The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

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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
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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
United Kingdom
Ovington
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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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This month, I have mostly not been listening to...

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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All things considered, Easter weekend wasn’t too bad from a gaming point of view. I managed a few games of Oh My Goods with Mrs Shep (gotta make the most of that Easter edition!), a Takenoko sesh with some of the Newcastle Gamers, a cheeky 2-player game of Concordia on Monday night with Owain, and a crack at Tony’s new game with the man himself. And on top of that, some of the time that I didn’t spend playing games, I spent making a digital version of The Biscuit Game (not that one). So, yeah… despite the lockdown situation, I still seem to be managing pretty well with board-game-related activities. ‘Phew.

From gallery of MrShep
(I was surprised to discover this was my first play of Concordia since Autumn 2018... Gulp!)


One element of the hobby that I don’t seem to be faring so well with, however, is Podcasts.

Pre-lockdown, I would consume a huge number of board-gaming podcasts each week (a side effect of spending far too long each day sitting in my car, commuting) … but I seem to be falling horribly behind with them all now. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that I’m missing those familiar voices. It’s like a bunch of friends that I haven’t heard from for a bit, and I’m starting to wonder what they’re all up to.

It seems a bit strange listening to podcasts in a non-driving environment though. Maybe I should just go and sit in the car for half an hour each morning for a bit of a listen. That would definitely confuse the neighbours.

Hmmm… bit of rambly sort of post today, isn’t it? So while I’m here I might as well also remind you that Christian is hosting an online gaming session this evening. Depending on how the rest of my day shapes up (lots of work-related madness going on today) I might be able to poke my nose in a bit later for a quick game of something. You’ll find more details over on his blog.
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Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:10 am
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This week, I have been mostly listening to...

John Shepherd
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From gallery of MrShep


The post-Christmas return to work means I’m commuting again, and catching up on all the podcast episodes that I missed over the festive period. Although we listen to a lot of podcasts on our various travels in pursuit of strange British customs and traditions, Mrs Shep isn’t deeply-enough immersed into the world of board game nerdery to want to listen to long, in-depth podcasts about them. (Not unless they feature somebody she knows, anyway!). So when we’re travelling together a mixture of comedy and history / documentary tends to fill our ears, rather than boardgamey stuff. Boardgamey stuff is for my drive-time, not for family drive-time.

One of the podcasts in my backlog happened to be the Five Games for Doomsday interview with Edward Uhler, of Heavy Cardboard fame, which I just listened to yesterday. And…. wow!… what an interview. There’s a point where Edward is talking about the therapy process that he’s been going through over recent years, and the life events leading up to that process, where I really felt my jaw drop in amazement.

And then a minute later… have you ever had that thing where your jaw wants to drop even further, but it’s already kind of already hit floor level and can’t, physically, drop any more? Well… That.

Anyway, it’s a really good interview, this is. Edward talks about some really bad times in his life, and the therapy process that’s followed them … with a level of openess that you don’t often see when mental health matters are discussed. I mean… anybody familiar with his work knows that Edward is a personable and articulate speaker, and what he talks about, he talks about well. But this must have been a difficult step for him. And Ben, as interviewer, gets the tone just right. I mean, I hesitate to say nice things about Ben, because I know he reads these blatherings from time to time … but yeah… good work Ben. And huge thanks and respect to Edward (who doesn’t read these blatherings, but it seems wrong to only compliment Ben here) for being so honest and open about this stuff… and for helping to promote a positive attitude and change of perception around mental health issues.

It’s a valuable piece of podcasting, this is. And if you’ve ever listened to Heavy Cardboard, you absolutely owe it to yourself to check this one out.

Five Games For Doomsday: Edward Uhler
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Sat Jan 11, 2020 12:16 pm
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