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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions from Stabcon South: Spring 2017 (Part 2)

Saturday and Sunday at Stabcon South and another bunch on new board games have been tried! Of course we've been playing some favourites too - with our collection now standing at around 250 games there are games that we really enjoy but just don't have space for that it's nice to play when we see them at a convention, plus of course it's nice to share some of your favourite games with people who haven't seen them before.

Here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

  • Pandemic Iberia is one of the more recent releases in the Pandemic line. Firstly it looks really amazing, from the board, to the tokens and even the card backs, it's just a lovely thing. Secondly, we really enjoyed what it adds to the game. In addition to normal pandemic rules, the main mechanics are railways which give you a quick way to move and water which acts as a protective life to the surrounding cities against infection. These two elements allow you a little extra tactical play to control the situation in what otherwise seems like a slightly more difficult version of the game. I also understand that you can play with advanced rules for the diseases which adds another level of difficulty and variability to the game. Pandemic Iberia was definitely a hit for us.
  • Mission Red Planet is an interesting development on the concepts in Citadels, by the same designer - Bruno Faidutti. In Mission Red Planet your goal is to send astronauts to the different zones of Mars to obtain different minerals with different rarity. You need the majority in the zone to gain it's resources in each resource round. All players have the same hand of cards which represent different people with different actions. You all simultaneously select a card and then they act in descending numerical order. Cards allow you load astronauts into rockets, launch rockets, move around Mars and some allow different elements to sabotage other players. You each have a secret mission which affects how you play but also gives you some good starting direction as a new player. I've come to realise that I really like games with a limited number of rounds and in Mission Red Planet it's very clear which rounds work normally and which are special rounds which you need to prepare for in advance which makes it very clear how you need to plan your turns. Normally the area control would put me off, but there's enough going on here that I felt I always had the power to do something positive and that element of the game didn't deter me from what is a surprising light and quick game that I really enjoyed.
  • Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition has been a much hyped reprint recently and I have to admit I was really excited for it even though I hadn't done much research. The game pretty much plays out as an app driven, co-operative dungeon crawl. I understand that the murder-mystery style scenario we played was atypical of most the scenarios in the bow and that generally you are exploring and encountering Lovecraft themed monsters and trying to stay alive. Knowing this now, it's quite predictable that this wasn't going to be my style of game - random stuff happening as you blindly move around a map pretending to be directed by story-driven thematic impulse just isn't for me - there's many other games with the same theme I'd rather play.
  • Terraforming Mars was a much anticipated game in our house - the theme is something that definitely appeals to Amy and any game that rises up the BGG rankings so quickly hits my radar. After playing it I pretty much agree with the hype. I can't quite put my finger on why it's so good, it just has really smooth gameplay, with a heavy emphasis on hand and resource management. For a game that is a case of doing what it says on the card it's full of interesting decisions and every choice I made seemed meaningful and helpful even though I didn't ultimately end up doing that well. Terraforming Mars is a must buy for us, I just hope it plays well with two!
  • Scythe is another one of the big hitters on this list that I was very keen to try. We played with the collectors edition, so the first impression was that of quality - the components, the giant board and the indented player boards are just fantastic, although I do wonder what the standard edition is like by comparison. In terms of gameplay it was another game that was deceptively simple. With just four options on what to do on your turn it's a case of making the best use of your resources to either do just one stage or two stages of the action. Then you need to decide where on the board you want to take the action. We only played with three players and I imagine that the player conflict and area control elements in a larger game wouldn't be for me, but at the lower player counts I really enjoyed the upgrading and resource building aspects of the game. Unfortunately it was slightly soured when I realised just how badly I was playing after end game scoring, but I am keen to try again and see if Scythe is for me in the long term.
  • Pandemic: The Cure is a game I've been interested in trying for ages. I think it's appeal is of course the Pandemic name (we still enjoy Pandemic and loved Pandemic Legacy) but also just how good it looks in photographs with all the circles and dice. The goal of the game is the same as Pandemic, to cure all four diseases before outbreaks and epidemics rise too high, but the mechanics are different, using dice and no board. Each continent is represented by a circular cardboard token numbered 1 through 6. When you roll dice to infect they're placed on the corresponding board and when there's more than 3 dice of one type it triggers and outbreak. Unfortunately we did really badly and this is mainly down to the double element of luck in the game. There's luck in where gets infected but also the potential for very bad luck when you roll actions. Also, I feel that with two players the game is much harder than it would be with more because when you are trying to take samples to cure disease you're locking up a much higher proportion of the total pool of action dice. I'm glad we tried this one before buying and hope to avoid it in the future.
So, after trying over ten new games in one weekend, what's our verdict? My favourite was Terraforming Mars, but now it seems I can't buy it because the 2nd reprint has quickly sold out in the UK. 

For Amy it was close between Terraforming Mars and Pandemic Iberia, but I'm not sure we need another Pandemic game in our lives, especially with Pandemic Legacy Season 2 on the horizon. 

I'm also pretty happy to have decided not to but Pandemic The Cure and Mansions of Madness, both of which were on my want list - even playing the less enjoyable games has a benefit. 

As for Scythe, I'm on the fence - I want the opportunity to play it again, and I'm not sure anyone I game with at home owns the game, so we might have to buy it, but first we're planning to try a 2-player game on Tabletopia and see how it plays.

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