Why this will be my last International Tabletopday involvement.

Scenes from Battlequest Games on tabletop day

I love playing boardgames. I enjoy the social and the intellectual engagement which the hobby creates. I love that in the last few years the hobby has been moving from a niche to mass market identity and with it the acceptance that playing games is not a childish pursuit and that it no longer ensures  Risk or Monopoly are your only means of tabletop enjoyment.

When the first International Tabletopday was announced back in 2013 I dived right in. I encouraged my own friendly local boardgame shop , Battlequest Games, to allow me to take on the organisation and promotion of the event. I organised flyers, I organised a local game design company ( Black Box Games creators of Lords of War ) to attend,  I organised custom dice for people who played on the day, I organised updates on the main Tabletopday website and on Boardgame geek. We ran a Youtube live stream and we tweeted and google+’d and facebooked and through it all I felt that the whole experience was still a very LA centric event. It was focussed on how cool everyone at Geek&Sundry were and how many cool things they had access to. Our event was successful, it was busy and it was generally  well received.

Skip to the following year and I went through the same motions and the same effort and the lovely chaps of Maverick Muse creators of  Oddball Astronauts came along. Again the event was packed and the day was busy and the social media was overly posted and I still felt we were out here in the UK doing this and despite the International feel the day as broadcast online was a very LA centric event.

Cut to this year and I did not bother adding our event to the TabletopDay day site, I skipped promoting International Tabletop day on Boardgame geek. Instead we  focussed on the local and with the return help of Lords of War we ran another packed day of games and boardgaming. I watched as the live streams poured out of LA and you would be hard pressed to know this was an international event especially as most Australia, New Zealand and Asia were already exiting the day just as America were waking up to it.

It is a lovely idea but it has never felt like an  international event and next year I will do something different; There will be no stopping the LA juggernaut of press releases and LA focus but for this part of the world we know that we love boardgames, we know that we are a vibrant community who are passionate about tabletop gaming, and in taking a leaf out of the book of Tom Vassal we probably do not need a special day to enjoy it. In the last three years myself and other participants have not felt part of an international event we felt part of a local county wide community and I think that is something I want to encourage in 2016.

Meanwhile I want to again thank the great chaps from Lords of War whose current Kickstarter : Lords of War Fantasy Battles  Elves versus Lizardmen like the ones before is seeing great interest and feedback. If you have a chance to put Lords Of War into your tabletop collection then you should.

Thanks for reading

Custom Dice to Tabletop Day

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I have been running from Zombies.

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This time last year ( 2013 ) I had bought some running gear, new shoes, suitable trousers and top, something to ensure I could be seen on dark mornings and darker evenings. I had signed up to the #LETJOG14 project with the aim to run  Lands End to John O’Groats over the course of one year. We would track our mileage and check in weekly and we would discuss our progress. As always though there was a catch. I was not a runner.  Despite a  regular fitness regime thanks to my XBox Kinect and my cycling habit I was not out of shape; but I certainly lacked the stamina and cardio experience for running any distance. So it was on January 1st 2014 I stepped out on a cold morning with the voice of Abel Townships main radio operator Sam Yau in my ears and I started to run from Zombies. I started out with the ‘Six to Start’ Zombies!Run, 5K Training program which took me from no experience through increasingly distant and harder routines until I was left to run a 5k Distance as quick as I could. Back then it was closer to 50 minutes to cover the 5k distance but since then and thanks to Zombies!Run I have been keeping a steady pace and improved my times and my distances taking the 3 Mile ( 5K ) distance down to 27 minutes and finding myself heading out on regular 10k and 12k runs and loving it. Summer rolled into Autumn and Parkrun came to Horsham with a weekly Saturday Morning 5k opportunity which has brought a sense of satisfaction to running in a crowd and finding my stride.

Dunsfold 10k Runner 34Before long I had signed up to a proper 10k race over at Dunsfold aerodrome and I came home with my first experience of running with a number on my back , not just in my ears. As 2015 rolls around I have to confess that I am looking forward to improving my 5k times and to finding myself involved with at least one , if not two , half Marathons and who knows where that will lead.

One thing is certain though. As I write this entry I find myself twitching to hear the words; Raise the Gates, Covering Fire, RUN!

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A Revolution in Beer at WJ Kings

Rogue Trooper

All the best surprises arise in the South so when an opening conversation includes references to Rogue Trooper and a question as to whether the film will ever be made; you begin to realise that the speakers passions run deep.  This might explain the invigorating sense of renewal and commitment to tradition that radiates from Head Brewer Ian Burgess as he explains the new management relationship at one of  Horsham’s most renowned brew houses .

Niki and Justin Deighton , the new owners at WJ King are bringing their experience of the Indie Music Label industry into craft beer creation with the sense of the maverick , the rebel and the willingness to challenge convention whilst maintaining the integrity of the brand.

We are talking about a Revolution we are talking about Ian Burgess bringing 200 year old yeast culture and decades of experience alongside his  knowledge in the creation of Beer  to catalyze new product lines. Whilst Niki and Justin apply their expertise in brands and communication to change the expectation of the well known beer.

It took a tweet , and a question and an invite. A tour of the brewery and an introduction to many of the existing ales and a taste of some to come. A gathering of a few Bloggers in the best tradition of web2.0 public relations expecting us to tweet and twitpic and facebook and, yes here it is, blog.  I could not help but draw some comparisons to the efforts of BrewDog and their own marketing communications which had been expertly driven by Girlterate.  Finally to experience some of Sussex finest Cheeses ( by way of Say Cheese of Sussex ) in concert with a selection of ales each selected to represent the best in flavour and to draw our conclusions from the experience. To agree that  things are changing and they look to be changing for the best.

The Kings Evolution ; follows the Kings Heritage much of what we have come to love from WJ King ales remains. A few names may change but the evolution of what you should expect from this Brew House is something to follow. I would recommend you add to your feed reader or bookmarks and you keep coming back.

Niki, Justin, Ian and the team have the right ingredients and given time to ferment their ideas and allow the flocculation of social media to alter the tastes and age the results I think we could be onto a marvellous thing indeed.

My Advice is you follow their twitter feed : @KingBeer  and you keep an eye on their KingBeer website and enjoy a few moments from the Tour.

Thanks for reading

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OUYA , Lots of promise but little delivery

OUYA Unboxed

OUYA Conservatory setup

 There is plenty online available about the OUYA , its history as a Kickstarter project and its path from obscurity to the limelight of retail; this is not a blog post about those experience. This is a blog post about owning an OUYA for a few weeks and where I want the OUYA to go from here.

From day one the packaging and delivery of the OUYA are reminiscent of your first Apple unboxing; it wants to impress you with its message and its size. The tiny little OUYA is no more than a Jam Jar. a provided HDMI lead take its video output direct to the accompanying Acer monitor and the sound is provided by pairing the OUYA over bluetooth to my other favourite tiny sounds system a Technicka Barcelona Bluetooth Speaker.  This has to be the smallest console I have connected to a screen. Its tiny proportions hide a robust Android operating system and from there the only downside of the experience was the controller which felt a little underwhelming and distant.

Setup wise you will require a credit card ( or prepaid card ) to enable in game purchases and validate your account but they didn’t take any  money from me in the setup. Indeed every game on here is free to play with the caveat that levels, features , time limits or other restrictions are enforced until such time as you choose to find that purchase button and buy it.  All purchases are in game not on the dashboard and the only downside in this is that no one developer can seem to settle on how to make it obvious to unlock and pay for the products. One final gripe then about payments; I cant lock them or set them to require adult intervention within the game. This means I don’t let my kids play the OUYA unsupervised unless I want to set it up with prepaid credit.

Its been several weeks into the game play time of the OUYA in the house of Butler and am I happy with it ? Yes, I am. The game library is expanding and the selections which you can review on the website are getting wider. There is much to offer for party , casual , roleplay and strategy gamer alike. It is not going to replace my Xbox , or the inevitable purchase of the Xbox One , but it sits perfectly between the gap of casual game moments and occasional afternoon distraction.  It’s not going back in the box or on the shelf but if I could ask for anything it would be a little better parental controls and an online dashboard from which to manage my account and make game purchases directly.

If you get the chance then go ahead and buy the box and experience what might just be the edge of change for the console market as mobiles meet the big screen and consoles seem a little redundant. I think it will be the OUYA that will bridge that gap and be perfectly placed as the place where my mobile purchases will be played on the big screen.

Thanks for reading.

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There was a Gorilla with a Jetpack.

Cover Art Race To Adventure

That was my first experience to ‘Race To Adventure: The spirit of the century – exploration game‘. It was a cartoon steampunk affair on the cover art for a new Boardgame and it was the fastest way to get my attention. A Gorilla with a Jetpack; need I say more ? Well I feel I probably should if only because I had promised the chaps at Evil Hat Productions for a write up.

You can watch the accompanying YouTube video which explains the game play mechanics far better than any attempt on my part to describe them which leaves me the space to say.

This is a perfect short format ,quick play ,game that utilises a moving ‘first turn’ mechanic  which changes  the choices available to each player as the round plays out. Sometimes the very thing you need to complete an objective will be in the hands of your competitors and other times you will be aiding them in their movements and the race to complete the tasks and return to the Century Club before you. It is a simple enough board game with a fast playing rule set that allows for a certain amount of strategy and guile and frustration. A Varying level of difficulty level is available by using the other side of each tile but I suspect every player will soon have their preferred tactics in approaching the game.  This is the game for after lunch with the family or whilst your waiting for the last few turns in Rex Imperium sitting as it does somewhere between a casual game  and Carcassonne.

Go buy it if only because of the Gorilla in the Jetpack.

Following up this review with a mention that Evil Hat Productions are promoting a ‘Street Teams‘ concept encouraging fans of their works to get out there and promote and share their games and materials. Before there was Social Media this was mechanism often used by Record Companies to get Fans to promote their bands; there is something viscerally pleasant about this idea existing in Boardgames if only because it may introduce me to new systems and games.

So here is a small extract of my contribution to that idea.

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