Anthony BoydellUnited Kingdom
UnspecifiedWelcome...to my Shed!
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 Trains
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A couple of weekends ago, in that moment just after waking, I wiped the 'sleep' from my eyes and scanned the bedroom. I stopped at the Steam Railways 2018 wall calendar (which was still on August, of course) and as my gaze passed along the sleek, shiny length* my mind transposed the carriages and the track to a line of cards with carriages upon them and then, immediately - because the brain's algorithms for memory retrieval are astonishingly-indexed and optimized - I whispered one word: "Fzzzt!". Fortunately, my sudden ejaculation failed to arouse a softly-snoring Mrs B** and I slipped out of the tangled duvet and down to the library room to retrieve my prize.
It's a constant source of vexation that Surprised Stare Games doesn't have more of a general retail presence - especially given we have a game about Ivor the Engine that seems to be like pulling teeth to get in to the Heritage Railway circuit! My Dawn inspiration offered me a smaller, lighter and more accessible avenue in the form of a trains version of Fzzzt! and, so, Fweeep! is born:
Conceptually, the 'conveyor belt' becomes the track; the robots become train carriages; the 'set icons' become 1st Class, Luggage, Dining and Freight; and the 'zaps' become 'guineas'. Easy-peasy, so let's send the files off to the printer tootie-sweetie! But, wait! Belay that impetuous order! There is still much work to be done!
You see I don't want just a straight re-theme; equally, I don't want to over-complicate things too much either - I just want to give it a vigorous polish. So, I made some tea and had a good think:
Fweeep! is absolutely-recognizable as a Fzzzt! variant albeit with a couple of minor adjustments e.g. the lower 'bid power' carriages will also come with a helpful 'When bought...' effect and I've adjusted the VP allocations a tad. I also dug out the 12 card expansion that only made it to the Russian language edition to really mix up the auction rounds. So, in a way, it should be 80% "re-issue" and 20% "re-think".
The next step is to try it out with some non-gamers to see if the theme helps engage them with the mechanics - ah, the game is
Aside: I had a quick search for alternative 'whistle' onomatopoeiae for the title and was simultaneously delighted and horrified with the results:
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Browsing the World Wide Internets, as I do on occasion, I happened upon a Twittering mentioning the Rt Hon General Sir Lord James Wallis - the loveliest and tallest designer in the known World - that snagged my attention glands:
"Georgian and Victorian Board Games: The Liman Collection book review: A beautiful coffee-table celebration of games from a bygone age" accompanied by the following link: https://www.tabletopgaming.co.uk/board-games/reviews/georgia...
I am, naturally, a complete-and-utter stooge for anything gaming that is old (I still rue not pushing ahead to win the original Diplomacy prototypes on eBay a few years back) and have accrued a bijou collection, particularly in book form. Reading James' review and then scouting through the fleshy, $Trillion folds of The Great Beast Online, I located a copy for the princely sum of £34 (cheaper than a base set of Terraforming Mars and only slightly more expensive than Terraforming Mars: Prelude - all 15 cards of it). Let me reveal, to you, some of the delights contained therein:Fancy a copy for yourself? I highly recommend it:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1938461436/ref=oh_aui_de...Er, hang on a moment?!
...let us return, again, to 'the Giant'...
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I always joked that working for the Welsh Government was, when escaping the moribund clutches of Merthyr Tydfil or Cardiff, like a holiday: the Vale of Neath, Cardigan Bay, Snowdonia, Anglesey and Colwyn Bay to name but-a-few.
During my time as chief BA, and over-emotional smart-alec, I visited mountains, passes, viaducts, aquaducts, canals, heritage railways, beaches, bridges and castles; even the odd 'curiously-named village' failed to escape my attention. I've eaten supermarket sandwiches overlooking a black lake, gasped at resplendent valleys and sweated my way up to hilltop obelisk. I went to the cinema, the theatre and the end of a couple Victorian piers. I have stayed there in snowy January and sweltering August and every month else and it has had something soul-warming to offer every time.
And, of course, I played so many board games in a golf club, in pubs and restaurants, and in people's homes. Sooooo many with so many excellent people!
Now that that chapter in my working life has ended, so too has that outstanding fringe benefit. How marvellous, then, that this Summer we'd elected to spend our family holiday in this astounding environment - just one last literal and figurative throw of a North Wales' die! We rented a cottage in the middle of the hills and spent the fortnight on beaches, in forests, amongst the rubbled-ruins of castles and - finally - reaching the summit of the most important mountain in my life.
You have followed me on this adventure throughout and - hopefully - enjoyed it vicariously; I'm not sure that the daily commute to Bristol is going to offer anything near as remarkable but - hey - there are plenty of ways of getting up and down there so we'll wait and see!
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I only nipped out to pick up an undelivered package from the Post Office - it was a piece of custom original comic art especially commissioned for Arthur (see below) - and I had to (HAD to) stop off in the Charity Shop on the way back. I HAD to. Really.
And the Customs-chargeable parcel?
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Me and Mrs B were watching a BBC iPlayer episode of Who Do You Think You Are with gender-bending, 1980s pop sensation and renowned heroin addict Boy George. Well, she was watching it while I was relentlessly-refreshing the Snowdonia: Deluxe Master Set Kickstarter page to see if we'd break the $450,000 milestone. We didn't quite make it - or the 1000% of funding target goal - but we came DAMN CLOSE and (I hope) we'll edge closer/over it when the Pledge Manager goes live in September. My audible sigh of relief, when the status changed, made Mrs B miss a spoken comment and we had to send iPlayer back 15 seconds to catch it properly.
Naturally, my emotions are a bit all over the place at the moment; it's been quite the ride over the last 3 weeks. The campaign - planned and executed by the biggest, most bear-like individuals (NSKN) I have ever had the pleasure to meet - has been exemplary: quite the best KS campaign I've had the pleasure to follow. The wit and quality of the promotional videos, the delightful thematic side-arms of translated-to-the-Welsh phrases and Wales-themed recipes and that wonderfully-breadcrumbed trail of brilliant stretch goals...
Let me try a summarise exactly what one would get for one's $100 (£75) incl. P&P:
ALL of the published scenarios
Five NEW scenarios
Custom meeples with double-sided printing on
Custom -eeples for Daffodils, Water, Dynamite, Oxygen, Goats and an Abominable Snowman
A double-sided board big enough to lay the cards on too
A new Automa solo variant
EVERY promo card I ever designed/donated for the game - EVERY SINGLE ONE!
NEW promos from TWELVE designers!
NEW promos from TWELVE players!!
Custom wooden markers for the Excavation (shovel and axe) and Track work rates
Custom insert in a double-sized box
New box art
And over four-and-a-half thousand pledgers have come aboard according to the campaign, but it's actually more because of the hundreds and hundreds of group buy participants.
We even made the Welsh news:
What the actual strawberry-flavoured, gluten free, low-calorie FUCK?!
The adrenalin is slowly ebbing but the work goes ever onward: I've already had a design conversation with Dávid Turczi about the automa, the Malta Railway is being play-tested and the competition winners (12 of them) are finalising their designs with me on the Geeklist (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/243738/snowdonia-desi...).
I've never been so happy to be so busy in my life: bring it on, my friends!
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Things are free-wheeling a bit in the Boydell household at the moment; two of the three boys have 'finished school' for the Summer already and are getting under Mrs B's feet. Arthur has but a couple more days before that great, long-stretching holiday gap betwixt years 5 and 6 (his last at 'Primary School' *gulp*).
For myself, bits and pieces are beginning to acrete about the Library room in awkward places because I have run out of shelf space again (again!) plus all of this Kickstarter excitement has me poring through my collection of railway books for quirky/eclectic inspiration. To be honest, as long as the carpet is kept clean I'm pretty happy in the room regardless of the detritus.
My "proper" diet continues a-pace - four months now - and I have succeeded in losing over two stones (neither of them 'gall' nor 'kidney', thank you); indeed, my new Access-All-Areas work Pass shows a tanned and jovial Tony not seen since - ooh - the late 1990s?!
Have a good one, people!
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I am so excited about this that it makes me smile when I think about it:
People are worried about the size of the box...but how else can you fit everything in properly? You wouldn't set the family's altogether Sunday meal in the under-the-stairs cupboard, would you? No! You'd serve it in the smartest room in the house!
People are worried about access to new stuff / stuff they haven't got...but NSKN have thought very carefully about this (and I've got the megabytes of emails and Facebook Messenger logs to prove it!).
People are worried about what's being left out...let me assure you that the guys have traced down every - and I mean EVERY - promo, auction special and/or crowdfunding curio in an attempt to make this as fulsome and complete as you could ever want!
Finally, people are worried about the price...well, in a couple of days you're all gonna be VERY pleasantly surprised!
Did I mention that I am sphincter-twitchingly excited about this? Or maybe that's all the fresh fruit I've been eating lately...
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Easter comes around (quickly) once more and an all-dayer game sesh at the Bateson residence has become the must-do Good Friday distraction. Time was* that I'd get some spiritual business out of the way before beetling across a drizzling Herefordshire but the last couple of years have soured my soul to Catholic influences so, instead, it was chores and eggs Benedict. Gaming over a long holiday weekend is not a recent, post-Surprised Stare thing as I was startlingly-reminded when eldest son (Fred) reminisced over a long-dusted family photo album (Volume 2: 1995 thru 1996, complete with actual photographs):
I was struck by an overwhelming emotional wave looking at these 23 year-old snapshots: how young we are, how new everything is (that's our first home, that's our first child) and how much I miss my dear friend Rob who passed in 2012. How I wish my Now self could step in to the picture and chat for a while and, it goes without saying, join in with the Black Overcoat Game too.
Returning to 2018 and we call a cheery 'Halloo!' to modern Euros. Stepping across the Lilliputian** threshold - narrowly missing a shelving unit (is it on it's way in or on it's way out, I wonder?) there's just enough time to get a brew on before our hosts and us two 'first arrivals' (that's Garry and me) get stuck in to the wonderful Nusfjord:
Garry was new to this condensed Uwe classic but not unaware of the babble surrounding it; I can precis the babble thusly: people who have played it think it's brilliant and those that haven't say it's crap because that's how things work these days. The solution is simple: play Nusfjord because it's absolutely fan-bloody-tastic (and I'm not just saying that because I won (again)).
With Mark and son, Max, expected in due course - with Jobbers and Wendy promised a little later - it was the perfect opportunity to try out the re-engineered prototype of The Great Race. We played the 'basic' version - ie. the version without the asymmetric powers - which was, as one would expect, a little bland: it worked, for sure, but for a table of proper gamers it lacked the crunchiness/wrinkles/combos that the extra mechanisms bestow. As it turned out, I lost by one point to Becky despite being the sole flyer in Paris at the end of the main race; the scoring is the other major element on mine and Brett's watchlist, as it needs broadening a bit more.
Happy at yet another productive and thought-provoking play-test, we raised our heads and greeted Mark and Max (who had occupied themselves during the last stages of our air racing with Star Wars Dobble). Jobbers, too, bounced merrily through the portal carrying an armful of (delicious) low-alcohol cider so we could immediately split for a Becky pre-requested Terraforming Mars:
Please bear in mind that our first meeting with Mark - just a couple of weeks ago - revealed him to be a keen Chess player and that's all. In the ensuing fortnight, we've
dropped him right in it withintroduced him to Peloponnes, The Castles of Burgundy and Scythe and, now, we were dumping in the thin atmosphere of this card-driven trickery without so much as a potato! He gave very good account of himself - asking for advice and clarifications, as needed - and pulled clear away on the TR track; he came a cropper (as many do) on Mars itself by failing to build stuff there. He enjoyed the experience immensely though (huzzah!) and was impressed how it felt like his favourite sci-fi series: KSR's Mars trilogy, naturally!
It was dark outside - but still pissing-it-down and chilly - and we persuaded a knackered Garry to stay for just one more game:
Beering it down the Wye Valley with Smudge. Jobbers (off to the right) played an absolute blinder and was a comfortable victor - much to his chuckling satisfaction!
Another play-test but, this time, not a recognisable one unless you looked really closely; we were chuffing up-and-down the Wye Valley in search of tunnels to dig, bridges to build and beer to sup! Oh, yes; the Surveyor really gets his whistle whetted in a quest to tick off the sights on his Postcard. So enthusiastic is his quaffing that when he's lifted his elbow in one station, he's forever barred from drinking there again and must take his custom elsewhere! Not be scoffed at, there are twenty four points and a number of VERY useful triggered-effects awaiting the thirsty traveler; the tunnels, too, can prove a tasty source of points for the track builder (completed tunnel spaces count as track for Contract scoring). All-in-all it was a tremendous game that only reminded me it was a prototype when a couple of contract cards identified themselves as unworkable in the scenario; the rest of the time you'd never have known it was a WIP!
All that concentration had taken it's toll and I withdrew in to a sleepy, mostly-silent end-of-the-evening El Grande:
Things weren't looking too good at the start when Boffo snagged a 'send everyone home to the Provinces' card on Turn One (!) and was "punished" a round later by Wendy gifting him an easy 10 points (score all 'fives'). By the mid-game, I was a good 20 points from the leader(s) and resigned to limping home at the last; it didn't help that Boffo kept (loudly, fortified by his transfer from Earl Grey to red wine) announcing which cards and actions benefited which player(s). I quietly chipped away at the deficit (always late in the turn order) until the very last round, which set itself up to be an absolute corker: all five players within a couple of points of each other! Boffo stole it - he went after me in the final sequence meaning I had to hedge my bets somewhat - but I'm happy to have pulled back so much ground. I've said it before and I'll say it again: El Grande with the full complement is one of the finest board games in existence.
It was still raining on my 11PM departure:
driving home to you
dancing diamonds in the road
and wet smoke obscure my view
driving home to you
*I am suddenly reminded of this:
**The Batesons' bungalow - or should that be FUNgalow?! - is called Lilliput***
***NOT after the 1950s-era 'gentlemans periodical'
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The Wye Valley Tourer is pretty much done, now; the 'tea' has become beer which means my drunken worker blog promo 'train' can now find it's rightful place (see next pic)! Tunnel-building and a prolonged pub crawl for veeps provide the wrinkles in this scenario.
You may notice that the Bluebell Railway has come along in great bounds since my blogular brainstorm a few weeks back BUT the details have yet to be filled in (literally!). I know there will be a ghost 'awakened' when the Sharpthorne Tunnel is started (the first tunnel section on the line) and I think I want it to be adding a cube to the bag (colour TBC) that acts like an extra Event - so it hurries the game along - but also triggers something else (not sure yet). The cricket pitch is going to be a lot of fun: I am thinking that if players can move their surveyors to - and place their third workers on - the Cricket Pitch then this will trigger a Match (but not if it's raining). Each player also has a Bonfire card (see bottom-left) that's themed to the Lewes end-station; each provides a third worker (as per) but if the worker is used to perform the Bonfire card's (unique) bonus action (instead of either regular working or hanging out on the Cricket Pitch), it also counts toward the society's Bonfire space (the 3 coal space). Lots going on, indeed.
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