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UK Games Expo: A Haul of Memories.

As the ‘games haul’ posts insinuate their way on to your various social media feeds, making you wonder if you missed out on the next big thing, and the moaners moan about the size or the temperature or something; I’m bringing you something a bit different.
It’s hard not to get drawn into these threads. Negativity begets negativity and our brains are still hardwired to focus on the negative. But we must resist. Our happiness depends upon it – adjust the focus or use a different lens entirely. There is a place for negative feedback and it is vital for any event to receive it in order to grow and improve. I still carry that teacher mantra though – public praise, private ‘suggestions of areas to improve’! Sure by Sunday morning, I thought I’d been there a week and Eldritch Rach thought it was evening. And yes it was hot. And it was brillliant.
 
Even the most negative of incidents was promptly dealt with and the offender expelled from Expo. I’m not going to go into this here- it has been covered elsewhere and carries too many triggers to open up here. Suffice to say that as an individual the UK Expo response to this makes me feel safer there.
 
Board games without people are just lifeless boxes filled with meaningless chits and worthless tokens. It is the people that breathe life into them, that make them funny or tense or moving. It is the fabulous people of Expo and the time spent uniting with fellow nerds that I want to focus on.
 
The Expo started for me with the Press Show. I chatted to lots of people, finally met Angela and Dan who I’ve chatted to online for years and booked in to play a demo of Arkosa – the new one from the creators of Gobblin Goblins. The thing that I enjoyed most about the press show was the enthusiasm of the games creators – I love chatting to people who have passion and belief. It’s infectious. In particular I remember meeting the folks from Pet Evil which is soon to be on Kickstarter; marvelling at the research that went into Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell the board game of English magic published by Osprey Games; playing a pattern making game with my eyes shut while two complete strangers gave me directions and talking penguin puns with Team Custard Kraken the makers of Penguin Brawl.
 
After that I caught up with Emma from Emmerse Studios and Amelia – Quirk Expert! We drank wine and played ‘Bilder’ a game in which you use the different shaped blocks to build or re-enact the thing on your card while idiots shout things at you which are very obviously wrong. They then draw a card and build something obscure while you make astute and intelligent guesses about the content of their card. That’s how I remember it anyway.

Lots of games by StuffbyBez: Yogi, Kitty Cataclysm and the Wibbell++ system of games.

I spent some time at Expo demoing games for both Bez and Wren Games. One of the heart warming things about teaching games was how easy it was to get strangers playing together. They sat, enjoyed a game, compared experiences, swapped stories and recommendations and then disappeared back into the crowd. These were quick games so often we didn’t hang out for long but I loved sharing some time with people and watching them learn. One of the things I miss about teaching is that interaction when you open something new up to a person and place it in their hands; to witness that sense of wonder, fun and freedom to explore is a miraculous thing.
 

Assembly and Sensor Ghosts by Wren Games

Most of the booths there are demoing games. I could quite happily spend the days playing different games without spending anything above the ticket price. As much as I love teaching, I love learning. Letting someone who is passionate teach you is a joy. I visited Yay games and played Ominoes and then Snaggit. Snaggit is a new one – a fun twist on observational/ grab it games that requires some imagination. I managed to Snag a copy (!) and I know it will be a sure fire hit at events. I also hung out on the Wotan bus for a while, setting the world to rights with Lawrence and watching and learning some games. There were loads of people playing Brexit but I couldn’t bring myself to join in with that. One of the most entertaining games to watch and indeed play is Ramasjang – a chaotic card game where players add to the basic rule set by making each other do accents, noises, physical actions, whatever they think of. I also learnt the much calmer Castle Build. Over on Redwell Games I was taught Six Gun Showdown which was loads of sharp shooting fun too. If I wasn’t working, I would have made more use of the Board Games Library and the open gaming spaces. Plus there are loads of events and seminars to take advantage of.
 
A crack collective of indie game developers, artists, reviewers and generally lovely and supportive types got together at the Gaming Rules podcast to explain our existence. Today, using a sobriquet still frowned on by Janice they survive as board gamers of fortune. If you have a games related problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find us….maybe you can tweet #TeamTrevor. It was great fun to catch up with the Team Trevor folks in real life, especially as it was the Crafting Jones’ birthday so we could have cocktails! Any excuse!
 
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Pictures by Emma May of Emmerse Studios

I also attended the Gaming Rules/ Paul Grogan top tips for teaching games seminar. It was fascinating to hear ideas about different approaches to teaching as well as, through audience participation, people’s experiences of different teaching methods. The drip feed approach that Paul advocates resonated with me and I definitely already use elements of it. It’s sparked my curiosity and desire to find out more. Of course other non-gaming-rules events were also available! I missed Jollyboat and The Dark Room which are both awesome. And the only tannoy message I deciphered all weekend was the announcement of the Happy Salmon tournament which I can only imagine was hilarious.

The absolute best bits of UK Games Expo have revolved around hanging out with people: whether it was finally meeting the lovely Katie Aidley in real life; playing Arkosa and thoroughly enjoying the well crafted flavour text and a good game; putting faces to names and avatars or drinking cocktails in the Sky Bar on Sally’s birthday – it was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to do it all again.

I did add games to the Cards or Die collection – some kindly donated, some purchased. Come along and try them out at one of our events. But that’s not my abiding memory of UKGE – it won’t reduce to a pile of cardboard, that is really just a vehicle. My memories and the reason I’ll be back next year is to connect with lots of slightly crazy, passionate, nerdy, kind, gorgeous individuals through gaming. If you want to get involved in that vibe, join us at a Cards or Die event soon – check out our events page for more details or subscribe using the form below so you don’t miss a thing.
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Sensor Ghosts, Assembly Re-Sequence & Override and how Wren Games are trying to kill me in outer

I don’t want to say anything negative about Janice from Wren Games, I’m the last person to cast aspersions. She seems lovely – kind, warm, smiley. But I get the distinct impression she is trying to kill me.
 
Every time I triumph in Assembly – meticulously locking bays in to place, resolving glitches, fixing malfunctions, outwitting the computer then sailing away to victory in my luxury space ship – she adds new challenges. As if I didn’t have enough to contend with creeping about hoping the computer won’t notice me, first there were glitches and now she has added robots. If you thought Assembly was infinitely replayable before (as I did) it’s even more so now. Which makes it…. I don’t know? What’s bigger than infinite? Really bloody addictive, that’s what.
 
When I reviewed Assembly I had, had only limited success in terms of winning the game but I knew that I loved it. I played Re-Sequence and Override at Airecon and actually won. My elation was soon quashed by seemingly sweet natured Janice who proclaimed ‘It must be too easy – I’ll adjust it’. Any delusions about my own genius have been swiftly disassembled. I keep losing now.
That’s the key word though isn’t it – ‘keep’. I keep playing. Throughout Assembly, its expansions and the new game Sensor Ghosts you feel that success is just at your fingertips. If only you’d turned left, or played that card first or ignored your idiot co-pilot… things could have been so different. And it’s the knowledge that you can eventually succeed that keeps you locked into these brilliant puzzle games. I love the amount of layers that there are. You finish one iteration of the game and there’s another waiting for you, slightly tricksier than the last.
 
There are elements of the expansion which make it appear easier – I can choose which token to deploy (from the two visible stacks). I can play one or more platform hold cards to skip over those bays as though they are locked. And yet… it still has me beaten. It’s like I’ve been lured in with the modifications that give the illusion of choice and control only to remember the power of that dratted computer.
 
The idea of being able to play Assembly with 3 or 4 players is incredibly exciting too. I’m equally happy playing solo or with another player – both versions of the game are well balanced, challenging and fun. I’ll definitely be trying out the higher player count versions at UK Games Expo and I’ll let you know how I get on.
 
Sensor Ghosts
Good news – you do not need to have played Assembly to enjoy dying in a meteor storm. Even though in terms of the story it follows on, the game is unique and definitely a puzzle worth tackling independent of Assembly. Having said that if you like Sensor Ghosts you’ll certainly enjoy Assembly (and vice versa).
 
Sensor Ghosts picks up the story where Assembly left off (assuming you escaped). You settle back to enjoy the luxurious journey back to earth, regretting only not fitting the bum warmers and massage attachments to the seats. But what’s this? A message from Earth – probably a news clip of them celebrating your heroism and letting you know they’ve put the kettle on and ironed the bunting. In fact Earth are refusing to let you land unless you collect a sample of the virus from the middle of a meteor storm so they can work on a vaccine. Ungrateful sods. You pause your immersion in the game – flip over the box – there it is – that logo – that beautiful diminutive song bird the wren – hell bent on your destruction.
 
The board in Sensor Ghosts is ever changing and has a randomised layout. You need to balance keeping your shields charged with peeking ahead to see what’s coming as well as planning how you will navigate. There are so many unseen threats in the meteor storm and of course your sensors are playing up, you start to become convinced that your computer might actually be Hal when all along you had prayed it was Holly – inept but not murderous! I like the fact that you can play three cards and choose an action to complete which simultaneously frees you up and sees the card deck dwindle.
Changing direction offers a neat challenge where if you play cards in a sensible sequence you should be able to change course smoothly but if not you have to spend extra navigation cards to enable you to turn. When you are out of Navigation Cards you are out of luck.
 
Memory cubes are included so that you can choose to mark cards in the field – maybe the best ones or ones to avoid. Either way you must use them wisely as there are only three. Brilliant – enough to give you the illusion that you have help but not enough to let you rely on them. Another example of the perfect balance in this game.
 
Once you have safely navigated the meteor storm, collected a sample (not just one of the bits of rock that are floating out there and look a lot like the samples!) you can try again, adding in the Escape Pod variant and using the disruption deck. I’ll be honest with you – I’ve played many times and not won yet. Once, I got tantalisingly close to earth – I could just make out the outline of the coast of dear old Blighty when bam! A meteroid hit me. And the Escape Pod? In a move that reminded me of the many times I have sacrificed whole countries in Pandemic, I left them to fend for themselves from turn two. Then forgot they had ever existed. Don’t ever let me be in charge in an apocalypse survival situation.
 
Although this is only a preview copy so there may be some adjustments in the final copy ,I really like the colours and the space age art work on the counters, cards and box. Even the font is suitably sci fi! The game features the same chunky counters that you find in Assembly which are pleasingly tactile.
I had waited with baited breath for Sensor Ghosts to arrive. You probably know how much love I have for Assembly so I was concerned I might be underwhelmed. I was not. This is another brilliant game and the fact that it comes with Assembly add ons is a real bonus. It is already a regular on my table both solo and two player.
 
I got some feedback on the game at my most recent event. It was a very positive response but my favourite interaction by far was this:
Me: What impression do you get just by looking at the box?
Him: It looks like you’d die
Me: It’s by Wren Games – they did Assembly.
Him: Oh right we’ll definitely die then. We definitely want to try it!
 
And because no blog would be complete without at least one photo on the chintzy table cloth – here it is….
I’ll be working with Wren Games (providing she hasn’t actually killed me) next weekend at UK Games Expo. Come and see what all the fuss is about at Stand 2-624.
As always you can try any of the games in my blog at my events. Subscribe to the newsletter below so that you don’t miss a thing.
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Kitty Cataclysm, Wibbell++ and why it’s good to get a parcel from Bez.

If you’re familiar with the just a card campaign you’ll have heard that every time someone supports an independent business the owner does a happy dance. I imagine that when the last copies of Wibbell Plus Plus and Kitty Cataclysm were posted that Bez of Stuff By Bez did at least one happy dance. If you’ve ever received a package from Bez you’ll know that it’s a thing of joy and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Treat yourself.
My most recent parcel arrived in a trademark envelope festooned with fabulous red drawings, a little comic and a cat which I have enjoyed colouring in. It is now on the wall in my study reminding me to take it easy sometimes.
But it’s not just about the packaging. Inside there was a copy of Kitty Cataclysm and a copy of Wibbell Plus Plus – two small box card games which both offer something unique. In fact Wibbell Plus Plus is a whole system of games while Kitty Cataclysm is a punny chaotic cat game!
 
Kitty Cataclysm
 
Plays: 2-5
Age: 10+
Duration: 2-10 minutes.
 
In Kitty Cataclysm players compete for meowney. In fact, the game is littered with cat puns. I’m here all week…The game ends when a player is ready to start their turn but has no cards in their paws. At that point you count up your meowney and determine who is the fattest cat.
 
It’s fast paced and fun. Each card has clear instructions which makes the game quick and easy to access. When you play the card into your kitty you simply do whatever the card says. You can make others get rid of cards, lose cards deliberately yourself, steal cards, donate cards, give cards away, draw extra and various combinations of those actions. So you can prolong the game and try to amass more meowney or you can try to end the game if you think you are ahead. You can look through your own kitty but you can’t touch anyone else’s. So this decision is always a bit risky plus you might try to end the game while someone else is hell bent on prolonging it! I like that element of it.
 
I also really like the sudden ending. There is no playing on until you get a winner. Everyone plays then everyone stops. No-one is aimlessly twiddling their thumbs waiting for it to be over. For me that’s a winning mechanic.
 
The inventive puns are paired with fabulous drawings. The cats’ facial expressions are brilliant – accurately encapsulating all cat emotions from irritation, through slyness to smugness. I think that’s all of them isn’t it?
 
Quick to learn, fun and portable. It’s a perfect addition to your bag. As always if you fancy trying before you buy you can play it at any Cards or Die event.
Wibbell Plus Plus
 
Plays: 1+
Age: 8+
Duration: 5 to 45 minutes
Wibbell Plus Plus isn’t a game – it’s a whole games system. To date there are more than 20 brilliant and diverse games listed on the website that you play with these cards. The games are in different stages of completeness – some are established core games (the instructions for 6 core games come in the box) others are more experimental. The whole purpose of the games system is to encourage this experimental approach. Every 1st August Bez will announce a new featured ‘core’ game. We, the players, are encouraged to submit game ideas in whatever stage they are at.
 
The existing games are fun and varied. Grabell is a fast paced pattern or letter matching game which requires no spelling or word based ability. Faybell is a storytelling game where you work together to craft a tale, using the cards to determine elements you should include. Helpfully the instructions come with a list of useful words for awkward letters. Phrasell is a game which uses the cards as prompts for phrases about a predetermined topic – this can be as silly as you want and often is! Coupell requires you to make words with the cards, swapping them around to make sure that everyone’s scores are perfectly balanced by the end. In Wibbell players compete to be the first to shout out a word which uses all the required cards, the more you win, the more cards you have to include.
 
One of my favourites from the many games listed on the website is Many a Mickel Makes a Muckel. The rules for this solo game are not included in the box. You are trying to create high scoring words by trying to place each new card you turn over in one of the three words you are working on. Discarded cards count as negatives and reduce your overall score. The card list included in the box and the numbers on the cards which indicate how many of that letter are in the deck are invaluable aids in this game.
 
By far the most exciting element of this games system is the organic element of it. One of the things which I think gaming allows is for adults to access that free and creative part of them which is so often locked away sometime during adolescence when we begin to feel we should pursue ‘worthwhile’, ‘serious’ things in our free time. Here is a box of beautifully lettered cards with a gorgeous finish -you can play existing games or you can just play around with them. You have not only permission but in fact an invitation to play without rules and make your own up. The creation of games is intrinsically playful. When children open games they just play with a joyful disregard for rules. Someone recently told me that her children used to love Carcassonne – they just made pictures with the tiles and played with the meeples. As adults it’s hard not to intervene – ‘you’re doing that wrong’ ‘it’s not meant to be used like that’. It’s a game. They are playing with it. That’s it’s use right there.
 
One of the great things about the retro games in my collection is that it takes you back to a time when you just enjoyed stuff, when the floor really was lava and you had to negotiate the living room without touching it. As we get older we get caught up in doing things the right way, in getting it right, in following the rules. Wibbell plus plus is so exciting because it offers a route straight back to limitless play and experimentation. Use the cards as a springboard for your own freedom and creativity. So play the games, get creative or just spell out your name… you know… whichever!
 
Try out some of Bez’s games at one of Cards or Die’s events.
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Bears and Bees, Covering your Assets and Skull King.

Grandpa Beck’s card games have a homely family feel to them from the text, to the illustrations to the games themselves. They have a statement on their instructions which resonates loudly with me:
‘Your stories about enjoying time together as a family while playing our games motivate us to continue to produce fun & exciting products that will bring you and those you love, together.’
This encapsulates what makes Cards or Die tick. I know I keep banging on about it, but games are not just for children; children do not have a monopoly on fun. Sometimes as adults we get caught up in the daily grind of life, forgetting that we are allowed to play, to escape, to immerse ourselves in silliness or fantasy. Family for me is a wide circle comprising actual birthright family, Morris family, board gaming family and various others who I’ve adopted or who’ve adopted me along the way. Play is such a valuable way of connecting with people of all ages and all your families – however wide you draw your circle; escaping the drudge and pressures of adult life. Whether you haven’t played games for years or you play all the time, these three family classics are an excellent starting place.
 
After all this fluffy, hippy niceness it bears mentioning that all three of these games have a strong ‘be a dick to others’ element. Which just goes to show you should never, no matter what they say or do, turn your back on your family. They will take you down. Remorselessly.
 
The Bears and The Bees.
2-5 players
8+
30mins
When you get three new games it can be hard to choose which one to open first but as I had a Winnie The Pooh themed event that week it was an easy decision: The Bears and The Bees of course. The photos below are from the first week – we played it at home, we played it in the pub, we played it in the theatre, we played it in a cafe… we do so like Bears and Bees.
It’s beautiful and stylish with pretty colours and flowers, a cute looking bear cub and buzzy bees. But don’t be fooled – those bears have teeth and the bees will sting you.
All you have to do is get rid of all your cards by matching colours on the hexes. Match more sides to win bonus plays which help you get rid of all your cards. Play flowers and bees to make other people pick cards up.
We played it at our board games and dinner event at Mrs Smith’s Cafe, Harrogate. It started off gently enough as the family took turns encircling the Queen Bee with honey and bright hues. Then the siblings started attacking each other with bees, forcing each other to pick up more and more cards. Meanwhile, Mum made the most of this – dividing and conquering, almost securing victory. But at the last moment sibling loyalty won out, destroying Mum in a concerted effort.
 
There’s a lesson somewhere in here but as I look at my adoring and adorable offspring, I decide that the lesson is – aren’t siblings lovely. Yeah. Let’s go with that.
 
Cover Your A$$ets.
4-6 players
7+
30 mins
Cover Your A$$ets is a fast paced is a fast paced, card collecting, card stealing game. There are no alliances to be forged here – each player is trying to collect and hang on to the most rich stuff. I like games like this – unpredictable and different every time. Sometimes you might win by playing a strategic wild card (worth $25 or $50 thousand) plus a load of low value cards. Other times you need to burn that stamp collection and save the jewels.
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You can only ever steal the top set of someone’s cards by playing a copy of the card you want to steal. They can block your steal by playing a further copy of that card. All of these are then added to the stack increasing its value. So even failed steals increase the value of your assets. You watch the pile of loot grow, clutching your matching card only to watch the stash covered before it gets to your turn. Do you trash that card and go for something else? Or, do you hope that someone else steals the top treasure letting you have another go?
 
It’s dynamic, fast paced and ever changing with lots of capacity to be a complete dick to various members of your family.
 
King of the cut throats however, is Skull King…
 
Skull King.
2-6 players
8+
30mins
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A little more complex to master than the other two, it is a game of trick taking and betting. The game lasts 10 rounds gradually building in difficulty which is a neat feature making it very accessible. You look at your cards and then bet on how many tricks you believe you can take. You win tricks by playing a higher value card of the same suit on top of the previous players’ card. There are also cards which act as trumps, overpowering other suits as well as Escape Cards which allow you to deliberately lose the trick. Remember you are balancing winning tricks with making accurate predictions so this card can be very valuable.
It comes with a score sheet which is set out in a really helpful way allowing you to easily keep track of bids and scoring. This also helps you to learn the game.
As the rounds progress, you get a bigger and bigger hand making accurate prediction increasingly difficult. It also comes with an expansion pack. We’re still getting to grips with the base game but it’s great to know that once we’re used to the cards we can throw in some mermaids and a Kraken. The loot cards in particular add an interesting extra layer as they allow for alliances.
It is a fun game with two but it’s even more fun with six. Literally the more, the funner. It’s definitely more of a thinky game than Cover Your A$$ets but faster play than The Bears and The Bees.
My advice? Play all three, then you’ve covered everything!
If you want to try them out, join us at one of our events – subscribe to the newsletter using the link below to make sure you don’t miss out.
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Hanging out at The Old Hellfire Club

The Old Hellfire Club
Plays: 2-6
Time: 45- 60mins
Age: 14+
Created by Jamie Frew
What did you do this weekend? I hung out at the Old Hellfire Club with some old braggarts I know. We quaffed gin and they tried to impress me with their tales of derring do. They’re a bunch of penniless reprobates who aren’t to be trusted, constantly interrupting one another with increasingly implausible claims. Honestly, nothing much impresses me anymore… not since that time I cheated death and still made it home in time for tea…
 
So begins the Old Hellfire Club. A card game with a fun, original twist. Players assume the character of a penniless Victorian sot making outrageous claims using the cards in their hand. When you strip it back the mechanic is simple: –
  • play cards of the same suit as an opponent but with a lower value to prevent them from scoring bonuses
  • play cards valued 7 or more to score bonus pennies if, that is no-one challenges you
  • you can also play patrons to get bonuses or force others to discard cards
  • collect or steal benefactors if you play the highest value of a suit
  • collect the most cards of a suit to be awarded further bonuses
  • The player with the most pennies wins.
But enough about mechanics, top up your gin and draw closer. I intend to tell you about the time I cheated death but still got back in time for tea. I had been suffering from l’ennui for some time so decided to treat myself to some new clothing to lift my spirits. Alas it turned out that the clothing I had purchased was both flammable and poisonous – a near miss with a gas lamp had left me singed and vengeful. I had acquired my dapper suit from non other than David Livingstone – lately back from a sojourn abroad (he did tell me where he’d been but I forget now – he does prattle at length). I resolved to seek my revenge so I took the seditious writings Karl Marx had lent to me and I planted them in Livingstone’s offices along with the near fatal outfit, put in an anonymous call to the metropolitan scuffers and streaked home in time for tea.
Even if you are not a fan of acting or story telling this is still a great game where you can employ strategies and tactics to outwit your opponents. However, I would urge you to give the story telling a try. Assuming characters and telling stories as good as these is a joy – the prompts are all there on the cards to help you. And if you’re looking for inspiration you can play along @oldhellfire over on the Twitter.
One of the things that first drew me to the game was the creator’s twitter feed. I have backed games with entertaining descriptions and well crafted pitches before and been let down by a lack of flavour text so I was so pleased when the cards and rules surpassed my expectations. The game is saturated in its theme and that is both the beauty and genius of it. If your motive is whimsy for instance you are ‘driven by playfulness, fancy or foolish caprice. Like a cat to geography.’
 
The artwork on the game is fabulous too. A mixture of chocolate box art and period paintings that match the theme perfectly. Often belying the text underneath they add to the humour of the game. Flammable clothing for instance shows children warming themselves by the fire, a wholesome scene if you ignore the text!
 
The patrons are a fair mix of males and females – all suitably austere portraits. Apart from one of the women who looks quite playful – it must be the massive hat she is wearing that has put her in such a mood! With the notable exception of Mary Seacole I was disappointed that there are no people of colour represented on the cards. I am always a fan of diversity in games even if it is at the cost of historical accuracy.
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The game comes to Kickstarter on the 9th April. One of the stretch goals will be metal coins to keep count of your victorious brags and early backers will receive a monocle. They have also worked closely with Meeple Like Us to create an accessible deck which is really good to see.
 
The combinations of perils, motives, crimes, places, weapons, people and objects are endlessly entertaining and varied. Added to that the suggested list of 21 possible story threads and the varying order in which cards will be played and you have hours of entertainment here in this one little pack of cards. There are no limits to the tales you can weave and embellish. Pop this velveteen pouch of delights in your bag, set your imagination free and prove yourself the most daring member of this infamous club.
In the meantime come and see us at one of out events and you can try it out.
Check out their Twitter or Facebook
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Get Billy The Kid – first impressions

Plays 4-8
At 4 players it comprises 3 lawmen and Billy The Kid, at 5 you add Martha Garcia – Billy’s accomplice).
Time 20-30 minutes
Age 9+
 
Get Billy The Kid – affectionately known as ‘The Kid’ finally made it to our table on Friday (…and Saturday… and Sunday). It’s a print and play version and although I finally got round to investing in some decent cardboard I know that the actual game will be much shinier and lovelier. But these pictures will give you a flavour of the game.
 
The Kid comes from Caper Games – the makers of Get Adler, Vertium and Shooterz. It uses the same game mechanic as Get Adler so if you enjoy that then you will love this too. To be fair if you own Get Adler you probably only need to read to the end of the next sentence. It has real life cowboys and there’s a shootout!
 
The Kid is divided into two parts. In part one you must try to sniff out the kid and his outlaws using your powers of deduction. To help you do this you can peek at people’s cards, ask questions and of course closely observe as the terrible liars in your group give themselves away. This is where that course I did on spotting shoplifters comes into its own. That stint working on bed linens at Debenhams has proved very useful over the years – what with my extensive knowledge of duvet tog ratings and the ability to spot shifty individuals. Anyway… I digress
 
Once the first three rounds are over you may begin attempting to unveil and arrest the outlaws. But beware – a wrong accusation will freeze you and your fellow lawman out for a round letting the outlaws gain valuable ground. Once the identities are revealed the pace of the game changes significantly. While the previous rounds required reflection and consideration; the rounds now are all about high speed chases and shoot outs. To win, the outlaw(s) must evade capture over 7 rounds or shoot their pursuers. They must also be in possession of a bag of gold at the end of the game – otherwise all their hard work is meaningless.
The first part has a Guess Who feel but with the added complication that the outlaws may lie. So, more like playing Guess Who with your short sighted slightly deaf Grandma, except in this case if you accuse her of lying she may draw a pistol and shoot you dead.
‘Talk low, talk slow and don’t say too much’ John Wayne
You have seven cards in your hand and you are trying to curate a hand that best aids your character. As in all the best games, it’s all about balance. A lawman with too many arrest cards won’t have enough gun cards to survive a shootout but lose all your arrest cards and you may have to watch the outlaws ride out of town with the gold.
 
Although the outlaws are together and the lawmen form a team against them you may not confer or discuss strategy. For instance the kid and Martha pass cards to one another which can strengthen each others’ hands or simply be used as a mechanism to suggest which cards you have. Plus you can still look at others’ hands using the rifle card and whereas before you used that to see who your enemies were, you can use it now to see what cards your allies have. Lawmen are on their own in a shoot out but if the kid tries to escape any of the lawmen with a matching card can give chase, bravely mounting a donkey and pursuing the kid into the mountains. So the no speaking rule adds to the tactics and strategy in more imaginative ways than simply ganging up on each other.
 
The outlaws are always outnumbered but cards like the disguise and TNT re-balance things. The disguise allows outlaws to escape unpursued on that occasion and the TNT which leaves the lawmen frozen out for a round while the ringing in their ears stops.
After identities are revealed there is also the opportunity to buy additional cards – more arrest cards for the lawmen and guns or escape cards for the outlaws.
As a historical game there is a higher number of male characters which is a shame but they have added Martha Garcia to redress the balance somewhat. While there are plenty of female outlaws the lawmen at that time were just that – men. They have used second person in the rule book and while that should not be remarkable, I think it is worth noting and I’m always pleased to see it.
 
‘It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.’ Doc Holliday
One of the nice details is that the outlaws can try to entice Doc Holliday onto their side by using gold cards as bribes. Upon joining the outlaws Doc can discard these cards drawing up more useful cards like guns or escape cards or he can remain true to the law and help bring those felons down. A little light research into Doc Holliday reveals that this behaviour is entirely in character which is brilliant! Extra historical kudos points to Caper Games.
 
There’s now also a two player variant – High Noon Shootout- included in the game which I am eager to try. As you know despite living with 4 other people, getting 5 of us to the table at once is a challenge so the 2 player game will be very useful.
 
Raised on ‘cowies’ as my Dad called the Westerns – one of my favourite films is Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid – the theme of this game is right up my street. The two part structure means it is a lot more than just a hidden role or deduction game. And on top of all that, the artwork is lovely – particularly the character cards. I can’t wait to play and share my pictures of the final version. If you remember Young Guns you’ll remember the repeated assertion that Billy the Kid ‘ain’t all there, is he?’ I can assure you that this version of the kid is definitely ‘all there’.
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Eeeek It’s nearly time for Airecon.

Last year was my first Airecon. Airecon is an analog gaming convention which takes place in Harrogate next weekend (8,9 &10 March). We had a fab time playing loads of games from the library and we also learnt how to play Quirk!, Azul, Sagrada and had a game of giant Tsuro. I also treated myself to some new games. I’m looking forward to more of the same this year…
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1. The Pre Airecon Warm Up!
I’m really excited to be working with Bez at Airecon this year – I’ll be demoing and teaching Wibbell++. We’re starting early though with a pre Airecon warm up night at The Abbey Inn, Bramley – which will include some Wibbell++ tournaments and maybe even some Yogi. It’s particularly special to me as it marks two years since my launch event at The Abbey so it would be great to see lots of you there. I’ve come a long way in two years. I have moved the business from a potentially crazy idea to an actual business. I know I keep banging on about it but I’m delighted to have been nominated for Best Independent Business in the Yorkshire Choice awards, I’ve been in the Yorkshire Evening Post and I’m going to be on BBC Radio Leeds on the 18th from 2 till 3pm with Liz Greene. When I held the launch party I genuinely had no idea whether the business would work or not I was just going to give it a shot. And two years on Cards or Die is moving from strength to strength. So join us and celebrate. We’ll have some prizes and you can get your gaming brains ready for Airecon!
2. New Games
When I say new games I mean of course that I will be scouring every inch of the bring and buy as well as maybe treating myself to a ‘new new’ game. Last year I came away with Spy Ring which is an absolute classic, Orcs Orcs Orcs and Resistance which are great games too. Handily Mother’s Day falls at the end of March so my super organised children also bought me games – my favourite of which was Honshu. So kids – this is your annual reminder: Mother’s Day is coming – buy some games. On a completely unrelated note I still don’t have a copy of this….. just saying…
3. Team Trevor
Some time ago I got myself added to a list on the internet. Don’t worry – it’s a good list. Janice off of Wren Games created a list of people who engaged in conversations and gave feedback on games related chat and then suggested we should name the list. @BSoMT suggested Trevor and a monster was born -the kind of monster that you have a lot of affection for.
@EarthtoGames described us as ‘a group of like minded twitterers within the board game community with hearts of pure gold and helpful minds to match’. The group constantly expands – anyone can join the group and the chat just use #teamtrevor and add to the nonsense/ high quality gaming ideas.
Many of Team Trevor will be at Airecon and I can not wait to meet them in real life. I have been active on Twitter for two years and many of these people regularly support me and the business so I am very excited about meeting them. I am also slightly nervous that they will realise I’m an idiot but I feel like if you’ve followed me on twitter for two years and haven’t figured that out then that’s your own problem.
4. Open Gaming
The greatest thing about Airecon for me is the amount of open gaming space. As I have said many times before board gaming for me is all about getting together with people – connecting with people. I hope to be spending some time with my family playing new games and having fun together and I know that while I’m working that’s what they’ll be doing (as well as the obligatory bickering about rules). Travelling Man is providing the games library this year so there’s going to be an epic selection of games again.
Airecon is going to be awesome. I can not wait!
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War Time Gaming.

Every day over half term (16-24th February) Cards or Die will be joining the Royal Armouries Leeds in their War Games exhibition. I’m choosing a selection of war themed games and war time games from our collection for you to play or just have a look at. There will be loads of activities on throughout the week – you can see weaponry commonly found in video games, take part in historical and sci-fi scale model gaming, take part in a cyber mission and see war gaming demos.
Here are some of the games Cards or Die will be bringing along:
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Blow Football
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Kan-U-Go
Lexicon
Pit
Playing Cards
Playing cards have been around for centuries and were certainly in both sets of trenches, on all sides of the wars, in homes and in kit bags. By carrying a deck of cards you are carrying an endless selection of games: games of skill, strategy, bluff, luck, push your luck – all the key game mechanics are here. Many of those classic games are still played today – Rummy, Whist, Pontoon, Old Maid, Bridge, Cribbage … the list is endless. Even simple childhood games like snap and Happy Families or Go Fish provide the basis for some great modern card games. Dobble, Twin It, Anomia, Who Did It? all use Snap as their basic premise.
 
As well as providing a pastime in the trenches, cards provided opportunities for propoganda – the Germans produced decks which depicted German heroes or caricatures of the enemy. Decks of cards were also used to educate – some decks were used to teach basic French vocabulary, while others showed the colours of the allies to help with recognition. Of course just as we do now, people would come together over the games – sharing their experiences and memories, teaching their favourites from home. At a time of shortages cards were the perfect game – cheap to produce and most households would have a couple of old packs of cards they could hand down to bored children.
 
Word Games
Word Games like Lexicon from 1932 and Kan-U-Go also from the 1930s remained popular for years. I remember Kan-U-Go from our caravan holidays as a child (and I’m not *that* old). Later this penchant for word games led to the development of scrabble.
Family board games.
  • Snakes and Ladders actually dates back to the late 1800s and has always been loved by children. I don’t still have my childhood copy but I do have the wooden shaker that came with it; I still like the sound and feel of it. A simple game that doesn’t take too long and I remember really loving the pictures on mine. Now I have a lovely cloth bag version from M&S. Side note I did a Women’s Institute booking and one of the ladies said it was her favourite game – I expressed surprise and she explained that every time you go down a snake you drink a gin! We won’t be playing this version at The Royal Armouries but I thought I’d share the suggestion!
  • Sorry 1929 – like so many traditional family games this is sure to end in tears. It is very similar in principle to Frustration, Headache, Ludo and its German sibling ‘Mensch ärgere dich nicht’ which literally translates as ‘don’t get angry, mate’. You move around the board landing on people and sending them back to their original base to start again.
  • Cluedo and Monopoly from the 1940s have remained international family favourites and have been treated to many specialised editions. I’ve even seen a Big Bang Theory Cluedo. Many people start with these classics and then move on to bigger and (many would argue better) board games. Monopoly had a very special role in the second world war as Waddingtons manufactured editions with maps, real money and fake documents to be sent to prisoners of war. While I will still happily play Cluedo, I’m not so keen on Monopoly. You can read my further thoughts on that here.
Uckers
A friend whose brother was in the Navy told me about this one. The rules can vary depending on who you ask -so before you settle down to a game it’s always best to check which house rules you’ll be adopting. Based on Ludo it can be played on a Ludo board but an Uckers board is actually a mirror image. Often Ludo boards were used or hand made boards.
 
Just as in Ludo you must get all four pieces home before your opponents, if you land on an opponent they are ‘ucked off’ back to the starting point. Once you reach home referred to as ‘the tube’ or ‘pipe’ your pieces are usually safe (although some versions have rules allowing ‘suckback’ or ‘blowback’). Rules vary on whether you need to roll the exact number required to get home.
 
If your dice goes off the board three times (a ‘bum’ roll) it is declared “off the IPS” (International Playing Surface), you incur a punishment such as losing a turn. Rolls that knock other people’s counters out of place are also considered ‘bum’ or ‘cocky’ rolls and incur penalties.
 
To start moving round the board you must roll a 6 and place a piece on to the ‘doorstep’ (the first space). A roll of snake eyes triggers ‘out all bits’ which means all of your pieces, and in some versions your opponents too, come out on to your doorstep. Each dice may be used to move a different piece or you use the sum of the dice to move one piece.
 
Landing on your own piece creates a blob (like a barrier in Frustration or Headache) which prevents opponents from passing but your own pieces can move past. Blobs can be destroyed by landing on them with another blob or ‘sixed’ by rolling a 6 plus the number of pieces making up the blob. Destroyed blobs are sent back to the start. In a two player game, where players have two colours you may end up with a ‘mixi blob’ of two of your own colours – this works as a barrier but can be sent back by landing on it with a single piece. Blobs may be moved around the board but you need to roll doubles.
 
People who argue over the rules are encouraged to check the underside of the board where the rules are said to be recorded. In fact all they will find are the names of previous sore losers who have ‘upboarded’ either deliberately or in a fit of pique thereby forfeiting the game.
 
These are just the basic rules but there are advanced adaptations too. I don’t have an actual Uckers board but I’ll have the Ludo board so feel free to have a go at Uckers on it!
 
We’ll also bring a selection of War Themed Games from Battleships to Homelands.
What will you play first?
References
 
Read more here – World War 1 Remembered
 
Play these and other awesome games at a Cards or Die event.
 
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Charades, Noise and Social Ridiculousness

Just before Christmas I received this exciting package from Gamely Games. Three pocket sized boxes of fun – perfect party games to pop in my bag and take to the pub. If you are a Dragon’s Den fan you may have seen Deborah Meaden miming her way through a round of Randomise. In the end Gamely Games walked away from the den with no deal but not without offers. The games are quick to learn but offer hours of entertainment so get the gang round and settle down for a ridiculous games evening!!
 
Randomise
Players 4+
Time 30mins
Age 8+
Price £11.99 (available on Amazon or direct from Gamely Games)
Choose one card from each pile, pick a number and then act, draw or describe your way to victory. You can choose from hard or easy tasks. You might be a dramatic Polar bear making sushi or a macho snail doing the ironing. The random nature of the categories combined with your skilful acting is what makes the game so hilarious. It has been a hit with adults and children alike. Most people seem to automatically choose the charades option but the drawing option has proved a good travel game for my children. (Less distracting than charades or arguing while I’m driving!!).
 
Soundiculous
Players 3-10
Time 15mins
Age 8+
Price £11.99 (available on Amazon or direct from Gamely Games)
Surprisingly challenging, Soundiculous requires you to mimic a sound while others guess what sound you are making. What I hear when I make a tumble dryer sound is apparently nothing like an actual tumble dryer! A very simple premise that has had us howling with laughter. Even the noises which we accurately guessed were entertaining. Although personally I thought my beatboxing was me stumbling on a hidden talent, I’m pretty sure that they were still laughing about the tumble dryer. Children can be very unforgiving.
 
The Pretender
Players 4-6
Time 15mins
Age 12+
Price £11.99 (available on Amazon or direct from Gamely Games)
A game of social deception.
Choose a category and each player is assigned an identical role – apart from – The Pretender (If you’re not singing by now you’re reading this wrong). Each player performs a mini charade relating to the item on the card. It is a balancing act – you must perform clearly enough so that people don’t think you are the pretender but vaguely enough that the pretender can’t work out the answer. The Pretender has the most difficult challenge though. They must act out a charade which fits with the others – this is of course easier if they are last to go.
Players then discuss who they think the Pretender is. On the count of three, all point towards the accused! The wiley amongst us can always deflect guilt and steer the conversation towards an incorrect accusation. The Pretender can save themselves by guessing what the item on the card was.
Often age guides are a bit conservative for my liking and I regularly play games which are ‘too old’ for my family but this one is bang on. For a ridiculous game there is a certain level of skill and cunning required – definitely one for the grown ups!
 
I also love the look of these games.The designs are quirky and fun. I adore the colours in The Pretender. When they’re not packed in a bag to go to an event, they look great on my shelf!
As always you can try these games out at one of our upcoming events – and if you can’t make those, you can always book a private party!
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My Year in Games.

2018 has been a great year for Cards or Die. We’ve brought lots of people together with board games and played thousands of games! Here are our highlights…
 
January
I love visiting board game cafes and our family started the year by visiting Treehouse Board Games Cafe, Sheffield. It’s great to try games before you commit to buying and I love being taught the rules without having to wade through rule books. Exactly what Cards or Die offers at all of our events but nonetheless it’s good to be on the receiving end of great service and expertise. We played loads of new games including Colour Brain which we now have in stock – a brilliant quiz game with multi choice answers so you can always have a go. Answers that others don’t get earn you points, so unusual knowledge is rewarded.
 
February
In February I was back in school but instead of teaching, I was getting learners to work together and compete positively. They had loads of fun playing Exploding Kittens and Dobble. Since then I’ve done some work at The Lighthouse School in Leeds, working with young people with autism. Games are such a fabulous way to get people to interact with each other especially if communication is challenging. The fact that games give your communication a clear focus and purpose actually makes other communication easier and more comfortable. One of the only things I miss about teaching is working with young people – passionate, slightly crazy young people. So going in and playing daft games while reinforcing learning about social skills and helping groups to bond has been loads of fun.
 
March
In March my family and I went to Airecon. Two days of gaming – we tried loads of new games. I got the opportunity to play Quirk! before my Kickstarter copy arrived. My daughter was hooked on Animal Ailments and we backed it that day – her first kickstarter project. (What have I started?!) My favourite game of the weekend was Azul – it’s so tactile and gently strategic. Unfortunately I had to wait till my birthday in October before we finally tracked down a copy but since then it’s been our most played game. Another highlight was meeting the lovely Bez who I’ll be working with demoing their games at Airecon 2019 and UK Expo too.
 
April
We did some events in cafes this year as well as pubs and bars- a chance for people to have a night off from cooking and enjoy some board games with the family. This meant that I’ve enjoyed loads of delicious food from a range of local cafes. Plus slightly further afield at Mrs Smith’s Harrogate which even offers weight loss friendly meals which is awesome and delicious. It’s also given me the opportunity to support some local good causes like The Courtyard Cafe in Horsforth and in January we’ll be at Keepers Coffee for an Exploding Kittens tournament and cake!
 
May
Board Games at Weddings are perfect for those who don’t want to spend the whole night on the dance floor and is a great shared activity for people who don’t know one another. I always take a variety of games including retro favourites, co-operative games and party games too. I’m looking forward to the weddings we’ve got booked for next year and hoping to get some more booked in too.
 
June
What a fabulous summer 2018 was. We spent lots of fun Sundays at Hyde Park Book Club gaming in the sunshine. We’re there every third Sunday and hopefully in 2019 from about May onwards you’ll find us set up outside and soaking up the sun!
 
July
This year was the first time Cards or Die has participated in the Horsforth Walk of Art. Despite competing with the football on one of the days we still had an excellent turnout with lots of people having a break from their wanders at the Board Game tent – two gazebos full of board games choices! Because we were at home, people had the full collection to choose from whereas usually I have to take a selection to events. With over 300 different games on the menu it’s usually impossible to give people access to all of them. The children had fun baking for the event and playing games on the day so it was a real family event. The giant Pass the Pigs had their first airing!
 
August
n August I took a selection of games to the Furnace Social Club at West Yorkshire Playhouse for a great night of gaming and relaxed networking. Pit went down very well as always. First released in 1909 it’s a timeless classic- great for parties and large groups. It involves lots of shouting and my version comes with a deliciously retro orange metal bell which I think should be included in every edition. You compete to corner the market on the product of your choice, collecting a set by trading with others. Once you’ve got the complete set you get to ding the bell and trading ends! Fast paced, shouty fun.
 
September
After a long, long wait during which time I learnt that it is far easier to get a million board games made than it is to get two printed (!) I finally got my first bespoke board game completed. I delivered it to Gateway Family Services for them to use in their training of staff on care navigation. I thoroughly enjoyed the creative process of designing it. I think that playing games is a brilliant training device – the game I designed is purpose built to train in a specific area and I have designed it flexibly allowing different areas to be focussed on in different playthroughs. People engage with games because it’s fun and different. Learning through play can be stimulating and challenging, allowing people to experiment with different scenarios and risks; to balance working as a team with individual responsibilities and to celebrate each other’s contributions.
I also delivered some team building in Wrexham. I taught the teams Escape Zombie City – a frantic co-operative game where you have to work together under pressure to achieve progressively more difficult outcomes. Nothing bonds people like surviving a zombie apocalypse together! It was interesting to watch the dynamics as people were moved to different teams. It was certainly not the team building they were expecting and it was great to receive lots of lovely feedback.
 
October
During half term I had my first booking at The Horse and Bamboo theatre over in Rossendale. A lovely little theatre with some excellent productions. The event was packed out – in fact we had to get mats out for people to sit on as there weren’t enough chairs and tables! This group didn’t seem to mind as they got stuck into a game on Gobblin’ Goblins – a game of gross foods and tricky goblins. We’re back there on the 27th January 2019.
 
November
Every November a group of – I’m not going to say old …. – longstanding friends and I go off somewhere. This year we glamped on a bus in Shropshire. There are a few constants in this arrangement – prosecco, some sort of spa/ hot tub experience, great food and I bring the games. We played Geistes Blitz, In A Bind, Logo Game, Outburst, Whist and Who Did It? I laughed so much when we played Who Did It? that my face hurt. Enjoying games with friends is one of the things that inspired me to start Cards or Die and when you teach a game that people love it’s such a great feeling. Games really can bring people together in such a positive way.
 
December
What a fantastic end to my year! I’ve been nominated for Independent Business of The Year. I’d love it if you could take a moment to vote for me – although just the nomination is amazing to be honest. I work hard and I passionately believe that my business can be a force for good. I want to play my part in tackling social isolation, in helping people get together and not feel alone; to support others with mental health difficulties and to support good causes like The Courtyard Cafe and Keepers Coffee and Kitchen. This nomination means a lot and when times are challenging I know it will help me to keep doing the thing!
Join us at a Cards or Die event.