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!
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 Trains
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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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Last Summer, I was as keen as the keenest of English mustards to help get a fine gaming cause off the ground: the Ugandan 'Gamechangers' convention: (https://www.boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/67657/whats-good-geek...)
Being a small but enthusiastic part of the overall campaign (Matt Leacock joined in most mightily as well) was incredibly rewarding; the funds were (generously) raised and the children have been well-stocked with gaming opportunities ever since. Indeed, shortly afterwards, Ben Maddox (of Perfect Information and 5Games4Doomsday fame) organized the collection and dispatch of loads of donated second-hand board games to the gamechangers too - so their Ludic cups ran-eth over!
The World spins ever onward, of course, and the success of their first proper convention has whetted their appetites for more; thus:
One thousand pounds is the target but - for Heaven's sake - we can do a lot better than THAT, can't we, my dears?
To this end, I am offering the following to you splendid Geekfolk:
For every pledger who pledges at least £15 there will be one of these (a "Snowdonia Train") - postcardified - sent to your door at no further cost...
(you won't find out exactly what it does until you get a copy)
At the end of the campaign I will draw one person, at random, from all of the peeps who have pledged any amount (however large or small) and send them a FREE copy of Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea when it becomes available later in the year! You can't say fairer than that, can you?!
Now, get a-pledgin'!
(and don't forget to please tell your friends!)
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Whenever you would place a scoring marker on a station (either by excavating the last rubble in a space or building), you may choose to take any other single player's scoring marker and place it on to the station space instead of yours. If you do, immediately place a number of your scoring markers on that player's SHARE PORTFOLIO (a card) based on the value of the donated space:
- 4 to 9 points = place 1 marker;
- 10+ points = 1 or 2 markers (you choose).
You have shares with as many other players as you choose. You cannot have shares in yourself (!)
At game end, after normal scoring has been totaled, for each player with whom you have 'shares', gain 1 point for every 10 of their final score multiplied by the number of shares you have with them. Add each to your score.
For example:Does this make any actual sense?
(eg. digging/building in crap spots and 'donating' them for a better return later )
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Mrs B was off at a funeral (a Great Aunt) for the day, so I was in charge of various runnings-about. A morning of Conference Calls was a tiresome time-hoover (and ache-er of ear) and, indeed, being trapped in the building awaiting the imminent arrival of the Cooker engineer was also somewhat of a bind; he, naturally, arrived AT THE VERY END of his projected 'window' to replace a short-circuited induction hob:
Finally able to boil a proper brew with our whistling kettle, I'd just settled down for chai tea and a custard creme when rappetty-tappetty-rap went the front door and the friendly visage of Mr Richard Breese leaned in to view. Richard and I have been meaning to get together and sort out some serious play-testing for a while now (a couple of years, in fact) but - finally - our diaries converged and here he was.
After a delicious nut roast bolognese (Mr B is vegetarian), the weekend was scheduled to start with a relaxing visit to the Ross-on-Wye boardgamers at The Plough Inn. Wendy was there (again) too, as was pal-from-the-Internets Peter, so we were a robust six to start; as I posted yesterday, we stayed together as one group for a run at Keyflow/Key Flow ie. Keyflower: The Card Game.
In summary: It's 7 Wonders meets Keyflower. Players are drafting cards that are either buildings or meeples with which to activate buildings over four seasons; all of the familiar iconography is there in an intuitive and slightly-more-forgiving spin-off.
Richard pipped me in final Winter card scoring and the whole table pronounced it a hit; I believe this is the 2018 offering from R&D Games so that's one pre-order already sorted for Spiel!
We split for the second half and I introduced Richard (with Becky - just arrived - and Jobbers) to my current addiction: Nusfjord. It's crazy but when I think of the next gaming session, I think of Nusfjord and I get all looky-forwardy-excitedy-tummy about it; I believe I have become a litte infatuated. See below for my trumphantly-comfortable victory tableau scoring a career best of forty one (41):
Saturday dawned bright and crisp-with-frost so it was breakfast, the brewing of beverages and a Breesian run at saving a failing spaceship:
Managing to avoid a totally-wrecked ship (and not falling in to the Black Hole), Richard scored a paltry 18 points but was happy to have made it to the end in one piece! Lux is pretty much done-and-dusted now, bar the magnificent plan I have for the Art and Design. We repaired to the Library room for some serious playtestery, leaving the kitchen to the mid-morning bustle of scoffing teenagers:
Jobbers and Boffo would be joining us around lunchtime, so Richard and I played through a full 'Foothills' in just over an hour. The core railway (and Snowdonia-esque) elements are the same but the action selection mechanism - card flipping Concordia-like headache-ery - is a recent Boffonian revelation...and it worked an absolute dream! Apart from one card effect that 'expired' as the game entered the final stages and effectively locked Richard out of a specific action (an easy fix), it was a resilient game from which 'the iconography needs a little tweaking' was the main comment. Hanno, (Lookout Games' main man) is coming to the UK Games Expo this year and I really wanted to be able to show him a functioning prototype of this; we're well on track for that now! Richard even complimented us (Ben) on the innovative mechanic when he turned up for an afternoon of deep Keyper action:
The Keyper expansion adds fish, mussels, lobsters, crabs and squid (!) along with colour-themed Fishing Boats, more standard and bag-dwelling buildings, a Fish Market _and_ a slightly fuzzy (but it works) flattening out of the Seasons. In the latter element, there are no fixed Season 'ends'; players can claim a board and then transition it to the next Season while other boards are still processing the prior - there's a sort of 'double' Keyper retrieval-of-workers going on. TO be honest, my grasp of BASE Keyper was non-existent given my massive confusion on first play (see a previous Blog entry) so I ended up playing a traditional game and ignored all the new stuff. Jobbers had not played at all before so did pretty much the same, leaving Boffo and Richard to mess about in boats for the most part. One thing for certain is that I actually began to understand what was going on and what I needed to do; this led me to a fantastically-pleasing 2nd place (after three hours), edging Boffo in to 3rd and only missing out from conquering Mr Breese by 11 points! It certainly felt like I had more elbow room than before and was great fun to play; the Seasonal changes, however, were still a bit befuddling even having seen them in action - however, this is a 2019 release so plenty of time to smooth off the rough edges!
The sun was setting and thoughts turned to a slap-up Nepalese curry takeout supper, so lighter fayre - this time initiated (and able to be played) by Arthur - was in order:
The Kingbrick is dead; long live Cube Quest!
Many, many finger-flicking conflicts ensued with Richard taking on - and beating - all-comers; who knew this Euro stalwart had it in 'im?! To close off the evening before Match of the Day (a Breesian must-see), Mrs B and Benedict and Arthur and Richard and Me scampered about the Overcoat Stately Home for the daft card-driven chaos that is The Black Overcoat Game. Richard compared it to favourably to Talisman - one of his top 10 games - and rounded off the session by powering up his Prototype Jet Boots, shoving the rest of us out of the way and whooshing up the main stairwell to the Attic and Victory:
Sunday was the copy of Saturday and lit up the ice crystals with blue skies and brightness; no time for any more play as Richard had a rendezvous at Goodrich Castle and I needed to sort out my socks for the week.
What a marvellous couple of days!
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