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 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other 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

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 7th - 22nd September 2017

As you can see - this blog will include two weeks of first impressions, including some games I played whilst exploring board games cafes in Winnipeg, Canada. My new job has recently got very, very busy and we just aren't getting the chance to play new games very often. However, who needs to play lots of new games when you find one that you can see becoming a new favourite? Mainly we've been playing some of our older games, but here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Publisher: USAopoly

DesignerForrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
 
Year20
16

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle is the first real hobby game I’m aware of with the Harry Potter Intellectual Property. It was released by USAopoly and is currently only available in North America. This exclusivity is part of what peaked my interesting, as well as the deck-building mechanics in the game. Luckily there is a UK company who must’ve imported a huge order and a number of lucky people in the UK got a copy, myself included. I have noticed that it is now appearing for wider preorder in the UK on a number of sites, including Zatu Games, where we are now part of the blogging team.

Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle is a co-operative deck-building game for 1-4 players, where each of you plays one of the main characters from the books and one of you plays Neville. Together you take on villains before each location in the game is overrun by evil forces. One of the elements that I find exciting about the game is that each of the 7 years at Hogwarts has a box full of new components and rules that you open before you start a new year. I won’t give major spoilers, but if you read the rest of this review you’ll get some hints about what’s inside those boxes.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Draw a card, any card:- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Game: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle

Publisher: USAopoly

DesignerForrest-Pruzan Creative, Kami Mandell, Andrew Wolf
 
Year20
16

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is a 2-4 player cooperative deckbuilding game in which you play as one of the 4 main Harry Potter characters (well... 3 main, and Neville), and attempt to survive the 7 years of schooling that Hogwarts provides. Hogwarts Battle is progressive, with every game you complete you open up a new box that contains more cards and mechanics for your next game.

A quick word on spoilers; I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler free as possible, but I consider anything in the year 1 box (ie your first game) to be non-spoilery. In addition if the game board makes something ridiculously obvious that it could happen then I’ll also consider it fair game.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle is, at its core, a run of the mill deck builder, you’ll start with a deck of not very good cards that give you a little bit of influence, you’ll spend that influence to get better cards and then those better cards will let you actually win the game. However the game board does add a twist to this basic gameplay. As you play through a mission you will have locations that you are fighting in, these form a mini deck which can be depleted if too many villain control tokens gets added to them. Villain control is largely generated by the dark arts deck, which you have to draw from at the start of every round, but can also be generated by anyone running out of health. If the last location in the deck is filled with villain control tokens then you lose the game.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Ticket to Ride Germany

GameTicket to Ride Germany


Publisher: Days of Wonder

DesignerAlan R. Moon
 
Year20
17



Ticket to Ride Germany first caught our eye at the UK Games Expo 2017. Seeing the Ticket to Ride map covered in passenger meeple was new to us, although I have heard that the passengers were a feature in Ticket to Ride Marklin -  a version of the game that is now longer in print. The German language game appears to have been around for a couple of years, so it’s interesting to see it hit wider distribution although I wonder if it has the legs to really take off as a new base game on the shelves of game stores outside Germany. We’ve played a number of times with two players and also introduced the game to my mum, who has played Ticket to Ride Europe with us before, and here are my thoughts.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

All aboard the number nein:-Ticket to Ride Germany



GameTicket to Ride Germany

Publisher: Days of Wonder

DesignerAlan R. Moon
 
Year20
17


Ticket to Ride Germany is a 2-5 player standalone version of the Ticket to Ride game series set in Germany. While it follows the same formula of set collection to claim routes to complete tickets, it also adds in a couple of new rules not seen in the original, while keeping the gameplay simple enough to be taught quickly. The new passenger system makes the game that much more tactile to play  and rewards what were previously sub-optimal strategies.



Ticket to Ride Germany is a game with very quick turns, as every turn you get 1 action. This action can be taking new train cards from either the 5 on display, or blind off the top of the deck. Alternatively you can use these train cards in coloured sets to claim routes, each route needs a certain number of trains in a specific colour and rewards you with points based on the length. When you claim a route you place your plastic train pieces along it to mark it as yours, each route can only have 1 player’s trains on it. In addition you get to take a passenger meeple from each city your new route connects. The final option is to take new tickets, tickets give you points if you successfully connect the two cities on the card with your train routes, however they penalise you for failing to connect them by the end of the game.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 31st August - 6th September 2017

After a huge pile of new arrivals in recent weeks I actually feel like we're making respectable progress on our shelf of shame, as well as making some tough decisions to sell or trade a few games out of our collection. It's been a mixed bag this week in terms of the new games we've enjoyed and not enjoyed so much, so here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Codenames Duet

GameCodenames Duet

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

DesignerVlaada Cvatil & Scot Eaton
 
Year20
17

Codenames is the massive hit party game that won last years Spiel des Jahres award and is being brought out in multiple different versions following it's broad appeal and popularity. The most recent addition to the line is Codenames Duet, which is a two player implementation of the original game. Codenames has been really popular within our friendship groups, with my work gaming groups and even with my non-gamer parents, but it's always been about having a fun experience with a larger group of people, so how successfully has this been transferred to a 2-player experience?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Fi's Mum's First Impressions of Ticket to Ride: Germany

I've invited my mum to write a guest blog for The Game Shelf...She wanted to call it "Thoughts from the Menopausal Meeple" - let me know if you think this sounds like a catchy name?

I really appreciate that she's happy to play games with us when she visits and it was great to introduce her to something new. So, here are Gill's (un-edited) thoughts on Ticket to Ride: Germany after her first play!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Double the agent:- Codenames Duet

GameCodenames Duet

Publisher: Czech Games Edition

DesignerVlaada Cvatil & Scot Eaton
 
Year20
17

Codenames Duet is a 2 player card game in which you play as members of a spy agency attempting to contact their sleeper agents, while avoiding assassins sent to hunt them down. Codenames Duet plays much like the original Codenames, but instead of 2 groups competing against each other you have 2 players who must work as a team to find all the agents. To make things more complicated there are 3 assassins on the board and you’ll be working to a strict time limit of guesses.

As in the original game you are presented with 25 words of which you have to guess from. Each player has a private grid that dictates which of the words are agents that have to be guessed, which of the words are clueless bystanders, and which are assassins who kill you should you alert them to your presence. Each turn you have to give your partner a 2-part clue, one word and one number. The word should be a link between words on the grid that are agents, while the number is the number of words that need to be guessed. Your partner then guesses as many words as they like 1 by 1, if they guess an agent you cover the word with a  green agent card and may continue guessing, if it’s an assassin then the game ends as a loss. At any time they can stop guessing and take one of the green checkmark tokens, alternatively if they guess a bystander then their turn ends immediately and they place a bystander token on it. These tokens are double sided with each other and act as an in game timer, with each passing turn you’ll be taking one token or the other.

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 21st - 30th August 2017


It's been a challenge to try new games this week because we had my parents visiting for the long weekend. They're happy to play games, but prefer something simple and it's definitely best if we teach a game that we know inside out and aren't looking at a rulebook whilst they're becoming impatient at the table. We were actually so bus sorting out new board game shelves and new shelves for our retro video game collection that we hardly played anything over the weekend. Nevertheless, I have a few games to talk about, so, here are the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Beasts of Balance

Game: Beasts of Balance

Publisher: Sensible Object Games

DesignerGeorge Buckenham & Alex Fleetwood
 
Year20
16


Beasts of Balance was a successful Kickstarter in early 2016, originally called Fabulous Beasts. We weren't interested in Kickstarter at the time, but this year's Kickstarter for a new edition, new beasts and a competitive expansion caught our eye. The first edition did well and hit mainstream retail in the UK at John Lewis so we were able to pick up a base game before committing to the Kickstarter campaign. At an RRP of £70, is Beasts of Balance a good game for kids, families or adults or is it just a very high price tag for a cool looking gimmick?

Beasts of Balance is a cooperative dexterity game for 1-5 players, although there is technically no upper limit on player numbers. Although in concept it is a very simple stacking challenge, the sleek integration of technology, with an interactive app, makes this game stand out from the crowd. The base game comes with three small beasts and 3 large beasts as well as a collection of land, sea and air elements, all of which you need to combine into a tower to get the highest point score possible.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Octopi will breed with anything:- Beasts of Balance


Game: Beasts of Balance

Publisher: Sensible Object Games

DesignerGeorge Buckenham & Alex Fleetwood
 
Year20
16


 Beasts of Balance is a 1-5 player app-based balancing game in which you work cooperatively to score the most points by adding animals and nurturing them. Beasts of balance works via a base which scans objects as you add them and sends the data to your device, your device then keeps track of the point scores and types of animals that you have in play, as well as a record of all the beasts that you have ever encountered.

Each turn a player will choose one piece to add to the tower, scan the marked area on the piece against the marked area on the base and then add it to the tower any way up. One of the most unique aspects of Beasts of Balance is how awkward the pieces are shaped. The geometrically designed animal pieces vary from the small, mostly square warthog to the huge, round-bellied shark which can only really be played nose or tail first if you want any chance of stacking on it! The non-animal pieces aren’t much better, with the distraction and speed miracles being particularly awkward to place. This could be a death knell to a balancing game if it weren’t for the cooperative nature, you are all trying your hardest to get everything on and get that sweet end-game double point bonus!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- World's Fair 1893

GameWorld's Fair 1893

Publisher: Renegade Games & Foxtrot Games

DesignerJ. Alex Kevern
 
Year20
16


 It seems like we're talking about Renegade Games a fair amount at the moment, and I confess it's because I've been sucked onboard the hype train a little bit, by listening to other reviewers who seem to think that they can do no wrong as a publisher. World's Fair is a slightly older game in Renegade's range (although probably not much older than 1 year) that seemed to be talked about very briefly when it was released and has quickly faded away. I was really happy to pick up our copy in a trade at the UK Games Expo this year and I was interested to know if World's Fair is another strong title from Renegade.

World's Fair 1893 mixes the mechanics of area control, card drafting and set collection into a euro game themed around the sights, sounds and inventions at the first World's Fair in 1893. The board is a ferris wheel in 5 different coloured sections, each representing different themes in innovation.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Welcome, to the world of Tomorrow!:- World's Fair 1893

GameWorld's Fair 1893

Publisher: Renegade Games & Foxtrot Games

DesignerJ. Alex Kevern
 
Year20
16


World’s Fair 1893 is a 2-4 player area control game in which you seek to secure the many impressive technological exhibits to be displayed at the 1893 World’s Fair. You’ll need to collect exhibits of 5 types, and then secure control over the area they are to be exhibited in to get them put on display. To do that you’ll need to use your supporters, but also the support of influential figures of the time who can help spread your influence or manipulate your opponents.

World’s Fair 1893 features a very well designed board, made modular in order to fit into a small box, but also to swap the central part over to quickly swap player numbers, which is kind of ruined by the fact that you need to change the number of cards in the deck for differing player counts. The game board features a central ferris wheel, which acts as a timer for each round, and 5 main exhibit areas. Whenever someone collects midway ticket cards the counter moves around the ferris wheel, once a complete rotation has been achieved the round ends and scoring begins.

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 12th - 20th August 2017

This week we actually made a pile of shame. We have a new Kallax shelf from Ikea and the only games on it are games we have not yet played - right now that's 23 games - actually not as bad as I feared, but still impressive when all seen on one shelf. Most of my gaming this week was at my first work board game night, so I've played a lot of party games. Fortunately our friend Nick came over on Friday evening and we managed to play some bigger games. I know Amy and Nick enjoyed a game of Sol: Last Days of a Star and a game of XCOM, but I also got to enjoy a few games when I got home from work.

So, here are the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Yellow Meeple Starts a Board Game Group at Work:- Week 12

Those of you who follow the blog, or have followed this series might have noticed the long hiatus. I last posted a Work Game Group report in March. Since then I moved on from that job, looked for a new job and got married. I've been in my new job one month and it's quite exciting that I've already managed to start a new group and we plan to meet once per month.

My new office has fewer than ten people, so it's a work social night, rather than a night to gather interested people. This definitely meant some people were reluctant and a couple of people didn't attend, but overall I was pleased with their willingness to take part and try something new. It's nice not to worry about how many people are going to come along, but complete non-gamers bring a new set of challenges.

Week 12

Number of Attendees: 7

Games Played: Codenames, Dobble, Spyfall, Rhino Hero, Ticket to Ride: Europe


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Nine Worlds

GameNine Worlds

Publisher: Medusa Games

DesignerRichard Denning
 
Year20
16


Richard Denning is the man behind the UK Games Expo, Britain's largest tabletop gaming convention. He has also turned his hand to designing, under the company name Medusa Games and Nine Worlds is a big box release that, naturally, had been exhibited at the UK Games Expo for the last couple of years. We've never managed to demo this at the expo, but with a new expansion likely to be released at Essen 2017, we're taking a look at this area control game based on the nine worlds of Norse and Anglo-Germanic mythology.

At its heart, Nine Worlds is an area control game, but it also relies heavily on action point allocation mechanisms. Your glass beads represent armies and each turn you'll use your action points to recruit them, deploy them or move them around the 9 interconnected circular worlds on the board. Different actions costs different points, most are just 1 point per action but others, such as deploying troops far away from your leader, take more action points.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Valhalla or Helheim:- Nine Worlds

GameNine Worlds


Publisher: Medusa Games

DesignerRichard Denning
 
Year20
16


Nine Worlds is a 2-6 player area control game in which you control the armies of one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology and attempt to conquer all of creation. You do this by rallying your forces around your leader, moving troops around the worlds and performing rituals to cast each world’s unique magic. Nine Worlds is a completely luck-free game, with even the most complicated battles being predictable if you know the forces involved.

The game takes place on a large board with the nine worlds represented by circles joined by routes. You start with a small army on your home world and each turn you’ll be given an amount of action points to manipulate the game board. The action points can be spent on a wealth of different options, from moving and reinforcing troops, to sending your enemies troops directly to Helheim! The more powerful of these abilities tend to have a variable cost; cheaper if your leader is present, but more expensive should your opponent’s be there. Once all players have finished actions then there are battles in any world with more than 5 armies. Death of troops follows the player order, so there is a penalty for being first (in addition to your actions be entirely countered by the players going after you), but since player order is dictated by how many troops you have alive the player order is very fluid.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 1st - 11th August 2017

Last week was a frustratingly quiet week for games, both new and old. We finally got Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle back to the table with our 'campaign game' friends, and the game is starting to get a bit more interesting and challenging. However, this week we definitely made up for it and this will be quite a long list of new games. Hopefully we should manage a few more in the coming week too, although my main game night will be my first game night at my new job so I'll be pulling some gateway classics off the shelf.

So, here are the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Caverna: Cave vs. Cave

GameCaverna: Cave vs. Cave

Publisher: Mayfair Games

DesignerUwe Rosenberg
 
Year20
17

Caverna is a recent acquisition in our collection and we've only played it once, but found it really enjoyable and quite a quick game (60-75 minutes) with two players. This made me wonder what the target market was for Mayfair's new release Caverna: Cave vs. Cave - a two player only game, bearing the same name and from the same, prolific designer - Uwe Rosenberg. Cave vs. Cave is the next in the line of smaller two player games - Agricola:All Creatures Big and Small and Le:Harve Inland Port. So, is Cave vs. Cave a streamlined version of Caverna or a new and different experience?

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The little game about Dwarves:- Caverna: Cave vs Cave


GameCaverna: Cave vs. Cave

Publisher: Mayfair Games

DesignerUwe Rosenberg
 
Year20
17



Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a 2-player only worker placement game that pits two rival dwarf families against each other, trying to make the most prosperous new cave home. You’ll need to carefully manage actions and resources to ensure you can mine out the mountain, build rooms in the cleared areas, and, of course, make lots and lots of gold!



Caverna (the original) was a game we only got recently, it’s a game where you have to grow crops, raise animals, expand your cave and do all of this while avoiding starvation. I can’t deny that I was a little disappointed upon opening Cave vs Cave and finding that the only one of these features that survived the transition was the cave expanding part. To me Caverna was all about finding places to put those extra donkeys that you just bred, so the lack of animals was a particularly big blow. I also miss the cuddle room. Caverna: Cave vs Cave is a heavily cut down interpretation of the original... but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game, the narrowed focus has allowed them to refine the cave building aspect of the game and add a lot of dynamics that there simply wasn’t space for in the original. 

The game set up ready to play, there are a selection of starting rooms on the right side of the main board.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of Gen Con 2017

The second largest board game convention in the world is soon to be upon us. Unfortunately, our location in the UK means that we won't be attending Gen Con, but it's still an exciting time for new releases, not only from US publishers, but also different publishers from around the world who descend on the Indiana Convention Centre in their masses to take a look at the new and up and coming hotness in the board game industry (and other related industries too).

This year, it seems like there is no one huge release that the crowds will run to when the doors open, but there's still news of some interesting board games and expansions coming out or being previewed at the show. In this blog I want to concentrate on the new games I would actually plan to buy if I was there, even though the idea of a demo of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 or Charterstone would also be immensely exciting (but full of spoilers)!

So, here's my Top 5 of new releases I am most looking forward to at Gen Con 2017.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Over-thinking by the Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Two Player Only Board Games


We started this blog with a focus on two-player games and games for couples, but then ended up finding ourselves playing with lots of different groups of gamers and playing many multi-player games too. However, we still get plenty of time for gaming at home and therefore we have lots of 2-player only games. We find that they can be especially good when we're travelling as many 2-player only titles have a small footprint too.

Of course, there's plenty of games that support more players that also play well with two and sometimes play best with two, but the focus of this list will be the games that only play two (excluding the fact they may also have a solo variant).

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Castles of Caladale

GameCastles of Caladale


Publisher: Renegade Games

DesignerDavid Wilkinson
 
Year20
17




Castles of Caladale is a title from Renegade Games. Renegade are certainly gaining a reputation as a publisher to watch, with many reviewers saying that they can do no wrong. So, rightly or wrongly, I was interested in Castles of Caladale, not  only based on publisher reputation, but also because the production of this game looked fantastic, with great artwork and even a box that game in its own sleeve. So, is this another hit from Renegade?


 
Castles of Caladale is a tile laying game for 1-4 players, where you each try to build the best castle with three types of castle tiles; Fairies, Tudor and Stone. There are two different variants in the box, as well as a solo variant, but typically you are trying to ensure that you can place every tile you pick up into a position in your castle where the 'terrain' matches on all sides, then you want to ensure that at the end of the game the edges of your castle are complete, rather than open and that you have lots of flags near the top of your castle to score points.

Every player gets a grass strip which limits the horizontal extent of their castle. Players then take turns to select a tile from the central face-up supply of nine tiles and add this to their castle, only building in sports which are structurally sound and where the 'terrain' matches. Some tiles have two types of terrain which allows you to switch the types your building and ultimately your castle will probably contain all three terrain types. If you really can't place a tile then you can flip it over and it will be worth one fewer point at the end of the game. When all tiles have been drawn you have one last chance to rearrange and try to ensure that all edges of the castle are completed.

A completed castle, which has no open edges.
In the speed variant, players start with an equal proportion of all the tiles face up in front of them. You can swap tiles with tiles in the central supply but ultimately, it's a race to build the best castle. When someone grabs the 30 second timer there's 30 seconds to make the best of what you have. All tiles must be kept face-up in this variant adding a small amount of difficulty, but it's still pretty easy to complete a castle. The speed variant can also probably be abused by a player who hoards all of the flags and then starts building as best they can.
The central supply.
In positive news, the castles you create always look really nice, but that's probably all the positives I have to say about it. The game doesn't feel like much of a game at all, there's no real difficulty there because not only can you flip a tile if you dot want to use it in your castle, you can also rearrange the castle at any time. We tried the speed variant to make sure that rearranging was penalised, but even without rearranging the game just seems too easy. Points are primarily scored for the number of tiles placed and since you both place the same number, the game always seems to end up with a one or two point lead getting the victory either due to one more open edge or one more flag at the top.

As you can tell, I'm really disappointed with Castles of Caladale. Perhaps it would be a fun, educational, matching activity with very young children but I just can't see it as a game for gamers or even for any adults. I so want it to be a good tile laying game with such awesome art work, but it's not and it's actually already left our collection. From the Yellow Meeple it's a 4/10 for Castles of Caladale.