The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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Little britain. Murders. Infidels. AireCon.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Yeah. I know that I really shouldn’t be putting money into the coffers of evil Tim Wetherspoon, no matter how reasonably-priced his breakfasts are. But I *do* like breakfasting in the Harrogate winter gardens. It’s a vast, lovely, airy, victorian-era building; very steampunk-looking … usually extremely quiet early in the day, and a very civilised environment in which to sip coffee and load up on a full english breakfast before facing a busy day ...with no distractions other than a quiet background murmur of fellow diners discussing the matters of the day, a rattling of spoons in teacups, and the occasional gentle clatter of knives and forks echoing around the vaulted victorian steelwork.

Well… usually, it’s like that. But this particular Saturday morning, without really thinking about where I was seating myself, I managed to land near a fairly rowdy bunch of people. I’m guessing it was some board gaming you-tuber or other at the epicentre of the group, doing a meet-and-great …it kind of had that vibe to it, and the voices were loud, and American-accented. Fair enough; they all seemed to be having good fun, and it certainly wasn’t the lairiest group of folks that you’d find in a Wetherspoons bar by a long shot. But it did send my mind thinking — as I sipped my coffee — how odd it was that such a grassroots gaming convention — in a small, northern British town — was shipping in so many of its “headline” delegates from the USA. I mean… we do have some pretty good home-grown YouTubers and Podcasters on these very shores. …don’t we?

Or maybe these musings were just the result of residual little-britain sensibilities — latent and deeply engrained in every branch of Wetherspoons — seeping into my consciousness

Anyway, I didn’t have too long to muse over these matters; I got a text message from Linsonix, saying that she and Mr N were already in the conference centre, had managed to grab a copy of Paladins of The West Kingdom from the game library, and were wondering if they should they save me a seat? Well… in terms of random offers that can arrive while eating your breakfast, that one has to rank reasonably highly, doesn't it? I was only half a sausage, a few baked beans, and a small piece of black pudding away from completing my morning repast, so I replied that I should be with them in 15 minutes or so...

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As it turned out … we spent a little bit of time in the demo area before heading upstairs to play Paladins, because a particular game in there had caught the eyes of Lindsey & Mr N while waiting for me to potter down the road from the pub…

Snapshot: Wildlife Photographer

From gallery of MrShep


In short: You’re a wildlife photographer. There’s a push your luck card-flipping thing going on at the start of your turn (thematically: setting yourself up to photograph the animals, without “spooking” them), then you allocate dice to the cards that you’re interested in adding to your score pile, roll dice to beat the target scores (/successfully photograph the animals) on those cards, collect sets, and achieve secret card-accumulating objectives.

There’s a significant luck factor (I had some awful rolls + flips!), with some mitigation mechanisms — tokens that you can spend for re-rolls, or to shore up dice results in advance, and a rule by which you can avoid going bust from an adverse card flip by taking it into a personal reserve — to an extent where I wasn’t massively sold on this one, with some some elements seeming incongruously inelegant/under-developed for such a simple game. But then… I’m probably not the target audience for this one. Lindsey + Mr N, on the other hand, clearly saw something in it, as they bought a copy to take home for the kids

After a quick stop-off at the Bright Eye Games booth to look at Termite Towers (we played a couple of rounds, but not enough to really understand the game properly), another demo zone caught our collective eyes …

The Detective Society.

From gallery of MrShep


The Detective Society is an escape-room-in-a-box company, and their demo booth featured a self-contained “15 minute mini-case” to solve, involving players being handed details of a murder victim, three suspect profiles, and a few small items of evidence to look at… then being left to themselves to solve the case.

From gallery of MrShep

Seems like a legitimate murder motive to me!


I’ll not give too much away, because if you see this demo elsewhere (some of the written material made reference to the UK games expo) it’s well worth having a go at it yourself. There are some interestingly-immersive “real-world” elements which require a smartphone (no, those people in the photo looking at their phones AREN’T doing that because they’re bored of the game!) — you visit web sites that have been set up to depict in-game organisations and send emails to various characters to help move the case along, and there’s some very nice physical props to poke and prod at along the way. All very satisfying. And if you do manage to encounter this very same demo at some point — our time to beat was roughly ten minutes and 50 seconds


Anyway… with a morning of impromptu game demos out of the way, it was time for the main event. The previously-promised game of…

Paladins of the West Kingdom.

From gallery of MrShep


Oddly, I’ve never played a Shem Philips game before. I know that Shem and Garphill games have developed quite a following over the last few years … but for some reason, all of those titles have kind of stayed a little bit outside of my orbit. Not because I’ve been deliberately avoiding them, or have heard bad things about them … quite the opposite in fact. They just don’t seem to have ever landed on a table that I happen to have been playing at, is all.

Until now.

And I really enjoyed this game. At the start of each round, you’re given a bunch of differently-coloured workers — the exact mix of which depends upon some card management on your part, and a central card draft — and then you pop your workers onto your personal board in various colour combinations to activate particular actions … boosting your levels of faith, military strength and influence … building your little empire, fortifying your defences, recruiting helpers, and vanquishing the infidels. All of which will drip-feed a steady stream of points.

There was much fun to be had here. But at the same time …it all seemed oddly familiar. At first, I chalked this up to parallels with Hadrians Wall — the only other Garphill Game that I own, and which I can now see took an awful lot of design (or development?) cues from Paladins, despite being the work of a different designer. But it was only a few days later — when I was retrospectively mulling over what I liked, or disliked about Paladins — that it finally clicked.

It’s Orléans. But without the bag-building.

From gallery of MrShep


In Orléans you place groups of workers of specific colours onto your personal board to activate actions (check!) … you can take a development action to fill up the first space in those groups with a permanently-blocking “thing”, which makes them easier to fill later in the game (check!) … one colour of meeple is a wildcard that can stand in for any other meeple, but comes with its own special rules and concerns (check!) … and these are just the aspects that are initially popping into my head despite not managing to crack open my copy of Orléans for 6 years or so.

There’s a lot of parallels there.

So I’ve kind of had a bit of a pivot from “maybe I should put Architects Paladins onto my things to buy list?” to: “I really need to play Orléans again to see if it scratches the same itch”… because I did like Orléans, back when it was the hot new thing. And I’ve got a feeling that the bag-building and variability of building tiles in Orléans perhaps nudges it a little way ahead of Paladins for me. Hmmm.

Great to finally play Paladins of the West Kingdom though, and to see what the fuss is about; it is a very good game in its own right!

(to be continued…)

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Sat Mar 19, 2022 3:22 pm
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Promos & Geekflation

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Covid day 2. Or possibly day 5, if you count from the day that I got an initial suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. Or day 1 or 4 if you adopt the official government way of counting isolation days (a system which starts with day number zero. Because …of course it does). Anyway, whatever day it is … I’m still OK. A cough and sniff here and there …but nothing major. In truth, if it wasn’t for the test result, I’d just think I’d just caught a pretty minor cold, and simply get on with my life. Hopefully that’s the vaccines doing their work, and things won’t get much worse than this. Fingers crossed.

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In gaming news… an envelope arrived from across the water today; a few bits that I’d been tempted into buying at the Geek Store:

From gallery of MrShep


Specifically:

Promo bonus plates for Hansa Teutonica; the only item of Hansa Teutonica stuff that I didn’t already own. And yes, I got all of my Hansa Teutonica stuff the hard way. None of those big box jonny-come-lately get it all in one purchase shennanigans from ME, I’ll have you know! Because I did it the proper way. Piece by hard-earned piece, in a quest spanning many, many long years. Oh yes. I definitely did the work on this one. And do you really think you can get the same satisfaction …. the same overwhelming sense of accomplishment … the same feeling of obsessive collector closure EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU PLAY…. by merely buying a “big box”, and slapping it straight into your kallax??!!

…Do you???? ….WELL??? ….DO YOU???

(More seriously: Hansa Teutonica is an excellent game. Absolutely top notch. And if you can reliably rustle up 3 or more players, take no heed of my elitist gatekeeping rantings and go out and buy a copy of that big box immediately. It’s possibly the single best-value old-school-euro bargain available in the entire hobby right now)

Anyway. There are some very quirky effects on these tokens, which are very different to anything offered by the base game bonus plates. I’ll not bore you with the details — because there’s a perfectly good pdf file which can do that — but they could certainly mix things up a bit.


Also…

MicroMacro:Crime City — Full House: Another Bank Robbery.
(Because a single colon in a promo title clearly isn’t enough)

These bonus cases do annoy me a little bit … because most of the content for the case is — by necessity — already baked into the map that you get with the game itself…so you’re effectively buying a key to unlock a bit of content that you already own. But… we do love a bit of MicroMacro, Mrs Shep and I… and despite eeking “Full House” out over several well-spaced instalments, we’ve only got a couple of cases left to solve now. So this is an add-on that simply had to be got!

And finally…

Carpe Diem: First expansion. We’ve been playing Carpe Diem quite a lot over the last few months, so this seemed worth a try. It all looks really simple at first glance … any time you pick up a banderole token, you place it the next slot on this new track, and if you cover a resource icon in doing so you get whatever’s depicted! Simiple? Too generous? Well… I suspect there’s a bit of a brain-burny timing puzzle in play here too … because if you pick up a banderole when there’s an empty space looming on the track, you get nothing … and you (potentially) set up an opponent to claim something useful on their next turn instead. So building (or not building) on a banderole spaces now carries EVEN MORE consequences than it normally would.

Could be interesting. We’ll see.

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So, that was my envelope full of promos. All of which seem promising, in their own little way. Though the trio did set me back a hefty $15 (plus $7 postage!) to obtain. Which is — lets face it — a fair bit of cash, for such tiny bits of cardboard. But at least the money goes to a good cause*.

This did set me wondering though… just how much have the geekstore prices changed over the years?

I had a look back through my records. My very first purchase from BGGGeek was, it seems, a set of Dominion promos … the Envoy and Black Market cards. Today, the list price is $5 for each individual deck of those… but when I bought them, back in March 2010, the geek store shipped them both as a single item.

…but what do you think that single item cost?

Poll
(postage & handling excluded!)
 Choices Your Answer  Bars Vote Percent Vote Count
$20.00
3.4 percent
3.4% 4
$15.00
4.2 percent
4.2% 5
$10.00
9.2 percent
9.2% 11
$7.50
4.2 percent
4.2% 5
$5.00
20.2 percent
20.2% 24
$2.50
23.5 percent
23.5% 28
$1.99
21.8 percent
21.8% 26
$0.99
8.4 percent
8.4% 10
$0.01
4.2 percent
4.2% 5
$0.00
0.8 percent
0.8% 1
Voters 119
This poll is now closed.   119 answers
Poll created by MrShep
Closes: Fri Feb 11, 2022 6:00 am


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*Or is maybe just spent on cocaine and prostitutes. It’s hard to tell, really.
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Thu Feb 10, 2022 8:35 am
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Playing with balls. Not going to the ball. Balls to work.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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This weekend I expected to be awash with new games, having gone a bit spend-happy in post-Christmas sales at an assortment of online vendors. Alas, despite the fact that we live in a miraculous age where “boxing day sales” can start the very second that the last pre-Christmas delivery truck has left the warehouse (i.e. somewhere around the 22nd December?), and in which you can buy things at 3am wearing nothing but your pants (but only if you want to) … the veneer of 24-hour availability of lovely board-gaming goodies belies the cold, hard fact that the people who do the picking and packing have all buggered off home for two weeks, and that the british postal service is currently beleaguered with covid-related short-staffedness.

I’ve got at least one “parcelforce 24” board game delivery pending which — as I write — is fast becoming “parcelforce 116-and-counting”. Ho hum.

From gallery of MrShep


At least my parcel made it onto the van yesterday. It then had a nice ride around the county and then back to the depot, by all accounts. But at least it made it onto a van…

I did get ONE consignment of board game “sale” goodies through the door earlier this week though:

From gallery of MrShep


Would you like some first impressions? Oh. OK then…

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NEW ARRIVALS:

Medici, the dice game.

I didn’t really know this was a thing, until I noticed a copy listed for less-than-a-tenner while seeking something to nudge my order value into a “free shipping” breakpoint. A Knizia roll-and-write, based on a very good game, which more-or-less paid for itself in the savings I made on shipping? Well … I’d be mad not to, wouldn’t I??

From gallery of MrShep


Medici the dice game plays surprisingly true to its parent game -- but with dice drafting instead of auctions. The active player rolls the dice, and then claims from 1 to 3 of the results to “load” onto their ship … other players must then load a single die from those which were left behind. Numbers are written into the ship’s hold, colours are used to tick off progress on goods-specific score tracks, and there’s 3 end-of-round scoring phases (once ships have been filled) where folks score points for having the highest-scored ship(s), and for having the current majority (or, more accurately: plurality) in each of the 5 goods colours. Which is all very medici-like indeed.

And it works well… though plays way more interactively than the majority of roll-and-writes, with lots of subtle ways to put pressure on your opponent(s) — an element that Mrs Shep isn’t so keen on, as she prefers her roll-and-writes to be a fair bit gentler than this one is. And obviously there are dice at the core of the game, which can sometimes lead to slightly swingy luck-of-the-roll results. But in terms of packing a full medici-like experience into 15 minutes or so, it’s pretty impressive.

However …. one criticism -- and it’s a criticism that I’ve also levelled at the Grail Games edition of the board game in the past — is that you’ve got to wonder just how well the publisher tested this game with the production-ready artwork + components. Not only does it share the colour-confusability issues of the board game version (goods in three different shades of orangey-yellowy-brown)…but the colour saturation on the player sheet is so bold that it can be very difficult to see where folks have ticked off boxes at the darker ends of certain tracks. Especially if you use the pencils that are included in the game. We had to swap those out for nice, dark, higher-contrast ink pens to make the game playable. Hardly the end of the world ... but it’s definitely an annoying example of looks-over-usability, and something which should’ve been shook out pretty quickly in testing

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Masters of Renaissance

From gallery of MrShep


Subtitled “Lorenzo Il Magnifico — the card game” … though it actually has fewer cards in it than Lorenzo Il Maginifico does, just as many boards, plenty of wooden resource counters, and this superb marble-based toy at the centre of things:

From gallery of MrShep

…which very much doesn’t say “card game” to me!


The game has a very simple (and somewhat Splendor-like) structure: on your turn, you can either draft a bunch of resources from “the marketplace”, or spend those resources on cards (i.e. machine bits), or run the machine that you’ve assembled so far to get … stuff. The big gimmick is the aforementioned grid of marbles. Should you decide to take resources on your turn, you choose a row or column of that marble grid, and then take a corresponding resource for each colour of marble in that row/column. You then slot the “spare” marble into that same row or column, which nudges all the marbles one space along the grid and ejects one out of the other side (where it falls into a ball return groove, and rolls back around to its resting position in an ever-so-satisfying sort of way) — leaving a slightly-different grid for the next player to choose from. So tactile. So very nice.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the three games of this that I’ve played so far (one solo, two 2-player). Admittedly, it’s an ultra-basic machine builder (albeit with a very nice toy controlling that draft mechanism), and the theme soon melts away into being nothing more than “now I need a blue and two yellows, to let me buy the thing that’ll turn one yellow into two grey and a red, and also get me 12 points…” … but it still manages to be ever-so-satisfying when you get all your ducks in a row and pull off some super-efficient resource conversion. And the race element really adds to the tension.

TLDR: It’s Splendor++

The downside? … I can’t remember the last time that I saw Mrs Shep get quite so close to rage-quitting a game as she has with this one. She’s really struggled with it. She has, at least, mooted the prospect of playing it “at least one more time, to see if I finally get it” after our last play… but, kind of through gritted teeth. And …. wow … she wasn’t a very happy bunny during game number two. I’m currently taking at least a little bit of solace from the fact that the solo game is perfectly playable and reasonably interesting.

Oh well. Fingers crossed. Maybe the third time will be the charm?

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Fire!

You’ve probably already read about “Fire!” many times over on Alex’s blog. If not — you clearly need to visit Alex’s blog more often

From gallery of MrShep


“Fire!” plays a lot like an old-fashioned solitaire/patience card game — lay the cards out in a certain way, and then draw-and-deal from a frequently-recycled-but-ever-diminishing deck to cancel those cards out and clear the table. I’m only two games in so far, but — my gosh — it’s a little bit clever. And punishing. And more than a little mathy. And did I mention “Fun”? … yep, definitely fun too. Though possibly ”type 2” fun. whistle

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ALSO PLAYED:

So… what other (non-new!) titles have we been playing that I haven’t told you about yet?

Well… we’re still going strong with MicroMacro Full House, which proving to be every bit as enjoyable as the first season was… though we're very much trying to ration ourselves to 1 or 2 cases per session, so that it’s not all over too soon. Only half a dozen chapters left to go now. *sob*.

My freshly-patched copy of Obsession made it back to the table for the first time in a little while over the festive period. And in an effort to make it a little bit Christmassy … we slipped in the “Costume Ball” promo tile. Not that the tile is particularly Christmassy in and of itself… but it's a very festive shade of red, and we referred to it as "The Christmas Ball" throughout the game … which made everything seem just a little bit more seasonal

From gallery of MrShep


It’s a particularly odd promo tile, and unique in the respect that it can’t be bought from the game’s marketplace — instead, it triggers a game-interrupting special event as soon as it moves down to the £500 market space. Though, as it turned out, I messed up my timing for it and failed to have the requisite £200 entrance fee available at the appropriate time, so my family very much did-not-go-to-the-ball. Oops. What a festive faux-pas!

And other than that… the Exit Advent Calendar pretty much dominated my “logged plays” for December. Though I can’t really post a picture of how ours looked by the end of the season, as such a picture would be laden with spoilers, and I don’t want to ruin it for anybody… so, instead, here’s a few pictures from a late night walk that we took around the next-village-down-the-lane-from-ours, where they have a new custom of turning on an “advent window” somewhere in the village on every night leading up to Christmas…

From gallery of MrShep


Despite my initial reservations, by the time we came to the 24 December we found that we’d really enjoyed our Exit-Advent experience… and Mrs Shep is now particularly keen for me to look out for the one that they’re releasing next year. The challenges were varied, all reasonably-solvable after a bit of a think, and It did manage to pull a particularly nice plot twist on the last day. And slip in an amusing end-of-the-game easter egg** too. But… my lips are sealed on what that was — it’s something you’ll have to experience for yourself.

Needless to say, by the end of the month the calendar had been opened, cut, punctured, torn, dismantled, scribbled on, and looked very much in a “used-beyond-reasonable-repair” kind of state. I was therefore somewhat surprised to see a copy advertised on facebook a couple of days ago, in one of the popular (UK) board game trading groups, where the owner was saying that he’d completed it, but had also retained all of the content in a perfectly-re-playable condition. I mean… I know that some people are a little bit funny about keeping the metaphorical virginity of their legacy-style games intact. But for an advent calendar consisting of perforated doors, full of stuff that asks to be cut out, folded, punctured, destroyed and written on to solve each challenge…? Either that guy had the most miserable, self-hobbled, half-arsed experience possible with the calendar … or the buyer is in for a severe disappointment.

Probably both.

But what do I know? Maybe the same guy also clinically dissects the crackers on his Christmas dinner table, reads the jokes, wears the hats, and then painstakingly reassembles everything afterwards?

“Stop crying, kids! Just think of the resale value!”

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REAL LIFE:

Real life (by which I more accurately mean: work) returned with a bit of a vengeance this week. And not in a gentle way either… as I found myself chipping large slabs of melted-and-re-frozen snow off the car at 7:40 on Tuesday morning. At least the commute into the office was reasonably clear — most (sane) people seemingly observing government advice to work from home. Unfortunately — for me — I’ve had a bunch of new starters to onboard, requiring far too much of my physical presence in the office

Currently, about 8% of our staff are covid-positive, in a company which (a) provides an essential service to tens of thousands of people, and (b) is already on a bit of a back-foot in providing that service, thanks to the storm damage that came in December. It’s necessitated a fair bit of mucking-in on roles that I wouldn’t normally be involved with. So as you might guess, it’s been a bit of a stressful week. (Sometimes I wonder if the move away from a cushy IT consultancy job — where the need to ever leave my home office was becoming increasingly diminished — was such a smart idea after all*).

….and that’s why the blogging has been a bit light this week, and why you’ve been treated to a bit of a “weekend newsletter” post instead. Whether this pattern might prevail for a little bit… I’m not sure. But whatever happens, please be advised that I will not be altering anybodies subscription fees in any way at this time.

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BEER OF THE WEEK:

“The Dude Abides”. White Russian Imperial White Stout, 10%abv

From gallery of MrShep


Is it obvious yet that I got a big crate of Brew York stuff delivered late last year? This one is particularly impressive. I’m not entirely sure how it gets classified as a stout; it looks more like a pale ale to me. Lactose sweet, with coffee and a dash of nutmeg thrown in for good measure (yes… nutmeg. Which is why I’d been saving it for the festive season). Sounds odd… but it’s delicious. Absolutely delicious. And if you have doubts... well, you know, that’s just like, your opinion, man.

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EPILOGUE:

I’m about three quarters of the way through writing this post, and Mrs Shep demands “one last try at that game with the balls, because it’s really annoying me***”. And thus… we tried Masters of Renaissance together for a third (and potentially final?) time.

And you know what… something clicked!

Not only did Mrs Shep finally (and absolutely) nail the workings of the game … she also managed to kick my butt by a very convincing margin.

She’s decided she likes it now. Maybe it’s not destined to live in the solo heap any more.

(And the potential for ongoing ball-related innuendo lives on…)

‘Phew.

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*But then I remembered that my previous employer was Capita
**before anybody asks, yes, I’m aware that one of my new games has an easter egg concealed within too.
***Fnarr fnarr.
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Sun Jan 9, 2022 7:10 am
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Top games of 2021

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep

Easiest post of the year, this one. Almost writes itself, this does. Simply flip through all of the new releases that you played in 2021, shortlist the best ones, and then put together a “top 10 of 2021” list, or a “top 5 of 2021” list, or whatever you think you can run to… bash out a couple of hundred words (or a youtube video!) saying how great they all were, put a nice clickbaity title on top of it (“Top games of 2021” should do the trick) ...and the job’s a good ‘un! Last year I even managed to stretch this nonsense out for SIX separate instalments. Wow! …So let’s see how I can do this year, shall we?

Right… here we go. The best new games of 2021 were…

Urm…

They were…

(Hmmm. Just let me think a minute)

My picks of the crop for 2021 are…

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Y’know what? For the first time ever, I’m not sure that I can pick any out. I mean… sure… there were some perfectly reasonable games released in 2021. But when I look back through the year… I just can’t put my finger on anything that massively excited me. It’s not like 2020. Back in 2020's round-up I was singing the praises of games like FaiyumHallertauMy CityUnder Falling SkiesSkulls of Sedlec. But this year? Nowt.

Is it the games of 2021… or is it me?

I don’t think it’s me.

Look, I could do a few honourable mentions: Hadrian’s Wall was worth a few goes (though the simultaneous play still seems a bit rough around the edges to me). Railroad Ink Challenge wasn’t bad at all. Moon Adventure packed a very impressive co-op experience into a tiny box. And the one play that I had of Maglev Metro made it seem like a perfectly fine age-of-steam/tramways sort of a thing (and you know that I’m always happy to play a perfectly fine age-of-steam/tramways sort of a thing!). But I’m not sure that I played a single 2021 release that I really want to hold up and evangelise. Not like the stuff that turned my head in 2020, at any rate.

(Edit: I should definitely add Great Plains to the honourable mentions; it's likely as close to a "favourite of the year" as I'll get -- if only I'd had more opportunities to play it! Thanks for the reminder, Martin G!)

Of course, I didn’t play all of the most popular things released in 2021. I more than likely missed a couple of real gems. After all, I missed Tokyo Tsujiki Market and MicroMacro Crime City in their year of release, but I’d totally add those to my favourite-games-of-2020 list now. And if I included reprints/expansions in the scope of this post, then the Grand Austria Hotel deluxe edition would be right at the top of it all. That was a lovely package, that was. Very happy with that.

But … rules is rules.

So my top picks of 2021 are:

<null>

Fight me!

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Fri Dec 31, 2021 7:10 am
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Things leave. Things arrive.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
Northumberland
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They say that nature abhors a vacuum.

This principle seems particularly true when you're talking about board games; no sooner had I successfully offloaded a couple of games at the Gathering of Chums bring-and-buy sale than new things seemed to rush in to fill the newly-vacated cupboard space.

Oh well.

First item: A surprise (because I'd pretty much lost interest while waiting for it) bunch of stuff for Petrichor, from a kickstarter where the organisers seemed -- at some stages -- to be in direct competition with Queen Games for the "who can give the wooliest answers about the actual stage of production and quote the flimsiest and most blatantly un-true delivery estimates" stakes*. Fortunately, this cows, bees, and loads of other promos pacakge was a bit of an impulse purchase, so I wasn't desperately counting down the days until it arrived. (Or continually whining about its failure to do so here on the blog. )

From gallery of MrShep
No sheeps though?


I haven't really dug into this little heap of goodies yet... but trust me when I say that the massive cow-eeples and bee-ples hidden in those little expansion boxes look lovely. And any eurogame that offers you an action where you can use a cow-eeple to spawn "dung" and "methane" resource tokens (cowfarteeples?) on the board has to be worth at least one play, right?

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And also...

From gallery of MrShep


Carpe Diem. I've played Owains copy of this a couple of times, and rather enjoyed it ... while also suspecting that this one might very much be Mrs Shep's sort of thing. Experimentation has now proven this theory to be correct; it very much is Mrs Shep's sort of thing, and it ended up being played no fewer than THREE times over the course of last weekend. Blimey

The graphic design on this (third?) printing seems to be greatly improved over the version that I'm used to ... with the possible exception of the (tiny!) bonus icons on the player board frames being just a little bit too tricky to distinguish at a glance. It's odd that they improved so many things between v1 and v2, but then regressed something that didn't really seem to warrant any kind of tinkering-with at all. Oh well. Maybe the fourth version will get it all perfect?

Excellent game though. I'm very pleased with this particular acquisition.

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*Though, obviously, they don't even come close to the serial-fobbing-off achievements of the true grand masters of this game. Where's my copy of Amstermacao, hmmm?
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Wed Nov 24, 2021 7:10 am
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Wrongsized

John Shepherd
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W Eric Martin is a monster, and the end results of this process are awful.

(And that's before the sticky tape turns yellow with age and then decides not to actually "stick" any more...)



But y'know what? ... if some aftermarket/licensed boutique manufacturer decided to produce a range of alternative packaging for some of my very favourite boxes of air -- with a properly scaled-down manual to fit -- I would totally pay through the nose for those.

And I did once repackage my old edition of Antiquity in a wooden crate.

Board Game: Antiquity


So. Urm. There's that option too. whistle

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Thu Nov 4, 2021 7:10 am
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Reverse Psychology

John Shepherd
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I wasn’t going to post anything today (I fell asleep way too early last night, and that’s several potential-blog-writing hours that I’ll never get back!) …but thought that I’d better at least post a quick note of thanks to all of you for displaying an unprecedented level of self-control and restraint in not rushing to fund Mr Boydell’s exciting new board game museum venture.

I mean, yes, maybe I’m being a tiny bit selfish here… but The Gathering of Chums is possibly the very finest board gaming micro-convention currently on offer in the UK, and the fact that your patronage would secure you (and your plus-one) an invite to all of those events would potentially make it an ever-so-tiny bit more difficult for me to book my own hotel room in-or-around Newent during these most prestigious of gaming occasions. Plus, if you did turn up, you’d only be running the very real risk of engaging in face-to-face board gaming with yours truly. And nobody wants that, do they?

Also, the way that things are looking, the cheapest option for duplicating the museum’s “Shedlife” fanzine will be for Tony to simply copy it out by hand a few times, and post it directly to the two or three people who have subscribed at an eligible tier. Thus MASSIVELY increasing the net worth of my investment in said fanzine … because a hand-drawn Boydell original will surely be far more collectable than something which warranted him going down to the copy shop, won’t it? So if you folks could try very hard to NOT place a demand for any further copies of this ‘zine upon Tony, by NOT signing up to the very reasonably-priced second tier of his patreon, then that would be great too.

And who in their right mind would even want to get themselves unlimited free entry to a small independent museum that’s devoted to 200 years of our very favourite hobby anyway? I got an AI algorithm to draw me a picture of a “Museum of Board Games” a couple of days ago, and looking at a fake picture of a pretend thing is probably way, way better than going to see an actual thing in real life. So just take a good long stare at this:

From gallery of MrShep


…and definitely DO NOT go and look at Tony’s Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/themuseumofboardgames/

Thank you.

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Fri Aug 13, 2021 11:40 am
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Now you see it...

John Shepherd
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From gallery of MrShep


I wonder if the factory that made the "pens with wipe-off ink" for Railroad Ink Challenge perhaps took the instructions a bit too literally?

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At least I didn't buy any of the "mini" dice trays
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Wed Jun 16, 2021 7:10 am
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Playing like it's 2008

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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Agricola and Dominion. Two games that we've been playing a fair bit of over the last few days. Not for any particular reason -- other than a randomly instigated “Hey, it’s ages since we played this … we should really give it play” moment … swiftly followed by a realisation of: “Hmmm… I’d forgotten JUST how good a game this is. Maybe we should play it again tomorrow?”. But … yeah … over recent days we’ve been playing board games like it’s 2008 here in the Shepherd household.

...and totally loving it

From gallery of MrShep
Look at my Faaaaaaaarm!


It got me thinking: when you cast your mind back to some of the games that were coming out in the 2007/2008 kind of era … Agricola, Dominion … and let’s not forget Pandemic (a perennial favourite that we would almost certainly be playing a lot more of too, were it not for current world circumstances) … you can’t help but be struck by what an innovative/breakthrough sort of time it was for game designs. The combination of the nascent worker-placement genre with resource conversion and a big-ass deck of cards was a (literal) game changer. Then the birth of Deckbuilding happened. The first (significant) modern co-op eurogame emerged. And beyond those three biggies, there was plenty of other honourable-mention stuff too… like Vlada doing crazy real-time tile laying and programmed moves in Galaxy Trucker and Space Alert … or Battlestar Galactica — a game which I wasn’t a massive fan of personally, but I will absolutely doff my cap to for raising the bar in hidden traitor games. Oh… and Dixit!! … just imagine just how many games we wouldn’t be able to describe as “It’s basically Dixit, except…” if Dixit had never happened?? … the list goes on!

By comparison, it feels like board games these days are making far smaller innovative leaps. Or that present-day (/newer?) game designers are far more content to merely stir the big pot of tried-and-tested game mechanisms, and throw out just-another-game-in-a-mountain-of-games

Am I looking at the past with rose-tinted spectacles here? … or has the pace of innovation in board games really dropped off over course of the last decade-and-a-bit?

Either way … 2008 was a good sort of time for board gaming. And I’m rather pleased that at least a tiny bit of me is still very much stuck in the past.

(Now get off my Lawn, you kids...)

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Fri May 21, 2021 7:10 am
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The Golden Fleece Awards, Twenty-twenty-something edition.

John Shepherd
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Today I’m pleased to announce the winners of the Second Annual Golden Fleece awards!

Fans of the awards might recall that the nomination process at last year’s awards was a little bit complicated — especially the bit which allowed you (upon payment of an appropriate handling charge) to retrospectively nominate a game after the awards had actually been announced. And also: arranging stuff is hard. So this year, we simply borrowed the results of a random board game awards listing that we found on google.

So, without any further ado…



The “look: let’s try not to get too upset about it. Just let the grognards have this one. It’s way, way better than the rage that we’d face if we let the public loose on an actual war game category” award for best 2 player game of 2020 goes to:



The “I-paid-100-bucks-for-this-on-kickstarter, so-now-I’m-going-to-vote-it-high-in-every-category-I-can-find-it-in” prize for post-purchase rationalisation (and maybe something to do with art) goes to:



The award for “best game with cards in it. Somewhere. Anywhere. Any cards at all. Doesn’t matter.” Goes to:



Best 2020 board game expansion with the word “Wingspan” in the title is awarded to:



The award for board game that you recognise from YouTube reviews, haven’t actually played, but thought “hey, that looks sort of cool, I’ll totally vote for that in first place regardless” goes to:



Best board game that isn’t even a board game:



The 2020 “let’s set the cut-off point for a heavy game nomination at a value of 3.2, what could possibly go wrong if we did that?” award is won by:



The “hold the front page guys, it looks like we might actually have a bona-fide solo game winning the solo-game-of-the-year prize for the very first time IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE AWARD” award goes to…

Under Falling Skies

(seriously CGE … well done on that one!)

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The “You thought this scene was yours, did you? It isn’t yours. Not any more. The world of print and play belongs to us now. We are legion. We control all the things. Put down your tools. Do not resist us. It is over.” award for the best print and play game released last year by Asmodee is:



And finally, the award for “Best zoomable game of…. wait a minute… does that category say ZOOMABLE game? ‘Zoomable game’?? FECKING ZOOMABLE GAME IS EVEN A CATEGORY NOW? …Seriously folks… WHAT NEW LOW IS THIS???…” goes to:

I don’t even care.

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Congratulations to all of our winners. Gaudy and meaningless logos to add to your box art are now available upon request.

And remember: The public voted for this. So it is right.

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Thu May 6, 2021 7:10 am
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