Well, I managed dip in to the UKGE this weekend but ONLY via the Discord environment. Every time I wandered to the UKGE's 'Main Stages' page, there was either nothing on (with nothing showing in the schedule) OR it was some tedious marketing wank in which I had no interest. Or I got an Error 500.
No, indeed; it was a bizarre experience using 'Find' in Chrome to locate the virtual stands of peeps in whom I was interested rather than scrolling up and down the randomly-shifting presentation. Unless, of course, you were a major sponsor in which case your 'feed' was anchored to the top of the page.
With Essen Spiel coming up (so) fast, it was apparent by mid-Saturday that UKGE weren't doing anything new or - indeed - interesting; as Chris B (Cardboard Edison) remarked during a fascinating Sunday PM chat, they've just added company website links to a version of their Hall maps, pointed everyone to Discord and told us to get on with it. And then asked for payment at the end (one of those "Pay what you like" things: I 'like' zero, thanks).
I've no real idea how Essen will be different but with 1000+ exhibitors and however many thousand new games, this 'special friends get all the perks' shite just won't wash for a worldwide audience. UKGE had 'three' stage feeds but the real action was on the Twitches and the Discords the companies set up themselves: by-passing the imaginary NEC altogether!
Several things became apparent:
Sitting around 'live' and waiting for folks to ask for a demo is a massive waste of time - smaller Co.s would be better served pre-recording run-thrus and just making them available for ad hoc viewing. With no way to see if anyone is 'waiting' online - unless they make themselves known - the inactivity on a page will just move people along.
Sales - if you expected to get the same throughput as a real Con then you won't have been running a company for long; oh, I am SURE plenty of folks will swear blind that 'It was really good for us!" and "We sold loads!" but they're lying. Watching someone struggle through a 15 minute filler on Tabletopia for over an hour will NOT result in a ker-ching moment...which leads me to:
Online gaming at a virtual con is shit: Tabletopia and TS are utterly-terrible windows for demoing and should be stopped immediately. Prototypes? Yes! Actual demos? No - fuck off with the cumbersome shite: folks absolutely MUST see real limbs doing real things with real components.
Trying to digitize the physical geography of a Con is so wrong it's wrongetty-wrong.
Thus did the chat with Chris B continue and one thing I noted made the most sense: it's about the LIVE ACTION, people. Demos are time-consuming and procedural so can be pre-built for those who want a taste; where things really begin to shine is with the conversations, the arguments, the teasers and prototypes, the jokes and the friendships (old and newly-forged) - this is where an online Con needs to focus: the LIVE content.
Where UKGE had three 'special', pre-populated ('pre-sold') stages, Essen Spiel needs one virtual stage per exhibitor.
Exhibitors should be encouraged to provide regular - possibly constant for some - content, streamed from their 'Stand' with a previously-published (and indexed) central itinerary for the entire show - a fantastic example of how this might look can be found here:
. We've all got phones, so what we need is a means of linking them to a dedicated company stream and letting us all get on with it!
The tabletop events site does it all beautifully: searchable, linked to ticketing where needed and maintains a personal calendar on your behalf!
Of course, who would spend the money needed to set this up just for 2020? No-one in their right mind BUT...isn't this the perfect way to make Essen Spiel permanently available to the non-200,000 who make it to the actual Halls in future? Imagine we're on our stands with cameras and phones streaming our 'face-to-face's to anyone who wants to drop-by from home?
Imagine being able to add a company's game to your cart - from Oz or Brazil or Iceland - knowing that a shopper will be circling the Halls all-day and picking stuff up as they pass, drops it off at a parcel despatch Hall and come the Sunday the whole lot is taped and posted?! Payments could be handled as electronic payments-back to us at an end-of-show reconciliation. Jesus, this all sounds do-able and up-to-date.
We, at SSG, could stream interviews, play-thrus of prototypes, offer a Big Brother-style snoop option (rolling all the time), dances, us showing off our hauls and so on and so forth. All of it accessible from a Netflix/Amazon Prime-style wall of scrolling rows for 'Wargames...', 'Miniatures...', 'Small but perfectly formed Independents...' and so.
While we may never have to do the wholly-remote thing again (fingers-crossed), there's no reason to take the lessons learned forward and just raise the whole Convention concept to the next level!
(c) Tony Boydell and Chris B, 2020.
Life and Games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Dad, Husband and Independent UK Game Designer, Agricola fanboy and jealous admirer of Carl Chudyk.
Archive for Show/Convention Report
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For the third Friday in a row, I hauled my sizzled retinas in front of Skype for some Ross-on-Wye boardgaming; thankfully, we had a fourth in the form of young David, to help enrich the gaming gene-pool. David lamented the 'online' platform after the rest of sus had mutteringly-discussed the UK's impending re-opening of Pubs (part of the Tory government's grand plan to blame a second Covid wave on the rank stupidity of 'the great British public'): will we be getting back to The Plough soon? Smudge coughed up a (sensible, welcome) suggestion that we nix the politics talk and play some games.
Dave has been noodling with Troyes, solo, and so how could we not whisk him off to BGA for a full-house of dice-drafting goodness? A reluctance to see off the Event cards meant there were (I think) 10 out at the end (!) and low scores (for Troyes) all round. I did markedly worse than last week but, then, I _was_ rolling LOW red dice and struggled to keep my Influence above zero: next time...
As a palette-cleanser, we followed with a Dave's learning game of Port Royal on Yucata.de:
This took rather longer than it ought to have, for a push-your-luck filler, mainly due to Dave struggling with
a) the interface (the odd button-clicking frenzy of 'Stop' and 'Select' and 'End Turn' etc), and
b) lapsing into a mild dose of A.P.
Still, 'Two Crosses' lurched me over the 12 point threshold and a 13th from an easy purchase kept Boffo one step behind.
Dave called it an evening and - even though it was almost 2130HRS, I held back to participate in our now Traditional Ben/Becky/Tony trio of Innovations. As in prior weeks, the script followed the same worn path: two wins for Tony and one - in the middle - for a Bateson. 'Novvers is a breath-taking, endorphin rush of a game; one day I may actually get to shake Carl Chudyk's hand for the monumental impact he's had on my gaming life.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Mrs B and Daisy and Arthur occupied a TV-free parallel evening with some Rebound, Eco-Links and Dawn Under - not at all bad.
- [+] Dice rolls
...that GenCon 2020 (due the last weekend of July) is remarkably tardy in finally declaring that it's been cancelled? This is so late to the fucking party that only empty Pringle's tubes and a tin of expired Fosters lager remain.
I mean, the UK Games Expo - led by a medical practitioner FFS - tried the hopelessly-optimistic postponing thing ten weeks ago then recognised the reality of their surroundings* a month-or-so back; Essen - distantly shining on the October horizon - gives up the ghost yesterday after consideration of Governmental advice. Coincidentally, conveniently - SHOCK and bastard HORROR! - the GenConMen suddenly decide, the next day, that it's 'up' for them too. Had they been a shared Autumn festival then - perhaps - I might cut them a little slack BUT hanging on Spiel's coat-tails (like they are forever doomed to do) in such a cynical fashion is, well, deeply cynical...or, again, is that just me?
I say "Boo-fucking-hoo!" to their reluctant, corporate bandwagoning; I smell regret, but isn't it just regret for the loss of buckets of cash? No-one's going to be trousering wads of green from a virtual Con - apart from fucking 'Zoom', obviously.
As for The Gathering of Chums in mid-November? Well, you'd think I'd be taking advice from MY Government but that would be a 'hard pass' from me; instead, I shall keep in touch with the most excellent Landlord of The King's Arms in Newent (the venue) and take my lead from him: he makes a mean beef-burger AND serves the best beer selection in the County - I trust him over the scarecrow-haired, Mr Blobby arse-wit...
*great Fishbone album
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With the Sun rising over the mountains (you can see, below, how irridescent Ed's elbow is) - and the coffee bubbling in the pot - Friday's larks and japes began with a lightning-speed, four-player Nusfjord:
There was much shuffling and coming/going as late risers - of which there were Legion - be-fogged the kitchen with the smell of bacon, pancakes, toast and more coffee; something quick, between other games, was called for so I jumped in with "Would you like to try a prototype?":
David and Charlotte had arrived with their copy of Agricola while I was in the midst of a 6-player Skull; while I didn't end up winning (or even scoring a point), I was pleased to have caused the robbage of at least FOUR mats from others with a straight-faced bid-upping followed by a top-of-Tony's-stack skull - bwa-ha-ha!
And so, after the fish entrée, it was on to the meaty main course and a full five for Agricola:
We had an Agricola noob in our midst but she was familiar with 'the C word' so there wasn't the usual wall of rules to digest; Emmi got stuck in quickly, but it was The Charlotte & David Roadshow that ran away with it: 57(David), 54(Charlotte), 43(Basia), 37(me), and 27 (Emmi). I, naturally, blame being sat to the left of the adjacent power pair and being constantly-harangued about my sloppy ploughing by OCD officionados Basia and Emmi - oh, and my card pool was terrible too. And the sun was shining in my eyes. And my leg hurt.
Aside: talking of hurting legs, I woke myself up this (Saturday) morning by slamming my shin against the bunk-bed's ladder; a strangely depressing apocalyptic dream - with a splash of sexiness - found me launching an imagined attacked at an alien-infected opposite: kicking in the realms of Morpheus AND reality simultaneously. To be honest, I was glad to be awake as the whole slumbering story was immensely-depressing.
Aaron had been keen for me to try Tin Goose at the Gathering of Chums 3 but we never found a space; thus, Bastion 2020 afforded me the chance to give it a go:
In summary: route building and auctions in a framework of three different actions per turn. Buy fleets of planes - of varying hazardousness and fuel economy - and deploy them across the map to connect to cities for income boosts. The clever bit is that each player starts with a tableau of inefficient cards that, when covered by plane fleets, have their effect removed: first action must always be an income boost, oil costs $1 more, cannot claim income at the end of each turn and others. So, you auction planes to cover inconvenient effects and give you expansion resources: really simple, really clever
Getting myself connected and staying hazard-free boosted my income immensely; this gave me a huge end-game score bonus but - as with many games tied to your cash - I'd taken one-too-many loans and Tom stole the win. While I love the idea of aeroplane-themed route games, the Ross club is unhealthily-preoccupied with Airlines Bloody Europe - a game I detest almost as much as Splendor; Tin Goose fits the general play-style of the club so this, if I can snag a copy, might shove it to the side for at least a session or two?!
Dan - fresh from 'the Goose' - and Paul joined me for Polygonia. Both cottoned-on quickly and the board layout really encouraged everyone wandering in to others' starting tiles for over-building shenanigans. I was particularly happy when Dan pre-saged a couple of his turns with a determined "Right, then; here we go..." - is there a better sound to be made by a play-tester? Despite my deferential statue building, both Paul and Dan had maintained a steady flow of in-game scoring to stay ahead. A wonderful test.
10 minutes to kill? Why not save your space ship from a Black Hole (spoiler: I ran out of time with five cards left in the deck!)
The evening wearing on - and many familiar faces having disappeared for a Magic: The Gathering 'Theros' draft - Aaron made me an offer I simple could not refuse - my first ever game of Root:
Yes; you read that correctly. I have a copy but have never played it: fearful, as I am, of 'the teach' at the Ross-on-Wye club, Boffo would be unable to resist heckling and then there's no chance anyone would enjoy this. For shame, because - quite simply - this is an astonishing game: smart, wholly-engaging, smooth, exciting and so very different from the fatberg of normal releases. There is a reason that Root has won so much acclaim and so many awards: it's a truly great game. Wow, just wow. As the vagrant, I made it to 28 points (and one turn away from winning) when David's Eyrie swooped in with a 12 point turn to steal the victory.
Buzzing with the afterglow, Aaron waved the black box edition of Glory to Rome at me and the end of the evening was perfectly played out:
Getting the Scriptorium out in both games saw me to single-Marble utilising domination despite noble Merchant-ing nonsense from both Tom and Aaron: how fantastic to be able to play with folks who need no teaching - still the best card game ever designed.
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The drive up the Marches and across the A55 to Conwy was foggy, grey and unremarkable; Wales doesn't really show its magnificence in a gloomy January. I stopped off in Llandudno to gather some self-catering essentials (vegetables, fruit, chicken, pasta and beer) then rumbled in to a fortuitous right-outside-the-hostel parking space.
A few trips to unload (the car) then it was straight down to gaming - ten minutes BEFORE the official opening time of 6PM - with new hotness (to me) prototype: Rome Sweet Rome:
Coming along steadily, I noted - as Aaron would a little later - that chaining effects triggering in the late game can get messy, so I need to tidy up the resolution tracking somehow; 'A' suggested a simple set of counters in each suit, which I like very much.
There was a short pause while I whipped up a chilli chicken stir-fry accompanied by a palette-cooling Waggledance beer:
Back to the raison d'etre for being here with an introduction to a Knizian return-to-the-form-of-old: Babylonia.
In summary: it's like T&E and Hacienda and feels as warm and familiar as the family cat on one's lap. Everyone (apart from me) seemed to spend every turn - including others' - gaining large swathes of points from one source or other. The board fills with tactile tokens and 'surrounded' tiles score more. Babylonia seems such an obvious idea and is so simple to explain/get going on that I think this may well be an early SdJ call.
More RSR and then to something meaty, but quick:
My own KS copy has languished, unplayed, at home so I'm happy to have had the chance to play/learn. I did horribly-badly in the first of two games: totally misunderstood how the 'call for dividends' would play out. In the second game, I TRIPLED my end score but still only managed 3rd place. No matter; this is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 30 min treat and shall be first in the bag for next Friday's RoW 10th birthday celebrations.
The hour was getting late, so we rounded up some stragglers for a 5p King Thief Minister:
How delightful it is to see folks' faces contort in puzzlement and role-tracking concentration! Mascarade without all the titting about, KTM was - once again - concluded within 30 mins thanks to me Peasant-ing the Hell out of the table (ie. pointing out all of the hidden roles' positions to steal the central pot o'cash)!
Bez convinced us to try Wavelength and I must admit to being a little unimpressed by the initial pitch:
However, Wavelength is a super, banter-pumping party treat: in summary, choose a category from a card then spin a dial with a small 'scoring area' on it. Revealed to the active player only, that player must then come up with a clue to the category that prompts the others to fix a needle somewhere on a scale; scoring sectors hidden, players discuss where 'A cooling Iron' would sit in a category of "Too Hot / Too Cold" (left of the dial, right of the dial). Score points for revealing the scoring sectors with the needle 'inside'. Mr Wolfgang Warsch is quite the designer, isn't he?! Such a bloody SIMPLE but well-executed idea: grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! (waves fists at the sky)
Pacing myself, bedtime was 12.30AM and I dreamed curious layered dreams of Youth Hostels, snoring and people dressed as cats.
- [+] Dice rolls
02 Dec 2019
The gaming japes continue!
Friday Evening, in to Night:
I went for a lie down as the afternoon moved in to the evening; my brain fugged by seven hours of concentration: answering rule questions, noting play behaviours, watching for awkward/unclear situations. Refreshed - and hungry (having missed lunch) - I ordered a tuna mayo & cheese baked potato and Polygonia-ed with David J. Mortimer.
At a loose end, I wandered down to the far end of the main hall where Paul (Gameslore) and Martin (one of the BGT&CUK Mods) were up for a few distractions:
We whet our whistle with Ponzi Scheme - something I've had my eye on over the years but never acted upon - and it was a blast. Like Tulip Bubble, The Estates and North American Railways Ponzers is an escalating shitshow - a game of mental musical chairs - where you rack-up increasingly impossible mountains of debt in the hope that (like that toddler who'd wandered in to the fairground Waltzers) you can hold on long enough until the ride comes to a safe stop. Like that occasion I went jetski-ing and fell off on the first corner never to get back on the bloody thing again (the propulsion jet of water punching me repeatedly in the bollocks), my fear that I'd be the single Deutschmark in the handful of Sterling change was realised: a crashing market left me not-so-much 'The Wolf of Wall Street' as 'The Div of Devon'!
Next - joined by various luminaries (Vital, Handycon Paul, Matt Dunstan and others) - was a recommendation from Martin:
Collect/swap cards to make the biggest Hand Point Total when the middle of the table fills up (10 cards). Quick, light and fun, the VERY MANY if/then/else bonus rules (certain cards like to be together) meant Martin's copy of the scoring App was a gods-send; it couldn't disguise my blithering ineptitude, however, even with the pretty graphics.
For a change of pace, six went pushing-and-shoving in to Tickets Please; I sat out and did the 'scoring rule' admin and let them get on with it! Martin won the first couple of rounds which meant both Paul and Matt took to body-slamming him out of the way for the rest of the proceedings. Occasionally, one could hear Vital Lacerda calling out for help at the far end of the table but - in a terrible foreshadowing of Brexit Britain to come - we all ignored 'the foreign guy'.
The main room - and the upstairs bar - closed at midnight, so we decamped to a downstairs suite for more alcohol (two friendly Night Porters manning the optics) and - yes - Polygonia:
I sat this one out too, letting Matthew Dunstan get a look-in; it was an absolute pleasure to watch as, quickly, the game settled in to a busy rhythm of building, scoring, over-building and micro-combos. In-jokes about phallic towers, and tit-for-tats, emerged and were chuckled over.
Eighty lively minutes later, Matt emerged victorious and it had survived yet another hurdle.
A long, hot bath woke me from my Guinness-blurred torpor. Sausages and scrambled egg siren-sang along the corridors: time to be up-and-at-'em!
First on the agenda was a light filler:
Myself and the Paulls were joined by a newly-arrived stranger who sat to my right. Charlie ran through the (outstandingly simple) rules and we started. In summary, you either draw two 'pollen' cards (playing one and discarding the other) which gets you pollen gems and everyone else fewer gems OR you can cash in a set of gems to claim a Honey card - that's ALL. Nothing else. We're not talking Mara-fucking-caibo or anything. And, yet...the stranger kept drawing Honey cards instead of pollen cards, taking the wrong gems, trying to cash in for pollen cards, trying to claim gems off honey cards and pretty much every possible combination of arsing-up the incredibly light, Haßa-esque rules. Once or twice I let this pass but, soon, the consistent fuckwittery began boiling my piss; sweet baby Jesus on his Heavenly Hoverboard, I thanked the gods for the finish and skedaddled to my next appointment with steam coming out of my ears!
With precious few moments before the start, I set out on a Quest to find the "Champagne" conference room for my much-anticipated playtest of Keyfoundland; unfortunately, the room was tucked away amongst the far-end bedrooms where NEITHER the hubbub of gamers NOR useful signage could penetrate. After a few wrong turns (narrowly avoiding entry in to bloody Narnia!), I found it - and my fellow testers - waiting patiently in a serene and contemplative atmosphere. Naturally, after "The Bees Incident" - and bursting with unexpressed frustration - Richard and Graham and Mark were subjected to a short, ranting outburst and then we settled in to the gentle work of the Keyfolk.
In summary: set your six, differently-coloured dice to unique values from 1 through 6 (behind a screen) and then there's rounds of single dice placement (earning the placer a bonus) with other players following with a same-coloured, less-than-or-equal-to die of their own. Placement is across 12 'harbours' that provide in-game actions for resource collection (animals, fish, wheat, gems, building stuff, more workers) and worker movement (to be able to participate in harbour resolutions) and, for the end of game, scoring categories amplified by the number of workers you have there. Resolution comes when you have run out of dice to place (directly and/or by following others' colour/pip count leads) when stuff is divvied out.
Clearly an evolution of Keyflower and Keyper, Keyfoundland's core mechanisms of dice leading and following feel smoother and more intuitive than the standing/lying down/rolling over shenanigans of Keyper and, despite the busy table hoggage, is nice and straightforward. The end-of-game scoring is a bit of a beast, however; it looks like someone's tax return! 'Point-salad' doesn't really cut it: "point garden centre" would be more accurate.
The prior late night, a hangover and the inauspicious apiaristic start to the gaming day served me up a massive headache as I nipped upstairs for the first Attention All Shipping demo of the day. Unfortunately, my demo table had been dismantled and was now occupied by a surface-hogging, sci-fi minis-and-chits game with nowhere else in the room available as an alternative; tin-hat duly installed on the 'sitch', I abandoned both demos and retreated to my room for a couple of hours sleep. On waking, still head-fuggy, I located some paracetamol and ordered a baked potato for supper (low blood sugar not helping).
Matt and I chatted and pondered as we snuck in a quick Polygonia before Phil joined us for a long-promised Res Arcana. Table 13 became ours for the rest of the evening and hosted several more 'Poly's (Dávid Turczi coming in a bemoaning last in one, Phil (who had demolished us in 'Res') took the second and long-time gaming buddy (and TCG expert/MtG Judge) Ray powering through combos / testing the stretching limits in the third. While we had Ray on the table, there was a slick transition in to Attention All Shipping which Phil then broke with a £25 'first turn' (Jeebus!); all thanks to 'get extra action' cards, of which he had three...rest assured I have now neutered that particular loophole!
We were kicked out of the upstairs room on the spit-spot of Midnight in to the main Bar downstairs; there we found four footballing residents (local team, away team) and I invited them to join us for the 'roll-and-grab' daftness of Tickets Please!; two of the chaps scarpered sharpish BUT the other two joined in and waxed lyrical about what we were all doing at Gridcon. Indeed, they were sore-amazed at the range of themes and complexities; not used to anything beyond 'the usual staples', the frenetic pattern-recognition of TP caused them to struggle but - hey! - baby steps on the road! We then sat back and chewed the fat about minor league football, motorbikes and - for a bit - more gaming; at 0130HRS they bade us farewell - ambassadorial duties achievement unlocked.
No games for me today: I breakfasted with Matt Dunstan, so we could sort out the 'next steps' for Polygonia, took a look at a collaborative Snowdonia: The Card Game concept/opportunity of his (which I quickly shoved towards 'Glory To Steam' territory) and, finally, chatted over a few Keyfoundland thoughts with Richard B.
Home via the Sunday-driven motorways to find one more surprise waiting:
Gridcon was absolutely fantastic. Paul and Vicky did a marvellous job putting on this show and I fervently look forward to doing it all again next year: another 'must go!' date for the British gaming calendar!
Time for a cup of tea and sit down...for about a week.
- [+] Dice rolls
(The rest of) Thursday
The hotel is a long, thin block sticking out of an industrial estate but there was a badelyng of ducks honking merrily by a stone-banked stream outside my room's window so you'd never have known. Despite it being 'the setup', a handful of ne'er-do-wells had already checked in for gaming fun:
Heckling from the sides, I watched the gentlemen rounding up their adventures on the new Key landscape (an island) and then enter the scoring phase which, scarily, began with Richard pulling out a sheaf of pages on which to record the points. Volume Six, sub-section B2 of the score pad came under some debate as potentially just rewarding the person who is already in front; other than that, the process of summing up took less time than the actual game (just)*
We decamped the Bar for some supper then, joined by Wei and Neil, played a five-hander for Tickets Please!. The sticky Bar table proved troublesome against the plastic sleeves of the tickets - next time: a tablecloth!
We repaired to a downstairs gaming room to give David's IP-based Spy game a first proper run-through: it has worker placement and room building and stuff - I can't say any more for fear of finding a digital horse's head on my pillow.
To close - because this is a game convention and what the Hell else am I going to do here?! - I found three willing players for Polygonia:**
We were interrupted, temporarily, by the traditional British hotel 1AM Fire Alarm; no-one admitted to setting the thing off but everyone seemed willing to blame me for smoking in the toilets***! I felt sorry for the shy, scantily-gowned couple who seemed to have been 'evacuated' in the middle of some rumpy-pumpy: perhaps it was the hot fire of their lovemaking that set off the sprinklers?!
And so, after a hearty - healthy - breakfast, to work:
Two sampler sessions of WIP Attention All Shipping kicked off a prototype-heavy day; a four and a three both coming in at about 90 mins each (the three-er was a more gamer-ish group) and happy noises abounded. I've made a couple of minor notes but, to be honest, I need this to be taken forward by a Developer now.
There was a diversion with new-addiction Polygonia which, for 90 mins, melted our brains. I spent the first half of the game building up a protected-from-destruction combo that netted me 10 points per round of in-game scoring; I couldn't compete with the winner (Dave?) in the 'scored buildings' race, however, and finished less that a single combo-round behind. I am SO excited by this one at the moment...and Matt Dunstan hasn't even turned up to Gridcon yet to have a go himself!
Pal Andy, from my London-on-board days, and even from older early 2000s Magic: The Gathering days pal Lawrence, had arrived and I grabbed them and their companions for a quickfire Tickets Please! which went down an elbows out / push 'n shove blast! Coming along very nicely:
...will have to be in another post as it's now 0202HRS and I need to sleep!
*I am, of course, exaggerating for comic effect; it IS a bit of a points category beast, however.
**Yes, that is Vital Lacerda; he went on to win while Neil and Justin's combos went off around them.
***[i]Dear reader, I've not smoked since 2005 and now have nightmares where I have a cig and then feel instantly-mortified that I have broken my long-term abstinence; hen I wake up and sigh in relief that it was all a dream after all!
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I am at Gridcon this weekend; Gridcon is the debut 'official' convention organised by Mr Gaming Rules! himself: Paul Grogan.
While he's been running his own 'home cons' for the longest of times already, the growing appetite from the community for long weekends of gaming (Handycon, Bastion and Airecon have only, relatively-recently, joined the ranks of hallowed calendar milestones Baycon and Midcon) have lured him out of his front room and in to a Hotel with conference rooms and everything! Thus, I find myself in the wilds of Devon in the delightful, 1000+ year old town of Tiverton.
Today, Friday, is the first official day though I wandered down the M5 motorway yesterday evening after work in Bristol: it seemed daft NOT to, given I was already half-way there.
The loose plan is that I've formally-scheduled four sessions of Attention All Shipping but also have Polygonia and Tickets Please! with me. The rest of the time - particularly in the beer-accompanied evenings - I'm hoping to get some Res Arcanas against new opponents, a Pax Pamir (Second Edition) and a Throne of Allegoria too. A few pocket-sized treats filled the remaining gaps in the bags.
In other news...
You may remember this post from a 18 months ago:Quote:Well, in the last few days I have signed a contract for a game to be published by Gibsons. Yes, that's right: twenty four years after working with my first developer on my first proper prototype, the circle has been completed! It's an absolute honour to be working with a company that - through Roger's kindness and encouragement - kept me on the Designers' Path; Roger, I'm sure, would be very pleased indeed.
So here it is: my first game design break...and rejection letter!
It wasn't all doom and gloom, though; I subsequently took Roger up on his offer and we spent the next 18 months working through several iterations of 'Haunted House', a much simplified version of The Black Overcoat Game. It (obviously) didn't end up going anywhere, but I did meet up with Roger on several occasions - including Baycon - and it was an experience that far from turned me away! Almost twenty years later and I was inducting Roger in to the UK Games Expo Hall of Fame for his (significant) contribution to the development of the hobby in the UK...and we're still playing the game even now! Maybe one day I'll rebuild it right and then I can take great pleasure in dedicating to his Memory?!
I'm not crying; you're crying!
- [+] Dice rolls
Sunday morning was silent in the house but the Pub was already bubbling with activity: the smell of freshly-bleached floors, of roasting Sunday lunch meats and the clacking of wood upon cardboard in the back room despite the unsocial 0930 hour. Before my toast, I'd snuck a quick look at some of my pressies (though the GoC is not about getting pressies but keeping the annual jouer festivities going at a cheap and convenient time of the year):
I have to admit that the thought of a toilet brush spinning against my anus at 2700RPM brought a cold shudder rippling down my spine: that would sand your starfish to a raw, quivering sore! Fortunately, the 'box' is a highly-amusing jape from MrShep and contained a much more palatable trio of 'sea' theme beers with the homemade label "Attention All Sipping"!
By way of a thankyou, I drafted MrShep in to the first game of the day: Agricola (how could it be anything else?!):
Letting John, Matt and Boffo open the last of the Wizkids decks&minis sets while picking one of the decks I didn't use in August (at Ben's 40th), we set to it with typical grumbles, mumbles and sleepy barracking. As is so often at a multi-day Con, I find one's enthusiasm is recklessly spent on the first day (and late in to the night) leaving one subdued on the next; there is also the sobering fact of it being the 'going home day'. No matter: there were still six good hours to fill and my favourite board game in the world ever waiting, bright and colourful, for the playing:
After the laffs and the riotousness of Saturday, our farming was a more considered affair; the occasional joke - mainly Boffo repeating the word 'Hollow' as a faux-Chinese greeting (racist!) during restocking - but, mostly, chin-stroking working out. I managed a two-card leech-off-renovation combo and hogged the start player for the all-important rounds 12 and 13 to quickly fill my farm board; a Pottery stolen from MrShep, a Basketmaker's Workshop stolen from Boffo and other sundry improvements added to a pleasing 16 bonus points and a 3pt win over Matt. Boffo and John were somewhat elbowed out by M and me as we rode the timing 'just right'. Astounding, astonishing and flawless.
John could stomach our company no longer and - with Ben and Becky on a clock (they had to go and do the weekly supermarket shop: WTF?!) - this might be the only chance I'd get to try out Japon Brand's 2019 'big box'-er Orchard Ocean:
From the folks that brought us the visually-gorgeous and mentally-twisting Airship City, OO is a tile-laying pick-up-and-deliverer where the delivery is dependent on the 'range' of your harbours set in the islands of your production sites. A few rounds of 'building stuff' (drafting one each of a 'direction', island and turn order tile) are followed by a harvest: prod sites generate their fruits and the shipping ranges come in to play. Fruits are consumed by consumer sites for money (used as part of the building and recruitment processes) or victory points. At the end of the game, special 'level 3' tiles can score big based on your layout and you get extra points for variety of fruit production.
OO is stunning to look at (gotta love that colourful-yet-clinical aesthetic) and a fun little spacial puzzle but I'm not sure we're going to get many more plays: it lacks the excitement of Airship City's action tile shuffling, for example, or the bonkers chit-flipping, cube avalanche potential of a Dadaocheng.
Pal Paul - one of the North Wales contingent - had been keenly boning up on the rules for Import / Export which, ever since January's BASTION, he had been promising to teach me. As an uber-fan of Glory to Rome, the comparisons that I/E had with it were an instant reason for its purchase back in 2017 but - because of reasons - it's just never made it to the table:
Sadly, I fear starting my I/E journey with a five player count was a huge mistake: some of the actions seem counter-intuitive (not a problem in itself) and lumpen - the journey to achieve even a simple progression seemed tortuous. Of course, a game in this genre (multi-use cards, multiple zones) really only shines at the lower player counts (2 or 3); even my beloved GtR is clumsy with the full five - there's just 'not enough time to do anything meaningful', which is not the same as the eminently-desirable 'not enough time to do everything you want to'! Of course, my GtR story started in exactly the same way all those years ago but then I hadn't experienced anything like it; now that I have, I'm not seeing anything in I/E to make it playable over GtR in any situation. I shall give it another go at January 2020's BASTION to be completely fair (and only with three players).
Peeps starting drifting home once the enormous Sunday lunches had been consumed. Each time - after the hugs and back-slaps and air-kisses - I announced the departure to the room ("Alan and Charlie are going home now!") eliciting an enormous cheery farewell from the congregation in response ("GOODBYE, ALAN AND CHARLIE!"). It was lovely to send dear friends in to a damp, Autumnal Sunday on a wave of loud huzzahs.
One more game, then, and it would be time to call it a weekend:
DANY with the full eight!
Dixit meets Pictures with a sort-of hidden traitor; the voices in DANY's head vying for control while a tortured DANY attempts to silence them forever. Or something. The group managed to hit the magical six definition 'wins' in the down-to-the-wire, make-or-break round; if we'd failed, there would be a final 'Who IS DANY?' showdown which, TBH, would also have been a fittingly-riotous end to a superb Gathering.
I'm aching for the next one already and - as before - 'Chums 4' is open to any-and-all noble gamers who would like to come:
Friday 13th November, 2020 to Sunday 15th November, 2020*
at The King's Arms, Newent. GLOS. GL18 1BD.
*there are plenty of cheap, local B&Bs if needed
- [+] Dice rolls
19 Nov 2019
Saturday dawned cold (and a little damp) but Richard was going to drive us the short way to The King's Arms because 'of all our boxes'. First, of course, the most important meal of the day: bovril toast, yoghurt and a steaming cup of the excellent Tom's Blend coffee.
Expecting to have to set up some tables - it was just 09.30, you see, and I'd assumed everyone would still be abluting at their accommodations; no, indeed, the back room was thrumming with the happy noises of gamers mid-game (there was a Res (naturally) and something roll-and-writish)!
After further arrivals, much greetings, setting up the raffle prize trolley and the receiving of birthday gifts/the giving of the GoC3 Alubari attendees' promo, I settled in to the weekend's formal launch game:
Boffo, Allen (Van00uber), MrShep and myself tried out El Grande with dice and liked it so much that we played it again immediately.
In summary: the 11 regions are seeded with numbered (2-12) tiles. A player's turn is to roll three dice and select two to 'sum' and be the location in which to place a number of your cubes (1-2=1 cube, 3-4=2 cubes, 5-6=3 cubes). There is the option to skip a turn of rolling and one-time-use an action card (a tableau of X is set out at the start from a larger pool of Y). When all cubes are placed, it's area majority resolution for 1st and 2nd places with the winner also getting to use two cubes to reinforce in one or two adjacent regions. Ties are broken in favour of the tied player who got rid of their cubes first.
In what would be the first of many 'That was great now where can I buy myself a copy!' moments, several of our number were on to Amazon/the BGG marketplace. A corking little filler that has the feels of Knizia's Samurai without all the farting about.
At Allen's recommendation, out came a new hotness Wolfgang Warsch's Illusion - a relative-amount-of-space-used estimation filler with fit-inducing art:
In summary: each card has four colours in differing proportions (%-ages) and the active player must either a) place the top card of the deck in the correct smallest-to-largest line (one of the colours is 'live' for the round) OR call-out the previous player for putting it in the wrong position. The correct player when a call is made (ie. the callER or the callEE) gets the colour-for-the-round card as VP; the first to 3VP is the winner.
Harmless, retina-scorching fun that doesn't hang around long enough to become tedious; one of those 'good with non-game player' games.
Upping the complexity and changing partners, MrShep and Ben scarpered, leaving their seats warm for Mr Alan Paull and Mrs Charlie Paull. It's a rare occasion when the Ps and myself play a non-prototype game of anything, so it seemed appopriate to pit our wits in the Fox/Draper table-gorgeous, dexterity-testing MegaCity: Oceania:
Plenty has already been written/said about this fabulous real-timer and I will only add my assent to the good words: it's a doozie.
Next, on the other hand, was Nova Luna - the new Rosenberg - which had me wishing for a quick death:
Patchwork-y (last position takes a turn, pick a tile up to three from your current position) with spacial-set collection (sort-of), none of it makes any coherent thematic sense or - for that matter - much mechanical sense either. So mentally and visually-bland that I can't even bring myself to type out any more characters about it.
Slapping myself vigorously about the face with a nearby chair, it was going to take something truly special to lift my post-NL torpor; thankfully, Matt Green and Boffo Bateson were there-and-waiting with, perhaps, the highlight of the entire Gathering:
Senators: What's the Latin for 'Go fuck yourself!' again?
The goal is to have the most Senators at the end of the game (which is when the fourth 'War' event is drawn); players can gain senators by special bonuses or (mostly) spending hard-extorted cash to buy them. Resources are set-collected - a player takes an auction action that opens up four things to all players - and sold (cashed-in) in sets of colour or number. Alternatively, you can just offer to buy stuff off the others or make them pay to keep it if they refuse.
Joining us in the 'Et tu, Brute?!' carnage was MrShep and Dave 'Daffers' From Ledbury: a full and fruitsome, elbow-barging, faux-Latin collective noun of cursing Patricians! An early lead from myself led to a series of very profitable income Events and, as the game drew to its denouement, I cleared my decks of anything extortable and kept my Roman nose ahead to take the win come War Number 4. A riotous, mean and tactical gem!
Speaking of 'riotous', it would've been rude to split up such a wonderfully mean-spirited table so soon; thus, the much anticipated Wildlife Safari bunfight was commenced:
With the looming reputation of National and European Hall-of-Famer Matt Green casting a long-and-intimidating shadow over the opening hand, a jittery starter MrShep was duped in to a double-elephant to Boffo's Spotted Rhino. Matt maintained a dignified silence - offering neither criticism nor advice - and let the round play out to its inevitable conclusion: no aggressive breakaway for him - powder being kept dry etc - but happy to be tailed by a neat one-point-apart (and already shirts-unbuttoned) Peloton. Boffo and myself began to push flanking Rhinos / Lions which left me open to a windy violation in all the excitement (for which I received an official warning); Dave was struggling to pull off his leopards, Mr Shep calmed himself with a cool 'two-pair' and Matt just kept the steady pressure on. Rounds three and four were all about consolidation (as you would expect with such a mixed pool of experience): no-one straying very far from the Feline. Fortunately, I narrowly escaped a second warning - and an automatic DQ - after clumsily domino-ing the zebras during a 'Take': VAR showed it to be a 'Let' call and I lived to fight a final, triumphant round! Tanking both "leather-skins" and hauling my own Pride over the line to beat Matt by three points! My (wholly-justified) celebrations were loud and enthusiastic: I euthanized the starting Hyena, ran around the Bar twice and punched an old lady's Pug in it's already-flat face! Matt was gracious in defeat but, I fear, he will feel the heavy loss of ranking points in the morning; Boffo has lodged an official complaint about the VAR decision and, wisely, both MrShep and Daffers wandered off nonplussed by all of the showboating.
A calming salve - and perhaps a pause from my glugging of the tasty 'Tribute' Pale Ale - was required and there's no better plaice (!) to go than the excellent Zen Piscinery of the Norwegian fjords:
Nusfjord: like coming home...if I lived in Norway.
Grabbing shares and gold pushed me along pleasingly and, by round five, I was calculating a late 30s finish; this, in a five player game using a Bas(S)e deck should be more than enough to take the spoils BUT Boffo rushed a last round 'Fill Plates' to pip me by that all-important singleton!
The next picture is mid-Mr. Face (the game, not Boffo) - an entirely daft and forgettable Dixit variant from Oink!:
- talking of which, MrShep tried to salvage the Oink! reputation with ForgotTheName:
Er...play out ladder-climbing numbers on a tile that is (one of) their factor and empty your hand. Sweet Jesu but I was wistful for the days of Nova Luna. So far, only the delicious Startups is an Oink! hit with me; everything else has been a very small poo in a very small box.
All games paused for the collection and consumption of an enormous takeout curry: 30+ people choffing heartily in the Boydell kitchen - standing (and belly-busting) room only! The walk back to the King's Arms for alcoholic top-ups and play resumption was somewhat slower thanks to the surfeit of vittals; everyone made it back, though, so it seemed the perfect time to break out A Study in Emerald:
It was a cautious episode with precious few attempts to out-control cards/cities except from Matt and myself who - by dint of trying to do ANYTHING immediately ID-ed ourselves as loathsome Restorationists! Colin's 'Shhhh! don't say anything' ready-to-cash-in control of a quivering Shoggoth caught me with my plus-fours down in Paris and I was horribly murdered, taking the last vestiges of human resistance with me! Matt would spend the rest of the weekend blaming himself for this appalling failure (and rightly so!) but my departed spirit - if it hasn't been consumed by a foul, inter-dimensional Star-Squid - eagerly awaits reincarnation to take the fight up once more!
- [+] Dice rolls