The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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The merry month of Mayarch!

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


It's Button Shy’s BGOTM Club package for March!

Which arrived last week.

In May.

But at least the first two letters of the month were right this time!

Annnnnd….. It’s a bit of a return to form, this one, after that slightly fallow BGOTMC period that I was whinging about commentating upon not so long ago.

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Containing...

Seasons, a mini expansion for Agropolis. Seasons adds four additional cards to the game, one of which you play wordy-side-up at the start to give you an additional scoring condition to work with, along with a “weather” rule that you need to follow as the game progresses. And at this point, it’s probably easier to simply show, rather than tell …so here’s a front and back of a couple of weather cards:

From gallery of MrShep

The remaining three weather cards get shuffled into your deck … and then you begin play as usual … but as soon as you draw a weather card, it MUST be the card that you play next — and then all of your subsequent cards are going to be impacted by that initially-revealed weather rule. It’s a nice tweak, with some potential for very interesting risk-reward decisions around exactly where place those clouds. And new Sprawlopolis/Agropolis content is always a bit of a crowd pleaser

Also...

Board Game: Flipuzzles


Flipuzzle 1 — Frog. A puzzle, on a single card. Essentially a slightly-obfuscated colour maze, where you have to flip the card over after each move (either horizontally, or vertically, depending on the direction of your last step) and then continue your journey from the corresponding point on the opposite side of the card. It’s amusing for a few minutes … but then you’ll likely put it away and never pick it up again. Still… it’s a novelty, right?

And last — but by no means least: The Evergreen Pass ... my first (and long-awaited) instalment of Hush cards. Which means I finally own all of the necessary components to try the game out!

From gallery of MrShep


I did fluff a few rules on this first play-through (which, judging from the number of post-publication faqs both here on BGG and on the Button Shy discord, is not an uncommon experience)… so I maybe shouldn’t pass any first-impressions judgement quite yet. But it’s definitely interesting. In a good way. Euro-leaning tower defence … with a couple of clever/elegant spacial things going on which are maybe a bit deeper than they first seem. I’ll certainly be keen to see how this one stands up to repeat plays and evolves with future BGOTM packages

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Wed May 11, 2022 7:10 am
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Surrounded

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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Another recent Kickstarter delivery — Fjords.

From gallery of MrShep


I backed the Fjords campaign pretty much blind. Fjords has been out of print for quite some time, and I’ve never played it … but I’d heard good things about it. (Many of those good things coming from Caroline’s blog, I think?). Plus, Phil Walker-Harding had some involvement in this new edition … and while I’m not familiar with the other works of the original designer, Franz-Benno Delonge, Phil Walker-Harding has a very solid track record. So it seemed worth a punt.

From gallery of MrShep


Fjords is certainly an attractive game. Those are surprisingly chunky, wonderfully tactile pieces of wood. The tile art is by Beth Sobel — and while there’s some nice, detailed embellishments on several of the tiles, none of that detail gets in the way of functionality. In short, it handles nicely, and looks like a game for grown-ups. Good marks on that front.

And the gameplay?

Well…

It’s fine. Or maybe “fine-swaying-towards-reasonably-good”.

It works like this: There are two phases to the game; in the first part you draft tiles and then lay them to build a shared landscape … and during this phase you have three huts which you can individually place upon any tile immediately after you’ve laid it, to establish your starting positions. Once the tiles have all been played, you move into the second part of the game. In this phase, you take turns placing one of your viking settler meeples onto the resulting landscape, adjacent to any piece of wood that you’ve already placed (with the rule that those snowy “mountain” spaces break adjacency). Keep on going until no player can legally play any more pieces, and the person who placed the most settlers wins.

In other words it's another variation on a “surround” game… one where you communally build the playing space before you start doing the surrounding. Did you ever play that game as a kid where you place a bunch of dots on a piece of paper, and then take turns connecting them up with lines and annexing off bits of territory? It’s basically that. But with nice bits.

This new edition comes with a selection of “rune stone” mini expansions (courtesy of the aforementioned Mr Walker Harding) which tend to tweak scoring and placement rules slightly from play to play, and there's a suggested campaign format where you gradually add these rules in over a sequence of games. These do seem a little bit interesting (we haven’t played with them yet) … but possibly not interesting enough for me to regret passing on the super-deluxe version that came with plastic runestones included. I’ve just got plain ol’ punched-out-cardboard runestones … and, given the amount of use I think they’ll get … those’ll do me just fine.

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It turned out to be a bit of a surround-game-themed weekend. Aside from an inaugural play of Fjords with Mrs Shep, the weekend also saw me complete a bit of a craft project that I’ve been working on over recent weeks…

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep
Light Cycles!


Back when I restored an old, generic arcade cabinet to playable working order (some time in the early 2000s?), I devised a cunning plan to build a series of interchangeable control panels to fit onto it. Control panels (and accompanying artwork) for all of my favourite “classic” arcade games. I mean… obviously, you can get a long way with just a standard ball-top joystick and a set of buttons. But there are certain games that need very different types of controls to get an arcade-authentic experience. Things like steering wheels (for pretty much any driving game ever). Or track balls (for the likes of centipede, missile command, Marble Madness and several extremely-well-thought-of golfing games). Or sometimes things even more exotic.

Of course… I hatched this brilliant plan, wired my cabinet with all manner of plugs and sockets to support this design … and then totally failed to build even a single add-on control panel for the next couple of decades.

Until now.

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


Back in the summer of 1983, TRON was one of my very favourite arcade games. I sunk many a 10p piece into that particular coin-gobbling beast during my mis-spent youth. And although I’ve played various emulations and ports of TRON over the intervening years … the game has got a really unusual control combination that doesn’t translate very well at all to modern game pads... so none of those versions has really felt "right". To play properly, TRON requires a flight-stick style “trigger” joystick for your right hand, and a weighted, analogue spinner knob for the left hand.

From gallery of MrShep


But finally… with a little bit of specialist part acquisition ... cutting, drilling and soldering … plus a few hours of photoshopping arcade-authentic artwork and getting an online print shop to make me some vinyl decals … I think I have a more-than-respectable simulation of the original arcade experience sitting in my games room now.

Finally, I can TRON until my heart’s content. Just like it’s 1983 again!

My inner 13 year old is beyond pleased with this

(Next on the list: Defender. Just give me another 20 years or so to work up to it…)

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Fri Apr 8, 2022 7:10 am
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Rapid translation

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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From gallery of MrShep


I've already mentioned my recent acquisition of SCOUT* a few times. What I don't think I've mentioned before is the fact that I (slightly unexpectedly) received a version of the game in German-language packaging.

Not the end of the world; the box still contained the usual Oink games assortment of multi-lingual rulesheets, including full English rules. And it hasn't been a particularly easy game to get a copy of lately. So... no biggie.

But then ... after a few days, and a few plays... I spotted a suspicious ridge on the base of the box.

A ridge which looked like it might be the edge of some kind of vinyl sticker. And which might stand some investigative picking-at.

Hmmmmm....

From gallery of MrShep


A few moments of VERY careful peeling later, and...

From gallery of MrShep


I appear to have an English language edition of SCOUT now**. Hooray!

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*I hope you're still shouting it.
**And I was soooo tempted to post this discovery on April 1st, just to double-bluff people. But I'm not nearly that evil!
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Mon Apr 4, 2022 7:10 am
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Right timeZ / Wrong timeZ.

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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I think some catch-up posts are in order. A lot of new things have arrived over the last month or so which — for one reason or another — I never got around to blogging about at the time.

Quite a few of those things were kickstarters; it seems like March was a particularly good time for long lost / much-delayed / almost-completely-forgotten about Kickstarters to finally fulfill. (Though obviously not Amsterdamacao. Because hell hasn’t quite frozen over yet. And Queen Games still seem to be reaching down the back of the kickstarter sofa cushions in a desperate attempt to find the money to actually send it to print… which ‘aint a good sign.)

Anyway, I digress. Look what turned up at the very end of February:

From gallery of MrShep


TaZmania and Revenge of the Old Ones … two new expansions for Martin Wallace’s AuZtralia. Plus a nice big box to keep everything inside.

In truth, Tazmania and the Big Box were the things that attracted me to this particular Kickstarter package. Revenge of The Old Ones is a “one player controls the forces of evil and plays asymmetrically against everybody else” kind of expansion … a game structure which rarely appeals to me, or to the people that I play games with — so I expect that that particular expansion will likely never see the light of day around here (Pandemic Bio Terrorist challenge, anyone?) … but it was a non-optional part of the bundle, so I have it now. And at least there won’t be any unaccounted-for gaps in that big box, right?

TaZmania, on the other hand, is a new AuZtralia map specifically designed for 2-player and solo games.

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Back when this kickstarter launched, we were all still up to our necks in the bad kind of Covid-19. It was a time when it still seemed like a good idea to be considering exactly how many games in your collection were suitable for very low player counts … and this solo/2-player-focussed proposition definitely seemed like a case of the right expansion at the right time to me. Plus… I have very fond memories of playing AuZtralia. Fond memories that may have been heavily influenced by several pints of plum porter on a pleasant November afternoon in Newent. But nevertheless… fond enough memories to encourage me to invest in further add-ons to the core game. So it was backed.

And now it’s here. Only 3 months late. Which seems pretty good going, for kickstarters nowadays.

I gave the solo version game a test run a couple of days after it arrived — just the basic TaZmania map (there’s an alternative version of the game on the reverse side of the board which involves an initially-blank map, and flipping over hex tiles as you explore it to see what you find … but I haven’t messed with that yet), and with none of the ongoing solo campaign gubbins … because I simply wanted to remind myself how the basic game works before wading in any deeper.

And how was it?

Hmmm.

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You know that thing where I said that the Kickstarter campaign was perfectly timed, given world events? I do wonder if the fulfillment — and my first play — were subject to the exact opposite of that effect.

I played that initial game in the last week of February … just a few days after Russia had launched its invasion of Ukraine. And … well … maybe it sounds a bit daft, writing about it now … but it was definitely a bit of a high-anxiety time, that week. And playing a game in which I took the part of a military force rapidly sweeping across a map and crushing everything in its path, felt a bit …. off? …despite the fact that I was shelling zombie squadrons and leading armoured cars against advancing Shoggoths, I couldn’t help being very pointedly reminded of terrible things simultaneously happening in the real world.

I won the game pretty easily (to be fair: I was playing on the easiest level, and a couple of critical enemy-token-flips turned out to be kangaroos and desolate outback rather than great old ones and Cthulhu!). Everything seemed mechanically sound. And it's more of the same AuZtralia that I fondly remember. But I definitely came away with a feeling that maybe I should just pop this one back onto the shelf for a little while, before going back and exploring it any further.

I’m not sure about you folks … but I’m definitely not in the mood for military-invasion-themed games right now

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Sun Apr 3, 2022 12:05 pm
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Wholly holey coins

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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And the answer to this morning’s pop quiz was: games containing lovingly-reproduced-in-punchboard interpretations of historic East-Asian coins.

Which traditionally have a hole in the middle.

And are normally a massive pain-in-the-butt to punch out (I had to resort to using a tiny screwdriver with this set!) … and leave you with lots of tiny cardboard squares which seem to keep turning up for days afterwards, no matter how careful you are about tidying them up. But the finished effect is totally worth it:

From gallery of MrShep


These particular coins are cardboard renderings of Japanese mon, the commonly-circulated currency of the Edo period. And the reason why I found myself punching out a bunch of Japanese Edo period coins? … it’s because I’ve been playing Iki again.

Remember that AireCon post where I mentioned that it was only a matter of time before I added a copy of Iki to my own collection?

Well. That happened

From gallery of MrShep

And at this point… I’ll make a brief diversion to thank everybody who was kind enough to use my referral link to sign up to kienda.co.uk. Not only did you get 5% off your own purchases for doing that … but the little bits of credit that I gathered from your accumulated sign-ups literally put this game onto my table. So that turned out pretty well. Thanks for that. (And if any of you UK board game buying folks haven’t tried out Kienda yet … well, this referral link is still perfectly valid. )

From gallery of MrShep


Yesterday afternoon I gave the 2-player version of the game an inaugural spin with Mrs Shep. Feedback on the forums here suggests that the game isn’t really at it’s best at this player count … and there did seem to be a bit less incentive to use an opponent’s stalls when playing head-to-head than there was in my previous (3 player) play with Linsonix & Mr N …but it was still a perfectly good fun couple of hours, and the two player board / gameplay adjustments seemed to add sufficient bite to keep things interesting.

Koota Yamada might not be a particularly well-known or established designer, but Iki feels polished, smartly-tuned and well developed. In many ways, it’s a lot like a Stefan Feld game; it’s very points-salady, the bid sequencing at the start of each round involves a classic Feld-like turn order track, and the mechanism by which you’re trying to build your fire-fighting score in anticipation of intermittently-occurring fire events seems very heavily inspired by The Speicherstadt… so there’s much for Feld fans to enjoy here. But there’s also a very nicely-integrated rondel mechanism at the core ... and a certain something about the game that gives me more than a slight whiff of Le Havre too (though maybe that’s purely down to the fact that you have a single worker piece, which uses buildings built by other players?).

Whatever. These are all very fine things to be inspired by. Iki is a good game. And definitely one that I hope will be getting quite a few plays

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Sat Apr 2, 2022 2:03 pm
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Out of the bin, on to the table.

John Shepherd
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We appear to have a new post man. I’m not entirely sure what happened to the old post man… but he did seem to have an annoying habit of just leaving packages on the doorstep and walking away (without knocking, ringing the bell, or enquiring as to whether anybody was home) and frequently stuffing random items of mail through the wrong person’s letterbox.

So any new postman has to be an improvement, right?

Urm…

From gallery of MrShep


Maybe not. This is clearly just a single instance of long-weekend-break-combined-with-a-helpfui-neighbour-puttting-the-bins-out-for-us-while-we're-gone away from being a disaster, isn’t it?

Hmmm.

Anyway… what deliveries managed to avoid accidental recycling THIS week?

From gallery of MrShep


A new T-Shirt! Because convention season is looming… and is it just me, or does anybody else find it a tiny bit disappointing when people turn out to look nothing like their BGG avatars in real life?

And also… SCOUT

SCOUT — a 2021 Oink Games release (and also a game which is inexplicably listed in capital letters in the BGG database, so I do feel that your internal voice should be SHOUTING the title every time you read it from now on) — which has been on my radar for a little while now, but the first print run seemed to sell out annoyingly quickly. However, a few stray copies of SCOUT showed up at Firestorm Cards last weekend (don’t bother looking now; they’ve already gone), so I jumped the opportunity. Annnnnd….

From gallery of MrShep


SCOUT is odd. Really odd. But in a good way.

I’ve only played the two-player variant so far — which seems to be significantly different to the “regular” game — but … yeah … the double-ended (different value depending on which way up they are in your hand) cards combined with bohnanza-style “you can’t change the position of cards in your hand” gameplay makes SCOUT a very clever little thing. But definitely the kind of clever that takes a few plays to sink in; I don’t think we really got the measure of it until we played through at least half a dozen hands over the course of several games (so it might be a tricky thing to rock up to a low-attention-span gaming group with!). But once it clicked, things really got interesting. SCOUT could turn into a very popular, frequently-played filler if you manage to get people over that initial comprehension threshold. And I’ll likely write more about it with a few more games under my belt.

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In other news: Pilgrim — a game that generated a fair amount of interest when I discussed it in a post last year — has just gone into crowdfunding. (And just who is that dashing grey-haired fellow in the slideshow at the top of the gamefound page, hmmmm?)

From gallery of MrShep


If a medium-heavy euro with a (unique!) mancala worker placement mechanism, railway-game-style tile laying, a proper grown-up theme, more potential start-up configurations* than the entire human race could ever play their way through before the eventual heat-death of the known universe, and a pledge from the designer that “There are no stretch goals to this campaign because the game in the box is as good as we could make it” sounds like your kind of thing (and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, it probably _is_ your kind of thing), you might like to take a look.

It’s £65. (Though be warned that the shipping to distant shores seems a little bit expensive because… well… that’s how the world is right now). And it’s a print run of only 1000 copies — so, if you’re interested, I’d hop on now if I was you.

Good summary of what makes it interesting, courtesy of Rahdo:


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*Somewhere in the region of 60 sextillion, apparently. Which is either a 6 followed by 22 zeroes, or a 6 followed by 37 zeroes, depending on whether the U.S. or British naming was being used in the working out. Either way, that’s probably enough to keep even the most ardent of replayability-obsessed youtube reviewers happy
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Sat Mar 5, 2022 11:40 am
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Valentine trinkets...

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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I haven’t posted one of these for a while, have I? The latest Button Shy Board Game of the Month envelope arrived yesterday:

From gallery of MrShep


In truth … the last few of these packages haven’t excited me massively. Mostly because a fair chunk of the stuff at the $10 subscriber level (which is the tier that I subscribe at) has consisted of supporting material for wallet games that I don’t own. Even to an extent where — in some months — the content in the $10 package only makes sense if you also have the content in the $20 package. Urrr… what?? … well, take, for example, the month where the $20 folks got a copy of ROVE, while the $10 folks got an expansion for ROVE. Or the month where the $20 folks got a copy of Unsurmountable, and the $10 folks got an expansion for Unsurmountable. Urm…. can you see why that might not be such an attractive proposition for the $10-only crowd?

I’ve been setting all of these mini-expansions aside anyway, under the assumption that one day I might own copies of the games that they all belong to. ROVE, for example, comes from the same stable as Skulls of Sedlec, so — as regular readers might rightly surmise — that’s definitely on my games-of-interest list. But I tend to buy my Button Shy games in batches -- because international shipping just makes far more sense that way -- and for some reason or another, the stars just haven’t been aligning correctly on that front over recent months. So, much as I’d like to be able to add ROVE to my imminently-shipping Skulls of Sedlec Expansions kickstarter order … it’s simply not in stock right now. And the current availability of Unsurmountable (which is lower down my wants list… but… hey, it’s by Scott Almes, and I already own an expansion for it, so I might as well get it, right?) seems a bit sketchy too. Though Button Shy have never been the sharpest for keeping their web site stock levels up to date

Maybe it’s time to just knock my BGOTMC subscription on the head? I mean… I could just start being a bit smarter about things, and scale my patreon backer level up-and-down from month to month depending on what that month’s specific content is like (there’s a fair few folks on the Button Shy discord who seem to do this, and Button Shy don’t seem to mind that at all). But … then again… that all just feels like hard work. And I’m lazy. And it does seems like a bit of a waste for me to just be chucking most of this stuff straight into a drawer, unplayed. So I’ll probably just cancel. (Plus the fact that the previously-only-available-via-BGOTM Skulls of Sedlec expansions all popped up in a recent kickstarter has given me some confidence that any absolute must-have BGOTMC content will eventually make its way out through other channels anyway!)

Anyway… despite all of the above whingeing … this months package DID actually have a couple of things inside to interest to me. A tiny 3-card expansion for Tussie Mussie Flower Shoppe, plus a bonus card for Skulls of Sedlec: Monstrance. Given my current (if accidental) level of obsessive-completist ownership of all-things-Tussie-Mussie and of all-things-Skulls-of-Sedlec, these are definitely nice things to get, and have been eagerly filed away in the appropriate game wallets. Not sure when(/if) I’ll actually play with them … but they definitely fill a nagging void in my collection.

And did you notice that there’s an obvious Valentines day theme going on here? Nice touch. Even if it did arrive a few days late for international subscribers.

(Though perhaps it’s a tiny bit ironic that both of these “valentine specials” are only playable in the solo variant of their respective titles? Hmmmm?)

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Sat Feb 19, 2022 11:09 am
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Dragon well, regicide, and a deadly virus.

John Shepherd
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Three things that arrived in yesterday’s post:

From gallery of MrShep


Green tea. Green tea — and it has to be a good quality green tea; none of that cabbagey-tasting / tea-bagged cheap stuff — is a bit of a comfort drink for me. I seem to get a real craving for green tea when I’m feeling ill. This one is a nice sweet, nutty variety known as Dragon Well (or Longjing). Though, frustratingly, it seems to have arrived just as all of my covid symptoms departed. So although the brew that I had this morning was extremely pleasant ...I’m not entirely sure just how long my urges to drink the stuff will last for now.

Perhaps it’s just as well that I didn’t buy a very big pack. Hopefully this won’t end up relegated to my Tea shelf of shame.

(and I’m not even kidding about that being a thing!)

To the right: another essential omicron-sufferer accessory; postie brought us more Lateral Flow Tests. We’re burning through them at quite the rate now; I’m testing daily in the hope of an early reprieve … while Mrs Shep is testing daily in nervous anticipation of finding out that she’s been infected. All tests have been negative for her so far… but she seems to be experiencing the very same almost-symptoms as I had last weekend, so I suspect it’s only a matter of time now

As you can see from the picture, I’m still producing eminently-convincing positive results … though it did, perhaps, take a few more seconds for the second line to appear on this one than it did the day before. (Ha. Optimism!). I’m pretty much clear of symptoms now, but unless I get 48 hours of negative LFT testing under my belt, I’ll be confined to barracks until the middle of next week. Bah.

Third, and perhaps most BGG-relevant … a game! A copy of Regicide which I ordered months ago, direct from the publisher ...and then promptly forgot all about.

Just in case you don’t remember anything about Regicide (I mean, it did seem like the hottest must-play thing back in late summer/early autumn … but that’s ages ago now, and we're a fickle lot, right?) it’s a co-operative (or solitaire) patience-type game that you can play with a perfectly ordinary common-or-garden pack of playing cards, and involves you trying to vanquish a group of corrupt and evil monarchs by setting assorted bands of champions, adventurers, and emotional-support-animals upon them, as recruited from the local tavern.

Or … something like that.

From gallery of MrShep
Learning game


Anyway, I thought I’d buy the “proper” deck to play it with … it’s still a regular 54-card deck of playing cards, but it’s got theme-appropriate adventurers depicted on the number cards, the court cards all portray appropriately bad-ass “boss monster” royals, and the ace cards show a variety of small animals (a reminder that aces represent animal companions in this game!). Oh, and there's also a useful two-sided player aid in there too with all the hard-to-remember bits on it. So make that a 55 card deck.

And can you really say that you “own” Regicide if you don’t have the official deck to play it with?

I am nothing if not a collector.

(Or am I just a hoarder?)

From gallery of MrShep

See. I told you it was a thing


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Sat Feb 12, 2022 7:10 am
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Promos & Geekflation

John Shepherd
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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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A big void created. Some tiny voids filled.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Now here’s a thing that you don’t see very often: a big vacant space in one of my game cupboards!

From gallery of MrShep


It’s a space that until very recently was occupied by an Escape:The Curse of the Temple big box.

And not only is there a void in my cupboard, but my games owned list has taken a bit of a hit too…

From gallery of MrShep

Blimey.


To be fair … this is a bit of a long-overdue exit from the collection. I jumped feet-first into the Big Box kickstarter for this one on the strength of Rahdo’s rave reviews of the original game, many years ago …hoping that all the dice-rolling nonsense might be as big a hit with Mrs Shep as it seemed to be with Mrs Rahdo. But upon the (eventual) fulfilment … it all just never really clicked for us -- as you can probably surmise from the paltry 6 plays that this copy seems to have accumulated over the years. It definitely seems to be a bit marmite, Escape:TCOTT does. And such a shame too, with all those goodies in the box. But with any luck, my copy has gone on to a place where it’ll be played by a more appreciative audience* now.

Still, this leaves a nice big space in the cupboard to be filled by… something else?

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Well, a hole that size certainly won’t be filled by the latest thing to arrive in my collection: The Agricola Consul Dirigens Deck. Which came in a way smaller box than Escape:TCOTT did:

From gallery of MrShep


The Consul Dirigens set contains the final pieces of the four “core” decks for nu-Agricola. Namely: 48 cards to complete the “C” deck, and 48 cards to complete the “D” deck. Plus a slightly odd mini-expansion, called “Parent Cards”.

Wait. What am I talking about? “Core decks”? Why are these things C and D cards? Why the silly name? Why didn’t they just release this as the “E” deck?

Welllll…. it’s definitely a bit complicated. And a bit confusing. Even for many reasonably-engaged Agricola fans, all these card releases have all started to get a bit complicated and a bit confusing. So maybe it’s worth a quick explanation…

(or just skip forward to the END OF BORING EXPLANATION tag if you don’t care!)

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So, there are (now) 4 different decks which you can use to play the latest and greatest (ooo! controversial opinion!) revision of Agricola. The A deck, the B deck , the C deck, and (you guessed it!) the D deck.

Why?

Well… at one point, Lookout games had an ambition to build a system of organised / tournament play around this version of Agricola. And to keep things interesting (and, no doubt, to keep the cash flowing), there would be an annual rotation of cards to facilitate this. The official deck in play during a given time would comprise 168 cards (enough to allow a series of three four-player games, back to back, with no card seen twice) … and within each deck of 168 cards, irrespective of the “season”, you would find a very similar spread of cause-and-effect functions. So, for example, Card number 7 in every deck will be a minor improvement to do with food which you pass left after playing. Card number 147 in every deck will be an occupation that’s only used for 3+ players, and is to do with livestock. etc etc … with the intention being that the general flavour of the game shouldn’t shift too wildly, even when a new deck gets rotated into play.

Theoretically, at least.

But… then that plan kind of fell by the wayside a bit; organised play never happened, and the official line on how-to-use decks (which had all been planned out ages ago) sort of became “well, you can use them as discrete decks, as we intended. Or just throw them all together in one massive heap. Or mix and match. Take your pick. We’re not that bothered. It’s all up to you really”.

And… the way that the cards were distributed didn’t help with the confusion. You get 48 A-deck cards in the base game, and also 48 B-deck cards in the base game … the intention being that if you wanted to hop into that world of organised play, you’d then rush out and buy the “Artifex deck” expansion which gave you 120 additional A-deck cards, and then chuck in the 12 cards that you get for this deck in the 5/6 player expansion set … giving you the full, official, “season one” 168 card A-deck to play with.

A similar story happened with the B deck… you got 48 cards in the base game, 12 cards in the 5/6 player expansion, and another 120 cards in the “Bubulcus” pack. Giving you a 168 card B-deck.

Now… the C and D deck was where it got messy. There was no C or D deck cards in the base game, but you DID get the 12 cards (for each of these decks) in the 5/6 player expansion, long before any further C or D cards appeared. Then the Corbarius deck added another 120 cards to the C deck, and the Dulcinaria deck added 120 cards to the D deck… but this still left both the C deck and the D deck short by 48 cards. So where could those cards be found?

Well… if you’re a mad-keen Agricola collector … those cards were originally distributed/“previewed” in the Agricola miniatures sets (AKA The red, blue, green, yellow, purple and white expansions) that were put out by Wizkids in the middle of 2017 (before the Corbarius or Dulcinaria deck were even released!). But if you’re not a mad-keen Agricola collector (and/or balked at the price of collecting all of those little painted minis) … you won't have those. And Consul Dirigens is where you can finally find the elusive missing pieces.

‘phew.

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END OF BORING EXPLANATION

Well, anyway… I do happen to be a mad-keen Agricola collector, and therefore already have most of the content of the Consul Dirigens box.

So why did I buy it?

Well, firstly… all of those C & D deck cards that came with the miniatures sets are curated into neat little player-colour-coded mini-decks, with some pre-built combos and strategies worked in (and little colour-coded meeple icons to show which family they "belong" to). I like these mini-decks. They remind me of the mini-decks that came in 2011’s “world championship” deck… we got a lot of play out of those. And it seems like a shame to break these new-edition equivalents up. So I don’t mind having duplicates of those cards — some to stay in those curated mini-decks, and some to live in their “proper” homes of the bigger C & D decks. Making this set attractive to me despite the fact that it mostly reprints things that I already own.

And secondly… a 24 card mini expansion? That’s got to be worth a look hasn’t it?

Well…Maybe.

Now that I’ve got my hands on it … it doesn’t seem like a massively exciting addition to the game.

In fact, the “Parent Cards” mini-expansion seems very reminiscent/derivative of the “mamas and papas” module from Stonemaire’s Viticulture / Tuscany series. In short: each player ends up with a mother card, and a father card. The mother card will grant you some kind of mid-game freebie (c.f. the “get a vegetable in round 7” card shown in the photo above … they all follow that same kind of formula), and the father card will give you some kind of mid-game objective to cash in for goodies. Which is… alright, for a bit of a twist, I suppose? And would certainly make the game ever-so-slightly easier, if you’d like the game to be ever-so-slightly easier. (Not that I’ve ever wanted it to be made ever-so-slightly easier … but hey, there are people out there who still think that Caverna is a better game than Agricola, because feeding the family makes them cry. So, horses for courses, I guess).

(And actually… there’s also a variant suggested where you only deal out these cards to newbie players, to handicap the veterans at the table. Which might be an option you’d like to consider).

They're surprisingly dry and themeless though. Why does this particular father want to reward me with sheep for building stables? Why is mum going to arrive with vegetables in round 7? This thematic dryness definitely jars, a little bit, against the usual flavour-rich mechanisms of Agricola cards.

Oh, and the mother cards also give you some really bizarre fractional points, to add to your final points total. Apparently to help resolve ties (Seriously … that card up there is worth three tenths of a point!). Weird.

So… yeah. Parent cards are a thing. And I guess I might use them at least once or twice, just for the novelty value. And if you’re a collector … well… you’ve really got to own them anyway, right?

But based on pure gameplay value … those particular cards are probably not worth the price of entry alone.

Buyer beware!

But hey… it’s Agricola. Forget I mentioned that.

Buy it anyway.

Agricola is the best!

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*We might even find out, at some point … but that’s not my tale to tell
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13 Comments
Sat Jan 29, 2022 11:11 am
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