The Tyranny of Small Decisions

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Made-up review: Telestrations Upside Down

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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!

Board Game: Telestrations: Upside Drawn


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!)

From gallery of MrShep


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”.

From gallery of MrShep


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

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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...
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Fri Aug 28, 2020 7:10 am
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Made-up Kickstarter Preview: Western Legends Blood Money.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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.

From gallery of MrShep


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?

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*Actual levels of quality may vary.

**Actual levels of depth may vary.

***Actual levels of comprehensiveness are likely to vary the most of all.
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Thu Aug 13, 2020 7:10 am
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Game Hunting

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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.

From gallery of MrShep


...and the procession of hopeful haggis hunters seems to stretch all the way back to town!

From gallery of MrShep


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...

Board Game: Haggis


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.

Anything else?
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Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:10 am
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Art, mirroring art. It's basically art and mirrors, all the way down.

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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:

From gallery of MrShep


Life-size monument pieces, from Pip Hardly-Walking’s award-winning ancient-Egyptian build-em-up “Hey, That’s MY boat, ya’ flaming galah!”:

From gallery of MrShep


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”:

From gallery of MrShep


I’m pretty sure that this guy comes from one of the Oniverse games:

From gallery of MrShep


...and atop a nearby hill, we found Sean Henry’s famous sculpture: "Seated man with Buyer’s remorse.":

From gallery of MrShep


I have no idea what game this piece is from. Any ideas?

From gallery of MrShep


More details (and fewer lies) can be found on the official YSP site: https://ysp.org.uk/
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Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:10 am
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#FakeBoardGameFacts

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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.
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Thu Aug 1, 2019 7:10 am
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Made up review: Escape from Braintris

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Board Game: Le Jeu du Labyrinthe


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.

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Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:10 am
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Made-up Reviews: One Week Ultimate Neolithic Team-Building Exercise

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Board Game: Prehistory


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.

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Sun Jun 16, 2019 7:10 am
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Made up Reviews: Nyarlathotep’s Garden

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Nyarlathotep’s Garden

Necronomic Editions, 2013

Board Game: Disney Princess Magic Wand Game


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.

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Tue May 14, 2019 7:10 am
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Made-up reviews #1: Verstecken Sie den Käse!

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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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.

Board Game: Gold Mine


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.

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Tue May 7, 2019 7:10 am
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