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.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Over-thinking by the Yellow Meeple: The Dice Tower Awards 2016


This is the third year that I’ve covered the Dice Tower Awards and, more than ever, we’ve played a lot of the nominees and winners. I’m still a fan of the Dice Tower for their podcast reviews and Top Ten lists so at times my views probably do reflect those of the Dice Tower and its contributors, who vote on the awards.

So this morning I watched the live stream of the Dice Tower Awards 2016 which take place at Dice Tower Con during 2017. There were 15 awards and a number of duplicate winners, so there were only actually 9 winning games – coincidentally the same number as in 2016. Of the 9 winners, I’ve played eight of them, which is very high for me – I’m definitely starting to follow the hotness more closely! Having also played a lot of the nominees, I would say that I agree with approximately 50% of the choices of winner. From the unsuccessful nominees, we’ve played Inis, Kanagawa, Conan, Cottage Garden, TIME Stories: Prophecy of Dragons, TIME Stories Under the Mask, Codenames Pictures, Junk Art, Secret Hitler, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulu, Mystic Vale, Clank!, A Feast for Odin, Great Western Trail, Karuba, Sushi Go Party!.

So firstly, let’s luck at the winning board games we’ve managed to play;

            Mechs vs. Minions – Best Production
There is no doubt in my mind that Mechs vs. Minions is the right winner in this category. The box is full to the brim with awesome miniatures, metal pieces, thick cardboard and the most fantastic insert. Not only is it the best production, Riot Games were able to sell this for fantastic value. If they ever produce a sequel or another game then please add me to the list!

            Terraforming Mars - Best New Designer, Best Strategy Game
Terraforming Mars was a surprise hit for us last year and I agree with it winning in both of these categories. In the age of massive amounts of high quality miniatures and fantastic production quality, art and graphics all round, Terraforming Mars does not stand out from the crowd (to put it nicely). In spite of this it has risen quickly up the ranks into the Top 10 on Board Game Geek and is a game I will say yes to playing every time it is offered.

            Roll Player - Best Small Publisher
Roll Player came out of nowhere last year. After a pretty successful, but not stellar Kickstarter people started playing it and demand far outstripped supply. For me the theme has no real appeal, but I can happily play the game without caring about the theme too much at all and really treating it as an abstract game about gaining points through dice placement and manipulation. For me, I think Cottage Garden was a stronger favourite in this category, but I can see why Roll Player has appeal to more gamers.

            7 Wonders Duel Pantheon - Best Expansion
Of the list of nominees for best expansion, I can see why Pantheon won based on the huge popularity of 7 Wonders Duel. Pantheon is an expansion we won’t play without but at the same time I definitely wouldn’t say it’s essential to the game. It adds complexity and works very smoothly with the base game. It would be nice to see a winner that was a complete game changer but to be fair no game changing expansions spring to mind from last year.

            Captain Sonar - Best Party Game, Best Thematic Game, Best Innovative Game
I am very surprised that Captain Sonar came away with three awards and in these categories. Although it perhaps doesn’t fit the typical definition of thematic I’m very happy it won in this category because for me it really does evoke the stress in the different roles on a submarine. In terms of innovation I guess it is like no other game although I wouldn’t say its individual mechanics involve huge innovation. However, categorising this as a party game is wrong to me. It’s almost like it has to go into that category because in NEEDS 8 players, but it’s not like you would ever bring this out at a non-gaming event and I can’t see me playing with non-gamers or new gamers either. Captain Sonar is definitely a great game, but one I more respect, rather than enjoy – the real-time teamwork just causes me frustration rather than fun.

            Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition - Best Reprint, Best Co-op
I guess Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition was the obvious winner in both of these categories, having become very popular with fans of the Cthulu mythos who can now play a much more streamlined, app-driven game. It’s actually not one I enjoy after the first scenario we played which just felt like a long and boring hunt for items with a very lack-luster final monster at the end of 2 or 3 hours. I have not played any of the other reprints nominated, although Robinson Crusoe is very high on my list to play. For co-operative game, Mechs vs. Minions was the best for me, although I was surprised not to see Pandemic Iberia nominated over the Cthulu version – Iberia is fast becoming our favourite version of Pandemic.

Ice Cool - Best Family Game
After recently winning the Kinderspiel des Jahres, there was no surprise that Ice Cool won in the family game category – I actually think it fits the title of family game much better than children’s game, since I’ve seen many, many adults enjoying this innovative flicking game. We’ve actually played ever nominee in this category and all are really strong choices that we own and enjoy as lighter games to play without children.

Scythe – Best Artwork, Game of the Year
Although Scythe isn’t necessarily my board game of the year, simply based on personal preference and the fact I can’t get my head around a good strategy, I can certainly respect it winning in both categories. This year was really strong for heavier strategy games and I’m sure there was strong competition from Terraforming Mars and Great Western Trail for Game of the Year, but Scythe is definitely being played everywhere, with its upgraded components and Collector’s edition definitely helping it to stand out from the crowd.

The only winner I’ve not played is Star Wars Rebellion, which won the best 2-player game award. I do want to try this game but I’m not sure a 2-player epic game is for us – we typically only play short games with two players because they’re good for trips. Maybe we’ll try it one say, but actually I feel there were better 2-player games this year.

2016 had some definite stand out hits which are reflected in this year’s Dice Tower Awards. 2017 seems to be shaping up to be a bigger year in board games for us, although some of my favourites I’ve tried so far are those big games from 2016. I’m excited to see what the upcoming GenCon and Essen conventions will have in terms of big releases and maybe I’ll have a full house next year – will I have managed to play all of the winners?

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