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.

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Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Jabberwocky

Game: Jabberwocky

Publisher: Jellybean Games

Designer: Various

Year: 2019

Jabberwocky is a collection of small game which build on the model of The Lady and the Tiger, a game, also from Jellybean Games that we recently reviewed. The game contains a common set of components and with these components you can play various microgames, all from different designers.

The games in Jabberwocky are the result of design competition held during Summer 2018. Aspiring designers were given a basic set of components with which to design a new game. At the time of the game, there was no theme and so the resulting games are abstract in nature, but the winner and four other finalists made it into the box. The final game mimics the literary theme and eye-catching artwork that made The Lady and the Tiger stand out. Jabberwocky - themes on the Lewis Carroll nonsense poem is coming to Kickstarter in March 2019.

Gameplay

Jabberwocky is a game collection, as such there are 5 games in the box, all of which are played with the same set of 15 playing cards (numbered 1-5 in 3 colours), 3 Jabberwocky cards (1 of each colour) and a handful of coloured gems. The rest of the cards in the set are simply player aids to assist you in learning and playing the games. We played all 3 of the two player versions of the game for the sake of this preview.

Borogroves is a map making game where one player is making a map, while the other is exploring it. Each turn the cartographer will add 1 new card to the map, then the explorers will move their 3 tribes of gems around to explore. At the end of a round points will be scored by the explorer player for every map token where they have a number of gems equal to the number on the card. The Cartographer scores points for every map tile on which there is a not a gem of the card's colour. This creates an interesting blocking mechanism, you only need one gem to block, but may need up to 5 to score. After playing 1 round the players swap roles and play again, the person with the most points after round 2 wins.


Gyre is an area control game in which each player is assigned a colour, you then take turns moving the jabberwocky card of your colour around a 5x3 grid of cards. As you move about you can either suck in gems or blow them out, doing so will move the gems across the map either away or towards you. Your aim is to get cards of your colour to have a number of gems of your colour equal to their number and no other gems. To assist with this instead of inhaling/exhaling you can resolve conflicts, causing all areas on the board to have a fight, with only the highest number of gems on each card remaining. Careful decision of when to do this can result in blocking your opponents and/or completing your cards.


Mimsy is a mancala game where you are seeking to get 5 of the 6 gems of your colour onto your home base before anyone else. To do this you choose a (non home) card and pick up all the gems and begin distributing them clockwise around the board, 1 gem per card. When you place the last gem, if there are any other gems of its colour on the final card then you pick up all of those and repeat. You cannot collect gems from the home cards without engineering this to happen, so you can gradually build up a collection without too much threat of losing it all.


Amy’s Final Thoughts

Jabberwocky follows up where The Lady and the Tiger left off: a mini game collection based on a classic story. I'm a big fan of Alice in Wonderland so just the sight of the Cheshire Cat and the reference to the infamous nonsense poem had my interest piqued. Imagine my disappointment then when I wasn't presented with the same varied artwork I was hoping for and instead 3 sets of suit cards with numbers. To be fair the art is still of a high quality, but I really was hoping for the level of creativity seen in Jellybean's previous title. Furthermore being a set of 3 suits, Jabberwocky falls even more into the dangerous territory of replicating a set of standard playing cards, and lets be frank there's a lot more than 5 games you can play with one of those!

As for the games themselves, both Gyre and Mimsy have 2 player variants as they are expected to be 3 player games. Both of these do work relatively well, In Gyre both players can control the neutral Jabberwocky, using it to block off access or prevent the other player claiming cards. In Mimsy each player is assigned a colour, should the neutral colour win then the player who caused that to happen wins, however you don't know which colour your opponent is, so this can be risky.

Mimsy was a little long for a mancala style game, and there is a possible situation of having all the gems of your colour stuck on goal cards and unable to be moved. While this didn't happen to us it did get a little too close for comfort, and if it does happen, that player simply cannot win! While I liked how clever activation could result in longer turns and big movement this naturally dies down the more gems are brought home, making the game pacing feel off. Gyre was probably my favourite, there is a good amount of blocking (players cannot pass other jabberwockies) and the winning moves are not always as obvious as you would hope. You have to spin round the board to get the right angles to move the gems, it all works quite well. Finally Borogroves is a very clever game, but far more fun for the explorers. The mapmaker is limited by the cards they draw and can only score points by making the explorer players life harder. The explorer has far more choices to make and there's a nice level of challenge between blocking your opponent and scoring points.

Ultimately, Jabberwocky is a set of interesting games, but once again not games that I would grab first if I had access to my collection. Comparing it to The Lady and the Tiger I actually think the games are a little more varied and interesting, but this has come at the cost of the art no-longer being quite so impressive. I feel like Jabberwocky makes for a great game to pack in a handbag or on a camping trip, but with the understanding that, to an extent, you have sacrificed a little quality for portability and variety.


Fi’s Final Thoughts

The best game in the box for me was also Gyre. The mechanisms reminded me of Yoshi, of Nintendo fame, - swallowing things to spit them back out again as projectiles! It was really interesting to try and plan out your turns, either to make steps forward in your own goals or to undermine your opponent. Plus, at two players, you do have the 'dummy' third player, but this is a huge part of the tactics. It created a really tight game for us and one that really exercises your brain and made me want to play again to try and come up with a winning move!

Jabberwocky has a lot of variety in the box. Most of the games are puzzly, but they introduce different mechanisms, such as area control and mancala. I have to admire the ability of the designers to come up with such varied ideas with such a simple set of components! However, in limiting the components I'm not sure you create the most fantastic games. Of the games we played, none were bad, but nothing was a stand-out amazing game either. Much like The Lady and the Tiger - the simplicity of the package is really the selling point here - I wouldn't use Jabberwocky to attract new people into the hobby, because it might not impress, but I would take it on holiday with Amy where we both have the understanding that the small package has more value to us than traveling with 3 to 5 big games from our collection.


The Good
  • The games in Jabberwocky provide a great introduction to some classic game mechanisms.
  • Jabberwocky provides a super portable way to carry multiple, varied games.
  • If you enjoy puzzly games, then there are definitely some brain-twisters in the Jabberwocky package!
The Bad
  • By virtue of all using the same components, these are primarily abstract games with no theme.
  • Depending on your player count, only some games in the collection will work for your group.

The Verdict
Jabberwocky is a small box filled with innovative ideas and interesting puzzly games, wrapped in the beautiful and charming artwork of Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense poem. Although no one game in the box really stands out to us as a must-play game, there are some strong games that make this portable package a convenient travel game for many occasions.


Jabberwocky was a print and play file provided by Jellybean Games. Please note that artwork is not final. The Kickstarter campaign for Jabberwocky will be live on 14th March 2018.

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