The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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Balls to Good Friday

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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No board games in today's post I'm afraid (well.. it IS the holiday weekend after all). Though possibly something that you could consider a dexterity game. Of sorts...

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Good Friday found us in the village of Chiddingstone, Kent, to attend a recently-revived custom: Chiddingstone "Real" Football.

From gallery of MrShep


Shrovetide & Easter football games -- mass-participation games in which entire villages compete against each other -- are a tradition dating back at least as far as the 12th century. The rules ... or what little rules there are ... vary from place to place. At Chiddingstone, the "goals" are a pair of pubs, roughly two miles apart, with the "kick off" located at a rocky crag approximately half way between the two locations. And the rest of the rules are: No hiding the ball under your jumper, no trampling of crops, and you must not, at any time, convey the ball upon a vehicle. Or a horse

From gallery of MrShep
The "Pitch", showing goals and the centre spot.


There isn't much parking in the village. By which I mean... there isn't really any parking in the village at all! -- especially if you don't want to leave your car in a location where it's at risk of being trampled by a scrum of marauding football players. So we turned up early, parked on a country road far away, and walked over to The Castle Inn (a 15th Century pub, and the official gathering place for players) with plenty of time to spare.

From gallery of MrShep


A pint or two of real ale from the local brewery -- located just a few hundred yards up the road from the pub -- helped pass the time before the kick-off. It was a gloriously sunny day. And the perfect sort of day for sitting outside a country pub with a pint

However, the appointed hour soon arrived ... speeches were made ... and we set off on the 20 minute walk into the countryside.

From gallery of MrShep


The game begins with the hurling of the ball from this rocky outcrop, into the thronging scrum below...

From gallery of MrShep


And here's a photo taken a few minutes later ... with a second (rare) glimpse of the ball on it!

We've been to a few of these types of game, and there tends to be one of two ways that they can go. Either the ball disappears under a mountain of heaving bodies for long periods of time, and rarely moves more than a few feet in one go ... or ... there's a sudden break in which some fit young scamp emerges from the throng, clutching the ball, and pelts off into the distance running as if his life depended upon it. (Which maybe it does?). The Chiddingstone game lasts for 4 hours, and some years it's had to be declared a tie, with no significant progress made in the direction of either goal.

But what kind of game was it to be this year?

Wellll... the second type. After 15-minutes-or-so of the ball being punted around various slow-moving scrums across a couple of adjacent fields, some plucky young soul in the colours of the red team managed to grab a hold of it and go sprinting off in the general direction of The Castle Inn, seemingly unchallenged.

Spectators and players followed him... slowly picking our way through a dense copse of trees and brambles (You do end up doing an awful lot of countryside walking while spectating these things!)

From gallery of MrShep


We expected the goal to have been scored -- and the first part of the game to be over -- by the time that we arrived back at the pub (almost half an hour after seeing the ball disappear into the distance!)... and were therefore very surprised to find a bit of a scrum still going on in the street. Apparently the previously-mentioned red player had managed to run nearly all of the way back to the pub before being flattened by a single lurking defender. There was now something of a mass brawl going on around the goal, with the attackers attempting to convey the ball to a particular spot on the road where it has to be tapped 3 times in order to score, and the defenders trying very hard to stop them from doing that. However... as you can see from the picture, there seemed to be many more red players (attacking) in the area than blue players (defending) ... so a goal for red was only a matter of time!

Traditionally, once a goal is scored, there's a bit of a break for folks to rest, have a pint, and then make the trip back over to the kick-off zone for the rest of the game to be played. Though -- facing a long trek back onto the playing field -- most spectators (ourselves included) seemed to prefer to stay at the pub at this point and soak up the atmosphere from that vantage point instead.

And that's how we spent the rest of Good Friday afternoon.

2 days later... I'm still not entirely sure who won the game in the end. But that local ale that I mentioned was very, very nice indeed... and it was a lovely sunny afternoon to be sitting in a beer garden. So I'm counting myself as the ultimate winner in that respect

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An unexpected event happened upon our trip home that evening...

Kent to Northumberland is a good five-and-a-half hour drive ... even on a day when the roads aren't gridlocked due to it being a national holiday, so we'd cued up a whole list of podcasts to listen to on the trip. Imagine, if you will, how weird it must be to have a podcast tootling on in the background... a widely renowned podcast, with a large listenership -- not one of our super-niche nerdy boardgame podcasts -- and to suddenly hear a familiar voice on that podcast talking about YOU?

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Well... personally... I'll just have to go on imagining what that feels like. But not Mrs Shep! Because ... four minutes or so into the latest episode (#422) of internationally-renowned trivia podcast No Such Thing as A Fish -- and to our complete surprise -- Mrs Shep (and her crazy customs-visiting quest/project) got a mention*!

Mrs Shep is now definitely winning in the mentioned-on-a-podcast wars. I'm going to have to seriously up my game to beat that one...

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*Though I don't think Anna Ptaszynski got the account of the 2013 Slathwaite Moonraking festival quite right; it was the performers of the traditional Mumming play who defected to the nearby Rhubarb festival ... not the entire parade!
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Sun Apr 17, 2022 2:13 pm
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Things you should click on.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Just a quickie from me today; Ben Maddox’s new project (in collaboration with The Dice Tower) is live. It’s a YouTube show where — instead of being a boardgaming content creator, interviewing other boardgaming content creators, about the act of boardgame content creation. He actually — now hold on to your hats folks, this might come as a bit of a shock — SPEAKS TO A GAME DESIGNER. ABOUT MAKING GAMES!



Revolutionary stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Please watch, like, share, amplify and elevate this. We absolutely need more of this in Board Game media. And less of the other nonsense.

In other news: the Golden Geek nominations are open. That game about a train going up a welsh mountain had a new expansion out last year, which appears in the noms list. I'm sure there used to be somebody around these parts who would remind us whenever things like this happened... so I just thought I’d mention it

Nominations link: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2639250/15th-annual-golden-...

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Mon Apr 12, 2021 11:03 am
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Meanwhile, in a parallel universe...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Imagine waking up in a weird alternate universe one day… an alternate universe where Shut up and Sit Down have started playing GOOD games again. Where they do half hour podcasts devoted to the works of Rosenberg or Knizia. And a universe in which Quinns’ latest video is all about a game which involves putting little wooden cubes onto a very beige-looking board, in which he enthuses about the generic-medieval-trader-portrait art on the box lid and then declares it to be a design masterpiece and possibly the best eurogame ever?



Friends, I think we may have crossed into the twilight zone!

(He’s not wrong, mind you. As I may have mentioned previously, Hansa Teutonica is a stonkingly good game. And that new big box is definitely worth a punt, if you're yet to experience its charms).

And while I'm scrapbooking videos… here’s another one that caught my eye this week. It’s not about board games as such, but I DO like Tom Scott’s stuff, and this is a rather interesting watch about product placement and a whole bunch of legal requirements that content creators and influencers are supposed to abide by when posting stuff on YouTube.

It might surprise you. And it should definitely surprise a few (or, possibly, all) prominent board-gaming YouTubers... because I don't think anybody in our hobby is really doing this properly?


(Hmmm. Do I need to revisit that Disastles video that I made a couple of years ago...? blush )

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Sat Feb 20, 2021 7:10 am
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The tug boat that hauls you through the week.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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No time to blog this morning, so I thought I'd shine a light on Ben's latest video instead. Maybe it's the timing -- and this week's realisation that Newcastle Gamers is now more than a year in my past -- but it almost brought a tear to the eye, this did.

Almost



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Fri Feb 12, 2021 9:48 am
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City-building Saturday

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Yesterday afternoon saw a session of My City (The Eternal Game variant), by request of Mrs Shep. Mostly due to the fact that while scrolling through the YouTube recommendations on the TV in the lounge a couple of nights ago, a SU&SD review popped up and I was curious to see what they said about it. It’s a good video… Mrs Shep watched too, and has been itching to play the game again ever since.



As usual with My City, one play soon turned into three plays. Though -- far less-usally -- we tied for points in TWO of those three plays. And you know those times when you go looking for the tie-breaker rule, and discover a really obscure aspect of play that you’d completely forgotten about because it’s the first time in 30 plays that you’ve actually needed to remember it?

From gallery of MrShep


That.

Oh well. At least we knew what was going to happen the SECOND time that we had a tie

And then, keeping the city-building theme going: a quick session (or three) of co-operative Sprawlopolis. We have yet to beat Sprawlopolis in co-op mode… though we repeatedly came within a couple of points yesterday. But one day. One glorious day… we will shall defeat it.

From gallery of MrShep


By odd co-incidence, SU&SD also did a video review of the Button Shy ouvre a couple of weeks ago, saying rather complimentary things about both Sprawlopolis and (current blog favourite) Skulls of Sedlec.



Now, far be it from me, dear reader, to suggest that I was way ahead of the gaming fashionista in recommending these particular titles to you, and that if you’d listened to your Uncle Shep six months ago you could’ve bought all of these lovely things when they were still in stock and/or hadn’t had the £10 “recommended by SU&SD” tax added to their retail price…

*cough*

But I digress. Today we’ve got another session of Russian Railroads lined up, which I’m very much looking forward to (this play was also suggested by Mrs Shep …so last week’s game must’ve made a very positive impression).

All in all, these locked-down weekends maybe aren’t so bad after all

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Sun Feb 7, 2021 7:10 am
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All I know is that to me / you look like you're having fun

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Back in the pre-covid days, I used to really dislike video conferencing. Yapping away at my laptop screen used to make me feel terribly self-conscious and awkward. But nowadays?… I spend a huge number of my working hours blathering away into Teams, or Zoom (or whatever other video-conferencing-platform-of-choice a particular client foists upon me) without even thinking twice.

It’s funny how soon you adapt to new ways, isn’t it? And it’s also interesting how the lockdown massively accelerated the adoption of internet broadcasting (/narrowcasting) by people and organisations who might not, otherwise, have attempted it. A bunch of comedians who I follow now perform regular shows on twitch, due to the closure of live venues. Mrs Shep’s choir leader streams a tuition session over youtube once a week, as the choir can't meet in real life. Board-game-related streaming seems to have boomed… and virtual cons — like the currently-in-progress spiel.digital — can now rely on a whole bunch of small games publishers and content creators to fill their schedule with streamed goodies.

In terms of sitting down in front of the idiot box and finding video entertainment tailored to our VERY specific likes and interests … we’ve never had it so good!

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Over the last few days, I’ve been tuning in to the spiel.digital/Surprised Stare “History of Surprises” streams. Initially having them tootling away in the background while I was at work …and, now that it’s the weekend (and I'm not working) playing each days episode on the lounge TV in much grander style:

From gallery of MrShep

Discovering the twitch app on my smart TV near the start of lockdown has been a bit of a boon. Though a TV remote and on-screen keyboard aren’t exactly the best of tools for participating in on-screen chat! laugh

It’s been an interesting series. Today’s (ok: “yesterday’s” by the time you read this) topics included Scandaroon, and the Confucius/JKLM games saga … which, if you’ve never heard the tale before, is probably worth digging into the twitch archive for to hear it direct from-the-horses-mouths. And Friday’s session included a chat with Daniel Danzer which included some interesting insight into the way that people from different nations will take a rule book at VERY different levels of literal interpretation.

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Later that day, Mrs Shep and I played Wingspan. Which I now saw in a whole new light:

From gallery of MrShep

Wait a minute... what does step number 5 say…?


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Hmmm. I wonder when I’m allowed to stop?

Anyway, it’ll be the final episode of “The History of Surprises” this afternoon. And I expect that I shall be tuning in. So if I do manage to rustle up a proper keyboard this time (which, to be honest, isn't a given) I’ll see you in the chat box

Twitch link: https://www.twitch.tv/surprisedstaregames

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Sun Oct 25, 2020 10:49 am
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Virtually Expo / Pirate Broadcast

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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It’s the Virtual UK Games Expo this weekend. And — sceptical of such things though I am — I thought I’d maybe have a bit of a poke around at opening time last night.

The first hour basically went like this...

From gallery of MrShep


With occasional bursts of this...

From gallery of MrShep


So… yeah. Pretty exciting stuff.

However, returning later in the evening, it seemed like the server had settled down a bit, and the site was actually usable.

Browsing around, I noticed that This Game is Broken had a live broadcast in progress, so I thought maybe I’d put it on the big telly in the living room (which, conveniently, has the Twitch player installed)… figuring that Mrs Shep might be at least tangentially interested, since she’d recognise some of the voices from the Death By Monsters podcast (of which she is a big fan!)

From gallery of MrShep


Interestingly, you could play along with the quiz at home, using a synchronised web app.

From gallery of MrShep


And despite missing the first 25 minutes of the show, I fared rather better than expected…

From gallery of MrShep


OK, I confess… this screenshot might be a touch misleading. At the end of the show, they picked a couple of random participants out of the (virtual) hat, boosted their score by 2000 points, and gave each of them a spot prize. And by some stroke of luck, I was one of the two people randomly selected! …so apparently I have a copy of Reiner Knizia’s My City heading to me in the near future, courtesy of the show sponsors. Which was a pleasant surprise!

I really enjoyed this … not only because I won a prize (though, obviously, that has probably helped a bit on some subconscious level), but the play-along-at-home element worked really well … striking a nice balance between uber-geeky board game questions, and fairly random “bet on how well the show regulars will do at this next silly task…” type rounds …meaning nobody could take things too seriously. So … yeah … a fun bit board-game-related entertainment to kick off my virtual expo experience.

And then… Jolly Boat.

For some reason, Jolly Boat seem to be a regular fixture at UK board game events -- though I’ve never managed to see them perform. It tends to be a separately-ticketed show when they perform at UKGE … and, although their AireCon show was free, I was half-way through a game when they took to the stage… so missed that chance too. So I guess I’ve kind of been aware of them for a few years, but never actually seen them do their thing. And the virtual expo seemed like an ideal opportunity to remedy that…

From gallery of MrShep
("Got no eye, got no eye...". To the tune of Poker Face. Obviously)


Although they pitch themselves as performing comedy pirate pop… that’s only the first 10 minutes or so of the show… the remainder being songs about a diverse range of nerd-friendly topics … from cataloguing the crappiest monsters in the D&D monster manual, through the disneyfication of Star Wars, to a love song based entirely on common keyboard shortcuts. And this show — literally streamed from a bedroom — was very, very funny indeed. Mrs Shep and I LOLLed a lot. I’m definitely going to make an effort to see them live, the next time they (and I) happen to rock up at the same board game convention. Good stuff.

Apparently they’re doing a repeat performance at 8pm (BST) tonight. Worth a look, if you don’t have other plans…

https://www.ukgamesexpo.co.uk/events/LIV5955-jollyboat-bards...

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Sat Aug 22, 2020 11:01 am
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The game of cat.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I took a couple of extra days off work this weekend; Friday and Monday. They’re the first days that I’ve managed to take off work since the lockdown came into effect back in March (other than Bank Holidays). And after that long weekend… I immediately feel like taking another holiday — I enjoyed this one far too much. Though with the chaos about to befall the company I work for, I’m not expecting to get another one for at least 3 or 4 weeks. Gulp

In addition to getting a whole bunch of jobs done around the house, we got away from home a couple of times and went to see some local-ish visitor attractions. One of which was the grounds of Ushaw House in County Durham. Ushaw used to be a college, founded in the early 1800s by a group of Scholars from Douai, in France, who were fleeing the Revolution. Apparently they brought all manner of unusual games and sports with them … previously unseen in Great Britain (or, I suspect many other places) … and also… not really seen anywhere since(!)

Here’s the particularly odd-looking sports field, preserved as-was. The markings on the field is something called a “cat ring”, for "playing the game of cat" (of course!) … and the huge arches in the wall are “ball places”. Whatever they are.

From gallery of MrShep


It all looks like some kind of massive 17th century calvin-ball arena to me.

* * * * * * *

Returning home, I spent a few hours “doing something useful” … i.e. I added some shelves to the built-in cupboards in the spare bedroom. Not, alas, shelves for game storage (they’re next on my list!)… but shelves to store a whole archive of keepsakes from Mrs Shep’s assorted historical adventures.

And while building these shelves, I discovered that “doing DIY” is a perfect opportunity to listen to Podcasts.

I’ve missed the various board game podcasts that I used to listen to, back in the old normal; the lack of a daily commute means I don’t find myself in ideal podcast-listening situations anything like as frequently as I once did. However… it turns out that fitting shelves into cupboards is sufficiently low-demand — concentration-wise — for me to be able to listen properly and take in what’s being discussed while I work. So I got to catch up on a whole bunch of Podcasts over the space of a few hours, and Mrs Shep got the shelves that she’s been wanting for a while. A good result for all concerned, I feel!

Listening to those podcasts was a bit like hearing from a bunch of old friends that I haven’t been in touch with for a while… and also a bit of a flashback to a FAR more normal existance. Which was good. Although a re-occurring theme on the podcasts concerned seemed to be presenters talking about the way that they are starting to lose interest in board-gaming, as a consequence of lifestyle changes brought about through coronavirus restrictions … which maybe wasn’t quite what I wanted to hear. But at least it’s good to know that other people are going through those same thought processes and concerns.


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Tue Aug 4, 2020 7:10 am
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Pay no mind to what they say, it doesn't matter anyway.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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The SDJ awards seem to have slipped past a little more quietly than usual this year. I mean… the announcement was only made a couple of days ago, and the conversations about who should’ve really won, and how it’s not a hobby-gamer award anyway, and “Well I can remember the days when the likes of Tikal would win, so that’s not strictly true is it?” are already fizzling out.

Is this reflective of the fact that we’ve kind of got over the annual fuss made over the SDJ now?… or is it just because BGG isn’t the massive board-gaming water-cooler destination that it once was? There seems to be so many disparate places that people chat about board games nowadays. Facebook groups… The comments section of your favourite board game Twitchers… Reddit… Discord groups. We’re all a whole lot more spread out than we used to be.

But I digress!… back to awards. I do like a good award. The Mercury Music Prize nominations get announced today. I don’t know if the Mercury Prize is a thing which is known of outside of the UK (I suspect not), but I always find it interesting to see who’s up for nominations on that one. Just like the Spiele, it’s an award that’s selected by a panel of “experts” (in this instance, music industry figures, journalists, DJs and suchlike) … but, unlike the Spiele, their remit isn’t to necessarily pick a winner that’s going to be accessible to people who are only casually interested in the field that’s being represented. Often, lesser-known / slightly more challenging artists win… and the list of nominations is usually interesting and considered. If you can imagine a world of music where there are “hobbyist” album listeners — in the way that we are hobby gamers — then I guess the Mercury prize is maybe an example of something which is more of a “hobbyist”-grade award. And I think it’s a pity that we don’t really have the equivalent of that in board gaming.

Of course, what people really want when it comes to awards is… a nominations shortlist and a grand prize winner which largely re-inforces their own impeccable tastes and preferences. If the nominations contain a bunch of games that you’re familiar with, and which reflects the kind of stuff that you really like playing… well, that’s clearly an award scheme of notable worth and distinction, with a particularly tasteful panel of judges, isn’t it?

To that end… over recent years, I’ve always been quite a fan of the Heavy Cardboard “Golden Elephant” award. Their shortlists interest me. They can be a good steer on games that I should probably make myself familiar with; games that I maybe missed over the course of the year because they didn’t really blip on the radar of popular hotness… but which are, nevertheless, likely to be things I’d find interesting. But, sadly, that particular award seems to have gone the pretty much the same way as the Heavy Cardboard podcast has: oft promised, but seldom delivered. The 2019 nominations are, apparently, still to be announced

Are there any good “hobbyist” board game awards out there? Maybe linked to some other gaming podcast that I’ve missed? None of this a-prize-for-every-wingspan public vote nonsense; a prize judged by a proper panel, who know their stuff, are familiar with all the classics and — ideally — have been into board games for several more years than they’ve owned a YouTube channel?

…because If so: I’m interested. Let me know in the comments!

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Thu Jul 23, 2020 7:10 am
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Sporeggically Board.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
Northumberland
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A couple of weeks ago, I took the “Which Sporadically Board Regular Are You?” quiz, and discovered that I am, apparently, Dan Hughes.

From gallery of MrShep


This doesn’t entirely surprise me. I have met Dan Hughes, and he seems like a man with the right sort of view of the world. The logic is entirely valid.

And it is perhaps due to my deep-set Dan Hughes tendencies that I found the Sporadically Board International Boiled Egg Day 2020 to be a particularly splendid idea.

From gallery of MrShep


Unless you read the Sporadically Bored Facebook Group, then you probably had no idea that this momentous date occurred on Sunday-just-gone.

Triggered by the discovery that Egg Cups are — apparently — not a thing in the USA, Sunday Morning was declared to be: Official SpoBo International Boiled Egg Day. And a vast community of people around the globe — bound only by their mild interest in a podcast which is not really about board games — joined together in an act of eating a soft-boiled egg (with soldiers, obviously) for Sunday morning breakfast.

Admittedly, my enthusiasm may have been slightly spurred on by the fact that Mrs Shep owns a stupidly-large Egg Cup collection, and I could get a board game related gag out of it…

From gallery of MrShep


…but the event was, nevertheless, exactly (eggsactly? LIKE AN EGG!) the sort of thing that made a locked-down Sunday morning just that little bit more interesting, and just a little bit more connected to the world outside.

Plus I was mightily impressed when Mrs Shep also found one of THESE beauties down the back of the kitchen drawer…

From gallery of MrShep


I dread to think what the non-boiled-egg-eating nations might think that these are used for.

From gallery of MrShep


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What? Did you think I’d be doing a lazy post about the Golden Geeks today? Meh. All I can say is that Stonemaier must be absolutely gutted that Wingspan didn’t pick up the award for ‘best podcast’ this year…
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Tue May 5, 2020 8:21 am
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