Tag Archives: surprised stare

Episode 78 – After The Hiatus!

Hey everyone! It’s been a little while, but The Little Metal Dog Show is back with a blast of an episode! First of all, it’s the glorious return of gaming’s most splendid and naughtiest chap, Tony Boydell! Following the fantastic success of his beautiful game Snowdonia, he’s back with a new release that will tug at the nostalgia glands of plenty of gamers of a certain age: Ivor The Engine. Recorded prior to the 2014 UK Games Expo, we discuss the game itself and ramble off into many (and I mean MANY) topics. After that, something of an exclusive for LMDS when I get to sit down and speak with one of the most powerful men in gaming, Christian Petersen. Not only is he a highly talented designer (with games like Twilight Imperium and Game of Thrones under his belt), he also happens to be the founding owner of a little company called Fantasy Flight Games. We talk LCGs, the history of the company, Kickstarter and the possibility of an FFG Theme Park (NOTE: THIS IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN). It was fantastic to meet Christian in the flesh – he’s a great chap and I think that really comes through in our talk!

As always, thank you for listening. Episode 79 will be with you later in the week with another pair of big name interviews: Z-Man’s own Zev Shlasinger and Justin Ziran, President of WizKids! Be sure to check it out!


Direct Download the new episode from here! – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/8nqxuh/LMDS_Episode_78.mp3

Surprised Stare’s Site! Get your Ivor here! – http://surprisedstaregames.co.uk/

Tony Boydell’s rather odd blog on BGG – http://boardgamegeek.com/blog/344

Fantasy Flight’s Site – http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/


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Episode 47 – Essen 2012, Day Two!

So, here’s the second of four episodes from The Little Metal Dog Show covering Spiel 2012! This one is massive, clocking in at over 100 minutes of interviews direct from the show floor. Check out the list below for everyone involved in this episode as well as links to their many and various projects and companies. As always, thanks for listening and supporting the show!

Direct Download: http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/ffv2f6/LMD_Episode47.mp3

Tony Boydell from Surprised Stare Games, designer of Snowdoniahttp://www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk

Gil dOrey runs MESAboardgames: http://www.mesaboardgames.pt/en

Flatlined Games’ Eric Hanuise: http://www.flatlinedgames.com/

Alban Viard, creator of Card City and Town Centerhttp://www.ludibay.net/

The Guys from The Roskilde Festival talk about The Roskilde Festival Gamehttp://roskilde-festival.dk/

Follow Backspindle Games (makers of Guards! Guards! and Codinca): https://twitter.com/GuardsGuards

Pierre-Yves from Helvetia discusses Shafausa and Helvetia Cuphttp://www.helvetia-games.ch/en/

Stragoo Games presented Mafia City: http://www.stragoo.cz/

The wonderful Piotr from Locworks had a massive amount of games available: http://www.locworks.pl/

Il Vecchio from Hall Games was a cracking Euro: http://www.hallgames.de/ilvecchio.php5?lang=EN

Klemenz Franz from Lookout Games talked about Agricola, Le Havre and so much more: http://lookout-spiele.de

Sunrise Tornado’s Ta-Te Wu had a whole bunch of new games: http://sunrisetornado.com/ as well as a Kickstarter for his new title: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tatewu/glory-of-the-three-kingdoms-guandu-core-set

Legendary designer Mike Fitzgerald talked about Hooyah! The Navy SEALS Card Game: http://www.usgamesinc.com/product.php?productid=1166

Right – now to get on with putting together the third part of the Essen coverage…

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International Velvet – Snowdonia review

I’ve been thinking a lot (dangerous, I know) about Spiel 2012 – and more specifically, the games that were released there. Since I got back on Monday I’ve had a LOT of emails asking the usual stuff; did I have fun (yes), how many interviews did I do (just about fifty) and – the biggest question of all – what was my Game of the Show?

In all honesty, this is a very difficult one to answer. As I was running around like a mad thing for most of the show I didn’t actually get a huge amount of time to do much in the way of playing during the four days of Spiel. Sure, there was a fair few games in the evening at the hotel but it’s only really now, post event, that I get to sit around the table with friends and play all those boxes I dragged home. Suburbia is certainly up there on my hotlist, as are Tzolk’in, Space Cadets and the very lovely new version of Sentinels of the Multiverse, but I think I’ve finally decided.

Snowdonia by Tony Boydell is, in a word, wonderful. A middleweight Euro for between one and five players, the premise sees you building a railway up the side of Wales’ finest, foggiest mountainside. Rubble must be cleared, stations need to be built and… well, that’s about it for the story. However, the game itself is packed out with a depth that is rarely so easy to get your teeth into.

Each turn you’ll be able to take a couple of actions (potentially three if you’ve planned ahead well) that will help you in your quest to get that railway constructed. If you boil it down, Snowdonia is essentially a race for points, but the theme is reflected in the opportunities available to you. With only seven different possibilities, you may initially think that the game is somewhat limiting but the realisation kicks in soon that it’s all about building the most efficient engine as quickly as possible. Iron ore is changed into steel bars that can be used to lay track or get your hands on a train (more on that shortly) while rubble can be compressed into stone then used to build stations. Almost everything you do in Snowdonia can score you points, but you’re not going to win this game without some rather lucrative contracts.

These cards set out precisely what you need in order to get some very hefty bonuses. Whether it’s collecting a huge pile of rubble or making sure that you’ve built a decent amount of tracks and buildings, completing them often sets you on the path to victory. As well as points, they also offer you the chance to bend the rules each turn – many can be triggered during certain action phases and will bestow benefits on you and your opposition, so choosing the right time to use them is a major part of the game.

Another way to turn things in your favour is to pick up a train card. They’re costly – most will set you back a couple of steel bars so they can eat into your resources – but will give you a permanent bonus. Whether it’s getting an extra resource each turn or simply more points at the end of the game, choosing the right one is hugely influential. They also allow you to spend a coal cube before each turn in order to get a third worker out of the pub – a great way to get more and more stuff done and work your way along the stations.

Snowdonia in all its cube-driven glory! Click to embiggen.

Of course, this being Wales, you’re going to be slaves to its ‘glorious’ weather. An ingenious little system shows what’s happening meteorologically and this does actually effect how the game plays out. The backs of the contract cards show whether it’s sunny, wet or foggy and by seeing what’s coming up you’ll be able to hopefully plan ahead. Work can progress when it’s bright or raining but should the fog descend everything grinds to a halt – the perfect time to stock up on resources or send your surveyor further up towards the summit; the higher the better as he can again pull in some decent points at the end of play.

Once track has been laid to the final station, the game draws to a close, points are tallied and a winner is declared. Play steams along at a decent pace, especially when you get into gear and start putting your plans for domination into place. A system has also been built in where the game will start laying track and finishing off stations by itself, so hoarding resources and turtling up will do you no favours! You’re forced to get on with it, spend freely from the very beginning and get your presence on the board sooner rather than later, especially in a game of four or five players.

It’s well known that Tony is a fan of Agricola (just look at his slightly deranged blog right here) and you can certainly see Uwe Rosenberg’s influence on Snowdonia – both have a simplicity and straightforward manner of play, and fans of medieval farming will easily slip into the ways of mountainous railway construction. While there’s a lot of information going on in the game, everything is clearly presented and you’ll never get overloaded with detail; another sign of an excellent design.

Also included in the box is a whole new scenario which switches up the gameplay and adds yet more replay value to the package – work is also apparently going on by certain other designers to produce new card sets too, so it looks like Snowdonia is going to be well supported for some time to come. I’d suggest you get in early, grab a copy and get playing before this one starts picking up awards and it becomes hard to find. Who’d have thought that hard labour could be so entertaining? It’s bloody marvellous.

Snowdonia was designed by Tony Boydell and is published by Surprised Stare, Lookout Games and uplay.it. Between two and five can play, with a slightly different set of rules available if you fancy some solo action. It’ll cost you around £32 for a copy, but Gameslore have it available for £26.99. GET IT. NOW.

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Electric Dreams – Fzzzt! review

Time for another guest review, this time from Jonathan Leech. I’ve got a lot of time for a little UK company called Surprised Stare Games (as my review of Paperclip Railways shows) – they’re responsible for some great games with interesting ideas. They also produced a little card game called Fzzzt! in 2009 which our guest writer seems to enjoy. Over to Jonathan.


You may have noticed that card games have increased in popularity recently and that an explosion of deck-building games, resource management games, hand management games and set collecting games occurred following the phenomenon that was Dominion. Many of these games use cards in innovative ways and there is a tremendous amount of variety available, even amongst games which appear very similar at first glance.

Sitting between all the big show-off card games with millions of expansions and a zillion cards lurks a rather more modest single deck game that has slipped quietly by, almost under the radar. It contains only 56 cards, a card sized rulebook of only 16 tiny pages and a whole lot of game. So instead of boxes and boxes of cards that take up more room than a Fantasy Flight tombstone you have a deck of cards you can shove in your pocket and carry round to your mates without a forklift and a pallet. This is a godsend for me since I don’t yet have an HGV licence or, come to think of it, a forklift.

The low-flying stealth game in question is Fzzzt! by Surprised Stare which crams auctions, hand management, set collection and deck building into one small box. Because of this, while the rules are fairly simple, it’s the type of game that you really need to play through once before you truly understand how the mechanics work together and stand a chance of building up a decent score.

Set up is quick and simple with each player being dealt an identical hand of four cards. These cards all have a zap value, the currency of the game, which you will use to try and buy other cards in the auction rounds. In the first round there are eight cards up for auction so you’re not going to be able to win them all. There are two types of card you will be bidding for: the most common cards, Robots, will increase your currency on the next round. The other type, Production Units, are immediately played down in front of you and will give you bonus points at the end of the game if you can collect sets which match their component requirements and squirrel them away.

Like all good games it’s a question of balancing your requirements. You need to win Robots to increase your bidding power but you also want Production Units as they can give you big points at the end. The Production Units also need Robot cards to be placed under them to produce these points but that then takes those cards out of your available bidding pool, decreasing your potential power for the next round. There are lots of tricky decisions to be made which makes for an interesting tussle over your limited resources.

The auction mechanic provides its own dilemmas of when to bid and when to pass or bluff. As mentioned, at the beginning of an auction round eight cards are dealt face down in a row and then the first card is turned up. In the bottom right of the card is the conveyor belt speed number – either 1, 2, 3, 4 or 8. This number shows how many of the cards are visible to the players so a 1 means only that first card can be seen whereas an 8 means all the cards are turned face up. This can mean you’re bidding on a card but have no idea whether the following ones are really what you should be waiting for. On the other hand, sometimes you can see the whole line and may well be hoping to win a specific card – but so might the other players.

As you win Robot cards they go into your personal discard pile along with the cards you bid with – losers get their bidding cards back. When the eight auctions are completed and the round is over you take your hand and discards then decide which cards to keep and which to put into any Production Units that you may have. You can place one card under a Production Unit per turn so this is a chance to fine tune your small deck and start to gather sets. Ideally you’ll be keeping the higher power cards and weeding out the lower value ones to increase your chance of drawing a strong hand to bid with in the next round. Once you’re finished, you shuffle your deck and then deal yourself a hand for the next auction round sticking to the maximum hand size of six. The conveyor belt is restocked and the auction goes round again until the end of the fifth round when final scores need to be worked out.

Players add up the basic scores on each of their cards and then do a final allocation of cards to their Production Units to try and maximise bonus points. If you have a Production Unit with no complete sets then it counts as a negative so that’s a situation to try to avoid. The highest score is, of course, the winner.

Phew, simple… sort of. In truth, it is straightforward once you’ve gone through it, although even when you understand how the mechanics work together it’s not always an easy ride. I always struggle with auction games as I never really know the value of things and it’s easy to overbid and blow all your resources too early. Alternatively, I often underbid and miss out on an item that could be just what is needed. This is made even harder since you don’t always know what is coming up for auction next. When you’ve bid heavy on a card and won only to see the next one flip up and realise that you want that even more is tough for you but delightful for your opponents.

If you like card games with a bit of depth in a short playing time I’d recommend you have a good look at Fzzzt!


Surprised Stare are a UK based company that have been designing and producing games since 2000 when they released Coppertwaddle. Fzzzt! was launched at the UK Games Expo in 2009 where it won the award for Best New Card Game and after the initial limited release it was picked up by Gryphon Games – this edition is available for around £10 online. The company’s site can be found at www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk – you can read more about the company, the surprising history behind Coppertwaddle and even buy their games.

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Love Train – Paperclip Railways review

This June, I’m lucky enough to be presenting a couple of panels at the UK Games Expo. One of the talks I’m chairing is with a selection of some of the finest game designers that the country has to offer, one of whom is Tony Boydell from Surprised Stare Games. We got to talking about what they have planned for the future and he revealed a small project he’s working on called Paperclip Railways. This isn’t going to be a huge release – in fact it’ll be limited to 120 copies that will be available at the show itself – but Tony asked me if I fancied having a look. Who am I to say no?  He sent the files over and away I went.

Now, I have never, ever made up a print and play game. I know that a lot of people are big fans of this most DIY of gaming genres, but for me? Never really felt like making the effort. I like opening up a box after tearing off the plastic cover, pulling cards from their cellophane wrapping, poring over the minis… why on earth would I want to go to the effort of making something when I can just pull something off the shelf? It’d take something a bit special to turn this attitude around. Something a bit different, a little innovative and interesting. After reading through the rules, my interest was certainly piqued.

First thing to do was to scavenge the necessary parts so the game could be played. Paperclips were easy enough to come by (thank you Staples), but the coloured cubes were a little trickier. Despite having a huge branch of Hobbycraft local to me, they were unable to provide what I wanted. Cue a bit of innovation on my part as a I grabbed a few packs of coloured Fimo crafting clay. A couple of hours of solid work and thirty minutes of baking that evening saw me with enough cubes of the necessary colours so up to five people can play – and if I dare say it myself, I think they lend to the cutesy feel of the game. Sure, wooden blocks would be perfectly serviceable, but these look like candy! The final version of the game will, of course, come with all the bits necessary to play it straight out of the box.

Walking in on this will confuse the hell out of most people.

The rules may come across as simple, but at its core is a rather challenging game. Three to five players take turns in building and extending a network of towns and sites that are represented on square cards. These cards can be placed anywhere, but when you put one down it must be linked via a track to a place you’ve already got as part of your network. Tracks, made up by the coloured paperclips that give the game its name, can be purchased in sets of three by discarding cards from your hand. Points are scored by adding the amount each town is worth to the number of paperclips in the track that links the two cards. Points can also be lost if your tracks pass over those owned by other players, the string of blue clips that makes up a river, or touch the larger tiles that depict mountains or lakes. Bonuses can also be accrued either immediately or at the game end, depending on the text that is found on the card that you’ve played.

After a fair few plays, it strikes me that the game is a really a mix of two genres. First of all, you’re managing your hand of cards, deciding what you’ll keep in order to grow your network and what can be sacrificed so you can garner more paperclips. Once you have them, you must consider the placement of your cards and clips, shifting the game into spacial awareness territory – do you cluster everything in one area or try to reach out into your opponents’ zones? You’re allowed to build track into towns already set up by the other players (as long as there is space, signified by a cube limit on each card – if that limit is reached, no more building in or out of that town is allowed).  The playing area gets pretty full quickly and even halfway through the game you’ll need to think hard about what the optimal placements could be.

Getting pushed for space!

So, the simple question: was building my own copy of Paperclip Railways worth the effort? All in all, it probably cost me about £15 to get everything together to get the game up and running and I honestly think that’s a bargain. Despite this being (in Tony’s own words) “a bit of fun” that was dreamt up at last year’s Essen fair, the game is incredibly solid. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the lovely String Railway from Japon Brand, but this is definitely a title that stands up for itself. It’s incredibly easy to get the hang of but sufficiently brain-burning to challenge a wide range of players. As mentioned above, the game will be available in limited quantities at Birmingham’s UK Games Expo, but should you not be able to get there copies can be reserved and set aside by dropping an email to the guys at Surprised Stare. The best thing is, you won’t even have to hunt about for the bits to play it – everything will be provided so it’s playable out of the box! Get in touch at feedback@surprisedstaregames.co.uk but please remember – there’s no pricing available yet! Tony has also said that reserving a copy will not bind you into buying a copy of the game, but if you even think you may half-kind-of-maybe want one, I’d fire off an email pretty soon.

Oh, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a copy? You might want to print off this…

BIG TIME, BABY! Little Metal Dog Show's first appearance in a game!


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