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Quinns Talks to Schoolkids About Being a YouTuber!

Quinns: Paul and I are working on yet another B I G  V I D E O for this Friday, but today we’ve got a little video featuring some very little people.

Recently I was invited by SU&SD fan Annie Langley to give a presentation to her school kids aged 10-11 about being a YouTuber, since it’s the job that most kids dream about. With a lot of help from my wife (who I can’t thank enough for telling me to remove all the bar charts from my talk), I put together this 20 minute rundown of what my work is actually like.

I know that a lot of SU&SD fans are parents, so I thought I’d chuck the talk online in case it’s of interest. Honestly, I worry that very few YouTubers or Streamers talk about the technical or psychological stresses of this job, and I feel like the world would be a healthier place if there was a bit more of a conversation around it.

Timestamps…

00:00 – Intro about my job and board games

06:49 – Me talking about the mental health problems with producing content (without using those exact words)

12:46 – Me talking about the technical bit of the job: scripting, lighting, microphones and editing

18:21 – Me telling kids to go and make things, but do so safely. Also, a poorly-chosen Hunger Games analogy

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Games News! 11/06/18

Quinns: Have you heard the news? I’ve been playing sad fanfares on my cyber-bugle all weekend. On Friday Fantasy Flight announced that Wizards of the Coast has ended the licensing agreement for Netrunner, which means that Fantasy Flight’s phenomenal living card game Android: Netrunner will be coming to an abrupt end after the next big expansion, Reign and Reverie.

Paul: What?! But Fantasy Flight have only just released the revamped starter set!

Quinns: Yeah. As you’d imagine, the unexpected announcement has left the Netrunner community in a state of shock.

As you say, Fantasy Flight had only just rebooted the core set, but on top of that card rotation had only just begun (cycling older cards out of competitive play in a bit of tricky housecleaning), and new lead designer Michael Boggs had only just dragged the global metagame into a healthy place. This was a game that had lasted six years and was being shored up to last another six years.

Plus, from Wizards of the Coast’s perspective, this was a near-valueless intellectual property that Fantasy Flight were turning into one of the most respected, beloved and socially diverse card games in existence.

So why did this happen? We don’t know for sure, but there are a few conspiracy theories that sound plausible to me, and in honour of all things cyberpunk I’m going to don my tinfoil hat for a little bit. Please, indulge me.

One possibility is that this is a horrible casualty in a much larger war. Fantasy Flight is owned by Asmodee, and Wizards of the Coast is owned by Hasbro. With Asmodee undergoing incredible growth in recent years, it’s possible that Hasbro yanked the licensing deal away as a means of plucking a small jewel from their new competitor’s crown.

A more sensible reason might be that Wizards of the Coast think they can make more money producing Netrunner themselves. This taking back of the Netrunner license might mean that Netrunner will be rebooted again in a collectible card game format as a sister product to Magic: The Gathering. That would be a bittersweet turn of events. I have no doubt that Wizards of the Coast would do a fine job with the game, but making it an order of magnitude more expensive to collect and play would be a sad, sad thing.

Paul: There’s a lot to think about there and this is no small news story. But let’s switch to the personal angle: A lot of our fans have been asking how you feel about it. So, how do you feel about it?

Quinns: Hmmm. Conflicted? Obviously this is a tragedy for the community that I still, in some ways, consider myself a part of. Also, if Netrunner returns with a horrifically expensive business model involving card rarity then that’s going to be miserable. But then again, Fantasy Flight were never quite able to give Netrunner the support it deserved, namely the kind of marketing and R&D that we see Wizards pour into Magic: The Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons. It’s not impossible that this could end up being a good thing for the game… ?

After all, if a game is really, really good it’ll always end up coming back from the dead in one form or another. And Netrunner is really, really, really good.

Paul: So what are Fantasy Flight turning to instead? It looks like Heroes of Terrinoth will be one of their next big releases. Traipsing over to our tabletops this autumn (or “fall”), Heroes of Terrinoth will be a reboot of FFG’s supposedly-excellent Warhammer Quest card game, giving you and your friends the chance to band together in a classic adventuring party, battering goblins about the head until gold coins pour out of their ears.

It’s all the most typical fantasy-by-the-numbers, set in FFG’s uber-generic Terrinoth, but their track record with card games is such that this is definitely one we’ll be watching from the bushes, ready to leap upon like a beastman ambush. We missed our chance to review this design the first time, but like a dwarven axe-baron, we never miss twice.(?)

Quinns: What’s a dwarven axe–

Paul: I don’t know

Quinns: Further news acting as balm to my sucking Netrunner-related wounds is that two Shut Up & Sit Down card game favourites are being reprinted.

Arboretum will be republished this year by Renegade and Z-Man has just announced a brand-new edition of Condottiere.

Paul: BUT HAVE THEY REALLY? Like the saucy armies of Condottiere themselves, could this just be one big bluff oh wait no it’s not no sorry it really is back.

Quinns: Yep. The new edition of Condottiere will come with a bigger box and board than the old edition, but will also be $10 more expensive than the old Silver Line edition that we reviewed approximately 9999 years ago.

(Z-Man games, if you’re listening, could you reprint Chinatown and Mundus Novus next? Thanks! Love u.)

Paul: Every day, before the sun is up, I board the Shut Up & Sit Down canoe and paddle out to Kickstarter Island, running my fingers over the branches of the low-lying bushes to see what fruit they offer. Today, that fruit includes GAMEBOOK – The Interactive Book of Board Games. Flip those firm pages to give yourself eight classic abstract games, from Pachisi to Nine Men’s Morris, a game about nine men who drive Morris Minor cars around a board until they die from dehydration. Probably? I don’t know. I’ve never played it, but this is a lovely way to present a collection of board games and so much classier than the tacky “10 Games in 1”-type board game collections I had to endure as a suffering British child.

Quinns: That’s such a cool idea. But for me, there’s only one book I’ll be Kickstarting this week:

The Board Game Book: 2019 is “a beautiful book exploring the year in tabletop gaming.” Not only does it have professional writers examining the year’s best releases, it has the nicest accompanying photography I’ve seen in a board game book.

Paul: This is so big and shiny! It’s really satisfying to see photography that shows off how cute, colourful and charismatic board games can be.

Quinns: SO satisfying. Turns out, from a certain light, this weird hobby of ours looks… professional and appealing? Who knew?!

But what I’m the most interested in are the interviews with literally dozens of board game designers. I’ll have to get this book just to have the behind-the-scenes gossip about all these awesome games.

Paul: You know what’s good? Art. Art is really popular these days. So too is design (design is anything that has lines). It was really interesting for me to read this account of the art and design process behind the High Society re-release, where Medusa Dollmaker talks through her inspirations and process.

I love seeing how people make things, from filmmakers to musicians to artists, and seeing these work-in-progress illustrations alongside a description of her method is really insightful. If you’re a board game designer, artist or illustrator out there, and if you have the time to spare to share some insights into how you worked and why you made the choices that you did, please do! It’s inspiring and interesting to see how something is created. Don’t believe it when people say they don’t want to know how the sausage is made. I WANT TO BE TAKEN RIGHT INSIDE OF THE SAUSAGE.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Podcast #79: Law, Order and the Order of Logging

Excuse me, are you ready to report for jury duty?

In this episode of our award-winning podcast, Matt, Quinns and Paul discuss the hellish lumber management of Lignum, the lumbering hell-management of Huns, they have a troubling conversation about Holding on: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr and have a good laugh about Band Manager: The Boardgame.

After that? This show throws open the doors of the SU&SD law courts.

Matt claims that Quinns threw away his copy of Pandemic Legacy Season 2, and is requesting that he pays £65 in damages. Quinns would prefer not to pay the fee and has invited a real-life lawyer, his friend Clark Burscough, onto the podcast. Will he be proven guilty, innocent, or somewhere in between?

This podcast is also available as a video.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Games News! 04/06/18

Paul: Hunting for games news is a little like going on safari a hundred years ago. You spend days lost in the wilderness, stalking your prey silently through the underbrush, before finally bagging the prize you have worked so hard to claim. Then you transport it back overseas, have it stuffed by a professional and mount it where you can show it off to everyone.

This week, I’ve started by bagging a particularly curious catch. Let’s look at the enormous and extraordinary City of Chaos!

Originally released in 1996 (a time when the Spice Girls wanted to know what you really, really wanted and the N64 had kids twisting their fingers backwards to play James Bond), City of Chaos had a tiny print run of just a thousand copies. It was a huge and detailed mixture of fantasy roleplaying and complex procedural generation that could have you immersed in games that lasted all day. Looking at it now, it’s easy to see how it may, directly or indirectly, have hugely influenced such titans as Gloomhaven and Kingdom Death. Was it launched before it’s time? WELL NOW IT’S COMING BACK.

Publisher Ares Games have just announced a new edition, planned for 2019, where they’ll reprint rules that allow players to use their breath as a powerful weapon, the Tome of Chaos and its “hundreds of unique paragraphs and interactions,” plus all the many tiles that might make up the titular city of Byronitar, with all its unique and randomly-created locations and layouts. There’s no word yet of this being a Kickstarter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they want to birth this beast by crowdfunding.

Over at BoardGameGeek, Eric Martin has been taking a look at the amazingly-titled Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg, a game all about being a very, very bad alchemist. As we all know, bad alchemists mix potions by haphazardly throwing elements in at random, drawing them from an ever-growing bag of ingredients that they’re adding to each turn.

The challenge is both to collect the best ingredients you can, but also to not push your luck too much during this blind-draw brewing process, lest you draw the wrong combination for your concoction and cause the whole thing to overflow (which seems more of a setback than if you actually make something dangerous). Die Quacksalber von Quedlinburg is up for the Kennerspiel des Jahres and is designed by  Wolfgang Warsch, the same person who gave us The Mind, so I can’t help but be interested.

I’d once again like to give a respectful, appreciative nod toward BoardGameGeek’s latest Latin American games roundup. It includes the winner of Argentina’s King Alfonso Awards, Corona de Hierro, a game of political influence in medieval Italy, and  Dwar7s Fall, a Brazilian game of tile and worker placement that recently won the family category of that country’s Prêmio Ludopedia. Board gaming has really taken off in South America and with it has come that same ravenous appetite for political intrigue, economic management, fantasy battles and even calf-pumping cycling.

Over on Kickstarter, designer Patrick Leder is showing off Vast: The Mysterious Manor, his follow-up to the successful Crystal Caverns. Just like in that game, players take on roles that each have a unique objective, including an enchanter, a paladin, a team of skeletons, a spider and even the house itself, should they want to express themselves through a bit of window-rattling or floorboard-creaking.

The Mysterious Manor is compatible with Crystal Caverns, with scenarios that claim to let them click together as comfortably as collegiate crabs, meaning Leder might be assembling some sort of gigantic, board gaming beast should he have any further ambitions for the series.

Also getting a re-release soon is Fiasco, one of our favourite RPG experiences, with sneak previews peekable at Origins Game Fair next week. The game of clumsy heists and less-than-competent crime capers will be slightly altered, but a representative from publisher Bully Pulpit Games has said that they won’t be reinventing the wheel and instead only plan to add some “really good ideas for the game in a different format.”

RPG Review: Fiasco

RPG Review: Fiasco

Finally, we have a tiny bit of news of our own to announce. Shut Up & Sit Down’s YouTube channel passed 100,000 subscribers this weekend, while we were out having a great time at the UK Games Expo, and so we’d like to thank you all for the tremendous support you’ve shown us over the years. 100,000 is a number that’s difficult to properly parse, especially as our YouTube channel still feels very new. We were on Vimeo for years and then hosted on other people’s channels first.

I can’t imagine what 100,000 people look like, but after meeting so many SU&SD viewers this weekend, we got constant and wonderful reminders of what a friendly, kind and welcoming community you are. The numbers matter far less than the fact that you are all so terrific and contribute so much positivity to the hobby. Thank you for choosing to watch Quinns fall in a canal, Matt try Future Chess and me play guitar on a balcony. It makes all the difference to have such a great audience and to work with such great colleagues.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Review: War of the Ring

If you were looking for one game to rule them all,War of the Ring might be it. This magical game has more than 200 plastic miniatures, 40 pages of rules and a depth that most board games could only dream of.

But what will Matt and Quinns make of it? For one thing, this wouldn’t be the first time that Lord of the Rings was accused of being too long.

Click play, and let their opinions seep into your very bones.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Podcast #78: Paul’s Good Lamp Years

Rain falling on cracked windowpanes. Once-boisterous assembly rooms, now silent. Mr. Paul stalks the halls of his once-proud lamp factory, his mind a warren of regret. How did my business venture go so wrong?

Excitingly, this week on the Shut Up & Sit Down podcast Paul and Quinns discuss their experience of running 19th century factories in the ENORMOUS game of Arkwright.  Also, there’s chat about why Quinns didn’t get along with the beautiful new edition of card game High Society, the pair once again discuss the superb NMBR 9, and Quinns talks about being a brave weather fairy in the game of Broom Service.

Finally, the pair take their shoes off and paddle around the mailbag to answer not one, not two, but three little questions! Don’t come in, the water’s cold and full of jigsaw puzzles and binding agreements.

New podcast feeds (if you’re missing episodes 71 onwards, try these):

iTunes
Google Play
RSS for your favourite player

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Games News! 28/05/18

Paul: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this special Bank Holiday edition of Games News! For those of you who aren’t from the UK and not familiar with the concept, bank holidays are special days when banks are allowed to close, lift themselves up out of the ground and stride down to the beach, shedding bricks and mortar as they go. Each year, thousands are squashed by buildings stomping their way toward the sea. You might call it madness, but I call ittradition.

Anyway, board games, eh? They holiday for no-one. Let’s talk about the sudden explosion of board games from video games publisher Paradox Interactive!

Paradox have a long and storied history of making complex strategy games and, while their portfolio has expanded over the years, they’ve always kept epic games of war, politics and empire management close to their hearts. After taking more than a sprinkle of influence from the tabletop world (their Europa Universalis series is based on the board game of the same name), they’ve decided they can do it just as well as anyone else and have teamed up with Tales from the Loop publisher Free League to launch a Kickstarter for the Crusader Kings board game, with the game of medieval strategy and scurrilousness already galloping past its modest goal.

But! That’s not all, as they have plans to publish a new Europa Universalis, a game based on their World War II series Hearts of Iron and something to do with their hit city-builder Cities: Skylines (a bit like the last Sim City, except without the mad bugs). It’s an interesting direction to take and one I was pretty sure they’d try sooner or later (in the last few years, Paradox have dipped their toes into book publishing and also bought White Wolf and their World of Darkness license). That said, in my old life as a games journalist, I was pretty good at making predictions and spotting hits before they landed. Someone should pay me for that stuff.

So shall we cling onto video games, like Hans Gruber on to John McClane’s watch, for just a moment longer? Shut Up & Sit Down megahunks Quintin “Hot Sauce” Smith and Matthew “Juicy” Lees will be visiting strategy developer Creative Assembly tomorrow to stream some board games and show those folks how war is really done. They’ll be playing 878 Vikings at 6PM BST, getting some good streaming practice in before… Oh, I can’t let too much slip yet. Let me just examine my nails in silence.

Hey, board games! How about ‘em? You should absolutely check out BoardGameGeek’s news blog this week, as they’re once again revisiting the Tokyo Game Market, which this year features everything from the village-drawing game Alpenzian to something called Marching of Crabs. While a lot of card games and small box games seem to dominate, there’s a few larger and heavier titles in there too.

Japan’s tabletop scene is remarkable and we always have to stare at it longingly from afar, with only a rare handful of titles getting distribution in the West. Perhaps we can look forward to a future where this happens more often, and where more of us can enjoy games like Babel, a hidden-role building game where everyone is trying to construct a tower, but saboteur players keep providing less-than-helpful pieces for the next level. Oh, and there’s a game mode where you all have to babble in your own languages.

It would be physically, mentally, cosmiscally and ethically impossible for us not to mention that Next Move are advertising a monster version of Azul on their blog right now. Look at what they’re doing, with their cute expansions, flashier components and GIGANTIC REINVENTION. ”Azul’s components have been enlarged by 200% providing players a unique play experience,” they say, and this “unique experience” includes the game having to BE A BRIEFCASE, an object I haven’t seen since the 1980s. In my experience, the only things that come in briefcases are microfilm and sniper rifles.

And yes, that’s for sure a briefcase, not a suitcase, don’t try and tell me that’s something you can fit all your possessions in before you go on holiday. Unless all your possessions are Azul. And your holiday is Azul. Ugh, is this such a good idea? Those pieces are so big. Imagine the thud of each one hitting the table, or how your arm snaps off when you try to lift the bag.

WHAT ELSE? Aha! Kickstarter is kind to us this week, offering up the interesting double release Dream Askew // Dream Apart, two accessible roleplaying games about “belonging outside belonging,” or telling the story of marginalised people and outsiders. Designer Avery Alder is already celebrated for her work on the influential Monsterhearts and The Quiet Year and these games, twins of a sort, once again shake up roleplaying conventions. One set in the far future, the other in fantasy-history, and both are diceless, co-operative affairs that are very broad in scope.

And I guess we just have to mention how strange it is that Warhammer Adventures has been announced. This very kid-friendly, cartoonish collection of stories from the Warhammer 40,000 universe is designed to appeal to “boys and girls aged 8-12 years old,” with “younger protagonists having thrilling adventures and facing off against dangerous enemies.” The idea is to get more younger people interested in Warhammer and, I suppose, make it more accessible, but… wait… did you need Warhammer to be any friendlier or more accessible when you were eight? No-one I know did.

First, I like seeing anyone featured in Warhammer (40,000 in particular) who isn’t a white man, so that’s a pleasant change, but also, well, that’s almost what Warhammer is all about anyway: space fascism. It’s a future of eugenics, militarism and religious intolerance. It has murderous white guys with huge guns waving banners with eagles on them. Is a more accessible, cartoonish route into Warhammer either necessary or even appropriate?

Okay, so, there’s a far more rounded and coherent discussion of this than I can provide courtesy of this Twitter thread from game developer Ben Scerri, while this Twitter parody is a good reminder that bridging Warhammer’s tone is, uh, at the very least a difficult and tonally bizarre thing to do. I have to admit to just being left a bit baffled and with just one question: Does everyone know that Warhammer is satire?

I ask because I didn’t. It never really occurred to me. I was about twenty-three when someone else pointed that out to me and, believe me, I was Warhammering since the age of about… nine? I can’t say I ever idolised its vision of the far future or wanted to live there, but I also did not think about it that way at all for almost fifteen years. Did you?

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Our convention schedule for 2018: Come see us!

Photo courtesy of photographer Ben Broomfield.

Quinns: Hi everybody! You know what’s better than watching Shut Up & Sit Down on a screen? Watching us live, or actually meeting us. Did that handshake linger a little longer than it should have? Were we… flirting with you? Was it just a dream… ?

In chronological order, here are all the conventions you can see us at in 2018.

Coming up just next week is the UK Games Expo, where we’re doing a live podcast on Friday, another podcast on Saturday, Paul’s doing an on-stage interview with designer Martin Wallace, and we’ll also be appearing as guests on the Sunday show of Knightmare Live, though for that you’ll have to buy tickets in advance. Also, we’re hoping to do a meet-and-greet and hopefully have merchandise for sale at our booth. Keep your eyes on our Twitter for the when and the where!

In August, we’ll be returning to Gen Con in Indianapolis. On Thursday at 10am we’ll be kicking the convention off with a live show in their grand 1200 person ballroom. It’s a big responsibility, and we’re planning on making it our best live show ever. We’ll also be the hosts of the What’s New at Asmodee Digital event, so come along to that if you want to watch us try, and fail, to be professional.

In October we will of COURSE be doing more than a dozen shows at SHUX ’18, our very own Shut Up & Sit Down convention. If you’re still on the fence about attending, don’t worry! We’ll be doing an update in the coming months about all the guests, publishers and events we’ve confirmed so far. Or you could just buy a ticket right now, because that update is gonna be awesome.

Finally, at the end of November you might be able to catch us at PAX Unplugged, depending on whether the organisers decide to again invite us as special guests. We’re hoping that they will, since we had a great time last year, but we’ll let you know on Twitter as soon as we’re invited.

Thanks, everybody!

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

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Review: The Mind

Paul: The Mind is one of the very best games that I have played this year. In the last twelve months. In the last twenty-four. Brace yourself, plant your feet, tense your muscles and tug that timeline back as far as you want and I think The Mind is still one of the very best games I have played between now and whenever. I have written so much about it and yet I still can’t communicate its gentle brilliance.

It’s also barely a game, not so much a skeleton of rules as a single bony finger, the sort that would be tentatively and timidly excavated, brush by brush, by archaeologists baffled by both its simplicity and its profundity. How, they might ask, could something so simple be so magnificent?

BUT FIRST, while your eyes were on that paragraph and your thoughts were lost in abstractions, I slipped a tether around your waist. HOLD ON, because I’m going to bungee us back to the distant date of May 2nd, 2018, to land right on top of my Decrypto review. Once again, I’m trying to explain how a game so simple is so terrific. Do I succeed? Not everybody thinks so. There’s a belief that seeing the game played would make it easier to understand. I wonder if this might be the case with The Mind, also a game of guessing, but also of one of entirely unspoken communication, a game of only expressions and exultations, of fidgets and feints. Maybe not, because so much of this game is played inside your head.

It presents two problems. The first is THE PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL. The second is THE PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL. Imagine me stood in front of you, a blackboard behind me, onto which I have chalked the words PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL and PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL. I am furiously tapping at them with my wooden pointer and I am also eyeing a boy that everyone knows is chewing gum right now. I push up my glasses. That boy has no idea what he’s in for. (And yes, you are still wearing the bungee cord. We’ll use that again.)

IT GOES LIKE THIS: Up to four players (and four is the magic number) are dealt one card per number of the round that it is, so one card in the first and two in the second and so forth. The cards are from a deck numbered from 1 to 100 and which has been shuffled into so much disorder. The players are not allowed to talk to each other and not allowed to show the numbers on the cards they hold, though they are free to stare at them, or at anything else, with as many of their eyes as they’d like. Someone has to go first.

The only thing the players need to do is lay all these cards down in numerical order, from lowest to highest. This would be easy but for one plain and simple fact: It… isn’t easy.

My pointer swishes across chalky text EASY to ISN’T EASY and raps angrily. A popping noise comes from the boy’s sagging mouth. A fly buzzes in the window. Are you paying attention? I push up my glasses again. Here is THE PROBLEM OF THE INTERNAL.

Without knowing what cards anyone else is holding, it’s impossible to know if you’re holding the lowest and should make the first move. Impossible, that is, unless you’re holding the number 1. Of course, if you’re holding the number 2, and particularly if it’s the first round and everyone is only holding a single card, you should probably go first. That’s only logical. Right?

Now, dear readers, I want you to extrapolate. Extrapolate far into the future, like a wiggly-headed Star Trek character with a name like Commander J’Pec. It’s round three, you’re holding a 6, a 17 and a 75. Is the 6 the lowest card anyone has been dealt, the card you should lay first? I’m going to introduce you all to a new word now, a word which bounces around your head like a squash ball in a salad spinner every time you play The Mind. That word is… Probablyyyyyy?

After all, you should probablyyyyyy lay your 17 after your 6, since the odds are that you probablyyyyyy have the two lowest cards that have been dealt, right? Yes? What would Commander J’Pec do? Probablyyyyyy the same thing. Anyway, it’s your decision. It’s not like you can talk about it.

Now here’s THE PROBLEM OF THE EXTERNAL, the conundrum presented by the existence of other people. All of those other people playing with you, right there, right then, are doing their own probablyyyyyy at the same time, staring at cards you know nothing about and, like the free-thinking actors they are, they’re all behaving independently! Oh no! Someone just laid a 2! But that’s okay! A 2 comes before a 6. They were right to rush in.

Extrapolate, Commander J’Pec. It’s round seven and we’re so much further in the future. You’re married now, with two kids and a mortgage that hangs over your head like a sagging shelf. But never mind that, you’re also holding the 34, 55, 61, 63, 88, 95 and 99. There are three others players holding a total of 21 other cards. Holding that 34, you can’t possibly have the lowest. You can’t play first. No. That would be madness. Surely someone’s going to drop a card. Any moment now. Any moment. What would the odds be that NOBODY ELSE is holding anything lower than 34? They’re… infinitesimal? Probablyyyyyy?

Bungee again with me back to the basics. Remember how I said The Mind insists that players do not talk? You have probably gathered by now that they also don’t play in any particular order. There is nothing to stop the person opposite you trying to go four times in a row, something that is probably a VERY FINE IDEA if they’re holding four sequential cards, but something universally regarded as NOT SO COOL if they’re laying down the 55, the 56, the 59 and the 61 while you’re fumbling the 58 and trying to force that thing into the playing order as if it were a pin back into a grenade.

How do you work out how to play The Mind effectively? That’s on you. That’s down to whatever non-verbal tics and twitches you can all express to one another, each one a hint that you think perhaps you should be going next, hints sometimes ignored by those rushing to lay because they’re so sure they have to go next, that they’ve got to act before someone else will beat them to it and wreck the order. A 28 should definitely be played after a 25, right? Probablyyyyyy…

Something happens to you all. You have all been transported to a strange space somewhere between hedonism and hesitation, a place where words have no meaning but where the tiniest of gestures suddenly start to communicate profound things. Someone lays a 30 and someone else leans back, their way of suggesting all of their cards are much, much higher and they won’t be laying any time soon. Probablyyyyyy. Suddenly, two players somehow mesh together perfectly, like titanium cogs, laying an almost sequential series of six cards. Or maybe you all silently orchestrate the card equivalent of a four-way tennis rally, card after card dropped with just the right amount of urgency and timing and on-the-fly probability calculations. It’s marvellous. It’s magical. It’s almost a mystery how you even did it.

Of course, you don’t get it right all the time. If someone lays a card with a higher value than one or more cards still held, those cards are dropped and a life is lost. Lose all your lives and the game is over. However, after completing some rounds, you’re awarded more lives and occasionally also shuriken. Shuriken, named for reasons that aren’t at all clear, are the cards that can save your neck.

Shuriken are played by mutual consent. If a player raises one hand, it means they want to use one and, if everyone else raises a hand in agreement, they all stop play and then each discard their lowest card. This is both a pause from the constant pain of everyone internally probablyyyyyy-ing to themselves and also a vital source of information. A shuriken lets you know just a little more about where everyone might need to be in the playing order and also shows you outliers. That person dropped a 90 while the rest of you were still in the 20s and they still have five more cards in their hand, so you know that they’re going to drop and end-game flurry and you’ll have to time your 95 with the accuracy of an atomic clock.

All right then, you can take off the bungee. I know you may have questions, the first of which might be “How is this a game?” I can only answer that it barely is, but it is exactly as much game as it needs to be and no more. It is the very simplest of exercises, governed by the thinnest of rules, and it’s smart and savvy and sublime. It creates a weird kind of telepathy that I’ve seen brew impossible chemistry between strangers and cause the closest of friends to be confused by one another’s actions. Or inaction.

One moment, it grants you strange new insights into people: Do they lay cards with timidity, or slap them down with all the confidence and panache of a luchador? Do they wait to watch their fellow players or do they throw caution to the wind? The next moment, it reduces you to animalistic utterances that transform you into a team of cavepeople as you “Ah!” and “Ooooh,” and “Urrrggh,” your way through another round, grunting and staring each other down as you reach for cards like cowboys for guns. It creates moments of soundless synchronicity unrivalled in gaming that make you feel like a ninja. Perhaps that explains the naming of the shuriken.

Does Shut Up & Sit Down recommend The Mind? I flip the blackboard. I lean forward. I push up my glasses and I point to a conclusion that causes the boy’s jaw to drop, his gum to slide out and his arse to fall off the chair: Honestly, I think everybody should play this. I think it’s both so simple and so smart that it will not so much smash language barriers as slide under them, unnoticed. I think it will take a lifetime to master. I think it’s a gateway game for newcomers to the hobby and something even the most crinkled of cynics will enjoy.

Somehow, there are few things in life more satisfying than laying down cards in the right order, something that gets the blood pumping through your veins in a way nothing else quite can, something that gives you the feeling of being a true hero, a feeling that you know few others will ever really experience in their lives. The Mind is one of the purest, simplest and best games I have ever played.

Two postcripts! One: At higher, harder levels, The Mind makes you lay cards FACE DOWN, meaning that you can’t see what anyone has laid until the end of the round, after which you hope you all did it in order. It sounds like it should be impossible and yet it isn’t… quite. Not least because the human brain has considerable capacity to probablyyyyyy its way through problems.

Two: We began every game of The Mind with a gesture. Nothing could start until we’d all placed one hand, palm down, on the table. That was our cue for silence and our cue to begin. Like everything about The Mind, it sounds simple and even insignificant. Also like everything about The Mind, its simplicity makes it wonderful.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Games News! 21/05/18

Images from MojoNation.com

Paul: This year’s Spiel Des Jahres nominees are coming at us like hail in a windstorm. That’s to say SIDEWAYS and KIND OF PAINFULLY. Like HARD RAISINS. A HARD RAISINS’ A-GONNA FALL.

Quinns: Well said, Paul! I can hardly tell you just had a big coffee.

If you’re not aware, once a year this prestigious German prize is awarded by a jury of critics for “excellence in game design”. Because the winner of the Spiel des Jahres can sell up to half a million copies, it’s basically the only prize in board gaming that matters. You can see the past winners here.

It’s now also tradition that every year Shut Up & Sit Down looks at the nominees and contort our faces into the kind of expression you might wear when checking if you’ve broken a toe.

Paul: It’s not because we’re bad people (I mean, we are, but the connection isn’t causal and don’t you dare use that post hoc reasoning on me), it’s because the nominees are so often kind of… mild?

The stuff we get excited about and the stuff the judges get excited about usually intersect about as much as the orbits of Mars and Mercury, with Spiel nominees often been very broad in appeal, which isn’t bad at all, but can mean some of them lack a certain spark.

THAT SAID, this year one of my favourite games of 2017 is up, Azul, and we’ve been having an absolutely fantastic time playing the devilishly simple The Mind recently. How can a game so simple be so good? Pure genius, that’s how. And that does deserve recognition.

Quinns: Yeah, it’s a good crop of nominees for the main prize this year! Although all three of the heavier Kennnerspiel (or “Connoisseur prize”) nominees are German games of middling acclaim. Of those we’ve played Ganz Schön Clever, a sweet little roll-and-write game, and it was good! It was nice. It was fun. But I think the board game scene might do well to admit that the Spiel jury are biased towards games of German origin, as well as that the nomination process is eccentric to the point of being inscrutable.

Paul: Ganz Schön Clever was a neat dice-rolling game! It also came out the same year as Fugitive, if they want to celebrate smaller games (though, yes, I know that’s not made in Germany), or Bärenpark. OR SO MANY OTHER MIGHTY AND WONDERFUL THINGS LIKE TWILIGHT IMPERIUM 4 and GLOOMHAVEN and AAAAA.

Quinns: Mm. It’s not exactly the Cannes Film Festival of board games, much as we all wish it was.

Paul: AAAAA. More like the… can’t film a good documentary about this because… it is far too mild?

Quinns: I’m reminded of the Goodness Gracious Me sketch where a bunch of Indians go to an English restaurant and bravely ask for “The blandest thing on the menu.

Chair of the awards Tom Felber published this article on why the games were chosen, which is enlightening and maddening in equal measure. Many games were eliminated for having a shoddy manual, which sounds like a smart way to go about things. But he also mentions that the profoundly average Memoarrr! was chosen because players will need a good memory, distinguishing it among the nominees.

Paul: AAAAA.

Quinns: LET’S MOVE ON.

Paul: In other news, a reprint of the condensed, two-player version of Uwe Rosenberg’s Agricola known as All Creatures Great and Small is about to be birthed out of the braying stables at Lookout Games. A “Big Box” edition is coming that contains both expansions and… you’re actually really keen to try it?

Quinns: It might be the tightest, most distilled incarnation of Agricola! And it should be at the UK Games Expo! And you know what else is at the UK Games Expo? Us!

Basically, you know that thing in Uwe Rosenberg games where you put two of the same animal in a pen and then a turn later you add a third animal, and then the next turn you have another animal? I think that’s magic.

Paul: Do you mean you really like the mechanic, or-

Quinns: I mean it’s like a magic trick. Where do the extra animals come from? Nobody knows. Not even Uwe.

Paul: Not even the animals.

Well, speaking of two-player experiences, the prolific Reiner Knizia is building upon what is considered one of the best 2 player titles out there, his well-loved Lost Cities. Enter Lost Cities: Rivals, which will transform that sacred duet into one that involves up to TWO MORE players. Unlike the passive aggressive Lost Cities of old, this is all about the selfish rush for fame, with everyone trying to become the best archaeologist and doubling down by putting wagers on their expeditions.

I’m not quite sure how excited I am about this. Is it an unnecessary sequel to a popular classic? I can’t say I’m inspired as I read through the manual but, then again, some of Knizia’s is found in his apparently innocuous designs.

Quinns: I’m going to cruelly bundle these next two game announcements together. Portuguese designer Vital Lacerda, creator of such heavyweight table-busters as Vinhos, The Gallerist and Lisboa has announced On Mars, a game where up to four players will operate humanity’s first Martian settlements.

Meanwhile, Vladimír Suchý, Czech designer of such curious pieces as Last Will, The Prodigal’s Club and Pulsar 2849 has announced Underwater Cities, a game where up to four players will operate humanity’s first underwater cities.

Paul: Are you excited for either one?

Quinns: Hmm. I guess between The Martian, First Martians, Terraforming Mars and seeing Mars in The Expanse I could use a break from Mars.

Paul: But a Mars a Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play.

Quinns: Oh wow. With hindsight, what an ominous advertising campaign that was.

Paul: You could optionally just have a third of a Mars and it’d just help you Rest. I think all the Mars Bars I’ve ever eaten were all made up of just those thirds.

Quinns: While you were wittering just now I decided that I am kind of curious about Underwater Cities, but that’s a dull name. Also, the main board look quite bland. Are we ever going to get a Vladimír Suchý game that looks nice? Maybe the finished production of Underwater Cities will look nice.

Paul: I like the idea of building a city underwater if exciting things might happen. Like crab attacks or invasions by bears in diving helmets with big harpoons.

Quinns: Here’s a story we always meant to get around to and for which we had a terrific tip-off last year from reader Steve Dee. Yarn Quest is a… wait for it.

Paul: I’m waiting.

Quinns: Wait for it.

Paul: I can see what it is because we are editing the Games News file and I don’t have to wait.

Quinns: A KNITTING ROLEPLAYING GAME. Created by Tania Richter, Yarn Quest isn’t even the first example of this! A knitting GM sends out charts to players, which instruct them to knit based upon the stats of the characters they’re playing,

Paul: Right after JRPG comes KRPG. As the knitting continues, players end up with scarves that are almost like Bayeux tapestries, a visual record of their adventures. It’s both a journey and a prize, all at once. Above you can see one of the scarves from the 2017 quest.

Those yarn specifications read like weapon statistics. Needle Size. Yardage. Effective Stopping Power. This kicked off at the start of the year. I wonder how it went?

Just before we get into the Shut Up & Sit Down carriage, to ride off together to our very own Royal Wedding, from which we will gesture ambivalently towards the tumescent crowds of obsequious revellers who fawn endlessly over our lackadaisical procession, we should link you to what I guess must be The Official Shut Up & Sit Down Soundboard. YES, THAT’S RIGHT. Good work, hamiltonianurst.

Quinns: Paul this is some swears.

Paul: It’s not all swears. The ones that people click on the most get pushed to the top. So the swears get pushed to the top. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

Quinns: Like capitalism.

Paul: Our viewers just have very rude taste.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down