder (vs Jamie Moles):
I am paranoid, thinking that the beatings I gave him earlier on will now be returned in spades when it actually matters ! Game one is horrific, he gets a god draw and proceeds to kill my guys whilst smacking my be-atch mouth with his Goblins. However, MVP Parallax Wave clears the way for more traditional Bear-Go action in games 2 and 3 and I'm in the semi's.
Round 3 of Last Grinder (vs Martin Swan)
I have to win one more match to qualify. I am playing a chap called Martin Swan - I have heard the name before but never met him. He is playing a more conventional rebels deck (2/1 flyers, Lin Sivvi, more Parallax Waves etc). I don't remember much about these games, to be honest, it was late (11PM), and I was very tired (not to mention horrifically nervous!) - suffice it to say that the end result was 2-1 to me after Reverent Mantra and Armageddon do their stuff. I can hardly believe it - I have qualified (for the first time ever) for the English Nationals !
None of the other grinding Hellfish made it that day - so three out of the six of us isn't bad ! Now I need to sleep and prepare myself for the big day ahead PLUS I have to ring my wife and tell her I won't be coming home Sunday, as originally anticipated, because I've gone and done the business ! I leave Alan in an all-night Prophecy pre-release and go back to my brother-in-law's place in Guildford somewhere. I can't seem to get the camp-bed to unfold, so I sleep on the thin mattress on the floor.
Wake up refreshed, despite only 5 hours sleep - I kept waking and thinking about the draft. As I'm putting things away, I try the camp-bed again out of curiosity and it unfolds/folds away gracefully, easily, and without a single hitch - go figure.
Meet Alice Coggins and Phil Mattingly of Team Spike UK, and they present me with a 'Happy Nationals' greetings card - it's a glittery pink and yellow
monkey with the following poetic gem inscribed within:
They say you draft like a monkey
But you know it's not true,
The Simian stays in his colours,
More often than you.
I laugh and thank the guys - I'm touched; apparently, it is one of the 'nicer' cards they've sent out. They had assumed, however, that I'd pre-qualified, and were unaware of my late-night shenanigans !
And so it begins.
We sit and listen to 10 minutes of rules run-down, and I'm getting more and more nervous as about 4.7 million questions are asked in response (remember this is my first premiere event); it doesn't help that the questions sound muffled and the responses given with the Judges' backs to us, so they might as well have been speaking Croatian for all I heard and understood !
Draft Pod #1: I open Clear The Land (!) with Ramosian Sarge and Thermal Glider; I pick the Glider, as I am reluctant to commit to any sort of Rebel nonsense this early on. First cards passed to me contains an Overtaker (!) - wha ? Isn't this card some kind of broken ? I take it and pass the thirteen. In fact, the rest of the draft is uneventful, with me picking up shed loads of blue and white from both directions (go figure again).
It's a pity that my play did injustice to the cards I'd drafted - I needlessly gave the first match away to my opponent…as follows: we are at one game each; he is on two life and I have drake hatchling in play; he has no flying blockers and I hold Counterspell in hand; he casts Skyshroud Cutter for free (giving me 5 life) - it is not a flyer; at this point I am possessed by the spirit of Joe Stupid and counter the cutter !!! He proceeds to cast Venomous Dragonfly and re-gains control - what an idiot ! At the end of pod#1, I am on 1-2 (3pts).
This sets me up with a less-hard pod#2, paving the way for a magnificent 3-0 (4-2 overall) - the second deck drafted is much more homely; I get passed two Spidersilk Armours, phat green, and 2/3cc Mercenaries PLUS Intimidation. The final deck is much more of a no-brainer to play, and I end my first day at the Nationals on 4-2 (38th position, one behind the veritable Ms Coggins).
The dilemma that now smacks my pert cheeks is the fact that I won’t be home on Sunday night, as I had pessimistically assumed the night before, and have to ring up my wife to let her know that I shall be staying away for one more day ! Having suitably grovelled and prostrated myself, I return with Brett
and Caroline (fellow Hellfish-ers, you will remember) and discuss decks to play in the Standard portion of the event.
I decide Bear-Go (see previous listing), with some tweaks to the sideboard, for the following reasons:
a. it's a no-brainer; I haven't time to 'learn' a more complex deck
b. it's solid, and should go 4-2; after all, the Sarge is beats versus blue if dropped on turn one (an uncounterable grizzly bear every turn after turn 4 !)
c. it can work under Tangle Wire or Rishadan Ports, if required
d. it's easy to play
Caroline has dropped after day 1, while Brett flagellated himself into the early hours before deciding on the double-fudge sundae that is Antill Squirrel-Prison.
We cruise on back to Guildford the following morning in blazing sunshine and gorgeous blue skies. Deck lists are handed in and we mooch and mingle for a while…
(speeds up description of matches)
Match One (vs Stupid Fast Green) - my opponent has main deck Treetop Bracers as anti-White Weenie tech; this is a bitch because a) my mothers are now useless, and b) I also decide that drawing land is a bad idea - I'll make up for this later, I assure you ! (0-1)
Match Two (vs Suicide Black) - Flesh Reaver is some good, no ? In both games we step down our life totals 4 points at a time, and then Reverent Mantra does the business and I finish off with little trouble (1-1)
Match Three (vs Suicide Black) - my prayers are answered and, although things were a little more involved (two Negators hit the table in the last game), Parallax Wave and Reverent Mantra seal his fate in two games. (2-1)
Now I'm feeling quite buoyant - I could be looking at 4-2, maybe 5-1 at the end of the day. But after the rise of the Boydell empire comes the fall…
Match Four (vs Blue with main-deck Somnophore) - I am playing fellow Star City CCG writer Kevin O'Connor, and we have been selected as one of the two Feature matches (how cool is that for a scrub such as myself ?). This is just an insane match, and it is the turning point of my weekend: in about turn three of the first game, Kevin draws a REPLENISH which is a hang-over from a friendly thing he had had between rounds - consequently, the Head Judge gives him a game loss. So, I'm one-nil up and looking to drop a turn one Sergeant to force my opponent into his scoop phase. It wasn't to be. Somnophore beat-down follows, with me unwilling to cast anything but a Mother of Runes and a Steadfast guard - things are difficult, because I'm anticipating the old 'Dominate your mother' routine. Game three could've been all over for Kevin had I not decided that five plains in a row was infinitely preferable to a creature with which to beat him. At some point he introduces me to a 4 casting cost Urza's Destiny artifact creature, and it's back to the slums for Tony With-the-Big-Ideas ! (2-2)
Match Five (vs Stupid Fast Green) - a team-mate of my first opponent of the day, this chap ALSO has anti-Mother tech in the shape of Treetop Bracers. I am not worthy. (2-3)
Match Six (vs Rogue Green Thorn Elemental Horror) - wallowing as I am amongst the rogue decks of the day, I am royally shafted by two Thorn Elementals with Might of Oaks (one in each of the two games); my only hope is Parallax Wave, but he is playing FOUR Tranquil Grove main deck as anti-Replenish tech - when the stuff hits the fan, it really sticks in the motor, don't it ? (2-4)
And that's the end of my English Nationals experience - I am 6-6 at the end of competition, that’s 18 points and 54th place. I have played some of the best (and worst) Magic of my entire career, but it was one hell of a ride !
1. The Fighting Hellfish for their support, their abuse, their encouragement, and their Malboro Lights.
2. Brett and Caroline for a) Bear-Go, and b) a place to kip for the night
3. My brother-in-law, Tom Lee-Hynes, for the magnificent folding/not-folding camp-bed, and severe quantities of capaccino (oh, and a lift back to Reading on Monday evening so I could pick up my motor-bike)
4. Alan "Am I Hallucinating Yet?" Paull, for staying up the entire weekend and for giving me a lift to Guildford in the first place.
5. Paul Barclay (Head Judge) for running an extremely efficient tournament - I may not be involved in this sort of thing very often (understatement alert!), but everything seemed to go to plan.
1. Prophecy drafting - this is just such a silly environment - and you thought triple Nemesis was bad ? Try MM and double Prophecy - it is insane !
2. The attendance - I guess the big hall felt a little empty; more traders and non-Magic side events would've been good, plus maybe some artist signings / special guests ?
3. Nothing else, really - I spent most of the weekend wandering about in a state of amazement !
Normal service will be resumed next time.
- [+] Dice rolls