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

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions of New York City

We spent last week in New York City. We did all of the usual sight-seeing, but we are geeks at heart, so as well as visiting Barcade and the Brooklyn Brewery (This Yellow Meeple is a beer geek too!), we tried to see as many board game stores and cafes as we could.

We were staying in Brooklyn Heights, so our first stop was the Brooklyn Strategist. This is a shop/cafe which seems to run a lot of gaming events for local kids (and some for adults too). They have a small board game library which had some tempting titles and a small collection of games for sale. We didn’t have time to stay and play, and unfortunately they didn’t have the X-Wing ships that Amy wants to buy next.

Next we visited The Compleat Strategist in Manhattan. I am not sure if this is a sister store, but it is HUGE and it is just a store, with no space for gaming. I could’ve bought so much in this shop, but instead I was very cautious and only bought Tides of Time from Portal Games. The rest of my spending had to wait until the end of our trip! The same was true of the TwentySided Store, which again had a few tempting things to buy, but nothing at the right price compared to what I could get in the UK.

Finally, our plan before heading to New York was to spend a day at The Uncommons board game cafe, and so with a forecast of showers, we decided to spend 8 hours straight at this great cafe. The food and drinks were good and reasonably priced. The cover charge was great value at just $5 to game for as long as we liked and the library of 750 games was enough for almost any gamer’s appetite. Below are the Yellow Meeple’s first impressions from a day spent at The Uncommons!

·         Morels is a 2-player set collection game where you are trying to cook sets of the rarest and most tasty mushrooms in order to obtain the highest point score at the end of the game. Lower point scoring mushrooms are more common, and large sets of mushrooms can be enhanced with butter (+3 points) or cider (+5 points). I enjoyed that mushrooms had 2 uses – to obtain foraging sticks, or to be cooked and the balance of risk with both taking moon cards and also taking poisonous mushrooms in order to get other useful cards in the decay pile. I think the end of the game crept up on us a bit quickly and we both invested too heavily in frying pans, but we would love to give this one another go!

·         New York 1901 was a must play for this visit, and was going to me a must-buy until we saw the price tag and decided to wait for UK release. The game is a very unique take on a tile laying game, which I would say has some area control elements too. The aim of the game is to build the highest value skyscrapers as quickly as possible. Where you build is also important in end game scoring and the end game scoring objectives change each game. The game is definitely family weight to learn, but there is a good amount of depth of thought involved in winning the game. New York 1901 will definitely make a nice light-weight addition to our collection and it will be interesting to play with more players in the future.

·         Lanterns is another tile laying game which is this time more classical in its approach. You are laying lantern tiles in order to collect different coloured lanterns to make sets of either 3 pairs, one of each 7 colours or 4 of a kind. Lanterns can be obtained by matching the tile colour to one on the table and then each player obtains a lantern in the colour that matches the tile side they are facing. I like that there is a significant number of options to be considered when placing a tile – trying not give your opponents a colour they want, trying to obtain the most matches and therefore lanterns for your collection and trying to get the right side of a tile facing your side of the table. We enjoyed this tile placement game, but still prefer Castles of Mad King Ludwig and even Carcassonne with expansions. We’ll happily play this one again, but I don’t think we’ll add it to the shelves.

·         Lost Cities has been on our list to try ever since we found the board game version in a charity shop. I was aware that general opinion is that the original 2-player card game is leagues ahead, but wanted to see for myself. We really enjoyed this one. It is only set collection, but with only one copy of each card in the deck, thinking tactically about what your opponent needs is key in this game. It’s a pretty quick game, even with 3 rounds and when we get the chance we’ll definitely swap it with the board game we currently own.

·         Boss Monster was Amy’s choice based on the retro computer game graphics. The game has also had numerous expansions and versions, so I was willing to give it a chance in spite of my reservations. Unfortunately, Boss Monster was as poor as I feared. In the game you a building a dungeon of 5 cards in length and trying to lure in heroes who you can defeat before they get to end of the dungeon and attach your character. They game felt entirely theme-less as I counted up the hit points on my 5 cards and determined if I had been hit or killed a hero and it also completely relied on luck of the draw in terms of the dungeon rooms, so I didn’t play a single spell in the whole game. This was is a definite miss for me.

·         Steam Park is a game that I haven’t seen much talk about, but that on paper looked really cool with its 3D components and obscure theme. In Steam Park you are trying to build the most impressive theme park to attract hard working robots who want to have some fun. However, you need to do this which creating as little mess as possible. If you accumulate too much dirt (from dice rolls or left behind by visitors) and don’t spend enough time cleaning it up, then you can automatically lose the game and you lose more points the more dirt you have at the end of the game. The game is pretty unique, looks great on the table and was really enjoyable to play. I think it is another automatic purchase for us, but it wasn’t for sale in any of the shops in New York.

·         Flip City is a new deck builder from Tasty Minstrel Games. We normally really enjoy deck-building games, and this one was intriguing to me because of the double-sided cards. In Flip City you need to reveal cards from your deck each turn which will give you enough income to either obtain new cards or flip cards in your discard, without revealing too much unhappiness. At the start of this game, I really didn’t understand what cards to buy, when to flip cards or how to build my deck effectively, but by the end, it had all become clear and I was able to strategically flip a Station card in order to win the game. The uniqueness, low price point and portability meant that we bought this one for our collection.

·         Trains is a game that I have not bought due to its similarity to Dominion. Dominion is one of our favourite games and we have been steadily expanding our collection, but I had heard that Trains was perhaps a better game. Trains, to me, is Dominion with theme and purpose – you are using your deck to try and expand your railroad network or build stations which at the end of the game will give you points. There are also victory point cards you can buy as well as a few ways to earn small amounts of victory points during the game. That said, I still prefer Dominion because it is so quick to play and for me the lack of theme does not matter. If one day we get bored of Dominion, then Trains will probably be one to buy.

It was a very busy 8 hours of gaming and there were so many more I’d love to have tried. But I’ll just have to wait patiently until I next visit a cafe or talk nicely to friends who own some of the games I want to try most (HINT: Imperial Settlers, Concept, Pillars of the Earth, Innovation, Among the Stars, Colt Express....and many more!). 

Obviously we also tried Tides of Time after we bought it and have played it nearly ten times this week, so we will be posting our reviews on the blog this week.

Photos of all the games can be found by searching #GamersinNYC on Twitter!

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