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.

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Boards that never bore:- Amy's top 10 board games

Gaming has become a massive part of my life, It’s brought me closer to my Fiancée, it’s grown me closer to my friends and introduced me to of new ones too. Deciding my top 10 has actually been a nostalgic journey; every one of these games brings memories to the surface. But before we get to the main event, let’s look at a couple of games that didn’t quite make it;

Warhammer Quest

Warhammer Quest gets a mention because it is probably the first “proper” board game I played. I played it as a child when the game was actually in stores! Warhammer Quest is essentially the same breed as Imperial assault/Descent, you have a band of adventurers and co-op some monster slaughtering. Naturally being one of Games Workshop’s Warhammer’s fun and relatively inexpensive games it got canned and is now expensive to get a full copy of. I’ve not played it as an adult, so I can’t really speak of how good the game is, but it is certainly responsible for planting the gamer seed into my fertile young mind.

T.I.M.E Stories

Whew, where to start with this one, the reason it’s not in my top 10 is largely that I’ve only played the first 2 games, but what games! The premise is novel and great fun, but I’m not yet certain how well it survives the changing themes.  I may feel like this because I have a taste for the gothic and the first game you play is a creepy story set in an insane asylum. And that’s about all I can tell you because any more would ruin it! The downside of T.I.M.E Stories is you can only really play it once, unless you are Lucy from 50 first dates, in which case this game was made for you!

So those are the two games that I didn’t quite think made it to my Top ten. The remainder are all games that I love, and choosing the order was much more difficult than I expected. I surprised myself with the games that ended up dropping off the bottom of the list.

Number 10: Imperial Assault

Imperial Assault is a game that I (and I think my gaming group) have a love-hate relationship with, obviously currently more love than hate because it’s on this list! The game comes with beautiful miniatures (which I’m currently painting, perhaps I should do a post about that someday…), it has both a 2-player skirmish mode and an up to 5-player campaign mode which I’ve just come to the end of. The game is fun, no doubt, but it does have some flaws, little rule niggles that get to me, some balance issues (yes I’m looking at you royal guard! 8 health, fast moving, stun inflicting, defence boosting, 4-point b&@%$rds!). I’ll save the rest for when I properly review the game, but suffice to say if you want to live out your Star Wars fantasies then this is the game for you, racing through tight corridors with storm troopers chasing you down as you desperately try to hack a door open is unsurprisingly fun.

Number 9: Ticket to Ride: Europe

Ticket to Ride has earned its place here thanks to family really. Ticket to Ride is a game that my Fiancée’s family not only endure, but actually want to play! The game has a nice balance between busy areas of the map with lots of easy to acquire but low scoring routes and areas with huge, game-changing, routes that you might spend the whole game saving for only to have someone else build it first. The Europe edition is both a little more familiar to us as Brits and also includes a couple of new mechanics compared to the base game which I find add a little extra spice to the occasion. There are now almost countless versions of Ticket to Ride, If you want a more advanced game I can heartily recommend the British Isles maps. Having played on the British map it feels like the culmination of a natural evolution over time, though far less friendly to non-gamers.

Number 8: Mysterium

I honestly think Mysterium (or Tajemnicze Domostwo, the version we've played) might be the best representation of psychic powers ever created. The premise is that 1 player is a ghost, who is trying to give a group of investigators clues on who killed them. Unfortunately the ghost can only give clues in the way of cryptic, probably drug-induced, dreams. The investigators each get given a card with a, frankly nonsense, picture on it and from this they need to guess what murder weapon/room/person was involved in the murder, often with logic such as “Well there’s a cat and the picture which rhymes with bat, so maybe the cricket bat”. All the while the ghost is sitting there silently thinking “No, you fool, it’s a green card, pick the weapon with the green background”. The game is extremely difficult to finish, equally difficult for the ghost as the investigators and always worth a laugh to see people’s leaps of logic based on a picture of a car made out of puff-pastry.

Number 7: Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Island is a game that I played when I was first starting to play games as an adult. Forbidden Desert is a pretty direct follow-up which I think improves it in many ways. At the same time you feel more in control of how to respond to problems, but less in control of the problems that occur. While in Island you had an idea what cards are coming up, in Desert the storm moves randomly and unpredictably, sometimes it gets stuck in a corner and you get a reprieve, other times it moves back and forth across 1 piece of land covering it with sand. This is one of the games we’ve played the most and that should be enough commendation by itself.

Number 6: Marvel Dice Masters

A relatively new game for me, Dice Masters has a couple of great themes to pick from and works a lot like Magic the Gathering except with dice rather than cards, simpler deck building and dice rolling rather than collecting lands for mana. Sure the game is collectable so it’s easy to spend more than you plan, but I think spending 20-30 pounds would get you an experience that rivals many games, so long as you aren’t the kind of person to go crazy on buying extra packs then you shouldn’t need to spend a lot of get a good experience. A solid 2-player game with fun mechanics and you could even mix up Marvel/DC sets if you want to have that Deadpool Vs Batman fight!

Number 5: Telestrations

Telestrations is what happens when you cross Pictionary with Chinese whispers. You take turn drawing terrible pictures and passing them on for someone to make a guess. Once your pad has been passed round the whole group you get to show off how badly it matches your original word. As a party game Telestrations really does its job, entertaining up to 8 people and bringing lots of laughs as you go through and see how your original creation was warped into the twisted abomination before you. This is the game we almost always bring when we have a big group getting together, and it’s never failed to be a hit.

Number 4: Flash Point: Fire Rescue

I honestly feel that half the reason I like this game is the theme, there’s something altogether wholesome and grounded about playing as firefighters desperately trying to save people from a fire. It’s not fantastical, it’s not historical, it’s a job that people out there are doing and saving lives! It’s also a really fun co-op game where you have to work together to help save a bunch of people a puppy from a house fire. It has variable difficulty and even has simple rules if you want to play it with family. The difficulty can spiral a bit and a couple of bad rolls near the start of the game can leave you having more chance to have bad rolls later. But then I like that, I think we have lost around a third of the time. There’s always scope for a couple of bad rolls to put someone in a nearly unreachable position and then put a massive fire between you and them, you fight your way through only to find out that the token was a fake anyway!

Number 3:Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

I’m a bit of a space nerd, I get my space fix in almost anything I do. With computer games it’s Kerbal Space Program and Star Citizen, with TV/movies It’s Firefly and Star Wars and with board games it’s X-wing. If you want to relive the on-foot parts of Star Wars then you play Imperial Assault, if 2 people want to relive the dog-fighting then you get X-Wing. Sure the game is expensive with all the extra ships, has some power creep and can be taken far too seriously by some. But there’s no denying the core mechanics of moving and fighting do a great job of recreating space battles with the beautiful pre-painted miniatures. I’ve ended up getting all of the classic ships (by which I mean ones that actually appear in the original 3 films) and a play mat that I got for Christmas has made this possibly the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of trying to get on a tie fighter’s six before filling it full of proton torpedo!

Number 2: Pandemic Legacy

Time to jump on the bandwagon! Pandemic Legacy is exquisite. once you get around the idea of ‘damaging your game’ as you play by adding stickers etc. you are left with a brilliant game which will have you begging to play more. Before people complain about this being a limited game: if you are perfect, and lucky, then you get a minimum of 12 plays out of this, there are only 3 or 4 games in our collection with that sort of play count so I consider that good going. It’s hard to describe this game without spoiling it, with all the changes that happen while playing, Pandemic Legacy feels like you have bought a new expansion for the game every time you sit down. Things you do in one game can have lasting effects in future games which makes this an immersive experience. I would probably recommend this game for couples as being able to rattle off a game in an evening whenever you feel like is wonderful, otherwise you may have to ensure you have a regular gaming group, but make sure you play it privately with no-one around that could be spoiled!

Number 1: XCOM: The Board Game

XCOM tops the list, it has so much that I like, it’s co-op with a lot of strategy but the addition of a timed phase makes it surprisingly fast paced. Not to say that the game is quick, the usual reaction at the end of a game is “Oh is that the time? I didn’t even notice!” The game can be outright brutal when it wants to be, but even when things are going well it never feels like it, when you play XCOM you constantly feel like bad things are happening to you, that’s perfect for an alien invasion. Even the theme is really well done; speaking from someone who fully played through the PC game 4/5 times it’s painfully faithful to the source material. This is a game I’d recommend almost anyone to play, though be aware you do need a mobile device of some kind to run the app that controls the aliens.

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