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 29 August 2015

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions - Week Commmencing 22nd August 2015

Another week has gone by with a ton of new games seeing table time. After a good weekend with our Sunday gaming group, it was quite a quiet week until Friday evening was spent with the Broken Meeple for a ‘two-player game night’.

·         Small World is one of those games that most people around me seem to have played, but I finally got my chance. In small world you choose a race and an ability with which to conquer regions of a map. You will have a limited number of ‘troops’ dependent on the race/ability combination you choose and you gain control of a region by having the most tokens in that region. You can knock your opponents out of a region by outnumbering them. However, one army can only be spread so thin, so you must carefully time at which point in the game you put your army into decline and choose a new combo. Points are obtained for the number of regions you control each turn, and this can be boosted with special abilities. I definitely enjoyed the game and would love to play again, but I’m not sure how well a 2-player game will work, even though you are given a smaller map to work with, so I will hold out on adding this one to the Game Shelf.

·         Last Will is a game about spending (or wasting) as much money as possible more quickly than your opponents. You do this by making bad property investments, paying the extortionate upkeep rates on those properties, going out on fancy day trips or taking your horse to dinner or to the theatre! I really enjoyed how the game combines hand management and worker placement and flips standard scoring rules on their head.

·         Ghost Stories is the newest co-op in our collection. We’ve played it twice this week, once 2-player and once with the full complement of 4-players. Needless to say that the game’s reputation s holding true and we haven’t won yet! In the game 4 ghost hunters are trying to fight the never ending stream of ghost who are haunting a village. If you can survive long enough then the aim of the game is to fight and kill the incarnation of Wu-Feng who is a much harder boss. The game is primarily about making the right move at the right time to gain special abilities, assist your opponent and take on fights with the most urgent ghosts, before village tiles get haunted or before you all run out of ‘Qi’ and die horribly. We really loved our 4-player game, it constantly felt like a lost cause, but we held on for a very long time, which was exciting. However, the 2-player variant from the instructions just didn’t work for us. You are supposed to play with two neutral boards which can get overwhelmed with ghosts but can’t particularly help when it comes to fighting them off! Next time we play 2-player it will just be playing a 2 characters each, which I’m sure will work much better.

·         Samurai Spirit is probably the newest co-op by Antoine Bauza (the designer of Ghost Stories, above). Once again he kicked our butts, twice! In this game you each play samurai, trying to protect a village from a bunch on bandits. Each samurai is unique and also has a second incarnation as an animal. As an animal you are much stronger, but you are also much closer to death and if any player dies the game is lost. In each round you draw bandits from the central pile and can either choose to fight them or defend against them. It is important that each player defends the villagers and their buildings in particular so that fewer get destroyed at the end of each round. If all buildings and villagers are destroyed the game is also lost. The game appears to be difficult to win, but is an enjoyable puzzle, determining when it is best to push your luck, when it is best to help your fellow samurai and when it is best to give in and pass for the rest of the round to avoid certain death. Samurai Spirit doesn’t jump straight up the list of my favourite co-ops, but does feel quite different to many other co-ops so I’d certainly enjoy playing it again.

·         Jaipur is a pretty quick 2-player card game that appears to get rave reviews. I opened my copy with excitement this week and brought it to the table at our 2-player game night. It was definitely a hit. It’s a light game of set collection where you are trying to collect together as many goods of one type as you dare before selling them at the market. When a type of good has been sold at the market it’ value decreases, quite rapidly in some cases, so the urge is to sell quickly, but if you can build a bigger set of 3, 4 or 5 then there are bonus tiles available which can be worth a lot of points. It’s also tense deciding which goods to take from the central market of 5, when one good can be taken for free, more than one good should be traded with some from your hand, or you can take all of the camel cards into your herd, which then form nice trading fodder for later in the game. If you take camels or one card though, your opponent gets to see the new goods from the top of the deck which might be exactly the ones they’re looking for. Jaipur has enough tough decisions to keep the game interesting, whilst being fast paced and lightweight. I think this will become one of our go-to 2-player games.

·         Summoner Wars has been on my list of 2-player games to try for a while and I’ve almost bought it on a couple of occasions. After my first game, I’m glad I’ve not bought it yet. I don’t dislike the game, but I’m just not sold on it. The game is definitely one of tactical one-on-one combat and involves a lot of fore-thought about cards placement, movement and the triggering of special abilities. However when it comes to actual combat you’re relying on the luck of the dice.  Although it is quite different, I think that X-Wing Miniatures fill this niche in our collection quite nicely. I’d like to try some more factions, but I know at least two people with the game who’d be up for more two-player sessions.

In the coming week it’s unlikely that we’ll get to play anything new, but the following week we’re heading to New York and I definitely plan on spending a day at The Uncommons board game cafe and trying a load of new games and hopefully a couple on GenCon releases!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple :- Shadows Over Camelot

Game Title: Shadows Over Camelot
Designer: Bruno Cathala & Serge Laget

Manufacturer: Days of Wonder

Year: 2005

Shadows Over Camelot was probably one of our best charity shop finds ever! I think it was just £3 and a fantastic early Christmas present to ourselves. I’m not sure I had even heard of the game, but the Days of Wonder logo caught my eye and Amy grabbed it before the incoming geeks who had been distracted by some Warhammer in an adjacent cabinet. This is a co-op game we’re very happy to own.

Shadows Over Camelot is a 3-7 player cooperative game. In each game there is a chance that there is one traitor, although all 7 players might be loyal. The game can also be played without a traitor if you do not enjoy the traitor mechanism. Each player takes on the role of a knight of the round table, each of whom has a unique special ability. The Knights work as a team to complete quests before the progression of evil overwhelms them.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

Tis a silly place:- Shadows over Camelot

Game Title: Shadows Over Camelot
Designer: Bruno Cathala & Serge Laget

Manufacturer: Days of Wonder

Year: 2005

After what must have been months wandering that dark forest we finally found the holy grail, to think a cup of such simplicity could turn any water placed into it to the nectar of life! We returned to Camelot victorious, champions of England! That was when I found out that Arthur had already left in search of a legendary sword, I could not let my king struggle alone so I mounted my steed and rode out towards the fabled lake. When I arrived I saw Arthur desperately trying to swim out towards a sword that was being held aloft by someone underwater. His plate mail dragged him down and he was struggling to even tread water. I would bite my tongue before calling my lord a fool, but still found myself feeling a bit smug as I swam out to him after removing my armour. Summoning all my strength I managed to pull the king from the treacherous waters, though I fear that I was too late. Arthur was barely clinging to life, coughing up water and choking it back down at the same time. I knew what to do, grabbing the grail from my discarded gear I ran to the water's edge, scooped it full of the lake's green liquid and watched as it turned perfectly clear. Sprinting, I arrived back at the king just in time.

"A toast, long live the king!

I drank deep as breathed his last.

Shadows over Camelot is a cooperative 7 player game with, potentially, a traitor. The game features a choice system where you can choose which of three bad things happen at the start of your turn, combine this with having to keep your hand, and some actions, secret and an amount of light roleplay (you can’t discuss individual cards etc). This all fosters an element of distrust even between the loyal players. Meanwhile you face threats from the board on numerous fronts, failing to act fast can result in your goals slipping further out of reach.

Saturday 22 August 2015

The Yellow Meeple’s First Impressions – Week Commencing 15th August 2015

Had a slightly quieter week this week, with no impromptu gatherings of friends for a board game night and no Monday night gaming group, but plenty of games hit the table over the weekend and we’ve snuck in a few extra two-player games in the evenings. So here are the Yellow Meeple’s first impressions of games played this week.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Harbour

Game Title: Harbour

Designer: Scott Almes

Manufacturer: Tasty Minstrel Games

Year: 2015

One thing our collection lacks is small games and filler games. That’s why I picked up Harbour as one of our first ‘micro-games’. Harbour is always slipped into the bag to take to a board game group and has travelled with us on holiday and fits nicely in the tiny gaps remaining on our game shelves.

Harbour is a very light worker placement game where players move from building to building to obtain and trade Fish, Livestock, Wood and Stone. At an opportune moment players will cash in these resources at the Market to buy buildings which are worth victory points and offer special bonuses. Owning a more powerful building can also mean that other players must pay to use its ability.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

The sushi shop of horrors:- Harbour

Game Title: Harbour

Designer: Scott Almes

Manufacturer: Tasty Minstrel Games

Year: 2015

There's nothing quite like the harbour here, the sights, the sounds... and the smells. Meat so fresh it's still walking around and pooping everywhere. And the fish, well fresh wasn't the word. Rotten was a good word, foul would be another strong contender, 'writhing with maggots' wasn't bad if you could stretch to three. At these stalls you could find everything under the sun, even if much of it had been in the sun longer than you might like. These were fertile grounds for someone such as me, someone who knew the secrets to salting meat, and could make favourable 'trades' with honest merchants who didn't quite keep enough of an eye on their stock. A smart investment here and there and before you know it I'll run this town! 

Harbour is a light, relatively quick, worker placement game for 1-4 players. In it you take the role of an aspiring businessman, well actually a business-goblin, wheeling and dealing around a bustling port town, selling your goods and buying out properties. The game features comedic fantasy art and story, but if that's not your cup of tea it's pretty much ignorable in the heat of the game.

Saturday 15 August 2015

The Yellow Meeple’s First Impressions – Week Commencing 8th August 2015

We’re playing a lot of games at the moment, and as you can see from http://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/p/the-ever-growing-shelf.html I’m also buying a lot of new games too. But there’s a small selection of games that we play each week that either I haven’t bought yet or I haven’t played enough times to write a full review. So each week the Yellow Meeple is going to gather together her first impressions on the new games that’ve hit the table.

·         Nevermore is a light card-drafting game with a big dose of “take-that”. A group of 5 of us played a couple of games, resulting in a mixed opinion. The object of the game is to collect sets of matching cards in one round of drafting. At the end of the round players will resolve each card type in order and the player who plays the most of any card type wins the ability to either attack other players, obtain Magick cards, boost health or obtain victory points. Our first game took about 20 minutes and was really quite good fun! However, our second game must have taken around 1 hour and 30 minutes are really outstayed its welcome. After the first game I thought this was a great filler game, but it seems from the time on the box that a longer game may not be that uncommon and therefore this one might not be added to our collection.

·         Mysterium (or at least the Polish version) has been popular at our Sunday game group for the past couple of months. In the game the ghost gives each player Dixit style clues to lead them to select the right weapon, location and suspect for his murder. This forms the shortlist of suspects from which the players must figure out the culprit in the final round. So long as they can succeed in doing this within 7 days, the players all win this co-operative game. My enjoyment of this game is really variable. I think it has to be played with a lively and interactive group and a ghost who doesn’t take forever to give out clues to the players. With these ingredients it can be an awesomely fun activity, otherwise I admit that I do get bored of the game. Enough people around me own it or plan to by the new English re-print by Asmodee, that I don’t need to own this game.

·         Tokaido is a very zen game. We actually had a lady come and ridicule us for playing a game that didn’t seem hyper competitive. We explained that I was within my rights stand at the farm and try and block all of my opponents from generating money, but she was not prepared to accept that there could be joy in playing such a relaxed game. Personally I really enjoyed the experience. It was hardly gripping, nor would I describe it as fun, it was just ‘nice’ and there were points at which slightly tactical decisions were required.

·         Flash Point Fire Rescue: Extreme Danger was a brilliant expansion! We played on the garage map with no basement or attic, but with the explosive object. It gave us the tightest game of Flash Point we’ve ever had, with just one turn standing between victory and loss (we lost). One expansion adds huge variety to the game with the maps and I just can’t wait to try more. It may not be attributable to the expansion, but the mechanism of changing roles in the game also came to the fore much more significantly in this 2-player game.

·         Elder Sign: Gates of Arkham has been sitting on our shelves for a couple of months now, since we bought the base game and both expansions as a job lot. I’d heard a lot about this expansion giving the game theme that the base game didn’t have. The lack of theme had never really bothered me about Elder Sign, but what the expansion adds in terms of difficulty makes it a win for me. Creating gates, the fear of the unknown, having fewer big bonus actions that can be completed with trophies, choices of task rewards…all of this adds an extra layer to the game. I can’t wait to bring this one to the table again and doubt we’ll play without it again, unless we start to lose too often!

·         Survive! Escape from Atlantis is a really great gateway game. Its colourful components and thick terrain tiles were really appealing from the start. The game is really easy to understand and get into and the back-stabbing elements can be great fun in a group of friends. I can imagine that if everyone picks on one player, attacking them with sharks, overturning their boat with whales and blocking their path with sea monsters it can perhaps get a little frustrating, but we had a very balanced game. Slightly disappointingly our 3-player game ended in a 3-way tie and we used the numbers on the underside of the meeples as a tie-breaker even though we’d agreed to ignore them in the game, which meant that winning was pretty arbitrary. I’ll be surprised if this game doesn’t make it onto our shelves soon!

·         Power Grid has had so many mixed reviews from different reviewers, all of who’s opinion I generally trust. So, it was with trepidation that I agreed to my first game. I’m generally not a fan of very long games, but we set aside most of the game night for a 5-player game. I had no real reason to expect to not enjoy it – all I knew was that it had potentially long auctions and was very maths-y. Having prepared by watching a couple of Youtube videos, I was ready to lose my first game. BUT I did actually enjoy it. The game definitely had its moment where AP became an annoyance, but overall, there was plenty of thinking and planning to do between turns and the length was not too much of a problem. I have no idea what is a winning strategy, I certainly didn’t get it right, but I’m willing to try again.

There’s been  a lot of new games to absorb this week, so hopefully this weekend we’ll bring some favourites to the table again – I hate to see them missing out on play time.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Game Title: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

Designer: Jay Little

Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight

Year: 2012


I am not a Star Wars fan. I never watched a whole Star Wars movie. My knowledge of Star Wars is entirely based on LEGO sets. BUT, I love X-Wing Miniatures. If you’re not a Star Wars fan then you’ll probably appreciate my lay-mans terms review. If you are a Star Wars fan, then I’m sorry for dumbing down a game that I know is probably an awesome reflection upon the Star Wars universe.

X-Wing is a 2-player tactical combat game, in which each player either takes the side of the Rebels or the Imperials. Each player builds a small squadron of ships, chooses appropriate pilots and can purchase ship upgrades. The game is balanced by each element having a cost. Better pilots for a particular ship have higher cost, better ships have inherently higher pilot costs across the board and more powerful upgrades also cost more. With the base game only each player can spend up to 35 points on their squadron, however once you’ve expanded the standard total for a tournament-style game is 100.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

May the dice be with you, always:- X-Wing Miniatures

Game Title: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures game

Designer:Jay Little

Manufacturer: Fantasy Flight Games

Year: 2012

Without warning Green light filled her cockpit as two lasers flew by on collision course with a nearby hill. The comms cracked alive 'Attention rebel scum, that was your one and only warning, land your craft and surrender or we will shoot you down'. Luna drained the throttle before reaching for the comms switch 'You honestly think everyone who flies a T-65 supports the rebellion?'. She yanked back the stick, pushed forward on her left pedal and then slammed the throttle to max as she pulled the trigger, the effect was an aerial U-turn with all 4 guns blazing. One of the two Tie fighters took the brunt of the barrage before exploding. The two ships danced through the sky, red and green lasers managing to miss anything of importance until finally Luna's shields were torn apart by a direct blast to the wing. Desperate to end the fight Luna did another U-turn, guns blazing, her ship shuddered under the G-forces, then suddenly loosened up, looking over her shoulder she saw the remnants of her top-left wing gliding towards the ground, her lasers may have missed the tie, but the wing didn't. 

X-wing miniatures is a 2 player miniature-based, Star-Wars themed, dogfighting board game. It features most of the smaller ships from the original Star Wars movies (Although some of the larger ships have been made) and some from the expanded universe of games and books. The main games comes with 1 x-wing and 2 tie fighters, but for full disclosure this review is based on my collection which is 2 x-wings, 2 a-wings, 1 y-wing, 1 b-wing, 4 tie fighters, 2 tie interceptors, 1 tie advanced and a tie bomber.

The game play in itself is fairly simple, each ship has a manoeuvre dial which has all of the movements that it can perform, you select a manoeuvre for each of your ships and then place the dials upside down on the table. Then in order of pilot skill (from low to high) you reveal a ship’s manoeuvre, place the guide in the slots on the ship’s base, move the ship along to the other side of the guide, and then choose one of your ship’s actions to perform before moving onto the next ship. Once everything has moved and acted you have a combat phase. During the combat phase the ships are activated in order of pilot skill, from high to low (Yes Han Solo is a 9, the max it can be, he does, in fact, shoot first), you roll attack dice equal to your attack stat, your target rolls defence dice equal to their agility, and for every hit not avoided you deal one damage.

Thursday 6 August 2015

Thoughts from the yellow meeple:- Pandemic

Game Title: Pandemic

Designer: Matt Leacock

Manufacturer: Z-MAN

Year: 2007

Pandemic was a game I heard a lot about when we first started out in gaming. We borrowed a copy from a friend, played it two-player and it was a super close game which we won with just one card remaining. The following day I ordered the game and it really started the avalanche of games onto our shelves.

Pandemic is a co-operative game for 2-4 players where the players are disease fighting specialists, trying to prevent the spread of four virulent diseases throughout the world. The players must either cure or eradicate all four diseases before too many outbreaks occur or one disease reaches its maximum spread and a global pandemic ensues.

Each player takes on a unique role with its own special ability and then takes turns to perform four actions. The possible actions include; treating disease, moving in a number of different ways, building a research station or discovering a cure. At the end of a turn, the active player will draw two (or more if the Infection Rate Marker is higher) new cards from the Player Deck which may include location cards, special event cards or the dreaded Epidemic! cards. In an Epidemic the bottom card of the Infection Deck is drawn and 3 disease cubes are placed in this location. Then all of the used Infection cards are shuffled and placed on top of the deck. Then infection cards are drawn from the top of the Infection Deck. A disease cube is placed on the locations drawn and if a location has 3 cubes of the same colour an Outbreak occurs, placing one cube on all connected cities and adding an Outbreak to the track.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

Outbreaking, bad:- Pandemic

Game Title: Pandemic

Designer: Matt Leacock

Manufacturer: Z-MAN

Year: 2007

Humans evolved to be the most intelligent species on the planet. We've spent thousands of years creating the arts, sciences, engineering, philosophy, and, most important of all, Cricket. And yet, after all this time, all this selective breeding, you still can't get someone to finish their damned prescription! Antibiotic resistance, does that mean nothing to people? And then they started the anti-vac movement, because Polio was something we desperately needed back! All this time we tried to warn them about the risk of global pandemics and now we have 4 at once. Still people take homeopathic medicines in the desperate hope that they won't catch Asian Flu.

Should humanity survive this we need an extensive re-education programme.

Pandemic is a 2-4 player cooperative game where you play as one of 7 disaster relief workers to cure 4 diseases that are ravaging the globe. The game revolved around chasing small disease cubes that appear around the glove, keeping them at a manageable state until you can save up to cure them. Along the way you'll struggle through epidemics which cause the diseases to become more virulent and infect completely new areas.

The game follows the standard basic design of a Matt Leacock Co-op, you start your turn as a character with 1 rule-breaking ability, take 4 actions, draw a couple of 'good' cards, then draw a number of bad cards which increases as the game goes on. That said while Forbidden island feels more or less completely replaced by Forbidden Desert, Pandemic still stands strong as its own game.