John Shepherd(MrShep)United Kingdom
Regular readers might have noticed the lack of entries in our popular ongoing series “Made up reviews” over the course of the last year or so.
In truth, the last 15 months have been a difficult time for board game reviewers. The lack of opportunities for face-to-face gaming sessions has been greatly impacted by the global pandemic. Similarly, the potential to invent imaginary plays of games based on nothing more than a quick look at a randomly-selected BGG photo gallery — and then write a review based upon a completely-uninformed interpretation of the images seen within — has been greatly impacted by an imaginary inability to meet up with imaginary friends and imaginarily play those overwhelmingly-imaginary games together. But hopefully the current easing of restrictions — imaginary and otherwise — will see a return of this once (imaginarily?) popular series.
Local Council Maintenance Squad: Manhole Cover Challenge (Legacy Edition)
“There’s danger on the streets of Pocklington! A cracked manhole cover on a gully behind the town library is presenting a significant trip hazard with the potential to cause injury to pensioners, dogs and small children. Players must form a crack team of municipal sewer technicians, and work co-operatively to restore drainage integrity before the concerned citizens of Pocklington write a series of increasingly-strongly-worded letters to the local newspaper.”
Thus begins the introductory game in Local Council Maintenace Squad: Manhole Cover Challenge (Legacy Edition), the third instalment in designer Fettig Rohrblocker’s much-lauded series of heavy euro co-ops set in the fast-moving world of civic utilities maintenance + street furniture sub-contracting. Do you have what it takes to deliver routine maintenance, legislated safety inspections and ad-hoc repairs within the scope of rigorously-enforced local government service level agreements?
First thing’s first: players contract a competent person to apply for the appropriate Health & Safety certificate (valid for the intended hours of work) using advanced deck-building + card shedding mechanisms. Once a valid 24 page risks and mitigations assessment has been compiled, play shifts into a phase in which you’re tasked to enforce a rush-hour traffic diversion on Pocklington high street to comply with safety-at-work legislation and protect the work crew.
Diverting Dean Lane southward into the Marketplace? There’s a risk of backed-up traffic all the way to the roundabout with the B1247!!! — It sounds like madness … but with men working dangerously close to the kerb and a looming danger of failing to get this job ticket signed off before The Kings Arms opens at 11am, that’s a risk that the LCM Squad is going to have to take!
Although predominantly an open-information game, the chits that you pull from the events bag at the start of each round present enough twists and turns to keep everybody on their toes. “Unknown Kit?” … It looks like some fool brought imperial pipe fittings here instead of metric! — that’s going to necessitate a long trip back to the depot, and a whole new parts + reqs form to fill out!
Of course, the kickstarter edition came with a set of beautifully-cast, life-size, ductile-iron manhole covers, which really help to increase your level of immersion in the game:
It’s true that these added a significant amount to the cost of shipping … but I’m sure that the cardboard equivalents that came in the -- shall we say, "lesser" -- kickstarter tiers don’t provide anywhere near the amount of fun that we’ve had taking these out of the box, carefully stacking them up at the side of the table (lift with your knees, not with your back) and then carefully placing them back into the box again when we’ve finished playing. We haven’t been lucky enough to pull out the event chit which actually brings them into play in any of our games yet (and hopefully I don’t have one of the copies of the game which erroneously failed to include that all-important chit) … but there’s nothing in present-day board gaming which manages to beat the table presence of a 3 foot stack of crudely-finished metal disks sitting off the side of your game board.
Just wait for the admiring comments from game-club onlookers. Comments such as: “Hey, what game is this?”, “Hey, I totally wanted to get the deluxe version of this too, but my wife threatened to leave me when she caught me filling out the re-mortgaging paperwork”, and “Hey, are you that guy who lifted all the drain covers from the carpark round the back of the arts centre last week?”
As with all Legacy games, the amount of value that you get out of this one is going to depend very heavily on your ability to get the same group of people back together to play through each session. Given the fact that the bureaucracy phase of the game requires a minimum player count of 27 people (and a maximum player count of 27 and a half people), some purchasers have complained that this is a bit of a tall order (especially when the original kickstarter campaign stated a player count of “up to 4”). Personally, I think that this is a perfectly reasonable expectation to make of any modern gaming group, and that the type of people who raise such complaints are of low moral fibre and entirely unfit to play the masterworks of the magnificent Dr Rohrblocker.
In short: A brilliant game. 10/10. A definite must-have.
If you enjoyed this review, don’t forget to visit my entirely imaginary patreon, and lend your entirely imaginary support. As an added entirely-imaginary bonus for my top-tier imaginary backers, I now have a small supply of exclusive Local Council Maintenance Squad: Manhole Challenge! promo cards to give away. This unique promo card, titled “sleazy backhander to the council’s chief reviewer for services rendered”, will not be unavailable from any other source, ever. And it definitely won’t wash up at the Board Game Geek store 6 months down the line from now when everybody has forgotten that I’ve said this. Oh no. It definitely won’t.
Do you feel the FOMO? …DO YOU FEEL THE FOMO??
Railroad Ink Challenge — Play-by-blog — GAME 2, DAY 3
Todays’s dice are:
NOTE: All 4-point bonuses claimed yesterday!
Bonus Card B is now worth : 2 Points (score 3 villages)
Bonus Card D is now worth : 2 Points (complete 3 corners)
Bonus Card F is now worth : 2 Points (make a loop)
It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...
Archive for Made up Reviews
- [+] Dice rolls
Telestrations: Upside Down is an exciting new spin on a popular old attempt to sell people a game-they-could-play-perfectly-well-with-just-a-few-sheets-of-blank-paper-and-some-pens. But the big twist this time is the fact that the whole game has been turned, quite literally… UPSIDE DOWN!
Fortunately it didn’t us take very long to bolt the enclosed gaming components to the requisite number of door frames (hooray for power tools!)
It’s probably worth noting that you ideally need at least one doorway per player in your chosen game room, otherwise there’s a lot of downtime involved in swapping people in and out of the harnesses between turns. Also, if you’re not very good at throwing and catching things (especially while suspended upside-down in a door frame), or if you’re playing in a particularly large hallway with lots of space between the doors, it’s wise to have at least one player sit each round out to facilitate moving the boards around between players, pick up any pens that are dropped on the floor (here's hoping they don't land inky-end first on the new carpet!), and to stop the family dog from playfully licking player's faces.
Even the solo game benefits greatly from having an independent party stationed within earshot primed with a pre-arranged “safe word”.
So that's basically it. Telestrations. Upside Down.
Does hanging upside-down, with blood rushing to your head, struggling to co-ordinate your fine motor control in highly-unusual circumstances and desperately trying to complete a series of convoluted sketches without losing consciousness add a great deal to the original game?
No. I don’t think it does really.
But playing this game has done wonders for my sciatica. 9/10
Can you believe they spelled it incorrectly on the box? Hopefully this picture is just a pre-production proof, and it'll all be fixed for retail...
- [+] Dice rolls
Do you ever get that thing where you glance an ad banner out of the corner of your eye, and completely mis-interpret the artwork that’s being portrayed?
Previously, I’ve written some top-quality* in-depth** and comprehensive*** reviews of games without bothering with all of that nonsense and hard work involved with reading the rules.
Or owning the game.
Or even playing the game concerned.
And today it occurred to me that it might be beneficial to my personal content-creator brand to extend that remit into completely made-up kickstarter previews too!
So, here we go, ladies and gentlemen: my exclusive made-up kickstarter preview of Western Legends Blood Money.
Western Legends Blood Money is an exciting game of high-pressure life-or-death ballroom dancing. Because that’s definitely what the two guys in the middle of that banner are doing; ball room dancing. Clutched in a sweaty, passionate embrace, our protagonists reach the climax of their Tango Fantasia. But this is no regular performance space … the Western Legends nightclub is famed for its high risk, high stakes dancefloor. Watch your elbows ladies and gentlemen, because hazards and dangers abound! Knives fly thorough the air, and the sinister Señor Cortado — owner of the club — is a stickler for observance of the appropriate dance step progressions. X - - X, X - - - X marks the spot on his precision foot-placement charts … but mis-time a step and he’ll soon let you know, with a slow, slow, quick-quick slow blast from his four-times-the-regular size colt 45!
Gancho like you’ve never Ganchoed before, and Milonga for your life … because there’s only two ways to exit this dancefloor — but will it be Blood …or Money?
*Actual levels of quality may vary.
**Actual levels of depth may vary.
***Actual levels of comprehensiveness are likely to vary the most of all.
- [+] Dice rolls
Yesterday was the Sunday before Burns Night; a VERY significant date in the Scottish borders, as it marks the start of Haggis Hunting Season! So we popped up to Selkirk yesterday morning to watch the local hunt set off.
The hunt gathers in the marketplace at 11:02am precisely, for a dram of whisky and the official departure of the hunting party...
During the procession to the hunting ground, some of the locals put on a traditional hunting dance as we went by. It's said that this ancient rite helps to bless the hunt with a bountiful haul...
Walking into the hills. This guy in front of us has all the traditional haggis trapping kit. He definitely looks like he means business.
...and the procession of hopeful haggis hunters seems to stretch all the way back to town!
The beaters have been despatched into the heather, and the hunt begins. I was lucky enough to have my camera out when somebody close by snagged a rare tree-dwelling haggis. Though I couldn't make out if it was a clockwise haggis, or an anti-clockwise haggis (I'm assuming it was a clockwise, since she didn't throw it back -- the clockwise ones command far higher prices and you really don't want to waste your catch net on an anti-clockwise haggis if you can avoid it).
All in all, it seemed like a pretty successful day, with a couple of hundred wild haggis caught! Unfortunately, neither Mrs Shep nor I were lucky enough to grab one of the sonsie-faced wee beasties ourselves, but it's maybe for the best; I'd only end up with the job of skinning and gutting it. Much easier to simply buy a ready-prepared one from the supermarket!
Tenuous link of the day? Well, there's always THIS...
Which, whilst making a brave attempt to abstract the thrill and excitement of a traditional haggis hunt into a traditional-looking deck of cards with sneaky 5th suit added, never really got much traction in my gaming groups. In fact, I've even heard some people complain that the theming in this game is light to the point of being completely un-noticeable. The game does include bombs though (It's a little-known fact that the hunting of Haggis with the use of explosives was still legal in Scotland right up until the late part of the 19th century!)
And if my memory serves me correctly, the new version of Glen More II: Chronicles also includes a Haggis-themed module. Which I haven't tried out yet. I'm kind of sad that I'm going to miss Newcastle Gamers this Saturday, because that would have been an excellent shoe-in opportunity to get it played...
Oh well. Maybe next year.
- [+] Dice rolls
14 Oct 2019
On the way to Saturday's Bolving Contest, we stopped off at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It’s a long time since I last visited YSP (urm.. 25 years?), and it was amazing to see how much the place has developed since the last time I was there.
By happy co-incidence, they also seemed to be displaying a temporary exhibition of sculptures inspired by some of the all-time-classic made-up board games!
A few snaps...
A larger-than-life walk-through version of Klaud Sock’s seminal block-stacking game, Ballsak:
Life-size monument pieces, from Pip Hardly-Walking’s award-winning ancient-Egyptian build-em-up “Hey, That’s MY boat, ya’ flaming galah!”:
An ultra-realistic installation in one of the nearby fields — unlabelled, but attracting the attention of many visitors, and presumably depicting a scene from Huw & Rose Emberg’s widely-renowned “Misery Subsistence Farm Simulator IV”:
I’m pretty sure that this guy comes from one of the Oniverse games:
...and atop a nearby hill, we found Sean Henry’s famous sculpture: "Seated man with Buyer’s remorse.":
I have no idea what game this piece is from. Any ideas?
More details (and fewer lies) can be found on the official YSP site: https://ysp.org.uk/
- [+] Dice rolls
The soundtrack CD for Vlaada Chvátil’s Space Alert synchronises perfectly to the second half of The Wizard of Oz.
Board game designer Stefan Feld died unexpectedly in early 2014, but was replaced by a near-perfect double. The fact that the scientist on the cover of Aquasphere is not wearing any shoes, and the inclusion of the words “Turn me on, dead man” in very tiny reversed-runic writing on the second-to-last page of the Jorvik rulebook are deliberate clues to this deception.
The name of the “Barenstein” bear characters in the popular series of children’s books was actually spelled “Barenpark”
If you write down the first letter that appears on each card in a brand new unshuffled Wingspan deck, it spells out the words “Your mother sells whelks in Hull”.
Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of Monkees musician Michael Nesmith, invented worker placement.
Eric M. Lang — acclaimed designer of Blood Rage, Rising Sun and Chaos in the old World — is also famous for his portrayal of Paul Pfeiffer (Kevin Arnold’s geeky friend) in popular US TV series “The Wonder Years”.
Uwe Rosenberg once made a game called Hengist.
- [+] Dice rolls
In this quick-playing semi-abstract game for 1-to-7 players, players take on the role of exciting new concepts for euro-games, which are trapped inside the pink cerebellum of a top german game designer. Despite being pretty much the same game with just a little bit changed from iteration to iteration, these concepts are loved by fans and are essentially a license to print money. However, whenever these game concepts try to escape into the hands of eagerly-awaiting game publishers, mysterious and entirely un-thematic polyonimoes appear and interfere with their progress!
In the action shot above, the blue player was just about to successfully release his final pawn ("an exciting game about viking farmers") when a last-minute surge of polyonimoes overwhelmed this underlying concept. Only the green player ("an exciting game about 16th century subsistance farmers"), yellow player ("an exciting game about early 20th century East-Friesan dyke farmers"), and orange player ("an exciting game about... oh god I'm running out of ideas ... what about DWARVEN farmers? YES, DWARVES!") are still in the running. Will THOSE games successfully manage to escape the designer's brain as fully fledged, non-polyometric farming games (to great critical acclaim), or will they too turn into just-another-strange-variation-of-tetris?
Verdict: It’s a bit fiddly to play, and pretty much exactly the same game has just been released by a rival publisher. But if you're particularly keen, I’d suggest waiting for the inevitable roll-and-write version to appear a few months down the line. It'll be cheaper than the other versions, so you won't have to feel as guilty about only playing it once before permanently leaving it on the shelf.
- [+] Dice rolls
In “One Week Ultimate Neolithic Team-Building Exercise”, 3-to-7 players adopt the roles of staff members from a disruptive internet start-up company who have all been sent on an immersive technology-detox and team-building workshop at a reconstructed neolithic settlement somewhere in West Dorset.
Forced to assume to lifestyle of a primitive tribe for a week, it soon becomes apparent that one member of the team has managed to smuggle a mobile phone onto the site and is making potentially-career-destroying photo posts to Instagram. BUT WHO IS THE TRAITOR?
The game takes the format of a werewolf-like social deduction game in which player roles include: Tristan the head of Product Innovation (second left) who is responsible for hunting and gathering the tribe's food supply, but is only allowed to communicate through the medium of buzzwords, business cliches, and rapidly nodding and chanting the phrase “yah, yah, yah, yah, fantastic, yah” in response to player accusations, Tina from User Research (3rd from right), who has decided to get in touch with the emotional wants, needs, and empathy map of her spiritual ancestors by taking her top off for the duration of the exercise (watch out for formal complaints to Human Resources!), and Ogban the Destroyer — formerly known as Graham from accounts — (far right) who suffered a traumatic mental breakdown half way through the week’s activities and now genuinely believes himself to be a neolithic tribal warrior-leader.
I’m not a huge fan of social deduction games, but this one certainly has its redeeming features; if you make it to the final day without successfully ideating a multi-disciplinary approach to synergistic innovation through the medium of tribal drumming, Ogban the Destroyer will find a reproduction flint spear in the schools eduction supply hut and then embark upon a spree of ritualistic killing. Some people argue that this rule means it’s far too easy to get the default win as Ogban, but an early (and ethically-justifiable) sacrifice of Dave the office comedian (far left) can buy you the necessary time for the police to arrive and take Ogban away... and this is a particularly fun part of the game if you’re playing the LARP/Cosplay variant (as demonstrated just outside the front entrance of the UK Games Expo earlier this year).
3 stars out of 5. Would play again.
- [+] Dice rolls
Necronomic Editions, 2013
A game for 1 to 4 players in which participants compete to herd a number of innocent maidens to the sacrificial pool of C’thaat in the centre of Nyarlathotep’s Garden. Once a sufficient number of maidens have been ritually drowned, the door of Great Nyarlathotep’s palace springs open, releasing a horde of tentacled great old ones upon the world, and casting a thousand years of pain, torment and misery upon the human race.
The players’ primary mode of interaction with the board — aside from the otherwise-pedestrian roll-and-move mechanism used to control the maiden playing pieces — is via a unique control mechanism known as the “Pink astral wand of the Elder Things”. By firmly grasping the Pink Astral Wand of the Elder Things and repeatedly chanting the phrase "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn”, players are able to cause a number of small cardboard disks on the board to slowly rotate in a widdershins direction, seemingly solely via the telekinetic power of their own minds being amplified through the wand. The timely manipulation of the board in this way can cause an opponent’s maiden to exit the board and escape to freedom, rather than meet her rightful and just destiny in the ceremonial drowning pool.
The overwhelmingly long play-time for the game (successful completion requires exactly 9,999 maidens to be sacrificed to the drowning pool to trigger the end-game condition) means that no gaming group has ever completed a full session and gone on to discover exactly what does happen when the palace doors open. The palace components themselves are curiously-resistant to investigative probing, though are known to emit a strange sulphurous smell if shaken …along with an odd electrical/vibrating sensation in the teeth of onlookers and the inexplicable death of all song birds within a half mile radius.
A team of veteran Nyarlathotep’s Garden players will be attempting to finally complete the game in an unlisted event at this year’s UK Games Expo. Interested spectators should seek out room thirteen on the thirteenth floor of the Hilton Metropole, knock thirteen times, and then whisper “All hail the mighty tentacled one” through the keyhole. Please bring waterproof robes, and a goat.
- [+] Dice rolls
It has come to my attention that most board game reviewers don't actually play the thing that they're reviewing very many times. In fact, on some occasions, I suspect that they haven't actually played the thing that they're reviewing at all.
However, this approach still seems a little bit inefficient and labour-intensive to me. So, in my quest to join the ranks of HIGH OUTPUT CONTENT CREATORS, I've developed an exciting new way to review games: I use a complex scientific* algorithm to pluck a random image out of the BGG database, and then just make up an entire review based on that one image. Thereby avoiding the need to actually play the game, or to even find out what it's really called or what it's actually about. Result: QUALITY CONTENT! ...What could possibly go wrong?
* * * * * * *
Verstecken Sie den Käse!
Klaus Quatsch, Aroma-Spiele 2007
The controversial semi-cooperative 2nd instalment of Quatsch’s “dairy produce” trilogy is set in the heart of 15th Century Provence, and sees players taking on the role of cheese-making monks, attempting to hide their wares from malevolent cheese raiders in the labyrinthine caves beneath the abbey of Saint-Roquefort.
In a unique take on the mechanism of hidden movement, one player is required to wear a blindfold, and is assigned the role of “Voleur de Fromage”. This player must identify the hiding place of the cheese using only their sense of smell — the game comes with a number of scented plastic cheese pieces, and any physical/non-olfactory contact between the board and the Voleur player is strictly prohibited. The Voleur’s plight is further complicated by the fact that the other players (taking on the role of trappist monks, sworn to a vow of silence) are only allowed to communicate with each other through the medium of nonchalant shrugging.
Early editions of the game were dogged by production problems. Due to a mix up between imperial and metric measurements, the cheese pieces in the first run were significantly smaller and far more lightweight than the designer intended, and subject to accidental inhalation by on over-enthusiastic Voleur player. Second hand copies of this edition are frequently reported to have pieces missing, and it is recommended that if you are fortunate enough to acquire a complete 2nd hand copy of the first edition the components are given a thorough wipe-down with an anti-septic cloth before your first play.
The size problems were corrected in the — even more notorious — second edition (pictured above), but a drop in production budget and the use of cheap offshore production facilities led to the unintended use of unlicensed/toxic organic solvents being used in the creation of the “authentic” cheesy-aroma of the playing pieces. The resulting game was discovered to cause hallucinatory side-effects for a number of players, especially after longer periods of wearing the blindfold (the 9-player “party variant” of the game could sometimes stretch to 5 or 6 hours of game time, during which the Voleur player would be kept in complete darkness and only hear the occasional giggle from his silent-but-nonchalently-shrugging opponents). Several players have required psychiatric counselling or temporarily hospitalisation due to the resulting psychotic episodes.
Despite its withdrawal from the market and subsequent arrest of the publishers, the game retains something of a cult following here on the geek, and mint copies of the second edition frequently command a three-figure price. If possible, try to find a “still in shrink” copy; the cheesy aroma — which is fundamental to the gameplay — is known to wear off once the seal has been broken … or refer to the extensive “My cheese stopped working and I NEED A FIX!” thread in the game forum here on BGG.
Are you one of the lucky few who have played Verstecken Sie den Käse? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
*Actual levels of science may have settled in transit.
- [+] Dice rolls