Category Archives: Behind the Lens

History of Board Games

img_4713I’ve always wanted to write about the history of board games, and I’m going to do this here, on this page, once I get around to it…..!

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Meanwhile, I couldn’t wait to share this VLOG from a fellow YouTuber called Adam on his channel “Board Game Wales”.

This is a MUST VIEW film, and a great gift to the community…

What colour Renegade are you?

This is a strategy article for Renegade, a game designed by Box of Delights and published by Victory Point Games, with artwork by Clark Miller.

exoticeThere are five “colours” in the game. One is special, and we’ll leave that aside. Let’s look at the other four. Each represents a different type of COMMAND, CONTAMINANT and INSTALLATION, and each player profile is particularly strong in one of those colours.

Those four colours work in pairs (you’ll find a lot of ‘binary’ mechanisms in Renegade). Red and Yellow – Destruction and Deception – are one pair, and Green and Blue – Cognition and Information – are the other pair. The more destructive your attacks are, the fewer deceptive attacks become available, and the more data you use, the fewer cognitive attacks are available.

But more than that, each of those pairs complements on of the other pairs. Green and Red work well together, and Yellow and Blue work well together. Let’s find out how…

DESTRUCTION
Destruction is particularly strong in the late game. Destructive commands are the only commands that can destroy the SMC’s countermeasures. Deceptive attacks are powerful, but only against less powerful countermeasures. The game’s countermeasures come in 1,2s and 4s. The strongest countermeasures in the game, the strength 4 “Guardian”, is impervious to Deception, but vulnerable to Destructive attacks. And Oshin Noro, the red ‘assassin’ player, is even more powerful when taking them on. In order to maximise the destructive ability of your command deck, seek out lots of destructive cards. You will also find that Destruction is the ONLY colour that will allow you to create contaminants that are still active outside of the command phase – they can attack the SMC’s countermeasures when they are trying to fight back!

DECEPTION
Deception is particularly strong in the early game. You will find a deceptive attack is a double-strength attack – not only does it remove a spark (the SMC’s smallest atomic countermeasure), but it also adds a contaminant of your own. This ‘conversion’ ability is the strength of yellow. Hettie Magnetic, the Renegade who seems to be living a double-life, is master of the deceptive. She needs versatility in her deck, and is very effective if she keeps the network of countermeasures contained. But be warned, against the most powerful Guardians she can feel disarmed. If you are master of the deceptive then yellow is for you.

INFORMATION
Information is every Renegade’s ally. Has anyone ever said, “Knowledge is power” ? Information will allow you to crack the network’s passwords, and gain easy access to the SMC’s servers. The only way to move about the network more quickly is to build a pathway of data nodes, where your Renegades have created access-ways, from partition to partition. You will find BLUE is useful throughout the whole game, and network ports will allow you to jump across the network to quickly respond to tactical threats. Tilda Sweet is the blue Renegade, and her data toolkit means she can exploit network paths like no other Renegade.

COGNITION
Possibly the most powerful command-set in the game, but the most difficult to control and master. Mind-bending devices alter the virtual reality Renegades operate in. You’ll find cognitive attacks powerful in the end-game, but you need to invest in them right from the beginning. Cognition rewards strategy over tactics, and is a skill only the most experienced of Renegades can use effectively. Monty Quantum is one of the most effective Renegades at twisting the 5th dimension. Monty is the only renegade who can make a virtual quantum shift and act on two places of the network simultaneously. Sound powerful? It is. But you will need to figure out how to use this ability effectively.

Good luck Renegades, and may you find your own true colour…

PART 2 : UK Games Expo 2016 – Post Expo Report

uk-flagThe UK Gaming scene is blossoming. More than that: it’s blooming. And it’s bloomin’ loverly. You will know many British games, even if you didn’t know they were designed or published out of the UK. For example, IMG_3465you’ll no doubt be familiar with Manchester’s Martin Wallace (Brass, Age of Steam, Runebound, A Few Acres of Snow), and the global hit Hive is designed by our very own John Yianni.

“We can’t make a significant investment in our industry and support home-brewed talent for as long as there is not a profitable and self supporting UK industry”

But British gaming is lacking an identity on the world stage. We’re here and we need to be taken notice of.

But why is this important? The German and American gaming scenes dominate the industry. Particularly in mainland Europe (yes, I know, Brexit isn’t going to help us), hobby gaming is or is becoming a large part of their culture. But for British publishers and gamers we are still very much on the fringe. You may be surprised to know that British publishers for the main part do this as a part-time “hobby”; they have day-jobs outside of the industry. There are exceptions (e.g. Grublin Games), but they are certainly not the norm. We can’t make a significant investment in our industry and support home-brewed talent for as long as there is not a profitable and self supporting UK industry.

IMG_3452“There are two main issues: image and distribution.”

Hobby gaming is still not a mainstream pastime, and nor is it seen as a socially “normal” activity. Hobby gaming is the preserve of geeks and nerds. It’s not hip in our media-led society. Okay, I know this is not totally true. Just look around the UKGE in 2016 on a Saturday and you will see “normals” alongside geeks, with non-gamers, newcomers, couples and families flooding the halls.

What are the biggest problems the UK industry faces in turning around its fortunes? There are two main issues: image and distribution.

There is certainly an image problem in the UK with our industry. It’s not visible enough. Ask most people about board games and they will know nothing outside of Monopoly, Cluedo or Trivial Pursuit. We need to play games with our children and show the British public just how valuable a pastime it is. We have so much talent in this country – as evident at the UKGE – and generations of families are missing out on just what’s available.

The other problem is getting our products out there. There are some  successful UK distributors, distributing international games throughout the UK and Europe, but that’s not enough, and certainly not enough to help British games hit the global market.

Anything anyone in the media can do to promote the industry is a worthwhile thing.

coiledspringOne of the stand-out features of the UK Games Expo is the dedication it shows to children’s games and games that can be played as a family. One of the biggest exponents in this area is Coiledspring Games. Based in Twickenham, they are a distributor who are introducing international products, for families in particular, to the UK market. IMG_3911They occupied a large section of Hall 1 at Birmingham’s NEC to bring these games to the British public and let them have a go at some entry-level gaming. If you ever want to bring your family to the UKGE but aren’t sure where to begin, look out for the inviting family zone. I particularly enjoyed their showings of Cornwall, CVlizations,  Dragonwood and Super Tooth (look out for a review on Box of Delights soon!). But you can see right there, a reflection of the problem for UK designers and publishers: none of those games are British.

We have some great British publishers and designers, and some success is being had.

IMG_3397The Ragnar Brothers have picked up a distribution deal for their latest game, Niña & Pinta, with Esdevium Games, another big player in the UK distribution market, as well as getting one of their older titles (Viking Fury) re-released as Fire & Axe by Pandasaurus.

IMG_3463The aforementioned Hive is a huge success story for John Yianni and his publishing house Gen42. One to look out for, and showing this year at the UKGE, is Tatsu. I had the pleasure to sit down and play a game with John, and pick up a few game-play tips at the same time (lay traps with your stronger pieces in defensible pairs) . Of course I bought a copy, and encourage you all to take a look at this fascinating game.

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Another up-and-coming independent UK publisher is Legend Express. Their production values look like those of a fully-fledged self-sufficient publisher, bringing games with an emphasis on “fun” to the UK, and as such are a great example of what British indies can do with relatively little resources. Burger Boss has  strong Euro/worker-placement underlying game-play, packaged in a great looking burger case. It’s colourful, approachable, strategic, and an excellent game for a new family to get into the hobby. It’s fast-paced and will get everyone laughing around the table as you compete to create the best burgers with the best ingredients in your burger shack.

IMG_3444 (2)Another Legend Express title to look out for is the innovative Glimpse. Some of the players (the “Glimpsers”) will be wearing tinted glasses, rendering them colour-blind, and it will be coloured tokens that will tell the “Helpers” which characters the Glimpsers need to seek out. Without the benefit of colour to help them, the Helpers will need to use other ingenious methods to guide the Glimpser to the right cards. It’ll be kind of like Codenames (CGE) but with more acting, singing and dancing!

British designers really do know how to deliver a big slice of fun. Just look at this tosspot.. I mean “Toss Pot“:

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Flipping a fry-up and catching it in your hat?! That’s how you make a family-fun game that’ll get the granny up and shaking a leg at christmas, and memories for the kids.

We don’t always take ourselves too seriously, and offer a innovative blend of strategy and theme, of Euro and Thematic; satisfyingly mid-way between the tightness and deterministic nature of the German euro-games, and the randomness and cinematic qualities of Ameritrash.IMG_3451

And that’s why you’ll find publishers like Yay, Burley, Big Potato, North and South and Wotan offering a diverse range of games for all types of gamers, looking to the industry to wake up and discover their talent and share it with the world.

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Finally, let me give you my two HOT TIPS for games to look out for, and which I am really excited about seeing in the future. They were early prototypes at the Expo, but showed a heap-load of promise, and are just the kind of British games I want to promote and share with my viewers at Box of Delights.

IMG_3460The first is King’s Watch from Wotan Games, designed by Devon’s own Oliver Brooks. It looks fantastic. It’ll be very strongly story-driven, and highly co-operative, as players take on the role of “watchmen”, seeking out clues to solve a case and arrest a criminal. The game puts a strong influence on replay-ability, which is something special in a story-driven crime-solving game. It has a traditional “medieval” background, offering a unique theme in a familiar setting.

IMG_3389Next up, and one I hope to preview soon, is Legends Untold from Inspiring Games. This one was proving very popular at the Expo, as it demo’ed to get some player feedback. It’s a 1-8 player co-operative card-game, that aims to present a GM-free RPG experience in about an hour. With very little set-up time and a rich adventure driven story, with expandable scenarios to play, it promises much.IMG_3393 Initially self-published by the Inspiring Games team vi Kickstarter, I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t picked up by an established publisher once it gets into its first production run. I’m very excited to show you this one too, so stay tuned!

We have a heck of a lot to be proud of and excited coming out of the British scene. Let’s do all we can to promote the hobby and make it the next hip thing…!

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PART 1 : UK Games Expo 2016 – Post Expo Report

imageIf there was one message I took away from the UKGE 2016 it was that British tabletop gaming is ready for the international stage. More on that in PART 2…… #UKGB

The UK Games Expo was celebrating its 10th anniversary, and for the first time it occupied a new venue: Hall 1 at Birmingham’s NEC. It was 3 days of gaming, 3 days of meeting people, 3 days of madness. More than 20,000 visitors were clocked-up across the weekend at this, the UK’s biggest tabletop and role-playing games convention.

The exposition started for me on the Thursday afternoon, where I took the opportunity to meet up with Paul (Gaming Rules!), Jon (Acualol), Efka and Elaine (No Pun Included) prior to our seminar on Friday morning. It was also an opportunity to get a sneak peek at some of the games on show and meet some of the publishers, designers and other industry folks as we anticipated the weekend to come.

IMG_3379It was a personal pleasure to meet Tony Boydell and buy a copy of the much anticipated Guilds of London (TMG) before it sold out at the show.

It’s clear Tony has spent all this time finely balancing the 105 action cards and 45 guild tiles to create a game of extensive replayability and tight decision making. IMG_3479Guilds of London is primarily an area-control game, but your influence over the table is governed by careful hand-management, maximising the potential of your cards and combining them in innovative ways. It’s this depth that will keep you coming back for more, and what prompted the rush to empty the shelves of this game.

In the evening we shared some table-time as we played a game we both really enjoyed – the upcoming Codenames: Pictures (CGE). Presented by Paul Grogan, Tony and I particularly enjoyed taking on the role of “spymaster”, offering a single word and single number as a clue to identify as many of the pictures in front of us that belong to our team, and not the opponent’s. IMG_3382

The concept is the same as the original Codenames, which used words instead of pictures. What made Codenames:Pictures more interesting is that each picture could be interpreted in many ways and with each picture containing a number of elements. The difficulty is in trying to offer a clue that does not inadvertently misdirect your agents to an opponent’s picture, whilst also trying to leave pictures in play that make your counterpart spymaster’s job more difficult. It’s a wonderful addition to the series, and is one that will be high on my “to-buy” list.

IMG_3383On the same table (they were long tables!) Efka Bladukas was teaching a group, amongst whom were Sam Healey and Tom Vasel of the Dice Tower, to play upcoming Scythe from Stonemaier Games. It’s a beast, looks beautiful, and is on-type [for Stonemaier] with its blend of Euro and Thematic, its wooden cubes and finely cast miniatures. It also has a solo mode using the Automa system developed by Morten Monrad Pedersen.

Another new acquaintance was Gil Hova, the designer and founder behind Formal Ferret Games. Gil was delighted to share a game of his upcoming design Prolix, over a pint of in the bar of the Hilton hotel. The game challenges you to think of a word that uses as many of the letters in tableau, with each word’s position in the tableau determining its points value, and with some letters offering a points bonus. e.g. if the tableau has B and D you might choose “befuddled”, which will score both letters. The mechanism that gives Prolix its USP is the mechanism that says the first person to think of a word turns over a sand timer, giving the rest of the players on 30 seconds to find a better word; this player will get a bonus 2 points if no-one can better their score.

Fancy a try? Imagine Prolix offers the following tableau (note, the two letters on the far left – R & C – offer 5 points, not 4 as printed): IMG_3380

What word can you think of that uses the most of these letters to score you the most points? I’ve thought of a word, so you have 30 seconds to beat it. Off you go…! (p.s. let’s assume were using the British yes of Z – e.g. “recognise” not “recognize”).

My word was “cranberry”. This scores 20 points as follows: IMG_3381

How did you do? If you didn’t beat 20 points then I get a bonus 2 points. I can tell you, when you see that 30 second timer running down it really hinders your ability to think of a good word, and you end up sticking with the first thing you think of (e.g. “can”!). Look out for this in 2017. A great filler for gamers of all ages and abilities.

Gil’s 2016 release, and one I also bought on the day from the top of my wishlist, was The Networks. Once more this was a game that sold-out at the show, and it’s great fun. You can watch an interview with Gil here, where he introduces his game:

Friday was a busy day….

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 23.32.33Starting with the Press Preview and swiftly followed by the YouTube seminar. I was rather worried us on the panel were going to outnumber the audience, but fortunately a good audience turned up (were they saving their seats for Dice Tower Live?!) and we got a good number of questions. This was more fun than I expected it to be, and if you’d like to see it, you can watch Efka’s video here:

I had a shortlist of games I wanted to jump on during the Press Preview. Except everyone I spoke to was so engaging, and I had my chatterbox head on, that I only got to see a few.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.40.56Amongst those was Mystic Vale, an upcoming release from AEG. Look out for it, it looks like a winner. The “card-building” mechanism, layered on to a more traditional deck-building game, looks sure to catch on….  as long as they are able to include enough variety.

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.41.30The base set will introduce the game and its concepts, with further expansions planned to add depth and complexity. I was concerned about the costs of their clear plastic cards and added card sleeves, but it sounds like they have their production method sorted and have managed to make it economically sound. There is a highly addictive push-your-luck element, as you try to build irreversible effects onto your blank cards, as well as developing combinations with other cards.

IMG_2322For the soloist, Dice City offers a variant, and I enjoyed a demonstration of how this plays. IMG_2321With dice-placement becoming a popular mechanic, and with expansions on show, it’s a great time to pick up this title and share with it friends or as a light-hearted solitaire distraction.

Also at the Esdevium stand was Pandemic: Cthulhu. I didn’t see anything new in the mechanics of the game, but it looked fantastic. Let  me share a couple of pictures with you before we wrap up…IMG_2318 IMG_2319

One personal interest in the hobby is to promote British gaming and to understand how British gaming can make a bigger name for itself on the international scene, apparently dominated by American and mainland European publishers and designers.

The truth is, the UK gaming scene is bigger than ever, and there are probably more British designers and publishers out there than you realised.

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In Part 2 of the post-expo report we’ll address this further, and look at some of the new designers and new games coming out of the UK .

UKGE 2016 – Preview

300x250May is out, and June is in, which means it’s UK Games Expo time ! This year I have managed to set aside 4 days to see in the whole event. Look out for a full update after the event here on Box of Delights.

Meanwhile, let’s take a quick preview of the games I’m hoping to learn more about at the Expo…

pic2560621_mdStar Trek: Five-Year Mission
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Designer: David Witcher

A light-weight co-operative dice-placement game for 3-7 players. I get the impression this one will solo well as well, by controlling 3+ roles.

Reviews have not been great, but I’m keen to take a look and be convinced (and convince you) it’s a winner!

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Esdevium are a UK based distributor who will be showcasing games from FFG, AEG and Z-Man amongst others. In particular I’m looking forward to seeing these four offerings:

 

Beyond Baker Street
Publisher: Z-Man
Designers: Robin Lees and Steve Mackenzie

A co-operative game in the vein of Hanabi. You’ll be solving a crime with a hand of cards only other players can see. The UKGE is great platform for the game to get a pre-release showing. Not one that will be soloable, but one worth looking out for as a neat co-op.

Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu
Publisher: Z-Man
Designers: Matt Leacock and Chuck Yager.

Of course! 45 copies going for grabs to lucky winners. I might get a glimpse of a sealed box….

pic2561229Dice City
Publisher: AEG
Designers: Vangelis Bagiartakis

The co-designer of Among the Stars brings us a “dice crafting” game… interested?! I’m not convinced we have a revolutionary new mechanism here, but it’s a good hook.Looking forward to hearing more, with support for 1-player written right there on the box!

 

pic2913811_mdMystic Vale
Publisher: AEG
Designers: John Clair

This one’s a deck-builder. No solo play, but AEG are giving us another “crafting” term. This time it’s “card crafting”. The cards in your deck begin life as transparent sleeves, and new parts can be built onto them as the game plays. So, it’s deck-building with a new dimension, where you craft the cards that become part of your deck. Neat ! Looking forward to seeing this one play.

pic2287580_mdBoard & Dice
Now two offerings from Board & Dice, a small independent publisher just starting out, but with a couple of cracking looking titles for us…

 

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Designer: Manuel Carreia

Card drafting and hand management for 1-5 players. This is a real card game puzzle, a re-implementation of the Carreia’s Carousel format of games. This is a world premier and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

pic2402586The Curse of the Black Dice
Designer: Piotr Uzdowski

Co-operative mission solving for 2-4, and I’m keen to see if it will support solitaire play. Rolling dice and collecting sets, akin to Elder Sign but with a pirate theme? I’ll be reporting back on this one !

pic2374574_tThe Networks
Designer: Gil Hova
Publisher: Formal Ferret Games

This has been on my wishlist for some time. And now it’s here! High on my list this one. Solo card-drafting (it plays 1-5) with a new theme.

King’s Watch
Designer: Oliver Brooks
Publisher: Wotan Games

wotanheaderOne to look out for. Not sure how far along in development this one is (Wotan Games’ primary title will be War of the Nine Realms), but I’m keen to find out more about the schedule (and gameplay!).


Airfix Battles

Designers: Chris Birch, Nick Fallon, Alan Paull
Publisher: Mōdiphiüs Entertainment

pic2041956_tThe game I dreamt about as a kiddie. Yup, now I’m 44 and curious to find out what the kids today get that I did’t (apart from mobile phones and pulled pork).

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Save The President, Save The World
Designers: Cyril Besnard, Alain Fondrille
Publisher: Geek Attitude Games

Possibly still a prototype – let’s wait and see. Plays 1-5, looks like it might be quite humorous as well as loaded with mechanics I like, such as Action Selection and Area Control. Not much being said about it and I’m curious about a game where a massive earthquake opens an inter-dimensional fault in front of the White House.

Geek Attitude will also be showing Taverna and Not Alone.

Pocket Codinca
Designers: Leonard Boyd, David Brashaw
Publisher: Backspindle Games

pic1431764The first game on my “to-buy” list. A neat little abstract, though it tells of Yucatan treasure hunters searching the temple of the lost city of Codinca. I really enjoyed Clacks, and this one also looks set to please.

pic2937209_mdIce Cool
Designer: Brian Gomez
Publisher: Brain Games

Penguins? Flicking, spinning and jumping? Fun fun fun in the snow.. I’m getting it for the kids, honest….

Legends Untold
Publisher: Inspiring Games

imageNow this one does look interesting.  1-8 co-op card driven GM-free adventure role-playing with a campaign system?? Show me how it works ! This will be Inspiring Games debut at the UKGE, so I wish them lots of luck. With the tag line, “The speed of a Card Game, The depth of an RPG”, I’m sold already.

And, of course, you should also check out these games which I have already covered on Box of Delights:

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In which country is board gaming most popular?

Box of Delights has been running since Feb 2012. In that time the channel has hit nearly 3 million views. Okay, this is nowhere near as many views as a couple of kids dancing to the crazy frog, or a cat falling off a ledge would get, but it is something worth celebrating in our minority hobby.

imageThis prompted me to wonder, just how much of a minority is it, and where in the world is board gaming most popular? 40% of my subscribers are from the US, and 10% from the UK. Surprisingly about 4% are from Brazil. But this is not a good measure. Brazil is the 5th most populous country in the world, so of course it’s going to be high.

imageSo, let’s use a more meaningful statistic, and make the measure “per capita” – i.e. how many gamers are there per head of population. Better than that, let’s calculate how many board gamers there are per 1,000,000 people in each country’s population. That will give us a good figure we can understand the meaning of.

Despite the 3 million views and 13k subscribers to Box of Delights, that is a drop in the ocean as a sample data set. It is heavily slanted towards english-speaking nations, and more so towards UK viewers, since I am a UK content creator, I can’t trust those number. So, let’s find a better data set.

imageWhat better than the log of registered users to Board Game Geek ? This has a massive audience, and a very diverse one. Of course it has its flaws: India is very populous, but a small percentage have internet access to be able to register on BGG. But right now it’s the best data source we have.

Now let’s trim our data set. There may be a very small country with a relatively large number of gamers, and there are a lot of countries. Let’s limit our measure to only those countries that have 2,500+ registered users.

imageWho do you imagine will come top? The US, Germany, the UK? It’s none of those. I was very surrprised by the result for Germany. German games are synonomous with Euro-games, what with their annual “Game of the Year” award (the Spiel des Jahres), and the Essen Spiel convention has more visitors over its gaming weekend than any other. But Germany falls to a lowly 20th spot, with 217 gamers per 1M. The UK takes spot number 8, with 705 out of a million of us registered on BGG.

Is it the U.S. that takes the number 1 spot ? No, but it does come in at a respectable 3rd place, with 961 gamers in every one million people.

imageInteresting is the dominance of the Scandinavian countries. Sweden, Finland and Denmark are 5th, 4th and 2nd respectively. Denmark just pips the US at 962 gamers per mil. It must be all those long dark and cold nights that draws friends and families together around a fire and a gaming table.

In 6th and 7th spots are New Zealand and Australia. With cost of living and cost of gaming high there, they must be a pretty dedicated and sociable bunch.

imageAnd what about the dominant Brazil? Did they make the top 30? They did, but down at 24. That’s still over 11,000 gamers on BGG, more than any of the Scandinavian countries. A big population with only 55 in every 1 million people registered to BGG.

imageSo, after all that, which country hit the number 1 spot ? With the cold dark nights of Scandinavia, with the flamboyance of Brazil, and with a humour that rivals the Germans; with the maple syrup of maple syrups, one country is sitting ahead of its neighbour; with 1,250 gamers per 1M of the population, the country with the most gamers per capita is Canada.

I blame Rodney. 

For the full list of the Top 30, visit the google sheet here.

 

 

A Quick Peek at The Battle of Five Armies in progress

Just a quick look at the game “The Battle of Five Armies” being filmed and edited for the start of a new series.

I’m in the process of editing the first episode, which is made up of around 65 separate clips making up about 1.5 hours of video, which are to be editing together to create a single episode.

Yes, it’s a lot of work with one camera and an iMac which could really do with an upgrade, but it is still one of the best parts of the hobby. Even if everyone stopped watching I’d still make these little films !