PERSONAL DIARY (March 2020): A Month of Two Halves… LOCKDOWN!

Well… the month did start, okay, didn’t it?

A month of two halves it certainly was… I spent the majority of my time at the beginning of the month putting together the latest issue of The SPIRIT (issue #8 btw), cramming the layout work into the space of a few days because I had not long completed a project for another client (the BSFABritish Science Fiction Association– since you didn’t ask).

Incidentally, you can download The SPIRIT #8 direct from the WordPress site by just clicking the link below, where you can also find all the back issues, too. And yes, all of them are completely free to download!

The SPIRIT of Games & Gamers website

Alas, I couldn’t quite finish layout on The SPIRIT #8 before the AireCon weekend up here in Yorkshire (Harrogate, Yorkshire, UK): an event I wrote about daily here on the blog, although I did manage to finish the magazine just a few days later:

AireCon 2020 — Friday 13th March

AireCon 2020 — Saturday 14th March

AireCon 2020 — Sunday 15th March

I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering whether or not the AireCon 2020 weekend was even going to happen given that COVID-19 had not long hit the news, and the noose was tightening at the time. As it turned out, this proved to be the last major boardgaming event of the year thus far by the looks of it, because just a few days later restrictions came into play, toilet roll and hand sanitiser suddenly became more valuable than anything else at your local supermarket, restaurants and pubs had to close, and the whole clampdown and lockdown thing started just a few short days later. And just in case you figured it couldn’t possibly get much worse, the UKGE tentatively postponed what was set to be the biggest ever UK gaming event and pushed it back to the end of August (for now, at least), and the final nail in the coffin?  McDonald’s closed the doors of all its UK restaurants on Monday 23rd March, at which point it felt like the world really had come to a standstill…

McDs_closedThe really sad thing is that although this may already feel like a lifetime ago, it’s quite depressing to realise it’s barely been two weeks as of the start of April, and nope, this isn’t an April Fools, I’m afraid!


Did you get any boardgames played, then?

Actually, yes, I managed to cram quite a bit into the first half of the month, including three successive wins in an Azul tournament at our local Beyond Monopoly! gaming group here in York. I still didn’t place very high in the final standings, however, because of some weird scoring rules which basically allowed players to ‘game the system’ for higher scores and more points. Good job I rather like Azul, I guess, although a review of these sorts of rules would be very welcome for future tournaments, I suspect!

The rest of the games I played were all at AireCon, and a disproportionate amount of them were my own design: Aliens Ate My Planet! was being demo-ed at the event, and got played a lot, but it did get universal approval, too, I might add!


I wrote about all the other games I got to play at AireCon in my blog posts for each of those days, and would like to add that apart from playing so much of my own game at the event, a couple of other prototypes really stood out: Numbers Station (designed by Robert @StartPlayer) is a cold war spy-type rondel management game I really did enjoy (and has a unique theme, too, imho); while Not So Fast (designed by Greg Skulnick) also proved to be deceptively clever yet very easy to play: if the designer would forgive me for saying so, the game felt really ‘tight’ as well, which made all the difference to the way it played, I thought (and that’s a good thing, btw).

It was nice to play FlickFleet again, too – this is a dexterity-based flicking game set in space (the clue’s in the title!) co-designed by a gaming friend of mine (Paul Willcox), and although it’s one of those games that could easily be dismissed if you’ve never played it before, the smart and clever design always shines through when I actually get to play the damned thing!

It’s sad to admit that I haven’t played any other boardgames since AireCon, my usual good-natured and positive ‘mojo’ seemingly sapped away by a melancholy state that refuses to lift at the moment, given what’s going on in the world. I noticed that several other gamers have been feeling the same way, while more adventurous souls than I have resorted to playing games online via Apps like Yucata, Tabletop Simulator, etc. using Discord, Snapchat, FaceTime, etc.

I am more fortunate than some in that I have two part-time jobs, and although one has temporarily disappeared up the spout for now, my other role comes under the ‘key worker’ banner, and I’m at least able to pick up some extra hours there, so I’m not completely housebound just yet!


Let’s not be ending on a bum note, though…

It is quite difficult to find something positive to say just now —in gaming terms, at least— but I am of course grateful that all the members of my immediate and extended families seem to be okay, with no COVID-19 symptoms and/or associated worries to be getting worked up about just yet.

I would love to say that with all this extra spare time I now have (well, it’s not that much extra for me, to be fair), I’ve been more productive, but truth be told I’ve just spent an inordinate amount of time lounging in front of the TV falling asleep in between bouts of Disney+ and playing lots of MTG Arena, with the odd dabble into a few other PC-based games.

BUT… there is some good news to share: I’ve managed to complete the black and white cards for Aliens Ate My Planet! in readiness for a forthcoming PnP (Print’n’Play) file, as well as completing what I think is a half-decent rulebook, too!  I hope to be releasing this within just a few weeks… but you can find out a bit more about that on BGG here:

WIP – Aliens Ate My Planet! PnP…

You can also download a copy of the rulebook right now using the link below, and at time of writing I am not sure if the last 4 pages are strictly necessary, although I’d love to get more opinions on this (and if you find any typing or grammatical errors, please shout):

Aliens Ate My Planet! rulebook v4.0 PDF file


A game a day in May, perhaps?

In an effort to try and jolt myself out of my current flunk, I am seriously looking at May as a month in which I might try to forward plan and boldly go where I’ve never been before:  ‘A game a day in May’ has a rather nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Perhaps more people would like to join me and start preparing to do the same, especially if the current status quo doesn’t shift one way or t’other…?

March 2020 gaming stats: 19 games (8 wins)

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