Friday, 8 April 2016

Prescience


Not much of a gaming blog this week. And few pictures. Disgusting. You just can't get the staff these days. I will say however that I got to play Onward to Venus, a somewhat sneered upon Martin Wallace game, and managed a triumphant win as the glorious Germans. My win was probably helped along in no small part due to avoiding looking like I was any kind of threat for the lead, entirely ignoring the largest source of victory points on offer, and slightly stirring the pot against those who seemed to be doing well.

Onward to Venus chaps !
As it turns out, no one was doing quite as well as I was. Who knew. Onward to venus occupies a somewhat uneasy place for some gamers stuck between a very mild Euro and a very mild Ameritrash style game. It's a fun game. Which for some starts heads shaking and tutting about frivolous "fun" games and the RNG inherent in dice, and delights others with its ridiculous rollercoaster ride of cursed rolls and luck. The theme is one of steampunk Victorian era space exploration, sending out your plucky soldiers and Jules Verne style spaceships in order to go conquer the planets of the solar system for the glory of your colonial power ( the British, Americans, French, Germans and Russians ). Veeps are earned by having the most "influence" on a planet ( the most income from mines and factories ) as well as a smattering of other small veep income opportunities ( bagging big game for instance ). The game is driven by what things crop up on what planets, and your flow of income and troop numbers. Troops are jetted around the solar system to go lay claim to things, which earns money to buy more troops to jet around the solar system. There is an art to managing your cards to screw others over, or helps yourself out, and the worst excesses of dice RNG can be mitigated if you're careful.

A nice game, a bit of wackily themed fun, something of a change of pace from your more cerebral titles.

Mice & Mystics was played along side me. I got to listen to one of the Ben's reading out the story of the brave mice. It was lovely. LOVELY. Like story time. I'm not sure if I made Ben slightly self conscious as I listened attentively to his telling. The mousey team of the two Bens, Sam and Joe managed once again to beat all the odds and centipedes with ease. Joe has become quite dismissively complacent about the whole thing and now scoffs at the game being at all hard. Quite the change of tune.

Over at site two... yeah... that happened.... over at site two, the Mash Tun, Brew Crafters got another play - David was so caught up thinking about what he did wrong and right the first play, he had to go out and buy the game to get some practice in. And then promptly brought it along to NoBoG. I get it. The game is very like that. If you like your Euros, this game will have you thinking about it the day after. And wanting to correct your first time brewing flaws. Pete managed to score an epic and intimidating 88 points on this being his second game. But afterwards admitted to having totally cheated to get that score and breaking the rules about farming and brewing timing.

Elliot pleased with his win at CoM. Voitek ignores his delight.
Elliot finally won a game of Champions of Midgard. He was chuffed. Look at his chuffed face. The official NoBoG Twitter Ghost in the Machine was however not so impressed, and commented that it was about time given how many times Elliot had played it. Burn.

Other things were played. Some Resistance. Some werewolf. Some Secret Hitler. Sam's best Secret Hitler insult of the evening was to accuse Alex of having a daterapey kind of face - which made him a fascist. He also insisted on having Wagners Ride of the Valkyries playing for the latter half of the game. Perhaps we should just have a regular piece on the best Sam insult of the evening.

That's it for directly gaming related stuff. Be off with you.

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Still here ?

So, something of an introspective this week about NoBoG. Just me talking about my experience. But maybe it's an interesting insight. Maybe it's not. If you're a regular member of NoBoG then you'll probably know some of this already. If you're an irregular, then you missed stuff. And if you're an interested lurker.. well.. this is probably all news to you.

Story time !

Call it coincidence. Prescience. Shrewd management. Or a sixth sense for impending doom. This week my unease over the last month about space at the Mash Tun, the NoBoG pub of choice, suddenly became a very real and immediate problem and the group was forced to split between the pub and Athena games just across the way.

Over the last 5 weeks -with the exception of last week - space has been on the edge of being a problem at the Tun. Just one of those things. A popular month of Tuesdays ? Were we attracting more people into the pub ? Did the news article or TV bit do anything ? Random ? Would it just go away ? Tricky. And not a little annoying because the Tun was so big, with plenty of space to grow into, and yet, a series of unfortunate things had conspired to take all that space away. No tables for you. No upstairs expansion room for you. Meh. A lovely initial setup that had slowly deteriorated to the point of being a problem.

As I got Easter out of the way and managed to regain the use of my hobbled foot, the first thing on my NoBoG agenda was to go have a chat with the Tun and see what was what. For one thing just the courtesy of asking them if they were happy with us ( which I think ended up inadvertently setting off a mini panic of paranoia in the NoBoG ranks ), could we do anything better, and for another thing, what was going on with the busier Tuesdays, could we start another day, reserve tables and blah.

Interjected suddenly into all of that the Tun announced late last week that they would be hosting a new caterer for evenings and lunches - and pretty much the whole week barring Mondays, food would now be available. The pub used to play host to Harbercue in the latter half of the week - Thursdays onwards ( and one of the main sticking points of having a second NoBoG day on a Thursday ) - but for whatever reason they shut up shop a good few weeks ago, and as far as NoBoG went, we never saw them on Tuesdays.

Reaction from the NoBoGers about food on Tuesdays ranged from doom to glee. There'll be no space now ! To. Not over my game components you don't ! To. I can stuff my face and game, wheee !

Realistically however, I knew food on a Tuesday would just exacerbate an already borderline space issue into possible outright craptopia. If  nothing else we would end up losing the kitchen end tables ( which for many weeks has been our get out of jail sure fire overflow seating areas ), and probably end up a table or two short.

But who knows. Maybe no one would come. Maybe they genuinely just wanted to target NoBoGers to serve food to ( as the dude who had approached me last week alluded to ). Think. Positive.

Uh huh.

As it turned out, on the Tuesday evening, the Kitchen area tables became entirely off limits. We've paid rental for this, these are our tables, was the reply to a couple of NoBoGer requests to see if the tables were free. Mmm k. And the long tables at the front of the pub were also off limits. Reserved. You can't use them this evening I was told as I got to the bar.

That didn't stop Lewis putting his games down and throwing a gaming cloth down. Ah. Lewis. We've been told we can't have those tables. No one told me he says somewhat put out. I know. We only just found out.

So tables.

All told the table space at the Tun available for games reduces by half.

Charlotte had suggested I could talk to her on the evening we were gaming there. I felt it was far from ideal. The pub would probably be busy. I'd probably be busy. And no chat would happen. But I took it. Let's have a chat. On Tuesday. And as it happened. The pub was busy. And I managed to get a few sentences exchanged, and that was that. The pub overtook any kind of sensible conversation. And I got busy. Uh huh. I'll come find you later said Charlotte, and we can chat. I left the bar.

Are you alright, said Eliza in passing to me. You have a stressy face on.

Issues I replied.

Shit.

I can see exactly what's going to happen here.

I'm going to have 40 odd people buying a drink and then wondering why they can't fit on a table. Some will game. And some will just quietly fade into the woodwork to not be a bother. And shit.

I know this tune. It's called too many people at the Ribs. And it's shit. And people don't have a good time. I'm now flitting around like a blue ass fly. Thinking. Counting. Athena. Courtesy. Do it now.

I left the pub and headed to Athena. Hopefully Jamie was about and I could have a quick chat with him, and see if it was ok to overflow some games and gamers to his place. I felt it was the courteous thing to do. And Jamie, ever the nice guy said of course we could game at Athena. It was always good to have people gaming at the store.

Back to the pub. Counting heads. Counting tables. Five people per table. Now six people per table.

Of all the times I've been here said someone to me. This is the first time I haven't felt welcome here. Like the pub isn't welcoming.

I know. It's like a car crash in slow motion.

Now Seven people per table. Right. I told some people we would be splitting to Athena this evening. Joe immediately headed off with his Mice and Mystics group. Initially unbeknownst to me. Shit. Where's Joe. Where's Ben. Where's James. Am I counting them. Am I not counting them. Have they got the arse and gone home ? I got Pete to text James. They were off shopping for Athena supplies. Ok.

Everyones here. Game roll call is chaotic. Because I don't know who the hell will be gaming where. Screw it. Everyone call their games. Then decide where to play. In the midst of this, an older guy looking a bit lost, a newbie. I went to talk to him whilst game organising chaos ensued. Rescue him from being new. He had a new game prototype he wanted people to look at. And could I look at it. A train game. I chatted to him for a bit. Duncan from the Games room had sent him our way.

Of all the nights.

I got Pete to talk to him - tell him about the end of month game designer play testing malarkey. And left them to it. I had to bail. Priorities. I needed to sort out people that had no tables.

Pete helped me sort out the stragglers, but that left a group of five or so without a game, without a table. They were a bit dejected. No space they said. Pete is doing his best, points out the craptastic totally mis-matched tables pushed together, at different heights ( like 10cm height difference.. you'd need a whole army of NoBoG Levelling devices for this craptasm ) , different everything, with a cloth thrown over them like some ramshackle half assed excuse. You can game there he says. - No -. He doesn't want to game there says Pete half mockingly - Don't make me out to be a Prima Donna, that table is bullshit. - I should get a T-Shirt with that on he says.

After some negotiation with Pete - he wanted to play Archipelago.. or even Brew Crafters, I took the group off to Athena to play Onward to Venus.

And Athena was great. And relaxed. And we had a good time playing. And why don't we always game here came the question. Better light. No hassle - Because people like the atmosphere of a pub. Because they like a beer. - I'd rather game than beer - But some people would like to do both and hit gaming nirvana. We talked a bit about space. And searching for venues. And how venues quickly become scarce when you are talking about sitting 50 people. We talked about Athena and it's still off limits bar. And whether there ever would be a bar. Probably not demographics considerations wise.

You can't please everyone is the comment said to me. That's a comment that's been said more than once over the last few weeks. But that's it isn't it. You aim for the impossible of pleasing everyone is my reply. I think we achieved it with the move to the Tun. And now... aim for the impossible again.

Back in the Tun after we had finished up at Athena, various people chatted to me. Not very welcoming is it, said one person. And echoes of that from others. I mentioned to Pete how relaxed it was at Athena and the question came up why we don't game there. Because it closes at 10.30pm and we can't play longer games said Pete. Fair point. Issues. Issues. Issues.

I think some NoBoGers managed to just about entirely miss any hassle or drama. Which was good. And some didn't. I guess it depends where you were standing. Hopefully. We didn't seriously turn any people off. Hopefully. There are some that would say so what in mercenary fashion. Not the attitude. Friendly and welcoming is what NoBoG should be about.

I checked to see if Charlotte was still at the pub. No. Gone home. Shift over.

I realised that next week would be pretty much the same shit show. Particularly if our numbers picked up from the relatively light weight barely 40 we had this week. 40 these days is quiet.

I asked if Charlotte was in on Wednesday and if she was indeed the right person to speak to. I needed to sort shit out, and sort it out asap. If the Tun was no longer capable of catering to us all, then some fix would need to be arrived at. A move. A permanent split. A different day. Whatever. I found out that the upstairs room was being used at no cost by the Salsa group - and they weren't buying drinks either. Luke one of the bar staff at the Tun said that if it was up to him, it would be crazy to lose us as a group because of space being taken up by people that earned the pub nothing. But it wasn't up to him.

After the evening there were some comments amongst NoBoGers doubting whether we were a good thing for the pub. Did we drink enough. Did some people take the piss and bring their own drinks. The pub was a business. They had to do what was right for them. Perhaps some said, it was a not so subtle message for us to get lost.

Wednesday.

I am loaded for bear. My thinking has come round to the point that the Tun is a lost cause, barring some less than likely fix. Or some weird half and half, early hours gaming at Athena, late hours gaming at the Tun. Meh. So. A chat. Which is now, given the evening before, a good deal more pointy than it was. Diplomacy. Clout. And the art of employing it. Or not. But really. This shit doesn't work anymore. And the Tun did not do well.

The last time this shit happened and I was this peeved, we ended up moving venue.

Deja vu. But different circumstances. The Ribs was an inevitable thing coming.

It crosses my mind that at times NoBoG is like a bloody job. A man management stress job.

I time my appearance at the Tun to coincide with what is hopefully a short lull.

Charlotte is in good spirits. And we have a great chat. I explain to her that space has been tight, why are Tuesdays so busy. She doesn't know, but she agrees Tuesdays have become more busy. With food on for Tuesdays, space is now a problem. We just don't fit. Not good. The problems of whether you have people buy a drink - and then have nowhere to sit. Doesn't work. I came looking for you in the evening she says, but you weren't here. Yeah I say, I left, I went to Athena - some of us were gaming over there. Do you know Athena and Jamie ? Jamie is a good guy. We can game there. The point hangs meaningfully for a second.

We discuss the Salsa group. She echoes what I heard yesterday. Pretty much word for word. Makes me think if it hasn't already been discussed. The Salsa group make the pub no money. Bring their own drinks. Happy to have them, but, push comes to shove, they've been told they'd have to leave. She says they don't want to lose us. We're regulars now. And it's good to have us in the pub.

I don't have to say much more. We agree that expanding upstairs would be a good idea, keep the tables on the upper levels, and if more space required, we can go upstairs. But there are no tables - just some shitty ones ( her words ). Theres no music. And no bar.

I'm kinda surprised by the result. It's pretty damn good. From my perspective. Perfect. No more space hassles.

I ask if they have any issues with us. No issues ! The number of people that have asked me that recently ! You're all paranoid. Should we have issues ? You guys are no trouble.

We talk about other days. Because. Fuck it. I'm here. And I know (most) people are keen on a second NoBoG day. What would be your ideal solution she asks. Thursdays ! We talk about different days, Mondays are ideal for the pub, Wednesdays are ok. Thursdays are probably bad.

We chat about other stuff. Chit chat. I leave and go hit Athena up. Buy some games, Jamie is there which is good, I chat to him for a bit. I am conscious of trying to keep everyone happy.

I realise we need to organise some tables and chairs and the chaos of all that crap. In a week. Less than a week. I post up a summary of the outcomes of everything to the NoBoG Facebook group.

Charlotte pings me. The Salsa group have been told. You're ok for Tuesday. And let us know which extra day you want.
Cool.

Exhausted. Weirdly.

Like a job I think. But no pay. Mad. For the umpteenth time I consider retiring from NoBoG. Eh. Maybe tomorrow.

2 comments:

Elliot Symonds said...

An insight into leadership and love dear Bork. From afar and up close I respect and admire your efforts. Never wear a tie. Your emotional bank account is overflowing. Today we quest for tables due to your inspiration.

Jack Whitham said...

Wow, great blog, really appreciate what you're doing for us all!