The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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

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Live on Stage...

John Shepherd
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Ovington
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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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Thu May 5, 2022 7:10 am
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Blog cake brain fog

John Shepherd
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Apparently I've been almost-daily blogging for 4 years now*. Who knew? Well, clearly not me, since the actual anniversary was a few days ago, but it slipped my mind completely.

I'm blaming brain-fog. I've not managed to use brain-fog as a free pass for anything yet, so this'll do. Yep, it was definitely covid-related brain fog to blame.

Anyway...

Tenuous theme of the day: Best game with cake in it?

Urm... Grand Austria Hotel.

From gallery of MrShep


Obviously. And look, it also includes champagne, which seems appropriate too. (Though asking for a game featuring cake and champagne might've been a bit much**).

I'm not even going to ask you to try to beat this answer.

Because nobody could beat this answer.

...could they?

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*Almost half of which time has been spent in a global pandemic with severely-limited gaming opportunities. Which seems a bit crazy, given how long it feels like I've been almost-daily-blogging for surprise

**Though I can think of at least one other, straight off the top of my head...
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Mon Feb 21, 2022 7:10 am
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Game Over?

John Shepherd
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There are days when I sit in front of the blog editor, with no idea what I should write about, and think… hey, imagine if I could program an artificial intelligence to just do this whole thing for me?

Now, before reading any further, please note: This post is not a spoof. All the content that I attribute to an AI here is 100% genuine and unedited. It might not be the best board game content that you've ever read... but I'd hazard a guess that it's also far from being the worst board game content that you've ever read too

The OpenAI GPT-3 algorithm is a thing that has been exciting (and scaring, in roughly equal measures) the artificial intelligence community for some time now. So much so that its developers were very fussy about who they let use this algorithm … initially vetting its early adopters to ensure they weren’t going to use it as a force for evil.

Until now, that is.

So… given some free credit to fritter away on a state-of-the-art natural language generator, what am I going to do with it?

…well, I'm going to make it write my blog for me. Obviously

From gallery of MrShep

This is me, embracing the future of blogging.


In the text that follows, the prompts that I gave the AI are shown in bold. (though they didn’t have any links and tags when I gave this stuff to the AI -- I put those in later. For... reasons). Everything else is the unedited response that the AI came back with. You can take your time, and train the AI with concepts specific to the subject you're writing about. Or, you can be lazy, and just let it use the knowledge and writing style that it's picked up from reading billions of internet articles.

I took the latter approach. And I kept the responses short, because the more AI you use, the more credit you burn ... but I could've cranked up the processing limits and generated pages full of content for any of these prompts.

Be afraid, friends. Be very afraid*.

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The role of sheep in modern board games is

much more limited than it once was. Sheep were once a common game piece in strategy games such as chess and backgammon, but their role has since diminished. Today, they are most commonly used in games such as Scrabble and Bananagrams, where they are used to spell words.


Write the first song in a musical production about the life of board game designer Tony Boydell, and make sure it includes references to the game Scandaroon.

"Tony Boydell, Tony Boydell
Designer of the board game Scandaroon
A genius of a man, his creations are a boon
And Tony's life is the perfect musical!"

He was born in 1944
In the town of Haslemere
His parents were quite surprised
When their son said he wanted to be a game designer

But Tony was always drawn to games
He loved the way they made people happy
And so he followed his dreams
And designed the game Scandaroon!"

"He worked on it for years
Testing it out on all his friends
Until it was perfect
The game that would make him a star

And now people all over the world
Play Scandaroon and love it
Tony's life is a dream come true
He's the king of the board game world
And his name is Tony Boydell!"

the top 10 reasons for playing modern board games are:

1. They're fun!
2. They're social.
3. They're a great way to spend time with family and friends.
4. They're a great way to learn new things.
5. They help improve problem-solving skills.
6. They help improve strategic thinking skills.
7. They're a great way to improve memory skills.
8. They're a great way to improve cognitive skills.
9. They're a great way to improve communication skills.
10. They're a great way to have some fun!

write a short story about four people playing the game kingdom death monster, in which they fight a giant spider known as spidicules

The four friends arranged the board game on the living room table and took their seats. They each chose a character and began to play.

In the first few turns, they all managed to get some good equipment and level up their characters. But then, in the fourth turn, things changed. One of the players rolled the dice and it landed on a space that sent them directly into battle against the giant spider known as spidicules.

The others tried to help, but it was no use. spidicules was too powerful and quickly killed all of them.

The end.

write a short review of the popular board game, wingspan

wingspan is a card game that simulates the life of birds. you are dealt cards representing different birds, and you must try to score the most points by placing them in strategic spots on the board. the game is simple to learn but has enough strategic complexity to keep things interesting. the artwork is beautiful and the components are top-notch. if you're a fan of bird watching, then you'll love wingspan. the game is a great way to learn about different types of birds, and it's a ton of fun to play. be sure to check it out!

the hottest board game in the world right now is called Ark Nova, and it's all about designing a zoo and supporting wildlife conservation projects, but is there something more sinister going on here?

There is no one "hottest" board game in the world right now - different games are popular among different demographics at different times. Ark Nova is a new game that has gained some popularity in recent months, but it is not significantly more popular than other games currently on the market. There is no evidence that there is anything sinister going on with Ark Nova.

There is currently a thread on the Board Game Geek web site talking about the mis-use of tags in board game blogs. Write a short article explaining how easy it would be for an AI to generate a hundred artificial blog posts, stuff them with keywords, and disrupt the board gamer attention economy.

The current trend in the board game blogosphere is to write short, snappy articles with lots of pictures. This makes it easy for an AI to generate a hundred artificial blog posts, stuff them with keywords, and disrupt the board gamer attention economy.

The AI can simply generate a hundred short, keyword-filled articles and post them on a new blog. It can then use social media to promote these articles, and before you know it, your attention is being diverted to fake board game blogs.

This could have a serious impact on the board game community. It's important to be aware of these threats and take steps to protect yourself from them. So be sure to check the legitimacy of any blog before you start reading it.

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*write me a pithy footnote about being afraid of AI
There's no need to be afraid of AI. After all, it's just a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or bad.
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Sat Feb 5, 2022 12:11 pm
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A pale sandy fawn color, a grayish tan, a light-grayish yellowish brown, or a pale to grayish yellow

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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I had every intention of writing another massive post this weekend, to make up for the lack of weekday content again (Well… at least … a semi-lack of weekday content. I mean, I did manage to slip out a long-overdue Kingdom Death Diary update in the middle of the week!). And, in principle, this putting-it-all-off-to-the-weekend thing seemed like a good plan. It freed me up to think about (and do!) other things in those precious weekday evening hours. And it took away an entirely-self-imposed pressure from a packed week of considerably-less-self-imposed pressures. Which was nice.

But, of course, the execution is often more complicated than the theory… and I’ve got to be honest, Saturday came around, and I found myself really struggling for the inspiration/motivation to write anything by way of weekend mega-post. And if you’re not really in the mood to write when the time to write arrives?… then, wow, that really shines through in what you create. I mean, it’s not so bad if you write a small weekday post, and you look back at it, and you think “hmmm… well…. that wasn’t so great. But it’ll do. I’ll just phone that one in anyway, to give the regulars something to look at”…. and click submit. But if the mojo just isn’t there for writing longer stuff — particularly stuff that’ll take a good cup of coffee and a fair few minutes for your poor reader to work their way through — well, maybe it’s just best to just bail out and wait for a bit. So I junked most of my first attempt at this post.

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Instead, let me just tell you about the best game that I played this week:

Homesteaders.

From gallery of MrShep


Remember my complaints about a parcel full of things that I bought in the festive sales, which was taking way too long to get delivered? (final transit time: 1 week. For a supposedly-next-day delivery service — Bah!!) … well, one of the goodies in that box was the 10th Anniversary Edition of Homesteaders. (well… more accurately: two of the things in that box were the 10th Anniversary Edition of homesteaders, as I tossed in the simultaneously-released expansion too, because it’s always handy to have the capacity for a 5th player, and heaven knows what’s going to happen to this game now that Tasty Minstrel Games has closed their doors…).

Anyway… I finally have it. And I’m starting to conclude that there are some very reliable indicators that’ll show me how much I’m going to enjoy a certain type of euro game:

a) How much beige is in the game? Beige tiles? Beige boards? …the more beige, the better!

b) Does the game has a loan mechanism. And if so, just how big is the stack of loan chits?

and:

c) If I put the artwork in front of a millennial BGG user, would it make them cry?

Homesteaders scores really highly in all of these categories. In fact, the only spot where it really lets itself down is in failing to use plain wooden cubes for resources … it actually uses some very fancily-shaped pieces of wood and — just to sky-rocket the cost of the anniversary edition — metal coins and VP tokens (which is why I prevaricated over buying it for so long). But… there’s an awful lot that this game seems to be getting VERY right here.

From gallery of MrShep


Just look at all that potential debt!!! AND the end-game VP penalty for holding on to those is based on triangle numbers. Hmmm… maybe I should add that to the list:

d) Triangle numbers.

You don’t see nearly enough triangular progressions in euro games these days.

But what about the gameplay?

Well… It’s an auction-driven city-builder, where you then place workers into bits of the city that you’ve built to make resources, generate VP, buy more workers, and hopefully create just enough left-over funds to win you the building rights that you’ve got your eyes on in the next round of auctions. Which you will rarely achieve, because it’s proper old-school eurogame that’ll drive you into debt, have you reaching for loans within the first couple of turns, and constantly require you to figure out your opponent’s “plan A” so that you can have an appropriate “plan B” to respond with. Repeat for 10 rounds, and then the person with the most prestigious city most VPs wins.

And I loved it. Auction games rarely work well with two players — but the particular mechanisms involved in this one (you compete in parallel auctions, but your bid can only be applied to one of them at a time) along with a super-neat 2-player tweak which throws a start-player-influenced neutral bid into the mix, really keeps the tension (and importance of player order) high. The machine-building all felt thematically appropriate and interesting … and overall, the game just felt really, really tight. So tight, in fact, that despite taking very different strategic directions, we both tied on points in the final reckoning (though I won on the tie breaker by having the most left-over cash!).

Simple game structure, with depth brought in through the variety of machine-building options, a finely-tuned tipping point on resource efficiency, AND the need to find that perfect balance between taking on just the right amount of debt and NOT going into an inescapable death spiral.

They just don’t make ‘em like this any more. I’m really glad I finally got a copy. (And it only took me 13 years…)

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Meanwhile, in real life:

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Despite all odds, I still seem to have still avoided being infected by covid. At work, 7 (out of 20) of my direct reports have reported positive since the start of the year … many of whom I’d been in close proximity to only hours before they tested positive (gulp!). Both of my parents are currently getting over a pretty bad brush with the disease too ... it really does feel like I’m dodging a whole hail of bullets right now. Perhaps I’m one of that small, lucky percentage for whom the vaccine grants full immunity? Though, no doubt, merely putting that thought in writing will guarantee a second purple line on tomorrow’s LFT...

At least the Omicron trend in everywhere-but-this-part-of the country seems to be downwards now. Maybe AireCon will turn out to be a viable option this year after all?

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Elsewhere:

“I fold” is a BGG blog that I look forward to seeing new posts on… not only for Michael’s game coverage and view-of-life-from-the-other-side-of-the-planet, but also for the fascinating glimpses into the world of Origami that wrap up* each instalment.

Origami is definitely one of those pastimes that I could imagine myself being drawn into … if I didn’t already have far too many OTHER pastimes that I only managed to tackle in a really half-arsed fashion because of a tendency to spread myself way too thinly. Anyway, it’s always nice to experience a little bit of that world vicariously, through Michael’s posts … so Imagine my surprise when I awoke to an item this morning featuring an unprompted homage to this very blog!

From gallery of gobo1572


WOW!

…thanks Michael — it is truly a thing of beauty!

(And, as we all know… Green is the best player colour. FACT!).

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*Ha! I didn’t even notice I’d done that until a pre-submission proof read.
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Sun Jan 16, 2022 2:43 pm
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Playing with balls. Not going to the ball. Balls to work.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
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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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Hatee Hatee Hatee ho!

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Is it October already? Blimey.

The last few weeks have been quite a blur. New job. New responsibilities. And Mrs Shep keen to travel the length and breadth of the country to make up for lost time in the pursuit of strange customs and traditions. Looking back, I’m kind of surprised that I managed to squeeze in any time for gaming at all… so I don’t seem to have done _too_ badly, all things considered.

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The last day of September brought a couple more plays of Great Plains… and despite my fear that this wouldn’t really end up being Mrs Shep’s cup of tea, she’s turned out to be a bit of a fan of it (for now, at least). Great Plains really is a gem of a game when you dig into it; simple rules, and quick to play … but every single move is loaded with consequences. Brilliant stuff.

From gallery of MrShep


And yeah… the theming is pretty thin … but there’s just about enough of it to stick. As evidenced by the fact that I've been caught uttering the occasional hiss-of-death when one of my pieces is pushed into the mountains (because I always end up playing the snakes!).

Which inevitably results in one of a number of appropriate ripostes from Mrs Shep…



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Also played: The Poets expansion for Skulls of Sedlec. Which arrived in a Button Shy Board Game of the Month package quite a few weeks back, but which we’ve only just got around to trying now. The previous Skulls of Sedlec expansion — The Castle Guards — was one that we found to be a bit of a disappointment, and probably won’t rush back to any time soon … but Poets certainly won’t fall into that category. The new cards (which show some distinctly shakespearian skulls) interact nicely with the romantics cards from the base game; poet skulls stacked next to an un-paired romantic score 4 points each. Which is a lovely bit of theming … (just check out this 12-point swarm of predatory poets feeding off unrequited love…)

From gallery of MrShep


The provision of an alternative route to victory — which runs counter to the normal tactical pressure on pairing up your romantics — puts a very different (and interesting!) spin on the game. Sedlec has been one of our go-to 2-player quickies for several months now … so this one will definitely be seeing a bit more table time.

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In other news: the blog finally reached 500 subscribers this week! It had, weirdly, been sitting at the 499 mark for an unusually long time … but I thought it would be a bit cheeky to plead for a 500th subscriber, so I’ve just been waiting it out. However, it seems like I must’ve written something particularly appealing recently, because I seem to have shot up to the lofty heights of 504 in the last 24 hours!

Maybe I should do something to celebrate? That’s what the cool kids on the youtubes and the twitches do when they hit a landmark number of subscribers, isn’t it?

Or maybe it’s a sign that it’s time for me to post another Kingdom Death Diary entry. That should get interest down to a comfortably-grounded sub-500 level again…

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Sat Oct 2, 2021 7:10 am
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No joke

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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Board Game: error + delete


Yesterday I got in a bit of a mess with the blog moderation tools. Truth be told … I’ve never actually used the blog moderation tools before; it was a first time experience for me (which seems a bit of a surprise, considering how long I’ve been writing this thing!). To cut a long story short: somebody pointed out that I was a little bit guilty of enforcing gender stereotypes in the (to be honest… not-massively-funny-anyway) gag that I’d used as a post title. It was a fair cop. So I changed the title to refer to a "person" instead of a "man". And then the comments section got a bit messy.

EDIT: These next couple of paragraphs since proven untrue. Meh. I wasn't having a great day...

Anyway, it transpires that if you turn off commenting on a blog post which already has comments on it… all of the existing comments disappear. And won't come back again. Who knew? Clearly not me: I’d kind of assumed that all the still-intact comments up until that point would be frozen … in much the same way that forum threads get frozen when moderators intervene on those things.

But apparently not.

Oh well. We live and learn.

So: sincere apologies to anybody who spent time and effort feeding back on my opinion of MagLev metro yesterday. I know it’s annoying when those contributions disappear into the ether without so much as a by-your-leave. Definitely not my intention

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It was a funny old sort of a day yesterday. Amidst the slow-but-mostly-positive crawl back to normality… (face to face gaming - yay! …working in an office again… ya… oh, wait, not-yay!) some rather awful news came through about a work colleague. He’s the first person that I’ve known directly — not closely, but in a I've-been-in-umpteen-work-meetings-with-the-guy kind of way — to have had a fatal reaction to covid. And just to make things a little bit scarier: this was the second time that he’d caught it. He was a fair bit younger than me … no idea if he was vaccinated or not, or what other undisclosed health factors might’ve contributed… because, well, you don’t, do you? But yeah. It’s struck a bit close to home, that has. Definitely a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.

Keep staying safe, folks!

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Lightening the mood a bit: I got hold of a copy of MicroMacro:Crime City a couple of days ago. I figured that we should probably see what all the fuss is about, as so many people have been raving about it for so long AND it got the SdJ award this year. And guess what? It is, actually, very very good. But we are burning through the content stupidly quickly (and already trying to ration our sessions to make it last!).

It’s definitely something that I’d consider to be game-adjacent, rather than an actual game-as-we-know-it. A brilliant piece of interactive art though, and I'm very impressed with it from that perspective alone. It would make an excellent picture to hang in a guest room (with a few of the clue cards nearby?) …though possibly at the risk of seeing slightly less of your guests over the course of their visit than you might otherwise.

Or I wonder if I can use it as a workshop icebreaker at work? Hmmmm…..

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Fri Aug 6, 2021 7:10 am
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Just ticking along...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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The blog has definitely entered a period of semi-neglect this week. It’s nothing permanent … I’m just spinning a few too many plates at the moment, and the blog is the sensible thing to let slip when that happens. But don’t worry… none of those plates are inherently bad and life will be back to normal (or the new normal? Or a new new normal?) within a few weeks. But in the mean time, posts might be spottier and/or shorter for a spell.

Meanwhile… gaming goes on! We’re up to 8 plays of New York Zoo now (At least, we are if I remembered to log them all… I’ve definitely been getting a bit sloppy with my game logging over recent months). I’m still spotting new optimisation tactics with every play … but I fear that Mrs Shep might be getting a little bit discouraged now, because I’ve won the last 4 or 5 games in a row. Fortunately, the gap on our last game was very close (I think Mrs S was only a move or two from completing her own zoo when I ended the game?) … which, admittedly led to much frustrated wailing and gnashing of teeth … but it’s often the oh-so-close frustration of these things that pulls you back in for more, isn’t it? And it’s nearly always Mrs S who instigates our plays of this one. So I can't see it disappearing from regular circulation just yet.

We’ve also returned to Remember our Trip … which, after our initial game, flowed much, MUCH faster and way more intuitively. More-so than I thought it would, truth be told. Which is good … it’s definitely going to sit in sub-30-minute-thinky-filler territory, once you’re over that initial learning game. And you can never have too many sub-30-minute thinky fillers in your game bag, as far as I’m concerned

Speaking of thinky fillers … Limes had its first outing for a few months on Friday night. After a flurry of plays and interest over winter, newer and shinier things had kind of bounced this one to the bottom of the pile of things-to-play. But, yeah, it was good to be reminded of just how good this is. Totally non-interactive multi-player solitaire of course … but still very, very good. And Mrs Shep completely kicked my butt at it … which makes me feel slightly less bad about my winning streak in New York Zoo.

…and a few more plays of Under Falling Skies have filled into the gaps between. I should probably have a stab at the campaign soon — though my play count is into double figures now, and I still don’t have a particularly good success rate playing the non-campaign game on regular difficulty level. However… there’s so much in that little box that I haven’t opened up yet… it’s probably time that I took a look!

From gallery of MrShep

A not-nearly-common-enough victory over normal-difficulty invaders!

In other news: We visited my parents yesterday … for the first time in 18 months! The weirdest thing about the trip being: I didn’t take a board game with me. I nearly always take a board game with me when we visit my folks (we’ve always been a bit of a gaming family)… but I think there was a slight nervousness around how long we’d be staying, and how physically close we’d be getting, and things like that. So I didn’t.

There is clearly much to navigate, on this road to the new new normal. One step at a time, I guess.

Oh, and we watched the Bo Burnham Netflix special, "Inside", last night. To be honest, I didn’t really have any idea who Bo Burnham was, or what he does, but I’d noticed the show being referred to on some* boardgaming podcasts / internet groups lately, and my curiosity was sufficiently piqued to take a look. And I was very impressed. In case you had any doubts... it's nothing even remotely to do with boardgaming… but still very, very entertaining indeed. The guy has some serious talent. And has left me with more than a few earworms today.

(Warning: NSFW)


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*It’s also entirely possible that I really only heard/saw this stuff on the Sporadically Bored podcast/facebook group. But… whatever. That’s a good enough recommendation for me
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Sun Jun 20, 2021 12:46 pm
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I have no idea why I uploaded this picture of a sheep last night. Perhaps I was drunk.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
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From gallery of MrShep


Not very many posts from me this week. Sorry. I’ve definitely been in a bit of a creative fug lately. No so much a lack of things to talk about, as a case of me simply sitting down and finding that the words aren’t flowing

Lots of factors at play, I suspect: Lockdown fatigue (it’s been hitting me particularly hard recently, for some reason). Being the last grumpy old man in town…. that’s definitely a big factor. And just being a bit disillusioned over the course that the broader gaming “community”* …and BGG… seems to be taking these days. Bleh.

There has, however, been no shortage of gaming going on. So — just to reassure you all that I’m still alive — here’s a classically-low-effort and cliched “hey folks, here’s what I played in April” kind of post for you to look at while I get my blogging mojo back.

From gallery of MrShep
(visualisation courtesy of geekgroup.app)


Quite a mixed bag … tilting mostly towards the lighter end of the spectrum, but with a little bit of heavy crunchiness here and there, and a few classics dotted around.

Notable inclusions: Nova Luna is proving to have quite a bit of staying power … 23 plays now — not bad, considering the fact that I only picked it up as a bit of an impulse buy when last year’s SdJ nominations were announced … and WingSpan is still being requested by Mrs Shep. So maybe it’s time I took a look at the Oceania expansion.

From the Shelf of Shame: we managed to get a play of Petrichor (which was fine … and will probably get another outing when the kickstarter add-ons land in the near future and I get a renewed rush of interest), and Longsdale in Revolt got a proper airing … managing keep us amused for all 5 instalments of the campaign … but which will likely now be rested for a bit.

New stuff: The Oink kickstarter trio. Moon Adventure definitely seems a cut above the norm; I want to play that one again soon … but Dokojong and In A Grove are now pretty much back in the box until I get an opportunity to play them with more than 2 people. They both strike me as clever deduction games which skew slighty too far towards being guessing games if only played with two. I’ve played the previous edition of In A Grove at a higher player count, and there was definitely a bit more to it. We also had an inaugural play of Hadrians Wall… which is a really nice game, with perfectly-integrated theme. But a the same time… is a bit … well, I’m not going to go as far as saying “wonky”, but there’s definitely some oddness around the simultaneous play aspect which doesn’t seem quite right to me, and I’m kind of surprised that none of the reviews that I’ve seen of this so far have called it out. But I maybe need to get another game or two under my belt before deciding if it’s a thing or not.

(Hopefully this very afternoon!… )

All in all… a good month. With only one real turkey in the coop: L.L.A.M.A.Which I spotted in the games cupboard one night, and thought : Hmmmm…. why didn’t I like this? I should really give it a second chance.

But… no. Despite the SdJ nomination, I really do think Dr K was having a bit of an off-day when he knocked this one out. There’s certainly the germ of a really good, fast-flowing card shedding game in there … but there’s just something a little bit “off” about the whole thing. And the bat-s**t crazy scoring rule that lets you dump a massive proportion of your penalty chits whenever you manage to play out your full hand: (a) makes the overall scoring swingy to a point where you just stop caring about it any more and (b) means a single play could — technically, at least — run indefinitely. And it’s definitely not a game that’s interesting enough to keep playing until the final heat death of the universe.

I mean… I’ve played worse. But there’s definitely no need to play this in a world where we have far better card games to spend our time with. So back into the deepest, darkest recesses of the game cupboard it goes.

Otherwise, yeah. Pretty good April. Let’s see what May brings…

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*Not you guys. You guys are lovely. It’s those other people I’m talking about, obviously.
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Sat May 1, 2021 2:48 pm
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Don't shed a tear?

John Shepherd
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Board Game: Reykholt: Shed Promo Card


The Shed has gone. It’s barely been a week … but my favourite corner of BGG — the user blogs — already feels like a very different place. I mean, I still check in here each morning … to make sure that whatever auto-scheduled post I’d intended to appear that day did actually appear (not always a given!) and whether it’s picked up any thumbs yet … but the excitement of coming here as “reader”, rather than a “writer”, is definitely somewhat dulled.

Not — I hasten to add — because the other writers in the BGG blogosphere aren’t perfectly entertaining; there’s a handful that I follow daily, and it’s interesting to check in on their thoughts and musings. But if there was a reason why BGG was the very first web site that I opened up each and every day — a reason why I even discovered the subscription feature of BGG — then that reason would be: Every Man Needs a Shed. Joined, for a stretch of time, by It Beats Watching TV … two blogs with a gloriously-british-humoured perspective on board gaming, board gaming culture, and … well… just life in general, really.

And when things like this disappear… it’s a loss.

Because… to be frank…the board game media landscape of 2021 is — for the most part — a tide of un-opinionated, infomercial-grade, cookie-cutter sh*te, delivered by an endless parade of gurning wannabe-youtube-famous presenters with perma-smiles, interestingly-coloured hair, and nothing to really say. By comparison, there’s only a tiny proportion of un-filtered, critical, rough-around-the-edges and occasionally-but-forgivably-flawed commentary in this hobby … and THAT’S why I love(d) the shed. And also because… well… because it could be really bloody funny at times too. Many’s the morning that my day would be started with a shed-related LOL. Even in the barren times of 2020/2021 (take it from one who knows first-hand: it is far, FAR harder to produce this kind of thing daily than it used to be … I’ve definitely struggled) you could rely on something popping up at the shed to keep you amused over your breakfast toast.

And yeah, sometimes Tony went too far. I don’t think anybody was massively surprised when he got kicked off BGG for few weeks that time that The Shed featured a photograph of an erect penis wearing a Trump wig. And then some spectacularly-misjudged stubbornness over a meme doing the rounds of board game twitter last year spiralled into a situation that it should never, ever have become (I fear Mr B is still experiencing the mental health fall-out from that episode. Possibly way harder than his persecutors appreciate).

But this morning I realised that … for the first time in as long as I can remember … I hadn’t tuned into BGG as my first-website-of-the-day.

Why? Well… I guess I didn’t have a post-in-flight to go and tend to … and it wasn’t like there’d be a shed post to lure me in this morning.

Odd feeling, that.

Everybody needs a shed.

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Sat Apr 10, 2021 2:05 pm
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