Why I Love Summer

T.G.I.S. – Thank God It’s Summer.

Summer is undoubtedly the best season in the world ever.

Among my friends and family, I’m well known for declaring it’s summer at some stupidly early point, and packing away my coats and tights for the year. Usually in about February.

First frappe of 2015 #summeriscoming #sunshine #goodbyewinter #caffenero #bringontheweekend

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(Note this was taken in March and I’m wearing a scarf but it’s totally summer because I have a frappe).

But considering it’s almost June now, and it’s been soooo gorgeous lately, I’m fairly sure that no one will dispute that it’s TOTALLY ACTUALLY SUMMER.

Here’s some of the reasons why summer is so awesome.

The Weather

Sunshine. Heat.

Air that feels the same temperature as your skin.

Rain that comes at the perfect time to wash the mugginess out of the air.

The Days

Sunny days that seem to go on forever.

Evenings that stay light until well into the night.

Mornings so bright they make you excited to get up.

Cocktails and Other Summer Drinks

Cocktails just make so much more sense at this time of year.

The ice in drinks isn’t just taking up space.

Chopping up fruit for Pimms.

Perfect Pimms at our House Wimbeledoning - BeckyBecky Blogs

Frozen slushies and fruit cider and wine with ice cubes in it.

Here is my #rewardcocktail for working on a Sunday! #Smirnoff have this awesome new raspberry sorbet cocktail mix

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Drinking outdoors. Roof terraces. Beer gardens. Supermarket wine in the park.

Summer Food

Salad being a totally sufficient meal.

Fruit salad or fruity cheesecake or anything fruity is the ideal dessert.

Mixed berry cheesecake, perfect for summer - BeckyBecky Blogs

Iced drinks.

I seem to be more creative with food in summer.

Here’s my Wimbledon feast from last year.

Full buffet of food at our House Wimbledoning - BeckyBecky Blogs

And some summery salmon salad.

summer salmon recipe with potatoes and salad - BeckyBecky Blogs

Ice Cream

There’s nothing better than that first ice cream van 99.

But I’m also partial to Twisters, Magnums… ah, screw it, I’m not fussy!

Or Thai Khrim, the coolest ice cream fad to come to Leeds Trinity Centre!

BBQs

Buying some meat and some disposable BBQs.

Texting all your friends.

Waiting like three hours for the BBQ to heat up so you get pretty tipsy in the interim.

BBQs in the summer - BeckyBecky Blogs

That awesome person that brings the buns, cheese and sauces.

FYI this pork recipe totally works on the BBQ.

Summer Clothes

Sundresses.

Sundresses in summer - BeckyBecky Blogs

Shorts.

Flipflops and sandals.

Not being asked “aren’t you cold?”.

Not needing to remember a coat or cardigan.

Dyeing my hair a fun colour for a few weeks.

I look like the frigging Little Mermaid #nofilter #hairdye #thelengthsigotoformegagaming

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Water

Jumping into a pool.

Water gun fights.

Spraying someone with a hose when they’re not expecting it.

Pouring a bottle of water over your head.

Having a cold shower.

Holidays

Trips abroad.

Trips in England when there’s a chance of it being good weather!

Memories of being a kid when summer was the best time of year.

I’m going to Portugal next month!!!

Music

I always make a summer playlist (here’s this year’s).

It always starts with The Corrs – Summer Sunshine.

I play it non stop, and it always makes me happy.

Outdoor Activites

Picnics. Aforementioned BBQs.

Days wandering around stately gardens and parks and cities.

Outdoor food festivals and beer festivals.

Mini golf. Boat trips.

Sunbathing.

Picnic and sunbathing time #summersunshine

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Or Pokemon GO which was basically my summer last year.

Wimbledon

It’s coming. It’s like the only sport I reliably watch.

Rooting for Andy Murray.

Mixing up a batch of Pimms.

Strawberries and cream.

Yesss #strawberriesandcream 🍓🍓🍓 #Wimbledon2016 #bestofbritish

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The Smells

Sun cream.

Freshly cut grass.

Someone having a BBQ and making you want to have one too.

After it rains.

Adventures

It’s always easier to try something new in summer.

In winter, the rain and cold keeps you indoors. In summer you can go out and just do something.

Maybe it’s because of the summer holidays during school, but summer still seems so full of potential. I often dye my hair, or cut it. I take up new hobbies or habits.

Summer is the best time of year to get out of your box and do something completely different.

Zomg new frappuccino flavours 😀 #smoresfrappuccino #starbucks #summersunshine #suchexcite

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Bring on Summer 2017.

What do you love about summer? Comment and let me know!

Mr Nobody’s Discovery Menu: Restaurant Review

I LOVE FOOD. There, I said it.

My big problem with liking food so much, is that I want to try so much of it. I rarely sit down, look at a menu, and say “that is the only dish I want”. Often I have to bargain with myself that I’ll come back and have one of the other dishes I like, or persuade TC to share his with me.

There are ways around this, of course. Tapas restaurants are always a good choice, as well as sharing platters.

But the best option, when you’re as into food as I am? Tasting menus. They’re a godsend.

8 Course Discovery Menu at Mr Nobody

Rather than huge portions of mass-produced food that you’ll struggle to finish, Mr Nobody serves small plates of perfectly created food. Their website boasts that their fridges are empty at the end of each day – meaning the food you eat is fresh daily. But if you’ve been to a tasting menu before, this one is a little… different.

My bestie’s fiance, Kyle, works at another of the owner’s businesses and was able to get us a bit of a discount, so we had Mr Nobody on our MUST DO list for a while. Keeleigh and I went there for cocktails a while ago, and Ellie and I ran into them at the Cocktail Experience, but somehow it took us til last week to actually book a table for food.

We arrived a little early, and had a cocktail in the bar. I ordered a Lotus, and it was roundly agreed that I’d ordered the best one.

Lotus cocktail at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Their bar is a mixture of bare brick and faux ivy, while the terrace out back is more Tropical Garden. The place overall has a “cool vibe”.

Downstairs the decor is a lot more plain, allowing the food to shine on its own merits.

Cellar at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Course 0: Nobody’s Noodles

The first course was served pretty promptly after we sat down. Our waitress came over, introduced herself, and then almost immediately we were served a tiny cup.

Attached to my cup, with an even tinier peg, was a slip of paper. The waitress explained that for each course, we would receive a small note telling us what we were about to eat – and that we should take it in turns to read it out.

I won’t reproduce every single note here – it would ruin some of the enjoyment if you end up going – but for a taster, here’s the first one:

“Here is Nobody’s Noodles.

This little one is based on Nobody’s discovery of the Cup Noodle.. I absolutely love ramen. So… we thought we’d make a fresh version! Ours is made up of a quail consomme, infused with various seaweed Craig brought us back from Scarborough in the last full moon, some unusual mushrooms & some home pulled noodles.

请享用 / enjoy!”

Nobody's Noodles at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

And those noodles… I’ve never had quail before (until later that meal), but WOW. That consomme was the richest broth I’ve ever had (and I’m really not a soup person). The only dilemma was that the noodles were quite thick and long compared to the cup, so it was… difficult to eat them neatly.

And I’d actually intended to ask that my food for the evening be served without mushrooms, but the message never reached Mr Nobody… and y’know what, I’m glad. These “unusual mushrooms” were nothing like the rubbishy white mushrooms you usually get. They were tiny, and presumably Chinese mushrooms, and without the slimy texture or taste that I hate.

Nobody's Noodles at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

It was an amazing start to the meal and probably my third favourite course overall. It was also a clear clue that Mr Nobody wasn’t afraid of doing something a little bit different. Pot noodle is rarely thought of as haute cuisine!

Course 1 – Bread and Butter

One of the tips for dieting while going out for classy meals is to avoid filling up on bread. Well, I assure you, if you skip the bread at Mr Nobody, you’re skipping one of the best parts of the meal.

We decided to order the flight of wine pairings to go with the meal, and while our waitress hand-picked a suitable bottle and poured our first glass, the butter was delivered to our table.

At first, Keeleigh, who was to read out this course’s description, was a little confused. We were presented with this:

Butter and smoked cod's roe at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

A pat of butter and a dollop of something. But our bread was a little delayed (probably while they were getting it fresh out of the oven!) so we were wondering which one was the bread, until our rolls turned up.

Fresh bread at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The butter, which I adored, was a “dulse seaweed butter”, but the stand-out item was the dollop of smoked cod’s roe. TC is still going on about it days later.

Course 2 – Grilled Mackerel “On Toast”

Emphasis was Mr Nobody’s, not mine.

Grilled mackerel on toast at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The mackerel was stunningly cooked, but I think this was one of their slightly weaker courses. The “toast” disintergrated when you tried to cut into it, and the tomato and fennel accompaniment, while tasty, wasn’t quite up to the ridiculously high standard set so far. A tasty course, but not enough to blow me away.

Course 3 – Norfolk Quail Kiev

The word “Norfolk” got a round of cheers (three out of the six of us were from Norfolk, and I’m from one county over).

As mentioned, I hadn’t had quail before, but I’m not sure this dish did it justice. When our waitress was serving the wine, she mentioned that she’d chosen it because she wanted the flavour of the quail to stand out against it. But honestly, I’m not sure I could have differentiated the taste of the quail from ordinary poultry. There were several comments of “it’s KFC!” from around the table…

Quail kiev and burgundy mash at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

But the “burgundy mash” was amazing, and it’s not like the quail wasn’t delicious either – I love garlic kievs. I’m just not sure I can count myself as having tasted quail yet.

Course 4 – Cheese and Onion

Bring out the sharp knives at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

When they put out the sharp knives, we all got excited. Would it be steak?

No, it wouldn’t be. What it would be was my favourite course. I honestly don’t think I can eat another onion again, until I find out how they cooked it like that.

Cheese and onion at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The onion may look burnt, but it was perfectly al dente, with none of the bitter taste of burnt butter. It was served with vegetable gravy, sauce soubise (which I’ve now discovered is a Bechamel sauce with added onion), and a scattering of grated cheese on top.

Rereading the accompanying note, it sounds like it was prepared in a similar way to fondant potates. I’m going to have to try making fondant onions later – I’ll report back!

Course 5 – Donner Kebab

Now this is certainly not what you expect to get at a fine dining place.

Donner kebab at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Our plates were brought out before the food, and the fresh kebab was placed onto our plates at the table. It was only after the last glass of wine was poured that we realised we had no cutlery.

Donner kebab at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

“Do you get cutlery when you go to the kebab shop at two in the morning?” the waitress asked, before relenting and saying she can get us some if we wanted. No! Of course not! We were going to eat Mr Nobody style.

Our second messy dish of the night was just as tasty as the first, and for me it ties for third place. I LOVE lamb, and I’m partial to a cheeky kebab, and this was like no kebab I’d ever had before… and yet faintly comforting, all the same.

Unfortunately, I volunteered TC to be photographed trying to eat it, but he grabbed my camera before I could. Hence…

Donner kebab at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Course 6 – Tournedos Rossini

I’ll post the note here so you can see what I was thinking when it was read out…

A classical French dish, Tournedos Rossini; fillet steak, fois gras, truffled madeira sauce and brioche.

Oh wow. it sounded amazing.

We never use foie gras, though it’s delicious, Nobody says it’s not necessary! We turned this dish on its head. We use: herb fed chicken livers, the spinula, which is the soft and juicy single muscle from the rib eye, mushroom and aged sherry gravy. Served with toasted brioche crumb.

Bon appertit / enjoy!

I will be honest, I adore fois gras (even though it’s so so terrible), and was a little saddened when I found out that it wasn’t going to be served.

Tournedos rossini at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

However, eating it more than made up for my disappointment. Although some at the table were not fans of offal, I happen to love liver. The steak itself was perfectly cooked, and the mushrooms were back, and this time I wasn’t scared of them! The crumb was very tasty as well, and really added to the texture of the dish.

Course 7 – Desi Tea and Spiced Doughnuts

I’m not really a fancy tea person (give me a cup of English breakfast any day). But this tea… it didn’t even taste like tea! More like milky hot chocolate or something… I’m only sad there wasn’t more of it.

Desi tea and doughnut at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The doughnut itself was perfectly spiced on the outside and doughy in the middle. TC tried dipping it in the tea but determined it was better on its own. I didn’t have time to try dipping it – I was too busy guzzling it down.

Course 8 – Jelly & Ice Cream

And this one can count as my second favourite dish (though it’s a close one all round to be honest). When we were served the dish, we all took bets on whether they were meringues or marshmallows – I wish I’d bet my dessert on it, because I was right!

Jelly and ice cream at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The lemon sorbet and lemon curd ice cream were served with sour lemon jelly and (you guessed it) soft lemon meringues. The sweet and sour balanced each other perfectly, and I was practically licking the bowl.

Even better, it was served with probably my favourite wine in the world – Moscato dessert wine.

Moscato at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The Wine Flight

I wish I’d thought to note down what wines we were drinking. Each one was hand selected by our waitress to pair perfectly with the dish, and there were honestly no bad choices through the entire night.

Wine flight at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The glasses poured weren’t full ones, so even though we had a different wine with each course (except course 1, course 7 and course 9) we weren’t falling-over-drunk by the end of it.

Wine flight at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Additionally, Keeleigh doesn’t drink red wine, and they were happy to find good alternative wine choices to accommodate that.

SURPRISE Course 9 – A Few Little Treats

I’d seen the sous chef Michael Boushi making the fruit pastilles on Instagram a few days before going, and I was super excited when I saw them come out.

The strawberry laces and fruit pastilles were soft and melted into a sugar mess in your mouth – just how you want it – and the chocolately stick is actually a mini homemade Feast ice cream.

Sweets at Mr Nobody, Leeds - Restaurant Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

And since this is a surprise course, I can totally say that it was also in my top 3 courses, right?

Overall

Mr Nobody was AMAZING. Let me say that again. AMAZING. While there were a couple courses that didn’t quite hit the mark 100%, to me that’s a good thing because it made it easier to pick my favourites 😉

Every single course was delicious, and some courses were among the best food I’ve ever had.

Mr Nobody changes their menu every month, and I just wish I could afford to go there every month to taste the new dishes. It’s not the cheapest place in Leeds, but would you really expect it to be, given the quality of the food? For me, it was well worth it to spend an evening with such good food, such good wine and such good company.

Disclosure: I received the meal at a discount.

City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report

(gritty, New York, film noir accent) The mean streets of Big City, USA, are no place for an honest person to make a living. The stench of corruption and scandal lies so thick in the air, it can’t even be covered up by a good homemade cherry pie. I learned that lesson the hard way three years ago, when my team of Feds followed a good-faith tip from the Central City Police. That tip had bad news written on it like the front page of the Daily Trumpet. The building came down around our ears so fast, no one could get out. No one but me, and not a single soul knows I survived. I swore that day I’d clean up the corruption in this city, or damn well die trying.

City of Shadows Megagame

Last weekend’s megagame was a rerun of the fantastic City of Shadows.

Players raring to go - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky BlogsThe setting is an American city in 1931, with all the gang rivalries, inept policing and City Hall politics that come with it. Tack on some Weird Science and masked vigilantes, and you have a game ready to burst at the seams with conflict.

Last time round, I was the Gang Boss of the Griežti Vaikinai gang, but this time I’d decided to ask for something even more epic. I took the role of Captain Freedom, a masked Vigilante.

As you can see from the totally not rubbish Film Noir voice-over above, my back story was that I was an ex-Fed, lured into an ambush by the City Police. Everyone else died and I was presumed dead. I spent months training at a remote farm, honing my combat skills. Now is the time that I return to the city, and take down the police force that betrayed me.

Unlike most megagame roles, as a Vigilante I wasn’t part of a proper team. There were four other vigilantes: The Ghost, The Fury, The Fighting Fool and Hero By Night. Although we weren’t a team, we were comrades of a sort. We were the only ones with power to help – or stop – the others.

First Impressions

The game started with a lengthy turn zero. This was great, as at the start of turn 1 I would need to put my character on a map and actually take some actions. I had plenty I needed to do before then.

The vigilantes were currently in a state of hesitant truce, and I took advantage of this to establish myself as leader. But asking Hero By Night if she intended to run as Mayor, I persuaded the rest that I had no leadership ambitions. Instead I would be running for Police Commissioner – I could do a far better job than the charlatan currently running the show. I encouraged the others to think of what role they saw themselves in – Vigilantes in City Hall would be an excellent turn out for the day.

Next I had other alliances to make. I stopped by the press as my civilian alter-ego, seeking a job as an investigative journalist. Luckily Kay Francis (who totally isn’t Captain Freedom, not at all) happened to wake up that day with a photo of Captain Freedom in her phone. It seemed to be a selfie. Who could explain that? Clearly the press didn’t require explanation, as my selfie made front-and-centre of Issue One.

Issue One of the Daily Trumpet - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Lastly, I had to make it clear where my loyalties lie. I insulted the Police Commissioner as soon as he walked in the door. I sought out the Feds, promising to bring them any news I could scrounge about the state of the police force in this town. They were only too happy to see me, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t reveal that I was in fact their deceased team mate.

Time ticked around to half 10, and the game began…

Early Game

Turn one saw me visiting the Northern Map. The City Shamrocks there were my first target. First I staked out the local police station, sure I would, sooner or later, see evidence of the police corruption. As my action, I decided to take out a few mobsters in a back alley. My web gun and rubber bullets were put to good use, and I turned up on the Feds’ doorstep with a tangled up mobster.

Turning a mobster over to the Feds - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Image by Jason Bardey

I hadn’t spotted much signs of police collusion here, so I moved on to the Central Map. As soon as I arrived, I spotted what I’d been looking for – proof that the police were corrupt!

One of the gangs on that map, Inbeda, owned several sake dens in the area. We’re still under the Prohibition, so that’s ILLEGAL. I noticed the police had set out a perimeter around City Hall, but overheard them negotiating with Inbeda. Apparently they were moving some of their forces out of their way so the mobsters could move freely.

Aha! I chased after the (hopefully) rogue cop squad, hoping to catch them in the act and pry a confession out of them. But several more police cars descended on me! Although I managed to win the fight and arrest the cops I’d been after, it turned into a far bigger ordeal than I’d planned. An ordeal which would go on to overshadow the rest of the day…

I dropped my cops off with the Feds, informing them that I’d made a citizen’s arrest after seeing them colluding with criminals, and returned to the Vigilante hideouts to find out what the hell was going on with everyone else…

The Dark Underbelly of the City

It all kicked off when Hero By Night said the mayor was an alcoholic. She claimed she had seen proof he was colluding with the City Shamrocks to smuggle illegal alcohol into the city. Sensing a trend, I thought it might have something to do with the police coordinating with Inbeda’s sake dens in Central. Foolishly, I suggested Hero By Night check those ones out too.

But I was to investigate what the hell the Ghost was doing. Reports from other vigilantes and civilians suggested that he had kidnapped the daughter of the Sicilian Mafia Boss. Or son, reports varied.

Spying on the police, I watched a police on the barber shop where the kidnapping had taken place, and spied the police walking out with a large parcel and handfuls of cash. Throughout the rest of the month, I saw mobsters repeatedly head to the police station with envelopes of money, and leave empty handed. It was clear to me that the corruption in this city spread far and ran deep.

Dirty money - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Image by Jason Bardey

I confronted the local police force, who said they were in the process of determining whether they should use the contents of the parcel as evidence against the Ghost… or whether they should hand it over to Science. They had sent a request up the chain of command. Dear gods men, your job is to solve crimes and fight injustice, not supply scientists! The answer should have been clear!

I was about to bring up the money, when there was a shout of uproar from Central. Hero By Night had just kidnapped the Mayor.

“A window was left open, so I just went for it”.

Vigilante Gone Wild

Hero By Night invited me to join her and the Feds at a secret meeting with a “scientist”, who promised to bring along his “truth serum”. The scientist turned out to be nothing more than a drunkard. He thrust a bottle of booze into the Mayor’s hands and coerced him to drink. Hero proclaimed that this was proof.

On the return to the hideouts, she also claimed that the Mayor had, while we’d been distracted at the meeting, admitted to the claims. But I’d been paying attention! He had done no such thing! When I called her out on her lies, she told me to just go along with it.

THIS WOULD NOT STAND. I was committed to keeping the streets clean, and that included cleaning up after my own kind.

I appraised my fellow vigilantes. The Fighting Fool could be trusted, I was sure of that. The Fury was too close to Hero By Night, and too unruly. I was on the fence about the Ghost, but decided to loop him in – I’d seen no proof over in West that he’d had anything to do with the kidnapping of the Mafia’s daughter. And I’d need all the help I could get.

Being vigilantes, we knew first hand how hard it was to take one down. This would take planning and precision. I also made sure to get full authorisation from the Feds… because I’m so damn lawful.

We tried to carry on as normal to not alert Hero By Night’s suspicions. But that’s pretty tough when previously we’d been acting cohesively, but now needed to have conversations without her.

Taking Down Hero By Night

The next turn, the Freedom-Fool-Ghost alliance turned up at City Hall to try to protect the rest of the city government from her. Unfortunately, City Hall was on the Central map, where I’d had my run in with the police earlier. Even though Hero By Night turned up and we had the opportunity to take her down, we didn’t dare out of fear the huge mass of cops would join in on her side.

Police massing at City Hall - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Image by Jason Bardey

At the end of that turn, disastrous news struck. City Hall had outlawed all Vigilantes. We were on the run from the law. And it was all thanks to Hero By Night, who finally decided to release the Mayor.

I think all the Vigilantes stayed off the map that turn. Several of us converted to our civilian alter egos. And The Fighting Fool, the Ghost and I put our plans in place. We had studied Hero By Night, and we believed we could take her down.

All we needed now was for her to leave her hideout.

Hard Work and Little Reward

But she stayed hidden for that turn, the next, and the next. Meanwhile the FFG brigade began the work of repairing the city’s opinion of the Vigilantes. We took down the largest extortion racket in the city; stepped between several gangs crossing gang lines, breaking up their fights with fewer casualties. We arrested multiple gangsters and took them to the Feds.

When we’d been outlawed, all our places on the Good-Evil tracker immediately fell to below neutral. But with hard work, we built our way back up.

It became clear that any suspect we would bring to the Feds would be turned over to the courts… and then be let off, due to lack of evidence. Clearly we needed a way to get proof.

I began my other great mission of the game: obtaining a camera. This may sound like a simple task, but remember it’s the 1930s. Cameras are large and obvious. I wanted one without a flash, but ideally with night vision and the ability to see through walls. Task sounds a bit harder now?

Weird Science and Weirder Scientists

Luckily, I knew who to turn to.

Weird science - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Throughout the game I’d developed a cordial relationship with most of the scientists. In particular was the one – the totally memorable one that I remember who it was – who supplied me with the Freedom Flier, my one-man aeroplane.

But none of the scientists had anything like I was describing in their blueprints. But one scientist had a promising suggestion. Baron Von Strucker would send me, and a reliable witness, back in time to watch a crime taking place. We would then be able to use that witness’ testimony in court.

It wasn’t as useful as a camera, but it would do!

In return for this, the Baron did not ask for money. Instead, he asked me to break into somewhere for him. I was hesitant to break the law, but pretty desperate, so I agreed. The target? Dr Zola’s laboratory.

Finding it’s location was the easy part. With Freedom Flier, I simply followed him back from a public meeting. Once I found it, I scaled the walls with my grapple gloves.

The result was an anti-climax. Door after door slammed shut with thick concrete slabs. My non-lethal weaponry didn’t stand a chance.

Best Laid Plans

Frustratingly, it was announced that Hero By Night had struck again. This time she had kidnapped the Deputy Mayor. And she’d done it quietly, not by heading to the map.

Fortunately, through the vigilante grapevine we discovered that she was due to release him. We followed the breadcrumbs, and ask she kicked him out of an unmarked car, we pounced! Our Fancy Acrobatics counter her Slipping Into The Shadows. My web gun and capturing skills served me well, so that even though the Fighting Fool backed out at the last minute, the Ghost and I still won through, and delivered the woman now known as the Villain By Night to the Feds.

Arresting Hero By Night - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Image by Jason Bardey

Unfortunately, one of the things Villain had done before releasing the Deputy Mayor was to negotiate the Feds access to investigate City Hall for corruption. She was released almost instantly.

According to the Federal agent who was to be her handler, she had “promised” not to kidnap anyone again. I pointed to the Vigilante tracker, which had, as well as a Good-Evil axis, a Chaos-Lawful tracker. Villain By Night was down in the Chaotic Evil segment.

The Vigilante Moral Compass - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

“Do you really trust a chaotic evil promise?”

For the Good of the City

On the other hand, I’d remained in the far top right at all times (except the obligatory dip when we’d been outlawed). At one time, I’d been so lawful I’d gone around the corner!

I knew what I had to do. I knew how ambitious Villain By Night was, and how many people she might frighten into supporting her. How corrupt the police were. How weak the current government was. They couldn’t even defend themselves, never mind their people.

I knew that I had to run for mayor.

The first job was to stop Villain from running. With the Federal agent backing me up, I persuaded her to stand as my running mate, and run for Deputy Mayor instead. If she did get elected, I would hopefully be in a position to control her.

But partnering with someone I’d recently elected drew a lot of criticism. I found myself having to defend her from some completely valid criticism.

Buying Votes in Unconventional Ways

Far too late, we discovered that the real power in the city was through buying votes. We had no money, and most of the votes had been sold. We begged our allies for as much money as they’d lend us, and bought up the last handful of votes in the city.

Vote Cards at City of Shadows - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Finally the Feds came through with some hefty funding – $70 dollars in all, more than we’d seen all game. But there were no votes left to buy. Clearly we’d have to get creative.

We started going around to various allies we’d made throughout the game. Two of the scientists, Zola (despite my break in) and Gargunza, had been fairly supportive throughout the game. I promised BOTH of them I’d make them Chief Scientist. We had their votes for sure. The paper was on our side. We sweet-talked the Inbeda gang, who we’d also helped out.

The sticky point was the issue between Regan’s Boys and Zola. I’d just invested $40 of the Feds’ money in their Housing Project to buy their votes, and then Zola turned up to attack them with a Mole Machine. If I defended Regan’s Boys, Zola wouldn’t vote, if I didn’t, Regan’s Boys wouldn’t. It was lose-lose, and eventually I decided to stick with the scientist… who was making me a camera. Yes, that camera I’d been desperate for, for so long!

Back To The Future

Then, as it is wont to do, the unexpected happened.

Now, this plotline brings together several elements from earlier in our story, in a way that sounds like foreshadowing but totally wasn’t.

Remember that attack on the police in turn 2. So apparently, despite only having non-lethal weapons, I’d actually killed all those cops, rather than leaving them tied up in webs.

And remember that time machine that was going to send me back in time to see a crime taking place? Well, the police had bought it from the Baron, and they were sending forces back in time to arrest me. A LOT of forces. And there was no way I could warn myself!

All credit to Hero By Night, who warned me. There’s even a fantastic Facebook Live that shows me foolishly changing into my civilian alter ego, before realising that it was no use.

That was the moment that Hero By Night redeemed herself for me.

Because next, I would need her. There was only one option. We would have to break into the Baron’s lab and fiddle with the controls. Perhaps I could send myself back early to warn myself. Perhaps I could change the date and time to something harmless. Or I could send them back just half an hour earlier so they could witness the conversation between the gangsters and the corrupt cops.

Apparently security systems for scientist’s lairs are pretty cookie-cutter, as we came across the same concrete doors as at Zola’s lab. Luckily, Hero By Night had a super strong shield, that we threw into the door to wedge it open a crack. All we needed to do was pry it open and…

Yeah. No. We botched.

So much for that plan.

Countdown to Election Day

Far far too late we discovered that the Ghost was also running for mayor. Far too late to persuade him he was dooooomed without our support. But then, we were doomed too.

We spent most of the last turn before the election hiding in case the police came to arrest me in the present day, but finally decided to do one last act of good, and clear up some rubble from the Earthquake Machine (don’t ask). We reopened the city docks, bringing new trade into the city!

With our Lawful-Good status proudly displayed, we headed to City Hall.

All vigilantes standing for election revealed their secret identity on stage, and then the votes were cast. When Hero By Night lost her election for Deputy Mayor, I thought we were done for.

But during my voting round, I lost track of the count. I heard someone say 44 earlier, so when I got only 41 votes, I prepared myself for what I was to do next. If this city weren’t to appreciate me, I was going to make it pay. I was going to show them what it was like if the Vigilantes weren’t on their sides. I was going to…

Oh. I’ve won?

My reaction to being voted mayor - City of Shadows Megagame After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Image by Jason Bardey

Being Mayor

My first few minutes of being Mayor felt like I’d just been voted prom queen. I felt utterly victorious.

My joy was short lived when the Police Commissioner arrested me.

His joy was short lived when I vanished in a puff of smoke.

Everyone’s joy was short lived (literally) when City Hall blew up.

Ruling from the Mayoroplane

Surveying the shattered remains of my City, I circled around again in the Freedom Flier, hastily renamed the Mayoroplane.

Most of my citizens had escaped relatively unharmed, luckily, and El Hombres had taken responsibility for the bombing.  I was currently drafting up a Executive Order to arrest the Police Commissioner and trying to find something heavy I could drop on that gang when I received a radio transmission from Zola.

I landed on his lab – heavy concrete doors open to me now – to find the Police Commissioner taken prisoner within. And my shiny new camera, all ready to take photos of crimes taking place.

We were beginning to discuss the Commissioner’s retirement from public office when the call came through – the game was over, 1931 was ended.

It had been quite a year.

Oh, and that going-back-in-time-to-arrest-me deal? The scientist got bored and decided to go get himself a dinosaur instead. Natch.

The next game I’m playing in is Barricades and Borders (3rd June in London) which still has some spaces left! Check out more megagames on Megagame Makers (London) and Pennine Megagames (North England). 

Prosecco Sufficient at Bar Soba’s Bottomless Lunch

Tempura, noodles, and more prosecco than you could reasonably drink? Check, check and check: that’s what Bar Soba’s Bottomless Lunch is. And doesn’t it sound awesome?

In the run up to my Megagame, TC has been the height of helpful. He came up with some great ideas that made my game even better, he proof-read all my briefings, and on the day itself he served as the Mad King (and did so excellently, FYI).

In return, I promised to treat him to a proper date.

The main feature was going to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the Everyman (SPOILER: go see it). But rather than sticking to the typical dinner-and-a-movie stereotype, I had my eye on a certain lunch menu…

Bottomless Lunch at Bar Soba

I’ve been dying to try out something “bottomless” for ages. Bottomless brunches are the big trend, of course. But most of them are weekend-only, and our weekends are booked up for the next couple of months.

I first heard of Bar Soba at the Cocktails in the City event. My friend tried their “Hemingway’s Hong Kong Honeymoon” cocktail, and it’s probably the cocktail I most regret not ordering on the night.

I’d kept TC in the dark about where exactly we were going, only telling him we were a) going somewhere new and b) it was on Merrion Street. Since we live over near Leeds Dock, we don’t often head over Merrion way much, so this really didn’t narrow it down at all.

Heading past the Grand Arcade, I was reminded that there’s lots of good reasons to make the short walk over that way. I’m dying to try out the new Ham & Friends (being a big fan of the original). I’ve heard tons of good things about the new Domino Club. And Zaap Thai, which I finally managed to try last month, does such amazing Oriental street food – though it always seems to be heaving.

First Impressions

The street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

To be honest, my first impressions of Bar Soba weren’t amazing.

The downstairs is a little dingy, like the feeling you get when you go to a nightspot during the day time… which to be fair, is exactly what it is. Bar Soba is just that, a bar! Under low lighting and with a few cocktails inside you, I’m sure it would have been fine, but at 12noon precisely, it was a bit of a shock to the system.

The upstairs couldn’t have been more different.

This bar was bathed in light, due to the giant skylights in the ceiling. If downstairs was spot on for dancing the night away, upstairs was perfect for an early summer lunch.

Upstairs at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

We were greeted enthusiastically by our server, Ryan, who explained to us how the Bottomless Lunch worked.

For £25 each, we would share a platter of starters. This would be followed by one from a choice of main courses.

And, of course, the key thing that kept it bottomless. For the next two hours, we could have as much prosecco or as many mojitos as we liked:

Menu at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Ryan fetched the Prosecco bottle to get us started while we perused the menu.

Starter Sharing Platter

After ordering our food, we had time to chat a little over glasses of Prosecco. I revealed the rest of the plan for the day (Guardians of the Galaxy was as much of a hit as I’d thought it would be), and we talked about our plans for running yet more megagames.

But before long our starter platter arrived…

Starter Sharing Platter at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The standout item for me was the “Bang Bang Chicken Wings” (in the top right). These were spicy chicken wings coated in rice crispies – definitely unusual, definitely delicious.

We also had chicken gyoza, vegetable gyoza, and a pile of tempera that included prawn and various veg. Plus the Indonesian Shrimp Crackers were much nicer than the prawn crackers you get with your Chinese takeout.

The dipping sauces were sweet chilli, soy and sesame, and peanut satay. Some battles may have taken place over that satay…

We’d only been at the restaurant for about half an hour by the time we finished the platter, so we asked for a bit of time before receiving the mains, which they were more than happy to accommodate.

Main Courses

Out of the five options, TC and I both wanted the same two, so we did what we normally do, and decided to halves them. And then forgot to swap dishes because we were both enjoying the one we got.

TC chose the Pad Thai Chicken Noodles:

Pad Thai at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

While I went for the Singapore Street Noodles

Singapore Street Noodles at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Despite the similar looking pictures, the dishes were pretty different – I had thin noodles rather than thick, plus a lot more different meats, and the seasonings were different too.

Both were super tasty, but the massive starter platter left me unable to finish mine. I did the totally normal thing of rooting through the noodles for all the bits of meat though 😉

Bottomless Drinks

I stuck to my good old Prosecco the whole way through the meal, and by the end I was feeling a little tipsy.

Bottomless Prosecco at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Bottomless Prosecco at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

TC, however, changed it up. The bottomless menu also included bottomless mojitos and – the one TC went for – Apple and Ginger Mojitos.

Bottomless Apple and Ginger Mojitos at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

Bottomless Apple and Ginger Mojitos at Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky BlogsThe street view of Bar Soba in Leeds - Bottomless Lunch Review by BeckyBecky Blogs

The staff were super attentive to us during our visit – not in an annoying way, but in a “get as many drinks as possible” kind of way.

To be honest, I started slowing down my drinks (how much prosecco is it acceptable to drink before 2pm anyway). But right up to the 2 hour mark, they were happy to keep serving us, even reminding us when there was just a minute to go…

Overall, Bar Soba was amazing. Bottomless Lunch was amazing. When can I go back? 😉

Bar Soba Bottomless Lunch is available Friday, Saturday and Sunday for £25 per person.

Everybody Died Again

So, that’s it. My second megagame, Everybody Dies Harder, is over and done with.

I don’t think I can really believe it. It seemed too good to be true.

The day passed in a whirl of burnings, stand-offs in the throne room, and religious warfare.

18 players died, four more joined the Night’s Watch.

I’ll leave the write-ups of what actually happened to the players, all of whom did a fantastic job bringing my game to life (scroll to the bottom for a full list of AARs).

Overall I’m absolutely thrilled that the game went so amazingly, ran so smoothly and so many people enjoyed themselves. My Control Team were absolutely fantastic, and my players all excelled themselves.

But, self-critic that I am, I wanted to take some time to look at the game a bit more analytically, and work out what worked, what didn’t work, and what I’d change if they manage to persuade me to run it again.

First up, let’s take a look around the room with my Facebook video:

On to the nitty-gritty…

Religion

Religion was a late addition to the first run, and to be honest it showed. In this run, I’d had a lot more time to put some thought into it.

The Religion Value Track at the end of play - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

I’d given the Lord of Light team an extra Red Priest character. This was especially useful since one of the players was running late, and who knows how differently the game would have gone without our Red Priestess running riot.

I also upgunned the religious tension in Dorne overall. I added in a brand new religion, Mother Rhoyne, although only one player followed them and they weren’t terribly interested in converting. But, more crucially, I briefed one bannerman, Ormund Yronwood, to be fanatically devoted to the Faith.

…If he hadn’t declared war on one of the Lord of Light converts on turn 2, everything would have gone very differently.

Lord of Light Players - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs
You can just tell they’re followers of the Lord of Light, can’t you!

And finally, I gave the Faith a big twist. They were dedicated to eradicating the Targaryens from the face of Westeros. They had new powers, which depended on their sept level and, at level 7, included the power to kill or bring someone back to life. And they had the ability to raise the Faith Militant.

After they spent all game persuading players to invest in the sept, they put out the call to arms. The troops that responded gave them the largest cavalry on the board, and we actually ran out of cards for them.

And many many players realised they’d fallen into the same trap as Cersei Lannister in the TV show.

Thoughts

Overall I think the religion game was a great addition. The differences of religion across Westeros were one of the driving forces throughout the entire day. I am slightly worried that I made it a little too overpowered. The Faith Militant was supposed to pose a significant threat, and theoretically all of the Lords should have felt threatened that some commoners were stirring up trouble. It was tough to brief players so that the reacted to the Faith Militant in a realistically negative way, considering we didn’t want to hint that they would come up in the game.

In the end, Jaime Lannister even tried to marry the High Septa to get the realm out of this pickle.

Similarly, the fact that most of Dorne and even parts of the Reach converted to the Lord of Light was completely unexpected. The Reach in particular is the home of chivalry, most of which stems from the Faith. Since we hadn’t been expecting conversion on anything like this scale, we had no conversion mechanics in the game. It’s never as simple as the head of a territory converting and their people following quietly – there would have been some serious difficulties (even religious rebellion) in the Reach. Even in Dorne, the Martells would not have been able to convert so easily.

Mother Rhoyne did a great job with his mini-religion though…

Mother Rhoyne player awarding a lemon to a bard - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs
He even put on a barding competition with a lemon for an award!

Family Cards

In the first game, all players had to track their family members on their character sheets. This game, they had individual cards to track them.

Players could write betrothals and marriages on the cards, as well as hand them off to other players for fostering or safe keeping.

At one point Robert reluctantly let Lyanna’s card go, to be escorted to her home in the North. Unfortunately he chose Jon Connington to do the escorting, Rhaegar’s best bro, and she was married to the Targ before you could say “winter is coming”.

Rhaegar looking magnificent - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

Ours is the fury indeed, eh Robert?

Thoughts

This is probably the best new addition. The cards made it ridiculously easier. Vittoria Dayne’s sister Ashara could be in Dragonstone with the Princess Elia, Robin Greyjoy could be a hostage in King’s Landing.

Unfortuanately, not everyone was terribly thorough with checking the family cards, and two players ended the game betrothed to Cersei Lannister – Elbert Arryn and Stannis Baratheon. Not that I believe that Jaime would ever let her go with either of them…

(And just a note – no where in Rhaegar’s briefing did we try to set him up with Lyanna – that was all emerging game play!)

The Little Bards

Okay, I take it back, this was my favourite new addition.

The Bards were working for Varys.

Spy networks are always hard to use in Megagames. Megagames are just so damn complicated. They’re too much information, I don’t think a single player could physically hear everything during the duration of the game (even including the pub time afterwards).

In the first run, we’d given Varys three “Little Birds” cards to give to Control each turn, with a person or theme he wanted to investigate. At the end of the turn he would collect the cards and the info.

We had feedback that generally he’d heard news from the maesters or the bards or other players in general, and had used the birds to just dig deeper.

We wanted to give Varys more omniscience this game, so what better way than to literally have five players reporting all player movements to him every turn.

The Bards - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

There was even (get this) a SECRET BARD PASSAGE! Varys could leave the Small Council Chamber, meet secretly with the Bards, and then return, with no one (theoretically) noticing.

I mean, the maesters were casually discussing it by turn 4, but let’s not talk about that.

Thoughts

The most epic thing, if only because we could call them the “Little Bards”.

The Maester Conspiracy

Last game the Maesters had the only hidden conspiracy in the game – to take down the Targaryens. We knew we needed to shake up this plot, but the question was how.

This time their “conspiracy” was that they were working for the common good, to create a peaceful and stable realm. They had different ideas of how to go about this – would there need to be a war, because the Lords were riled up? Could Aerys be peacefully deposed? Could they just struggle through?

And often these aims would conflict with what the Lords wanted – generally, as much power and prestige as they could get their hands on.

Add to that, that winter was indeed coming. From turn 5, they needed to impress on the players that they had to make peace and begin stockpiling for the winter.

The maesters - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs
Imprinted with wise words indeed…

Thoughts

With the new plots for the Bards and the Religious players, the Maesters unfortunately got a bit overlooked. In addition, their plot was quite slow-starting, and probably needed a fair bit of Control intervention to give them things to do about it.

The maesters acted a lot more individually than at past games, with a key example being when two different maesters tried to give the King two different types of bad dreams. Despite being able to move freely during the game, an advantage not shared by the Faith players, perhaps I briefed them to have too much infighting. Perhaps we could have encouraged them to communicate pre-game.

Overall I’m not happy that the Maesters had as good a game as they could have. I’ll need to do some thinking on how to make it work for them.

Region Rotation

In the first run, after players died, I nearly always placed them back in the region they’d been playing in before. Sometimes they returned as their heir, sometimes they became a new bannerman.

This game, we moved players around more. The player who died in Dorne was moved to the Stormlands, the Stormlands player moved North, etc.

A few players were also seeded in as “special action players”. We had the King Beyond The Wall, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and an Iron Banker hellbent on getting their loan back from the throne.

Thoughts

The special action players were fantastic, and I totally want to keep them. But next game I would keep all other players in their regions.

I know some players got a bit fatigued in their regions, and it would be hard for the other players in that team to treat them totally differently even if they were in a new role.

But putting players into a region where they don’t know any of the other players, or any of the basics of the region (such as what actions are acceptable), is just too much of an ask for a lot of players most of the way through a game day.

Extra Bannermen

What with the popularity of the game, I felt a certain amount of pressure after run one to accommodate more players. Because everyone was so damn keen to get a place.

My first run was 79 players. My second was 89. I added in 11 new roles: one new Red Priestess and 10 bannermen, one for each region; and removed one role, Catelyn Tully, who found she had little to do after she got married.

A very busy map table - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

Thoughts

The new bannermen were all richly developed characters who I put just as much work into as the originals. I don’t think any of the players at the game could readily identify the new roles, pleasingly.

But realistically, Control were pretty stretched in the first run. ED is such a character driven game, that Region Controls weren’t just managing the mechanics of giving out taxes and raising troops, they were adding in the flavour and texture of the game. Each character had aspects of the history or character that Control could pick on, on top of the general regional struggles such as petitions from the smallfolk, failed harvest and groups of bandits.

Player feedback forms seem to support me in thinking that in the next run, I should reduce it to the original game size.

The Iron Throne

The Small Council under King Aerys - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

The intention in the first game had been to keep Aerys on the throne for pretty much the entire game. When he was deposed on turn 3 or 4, we were scrambling to keep up.

So for this game, we added in some extra rules regarding taking the Iron Throne. First was a handbook to be given to a new King player, detailing what they needed to do to keep the kingdom functioning. This included naming players to the Small Council, appointing an heir, and issuing royal commands.

But to become king in the first place, you needed 5 out of 7 Symbols of Legitimacy:

  • Undisputed military control of King’s Landing
  • Targaryen blood (the maesters can advise which families have this connection)
  • The Crown of Aegon
  • The personal blessing of the High Septa/Septon
  • The presence of the Grand Maester – appointed by the Citadel – at your councils
  • An oath of fealty from at least half of the Lords Paramount
  • The adoration of the smallfolk (Small Council Control will adjudicate)

So sorry, Jaime Lannister, but you’re a long way short of being King. He had the personal blessing (or should I say “personal blessing wink”) of the High Septa, and control of King’s Landing, but I think that was about it.

Jaime and Tywin Lannister - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

Thoughts

It was definitely a lot quicker and more efficient to put a new King in place than in the last game. Rhaegar took over the job swiftly, and started having council meetings, although any massive shift in game role is going to take time to get used to.

The Small Council under King Rhaegar - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs
The small council looked surprisingly similar after Rhaegar became king

Dragonstone found they didn’t have much to do after Rhaegar took the throne, so I may have to do some thinking about their role in the game after that point. Perhaps the Crownlands don’t need quite so many bannermen total – four sworn to Aerys and three to Rhaegar at the start may just be too many.

And it felt a lot more realistic that a player couldn’t just decide to become king once they took control of the capital. If we’d played for a few more turns it would have been interesting to see what Jaime would have tried next.

Overall

There is NOTHING that compares to the feeling of standing up in front of a room of happy players. While there were improvements to be made, overall the results from the feedback forms were good.

The main area of improvement that I see is to increase player involvement, which I think can be done by reducing the number of bannermen.

Players amassing in the Throne Room - Everybody Dies Harder, a Game of Thrones megagame by BeckyBecky Blogs

The Future of Everybody Dies

It’s a crazy popular game, and I think I could run it a couple more times but…

But I can now confirm that I won’t running Everybody Dies in its current format again.

However…

… stay tuned for Everybody Dies 3. It’s on its way, we already have the title, and it’s going to be AWESOME.

Check out the upcoming Pennine Megagames calendar here: I heartily recommend both Urban Nightmare: State of Chaos, and the Pirate Republic.


After Action Reports

We’ve had tons of amazing write-ups by players and control alike, and I’m sure there’ll be a few more to add. If you’ve done a write-up not mentioned below, just drop me a message and I’ll add you on!

Randyll Tarly, Bannerman in the Reach and Hand of the King

Septon Harald, Faith player in Dragonstone

Oberyn Martell, Lord Paramount family in Dorne

Duncan Lannister, Bannerman in the Westerlands

Quentyn Qorgyle, Bannerman in Dorne

Dareo Dalt, Bannerman in Dorne

Yohn Royce, Bannerman in the Vale

Hoster/Edmure Tully, Lord Paramount in the Riverlands

Bard/Maester/Religion Control

Maester Gormon, maester in Dragonstone

Symond Staunton, Master of Laws/Master of Fires on the Small Council

How To Not Panic Before Your Megagame

Megagames are damn hard work.

There’s soooo much stuff to do. Some of it is the fun stuff. Coming up with cool mechanics and writing setting fluff and stuff like that.

But some of it is distinctly less sexy. Stuff like making counters, remembering to order dice off Amazon, and making sure all the text in your handbook is the same size and font.

If you’re writing a megagame, I bet you won’t need any help with the first load of stuff, the fun stuff. That fun stuff is probably why you decided to write a megagame in the first place.

But you will absolutely underestimate the second load. So this blog is here to tell you… well, mostly everything that went wrong for me running my megagames.

1. Set a deadline.

Now move it forward four weeks. That’s when your stuff is going to print.

Yes, your deadline will absolutely slip. But it’s better if it slips when you leave in that much wiggle room, rather than coming crashing into your game.

2. Write down a big long list of EVERYTHING you need.

And I mean everything, right down to your laptop, the presentation on your laptop, a stapler, tea and coffee…. and all the more obvious stuff like handbooks and maps. Put four checkmark columns next to them: Finished, Ordered, Sorted and Packed.

My List of To Dos for Everybody Dies Harder - BeckyBecky Blogs

I then use coloured dots to set waves of deadlines. First print deadline (for counters and cards). Second print deadline (for handbooks). Amazon shop deadline. Etc. And never fill anything in on the packing column until the evening before the game, when you actually pack it all into your car/suitcase/boyfriend.

3. Get your handbooks proofread

Ideally as much as possible. Ideally by all your Control, plus

a) someone who knows the setting but nothing about megagaming
b) someone who knows about megagaming but nothing about the setting
c) someone who doesn’t really know anything about gaming at all.

It’s a big ask. Buy them a pizza or something.

(I owe a lot of people pizza.)

4. Outsource your printing.

Okay, tons of people will disregard this and choose to do all the printing themselves to save costs. But for me, sending it away meant my time was freed up to write more briefings, pack boxes for players, and work more on the game (and also do some of that crucial “spending time not thinking about the game”).

Outsourced printing for Everybody Dies Harder megagame - BeckyBecky Blogs

 

And if you only have a laser printer, ABSOLUTELY get it printed professionally.

I can recommend Flippinimage (they did my map, cards and counters). I used the Leeds Uni Print Shop for my handbooks and other paper printing, and university print shops are probably generally a good call.

5. Do mindless stuff while watching TV

Stick on a rerun of your favourite series (not something new you’ll get too upset about missing lines of) and use that as background entertainment while you sort counters and put badges in badge holders.

Bonus points if the TV show is related to your game in some way.

6. Enlist help

Okay, I cheat because I have a live-in megagaming boyfriend.

King Aerys - BeckyBecky Blogs

But it’s super useful to have a second person to run through lists to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything. Even if they’re not a megagamer (although it would help of course), just talk the plan over with someone to see if there’s anything obvious you’ve forgotten.

7. Sort out the pub

A huge part of the megagaming community is the post-game pubbage, where we find out what actually happened during the game.

The Pub after Watch The Skies 2 - BeckyBecky Blogs

Find a large pub close to the venue. Call up and reserve a space. It’s generally fine to be approximate with numbers.

8. Stay in communication with your players and control team

Email them a few times in the final week. Make sure they’ve received their briefings okay, that they know what time to arrive, what time is far too late to arrive, how to get to the venue, whether or not to bring lunch…

Also upload pics of cool game materials to Facebook. There’s nothing like a few pics to get people hyped.

The Crown of Aegon card for Everybody Dies Harder megagame - BeckyBecky Blogs

9. Your casting might suck

Don’t expect to get your casting spot on. Someone will end up in a role they hate, one team lead will suck at managing their other players, and two people will drop out on the day. It’s fine, it’s expected.

Also when casting your game, don’t rely on vague memories of who someone’s name might mean they are. Use a casting questionnaire (no more than 5 questions) and also use that to get proper contact details for everyone.

10. Go the fuck to sleep

Plan ahead (again). Try not to leave too many tasks for the night before your megagame. On the must-do list: make sure everything’s packed, sort out what you’re wearing the next day, and sort out your lunch.

Then, stop. Have dinner (order takeout). Watch a movie that has nothing to do with your game. Go to bed early (though it won’t help, you’ll be awake for hours).

The next day, get up in plenty of time (you will not enjoy running late). Plan your transport ahead of time. Know exactly when you’ll get access to the venue. Triple check and get a phone number for who to call if you can’t access the venue (oh, how I wish I’d had that advice the first time).

Breathe. Breathe again. Keep doing that. It’ll be awesome.

BONUS 11. The nightmares will come.

They start a week or two before your game (or any time you’ve been putting in a lot of work on it).

Mine tend to be in the format of “this is how your game would look if it ran right now”. Which is much better if you stick to your deadlines, so players are just confused about turn order because your presentation isn’t finished, rather than not having a map.

So, if you follow all of these tips, you won’t panic?

Hahahhahahah no - How to Not Panic Before Your First Megagame

YOU WILL TOTALLY STILL PANIC.

But seriously. Megagames are crazy stressful to plan and execute, but it’s all made up for when you’re standing on stage at the end and everyone’s had an amazing day.

At least that’s what I’ll be telling myself in the 48 hour countdown until Everybody Dies Harder starts. Wish me luck!

Megagame: The Other Side of History at Foxes and Devils

We’re back into megagaming season, so expect to see a fair few more After Action Reports from me over the next few months. The first of which is… Foxes and Devils!

Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Foxes and Devils is a re-run of my first ever megagame, Renaissance and Reformation. It’s set in Europe in the mid-16th century, aka when Henry VIII was on the throne of England.

Naturally, thanks to the Tudors, I know quite a lot of the English history of this era. And way back in 2014, I played as Louise Savoy, Queen Mother of France, so I knew a fair about about their point of view.

This time, however, I was to see the Other Side. I was to be Eleanor of Austria, an archduchess of the Hapsburg family, and sister to the Holy Roman Emperor. With great power comes great responsibility. And with that comes even more to manage than your regular megagame. Let the madness commence!

Getting Going

The first task was to meet my team. Our glorious emperor was a first time player, as was my Aunt Margaret. I believe Ferdinand (another brother of mine) and Charles de Lannoy (a non-family member) both had a couple of games under their hats. Finally the Imperial Chancellor, Mercurino Gattinara, was a longtime megagame friend of mine, and had in fact played as Duke of Norfolk in the Spanish Road game where I’d been Queen Elizabeth I.

Naturally I knew I couldn’t trust him an inch.

The Hapsburg team at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Gattinara is the one in the big hat

A few problems arose quickly. The Hapsburgs were the most powerful family of the time, with a vast empire under their control. But they were attacked on all fronts. They were the key Christian power to stand up to the spread of the Moorish Ottaman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire itself included many German states of various levels of loyalty to the Emperor, various levels of arrogance and desire to be independent… and various levels of conversion to the heretical Lutheranism. Spain and the Netherlands were under Hapsburg rule, but the Emperor was so busy he had to appoint Viceroys to oversee each. And our age-old enmity with France was sure to rear its ugly head sooner or later.

Luckily, we had some allies. The Pope was sure to love us, provided we stood up for Catholicism. My aunt, Catherine (yes, of Aragon) was married to the King of England. And since our family was so massive, we had a relative in every corner.

Unfortunately, things kicked off quickly…

History Repeating Itself

It seems Henry will never be content with a daughter as an heir. He wasn’t last game, and he wasn’t this game either.

Despite my early diplomacy to arrange a marriage between his daughter Mary and my brother Charles, the Emperor, it wasn’t long before Cardinal Wolsey came over to ask what we thought of Henry suggesting that Catherine “retire to a nunnery”, so Henry may marry again.

The Hapsburgs with Wolsey at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Wolsey is the one in the even bigger hat

At first I entertained the idea. Obviously allowing Henry to break his marriage ties with us was a bad idea, but if we got another girl on the throne of England, and this one gave him a son, we’d have a lifelong alliance with them.

But… but that’s not what happened.

On a spur of the moment decision, I recommended to the Emperor that we refuse to support this suggestion. And then I let my knowledge of the Tudors, Philippa Gregory novels, and my Catholic upbringing take over.

Why Henry should stay married to Catherine and announce Mary as his heir

  • God has blessed Henry and Catherine with a daughter. Clearly they were destined to be wed.
  • Catherine knew it was her calling to be Queen of England since she was four years old. She was never called to a nunnery.
  • Catherine has sworn a sacred marriage vow to obey her husband. If he requests that she retire to a nunnery, she will feel compelled to obey his wishes, even if her heart says it is not right.
  • If Henry sets aside Catherine, what is to stop him from setting aside his next wife.
  • My own grandmother Isabella of Castille was a fantastic female monarch, and Mary Tudor is of this line.
  • With Henry’s diligent raising of her, with a strong and powerful (and Hapsburg?) husband and with the brave and intelligent advisers that England is sure to have, how could she not be a good ruler?

Then I heard from the Margrave of Brandenburg that Henry had asked for portraits of his daughters.

HE WAS A MARRIED MAN AND HE WAS SOLICITING PORTRAITS OF OTHER WOMEN!

I was outraged. I demanded to speak to the Pope, and accused Henry of simply trying to satiate his lust. He told me that he feared that the Lutherans would tempt Henry away by letting him divorce Catherine, if he didn’t take Henry’s concerns seriously. I asked what kind of Pope would let himself get bullied by the Lutherans…

I don’t think the Pope liked me very much right at that moment.

I’m fairly sure I spent at least three turns sorting out this drama… and I was so distracted that I forgot to marry anyone! But we’ll come to that later.

Meanwhile…

Meanwhile on the map, the Ottomans were causing tons of bother. There seemed to be some Ottoman pirates coming and raiding us fairly regularly, which was all my first hand experience of them. But my brother Ferdinand was constantly at the map, so I’m sure they were doing some dreadful Moorish stuff over there.

Most of the rest of my team was trying to manage the Diet. The Imperial Diet was the ruling body of the Holy Roman Empire, which had elected the Emperor, and consisted of about half the players in the room: all the German Princes. Three started off Lutheran, and many of the rest converted as the day went on.

But the Hapsburgs are a Catholic family, and it was pretty clear right from the start that this was going to cause Issues.

Bottom of the Heavenly Status chart at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Basically we didn’t want to go here

I mostly stayed out of the Diet, which met every turn for what seemed like ages. I’m sure some incredibly important stuff was discussed in there, but my brief forays in made it seem that mostly the Lutherans and the Catholics took turns complaining that they were being ostracised.

Back in England

Then all of a sudden, it was announced that the Pope had annulled Henry’s marriage, on the ground that she had confessed to consummating her marriage with Arthur, Henry’s brother. I was hugely suspicious of the timing of all this.

In the Hapsburg court, we had a VERY heated debate. Imperial Chancellor Gattinara insisted that we needed to make a new marriage with Henry immediately. I countered that we could NOT make peace with the man who had so publicly slandered our aunt.

We fought our causes hard and viciously. Gattinara pressed the Emperor for an answer, and he eventually agreed to look for a truce.

BUT I REFUSED TO GIVE IN. I continued arguing my point, and even went over to Gattinara, on stage and queuing up to make a marriage, to tell him that the Emperor was reconsidering and begging him to come back to court. He said that it was too late. I asked where his dowry was for my sister, and told him I would refuse to let them leave Austria… and eventually it was Henry himself that said he didn’t want to get between the Hapsburgs when they were clearly still undecided. He even suggested that he would find a French bride, and make an alliance with them, to which I said… “what’s the longest an English-French alliance has ever lasted??”

Gattinara was furious with me. I had cost us an alliance with the English and a marriage for my sister, and Henry ended up marrying the daughter of a newly converted Lutheran.

I told the Pope that if he had not given into Henry’s Lutheran threats, this would never have happened.

Roughly half the people in the room hated me at this time. Oops.

The main hall at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Marital Concerns

It must have been over half way through the game that I realised that our drama with the English had cost me years of my life. I was well into my 30s, my sisters well into their 20s. My own young daughter was ready to be wed. The Emperor should have been married long ago, and Ferdinand had lost his wife and was ready to be remarried.

I needed to find us matches, and fast.

Sadly, it’s a pretty tough job. We had to make Catholic marriages, otherwise the Pope, already angry at me, would suspect we were giving in to the rising Lutheran threat. And they had to be suitably noble. Ideally princes, dukes and higher. No rubbish margraves or Italian merchant families for the Hapsburgs.

But there was one big problem. The royal families of England and France should have been our best options, but we were on poor terms with both. The remaining played Royal family, Denmark, had largely converted to Lutheranism.

The unplayed options included Scotland and Portugal. Portugal we were already on fantastic terms with (in fact, I was stepmother to the current King of Portugal), so a marriage there wasn’t necessary. But marrying into Scotland would cut them off from their usual allies, the French, and also piss the English off. SOLD! We married my own daughter to James and secured the succession of the Scottish throne.

My younger sister was married to one of the (still Catholic) German Princes. Honestly… I don’t remember which one. But he was Catholic, pretty important, and he agreed to support Charlies in the Diet, so that’s what counts. And my second sister was married to someone important in Milan. Not noble enough, but we were running out of options.

For Charles, it seemed that the English and French had snapped up all the likely Catholic girls. Eventually we found one… she was granddaughter to both the King of Denmark and a member of the Diet, and she was Catholic. Unfortunately she wasn’t /terribly/ noble… and she only gave Charles a single daughter. Damnit.

And Ferdinand ended up in another childless marriage with a girl from Palatine.

Castles and Cathedrals

One of my real life counterpart’s main activities during her life was supporting the arts. My trials with the English had also left this far from my mind, but when I had a spare few minutes I agreed with Charles De Lannoy that we would spend 20 florins on the construction of two magnificent buildings – a castle in Austria, and a cathedral in Barcelona.

It was magnificent! And of course, the best way to draw attention to a new building is to unveil it to the public…

The Hapsburg Austrian Castle/Barcelona Cathedral at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

I’m a magician with polystyrene cups and paper… though you may note I only made one. It was a lot of work, okay!

The Rise of the Spinsters

The final few hours of the game was the time for myself and my (now elderly) Aunt Margaret to have our moment in the sun.

I was now well into my thirties, and knew Control would give me a dice penalty for having children. But I’ve gotten married in tons of megagames when marrying wasn’t even really a thing, so there’s no way I wasn’t going to get married in this one!

While Margaret was trying to negotiate her own marriage, with her lands in the Netherlands as the draw, I had very little of my own personal wealth or power. All I had was my charm.

And charm was what I used on the Portuguese king. Although I had married his father, he was only my stepson, so that was completely fine. He was pretty desperate for children, since his Lutheran nephew stood to inherit after he died. I promised I would do my best to give him good Catholic heirs…

To this end, I visited the Pope, and asked him to bless the marriage. Surely with God smiling on our union, we would be blessed with children!

Control gave me a massive penalty, and sure enough… I was barren. So much that it was written on my character card.

A Catholic Heir

But the King of Portugal still needed an heir! By this point I had thoroughly abandoned my fellow Hapsburgs. I searched throughout the room for a suitable child for us to adopt and raise as our heir.

The search was fruitless until the next death announcements. The Duke of Savoy had been orphaned at a young age. My plan was to adopt him, and then betroth him to the Emperor’s daughter, to strengthen the legitimacy of both parties.

I needed the permissions of:

  • my husband, the King of Portugal
  • my brother, the Holy Roman Emperor
  • the King of France, who was the current regent for the Duke’s Savoy holdings
  • the Queen Mother of France, who was also related to the Duke
  • the Pope too, because we’re Catholic

and I needed to show proof that the Duke of Savoy was sufficiently related to the throne of Portugal for it not to be rejected.

I had to explain the entire scheme about six times in total. But to my utter shock, everyone said yes, including the French! I had to promise that the regency of Savoy would stay under their control… until the 15 year old boy reached his majority of course.

Everything was sorted, everything was perfect. I was married, the Portuguese throne was secured, the Emperor’s succession was secured…

The Hapsburg Family Tree at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs

Then it all went wrong.

Disaster in the Diet

I stepped into the final Diet meeting of the day to see how things were going on in there. It seemed a Catholic German Prince had invaded a Lutheran German Prince. Charles had backed the Catholic, quite rightly.

The German Diet at Foxes and Devils megagame - After Action Report by BeckyBecky Blogs
Charles is the important one in the middle

The Diet was getting more and more heated, with many Lutherans saying that Charles could not represent them. When… shock twist…

CHARLES ABDICATED!

His brother Ferdinand was unanimously (or close to it) declared the new Emperor, and promised to lead them as a united Germany, putting aside religious differences.

Each Prince could decide his religion, and each Principality would take the religion of its Prince.

In my eyes, of course, the Holy Roman Empire had fallen, and I saw Ferdinand as the conniving younger brother who had been undermining the Emperor all day.

My own position was secured, and my daughter was safe in Scotland. But my adopted son was now going to be marrying a nobody, the daughter of a man who used to be Emperor.

And, like so many other megagames, Foxes and Devils ended as dramatically as it had begun.

The next megagame I’m at is Everybody Dies Harder, my own Game of Thrones themed game in Manchester on 22nd April.