Yeah, I know, I know. I said I would daily post. But you know what, no post is better than a boring post and the last couple evenings have been quiet ones in the hotel, a bit of after-dinner Darkest Dungeon (my first foray in the Darkest Dungeon itself ended as a TPK) and early to bed with IMB's Use of Weapons.
Not last night though! Last night I braved the rather grim Washington weather for a walk up Main Street for the Tabletop Tortoise meet at Vancouver Pizza Co. And just in the nick of time too, as games were literally being taken out of bags as I arrived and places at tables being swiftly claimed. Sitting with group organiser Jacob and a first-time-at-game-night family we started off with Diamant. Over-confidence in the first game brought me in last, delving too greedily and too deep, but the Spidey-sense was well attuned in the second game, some early escapes back to camp netting good hauls of loot, eventually giving me a win!
A round of Just One to follow, and I see immediately why it's the party game of choice for a lot of people, Just One doesn't need the same level of mental gymnastics that Codenames does. A pleasant game, I'm glad Jacob didn't pick word #5 on his turn, "Tarantino" might have been an awkward one with two young'uns at the table with us.
And now going three-for-three on new-to-me games, Bohnanza was next up. Clearly a favourite of the family, the bean trading was rather cutthroat from the word go and it took me while to get used to the mechanics but it clicked eventually. Trade and barter as game mechanics have never been favourites of mine but that said it's definitely a solid game and I'm glad I finally got a chance to play it. Would play again, but not fussed about owning.
Perhaps another meet-up this weekend? Maybe, a delay on the hardware for this projects means I might have to do a few hours over the weekend but nothing too major hopefully. I did plan on venturing across the Columbia River into Portland for a spell at some point, but if the choice ends up between solo sight-seeing and a lunch-for-one, or a gaming session with friendly local tabletop geeks...not really a contest is it?
Trials, tribulations, outdoor adventures and occasional board game commentary. Join me as I try to squeeze some gaming time into my life as a travelling IT consultant.
Archive for Ben Goulding
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Well I've certainly had better first days onsite, but you have to laugh don't you? I have kitchen printers, I have cash drawers, I have a switch, I have network, I have an interface server, I have receipt printers, I have paper rolls, I have Ethernet cables, I have extension leads, I even have red & black printer ribbons.
But I ain't got no tills.
Very mysterious. Now I know how Precious feels.
As much as I am enjoying Darkest Dungeon at the moment, I wasn't really up for continuing that campaign tonight (all my A and B team heroes are resting, mending or de-stressing, meaning I only have a bunch of awkward dregs to adventure with) so instead I got away from the screen, for a little while at least, with a quick solo game of Samurai Spirit.
Daisuke and Kikuchiyo lasted pretty well until the third round, some extraordinarily bad luck meant the bosses and lieutenants came out early, but not before I had already filled my defence spaces keeping lesser mooks away from the remains of the village. Burly Kikuchiyo fell to the lieutenants and the turn after Daisuke was overwhelmed by the bossmen, the remaining raiders more than enough to completely raze the village. Farewell, brave warriors.
Perhaps Kyuzo and Gorobei will have more success tomorrow? The village is rebuilt, barricades reinforced, the samurai ready to bare steel once again.
Surely it's about time we had a Samurai Jack make-over of Samurai Spirit?
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I blame my 25 hours of travel, a hearty burger (with tater tots) and three pints of "ale" at the nearby eatery for my lack of a Sunday blog post. Anyway, I'm all settled in now and ready to start a new project which should have some interesting challenges to overcome. At least this time my room has a view (distance, Mount Hood) and, if the window is open, a savoury aroma (foreground, BBQ smoker):
A wander around the hotel's neighbouring blocks and a bus ride to Vancouver Mall and back (forgot my under-shorts for running, don't want to chafe!) was enough adventure for one day, though some scouting on the internet has provided information about, and indeed an invite to, a board gaming meetup on Thursday evening a short walk from the hotel. Hooray! Socialising!
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When it's 7am at 30,000 feet over the Swiss Alps, you've been up since 3am (and have barely slept before that), that complementary apple & pecan pastry and schwarzer Kaffee is a welcome treat. Hopefully that German hospitality will continue for my onward flight to Seattle in a few hours time, but here I was thinking Condor was part of Lufthansa when it's actually a slightly wobbly leftover from the recent Thomas Cook collapse...oo-er indeed.
Oh well. Not much I can do about it now other than sit back and enjoy. It's already been something of an experience, my expectation of a Toyota Yaris taxi with either an annoyingly chatty or deathly silent driver turned out to be pleasant local chap and "personal chauffeur" Georgio in his brand new Mercedes with all the mod cons and all leather interior. Lots of talk about dream holidays and places visited for work and only a little bit about football, an often unavoidable topic as either of my answers to the question "Where you from in England?" result in the next question being either "Ah, United or City?" or "Oh! Forest or County?" Not being an avid follower of the sport, I stick to United for simplicity's sake.
And yes, I do realise it's avery sweeping statement but based on the shambles that was the line (or lines, depending) by the Lufthansa check-in desks at Milan Linate, Italians cannot queue in a calm and orderly fashion at all. When I arrived there was one queue, with people going to either one of two check-in assistants as they became available. Then for some inexplicable reason, several rather irate looking people suddenly veered out of the queue to form a second line along side the first, that simply just merged again at the head. A group of very outdoorsy looking folk all in bright jackets and rucksacks-with-many-dangly-bits added further confusion by not leaving the queuing area after dropping their bags, rather seeming hellbent on hosting an impromptu rock climbing conference right there in Check-in Section A. To top it all off, a heart-stopping moment as the lady checked my ESTA, the key document to get me into the US, and amongst the rapid-fire Italian between her and a colleague I heard "denied, insufficient details". After a few minutes channelling those immortal words from Hitchhiker's and some more Italian over the phone, turns out Condor's system just hadn't received the ESTA information I provided what I checked in via the Lufthansa app and all was now bene. Phew!
Anyway, four hours to kill before my flight. With my board-games stashed in my suitcase I'll have to resort to my gaming laptop...perhaps a spot of Darkest Dungeon.
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Long day yesterday getting the customer to Go Live, so a low effort post this morning. Petrol-heads rejoice and buckle up, you'll like this one.
Since the morning shift was really quiet (the hotel staff too busy with getting everything else ready than to bother with us POS-guys) my lead gave me the morning off. A perfect opportunity to go do that thing I wanted to do, so it was off on the Metro to Sanpolino.
Through the door, ticket bought and audio-guide in hand we're off round the Museo Mille Miglia. Set in the grounds of the old Sant Eufemia monastery, the museum explores the history of one of the world's most famous motorsport events, the "Thousand Mile Cup" or the Mille Miglia. Four influential Brescia locals designed the course as a grand tour, from Brescia to Rome and back, covering ~1600km or 1000 Roman miles, hence the name. Entry cost 1 lira, and all cars had to be unmodified production vehicles. The first race in 1927 was won by Giuseppe Morandi in 21 hours, driving a 2-litre OM 665 S. The organisers estimated cars would average about 44kpm around the whole course. Morandi averaged 76kpm!
Bentley 4.5L (1926)
4 cylinder inline, 4500cc
175hp @ 4000rpm
Maserati A6 GCS (1954)
6 cylinder inline, 1985cc
170hp @ 7300rpm
Fiat 1100 Marsala (1948)
4 cylinder inline, 1089cc
Allard Motors K1 (1947)
96hp @ 4000rpm
The parade of cars is joined by all sorts of historical artefacts, from bicycles, posters, flags, medals, trophies, correspondence to clothing and uniforms. In the "typical 1940s garage" section was this gem. This is Benito Mussolini's personal petrol pump. Due to gasoline shortages at the time, ways were found to dilute fuel so it would go further. One method was to use beetroot oil which turned the fuel red. This led to fuel pumps being fitted with glass cylinders so customers could see the quality of the fuel as it was pumped, the redder it was the more dilute it was. Of course, for Il Duce, only benzina pura would do!
There was a section in the audio-guide here too about some alternative fuels explored at the time, one was using the gas provided from burning charcoal to power cars. Cue a clip of people pouring charcoal into the back section of a car with it zooming off shortly afterwards. One of these gas powered cars entered the Mille Miglia, finishing last...by 20 hours!
Fiat 508 C MM Carrozzeria Savio (1938)
4 cylinder inline, 1089cc
20 HP @ 4000rpm
Bandini 750 Sport internazionale (1953-57)
4 cylinder inline, 749cc
Talk about "functional interior"...I'd be sore as hell squeezed into that and bouncing around rough Italian roads for 20 hours straight.
Fiat 750 Abarth Zagato (1956)
4 cylinder inline, 747cc
47hp @ 6000rpm
Triumph TR2 (1956)
4 cylinder inline, 1991cc
95hp @ 5000rpm
Now that's a bit more plush isn't it?
Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (1957)
4 cylinder inline, 1897cc
105hp @ 5700rpm
A little showroom at the end with a half dozen classic Mercedes models.
The fastest ever time was set in 1955 by British racing legend Stirling Moss and his co-driver Denis Jenkinson. Despite his innate skills as a driver, Moss lacked the local knowledge of the roads and terrain that the Italian drivers had, so Jenkinson invented "pace notes". On a roll of paper 18 feet long, wound up like a scroll, he and Moss used the six reconnaissance laps (that all drivers were allowed) to make meticulous notes. This being before the time of in-car radios, they agreed upon 15 hand signals to communicate. The preparation clearly paid off, Moss and "Jenks" in their Mercendes-Benz 300 SLR finished the race in 10 hours and 7 minutes, at an average speed of 158kpm (98mph).
Looking back down the museum. The race was stopped in 1957 when a worn tire on Alfonso de Portago's 4-litre Ferrari 335 S failed, sending his car into a crowd of spectators on the roadside and into a ditch. de Portago and his co-driver Edmund Nelson were killed as were nine spectators, five of them children. The race was resurrected in 1977 in a much more restrained and safer format, limited to pre-1957 cars but rather than a speed race it is run more like a road rally, with stages having a set time target that drives must aim for, being penalised if they go too quickly or too slowly.
It's well worth the price of entry if you're ever in Brescia, truly.
One day I will actually post about board games.
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You know the ones.
I mean logging your game plays is pretty sad in and of itself but crunching the numbers really puts the anal into analysis. Yeah, that's right, you know who you are. Ever complained that because someone beat you 100-5 in your first play of a game their strategy is clearly overpowered and broken?
This one is for you.
"oh my days, we just played 7 Wonders for the first time and my girlfriend just beat me 90-20 she had like 70 points from science cards clearly these are well OP and here is my list of house rules to fix that rule 1: remove all science cards from the game"
What the bloody hell?
Are you serious.
Is this how you deal with other things in your life? Oh no, I stubbed my toe on my coffee table so now ALL FURNITURE IS BANNED FROM THE HOUSE.
Here's a little tip for you. Maybe have some common sense and play the game more than once. Tell you what, why not go the whole hog and make it statistically significant by doing at least 12 tests and then show me your P-numbers. Until then you just look like a P-nis. The only mean-ingful conclusion you can draw is that in 100% of games you are shit at games.
And you know who lies at the other end of the bell(end) curve? The overanalysts, the ones who after 300 plays have proven that faction A is 2.87% more likely to win than faction B and this is CLEARLY broken and what was the game designer even THINKING?! Did they even play-test this shit at all?!?! And then comes the inevitable "Here is my exhaustive 3000 word forum post on how I would fix this pile of hot garbage:" and thus follows a stream of pointless and nonsensical house rules.
Speaking of house rules, you know what else really glooms my haven?
*exit, pursued by Bärenpark
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15 Jan 2020
After a tolerable couple hours in the care of Ryanair (since when did they stop providing the little nets on the back of the seats for you to stash something in?!) I arrived safe and sound (and 30 minutes late) to Milan Bergamo. My case was one of the first to appear from the portal, all that remained now was to pick up my car and I could be on my way. Huzzah.
Except...no! Since my booking was under "Ben" and my drivers licence says "Benjamin" the girl at the rental desk would not process my reservation. Despite the fact I have the correct booking number, confirmation number, all the other details match what she sees on her screen, even my home address matched exactly my driving licence, those missing characters of "jamin" were a hard stop. Even when the booking company changed it, after 3 hours waiting the change still hadn't filtered down to the system at the rental desk. So much for the age of connectivity and rapid information sharing. And here I was thinking Germans were the stereotype for sticking to the rules as written!
"Well OK then, can I rent a car instead of collecting one?"
"But I know that Ben Goulding won't be collecting his so I'd like that one. My name is Benjamin Goulding."
Che cazzo è? Whatever. I'll get the bus.
Still, this week's hotel is pleasant if a little creepy. It's not open until Friday so the only people staying here at the moment are me and my colleague giving the whole place a sort of empty feeling akin to the Overlook Hotel. Given the work schedule I doubt I'll get much time to explore Brescia itself, but fingers crossed on Friday I'm hoping to have enough time to get the Metro to Sanpolino and have a quick gander round the Museo Mille Miglia.
Anyway, better finish my caffè and prepare for the day ahead.
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14 Jan 2020
You know, I don't think I've ever been “away” anywhere for more than two weeks. A fortnight is I suppose the “standard” foreign holiday duration and indeed is the “standard” duration for most on-site stays in this job. Time for a new experience then, as one project getting pushed two days means I have to fly directly from that one to the other, enduring eight separate flights between eight different airports. There's a part of me that certainly is not looking forward to being away from home for so long but, ever the optimist, the best solution is to treat it as a voyage of discovery and do my best to enjoy the journey.
So, as I sit here in Manchester Airport's T3 lounge watching the rain batter the windows and the planes come and go (one of the big Emirates A380s just touched down!) I might as well write for the blog. Just this today, but I'm going to have a go at daily blogging again for the next three weeks, perhaps that little daily commitment will help lift a homesick spirit and stave off hotel room boredom.
Expect a little something board game related (Friday, Samurai Spirit, Assembly and expansions Assembly: Re-Sequence & Override are along for the ride), maybe even the eagerly awaited (I assume) continuation of What Really Bends My Cards and of course, in typical Sneaky Meeples fashion, some photos of places and things along my way. I don't expect to get out much over the next three days in Brescia, but I do have a full thirteen days to hopefully enjoy some of the sights, sounds and places of Vancouver, WA. Maybe a long shot I know but if I do have any Vancouver, WA readers I'm open to suggestions of places to eat, drink and see in the Esther Short & Waterfront parts of town! I've even heard tell of a regular gaming night on Tuesdays...
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Now that the land has somewhat dried out after the seemingly incessant pre-Christmas rain, yesterday morning seemed a good chance to get out and about on the Nottinghamshire footpaths for a good old walk. So whilst Rachel subjected herself to the first of her "Jump Start January" bootcamp sessions, I set myself the target of local-ish prominence Stapleford Hill, about 6 miles yonder.
Down the hill and out of Kimberley, under the A610 bypass and back uphill now, the sun rises over Swingate.
Almost exactly two hours later, Stapleford Hill summit! The hill has several well used mountain bike trails on it's slopes, twisting this way and that. Several young lads came up the summit and then careened back down again, some of them on very shiny new BMXs.
For a bit of variety I decided to turn my walk into a bit of circular one and rather than retrace my steps, at Trowell Garden Centre I diverted left onto the derelict Nottingham Canal and followed that basically all the way back to Kimberley. The canal was maintained until 1971 but despite the efforts of a conservation group it was eventually built over or turned into a linear park. One of the information boards on the way had this little, rather sad story:
I was walking along the towpath with a local friend one day and saw an old man approaching, Grey hair, wide hat, and puling a little punt-like boat behind him.
"Who's he?" I asked my friend.
"Oh, he maintains the hedges over the towpath, trims them back nice and good so the horses can pass freely." he replied.
I was astonished. "But we haven't seen a barge since Sapperton!"
My friend stopped me and held my arm. "Every day he walks up and down and trims the hedges, and every day he expects to get home and find a letter from the canal company saying he won't be needed no more. Please don't say anything, sir.""
A previously mentioned local landmark, the Iron Giant of the Erewash Valley, Bennerley Viaduct.
Despite both of us being physically exhausted we still had enough mental capacity for a few games, and after a warm-up round of That's Pretty Clever (bad dice for us both, but Rachel pipped me 145 to 144) we decided to kick off my 10x10 with Orléans. With the new Beneficial Deeds board and new Events from Orléans: Trade & Intrigue included, it was straight into the action. All told, a narrow victory for me, 83 to 76, Rachel's lead in guildhalls and citizens being wiped out by my bigger stack of goods.
I much preferred the new, tighter Deeds board for two players, and the new events were certainly more varied and meaningful. An excellent start, I wonder how the Orders cards and Intrigue board will fare!
Time now to round it all off with a first play of This War of Mine: The Board Game and blimey, this one certainly needs some table space, it even gives Scythe a run for it's money! Our characters of Marko, Cveta and Katia had an inauspicious start with the first Event card telling us that snipers would shoot anyone seen out after dark. With our starting supplies being rather meagre (and us wanting to find out how the game worked) we opted to venture out anyway, and quickly drew the ire of the hidden snipers with Katia and Cevta both being hit for two wounds each! OUCH! We tried to focus on finding food and medicine but to no avail, after Marko was stabbed and killed whilst scavenging we had to endure Cveta and Katia succumbing to their wounds that same night.
It's grim. It's dark. It's hard decision after hard decision and being friendly to people doesn't always pay off. Marko's death came about as the result of trying to help a woman we found in a ruined apartment. I think this will be a game that's hard to describe as fun or enjoyable, given its subject matter. A challenge definitely, one that I do want to play more.
Two plays down...98 to go!
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I am sure there will be some gamers and fellow BGGers out there mental enough to attempt a 20x20 challenge in 2020, and good luck to you, but I think I'll stick with the venerable 10x10 format for now. After simply doing casual versions the past two years and letting my list automatically build up with whatever I choose to play, I reckon this year is due a return to the "hardcore" version.
So, unless the rules have changed since I last looked, I need eleven games to short-list and then play any ten of them ten times each. So what's made the list? Conveniently enough, there are ten "new to me" titles from 2019 that can immediately go on.
Arboretum has barely been played this year, a shame since I opted for the nice deluxe version with those bright and shiny foil cards. It's a brain-burner for sure.
A definite hit with my history nerd friends, Black Orchestra really does need to see more table time if only because I haven't yet beaten it.
A curious amalgamation of two personal favourites (Roll for the Galaxy and Dominion), Colony has proven itself an interesting beast even after just a few plays. It definitely tickles that "make do with what you have but maybe you can alter it a bit" itch and deserves further exploration in 2020.
Absolutely no idea what to expect with The Cousins' War (second edition) as I haven't even read the rules yet despite owning it since October! Looks nice though.
Finally, a game that appeals to my nuclear physics degree! The Manhattan Project has (for me at least) a super interesting theme and underneath it all is a fairly solid worker placement and engine building game.
A charming little engine builder card game, my First Impressions review of Oh My Goods! was resoundingly positive and I certainly look forward to playing this some more.
Orléans was well received earlier in the year but I felt it was lacking a little something to make it a bit tighter and more competitive for two and three players. Fellow Geeks highly recommended the expansion Orléans: Trade & Intrigue which is winging its way to my door as I type, so we'll be dipping back into those bags soon enough.
Pandemic: Fall of Rome was the result of trawling a Frankfurt game shop's shelves for a good 30 minutes and was an instant hit when Jason and I played it the next day in the hotel bar. It's certainly a novel take on the tried and tested Pandemic mechanics, ten plays of this should be a breeze.
Assembly was my most played game of 2019 so when Janice & Stu announced the sequel Sensor Ghosts I was on it like a car bonnet. Rachel and I's first play the other week was admittedly stumbling at first but the second game flowed better....until we crashed headlong into an asteroid. This is definitely a brain-burning puzzler where one wrong move can spell disaster. Must play more!
My last acquisition of 2019, everything I've read about This War of Mine: The Board Game suggests this will be an excellent game that does justice to it's perhaps morally ambiguous thematic setting. I will probably not enjoy playing this game, not in the true sense of the word, but I am sure it will teach me something.
So that's ten games, as per the usual "hardcore" rules I need to pick an eleventh as a fallback, and I'm honestly not sure what to pick. The bits and bobs for Obsession: Upstairs, Downstairs will be starting production in the New Year but I'm hesitant to add it to the list should it be delayed. Scythe and Historia, both good games, are perhaps a bit on the heavy side to see ten plays in twelve months. Battle Line was tempting, I haven't played that for a good while, but it's very similar to Arboretum.
You know what? How about a classic.
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