Me and one of my favourite ever Germans, Mr Ulrich Blennemann, chew the fat:
(Uli is very quiet - uncharacteristically - in this one)
Here's fun: how many times do I side-eye my live 'room next door' stream from Dominic Cummings?
I do miss my European friends so very much.
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 Wales
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Back in 2013, when I was picking up the original art for Ivor the Engine from Mr Peter Firmin's actual house, he showed me some of the licensed goodies in his archive. One thing that stood out was a copy of Die kleine Lok Ivor - a German roll-and-move edition from Noris Spiele.
Aside: It gets a brief picture in my original blog post of that day: https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/25292/canterbury-tale
Five years of keeping an internet eye-out finally came up with the goods...and what minty-condition, perfectly-formed goods they are:
For the price of a new copy of Pandemic, this simple but utterly-charming treasure has been well worth the wait. Now, I just need to get the rulebook translated.
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It was hot and we weren't going to spend the day hidden away in the musty atmos of Casa Boydella when there was fresh air and UV rays to soak up, oh no!
Packing water for the dog - and sure that we all had hats of some kind - it was a short hop down the roads to Monmouth and, then, Raglan for some monumental (!) castle-age:
This is one of the best castles around and - given the glorious clarity afforded by the sunshine - one of the most photogenic; it amazes me, as I think back to the days of 36 snaps on a roll of film, how easy it is to capture the best moments nowadays. And no waiting 48 hours for the film to be developed either!
Anyway, I'll let the pictures do the talking; if you're ever in the area and, Gods willing, the weather is anywhere near as spectacular as on Sunday, then get yourself in to Raglan Castle: stunning!
"Not farre from thence, a famous Castle fine,
That Raggland hight, stands moted almost round:
Made of Freestone, upright as straight as line,
Whose workmanship in beautie doth abound.
The curious knots, wrought all with edged toole,
The stately Tower, that lookes ore Pond and Poole:
The Fountaine trim, that runs both day and night,
Doth yeeld in showe a rare and noble sight."
- Thomas Churchyard, The Worthiness of Wales (1587)
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Beetling down the dual carriageway to Abergavenny in Mrs B's Micra, me and Arthur and Fred were caught in a mother-fudging thunderstorm that threatened to turn the A449 in to a river and the Nissan in to a boat! As luck would have it, Abergavenny itself - surrounded by splendid mounts (Skirrid, Ysgyryd Fach, Blorenge, Sugar Loaf) - seemed to have caught and held the Sun, so the spur-of-the-moment trip to the Castle was a Sunday afternoon delight!
Abergavenny castle is the only castle in South Wales/the Marches that I've never visited before - that's a lot of crumbling stone that's passed under my feet over the years. Delaying the pleasure, we lunched in a local café then ambled back up the hill to the ruins:
Arthur was somewhat narked by the copious supply of 'Do Not Climb On The Walls' signs and pushed his luck as to what counted as a reasonable 'masonry clamber' versus the full-blown Chris Bonington! I'm not one to spoil his fun just as long as he wasn't taking the piss...which is how I would describe ending up ABOVE that pointed arch in the pic (middle, right) above! Fortunately, the only 'staff' on site was a miserable old lady in the museum building who could barely see over the formica point-of-sale counter!
We drove home via the old country lanes of my distant youth: passed The Walnut Tree (famous epicurean venue of the 1970s and 80s), the Hendre (hill), Barley House (simultaneously the house of my parents' dreams and the venue of their divorce a few years later), Skenfrith Castle and The Broad Oak pub (ah, those heady days of young romance). The rain - in all of its lumpen, watery glory - was waiting for us as we crackled on to the driveway and scampered inside for hot tea and biscuits.
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An odd noise roused me from my aching, grunting slumber; a sort of rattling, wet sound - pittering and pattering like an ill-closed tap. Apparently our imminent departure from Llanberis (and it's wallowing in the delights of spectacular tectonics and glaciation) had brought the sky to tears.
After the scrumblingly-delicious breakfast, we had an hour-or-so until John the Driver arrived so I retired - calves protesting - to the room and listened to podcast episodes (Athetico Mince) and finished my latest book. From Llanberis to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch via the Britannia Bridge:
A closer look at the Menai Straits and its bridges was within our timings so John showed us a less-travelled path down to the base pillars and a glimpse at the splendid lions; these were visible at the railway level before the bridge burned down in the 1970s and rebuilt with the A5 above - now they languish, hidden, down the sides and unseen by the hundreds of travellers per hour:
Lunch was a toasted sandwich that took 45 minutes to cook; tasty though it was, our afternoon of gaming with the Snowdonia Dragons in Bangor was being put in jeopardy! Fortunately, Yvonne was happy to wait the extra 30 mins until we lugged my big bag of games up to the Pontio Art Centre (5th Floor).
As it turned out, there was ONLY Yvonne there - accompanied by a table groaning with drinks, biscuits, fruit and other snacks. Introductions made, we split in to two tables: Kuba, Russ and Brian shipping and telling Tales while Kurt, Yvonne and I went off to Malta via the Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set:
Finishing synchronously, we just swapped tables:
More messing about in boats and more tweaks for the notebook; the biggest tweak has yet to be tried but could open up the game for a 5th player and reduce some of the down time (thanks, Kuba!)
We closed with an all-six-of-us Citadels; Yvonne got assassinated at least four times in five rounds but still managed a close third. King Kuba the Third, though, was a late 20s victor.
We bade farewell to our generous and patient host - cutting a somewhat lonely figure as we boys trudged to our connection - and on to a sunny Manchester. Our hotel for the night, the Britannia Airport, was - in comparison to the genial Plas Coch - a complete shithole: confused staff, plain rooms with a scent of stale cigarette smoke behind the chemical pine and a restaurant menu fresh off the freezer aisle at Iceland. Our 'waiter' didn't know the soup or dessert options and had to go and ask (twice) while a racist, needy old bat was complaining (on the adjacent table) to any staff who would listen about "how rude young people are today".
We repaired to the TV-dominated bar area for one last Snowdonia and picked up Kurt's suggestion of the tricky (and heavy) Trans-Australian Railway scenario:
This is a corker of a scenario at the full five player count: lots of nipping and tucking, jostling and elbowing, to a back-drop of long periods of drought. Russ stormed it with a final round double-cube excavation that netted him over 30 points! This glorious finale to the evening in the company of these splendid gents couldn't even be tarnished by the drunk-bloke-with-carrier-bags who was repeatedly being ejected on to the driveway only to stagger (sideways) back in to the Hotel foyer: what a bloody state to find oneself in, the poor bugger.
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The plan for Friday was - given the clouding over of Thursday night - a gentle ramble around Llyn Ogwen and maybe another Llyn and some stones probably utilised for ritualistic purposes. However, by the time I'd stopped fart-arsing about in my room and joined the group and our driver - Andy - they were already chewing over a different option.
Apparently the Llyns would be done-and-dusted before lunch and wouldn't it be a better idea (spaketh Andy) if we took a drive up the Snowdon Pass and - perhaps - get dropped off for a walk up to Snowdon summit via The Miners' Path?!
As I may have intimated before, this is one of the two most favourite places to visit in the World and I certainly didn't need any thinking time to respond with an enthusiastic "Of course!". It would be up to our guests, naturally; it's easy enough for me to volunteer my legs and lungs but the others would need to assent to the ascent too. The decision was unanimous (nervous, but unanimous) and, after I'd briefly nipped in to a Llanberis shop for a small rucksack, Andy beetled us up the long road:
The Miners' Path - one of many (8?) routes to the top of the world - started level and unchallenging; the hot morning was beginning to sizzle but we were liberally-stocked with hats and water (apart from Kuba who, later, would see the error of his red-eared and red-necked ways - sad!). Again, the clarity of the atmosphere meant everything lit up with remarkable detail: crags, lone climbing goats and sheep, the occasional walker along the mental ridgeway etc:
The rescue helicopter was doing a bit of practice below us, so we watched for a while (and rested):
The summit was almost always visible; taunting us with it's simultaneous proximity and distance! Ahead lay the 'little surprise' offered by The Miner's Path: a bonkers zig-zag climb with proper sections of hand-holding, clambering and leg-ache!
Lunch, drinks and a bijou round of 'High' Society (this is an excellent joke)
Coming down via the Llanberis Path (and 8 hours out-and-about), Driver Andy met us by the terraced houses behind the railway station with cold beers! What a bleedin' hero! We then nipped back in to the main bit of Llanberis town to order a slap-up reward Indian takeaway! We walked back to Plas Coch while he waited for it to be cooked and I saw this pretty mural along the way:
The FitBit had a fit when I plugged it in to the Wifi and henceforth is the summary of today's exploits:
Stuffed with curry, Kuba went to bed (eating all of the fresh-made Welsh Cakes as he did so!) leaving the four of us to play Attention All Shipping again (their request, not mine!)
Russ excelled even over yesterdays robust victory by getting in to the mid 80s while Kurt disgraced himself (but had a hoot doing so) by sinking his boat twice; yes, you read that correctly: TWICE. In ALL of my AAS playtests, no-one (nobody) had sunk their boat once let alone twice! What a hero; he did also sing us a splendid rendition of 'The Ladies of Spain' sea shanty, though, so fair play!
By 9.30, and the game's closing, we were all done; our unexpected adventure of a day now emerging as aches, sprains and irritable skin.
I was as happy as it is possible to be and, despite the useless shoes, the sore feet, the aching calves and - gasp! - the bits of sunburn (I never burn, ever!), this was a wonderful, glorious, gorgeous, soul-singing, joy-bursting, glad-to-be-alive day. The fact it was a surprise made it all even sweeter.
*I know that some of you already have!
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If I'd written the script for today then I couldn't have written it better than it actually turned out. After a tasty (and healthy) breakfast of coffee, smoked haddock and poached eggs, our little group meandered along the road in the cool-but-warming 9AM to the SMR (Llanberis Station):
Already beginning to be delightfully-baked by the brightening day, we boarded the diesel train bound for the summit on the dot of 10AM. To say that I was 'excited' doesn't really do the feeling justice: I was joyful.
The atmosphere was so clear and clean that everything the light touched shone and sparkled; as we climbed along-and-up, the entire North West Wales vista opened up before us:
The top: in the distance are Caernarfon, Anglesey and the Llyn peninsula (you can see it curving to the south FFS!). See yesterday's blog for our Summit shenanigans.!
...I'm not convinced that my Snowdonia station costings entirely reflect the actuality of these
scruffy old shedsmilestones
Our driver picked us up from by the crystal stream and I'd suggested we go along the Pass (up and away from the town) and have lunch in the Pen-y-gwyrd hotel (see previous blog a few years back): sat in the garden scoffing Welsh Cheese Ploughmans and chatting amiably, we were cooled by a pleasant breeze. On the Pass road, I looked up and spotted the train peeping along the precipitous Clogwyn ridge (see above photo for the equivalent view down); I got to look at everything else too, given this was the first time I'd ever traveled the road as a passenger rather than the designated driver.
Back to the B&B for cake and games - Attention All Shipping followed by Haggis - then to another rural pub for a slap-up supper *burp*. Russ, Kurt and Brian said some nice things about AAS which is very encouraging; a couple more edge-sanding ideas occurred to me during the game (in which I came dead last. again) - I shall note them here by way of an aide memoire:
- don't need to pay for lightbulbs
- a few more, less-nasty, hazard cards
- get around to making the 'Ship's Wheel' action point tracker
- add an element that can (occasionally) free-up spaces on the Market to make the game run a couple of turns longer
- run through all of the Tales and equalize the earlier-designed cards to the more generous effects of the latter.
The less said about my risible performance in Haggis the better; suffice it to say that Kuba is a Haggis-conquering machine!
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One suitcase, one bag of games (and gifts!) and a gorgeous Tuesday morning greeted a softly-snoozing Boydell household. Inexplicably quickly, we're just a couple of weeks away from 'the end of term' for Arthur (no-one else is 'in school' any more); he and Mrs B shall be Yorkshire-ing soon after and - fingers crossed (still not confirmed) - to be followed by a European Road Trip.
In lieu of those vacatiae, Hereford railway station welcomed me early-doors with a shady car parking space and a brace of loose-cloaca-ed seagulls who circled my arrival with showers of tarmac-splatting guano. An inauspicious - if perportedly 'lucky' - beginning to my Snowdonia excursion.
A jolly lady in the café decanted an exceptional bucket of coffee for me (and slipped a banana in, for my troubles) and then the train arrived. It's odd staring out of the window watching the fields rush by as for the first 30 mins of the journey were running effectively parallel with the main roads that used to see me to North Wales on my work trips (remember those? remember the copious photo-blogs exhorting wild Cambrian delights?). From my new viewpoint, I got to see the other side of the Woofferton Short Wave transmitter site, the back of Stokesay Castle and inside of (usually) horizon-bound Leominster, Ludlow and Church Stretton: no longer for me the antique shop and bakery stop-overs, the transport infrastructure diversions and the crumbling ruins. Almost a year (to the day) that I quit the Welsh Government and I cannot lie: I miss the old place.
Well, it's no use looking back - except that's the way I was facing in my seat (!) - but I did stop the wistfulness after Shrewsbury and enjoyed some new sights:
And, after checking my luggage at the inner city Hotel (5 mins luggage drag from the Manchester Picadilly Station), there was this:
A couple of Leviathan back issues and a copy of High Society later and it was round another corner for a hipster coffee and a chill...shortly (one banana bread slice later) to be joined by the rest of this adventurous party: Kuba, Kurt, Brian and Russ. Lunch was in a nearby 'Irish-themed pub' followed by a return to Travelling Man, checking in to the hotel* and our first game of the holiday:
Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set - the only copy in the UK - in all of its glorious glory!
(clockwise from bottom left: Brian, Kurt, me, Russ)
Supper was at a nearby pub which - gasp! - had the delicious, scrumptious Titanic Plum Porter on draught - God is in his brewing heaven and all is right with the world: my first ale (in ages) - and that of three others - was a pint of this foaming nectar! Scoffing beef and guiness pies to a soundtrack of gaming stories and the England vs USA soccer World Cup semi-final and then Citadels to round off proceedings before the actual Welsh stuff starts happening on Wednesday (today).
What a day, all told; all sorts of experiences and quite the most surreal moment looking at the physical KS Snowdonia, waxing lyrical about how splendid it all is...and then realising that it's something I'm responsible for - that feeling never gets old! Wow.
*our journey back to the 'Gardens' (see photo below: no 'garden' in sight) was a first chance for our International guests to see the fall-out of Brexit Britain: a late middle-aged white crone ranting about "...not getting on the bus with her!" with 'her' being a not-white woman. What a fucking disgrace.
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Today, I am wending my merry way along the railways of The Marches to Manchester and the commencement of my bijou Snowdonia holiday; this is, of course, the holiday funded by three
luckyindividuals during the Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set Kickstarter a year ago (!). For a generous (but excellent value given the agenda) amount of $, they got to have a North Wales break with yours truly - indeed, had they pledged at the next level up (sayeth Boffo at The Plough Inn) they could've made me stay at home (badomp-tish!).
Anyway, here's what's in store for the six days (the weather forecast is 'stable' BTW):
I shall be bringing the laptop so expect the usual bloggage.
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