Misery Farming on the Road: Misery at Marshals

By Bob, Briony, and Lizzy

Here at the Misery Farm feel like we should encourage our audience to spread your dice and try playing games in some new settings, or even (god forbid) with some new people. In this sporadic mini-series, we take to the wide open road to review board game events all over the world. But mostly in pubs in the south of England.

A sick Bob is not a happy Bob. There’s a lot of pissing and moaning and complaining and ignoring good advice. She firmly believes that all you need to get well quickly is a regime of Hot Toddies and vitamin C. So, predictably, when our generic white male gaming buddy Andy invited Bob to Marshals on a chilly Monday night for an evening of board games and Tex-Mex she jumped at the chance. We say ‘jumped’ we mean ‘agreed before really thinking about what this would require’ (leaving the house, dressing like a proper adult, putting on pants). Seeing her hesitation Andy sent Bob the picture on the right and, unable to refuse this level of peer pressure, she blew her nose and made him promise to buy her a beer. For its medicinal properties, obvi.

We’re excited.

Marshals is an American blues sports bar-type place in Southampton which Bob can’t decide if she loves or… eh. Big screen TVs are splashed around the restaurant constantly show worldwide sports channels, but this isn’t terribly annoying as they’re usually set to silent and occasionally show late-night WWF wrestling. The Misery Farm would like to say that they don’t get super excited when the Undertaker shows up, but that would be a lie. A complete and utter lie.

Come to mama!

Marshal’s selection of spirits is frankly, inspiring. Shelves upon shelves of very fine whiskies, bourbons, and rums. They’ve got about 8 flavours of bitters alone. And such cocktails. They’re even perfectly happy to go off-menu or invent you a cocktail based on what you like, though unfortunately they haven’t the cloves on hand to make the tequila Hot Toddy of Bob’s dreams.

As a bonus, most of the male bar staff can all be rated on a scale of Hipster to Pirate. Beards and earrings for all!


Board games and Tex-Mex is a strange thing to combine. In fact, in many ways it’s the worst-possible combination of food and game. There aren’t many foods that lend themselves to the clean fingers and lack of drip required to keep laminated cardboard in pristine condition (sushi, pretzels, and boiled sweets being notable exceptions). Luckily Bob isn’t particularly precious about the condition of her games and cheerfully gestures for the waitress to plunk enormous plates of nachos unceremoniously among the notes and maps of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective.

Nutrionally null but delicious.

Also on offer: medicinal margaritas. The bartender (approximately well-scrubbed Russell Brand on the Hipster-Pirate scale) espouses the virtues of both tequila and lime as cure-alls. Unfortunately he hasn’t factored in Bob’s staggering capabilities for encyclopaedic knowledge about random bullshit. He patiently listens while a twenty-something woman wrapped in a blanket adenoidally tells him about the massively-reduced Vitamin C content of limes compared to lemons, and how the nominative confusion between the two led to the re-emergence of scurvy among such prominent explorers as Scott of the Antarctic in the 19th.  Then he makes a lime margarita anyway because limes taste better than lemons. It’s delicious.


Thus fortified, they turn to the board games portion of the evening in earnest. There are two other groups of board gamers in the bar this evening, but it’s hardly packed to the rafters with nerds. Bob embarrasses the GWMs by bothering a large group to ask what they’re playing (this is something that the Misery Farm has become particularly used to – we enjoy simply appearing whenever a boardgame is being played, like those pretty but useless patterned D10s that everybody’s got at least one of). Eventually Bob is prised away for more Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective (our regular hit of addictive self-flagellation) and Shinobi WAT-AAH for its sheer joy.

“Leave me alone I’m sick and solving mysteries.”

Sherlock is, as ever, deeply frustrating and intriguing in equal measure. It’s not really a ‘game’ as much as it is a murder mystery which punishes you for needing to read too much of it before figuring out the entire plot and who did the dirty deed. Mr Holmes is always several steps ahead of you and will drop condescending hints, but you can outshine him at detecting by solving side quests. This game has the power to annoy the crap out of you but you’ll still want to play the next case immediately. It is, unfortunately, hard to find, expensive, and translated from French, which leads to masses of typos which are severe enough to cause irritation, if not full in-game confusion (a notable exception being ‘spirit’ mis-spelled as ‘spirbt’ and causing terrible trouble in case five). A stuffy head and snotty nose do not make this game any easier, and we give up unusually early; allowing Sherlock to patronisingly explain the ‘simple’ case to us.

Losing graciously to Sherlock.

Shinobi on the other hand is always fun. Contradictory to our official review, Shinobi actually pairs perfectly well with a heady single-malt (nothing peaty or smoky please, Bob doesn’t like drinking old-man-sofa smell). Andy and Mike for some reason bring their C-game so Bob wins each round and, convincingly, the game.

Bob’s not sure how regular of a Miserable event this should be, as it’s not really an ‘event’ as much as it is an evening in a bar. Not that we’re in any way averse to those, it’s just that Marshals is a bit on the pricy side to make a regular haunt. Is it a fun way to spend an evening? Yes. Is it better than ordering Chinese takeaway to your local and playing board games there? Hmmm… But at least Bob got out of the house, and next time, maybe even Briony and Lizzy will venture forth and try new events too.

Images © Cadbury’s, WWF Wrestling, and Marshals Bar (in that order).
Photos © TheMiseryFarm.com


Shinobi WAT-AAH!: Everything changed when the fish nation attacked

By Bob, Lizzy, Briony

Dicks in ear: 7/10
Pairs well with: Sake, meditation, wisdom. All three at once, no cheating.

Note before playing: Everyone always asks if yelling WAT-AAH is part of the game, and, if so, when you shout it. While the parameters for shouting WAT-AAH do not appear in the rules, it is said the shouty samurai spirit has been inside you all along, and all that is needed is for you to free it when you feel the call. We enjoyed a house rule of shouting WAT-AAH whenever you put cards down. Or pick up cards. Or look at someone funny.


This is a game about ninjas with magic powers. And that’s pretty cool, but much more cool is the fact that this game might even have magical powers of its own. We’re pretty sure it’s impossible not to enjoy playing it. Genuinely, we’ve not found a single person who disliked it, and we know people who dislike everything.

Check out this little guy. Is he an upside-down dude in a hat? Or two tiny men in a plane cockpit?

It’s another Essen find, and a very fortuitous one at that. Essen is a wonderful and exciting four days of board games but it is, nonetheless, four very long days of board games. By Saturday Bob was flagging. She hadn’t slept well in her overheated German hotel room and had more or less twisted her gastrointestinal tract into origami with German ham hock stew and pilsner (from this and the Sanssouci post you might have guessed that she has something of a complicated relationship with Germany. You would be correct). Running through pouring rain to catch our tram to the convention centre did not improve the mood and by the time we Shinobi6arrived, damp and itchy-eyed with tiredness, Chris (friendly robot boyfriend) was detecting all the signs of a classic Bob-style rage-quit (pouting, tearfulness, The Grumps). Worse; we had arrived early in order to be first in line to play Hyperborea and hadn’t even managed to secure first play spot.  Nor, despite a mad dash, did we make it to Tragedy Looper before its first clientele of the day had casually picked up the instruction booklet and started reading (the boardgame convention equivalent of yelling ‘dibs!’).

Chris later confessed that when we spotted an available table with Shinobi WAT-AAH! laidshinobi 11 edit out on it that he was more or less praying that it would be good, or a full-scale tantrum was going to occur. Bob of course informed him that she is an adult woman and she does not throw tantrums,* to which we all obviously agree, but conceded that the appearance of the Shinobi table was still pretty well-timed.

shinobi something edit
Explaining rules is the most fun Bob can have with her clothes on.

Mechanically it’s a fairly straightforward deck-building card game in which you’re a royal lord (or lady) trying to unite clans of epic fighting ninjas in order to trigger their epic ninja fighting skills so that you may defeat the final demon boss (WAT-AAH!) and place your royal rear upon the Imperial throne. The epic ninja fighting skills fuel conflict in the game as you fuck with other players’ cards, peek through the Jigoku (the discard pile – literally translates as ‘hell’), or copy other clans’ powers. We give it a rating of 7 dicks-in-ear for the irresistible opportunities to knobble each other with these powers. Although some of the clans’ powers are more friendly (pick up some cards, look at some cards, etc) you’ll almost certainly find yourself plotting some nasty moves and stealing an entire hand of cards from someone you sometimes consider to be a friend.

Shinobi10 edit


There are two modes to play in: Grasshopper and Grand Master. In Grasshopper mode you simply play turns until someone has laid four fully-formed clans (WAT-AAH!) on the table. You then tally up the scoring value of each clan on the table and the player with the highest number wins (not necessarily the person who ended the game). Grand Master mode begins the same but after the tally you retain the cards still in your hand (fully-formed clans already on the table get discarded) and receive a number of The Shuriken of Winning depending on your place in the running. You can spend your Shuriken of Winning on cards which will give you bonuses (WAT-AAH!) in the next round, or toward battling the final boss (which could be zombies or creepy old lady-demons or whatever).

You do this for three rounds and then the final showdown happens. The showdown is6D-31- 458 much more anti-climactic than it sounds, as it’s really just a scoring of a the number of shuriken you’ve already put toward fighting the final boss against the (hidden, mysterious) number that they want in order to give you the best possible number of points. There is no epic battle between ninjas and demons, sadly, but interestingly more Shuriken of Winning doesn’t always translate into more winning points.

Shinobi8 edit
Beautiful art

It’s hardly the most complex or rich game in the world, but it is unashamedly fun. It’s the feudal Japanese card game equivalent of a pew-pew video game. Dicks fly everywhere and the art is about as fantastic as you’d expect from the guy who also did Seasons and that most scenic of games, Tokaido. It has a cartoonish feel that is both beautifully detailed and very bold and clean. This perfectly reflects the style of the game – simple, fun, yet with captivating little details. For example the wild cards which can be used to simply make up numbers in a clan are called Ronin – a feudal Japanese term for a samurai without a master or lord. Similarly, the powerful single cards which can be played as one-off additions to a clan are called Yokai6D-31- 462 spirits or supernatural beings present in Japanese folklore. This is exciting if you’re incredibly nerdy and contributes to the immensely satisfying feeling of a well-balanced, well-designed game that just works.  The cards are also taller than you’d expect, which is aesthetically very pleasing. It’s a neat touch.

Price-wise it’s a bargain. For some reason it seems that the more board games cost the more polarising and more rarely-played they become. Everyone will play a round of Coloretto or Hanabi but you actively have to search out friends interested in a game that costs hundreds and takes 6 hours. Twenty quid might not get you meeples of every colour and shape or a giant, detailed board but it will get you a game where even friends whose opinion of pretty much everything is that it’s ‘bullshit’, will sit up halfway through a round and mention how much fun it is.

Lizzy won again. But the real winner is board games.

6D-31- 417
The winner is always board games. And Lizzy.

* She does kind of throw tantrums a little bit. But only when she’s really tired. Or hungry.** Or drunk.

** Before Essen she gave Lizzy a bag of Cadbury’s éclairs, with strict instructions to feed them to her if (when) she got cranky. It was a good strategy.

Image credit and thanks to Dr Photographer