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

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Game Shelf @ The UK Games Expo 2019 - Day 2


On Friday, Amy had to make a dedicated trip back to our hotel to drop off some games and we sill had too many games for two people to carry when it came to the end of Friday evening. We spent our evening gaming with an old school friend of Fi's and only managed to play Forbidden Sky and Century: A New World. At UK Games Expo we're not frequently late night gamers, because the days are just too exhausting!

A reasonable bed-time refreshed us for another full day of demos on Saturday, as well as continuing with our 8am-9.30am gaming session in open gaming which is always a really nice and relaxed start to the day and a chance to play some new games acquired the previous day.
Games Played

Saturday's are always crazy busy in the main halls and many people choose to use open gaming or go to events on that day. Having made some demo bookings in advance, we were still able to play a lot of games and it was possible to find a few free demo tables if you were patient and not too picky about what you played.
  • Namiji is a successor to Tokaido from designer Antoine Bauza, and Funforge Games. The core mechanism is similar, in that you are travelling along a path where it is always the turn of the player at the rear of the line. In Namiji, the theme is fishing and you'll collect cards toward the blue whale, killer whale or dolphin, collect fish tiles in a small set collection puzzle and go fishing in the bag for shrimp, or crabs if you're unlucky. As well as the series of mini games to help you gain points there are two other types of bonus cards - one that give secret end game scoring and another that gives you a special ability, which you can draft when you reach each pontoon along your journey. Namiji adds a bit more complexity to the strategies of Tokaido and it means that it's a slightly less relaxing, but more interesting experience. The lovely company of Tabletop Together also added to this great demo! The art style looks like it will work out to be a beautiful game that should come out later this year, hopefully in time for Essen.
Namiji with Tabletop Together
  • Fired Up is an arena combat game with a difference, instead of being one of the combatants you are instead the audience. You might not have direct control of the warriors but instead you are able to vote for who each gladiator should target, cheer them on to improve their abilities or boo them to lower their morale and sap their strength. The aim is twofold, firstly each viewer has their own spectacles that they would like to see, so by manipulating the vote you can make the show closer to your personal ideals, but you can also place bets on performance and then try to ensure those bets come true. All of this is done via rolling dice and then assigning those dice to warriors to alter their conditions, but each fighter can only be manipulated 3 times, to don't be too obvious or the rest of the audience might take an interest. Fired Up comes to Kickstarter in the next few weeks from Drawlab Entertainment.

Fired Up
  • Etherfields is a story driven exploration game which has you wandering around a dark dreamscape. Along the way you will develop your character via deckbuilding that lasts between games. As you explore the dream world you'll be met with choices, both in terms of what locations (and therefore scenarios) you should visit and what to do when you get there. Sometimes diplomacy may be the right option, other times you can punch your way through, but all of this is done via spending energy cards to fuel your movement through the map and interactions with it's denizens. Lurking in these dreamscapes are some truly tremendous monsters (with associated, huge, miniatures) that will hunt you down as you struggle to complete your objectives. But true to many a dream you can fight these things off for a time, but they can't be defeated.

Etherfields
  • Zoom in Barcelona is a board game all about taking photos of tourist destinations in Barcelona. Players try to be the first to reach the required photography spots by playing transportation cards from their hand in order to move around the map. Cards have different value each game based upon their features, such as architecture or water. The game really is full of the character and colour of Barcelona and will be full of good memories for anyone who has visited the city. We played the basic game, which was perhaps too simple for gamers, but the advanced game looks more promising. Zoom in Barcelona will come straight to retail, hopefully by Essen 2019, from Cucafuera Games.
Zoom in Barcelona
  • Sanctum is a love letter to hack and slash video games, particularly the 1997 classic Blizzard game Diablo and it's sequels. Each turn choose an action from charging your character into the dungeon and taunt monsters to fight them, fighting the monsters by rolling dice and assigning them to the monsters weak spots, or returning to town to spend your hard-earned rewards or craft new gear to improve your abilities. You have a certain amount of Health and Stamina which can be assigned to gear slots to manipulate your dice or keep yourself alive when the monsters strike back with this pool ever growing as you level up from completing quests. The bigger risks you take the more rewards you get so this game actively encourages risky behavior as you mow down swarms of demons.

Sanctum
  • Letter Jam is a new cooperative word game coming from Czech Games Editions. Thanks to Paul at Gaming Rules for the great demo! Each player will be given a number of letter cards that represent a word and they need to deduce what that world is throughout the game. The letter cards will be shuffled and placed face down on the table. Each player reveals their first letter card so that all other players can see it, then everyone tries to make a word using the available letters and any common available letters. Collectively the table picks the best word offering and the word is spelt out using poker chips numbered 1,2,3 and so on. By trying to fill in the blanks, you’ll deduce what letter is showing in front of you and once your confident you’ll move to the next letter. I wouldn’t call Letter Jam a party game, because it requires too much concentration, but it’s a really unique and fun cooperative word game that we hope to play with family and friends when it’s released.
  • Copenhagen is a very fast tile laying tetromino game from Queen Games. Each turn you either take two cards from the central market or cash in cards for different size tetris pieces. As you slot pieces on your player board, you're trying to complete rows for one point or columns for 3 points. If you have a window in every slot then you get one bonus point. The playtime on the box might say 20 minutes, but we were finishing two player games, with fast turns in literally 5 minutes, excluding setup and learning. Unfortunately, although Copenhagen was a fun game, I can't justify a big Queen Games box for 5 minutes of gameplay.

Copenhagen
  • Moon Base is a beautiful and absolutely brutal 2-player abstract game that almost entirely consists of 3 colours of circles in 2 sizes. You place these circles on craters on the moon, or stack them overlapping 2 lower circles, trying to get to higher heights and longer chains. The goal, ideally, is to have large circles in your colour lifted off the ground at the end of a turn, in which case you get to build a settlement in them an earn points. Unfortunately due to the ring selection system at the start of each round you may have little to no control over your own rings at all and blocking your opponent is often possible. 

Moon Base
  • Second Chance is a flip and fill tetromino game. Your goal is to cover as much of your board as possible with the various shapes that appear as the game goes on. Each turn 2 cards are flipped over and revealed to each player, of which each player chooses 1 of the 2 to draw, flipping or rotating them as needed. If neither of the revealed cards can be placed into your grid then you get a second chance, a personal draw from the top of the deck. If you still can't place the revealed shape then your game is over. The game ends when either all players have been eliminated, or one player has filled their board, at which point the player with the fewest empty spaces wins.

Second Chance
  • Pigasus is kind of like Dobble for even more agile minds. Each card shows a mashed-up animal, for example a lobster shape with the colour scheme of a giraffe. Cards are flipped over sequentially until you spot a matching pair. The matching pair for the aforementioned card would be a giraffe shape with the colour scheme of a lobster. You really have to make contortions in your mind to switch it on to being able to find the match. The first to see it grabs the squeezy pig and gains the cards. If you make an incorrect match then you'll lose as many cards/points as there are players in the game. Pigasus has a very kid friendly theme, but the matching is probably quite difficult for younger kids. If you've got a silly group of adults though, it can be a lot of fun!
  • Nobjects is a drawing-style party game with a difference - you have no pen an paper. On your turn you are given a card with 6 words - a dice roll decides which world you need to draw. To communicate your word to other players, you'll take your finger and draw it on the table. You get a point for getting the answer right and a point for having your word guessed correctly. As you score more points, you'll have to select from harder cards which is a nice catch-up mechanism. The game might sound very silly, but for some reason we found it to be really great fun and we're looking forward to playing again.

Games Bought

After carrying far too many games back to our hotel on Friday, we definitely needed to buy less games on Saturday, but nevertheless, we still added to our haul with a couple of new games.
  • Carpe Diem has been on my want list for a long time and has never had a wide release in the UK. Since its nomination for the Kennerspiel, I'm hoping it will be more widely released. In the meantime, I was hoping to rely on Meeples Corner who import a lot of games, but they sold out straight away. Fortunately I was amazed to find that on Saturday, Ravensburger themselves still had stock. I can't wait to try this one!
  • Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated – Upper Management Pack is an expansion for both Clank! and the upcoming legacy version. It includes character minis and asymmetric starting decks. It's an expensive luxury, but there's no doubt we'll be playing Clank! Legacy. We also want to paint the minis, so it was a must have for us.
We also visited the bring and buy once again, but in spite of many new visitors arriving on Saturday, the stock didn't feel that different. We just picked up two more games!
  • Deckscape: The Mystery of Eldorado is the only Deckscape game we haven't played. It wan't a huge bargain at £9, but it's still a fair price I was willing to pay.
  • The Pillars of the Earth was only £15 and although I think it's the older edition, that still seemed like a bargain to me for a game I've had on my 'to try' list for a very long time.

Things we Saw

  • Kingdomino Duel is a two player roll and write version of Kingdomino. Each round 4 dice will be rolled with each dice representing a terrain type with (or without) a umber of crowns in it. The active player will then combine two of these dice to create a 'domino' and add them to their map, with the second player doing the same with the remaining 2 maps. The game uses the same number of crowns in an area multiplied by the number of tiles in an area scoring from Kingdomino, though you now have some special powers that allow you to break the rules a limited number of times giving you some extra options in how to play.
Kingdomino Duel
  • Bushido is a two player dueling game where every game is different. To start the game you will draft cards until each player has a hand of 5 technique cards, and then choose 1 weapon style to use. Each turn you can either change guards to alter your offensive/defensive potential, or play a technique card in order to actively attack or defend. Roll dice to see how many hits get through, but hits do not equate directly to damage. In the next players turn they have a change to negate the damage received by playing a technique chard of their own. Scoring multiple hits in 1 round leads to exponential damage, so it's perfectly possible to end the game by wearing your opponent down or in one dramatic blow!
Bushido
  • Run Fight or Die Reloaded is a zombie survival  dice game. Roll and re-roll the dice in order to get favourable symbols to fight back the incoming Zombie horde. Each player has unique dice combos that they can aim for to use special abilities. Along the way you might save survivors who are worth end game points, but may also help, or hinder, your progress. Not to worry, as frustrating allies can always be used as a distraction/meat shield when the zombies get a little too close!
Run Fight or Die Reloaded
  • Sorcerer is the next card game from White Wizard Games. Instead of deck-building during a game you will start each game by forming a deck. By choosing your character deck and combining them with a lineage deck and a domain deck creating a huge variety of potential decks to use. You'll then use your sorcery to summon a number of disturbing creatures to fight in your name.
Sorcerer
  • Endangered has perhaps the most wonderful themes of all. It's your job to ensure the survival of the endangered tigers by ensuring that they breed successfully. You'll also need to pander to international governments in order to get them to fund your conservation efforts. All the while the human activity in the animals home drives them further towards extinction. Make sure you win this game or else you are liable to feel very sad, even more so when you realise this is happening in real life!
Endangered

Highlights

Fi's highlight from Day 2 - Evening Gaming
Evening gaming was perhaps my biggest negative of the UK Games Expo last year. I was frustrated by my desire to be sociable, but I wasn't able to make game time with friends or confident enough to approach random strangers. This year, we had a wider array of friends and acquaintances to play with an evening gaming was a lot more easily organised. On Saturday evening we actually left the convention centre to game with some friends staying in a nearby AirBnB. It was great to get away from the high stress environment of the convention and do some fun gaming. We played a mixture of fast new games, as well as getting the chance to try Decrypto and Skull King that have been high on my 'want to play' list for a time when we had a big group. We had so much fun just having normal game time and catching up on convention chat that it was totally my highlight on the day.

Amy's highlight from Day 2 - Letter Jam

Of the pair of us it's fair to say that Fi is far more into word games. Particularly anagrams are something my brains struggles with as it gets stubbornly stuck onto one idea rather than trying the rearrange properly. So imagine my surprise when a word game that has you constantly creating anagrams ends up being so much fun! Perhaps it's the fact that it's a cooperative word game, perhaps it's that you don't need to be good one round to the next, but having your one good turn all game is enough to really help out. But mostly I think that the whole idea is just genius. You aren't just trying to think of anagrams, but also who you want to help most and how the word you give might be a problem. Because everyone is missing (at least) one letter from the word you make a clue which really helps one player might be hardly usable at all for another, but give someone enough bad clues and eventually they start adding up. Letter Jam really is a surprise hit for me!

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