John Shepherd(MrShep)United Kingdom
Is that even a sheep? I'm not entirely sure. (And it's not even the strangest creature that I've met this weekend).
Apologies blog fans. We've been doing a fair bit of travelling lately, and as a consequence my blogging routine has slipped a bit.
We have watched some people run up a very steep hill, carrying very heavy cheeses.
We have visited some very English Fairs and markets. Including this one, in a once-bustling medieval port town. Which has now managed to move about 50 miles away from the sea. (You have to keep your eye on those medieval port towns, you know. Take your eyes off them for even a minute, and they're away!).
We helped to wake up Jack in the Green by making a VERY LOUD NOISE, and therefore ensured the arrival of Summer this year. (You're welcome!)
We sat in the meadow where a very rare wildflower grows, on the only day of the year that the landowner allows the public to enter...
...and we also got involved in some streetfighting in Lewes.
This hasn't left a lot of time for gaming. Well... not for much gaming anyway. But normal* game-related-blogging service will be resumed very shortly. Honest.
*Actual levels of normality may vary.
This is also normal.
It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...
Archive for On Tour
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Saturday afternoon found us in the beer garden of the Locks Inn Pub, Geldeston …close to the Norfolk/Suffolk border. It’s an extremely pleasent country pub, with a glorious selection of real ales, and it’s been nearly 4 years since our last visit. Long-time readers might recall that THIS is the place in which I found myself competing in the World Thumb Wrestling Championship. This latest visit, however, was not for purposes of Thumb Wrestling… and we found ourselves attending as spectators, rather than participants. Because this was the day of the annual Suffolk vs Norfolk Dwile Flonking Tournament.
The ancient game of Dwile Flonking dates back hundreds of years*, and perhaps the best (or the only?) way that I can explain the game is through the inclusion of relevant extracts from the wikipedia article, amongst my pictures of yesterday’s event…
A "dull witted person" is chosen as the referee or "jobanowl", and the two teams decide who flonks first by tossing a sugar beet. The game begins when the jobanowl shouts, "Here y'go t'gither!".
The non-flonking team joins hands and dances in a circle around a member of the flonking team, a practice known as "girting". The flonker dips his dwile-tipped "driveller" (a pole 2–3 ft long and made from hazel or yew) into a bucket of beer, then spins around in the opposite direction to the girters and flonks his dwile at them.
If the dwile misses completely it is known as a "swadge". When this happens, the flonker must drink the contents of an ale-filled "gazunder" (chamber pot) before the wet dwile has passed from hand to hand along the line of now non-girting girters chanting the ceremonial mantra of "pot pot pot".
A full game comprises two "snurds", each snurd being one team taking a turn at girting. The jobanowl adds interest and difficulty to the game by randomly switching the direction of rotation and will levy drinking penalties on any player found not taking the game seriously enough.
Points are awarded as follows:
+3: a "wanton" - a direct hit on a girter's head
+2: a "morther" or "mawther - a body hit
+1: a "ripper" - a leg hit
-1 per sober person at the end of the game
The game ended in a tie, and was therefore resolved in a dramatic drink-off between the two team captains… with the trophy ultimately taken home by the Suffolk team.
Tenuous board game theme of the day: What’s the strangest game that you’ve ever played in a pub?
*Or possibly only 1967. Opinions are divided. And you should never let things like facts and opinions get in the way of a good tale!
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One month to go, and it looks like the hottest ticket of UKGE22 has been officially announced...
I'm still not sure who they've scheduled us against in the big room... but whoever it is must be getting pretty worried now.
Because you ARE all coming to this, right?
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04 May 2022
May the 1st. Beltane; the Gaelic May Day festival …and at the stroke of noon I find myself standing within the central ring of the Thornborough Henge complex, near the village of Masham in North Yorkshire.
Image: Google maps (link)
Thornborough Henge is a huge neolithic earthwork; three vast circular “henges” (one of which is now covered in a small forest) spread over the best part of a mile of english countryside. The henges were built in the bronze age, between 3500 and 2500 BC. Nobody knows exactly why... although it’s been speculated that the slightly-crooked layout was made to resemble the three stars of Orion’s belt.
It’s a very impressive site (albeit one that’s very hard to appreciate from ground level!). Though I can’t help thinking that perhaps if the henges were located somewhere else ... say -- for example -- in the slightly-more-southerly reaches of the UK … then they would be a major archeological tourist attraction. A high-profile ancient heritage site, well known to all. But … unfortunately … that’s not the case. The site is privately owned by a building materials company (Tarmac) who quarry nearby, and the henge complex is not open to public access.
At least… not usually open to public access. But every may bank holiday an exception is made; the landowners throw open the gates to allow a celebration Beltane by a rag-tag group of hippies, druids, wiccans, and curious passers-by.
And this year … we went to take a look too.
The May king brings the Beltane fire!
(albeit a very small Beltane fire)
Handfasting — A druidic wedding
And it was all pleasant enough; lots of people blessing ancient spirits in assorted ceremonies and being very nice to each other. Chanting. Drum circles. Various stalls selling incense, ponchos, reiki healing, and assorted pieces of mystical artwork. But … perhaps more importantly of all … another curious english festival could be crossed off Mrs Shep’s list! Plus it was a good opportunity to get into the site and have a bit of a poke around the circles … with the advantage of there being food, cider, and porta-loos handily available
Anyway — this visit seems like an excellent prompt for a tenuous boardgaming theme of the day. Which will be:Best board games with druidic content
I have to confess, I thought would be a pretty easy thing to come up with suggestions for this one. After all … druidic mysticism is a pretty commonly-used trope in high-fantasy gaming …isn’t it?
…But… I’m a bit stumped. I was pretty sure that Luna (which I love!) had druids in it … but looking closer, that’s more of a mystical moon-priests-and-priestesses thing. The Keltis series has a bit of an ancient-stones-and-mystical-elements theme going on… but nothing overtly druidic. Ditto for the symbology of Nova Luna. (That’s two more games that get an awful lot of play in the Shepherd household right there!).
But as for a game with actual druids in it? The only one that I can remember playing is Fae … a pretty decent area majority game, which I demoed at UKGE a few years back, but which I unfortunately haven’t played since
Hmmm. That’s not a very impressive example, is it?
Go on. I’m sure you lot can do better…
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Hey... I know. I rarely post things at this time of night. But I think the sorry tale of my traumatic weekend experience has been sitting at the top of the blog for far too long now. So perhaps it's time to blot that whole, terrible ordeal out with a brand new post.
Because... back at the hotel... there was gaming.
First up: Agricola, All Creatures Great and Small.
I told you that we'd be playing this one again pretty soon, didn't I? This time the final scores were much closer than the last time we played ... with Mrs Shep just edging into the lead despite failing to fill up that second farm extension (...much to her delight!). I think we'll need to turn this series of plays into a best-of-three now. It's a lovely game; really pleased to have re-discovered it.
And I note, with interest, that Mr Rosenburg's newest 2-player game drops on Gamefound tomorrow. Just when I thought I was through with the whole crowdfunding thing... that'll be the second Spielworxx game that I've backed in as many months!!!
And then... Dominion.
Yep, this was definitely an evening of oldies-but-goodies! Dominion is another game that has very much stood the test of time with us, and which Mrs Shep is always happy to play. That's my standard travelling-with-Dominion arrangement shown above; all of the core cards will fit into three of those plastic boxes, and then I can comfortably fit 15 standard kingdom decks into the same amount again. With a mix of curated and random cards, we can easily get enough variety in those 15 decks to support a couple of evenings of play (No... I don't sleeve my Dominion cards. And yes, Dominion fans, I AM some kind of monster). Add a few rubber bands, and it's all good to go!
Though the the compactness of this particular travel solution does leave me wondering; there's an awful lot of air in those Dominion boxes. And while they DO look very nice, all lined up on a shelf...
...that IS an awful lot of shelf space being occupied here. Plus, I've got a few more expansions in a cupboard nearby. This is all shelf space which could perhaps be used to better effect (i.e. for storing even more games) ... if I switched to a more practical Dominion storage solution.
I must confess, I do like the look of basically wooden's stuff... though perhaps not quite enough to drop that kind of money without seeing one in the flesh first.
(Hopefully they'll have some samples to stroke and fondle at the UK Games Expo this year... that might just tip the balance...)
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It was the feast of St George, the day of the great Manorial court, and there was much bustle amongst the townsfolk… for this was the day upon which the Lord of the Manor would gather everyone within the great guild hall, and preside upon the matters of the coming year. The High Constables, The Dozeners, The Pinners … and — of course — the Lord’s official Ale Tasters — would all be present.
As noon approached — and as the various officials gathered upon the raised platform at the front of the great hall in anticipation of the arrival of the Lord Baron — a whisper went around the crowd. Where were the Jurors? Twelve townsfolk, good and true, would be responsible for meting out justice to those who had wronged the court …but only seven seemed to be present in the Juror’s box. What had happened to the other five? Had they unwisely tarried too long in one of the many inns, taverns, or ale houses within the town? Were they suffering from the terrible pox that had blighted the town so recently? Or had they completely fled the county, fearful of retribution and revenge from the relatives and associates of those that they were about to pass judgement upon?
Who could say!
The Steward of the court — fearful of the rage of the Lord of the Manor, should the court be found inquorate — quickly instructed the bailiff to go amongst the crowd, and to recruit some replacement jurors to make up the numbers.
As the Bailiff walked down the centre of the great hall, most of the townsfolk looked away nervously, trying not to make eye contact. Refusing a direct request of the court Bailiff could very easily land you with a night in the stocks, or even worse! But whether they avoided his gaze or not, several members of the assembly were nominated — the long, bony finger of the bailiff pointing in their direction, and his loud, gruff voice demanding: “You, Sir!”.
One by one they were picked from the hundreds who had assembled.
And then… the unthinkable happened! The bailiff gazed in my direction. But as he stared into my eyes, I did not look away. I did not fear him. I fixed his gaze. And so the great finger pointed in my direction, and the voice boomed out.
The court secretary quickly entered my name into the ledger, presented me with the correct headwear, and sent me to sit in the Jury box. This year, it would be I who determined the fate of the townspeople. It would be ME who passed sentence upon all miscreants put before the Manorial court!
But this new-found responsibility filled me with nerves and fear. In truth … I was a visitor to the town, with no real knowledge of the way that the court functioned, or of the punishments that were appropriate to press upon the guilty townsfolk.
What was I do?
I turned to the Juror to my right; an elderly gentleman, in a very scruffy coat, and who bore an extremely unconvincing blonde hairpiece. But he seemed familiar with the proceedings, and perhaps he could advise me on what was about to happen.
But as I asked my question, and he turned his wrinkled face towards me to speak … a strange feeling of surprise, dread, and recognition fell upon me.
For it was not the face of a simple and kindly peasant farmer that met my gaze,
It was in fact…
“The Face of Michael Fabricant…”
“The Face of Michael Fabricant…”
And then I woke up.Spoiler (click to reveal)
Except I didn’t wake up. THIS ALL ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
In terms of photographs which could be massively mis-interpreted if you weren’t aware of the surrounding context, I think this one ranks very highly.
Possibly, in fact, as highly as such a thing could EVER rank.
God help me.
It was taken just as the Jury was being signed in… some moments before I realised exactly who* I was standing next to. And now I feel a little bit sick in my mouth, just looking at my happy smiling face.
What HAVE I done?
Tenuous theme of the day: Have you ever found yourself duped into playing a game with a complete and utter ***T ?*No, his hair isn’t any more convincing in real life than it is on television.
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No board games in today's post I'm afraid (well.. it IS the holiday weekend after all). Though possibly something that you could consider a dexterity game. Of sorts...
Good Friday found us in the village of Chiddingstone, Kent, to attend a recently-revived custom: Chiddingstone "Real" Football.
Shrovetide & Easter football games -- mass-participation games in which entire villages compete against each other -- are a tradition dating back at least as far as the 12th century. The rules ... or what little rules there are ... vary from place to place. At Chiddingstone, the "goals" are a pair of pubs, roughly two miles apart, with the "kick off" located at a rocky crag approximately half way between the two locations. And the rest of the rules are: No hiding the ball under your jumper, no trampling of crops, and you must not, at any time, convey the ball upon a vehicle. Or a horse
There isn't much parking in the village. By which I mean... there isn't really any parking in the village at all! -- especially if you don't want to leave your car in a location where it's at risk of being trampled by a scrum of marauding football players. So we turned up early, parked on a country road far away, and walked over to The Castle Inn (a 15th Century pub, and the official gathering place for players) with plenty of time to spare.
A pint or two of real ale from the local brewery -- located just a few hundred yards up the road from the pub -- helped pass the time before the kick-off. It was a gloriously sunny day. And the perfect sort of day for sitting outside a country pub with a pint
However, the appointed hour soon arrived ... speeches were made ... and we set off on the 20 minute walk into the countryside.
The game begins with the hurling of the ball from this rocky outcrop, into the thronging scrum below...
And here's a photo taken a few minutes later ... with a second (rare) glimpse of the ball on it!
We've been to a few of these types of game, and there tends to be one of two ways that they can go. Either the ball disappears under a mountain of heaving bodies for long periods of time, and rarely moves more than a few feet in one go ... or ... there's a sudden break in which some fit young scamp emerges from the throng, clutching the ball, and pelts off into the distance running as if his life depended upon it. (Which maybe it does?). The Chiddingstone game lasts for 4 hours, and some years it's had to be declared a tie, with no significant progress made in the direction of either goal.
But what kind of game was it to be this year?
Wellll... the second type. After 15-minutes-or-so of the ball being punted around various slow-moving scrums across a couple of adjacent fields, some plucky young soul in the colours of the red team managed to grab a hold of it and go sprinting off in the general direction of The Castle Inn, seemingly unchallenged.
Spectators and players followed him... slowly picking our way through a dense copse of trees and brambles (You do end up doing an awful lot of countryside walking while spectating these things!)
We expected the goal to have been scored -- and the first part of the game to be over -- by the time that we arrived back at the pub (almost half an hour after seeing the ball disappear into the distance!)... and were therefore very surprised to find a bit of a scrum still going on in the street. Apparently the previously-mentioned red player had managed to run nearly all of the way back to the pub before being flattened by a single lurking defender. There was now something of a mass brawl going on around the goal, with the attackers attempting to convey the ball to a particular spot on the road where it has to be tapped 3 times in order to score, and the defenders trying very hard to stop them from doing that. However... as you can see from the picture, there seemed to be many more red players (attacking) in the area than blue players (defending) ... so a goal for red was only a matter of time!
Traditionally, once a goal is scored, there's a bit of a break for folks to rest, have a pint, and then make the trip back over to the kick-off zone for the rest of the game to be played. Though -- facing a long trek back onto the playing field -- most spectators (ourselves included) seemed to prefer to stay at the pub at this point and soak up the atmosphere from that vantage point instead.
And that's how we spent the rest of Good Friday afternoon.
2 days later... I'm still not entirely sure who won the game in the end. But that local ale that I mentioned was very, very nice indeed... and it was a lovely sunny afternoon to be sitting in a beer garden. So I'm counting myself as the ultimate winner in that respect
An unexpected event happened upon our trip home that evening...
Kent to Northumberland is a good five-and-a-half hour drive ... even on a day when the roads aren't gridlocked due to it being a national holiday, so we'd cued up a whole list of podcasts to listen to on the trip. Imagine, if you will, how weird it must be to have a podcast tootling on in the background... a widely renowned podcast, with a large listenership -- not one of our super-niche nerdy boardgame podcasts -- and to suddenly hear a familiar voice on that podcast talking about YOU?
Well... personally... I'll just have to go on imagining what that feels like. But not Mrs Shep! Because ... four minutes or so into the latest episode (#422) of internationally-renowned trivia podcast No Such Thing as A Fish -- and to our complete surprise -- Mrs Shep (and her crazy customs-visiting quest/project) got a mention*!
Mrs Shep is now definitely winning in the mentioned-on-a-podcast wars. I'm going to have to seriously up my game to beat that one...
*Though I don't think Anna Ptaszynski got the account of the 2013 Slathwaite Moonraking festival quite right; it was the performers of the traditional Mumming play who defected to the nearby Rhubarb festival ... not the entire parade!
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Sorry, dear readers … I skipped quite a few days there. Easter week is normally a bit of a busy one for us — an awful lot of strange, obscure and unusual British customs and traditions tend to happen in the run-up to Easter, and Mrs Shep’s ongoing quest to visit every British tradition-and-festival-of-note normally hits a bit of a frenzy at around this time of year. Plus, my new (new-ish? …I’ve been there for almost 9 months now!) job carries all kinds of managerial responsibilities and nonsense that seem to hit something of a peak pretty much any time that a holiday is due. So forgive my silence … but when something’s gotta slip, I’m afraid it’s going to have to be the blog writing!
Thursday found us in the Greater Manchester town of Wigan, at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, for the Maundy Thursday charity dole. In a secluded corner of the church is a small brass plaque, marking the 1626 burial place of Henry Travis. Henry was a wealthy local man ... and upon his death he founded a charitable fund which would distribute five shillings to forty poor people of the parish -- at the site of his gravestone -- every Maundy Thursday forever more. Over the years, the church building has grown, and the site of Henry’s grave is now inside the church … which I guess makes the ceremony a bit more pleasant in bad weather. Though, as it happens, Thursday was a beautiful sunny day, and a glorious one to be travelling on.
We’ve been to quite a few of these charity doles over the course of Mrs Shep’s project. In days of yore, quite a few wealthy notables set these things up; leaving a small amount of money, or a loaf of bread, or a bag of flour, or something like that to the poor of their parish in perpetuity …no doubt hoping it would provide an additional tick on their own report card when they found themselves standing at the pearly gates. But it’s been interesting (well… I write “interesting” … I should probably have said “concerning and depressing”) to see a bit of a shift in the modern execution these ceremonies over the last decade. Until relatively recently, a lot of these things had just become silly ceremonies carried on for sake of tradition … after all, five shillings doesn’t put an awful lot of food on your plate, and a bag of flour is perhaps a little bit less of a life saver than it once was.
But over the last few years … many of these charity doles have turned into a focus for church-sponsored events that fund local food banks. They've returned to being things that genuinely put food into the bellies of hungry people. And I find it scary -- very scary -- just how quickly the responsibility for feeding the less well-off people in our society has fallen to charity, rather than being a problem for the government; how rapidly the need for food banks has become normalised
The Travis dole tradition at Leigh has become one such example. Funds from the Travis estate (and anything else raised on the day) now go directly to the Atherton and Leigh food bank.
Obviously the poor of the parish are not expected to turn up at Henry’s Grave, with cap in hand. But there is still a small ceremony that takes place to preserve the 400 year custom … a church service commemorating the tradition, and a symbolic passing of “funds” across the burial place. This year — in her capacity as a visiting and eminent folkloreist(!) — Mrs Shep performed the actual handing over. Which, of course, she was quite thrilled to do.
Afterwards, we stayed for tea and sandwiches with the Vicar — Father Kevin — and his dog Brian. Apparently the pair are pretty much inseparable (Brian, an extremely friendly and well-behaved mutt, sat patiently through the service on a nearby pew; Father Kevin told us how he’s so familiar with the words to the services that he knows when its time to sit down, and when it’s time to get up and leave). We chatted about the history of the church, the Travis dole, and the trials and tribulations of running a town-centre church in an impoverished area of the country, where he has something of a reputation for being "that mad bloke with the dog". Nice chap. And a very interesting visit.
I could probably do a slightly crass and ill-judged segue about the stress of “feeding your family” at this point* … but that evening’s hotel-based game of Agricola — All Creatures big and Small was entirely down to a random whim, rather than pre-considered thematic connection; I’d spotted it on the shelf as we were leaving, thought “Hmmm… I haven’t played that one for a while!”, and shoved it into the travel bag.
Incredibly, It’s 10 years since I bought this game … (and, seemingly, 2 years since we last played it!) — but it has passed the test of time particularly well. It does, of course, live in the shadow of its forerunner; the original Agricola plays extremely well with two players, so why would you ever reach for a simpler, 2-player variant instead? Well … Agricola:ACBAS is a very different game at its core; a game principally about fencing off pastures in an uber-efficient manner, and squeezing as much livestock onto your little grid-based farm as is physically possible. And while the “building” tiles carry some of the spirit of Agricola’s improvement cards … they’re very much their own thing (A thing that Rosenburg would subsequently explore in Caverna:The Cave Farmers). So the fact that this is a very-different-game-in-similar-dressing is definitely a factor here. And it’s definitely got the small(er), luggage-friendly form factor going for it too
We enjoyed playing this. A lot. And declared that we should really play it again soon … so I suspect this one is going to have to go back into the luggage when we take our summer holiday this year.
And while I was logging our play on BGG, I was reminded that in the dim and distant past, I made a video all about my newly-acquired copy of this game. Quite an elaborate video, which I’d put a fair bit of effort into editing and creating graphics for. For a very long time it was the most popular Agricola All Creatures Big and Small video on BGG … out-performing even the mighty Rahdo and The Dice Tower. So I thought I’d take a peek down at the stats on the game page to see how well the video was performing and…
Oops. How did that happen?
Hmmm. I suspect this disappearance might be a casualty of a time a year or two ago, when I decided to lock down my YouTube account because I was in the process of applying for a new job. And the page has probably sat there un-viewable and un-liked ever since (allowing the aforementioned Mr Rahdo and Mr Tower to creep in front of me. Noooooooo!). Anyway … I’ve fixed it now. So if you’re interested in hearing the Mr-Shep-of-a-Decade-Ago talking about Agricola:ACBAS — and perhaps considering an alternative future where I became a Board Game YouTuber instead of a Board Game Blogger (because that really was the nascent days of YouTube videos about board games) — you can find that here:
https://boardgamegeek.com/video/17554/agricola-all-creatures...*Though I know full well that you don’t actually feed your family in this version. Or grow any kind of food crop at all. Unless you consider bacon to be a food crop.
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Barely a week after AireCon closed its doors, I was back on the road again … not, this time, for a board gaming event … but instead, for a Mrs-Shep-pursues-strange-customs-and-traditions-throughout-the-land event. This time to see the annual commemoration of Thomas Cranmer — Henry VIII’s Archbishop of Canterbury — being burned at the stake on Oxford High Street. This always happens on the 21st March … no matter what day of the week it falls upon. Which happened to be a monday, this year (requiring a day off work for yours truly) ... so we’d decided to make a bit of a long weekend out of the trip.
On the way down the country, we stopped off at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire... a 150 acre arboretum, containing almost 400 different monuments of remembrance. It’s an unusual kind of visitor attraction; in many ways, it kind of feels like some kind of cemetery —except without the bodies(!) — but it’s definitely an interesting place to potter around and contemplate the things that you'll discover...
A huge central monument dominates the site … (from a distance, it looks like some kind of futuristic sci-fi city … until you realise that all of those dark columns are, in fact, very tall topiary!) — inside of which are inscribed the names of every British service man and woman killed since the end of the second world war.
This is the point where the inscriptions end. There’s still a lot of empty wall; let’s hope it doesn’t fill up too quickly.
But there are lots of other memorials around the park. Some of them far smaller than — but just as powerful as — the colossal centrepiece.
…and I’m not usually the sort of person who gets greatly moved, or upset, by pieces of art … but it is very, VERY difficult to visit the “shot at dawn” memorial without getting a bit of a lump in the throat:
A monument to the Christmas Truce of 1914; "Football Remembers"
And this is the memorial to GCHQ personnel. It is deliberately located slightly off the main walkways, in a slightly hidden grove. And are those markings around its circumference some kind of hidden message?
It would appear that even in a place like this, there are games to be found. Of a sort
In our hotel room that night, we played Skulls of Sedlec. Not as an intentional link to the monuments that we’d seen earlier that day (though the Sedlec Ossuary is, of course, a monument of sorts!) …but chiefly because the (kickstarted!) expansion set had arrived in my grubby hands a few days earlier, and this was the first opportunity that we’d had to give all those new cards a try-out
The merchant cards are probably the most interesting (and thematically satisfying) of the bunch; these skulls award you points for being placed next to peasants (potential customers), but incur penalties if placed next to a thief (because of course they should!). A perfect SoS expansion; integrates smoothly with the other skull types, adds a pleasing extra part to the puzzle, and makes perfect thematic sense.
Elsewhere in the set you’ll find Zealots, which either score you points for every priest positioned above them, or points for every priest placed below them — you choose which rule to apply to each individual zealot. Which is a nice mechanism, and fun to play with … but felt a little bit like it might totally dominate your tactical thinking in any game in which these cards appear. And completing the expansion collection are “Champions” … which play an awful lot like the executioner cards from the previous mini-expansion — except executioners always scored for connected criminals, but each of the champion cards has one specific type of skull that it’ll score for being connected to. So unless you manage to draft a champion very early in the game, they’re less easy to plan/more situational than the executioners are … and maybe a little bit more swingy in the grand scheme of things.
Merchants definitely seems like the showpiece of the set to us… but all three mini-expansions are worth having… because it’s always nice to have new things to pop into the ossuary
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A very unusual New Years Day for me… I actually spent it at home for the second year running!
Mrs Shep’s fondness for strange British customs and traditions usually finds us in far-flung parts of the country on the 1st of January, attending one of the (many!) weird and wonderful events that mark the passing of the year around the UK. This year, we were planning to be at an event in up Scotland. But Scotland is pretty much closed for business at the moment … and since the last English event that we attempted to visit suffered a last-minute covid-related cancellation, we thought we might just cut our losses and stay at home this year.
Well… almost stay at home. We did take a mid-day trip to the nearby town of Ponteland, to watch the New Years Day wheelbarrow race. A fine and ancient Northumbrian tradition dating back to… urm… medieval times? Well. Whatever. It helped to blow the cobwebs out a bit.
And I would post a tenuous theme of the day along the lines of best-game-featuring-a-wheelbarrow. But, let’s face it, the start player marker from Cottage Garden is going to win THAT contest every time. So I’ll just write about some games that we played over the New Year period instead. A first-and-last-of-the-year, if you will.
Last game of 2021: MicroMicro Crime City — Full House. Remember when I said I’d bought a copy of this back in September, and put it aside for a rainy day? Well … yesterday seemed suitably rainy.
I suspect we’re going to burn through this just as fast as we went through the first instalment … but it is very good fun. And, judging from progress so far, some of the puzzles in this version are slightly more oblique / different-to-each-other than they were in the first one, which makes it a bit more interesting. So, first impressions: All good so far.
BUT THAT’S NOT A PROPER GAME, I hear some folks cry.
OK… last “proper” game of 2021 was...
Wingspan, with the Oceania expansion added.
Oh... didn't I mention that I have the Oceania expansion now?
I went a little bit mad with some of the boxing day/new year sales this festive season … mostly buying slightly older stuff ... things that I’d missed out on at the time for one reason or another. Much of these new acquisitions are now stuck in postal limbo until the end of the new year bank holiday (bah!), but the Oceania expansion is something that I picked up in person from my FLGS. This was our first try out. It did feel like it makes the game a little bit easier … or, at least, seemed to accelerate our early game quite significantly compared to how we usually play. And, unusually, we didn’t end the game with the usual last-roundfrenzy of rampant egg laying … because there seemed to be far more interesting ways to score. But maybe that was just because we had the novelty of new things to do. It’ll be interesting to see how it stands up after a few more tries. I suspect it may have pros and cons.
And our first game of 2022?
Well, this one came in a bit out of the blue. And our play of Wingspan was partially responsible for the selection ... because while I was packing Wingspan away, and fiddling with the dice tower, I was reminded of another game that has a cardboard tower involved. Though in a far more significant way. A game that I particularly enjoyed, back when it was released, but haven’t played for a very long time. So I thought I’d dig the box out from the bottom of the cupboard, have a flick through the rules, and see if it might be worth an airing in the new year.
Long story short: It very much DID seem like it would be worth an airing. And the game was…Spoiler (click to reveal)
It's apparently SEVEN YEARS since I last played this (gulp!). Where does the time go??!
But did it live up to expectations? Well, unfortunately Mrs Shep is nagging me to go and play some more Crime City right now. So I guess you'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out…
- [+] Dice rolls