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

Saturday, 4 July 2020

A Restful Week in Sleepy Arkham:- Wrath of N'kai

Book: Wrath of N'kai

Author: Josh Reynolds

Publisher: Aconyte Books

Year: 2020

Wrath of N'kai: An Arkham Horror Novel: Amazon.co.uk: Reynolds ...
It's fair to say I have barely scratched the surface of the Arkham universe. Early on in my gaming life I picked up Elder Sign, giving me my first insight into the Massachusetts town where nothing is as it seems. While it was good, the story wasn't really there, with the theme feeling more like a monster of the week game set in a Ripley's Believe it or Not. While I've played many Cthulhu themed games in the years that followed, none of them really dragged me into the story. Mostly they relied on the titular tentacled monster on card art and named a mechanic "sanity".

It wasn't until I picked up Arkham Horror: The Card Game that the story of the Arkham universe started to flesh out (sometimes far too literally) in front of my very eyes. Giving you a series of campaign missions with choices made during gameplay changing the story in future missions. Arkham LCG tells the tale of hapless investigators who soon find out that the world is a whole lot stranger than they could ever imagine. While the Arkham LCG is a highly story driven game, one thing I have never managed to pick up is one of the many novellas set in the universe. Each containing an investigator card ready to add to your games these small books sought to drag you further into the life of an Investigator. My understanding from more experienced Arkham players is that you bought these for the bonus cards, not for the literature.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Game: Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Publisher: Space Cowboys

Designer:  Cyril Demaegd, Guilaine Didier, Théo Rivière

Year: 2019

Unlock is one of many choices for bringing the experience of an escape room to your tabletop. If I remember correctly, it was the first series that we tried and it wasn't our favourite. But, it's big benefit is that you can play it once and pass it onto a friend with no destruction. With such a cost effective solution to have lots of new, 1 hour, cooperative escape room experiences at home, we've played almost every box.

Unlock initially stood out from other escape rooms because of its need for an app. In early boxes, the app seemed to be a way to take care of what might otherwise be a frustrating crib sheet to find out your answers. More recently we've been really impressed with how the app has become a hugely integrated part of the game play and has brought to the table some of the most creative things I've seen in escape room style games. I don't think anyone would be able to complain any more about the app being unnecessary - it's the best bit!

Like all Unlock releases in the UK, Unlock! - Epic Adventures contains three games, each lasting approximately one hour. We'll be sharing spoiler-free thoughts in this review of each scenario, all strangely themed around the number seven...

Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Break the Code

Game: Break the Code

Publisher: IELLO

Designer: Ryohei Kurahashi

Year: 2017

Break the Code is a small box deduction game, now published by Iello, but originally from Jelly Jelly Games and published in Japan. Break the Code is pure logic. In this game for 2-4 players, each player has a five digit code, and you need to be the first player to guess another players code correctly. The questions you can ask are limited to a display of 6 question cards which are laid out each round, so you'll need to carefully pick the best questions based upon what you know.

To make things a little more difficult, all numbers come in a black and whit variety, so to get the codes right you'll need to know the colours and the numbers.

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Project: ELITE

Game: Project: ELITE

Publisher: Artipia GamesCMON Limited

Designer:  Konstantinos KokkinisMarco Portugal, and Sotirios Tsantilas

Year: 2020

Project: ELITE was originally published by Artipia Games, and perhaps wasn't on too many people's radar until Tom Vasel, of the Dice Tower, named it as his number one game of all time. That certainly put it on my radar, since real-time cooperative games are a favourite for the two of us. The game was picked up by CMON games who brought it to Kickstarter with huge amounts of expansion content and, quite importantly for many people, upgraded miniatures.

Players are members of the ELITE squad , working together to stop an invading force of aliens. Working in real-time, the games progresses as a series of two-minute combat rounds, where frantic dice rolling is your only option. Hoards upon hoards of new aliens will arrive each turn, but as you get slightly more powerful over time, you stand a good chance of obliterating them and completing your mission objectives.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

120DPM (Dice per Minute):- Project: ELITE

Game: Project: ELITE

Publisher: Artipia Games, CMON Limited

Designer:  Konstantinos Kokkinis, Marco Portugal, and Sotirios Tsantilas

Year: 2020

 Project: ELITE, CMON Limited/Artipia Games, 2019Project: ELITE is a real-time cooperative dice game in which you take the role of a combat-veteran ready to wade into an endless swarm of aliens and mow them down with your endless supply of bullets. Along the way you will probably have an objective to do which is more complex than put lead into non-human lifeforms. If you can complete that, and escape alive to tell the tale then you will win.

Each turn consists of a new event card being revealed, providing instant or ongoing problems to deal with. Next new aliens will spawn.
There are 3 types of spawn aliens: runners which move fast, but don't attack, biters which move at a medium speed and attack in melee, and shooters who move slowly, but attack at range. You will then also draw from the boss deck, many of the cards in here are "all clears" meaning no boss arrives, but there are a wide range of boss aliens which are all tougher and have a special ability unique to them.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Adventure Mart

Game: Adventure Mart

Publisher: Hub Games

Designer: DigiSprite

Year: 2020

Adventure Mart is one of the many stores that you might choose to frequent if you're an adventurer, about to set out on an adventure. Their store mascot, Hank, is a rather charming dragon, but nevertheless each player in Adventure Mart believes that they can build a store to rival Adventure Mart, filling it with stock appropriate to catch the eye of any adventurer.

In this deck-building game you'll create a store with just a couple of members and staff and some furnishing, but the items you choose to stock will really make the difference in whether the array of adventurers each turn will buy from you or your rivals. Each adventurer only has so much money in their pocket, so you might even choose to under sell to make sure they spend with your store.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Buzzle Box 2: Doughnuts & Cake

A Buzzle Box is a veritable treasures trove of board games and puzzles (conflation, ‘buzzle’) from publisher Dark Imp Games. Through her social media presence, it’s clear to see that founder Ellie Dix is passionate about bringing board games to families. Her Buzzle Boxes are just one of the products that are designed to provide huge amounts of activity for families to enjoy together.

Opening up our Doughnuts & Cake Buzzle Box was very much like being a kid at Christmas. In a sustainably minded way, the outer box is the box in which your collection will be posted and inside there are many treats to discover. The first thing I noticed where all of the doughnut stickers hidden all over the box and contents, which for a series of word puzzles to figure out. The box also has a couple of larger puzzles, including a word puzzle and a logic puzzle. I found these puzzles genuinely hard, so I hope they’re more aimed at the older members of the family! Then there’s a pack of three activity cards – two that give the rules to games that can be played with a standard deck of cards and one for a pen and paper game. These are a great bonus to give the box even more entertainment content! Of course, for us, the focus of the box is the three new games – Top Cake, Doughnut Dash and Sleuth Box, which we’ll give a brief overview of here.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Istanbul Digital Edition

Game: Istanbul

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele

Designer: Rüdiger Dorn

Digital Edition By: Acram Digital

Year: 2014

Istanbul is an award winning game - having won the Kennerspiel award as part of the Spiel des Jahres in 2015. It's a game that we've had in our collection for a number of years, but barely played at all. That's not to say it's a bad game, it just doesn't do anything that makes me excited to bring it off the shelf and onto the table. In preparation for taking a look at the digital implementation we did bring Istanbul down from the shelf and had a really enjoyable game, remembering the fun of the movement mechanisms, freeing your cousin from jail and racing other players to trade money and goods for gems. It's a very elegant euro game and I've been reminded why it has a place on the shelf, but what if the digital version could replace it and give me back one coveted shelf space in return?

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Root: The Clockwork Expansion

Game: Root: The Clockwork Expansion

Publisher: Leder Games

Designer: Benjamin Schmauss, Cole Wehrle

Year: 2020

Root is a game that seems to have huge popularity and every time a new expansion hits Kickstarter or arrives with backers, the buzz for Root is very apparent. It’s a game that we avoided for a long time, in spite of wanting to know what all of the fuss was about. The fact that Root is essentially a war game wrapped up in board game paper, is both highly intriguing but also off-putting for us. Tactical games with area control elements will often be a miss for us as gaming partners.

Eventually the pull of Root was enough for us to try out the base game, and so long as I am playing as the rather non-confrontational Vagabond, then I have really enjoyed discovering the interlocking mechanisms of Root as a truly asymmetric game. Cute meeples and enchanting artwork have no doubt helped to get me excited for a game that wouldn’t normally be in my mechanical wheelhouse.

The Clockwork Expansion introduces robotic versions of each faction for use in solo play, cooperative play and to add factions to competitive, low player count games.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 11 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

Finally, after 11 weeks we might have come towards the end of all our ideas for board games that you can easily play over Skype with friends. We have one addition this week that is on the slightly more ambitious side. With friends and co-workers some favourites have really started to right to the top and the games I'm playing most are Azul, Trails of Tucana, Welcome To and Telestrations.

New to me though, is that I've finally been persuaded to try Board Game Arena and Tabletopia. When other people are so familiar with these online platforms it can be hard to persuade them to go the route of playing a game over Skype and I do kid of see why. Board Game Arena in particular has fully scripted games and it's so quick to play games like Incan Gold, Coloretto and Takenoko.

Friday, 5 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tang Garden

Game: Tang Garden

Publisher: Thundergrpyh Games, Lucky Duck Games

Designer: Francesco Testini, Pierluca Zizzi

Year: 2020

Do you consider yourself a little green fingered? What if we upped the stakes? Nobles would like to visit your garden! A few herbs and some straggly tomato plants will not impress, try koi carp, lilies, beautiful willow trees. Only the best vistas will please the nobles, full of interest in the foreground and just the right scenes on the horizon.
Don't be fooled by the 3D trees - Tang Garden has a lot more to offer in the component territory than Photosynthesis or Bosk. Make way for 3D pavilions, bridges and miniatures, and we're not even talking about the deluxe Kickstarter here, this is all in the retail edition.

Thundergryph Games successfully ran Tang Garden on Kickstarter in 2018 and Lucky Duck Games have now licensed the game to release it to retail, first with an English and then a French edition.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Game: Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2020

With the release of Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America, it's hard not to talk about timing. Pandemic jumped up the UK bestselling board game list in March, at the same time as other people took to social media about not wanting to play a game that reminded them of the dire situation of the world facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Personally, the idea of becoming the heroes and working together to fight a pandemic on your tabletop sounds like a pretty fun way to pretend you aren't powerless in this difficult time!

Pandemic Hot Zone - North America is to Pandemic what Ticket to Ride New York is to Ticket to Ride. It's a smaller, faster, simpler version of a very popular modern, family board game. It is absolutely following the same model, with its size and price point, as well as the intention to turn this into a global series, much like Ticket to Ride's London, New York and now Amsterdam versions.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Perfect for a Summer Vacation:- Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Game: Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2020

Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America is a smaller, faster version of Pandemic, designed to be playable in 30 minutes. With the reduction in play time comes a reduction in scale, instead of curing the world, this pandemic is focused entirely on the continent of North America. Instead of four diseases, you only have to handle three and you only have 4 characters to do so with! But this game isn't just a reduced content version of its bigger brother, the addition of crisis card adds a new twist to the gameplay. These optional cards help adjust the difficulty up, and I highly recommend them if you have already played the original Pandemic.

If you have played Pandemic then you will find Hot Zone to be extraordinarily similar. you control a pawn, on your turn you get four actions to perform. This can be moving from one location to another via a line on the board. Or instead you can use one of your cards in hand to fly to, or from, the city printed on that card. You can use an action to remove one disease cube from the city you are in, or all the cubes if you have completed the cure for that disease. You can trade cards with other players matching the city you are in, and you can cure the diseases. To do so you need to head to Atlanta and spend an action to discard 4 cards of the same colour, to cure that colour of disease. Veteran players might have noticed that there is no talk about setting up medical centers, that's because there are none in Hot Zone, you get the CDC in Atlanta and you'll like it!

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Spirit Island Digital

Game: Spirit Island

Publisher: Greater Than Games

Designer: R. Eric Reuss

Digital Edition By: Handelabra Games

Year: 2017

Spirit Island is a cooperative game where players represent spirits, defending an island from incoming invaders. By controller the invader populations, destroying their people and buildings, removing their blight from the land striking fear into their hearts, the spirits can hope to protect their land.

I find Spirit Island to be the heaviest cooperative game we own. It might look more intimidating, but Gloomhaven is a breeze compared to Spirit Island. Spirit Island is a huge brain burner for me and its digital release allows me an opportunity to really dig deeper to try and get my head around the game, with the ease of quitting and restarting when everything is going very, very wrong.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Electropolis

Game: Electropolis

Publisher: Homosapiens Lab

Designer: Chang Yu Di, Ku Chun Wei, Wang Liang

Year: 2019

In 2019 we visited Essen for the first time. One of the great things about Essen is that it's so international and attracts publishers whose games you might not otherwise have access to. One of the stands we found most overwhelming was Taiwan Boardgame Design. They bring over games from many publishers in Taiwan and there's really no way to know which are going to be the gems. We brought home four and Electropolis is the first real gem, with one left to try.

Quite fittingly, Electropolis reminded us most of Quadropolis, except that instead of building all aspects of a city, all that you are focusing on is building an electricity network, hence the very fitting name. Quadropolis has a place on our shelf, so Electropolis really needed to stand out, and fortunately it did!

Saturday, 23 May 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 9 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

Lockdown restrictions are lifting very slowly here in the UK. You can meet with one person, in a park, so long as you are two metres apart. It is possible that you could play a board game whilst abiding by these rules, but I don't think I'll be doing so any time soon. Instead Amy and I are enjoying some sunshine, taking a few games outdoors and still trying to stay connected with friends in the best way we know how - through games!

In the last couple of weeks I've continued by work board game night, as well as Monday evenings with Board Deck and Dice and some online gaming with friends and my parents. In addition, I had the chance to reconnect with old school friends through playing Illusion and Trails of Tucana online. One of the silver linings of the lockdown is that it's given people an excuse to reach out to people they might have lost touch with, and that's really kind of cool!

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Zoom in Barcelona

Game: Zoom In Barcelona

Publisher: Cucafuera Games

Designer: Núria Casellas, Eloi Pujadas, Joaquim Vilalta

Year: 2019

Zoom in Barcelona is the fist published game from Cucafuera Games, but the design team comes with experience in the design and development of successful board games, such as Shikoku and Uxmal.

Zoom in Barcelona is a family weight board game, similar in complexity to Ticket to Ride with options to play a basic or more advanced game mode, both of which still fit into family weight. You play as a tourist in Barcelona, collecting photographs of well known sites, presumably to impress your Instagram followers. The game is enhanced by wonderful artwork, which really captures the colours and atmosphere of Barcelona, as well as picking up on certain features which will be rewarded by the game's mechanisms. It's a really eye-catching package.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tiny Epic Tactics

Game: Tiny Epic Tactics

Publisher: Gamelyn Games

Designer: Scott Almes

Year: 2020

Tiny Epic Tactics follows in a long line of Tiny Epic games from Gamelyn Games and designer Scott Almes. These games really do try and keep to their name-sake - by focusing on a small box size and often smaller components, they do try to cram a full size game into the box size of a small card game. Not only that but many of their games often feature something unique in terms of their production. Tiny Epic Quest had the 'ITEMeeples', where you could accessorise your meeple with swords shields and other battle gear. Tiny Epic Tactics uses the box itself in a big way. The base of the box, as well as many smaller boxes inside of that come together to create the 3D terrain of the game, and also flip to create the dungeons that are used in solo and 2-player cooperative mode.

Games that boast cooperative and competitive play, and many different game modes always make me nervous - have all of those modes truly been considered well or is one of them the 'best' way to play. If so, which one? We've explored both cooperative and competitive modes with two players for this review.

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Imhotep: The Duel

Game: Imhotep: The Duel

Publisher: Kosmos Games

Designer:  Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2018

Imhotep: The Duel is a standalone, 2-player only, sequel to Imhotep - a game where you play as builders in Egypt, from designer Phil Walker-Harding. This smaller format game sacrifices the cubes of the original and replaces them with square tiles, which are more versatile and some in a greater number of specialties. Building the different monuments like the obelisk and the pyramids is still the goal, but otherwise the game plays out significantly differently to its bigger brother.

In Imhotep: The Duel, players take on the role of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, one of Egypt’s most famous royal couples. Each player must build their own four monuments by unloading goods from the six boats in order to outshine the other player in the head-to-head rivalry.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Taking Board Games to the 3rd Dimension:- Tsuro VR

Game: Tsuro

Publisher: Calliope Games

Designer: Tom McMurchie

Digital Edition By: Thunderbox Entertainment

Year: 2004

It is quite normal in these times to take our traditionally analogue hobby into the digital world. For some time many popular games have developed app versions of their games to entertain people on the go, or when they can't gather everyone around one table. Tsuro VR is one such app, being a take on the popular tile-laying game Tsuro. The rather obvious difference being that it isn't a game you play on a flat screen, but rather a game for VR devices.

VR has been a thing in sci-fi for as long as I can remember, whether it's the Holodeck in Star Trek or the Artificial Reality video game on the "Back to Reality" episode of Red Dwarf (although that was actually a giant squid, long story). It has long been portrayed as a way to take characters out of their 'mundane' reality and into situations that would be impossible in the show's main storyline. The road to VR in real life has been rather more bumpy. Many people will point at the ill-fated Virtual Boy as the first failure to get VR into consumer's hands, but more recently various 'Google Cardboard' style devices have let you turn your phone into a VR device. While these certainly can be used in impressive ways, such as the crime scenes of Chronicles of Crime, they're a long, long way away from what modern VR is capable of. If you want to see that you're going to have to put down some serious cash.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 7 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

As we start to repeat plays of games online I am switching to bi-weekly content about the games we've been playing. I want to bring you new ideas for games to play, not just reiterate old ones. Hopefully you've already found lots of ways to play, but as this situation continues, I'm finding that I want to connect with an even wider circle of people - the people who I see less often in real life, but who it's starting to be quite some time since I've seen! If I was having a physical game day, I'd tailor the games we play to the friends I had coming over and the same is true for my online board game nights, so our pool of games is getting bigger and bigger.

Adding more games to this list is also highly addictive, so I've got plenty more ideas to share! If you're looking for more ideas, check out some previous blogs from this lockdown period too.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Oceans

Game: Oceans

Publisher: North Star Games

Designer:  Nick Bentley, Dominic Crapuchettes, Ben Goldman, Brian O'Neill

Year: 2020

Oceans is a standalone game in the popular Evolution series from North Star Games. This 2-4 layer game is all about creating underwater species who have a symbiotic relationship that allows all of your species to feed and thrive. Only one of your species is actually able to forage for food at the reef or attack another species per round, but you need every species to be able to feed. To solve this, you might have some species who are whale cleaners or shark cleaners, activated by their respective co-dependent buddies. Or perhaps a parasite, feeding off others.

When the cambrian explosion comes, evolution is suddenly happening a whole lot faster - you need to grow your population quicker to feed more and weird and wonderful creatures from the deep will also be injected into the game.

Oceans really captures this colourful underwater word, but did it captivate us more than Evolution?

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Over-thinking by the Yellow Meeple:- The Golden Geek Awards 2019

Every year, I write a commentary sharing my thoughts on the winners of the Golden Geek awards. I almost didn't write it this year.

TLDR: Wingspan won!

I personally decided to sell Wingspan. It was fine, but didn't thrill me. The European expansion made me mad. On the other hand, I can't deny it's popularity, and it seems to really work for a lot of people. I also love how its theme helps broaden the audience and media coverage for tabletop gaming. It's a game that has been fantastic for our hobby and I'm very happy for the designer and publisher and everyone who loves the game.

However, it's a little odd how can a game win for Best Strategy Game AND Best Family Game? Personally it seems like a better fit among the family game nominees.  And Most Innovative? Perhaps it's innovative that a game break down barriers like Wingspan, or perhaps people generally just pick their favourite game on the nominees list and don't think about how well it fits the actual category. Wingspan also won for Best Expansion, Best Solo Game, Board Game of the Year, Best Artwork and Presentation and Best Card Game. 7 awards in total!

Now that that's out of the way, let's see if we can find some other games in the list of winners and runners up. We played a lot of new releases last year, but we had a big blind spot, surprisingly, in our two-player gaming, so let's find out what else we need to play.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- MetroX

Game: MetroX

Publisher: Gamewright Games

Designer: Hisashi Hayashi

Year: 2018

Metro X was originally published by Okazu Brand, from Japan, and was not widely available in other regions. We were very lucky to have friend spend a year in Japan last year and we were able to play the original version. Having a copy of a much coveted game felt special, but it's even better that Gamewright have managed to add it to their roll and write line and bring it to the masses. The design itself has not changed from the original, but the production is quite different.

Metro X made it to number three on my top ten roll and writes list, based on the original, Japanese version of the game. How does the new edition compare and could it go even higher for me?

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Raiders of the North Sea Digital

Game: Raiders of the North Sea

Publisher: Garphill Games

Designer: Shem Phillips

Digital Edition By: Dire Wolf Digital

Year: 2015

Raiders of the North Sea has become a very popular euro game. It really put designer Shem Phillips and his publishing brand, Garphill Games on the map. Raiders is the most popular of the North Sea trilogy, but that has since been followed up with the West Kingdom Trilogy which perhaps surpasses even Raiders in terms of praise.

What was unique about Raiders of the North Sea was the worker placement mechanisms. On your turn you place a worker and retrieve a worker from another spot on the board - meaning that you essentially take two actions per turn. This also gives you the ability to swap out the type of active worker you have, which in turn unlocks access to new places that your vikings can raid.

We played the physical game once and were quite taken with the mechanisms, but not enough to add it to our collection. Fortunately, digital board games take up no shelf space, so Raiders of the North Sea Digital was a great addition to our Steam library.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Traintopia

Game: Traintopia

Publisher: Board&Dice

Designer: Przemek Wojtkowiak

Year: 2020

Traintopia is a commuter's dream. Train lines that go anywhere and everywhere. Whether you're trying to transport goods, commuters or tourists - there's a train line for you in the future.

Traintopia is a tile laying and route-building game for 2-4 players, releasing soon from publisher Board & Dice. It's on the lighter end of games that Board & Dice release, with a play time of around 30 minutes and very accessible gameplay. Think more 5-Minute Chase than Teotihuacan. If you're looking for a game that's a bit of twist on Carcassonne with slightly higher player interaction, then it's a game that might be worth checking out.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 5 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

Observant and dedicated readers might notice that there was no post last week - week 4 of lockdown. In week 4, I really lost my enthusiasm for creating unique board game experiences over the internet. The cabin fever got to me and I was pretty frustrated. Fortunately I got some enthusiasm back and have some more hints and tips to share for games played over the internet in the last two weeks. You can check out more tips in previous posts.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Montmartre

Game: Montmartre

Publisher: BLAM!

Designer: Florian Sirieix

Year: 2019

I have memories of school trips to Montmartre as a teenager. Teachers' warnings to keep a close eye on your bag, warnings not to accidentally get your hair braided, or let your arm be grabbed for a henna tattoo. But once you've reached the top of the steps, a quaint area of Parisian alleyways, and many artists is revealed.

Montmartre is a card game for 2-5 players that focuses on the artistic charms of this area of Paris, rather than the tourist trap features that stick in my memory. As an artist you are inspired by your muse to create beautiful paintings, but also offering those paintings to art dealers, or selling them off for smaller sums of money when your gallery is over-flowing. Making ends meet as an artist is hard and you need to attract art dealers in a competitive market where other artists are also trying to sell. Montmartre is a tactical game of set collection, where timing is key.

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Uxmal

Game: Uxmal

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Eloi Pujadas

Year: 2019

Uxmal is a game about to honour your idols. As rival priests, you might pray to different gods, but you can also curse those that other priests are praying to - the favour of the Gods is ever changing.

Uxmal is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players, published by Blue Orange Games. Blue Orange are known for their family weight games and Uxmal certainly shares that look and feel. All players will be working towards building a 3-dimensional pyramid - formed from plastic tiles, using the box as a base. The appearance is impressive and somewhat toy like, aside from the various shades of brown, but don't be fooled into thinking that Uxmal is a light family game. Looks are certainly deceiving with this mean and tricky abstract.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Sagrada Digital

Game: Sagrada

Publisher: Floodgate Games

Designer: Adrian Adamescu, Daryl Andrews

Digital Edition By: Direwolf Digital

Year: 2019

Sagrada is a perfect family weight dice drafting game that I've recently been playing in two different ways. Firstly, it's a great game that you can play long distance by Skype, but secondly, Direwolf Digital just released an app implementation on Steam, iOS and Android.

In Sagrada, each player has a 5x4 gird that must be filled using the coloured dice. Each player has a different grid, with certain colour and number requirements for different squares of the grid. You can put anything in the other spaces, so long as no two matching colours or numbers can be orthogonally adjacent. A number of dice are rolled for each of ten rounds and drafted so that each player drafts two per round.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Game: Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Dan Blanchett

Year: 2019

Abomination: The Heir of Frankentein is inspired by Mary Shelley's classic novel, but it is not about Frankenstein's monster. It is set twenty years later, in Paris, and a mysterious benefactor has emerged in the scientific community, never showing his face, claiming to possess the late Frankenstein's research.You are each scientists, experimenting in the same dark rituals as those before you, haunted by Frankenstein's monster and trying to cover your tracks - making a name for yourself in the scientific community, donating to the church and all the while, trying to summon life from your table.

Abomination is a worker placement game for 2-4 players. If you're squeemish, or not a fan of macabre themes, then look away now. But, if you like your game theses a little bit twisted then you might discover that there's a lot of fun to be had with the story of Abomination.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Grave Robbing: the Moral Choice:- Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Game: Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Dan Blanchett

Year: 2019

Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein is a 2-4 player worker placement game in which you take the role of a scientist trying to create a second Creature. Whether you are doing it for the thrill of scientific discovery, of through fear of the rage of Frankenstein's original creation you'll need to do the same thing: gather up body parts (the fresher the better) and learn to surgically attach them together to create a patchwork mockery of the human condition. Before exposing the creature to just the right amount of electricity to bring the spark of life to it, without burning its limbs off! Exactly how you will go about this varies. An honourable doctor might be able to take cadavers from the morgue for "research purposes", while a less respectable, or more desperate, scientist might find a willing thug to bring them a body "no questions asked". If you get really desperate, you have a scalpel and Paris is filled with dark alleys...

Saturday, 11 April 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 3 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

When I wrote our first guide to how we've been playing games under our current lockdown situation, I though it would be a one-off blog. I had a few ideas about how I might be able to play games with friends online, but I had no idea I would take it this far.

So far, I have created Powerpoints, translated resources from French, borrowed games from The Ludoquist board game cafe, reformatted an old laptop to enable it to run Steam without crashing and photographed at least 50% of the spines of my board game collection to create ransom notes to post on Twitter.

Yes, we have a little bit more free time on our hands, but I'm still working full time and yet still lucky enough to find lots of time to get creative and keep gaming. I'm seeing people over Skype that I usually wouldn't talk to or see for months and connecting with colleagues in Canada for valuable social and morale boosting time too. I understand that I'm the exception to the rule when it comes to enjoying lockdown, but hopefully a few of this weeks ideas can bring some enjoyment to others too!

Thursday, 9 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sensor Ghosts

Game: Sensor Ghosts

Publisher: Wren Games

Designer: Janice Turner, Stu Turner

Year: 2020

'You have escaped both the virus-ridden space station and the clutches of the station's computer in Assembly.' Perhaps an enviable position right now? If you're reading this review in April 2020. You can only return to Earth if you bring with you an uncontaminated virus sample, for use in a vaccine.

Thankfully, Sensor Ghosts is an abstract puzzle game that doesn't hit too close to home, in our currently climate. Perfect for playing solo, or with 2,3 or 4 players, a puzzle might be just what you need right now and this one is certainly a challenge! Sensor Ghosts was successfully funded on Kickstarter, by independent publisher Wren Games and has recently found its way into backers' hands.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Ka Pai

Game: Ka Pai

Publisher: White Goblin Games

Designer: Mads Fløe

Year: 2019

Ka Pai is a roll and write game which released with it's first expansion, Ranu, at Essen 2019. In this roll and write, you'll roll dice, but they'll offer you geometric shapes rather than numbers. Perhaps slightly unfortunately, the game has been given the unnecessary theme of Maori tribes, which is enough to drive some people away. The game is completely abstract though, so the theme could be anything.

This roll and write is mainly about making routes between the different totems of the board and creating groups of the different shapes (tribes). It's simple, but different enough from a lot of other numerical roll and write games and with expansions to dig into straight away, as well as more to come, there's lots to try in Ka Pai.

As well as whole host of expansions for Ka Pai coming in 2020 (according to BGG), the designer has also re-themed one of his games and made it free to play during the current Covid-19 crisis. Vaccine is available to download with links on BGG.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

The Digital Game Shelf - MORE Board Gaming During Covid-19

We're now on our second week in lockdown here in the UK and we're still finding new games that we can play online, and new ways to do it. In spite of the fact we downloaded Tabletop Simulator, we haven't used it yet because I'm finding it a lot more satisfying to figure out new and exciting ways to play games.

At the same time, we're fortunate to be getting lots of time together at the table too. We're currently playing a lot of games that our on our 'one last play' list to make some space on the shelf for some new games. Once we've made some space, we might be able to start playing some games from our cupboard of shame!

Here's some more ideas to connect with far away friends through gaming, based on what we've been playing this week.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- The Isle of Cats

Game: The Isle of Cats

Publisher: The City of Games

Designer: Frank West

Year: 2019

The Isle of Cats joins a long list of polyomino games, but it does have the magic ingredient of cats, which immediately makes it jump up in popularity. Isle of Cats also made a fantastic marketing move, including a surprise in the box lid for all cat owners out there. Sadly our neighbours cat was not available for a photoshoot, but you can find lots of incredible cat photos here!

The Isle of Cats is a 1-4 player tile-laying game which uses drafting of polyomino tiles. Each players lures cats on board their boat with fish and different colour cats like to stick together. It's a lot bigger than most polyomino games and has super high quality production, even if you're getting hold of the retail version, so does it pack a much bigger punch than Barenpark, Cottage Garden and a couple of other favourites?

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Purrfect Tessellations:- The Isle of Cats

Game: The Isle of Cats

Publisher: The City of Games

Designer: Frank West

Year: 2019

The Isle of Cats puts you in the shoes of benevolent sea-captains seeking to rescue the indigenous feline population of an island before a less benevolent pirate comes along. Just like your standard cat, these creatures are frustratingly capricious, so you'll need to weave baskets and fish up treats to tempt them aboard your ship. Once aboard their fear of water presumably keeps them in place! If you happen to find some treasure along the way, and your new feline friends deal with your rat problem, well all the better!

Each round each player will be given 20 fish which represents their morning catch. The central island will be surrounded by a number of cats in two locations before players draft a hand of 7 cards each. From your drafted hand of 7 cards, you can spend fish to buy the cards, or simply discard them if they aren't worth the cost. Cards come in a variety of types: Green cards contain boots and baskets which help you be the first player to collect cats and improve how many cats you can catch respectively. Blue cards are lessons which give end game scoring and can either be personal, or public. Gold cards grant you treasures which can be used to fill awkward gaps on your boat, bigger treasures are also worth points. Finally purple cards tend to reward you with Oshax, this elusive breed is not only larger than most other cats, but is very adaptive, being able to behave like any other colour of cat.