Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Medieval Academy

Game: Medieval Academy

ManufacturerBlue Cocker Games

Designer: Nicolas Poncin
 
Year2014


 

Medieval Academy is a 2-5 player drafting game. The appeal of this game for me was primarily how much I enjoy drafting mechanisms and of course the artwork, by Piero, definitely draws you in and gives the impression that this should be a lightweight, introductory drafting game. The key element that ensures the replayability is the reversible tiles of the modular board, however we have not played these and therefore this review is of the standard set-up.



In Medieval Academy, each of you is a knight-in-training who must pursue different tasks in order to graduate at the end of the game as the bravest knight. Each task is represented by one of the 7 tiles making up the board, these are; wooing the princess, fighting on horseback and fighting on foot, education, entertaining the king, fighting the dragon and giving to the poor. Points are awarded or deducted at different stages of the game depending on your standing against your opponents in each of these challenges. At the end of 6 round the player with the most points after all positives and negatives are taken into account is the winner and the bravest knight.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

I learnt it at knight school: Medieval Academy


Game: Medieval Academy

ManufacturerBlue Cocker Games

Designer: Nicolas Poncin
 
Year2014


A good knight is strong, able to fight off his kingdom's enemies on horseback or on foot with whatever weapons he can find. But we aren’t here to train good knights, you will not be good knights, you will be great knights. A great knight is as smart as he is strong, brave in the face of insurmountable foes, yet kind in the eyes of his people. A great knight is friends with the king, and finally, and I know this is the bit you are all interested in, a great knight is favoured by the princess. Don’t go thinking this is easy, we pick from the finest boys of age in the land and each year only one becomes a knight! If you think you have what it takes, then welcome, to medieval academy!

Medieval Academy is a card drafting knight training game for 2-5 players, in it you choose cards which represent your time spent studying/training. The game is round based and after each round you get evaluated on certain tasks and get rewards based on how you did, other tasks are only evaluated at certain rounds or at the end of the game, these tend to offer bigger rewards, but require a full game of focus to win them.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Takenoko



GameTakenoko

ManufacturerBombyx & Matagot

Designer: Antoine Bauza

 Year2011


We were first introduced to Takenoko about 9 months ago at our first ever Board Game Club attendance. At the time it came across as quite an obscure game that only one member of the club owned. It was cute, simple and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. However, I didn’t particularly expect its popularity to sky rocket like it appears to have done in the past 6 months. At least 3 different people I know have discovered and fallen in love with the game and the new expansion appears to have given it a boost in popularity and mean more people are loving the game.


In Takenoko, each player is given a number of starting objective cards and can collect more using actions throughout the game. They can then use the Panda miniature, the Gardener miniature or place new tiles or irrigation channels on the bamboo plantation, to try and complete high value objectives faster than their opponents. The objective cards come in 3 type; one rewards the layout of the different coloured hex tiles, the second rewards different configurations of bamboo towers and the third rewards you for feeding the panda the correct colour combination of bamboo pieces.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Pandamonium:- Takenoko



Game: Takenoko

Manufacturer: Bombyx

Designer: Antoine Bauza

Year: 2011

“Build me a garden, look after my panda, make sure the crops are plentiful!” Someone tell the Emperor where to shove it, bah, does he know how ridiculous his requests are? Someone tell him that a panda bear is still a bear! Sure they look clumsy and the darn things are too stupid to breed, but they aren’t too stupid to rip a man’s head off if you get between it and it’s bamboo. The same bamboo that he wants me to grow into a tall forest, surely a simple task when someone is eating it down faster than it grows! The only thing more likely to kill me than that darn bear is the Emperor himself if he finds out how I feel about him.

Takenoko is a 2-4 player panda-feeding strategy game where you try and make a bamboo garden to please the Emperor while ensuring that his pet panda is well looked after. During the game you will build plots of bamboo, irrigate the garden, move the farmer to grow crops and move the panda to eat the bamboo.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- 7 Wonders



Game: 7 Wonders

Manufacturer: Repos Production

Designer: Antoine Bauza

Year: 2010

7 Wonders is definitely one of the major board games that for me is a must-play for people getting into the board game hobby. In the same way that you might recommend Pandemic for someone who hasn’t tried a cooperative game, Stone Age for someone who hasn’t tried a worker placement, I’d definitely think of 7 Wonders for a gamer who hasn’t tried drafting. (Although for a non-gamer something like Sushi-Go is more likely to be the recommendation.) It took us a while to get round to acquiring a copy of 7 Wonders, but I was able to pick up an unwanted copy (still in shrink) from Gumtree (the UK equivalent of Craigslist).

7 Wonders is a game for 3-7 players (it does have a 2-player variant, but we’ll talk about that later). Each player takes a wonder which will be comprised of 3 or 4 build stages. When each stage is built the player gets a bonus, usually either end of game victory points or a special ability that no other players can benefit from, however a player can chose to ignore these wonder stages and score victory points by other paths. The game proceeds in three ages where the players draft the cards – each player starts with a hand of cards, chooses one card and passes the rest onto the next player round the circle.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

It's a wonder-full life:- 7 Wonders



Game: 7 Wonders

Manufacturer: Repos Production

Designer: Antoine Bauza

Year: 2010
The Egyptians? Can’t trust them, they use slave labour, which is understandable, but they use it for personal gain, not the good of society. They work their slaves to death just to build bigger and bigger tombs, and they expect us to be impressed? A temple of death built by death, poetic, but not impressive. Still they do have some good quarries, so it doesn’t hurt to do the occasional trade with them. The Persians, however? Hah! Weak! We’ve invaded them twice in our long history and no-doubt we’ll do it again. They are building some kind of mausoleum for their king, using our architects no less. How fitting, we shall design it, they shall build it, and we shall fill it! When it is time for our soldiers to march the statue of Zeus will be standing tall, granting his blessings upon their conquering blades. 

7 Wonders is a 2-7 player drafting game in which you attempt to prove yourself to be the greatest civilisation in the ancient world, something that will probably (though not necessarily) involve building one of the 7 wonders. The game is split over three ages providing more powerful card in the later ages, it also has a good amount of interaction with your immediate neighbours around the table, with you being able to invade them or trade with them for resources.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Yellow Meeple's First Impessions:- 28th November - 12th December



Christmas time is a busy time for the Yellow Meeple. Aside from gaming, my other main hobby is playing in a brass band and over the festive season we’re in very high demand playing Christmas carols around the Hampshire area. This is my main excuse for not playing many games. However, over the last fortnight I’ve had the pleasure and sometimes misfortune of trying 4 new games.

·         Space Crusade is one of the older Milton Bradley titles that I assume came out around the same time as Heroquest. In the game we played, one player was the aliens and the other three players each had a team of guys trying to infiltrate the alien base. Each turn you can move your characters and enter into ranged or melee combat. Dice rolls will determine if you win or lose and the relative strength of your character vs. the alien will determine if you get an alien trophy or indeed your character dies. I do not see the point in this game. It seems so arbitrary and there seems to be no way for the players to win, since the alien gets points for all the characters they kill and there’s way more aliens than infiltrator characters. I’m sure the teach of the game didn’t help my ability to enjoy it, but I have to conclude that a random romp around the board, hitting out at other players just isn’t the type of game I’m ever going to enjoy.

·         Blueprints is the perfect game for you if, like me, you spend your down time in Quarriors, Dice Masters or other dice heavy games building different towers and constructions from the dice in your discard pile. In Blueprints, each player is secretly given a plan for a building made of 6 dice, it’s your choice whether you try to build this building or make something up, but you gain points for building the building on your card, using lots of recycled material (green), surrounding wooden dice (orange) with lots of other dice, putting concrete (black) high in the sky, or including glass (clear) with high value faces. All of these dice are rolled and drafted from the central pool without changing their face value. At the end of each round the player who gained the most points from building gets 3VP, 2nd gets 2VP and 3rd gets 1VP. However there are also bonus points to aim for; having matching faces, very tall towers, matching colours or  run of 1,2,3,4,5,6 in your building, all count for almost as many points as building a high scoring building in the first place. I love this game! It probably appeals to the architect an engineer in me, but I also love the drafting and set collection elements, as well as the building.

·         Cthulhu Realms is a deck building game based on the Cthulhu mythos. I love deck builders and had been told this was a rip-off of Star Realms, which I play a lot! Like most deck-builders you start with a hand of bad cards and try to buy better ones and remove the bad ones from your deck. On each turn you draw a hand of cards and use it to send your opponent’s insane or buy more cards, plus use any special abilities that trigger. In Cthulhu Realms, you win when all other players have no sanity remaining. We played with 4 players which I definitely enjoyed more than the 4 player variant we’ve played in Star Realms, but the game just wasn’t quite as polished with a little too many confusing icons. I’m sure if you’re into the Cthulhu theme this could easily replace Star Realms – it’s basically the same game.

·         Robot Turtles is a kid’s game, but sometimes kids games are fun for adults, so I picked this one up since it was a charity shop bargain. Sadly this one is very much not for adults! I could barely describe it as a game – it’s more of a learning exercise for kids, which is supposed to teach ‘programming’ but really just teaches spatial awareness and forward planning. It’s well produced and cute and I’m sure it will keep very young kids amused, but when the rulebook has to encourage adults to make it fun by suggesting silly noises to make when different things occur, I do question why the ‘game’ couldn’t provide the fun rather than the parent.

Between now and Christmas I don’t envisage us playing many new titles, but once I finish work there’s two weeks of potential gaming. Hopefully Santa is bringing Pandemic Legacy, but we also have quite a back-log on the shelf already and intend on heading to a board game cafe to try before we buy on a few titles I’m desperate to play!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Dominion: Prosperity

Game: Dominion: Prosperity

Manufacturer: Rio Grande
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino

Year: 2010



Dominion is one of the most played games in our collection. It was one of our first games and our entry point into the deck-building genre. We still love playing it to this day and have expanded it with both the Prosperity and Seaside expansions. I can’t deny that one of the reasons it hits the table so often is because the Yellow Meeple can beat Amy at deck-builders and to be honest it’s really rare for me to win games in our household!! This week we’re taking at Prosperity which we play with almost every time we play Dominion.


Prosperity turns Dominion into a big money game. It adds Platinum cards, worth 5 gold and costing 9 to purchase and Colony cards which cost 11 gold to purchase and are worth 10 victory points each. If you’re only playing with Prosperity then these are always in the game and the guidance is that otherwise they should be used at random eg. if you’re playing with 5 base game cards and 5 Prosperity cards then shuffle one of each together, draw one card and if it’s from the Prosperity set then you play with the big money and victory point cards.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Money, money, money makes the world go round:- Dominion: Prosperity



Game: Dominion: Prosperity

Manufacturer: Rio Grande
Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino

Year: 2010
 


There was a time when I sent my son away, I was young and foolish I suppose, I put money before family. Now that I lie on my deathbed, do I regret it? Trading love for coins, hah *cough* the only thing I regret is that the little blighter did it better than me. Bought my own kingdom out from under me, left me living in the slums *cough*, dying in the slums. Prosperity may ahve come to this kingdom, but it has been stolen from me.



Dominion prosperity is an expansion to the 2008 deckbuilding game Dominion. Prosperity is the third expansion available, unlike some of the others it isn’t a standalone expansion, so you will need the base game (or one of the standalones) in order to play it. Prosperity adds, well prosperity I guess, games with the expansion tend to be bigger, with more expensive, more powerful cards, and more ways to get them.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple :- Raptor

GameRaptor

ManufacturerMatagot
Designer: Bruno Cathala & Bruno Faidutti

 Year2015


Raptor is one of the recent releases in our collection and it’s been getting a fair amount of play. It’s a two-player only game so is perfect for a night in and it’s pretty quick – the box says 25 minutes, but we’re often finished in 15-20 minutes, which is pretty good for a game that actually has some tactical depth. I admit that the dinosaur theme is what sucked me in and I made sure that I got a copy as soon as it was brought back from Essen 2015 by the good people at the Draughts board game cafĂ© in London.




In Raptor you either take on the role of a team of Scientists or a group of Raptors (a mother and her five babies). The game is asymmetrical and you each have different win conditions. For the scientists there are two win conditions – you either have to capture 3 baby Raptors or you have to sedate their mother, by firing tranquiliser at her 5 times. For the Raptors there are also two win conditions – you either eat all the scientists on the board, or you manage to get 3 baby Raptors to escape the board.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Roar, (huh), what is it good for?:- Raptor



GameRaptor

ManufacturerMatagot

Designer: Bruno Cathala & Bruno Faidutti

 Year2015


The news shocked the world, of course, after billions of years there was still one breed of dinosaurs still out there. Raptors, time had changed them, of course, over the years they had lost their feathers and, ironically, have ended up looking how people commonly imagine them to be, green, scaly and with razor sharp teeth. We found out about them just in time, from satellite imaging of the island we concluded that there was only one adult left alive, fortunately she has several young. We have to go to this island and recover the young, in captivity we can breed them, bring the species back from the brink. Recovering these juvenile raptors is in the best interest of both the scientific community and the future of the raptor species as a whole, I just hope their mother sees it that way!

Raptor is a tactical dinosaur game for 2 players, in it you ... sorry I just need a moment to enjoy the phrase “tactical dinosaur” ... okay done. In it you take control of either a mother raptor trying to protect her young or a group of scientists trying to kidnap the baby raptors for science! The two sides play in the same way but both have varied actions that make each side feel unique.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions - 21st November - 27th November 2015



In the words of Robert Burns, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. I was determined to play Trains and Stations and Formula D last weekend, but sadly other games on the shelf enticed our visitors more! However, we did beat Ghost Stories for the first time, so all is not lost! We did manage to try a selection of new two-player games this week though. Here are the Yellow Meeple’s first impressions.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tsuro of the Seas



Game Title: Tsuro of the Seas

Designer: Tom McMurchie & Jordan Weisman

Manufacturer: Calliope Games

Year: 2012


 

Tsuro was one of the first games we tried when we got into gaming. To be honest it was a little bit too simple for our tastes, even at that time and we decided not to add it to our collection. However, when I noticed Tsuro of the Seas, it seemed to have a bit more going on and we decided to give it a go!



 Tsuro of the Seas is a tile laying game for 2-8 players, although it is much better at its higher player counts. Each player takes a boat and the aim is to sail around the board, without sailing over the edge, without crashing into other boats and without being eaten by the hungry dragons.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Wakey-wakey, dragons :- Tsuro of the Seas



Game: Tsuro of the Seas

Manufacturer: Calliope Games

Designer: Tom McMurchie & Jordan Weisman

 Year2012
 

There are many threats for sailors, from errant storms to lack of fresh fruit your life if always at risk. But nothing is as deadly, as monsters, people may scoff at those pictures of krakens on maps, but they are real, all of them! None are quite as deadly as the Daikaiju. They eat ships in one gulp, they eat each other in one gulp! You can't predict what they are going to do, they disturb the winds knocking your ship out of control. So I tell you, whatever you do, pay attention when you see the words 'Here be dragons'

Tsuro of the Seas is a 2-8player tile laying survival game where you sail a boat through water plagued with Daikaiju (which will from here always be referred to as dragons). The objective is to stay on the board as long as possible by laying tiles that set out routes to follow in the form of the wake of your ships. Falling of the board, landing on a dragon, having a dragon fly on top of you or crashing into another boat will all knock you out of the game.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions - 7th November - 20th November 2015

It’s been two weeks since I’ve written a first impressions piece – I’ve been finding it harder to get new games to the table and feeling a bit less motivated to do so. As we play more games we find that one game is like that other game we played 3 weeks ago and I preferred the other and that makes me more keen to play my old favourites, rather than trying something new every time. However this weekend we had a very long gaming session on Sunday afternoon and tried a few more games than normal.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Flash Point:Fire Rescue - Extreme Danger

Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Extreme Danger

Manufacturer: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Lutz Pietschker
 
Year2013




Flash Point: Fire Rescue – Extreme Danger is a big box expansion for Flash Point: Fire Rescue. We picked this one up after just a few games of Flash Point because we really love this thematic co-operative game. This expansion is very modular allowing you to incorporate different new elements to add variety to your fire fighting experience.




The first element is the new maps which allow you to either extend the house from the base game with an attic or a basement or to use the laboratory or the garage which are new maps with different layouts and different types of hazardous material or objects that fit in with the theme. The lab or the garage can also be played with the basement or attic. It’s hard for me to tell which maps are harder than others and there is so much variety that I’m not sure we’ll ever figure this out.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

I am the danger! :- Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Extreme Danger

Game: Flash Point: Fire Rescue - Extreme Danger

Manufacturer: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Lutz Pietschker

Year2013

Okay recruits, today we're going to talk about one of the most dangerous fires you may ever have the misfortune of being in: A fire in a chemical plant or laboratory. The fires burn hotter, the explosions blast fiercer and then you have all the other hazards, chemical spills could potentially knock you unconscious in minutes, barrels of chemicals or waste can ignite within seconds. I'll never forget my first lab fire, we rushed inside to be met with walls of fire, the air makeup units were still on feeding the fire fresh air like it was thanksgiving. As I was dragging my third victim outside I heard a sickening crunch, the CEO had taken a dive from the third floor window. Looking back I think that I should have been stronger, faster, I should have been there before they jumped. I lose count of the number of people that I've saved, but I never forget the ones I failed!
Flash Point: Fire RescueExtreme danger is an expansion to Flash Point: Fire Rescue which we reviewed back in July. Much like the base game you will find yourself fighting fires, but Extreme Danger adds many new elements and locations to the game, you’ll be fighting fires in a garage or trying to save staff from a multi-story chemical laboratory. These new buildings pose new risks, with more hazardous materials spread around, windows that can be blown out, fire doors that can become stuck and floors that can be broken. 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Manufacturer: Bezier Games

Designer: Ted Alspach

Year2014


Back in February 2015 we walked into our first game store – Ecclectic Games in Reading, UK. We saw their huge games library but weren’t sure how you got the privilege of trying some of the games. After asking some questions we had a huge revelation – you can meet up with a bunch of people you don’t know and play board games! So we went to our first board game meet-up and the highlight of our evening was Castles of Mad King Ludwig – a mind blowingly awesome game for 2 new gamers! But has it stood the test of time? (For information the low-light of the evening was Coup – I’ve learned that I really dislike hidden role games!)

In Castles of Mad King Ludwig your goal is to earn the most points by building your castle with optimal rooms adjacent to each other and building it in a way that will please the Mad King, who on a seemingly random whim will reward different kinds of construction eg. castles with lots of bedrooms or castles where all of the rooms are small and square. The game is a tile laying game, but with a huge dose of market manipulation.

The tiles in the game consist of different sizes and shapes of room. Each specific room shape can be one of 3 different room types eg. small square rooms are Utility, Food and Living rooms and the different rooms give you points in different ways. You get points simply for placing a room, generally more points for larger rooms and then you can either gain points or lose points for different adjacencies. Rooms are bought from the central market of 5/6 different tiles. On each turn, one player is the master builder and they can choose the order, and therefore the price, of the available room tiles. It is really key to try and price things appropriately, not only to ensure that you protect the tiles you want and do not give really important tiles to your opponents, but also because all money spent on that turn goes to the master builder.

The board set up for a 2-player game. Two favour tiles are used and fewer of each size of room tile are used to balance the game and reduce the game length with 2 players. There are also no cost 2000 rooms in the 2-player game.

When you buy a room, you immediately place it. Doors must align and there are many potential influences on your choice of where to place a room including; potential bonus points or penalties from adjacencies; the potential to complete rooms and obtain the bonuses which differ for each room type and they may also be influenced by your personal objective cards or the central kings favour tokens which may reward completed or uncompleted rooms.

Each game is different because of the huge choice of kings favour tokens in the game. The different objectives differ so greatly and can give large points bonuses to the person who achieves the most and second most in each category. You are also dealt personal objectives at the start of the game and can add to these every time you complete a Utility room. The personal bonuses generally reward 2 or 3 points for each of a certain room you construct eg. circular rooms or activity rooms etc.

This is probably the best tile advanced tile laying game I’ve played. I love the mechanics, especially the master builder, even though it causes me significant stress to decide on the cost and order of the rooms. The game’s one flaw is that is prone to bringing out analysis paralysis in players. Both the master builder role and the temptation to try and optimise the tile placement can be very draining! It is possible to play this game quickly if all players think about their purchasing priorities whilst the master builder is deciding and whilst other players are also deciding which tiles to purchase and where to place them.

A castle under construction, with a large number of completed rooms. This player will currently have two extra personal objectives due to the two completed orange Utility rooms.
There’s no doubt I find this game stressful, but it does just about tip the balance towards enjoyable and it feels really rewarding and satisfying once you’ve built your castle and you can see it laid out on the table in front of you. Castles of Mad King Ludwig gets an 8/10 from the Yellow Meeple.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Mad by design:- Castles of Mad King Ludwig



Game: Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Manufacturer: Bezier Games

Designer: Ted Alspach

Year2014

Historical architecture is a fascinating subject, and none more interesting than those from the reign of ‘mad' King Ludwig. Few buildings remain, but a handful of his unique castles have survived and provide a fascinating insight into his psyche. Take this example; the only way to get to the master bedroom is by walking through the grand hall, down the stairs into the dungeon, then back up the stairs to enter the bedchambers. Apparently this castle was made to house one of his less favoured wives, and several of his most dangerous enemies. Then we have this unique building, tall stone walls and a moat protect nothing but a series of kitchens and a banquet room, Ludwig would travel here simply to feast, where he slept when he stayed we are still unsure. It’s probably becoming clear to you how he earned the nickname of ‘mad king’, but it’s worth remembering the difference between madness and eccentricity is being rich!

Castles of Mad King Ludwig is a 1-4 player tile laying game in which you try and make the best castles. Unfortunately the person you are making castles for doesn’t really have much of an understanding of common ideas such as design, but has more of an understanding that he *really* likes round things, and basements, and round basements! While some point scoring stays the same the game has both open group objectives and secret personal objectives that award large amounts of bonus points.