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

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

A new kind of R&B: Era: Medieval Age

Game: Era: Medieval Age

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2019

Era: Medieval Age is a 1-4 player Roll and Build game. Notably different from a Roll and Write game as instead of drawing on a paper sheet you are placing plastic buildings onto a player board. This allows for buildings to be removed and replaced as the game goes on, while still providing gameplay akin to a traditional Roll and Write. In Era you will be rolling dice to generate resources and then using those resources to build new buildings, all to create a flourishing medieval society. buildings provide a variety of different bonuses such as new dice to roll, income every round and end game bonuses.

At the start of the game you will take a handful of basic buildings to populate your board with before the game begins. Each round you will take your dice and roll them behind a screen. You can then set aside any dice you want and reroll the remainder, then set aside any more dice you like and take a final reroll. If you roll any die face with a skull then you must put the die aside and cannot reroll it. Once all players are done rolling the screens are removed and the rest of the round progresses. Players will then gain resources, feed their people (each die needs 1 food/round), assess disasters (based on skulls rolled), build new buildings and finally see if they invade any neighbors. This will continue until a number of building types have run out (depending on player count) at which point points will be assessed.

Monday, 14 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sushi Roll

Game: Sushi Roll

Publisher: Gamewright

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2019

Sushi Go was probably one of the early games I played. It was certainly my introduction to drafting and it's a game that we still have in our collection. I still pull it out, especially to play with friends and colleagues, who are definitely drawn in by the cute sushi and really get into the simple and satisfying gameplay.

Of course, many games are spinning off with smaller dice versions and card versions. But Sushi Roll bucks the trend and goes bigger with its dice version. Plus it's not a roll and write like you might expect many dice versions to be these days. Players who have played Sushi Go will be very familiar with the rules of Sushi Roll, with dice simply standing in for cards in the drafting and a few rules and scoring tweaks. Your cute sushi friends are back, and perhaps even a little cuter on their colourful custom dice, but even if you love the pun, do you need this game?

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Game Shelf's Rundown of SHUX 2019

This year we decided we would go to one board game convention in North America. Initially we were going to try and celebrate around my 30th birthday, with the Dice Tower Cruise, but in the end the pull of a holiday in Vancouver was greater. Vancouver is a beautiful city and one that I desperately wanted to share with Amy. So, after a week spent in Victoria and Vancouver, our SHUX started with a pre-convention dinner.

Here, we met a few convention attendees and started to build a picture that the attendees of SHUX really are super-fans of Shut Up and Sit Down's board game review channel. I was kind of surprised that it was so fan driven. For me SHUX was just a large (not sure it's the largest) board game convention in Canada and I thought it might stand on its own for that reason. But no, the merchandise stall must do really well at that show! I listen to the SUSD podcast, but Amy doesn't follow them at all and we were a little worried about how the convention would unfold.

What we also learned is that everyone told us SHUX is all about the people. Many people we met had travelled their on their own and seemed to have no apprehension about finding people to play with. SHUX is primarily an open gaming convention, with a large library, and a huge amount of open gaming. People were there to meet people, make friends and play games.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Most Anticipated Board Games of Essen 2019

After much regret last year when we didn't go to Essen, we booked our 2019 hotel room right away. This year will be our first visit to Essen and I'm equal parts excited and terrified. Our biggest convention experience so far has been the UK Games Expo and Essen promises to be double or triple the size, with perhaps 50 times the number of new releases. It's really the peak of the board gaming year, where many of the big new games will first find their way into gamers' hands. Since we're travelling by plane and our currency,the British Pound, is worth next to nothing right now, we will be limiting the games we bring home, but that doesn't stop me from getting very excited about them!

SPIEL is taking place from 24-27th October 2019. According to the listings by BoardGameGeek and Tabletop Together Tool, there will be nearly 1200 new games available at Essen this year. 66 games made my long list, and I was strict! To whittle this down to just a Top 10, I've applied a few rules;
  • No games that we've backed on Kickstarter.
  • No games we've already played. (A few of the big games have had a UK release in the past few weeks, and we tried a couple at SHUX last weekend.)
So here's my Top 10 Games we are interested to get hold either during Essen or soon after. There's a range of reasons why a game might hit this list, so welcome to an insight into my mind at work!

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Astroforce: The Dice Game

Game: Astroforce: The Dice Game

Publisher: Word Forge Games

Designer: Carl White

Year: 2020

Astroforce: The Dice Game is coming to Kickstarter in October. The game has been developed from Star Trek: The Dice Game, a free print and play that won the Golden Geek Award for best print and play in 2016. Inspired by the designer playing Deep Space D-6, another solo, space themed dice rolling game, Star Trek: The Dice Game was a solo experience.

Without a license to use the Star Trek IP, Word Forge are launching Astroforce - a developed and re-themed version of Star Trek: The Dice Game, which also includes cooperative rules for two players. Players represent the crew members aboard the A.S.V. Pioneer during its five year mission of exploration.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- 50 Clues

Game: 50 Clues

Publisher: Norsker Games

Designer: Jeppe Norsker

Year: 2019

50 Clues is a new series of escape room games from designer and self publisher Jeppe Norsker. This trilogy will be released at Spiel 2019 in both English and German.

Be warned, 50 Clues is an experience for adults only. The theme has pretty graphic violence, and you are taking on the role of a character who begins the story in a mental health facility and goes on to do some truly awful things. If this doesn't sound like something you're comfortable with, then don't try 50 Clues, but if the theme doesn't make you want to turn away then you'll find a great escape room experience in these three boxes.

We put together some SPOILER-FREE thoughts on our experience. (All photos are of a preview deck and in no way spoil the games)

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Calico

Game: Calico

Publisher: Flatout Games

Designer: Kevin Russ

Year: 2020

Cats sell board games. Just ask the makers of Exploding Kittens. On a rather more sedate level, Calico benefits from adorable cat art from Beth Sobel, as well as a quilting theme. In the world of abstract games, quilts are pretty sure fire bet too, with Patchwork paving the way.

Calico is an abstract, tile-laying game for 1-4 players in which you assemble the hexagonal pieces of a patchwork quilt. If you group together colours you can adorn your quilt with buttons, but more importantly you want to attract the attention of the different cats who all have different requirements for the quilt they want to snuggle up on.

Calico is coming to Kickstarter on October 8th 2019 and we got a chance to play the remarkably high quality, handmade prototype.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Hadara

Game: Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Benjamin Schwer

Year: 2019

It’s not 100% clear to me what caused the early buzz around Hadara. It released from publisher Hans Im Gluck much earlier than the English language edition from Z-Man, and after seeing it on the table at the UK Games Expo, we liked what we saw. Hadara has a pretty standard euro game theme, of either ‘nothing’ or civilisation, depending on your perspective, but its colourful cards and jigsaw puzzle board with rotating centre, certainly help to grab your attention.

Hadara is a competitive game for 2-5 players, where each player is adding people, statues and colonies to their civilisation. Each of the three eras has two phases. In the first phase, you use the rotating central wheel to assign each player with a coloured card pile on the central board. You take two face-down cards from the corresponding pile, pick one to either buy or sell and one to discard. Red, yellow, green and blue cards typically add that resource to your civilisation tracks, whilst the purple cards mainly have special abilities. Once all of the card piles are depleted, you gain income and the opportunity to buy statues and colonies. The second phase is the same, except you’re making a more informed choice from the face-up discard piles. Additionally, at the end of the second phase you need to feed your people, comparing your food resource track to the number of cards in you tableau, and then you have the opportunities to buy medals to contribute to your end game scoring. At the end of three rounds you’ll score victory points for medals, statues, colonies and the cards in your tableau and highest points wins.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Coming Up with a Title has Never Been:-Hadara

Game: Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Benjamin Schwer

Year: 2019

Hadara is a 2-5 player civilisation game in which you will build a civilisation by developing new technologies that will help you in one of 4 ways. You can improve your finance, military and culture of course, which all come with their own benefits, but ensure you don't slack on food or you may have to discard some of those cards that you would rather keep! Investing in certain areas will make it cheaper to make continued investments in that area, but there are bonuses for having a well rounded civilisation too, so long as you sponsor the right awards anyway.

A game of Hadara takes place over 3 eras, each of which has 2 distinct rounds, with each round followed by an income/cleanup phase. In the first round of each era you will start by seeding the board with 2 cards per colour per player. The start player will then choose where to start the central disc, which determines which order each player will get their cards in. At the same time each player will take 2 cards of the colour that their symbol on the disc is pointing at. From those 2 cards you discard one and either build or sell the other. Selling a card removes it from the game in exchange for a little money, while building a card costs money, but rewards you by improving your civilisation. most cards have coloured boxes with numbers in them, when you gain that card you increase the tracks of those colours by the numbers shown. This repeats until everyone has looked at cards of every colour.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Queenz: To Bee or not to Bee

Game: Queenz: To Bee or not to Bee

Publisher: Mandoo Games

Designer: Bruno Cathala, Johannes Goupy 

Year: 2019

Queenz is published by Mandoo Games - a Korean publisher who are starting to make a name for themselves with both kids and family games, as well as some light to mid-weight strategy games. As their games begin to become more widely available, board gamers will recognise some of the designers and artists who are involved with Mandoo and I really hope that elevates their profile.

This year alone, they've had a co-publication of Cat Cafe, with Alley Cat Games in the UK, and they have a whole stack of games releasing at Essen. Queenz is co-designed by Bruno Cathala - a name familiar to many gamers and is definitely among those that caught our attention, along with Castello Methoni, also releasing at Essen 2019.

Queenz is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players, of collecting flowers, planting a garden, and putting the most bees in your beehive.

Monday, 23 September 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Time of Legends: Destinies

Game: Time of Legends: Destinies

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer: Michał Gołębiowski, Filip Miłuński

Year: 2020

Time of Legends: Destinies is a competitive app driven game of adventuring, set in the world of Joan of Arc: Time of Legends. Supported by both Mythic (publishers of Time of Legends: Destinies) and Lucky Duck (publishers of Chronicles of Crime), this is set to be the first game in the ‘Destinies’ series. Time of Legends: Destinies, pulls from the small scale miniatures and narrative from Joan of Arc, whilst being run by the Scan & Play technology that worked so well in Chronicles of Crime.

Time of Legends: Destinies offers something quite unique, as a competitive, narrative-driven, adventure game – a genre which would typically lend itself to cooperative experiences. It can be played as one-off scenarios or as a wider campaign

With two such successful Kickstarter campaigns as its ancestors, and a very reasonable price tag, it is certainly going to one to watch when it launches on Kickstarter on 24th September.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tanto Cuore

Game: Tanto Cuore

Publisher: Japanime Games

Designer:  Masayuki Kudou

Year: 2009

Tanto Cuore is a classic deck-building game from 2009. Of course, that means that this year, 2019, is its 10th anniversary. The game has been very well supported with numerous expansions and three Kickstarter campaigns, as well as a recently announced 10th anniversary edition coming to Kickstarter soon. In its original form, Tanto Cuore is a 2-4 player deck-building game with its routes in classic games like Dominion, but with an anime theme, that certainly raises some eyebrows.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North

Game: Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North

Publisher: Portal Games

Designer: Joanna Kijanka, Ignacy Trzewiczek

Year: 2019

If, like me, you're a fan of engine building, then it would be surprising if you hadn't tried and enjoyed a game from Portal Games. Empires of the North is a sequel or re-implementation of Imperial Setters, which itself has connections to a couple of other games in the Portal Games catalog.

Imperial Settlers is a game we own, but like far too many of our games, it has only been played once, and so long ago that we'd need to completely re-learn it if we wanted to play again. Empires of the North seems to be regarded by early reviewers as an improvement upon Imperial Settlers though, so I was looking forward to a great little engine builder. With six factions in the box, there was the promise of six completely new engines to explore and enjoy, so let's take a look at whether Empires of the North lived up to some of the early positive reviews for me.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Jabuka

Game: Jabuka

Publisher: Jabuka Games Inc.

Designer: Martin Russocki

Year: 2019

Jabuka is a word game that's notably picking up some awards in the USA. It likely falls into the category of mass-market game, but word games are the kind of game that it's hard for gamers to dismiss. Admittedly, there are some mass market word games that heavily rely on players having a better vocabulary than others. However there are also others that can be fun for a wider audience, with Bananagrams being a particular family favourite for us, still travelling on most holidays.

The story of Jabuka starts with a coffee bean, inspiring the designer as he explored the ways that the letter 'E' looks a lot like an 'M' or  'W' when rotated. Taking this very literally, Jabuka is a bag full of wooden coffee bean tokens, each with a letter or letter combination. It's a competitive game of word-building for 2-8 players and we've been playing it with two, where the designers say it's the most intense experience.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Pillaging penguins!:- Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North

Game: Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North

Publisher: Portal Games

Designer: Joanna Kijanka, Ignacy Trzewiczek

Year: 2019

Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North is a 1-4 player engine building card game in which you will take a civilization from a handful of farms to a bustling empire conquering and pillaging islands to support their lavish lifestyle. The game includes 6 factions in it, 2 each of 3 races, which all have their own unique set of cards leading to extremely different strategies needed to win and engines able to be created. Even the two viking factions have completely different approaches in how they need to be played to do well giving the game a lot of replayability.

In Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North players will first choose which of the 6 factions to play as, taking the full deck of cards and laying out their 3 starter buildings. They will then draw a starting hand of cards before beginning the first full turn. The first thing done each turn will be to draw new cards from the top of the deck. You can keep any of the cards you draw, but for each card you keep you must (temporarily) spend a worker, meaning you'll have less workers to power card abilities later. After this players will take it in turns performing one action until all players have passed.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview

Game: Chronicles of Crime: Welcome to Redview

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer: David Cicurel, Ghislain Masson

Year: 2018

Chronicles of Crime was a huge hit for us last year, firmly cementing a place in our Top Ten of 2018. Chronicles of Crime is a cooperative game of deduction and crime solving which really stands out for its integration of technology. An app is necessary to drive the game and manages to create a fully interconnected world that you, as detectives, can interact with. Whilst this style of deduction games isn't typically for us, Chronicles of Crime was light enough and yet immersive enough to have us gripped.

Kickstarter backers may have received the first two expansions as part of their pledge, but now both are available to all gamers. Noir was the first, which we've still not played and Welcome to Redview is the latest expansion. Welcome to Redview looks like something out of Stranger Things or perhaps Scooby Doo, and you, a bunch of school kids are the amateur detectives, trying to establish what's turning your town upside down.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Passtally

Game: Passtally

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Masaki Suga (須賀 正樹)

Year: 2018

Passtally is a recent release from Pandasaurus Games - a publisher who certainly have my attention. Not only do they publish one of my favourite games of all time - Wasteland Express Delivery Service, but they also have Machi Koro Legacy - a game I'm hotly anticipating. In addition, they've definitely got an eye for identifying cool games from Europe and Asia and bringing them to a broader audience. They localised The Mind for North America, then Passtally, originally from Analog Lunch Box, out of Japan, and they are also bringing Silver and Gold to North America and hopefully other English markets too.

Passtally is a delightful looking tile-laying game. Amazingly produced, with the thickest punchboard I've ever seen and a fantastically useful insert. The slick and simple appearance is a great clue to the simplicity of the game, but don't be fooled by the bright colours - Passtally is a fiendish game!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Curliest Wurly:- Passtally

Game: Passtally

Publisher: Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Masaki Suga (須賀 正樹)

Year: 2018

Passtally is a 2-3 player abstract strategy, tile laying game in which players will take turns placing tiles and moving their pieces in order to connect them. At the end of each round points will be rewarded to the active player for each pair of their tokens that are connected based on how many tiles, the joining line passes over. The game will end when either one player reaches a point cap, the tiles run out, or there are no legal moves left to place tiles.

The game is ludicrously simple to play. Each turn you can do 2 actions, each of which can be one of two things. You can add a new tile from the board. If you choose to do this you take one of the three available tiles and place it however you'd like on the board Tiles can go on top of each other but they must go over 2 tiles when doing so and you must always place a tile in a way that it does not break the lines on the board. After you are happy with your placement you draw the next tile from the stack into the market. Alternatively you can move one of your markers. When you do this you can move a marker up to two spaces around the outside of the board, jumping over any opponent pieces along the way. After your two actions your round ends, for each pair of markers you have connected to tally the number of tiles it passes over (it may pass over the same tile multiple times, and tiles score more points if they are higher up), then use the conversion chart to change that into points.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- City of Gears

Game: City of Gears

Publisher: Grey Fox Games

Designer:  Chris Leder & Daryl Andrews

Year: 2018

City of Gears is a game of exploration and area control set in a Steampunk metropolis. With your worker robots you'll bring a ruined city back to life until it's running like clockwork. Together you'll make a city so wondrous that the public will be clamoring to visit. As opening day comes around, only one player will go down in history as the founder of the City of Gears, so you better try and make sure you're the most prestigious tom get the acknowledgment you deserve.

City of Gears is a game for 2-4 players, where the baseline setup is actually for two-players, which certainly ticks a box for us and seems unusual for area control. With their extremely successful Kickstarter campaign City of Gears is fantastically produced, so we've been excited to get it to the table.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Cat Cafe

Game: Cat Cafe

Publisher: Alley Cat Games

Designer:  Lee Ju-Hwa

Year: 2019

Cat Cafe - surely this is a board game title that is a license to print money? Add to that that Cat Cafe is a roll and write - a board game mechanism hype train that doesn't seem to be running out of fuel, and do you have a winner?

It's a theme that is a great touchpoint for people. Friends at my office asked about it when it arrived, questioning whether you're a cat cafe owner, a patron, or perhaps a cat. It turns out you're playing as a patron in I, but not the sort of patron I'd like to have in my cafe, the kind that gives Amy (who works in a board game cafe) chills. You're the kind of customer who is out to rearrange everything in the cafe to try and create the ultimate cat nip corner. If you can hoard the best toys and treats, then maybe you'll attract the cutest and fluffiest cats to pet.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Solar Storm

Game: Solar Storm

Publisher: Dranda Games

Designer: Ayden Lowther

Year: 2019

Solar Storm is a first published game from Dranda Games. We first encountered the game at Airecon in Spring 2019 and they've been building a great following in advance of their Kickstarter campaign.

You are crew members on board a ship that has had its energy core taken out by solar flares and the ship is still taking more damage. It is only a matter of time before your ship explodes, causing certain death. You and the other crew members must repair the ship whilst using resources to divert what little power is left, back to the energy core. You must work together if you have any hope of survival. Can you survive this Solar Storm, or will you perish in the burning abyss?

Saturday, 31 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Atelier: The Painter's Studio

Game: Atelier: The Painter's Studio

Publisher: AEG

Designer:  Nicolas Bongiu

Year: 2019

Atelier is a game all about 19th century paintings. In fact, BGG credits 30 artists to the game, presumably because most of the artwork is original artist from some classically famous artists. In Atelier you are playing as an artist managing an art studio during the 19th century. By managing your assistants you can collect the combinations of paint you will need to complete different works of art. Works of art vary in complexity and depending on their content they might be more or less suitable for your patrons who are always demanding something different. Of course, you might just want to ignore your patrons and produce only the most stunning and valuable works of art in order to win the game.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough

Game: Alien Artifacts: Breakthrough

Publisher: Portal Games

Designer: Joanna Kijanka, Ignacy Trzewiczek

Year: 2019

Portal Games really knows how to make a card driven engine builder. Imperial Settlers, 51st State, Alien Artifacts and now the latest Empires of the North, are all built off similar engines. Alien Artifacts definitely made an impression on us, with its interesting hand management system for resources and the three very unique types of cards that structure your strategy.

As with many games from Portal, the expansion strategy seems to be with small booster packs. The boosters add new factions that work in interesting new ways, adding new resource cards and some new mechanisms. The first expansion was Discovery, which added the alien resource, which was a powerful wildcard, but felt a little to diluted in amongst the rest of the cards in the game. Breakthrough adds another new resource type and faction, and works with either just the base game, or with the Discovery expansion.

Monday, 26 August 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Orchard

Game: Orchard: A 9-Card Solitaire Game

Publisher: Side Room Games

Designer: Mark Tuck

Year: 2018

I first encountered Side Room Games during their last Kickstarter campaign for Maquis. I was really impressed with the art design of their games, as well as the solid gameplay. What surprised me the most though was that Maquis made me enjoy a solo game - something that isn't normal in my gaming experience.

Much like Maquis, Orchard is a solo game with a solid history as an award wining print and play game. It won the 2018 9-card nanogame award on BoardGameGeek, as well as becoming the 2018 Golden Geek Best Print & Play Board Game Winner. Since Golden Geeks are otherwise awarded to only the hottest titles of the year, Orchard is definitely worth checking out when it comes to Kickstarter on September 3rd 2019.

Saturday, 24 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Roll for Adventure

Game: Roll for Adventure

Publisher: Kosmos

Designer:   Matthew Dunstan, Brett J. Gilbert

Year: 2018

In Roll for Adventure your kingdom is in danger. Monsters are attacking from all four angles, crossing the different terrains. To save the kingdom, you must work together to collect power stones without allowing any territory to fall into the clutches of the Master of Shadows. Players take on the roles of various questing heroes, using dice to power their quest for power stones and to fight of the incoming hoards.

Roll for Adventure is a 2-4 player cooperative dice game from frequent designer duo Matthew Dunstan and Brett Gilbert. As designers they certainly have a good track record with us, and putting their heads together to design a style of game we tend to enjoy is a good combination. Whilst we typically like our cooperative dice games to be real-time, Roll for Adventure allows you to go at your own pace, but still includes plenty of challenges and tough decisions.

Friday, 23 August 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Gangsta!

Game: Gangsta!

Publisher: Schmeta Games

Designer: Yves Rosenbaum

Year: 2019

Gangsta! is a competitive card game where each player starts out as a mafia boss, recruiting additional gangsters into their gang with the necessary skills to complete all sorts of crime. The rewards for your crimes might be reputation, but of course, there's also money involved as well as the power to get one over on rival gangs or recruit new gangsters based on your prowess and notoriety.

However, being a mafia box is no joke! You'll have to arm up to come out on top in gang wars as well as outwitting police snitches to ensure that your gang doesn't start to lose power.

Gangsta! is a 2-4 player card game coming to Kickstarter in August 2019 and we've had a chance to take a look at the prototype.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Old West Empresario

Game: Old West Empresario

Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Designer: Stan Kordonskiy

Year: 2019

Old West Empresario is a sequel to Pioneer Days from Tasty Minstrel Games. The two games have different designers but a fair few other elements in common. The games are both set in the Wild West, they have a common art style and one of their cores mechanisms is dice drafting. Pioneer Days didn’t shine for me and a year later, it’s accurate to say it was forgettable, however, dice drafting in general is still a favourite mechanism of mine.

Old West Empresario is a dice drafting and tile laying game for 2-4 players in which each player is competing to build the most valuable town that attracts the most settlers through its range of amenities and the convenience with which those amenities are laid out in the town.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Taming the Wild West:-Old West Empresario

Game: Old West Empresario

Publisher: Tasty Minstrel Games

Designer: Stan Kordonskiy

Year: 2019

Old West Empresario is a 2-4 player tile laying game in which you play the part of the leader of a fledgling town in the Wild West. You'll use dice drafting to claim blueprints to build your town or to activate your buildings in order to reap the rewards of the infrastructure you have build. Can you be the first to fulfill the wanted posters? Can you  build the most prosperous and efficient town?

In each round, two dice per player plus one will be rolled and added to the board matching its number. Each of these boards is associated with 2 un-constructed buildings at all times. On your turn you choose one dice to take, you then use this dice to either take a blueprint of a building associated with the rolled number, or to activate all buildings in your town that match the number on the die. When you take a building blueprint you add it to your town face down next to any built building. You'll need to activate a building later that can build in order to construct it. There is one exception, the native tiles, which come pre-built and offer a way to quickly expand, at the cost of not having any lasting abilities.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- My Top 10 Board Games (2019 Edition)

Each year, for the anniversary of The Game Shelf, I update my top ten games of all time. Unfortunately, this year I forgot my own birthday, but, back in May, The Game Shelf turned four years old! With over 700 articles written for the site during those 4 years, you bet we've been busy playing new games, and so, two of these games have done very well to stand the test of time from my first ever Top 10. If you're looking back at that first top ten now, then I'd still rank Pandemic Legacy Season 1 as my best ever gaming experience, but I now choose to exclude legacy experiences from my list and I took the approach of 'what game do I want to play most right now?' when making this list.

Thanks to the ranking engine at PubMeeple, I didn't lose too much sleep over this top ten - this is just exactly how my ranking came out.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Little Town

Game: Little Town

Publisher: Iello

Designer: Aya & Shun Taguchi

Year: 2019

If you're a convention go-er, a BoardGameGeek addict, a Twitter junkie or a frequent podcast listener, then it can sometimes be hard not to be swept up by the exciting and interesting games coming out of Asia. It's great to see games that are designed from completely different perspectives and I'm certainly a gamer who likes to look at this category of board games and seek out some of the different titles at conventions and through friends who travel to that part of the world.

Fortunately though, publishers like Iello also keep an eye out for titles from Asia that can be brought to a wider market and Little Town is one of those titles. However, Little Town certainly doesn't feel like a quirky Asian game. It's routes are truly in eurogames with tile laying and worker placement aimed at the family gaming end of the spectrum.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Arraial

Game: Arraial

Publisher: MEBO Games & Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade

Year: 2018

Arraial is a game that makes me grateful not to have a Youtube channel or a podcast. I've heard its name pronounced many different ways, from the phonetically obvious, all the way to something sounding like 'Ohio'. Arraial was first published by Portuguese publisher, Mebo at Essen 2018 and has now been picked up by Pandasurus for English-speaking markets. It appears that in Portuguese, arraial means village or fair, and you can see from the tiles in the game that a 'fair' seems to be a pretty raucous party!

Arraial is a tile laying game for 1-4 players that plays in around 30 minutes. It's perhaps one of the closest recreations of Tetris that I've seen in board games, even surpassing Spring Meadow and the roll and write game, Brikks. That means we took the opportunity to play Arraial with both two-players, as well as with some video game fanatic friends!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Best played to B-Type music:- Arraial

Game: Arraial

Publisher: MEBO Games & Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade

Year: 2018

Arraial is a 1-4 player tile laying game in which you will seek to make the best summer celebration. Squeeze as many people into your celebration as possible serving food, drink and entertainment in order to create the best Arraial ever! You'll be adding these performers and chefs as tetrominos, trying to fill your board as efficiently as possible, but also to group up the same type of entertainers in order to attract more guests!

If you've ever heard of an obscure little video game called 'Tetris' then you already know almost exactly how to play Arraial. You have a bar at the top of your board where new tiles will be added, they then fall directly down to the bottom of your board until they hit another block. Heck, you can even shove them across one space once they land. Completing lines will cause the bar to raise higher and reward you with points. But there are some distinctions from the classic videogame. Rotating pieces cannot be done mid-fall, but instead must be done as an action before you take a piece.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Silk

Game: Silk

Publisher: Devir Games

Designer: Luis Ranedo

Year: 2018

Have you ever encountered a board game theme so obscure as giant silk worms? In Silk, you each appear to be rival silkworm farmers, shepherding your 'flock' with just your hardy shepherd and their dog, who are the only folks brave enough to take on the cold (and the monster) on the mountain tops.

Silk is a competitive game for 2-4 players of action selection, area control and silk worms eating all your crops.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Taxi Derby

Game: Taxi Derby

Publisher: Skipshot Games

Designer: Brady Hunt, Romney Trejo

Year: 2020

Pick-up and deliver games are some of our favourites. There’s something immensely satisfying about planning efficient ways to deliver goods from point to point, whether it’s the typical theming in train games, post-apocalyptic worlds in Wasteland Express Delivery Service or fulfilling missions a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away in one of the latest games in the genre, Star Wars: Outer Rim. These themes range from a genre thought of as heavy and boring, to an effort to spice things up for the genre. Back down to earth and you can deliver pizza in Papa Paolo, but perhaps one of the most basic of pick up and deliver themes is running a taxi service, and that’s the focus of Taxi Derby.

Taxi Derby is coming to Kickstarter in August 2019, from first time publishers, Skipshot Games. They’re certainly getting things right with the quality of the artwork in the game, and we’ve had the chance to play the prototype so we can tell you more about it.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Horizons

Game: Horizons

Publisher: Daily Magic Games

Designer: Levi Mote

Year: 2018

Horizons is a game from publisher Daily Magic Games, who are perhaps most well-known for their games set in the 'Valeria' kingdom. Horizons was a successful Kickstarter project with interesting cover art by the Mico, that doesn't have a huge prominence in the game itself.

In Horizons, each player is a species, looking to manipulate resources to explore and ultimately control the galaxy. In this competitive game for 1-5 players you'll find some area control, engine building and resource management, combining in a race to gain the most victory points for dominance of the different planets in the galaxy and any more that you've collected throughout the game.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tuki

Game: Tuki

Publisher: Next Move Games

Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman

Year: 2019

Tuki has some big shoes to fill! Next Move's first game was Azul - now a Spiel des Jahres winner and probably one of the biggest selling games of recent years - a true modern classic. They followed up with Reef - another family weight game with stacking Duplo-like coral that really won me over and was actually a game that I enjoyed more than Azul. Over time, Azul has had the staying power, but both games are still in our collection.

Following suit, with a four letter name and an abstract feel, Tuki - themed around the inukshuk's of the Inuit culture. I've certainly spent some time on pebble beaches in Vancouver trying to recreate their well known inukshuk monument - symbol of the 2010 Winter Olympics. I am not so skilled at stacking pebbles, but I'm known to be pretty adept at speed games, so let's see how Tuki plays out.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Snow Time to Lose:- Tuki

Game: Tuki

Publisher: Next Move Games

Designer: Grzegorz Rejchtman

Year: 2019

Tuki is a 1-4 player dexterity stacking game with a strong puzzle element. In the game you create inukshuk, structures of snow and stone used as landmarks. But you'll have to do it fast, you only need 1 copy of a landmark, so the first one to complete it will be the one who's monument stays erected for future generations to see.

In a game of Tuki each player is handed 4 coloured blocks 5 times as long as they are wide and tall, along with 4 white blocks in various shapes. Each round a die is rolled to dictate which of 3 ways up the puzzle card is placed on the central stand. It also dictates whether the puzzle is to be placed straight on the table, or if the coloured pieces must all be suspended off the table by the white blocks. Each card dictates the relative positions of 3 or 4 of the coloured blocks, but leaves no hints as to where the white blocks need to go. It's up to you to find that solution, and fast.

Friday, 26 July 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- City Explorer: Tainan

Game: City Explorer: Tainan

Publisher: Moaideas Game Design

Designer: ゆお (Yuo)

Year: 2018

We met with Moaideas Game Design and talked about some of their more well-known titles, but we also came away with City Explorer: Tainan - a small box game comprised of just 35 cards that feels almost like a souvenir from the trip to Taiwan that we've never had. Each card features a site of interest in Tainan and tells you a little about it (in both the local language and English) and whilst this was pretty much overlooked by us when we played the game, I'd comment on the fact that this game might be able to sell modern board games to a tourist audience if it could be found in gift shops. (I made a similar comment about the power of Ticket to Ride: London, and I really to hope there's some truth to it!)

City Explorer: Tainan is the second such game from Moaideas Game Design, with a Kyoto version also available. It's a set collection game for 2-4 players which plays in as little as 10 minutes, but packs some interesting mechanisms into its small package.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Blackout: Hong Kong

Game: Blackout: Hong Kong

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Alexander Pfister

Year: 2018

Blackout: Hong Kong is a prime example of why we need to go to Essen. The game released at Essen 2018 and it didn't get a UK release until July 2019! That's 9 months that Blackout: Hong Kong could have been sitting on my shelf of shame waiting to be played. Thankfully committing to review a game gets it to the table far faster and I'm very excited to share my review today.

The positive aspect of waiting for a UK release is that this release upgrades the graphic design that really tarnished the first impressions I heard of the game after its initial release. A lot of the views I heard were that the game was long and that it was really difficult to keep going when the board was so dark and incomprehensible. Whilst I haven't seen the original, I have zero problems with the graphic design now and found it really slick and intuitive. Perhaps an added bonus would be a little bit more distinction of the symbols on the custom dice. So with that reservation truly blown out of the water, it's a lot easier to get to the meat of the game itself.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

This little light of mine, it no-longer shines:- Blackout: Hong Kong

Game: Blackout: Hong Kong

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Alexander Pfister

Year: 2018

Blackout Hong Kong is a 1-4 player deck-building and resource management game in which you seek to restore order in Hong Kong after it has been hit with a massive, total blackout. You'll need to manage your worker cards in order to gather gather the resources you need to enact your emergency plan. You'll be looking for the essentials, food, water, fuel, tools, medicine and books, along with the ever-useful batteries. Those resources can be used to hire new people, or complete tasks for the public good. Do well and you will restore order to a rioting city, making districts safe and bringing a sense of normality back to the city.

Each turn a set of 3 dice will be rolled and added to the rondel. These assign which resource each colour of worker will be able to collect this round. Players will then have a chance to add 1 worker card to each of their 3 (later in the game 4) slots. Workers come in each of the 3 colours, which simply harvest resources, and in purple which have more specialised actions, such as recovering your workers from hospital, or generating GPS tokens. After adding these 3 cards players take turns to activate their columns. Each column may contain multiple cards and they will all activate at once so you'll need to plan your workers to ensure you have the right resources for special abilities as you go. Any resources gained are marked by placing cubes on the Rondel.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of Gen Con 2019

With just two weeks to go until GenCon, it's time to scroll through the preview list on BoardGameGeek and to start getting excited for the barrage of new releases that this gigantic board game convention will bring. We don't attend GenCon, but it still marks the point in the year when the wave of hot new games starts to emerge and we start to get very busy trying to keep up with playing those exciting new games.

At time of writing there are 551 games on the preview list. I've picked my top five new games that you will be able to buy at GenCon for the first time, as well as selecting some notable demos that I'd be trying to play if I were there and pointing out a few games that we've been able to play, since they either had a pre-release at the UK Games Expo, or came out in Europe earlier than in the US.