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 8 April 2017

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- My Top 10 Co-operative Board Games

Co-operative games are definitely one of our favourite genres of board games. I have to admit I can be a sore loser at times, especially in two-player games with Amy, so co-operative games definitely have a place in our household when I'm having a bad day! I love that you either win or lose together and in particular I enjoy the puzzly aspects of co-operative games.

After going through Boardgamegeek, I was pretty surprised to find that we've actually tried at least 30 different co-operative games, so it was a lot easier to make a top ten list than I anticipated. I love all of these games and I think it's fair to say I'd happily play or teach any of them at any given moment. So her we go...the Yellow Meeple's Top Ten Co-operative Games.

Number 10 - Dead Men Tell No Tales is a game in the style of Pandemic and Flash Point Fire Rescue, but seems to get mentioned much less often. It has a pirate theme where you need to get all of the treasure off the ship before it blows up. I suppose it has quite a badly written rulebook, but it just sneaks onto this list because it's a good challenge, but one you can win and I also enjoy how the path to victory is separated from the loss conditions, so you have to manage risk management with gunning for victory. It doesn't hit the table too often, but we still enjoy it when it does.

Number 9 - Legendary Marvel is perhaps best defined as semi-cooperative, because you can all loose collectively, but there is only one winner. We always play the game this way, but I know many people who play purely co-operative. This is the only cooperative deck-builder on this list, which hits the right notes with me since deck-building is a mechanic I tend to enjoy and be good at. The super hero theme isn't necessarily one I buy into but deckbuilders tend to be themeless anyway, so this doesn't concern me - I just enjoy the mechanisms and the huge combos that you can make in the game. Playing it competitively brings up the difficulty, even though the base game is still quite easy to not lose.

Number 8 - TIME Stories was an amazing experience the first time we played it and over 1 year later it's still a very unique story driven game. I'm not sure why I'm slightly less enamoured than I was initially, perhaps the expansions are just coming too infrequently or perhaps they're all too similar. That said it still makes number 8 on the list because the game is extremely cooperative - often with different players having the key to different parts of the puzzle. It stimulates a lot of discussion and is a unique cooperative experience.

Number 7 - Hanabi has travelled with us all over the world - it's a tiny game that is perfect for two players. It's only a small card game, but I believe it was the first to use the simple mechanism of knowing nothing about your own hand and relying on the other players to help you understand what cards your holding and how to use them to build the fireworks in the game. Hanabi rewards multiple plays with the same player so that you build a common strategy for what's critical information and the hidden meaning that might be in your limited number of clues. I'm actually not a fan of the final scoring which is pretty anticlimactic but the game as an activity is strong enough and we're still pushing the difficulty levels.

Number 6 - Forbidden Desert is another game we've played a ton of. We did start playing Forbidden Island but it was quickly replaced by this slightly more complex alternative. It has great components, a simple rule set, but the game has fantastic balance and sufficient variability with the different player roles and different difficulty levels. We've still not beaten Forbidden Desert on the hardest level, but I can't wait to send a tweet to Matt Leacock when we do.

Number 5 - Ghost Stories is surprisingly high on this list, because we will never play it with two players. For us, Ghost Stories is a game for only 4 players. It is a seriously difficult game but we've not beat it twice, both when playing with brand new players. Ghost Stories presents you with a bunch of ghosts who are haunting a village - it's your job to kill these ghosts and take on the boss to save the village. There's loads of good options on every turn and you need to prioritise but also hope for at least some decent dice rolls before the number of ghosts gets out of control. The pace of the game escalates really fast, but it's just so rewarding when we win!

Number 4 - Mechs vs. Minions is one of the newest games in our collection and it's shot up our list of favourites. Programming games are really unique in our collection and we've hated the only other co-op programming game we've played, but Mechs vs. Minions is just so well done. It's incredibly well made, incredibly balanced, incredibly fun and just the perfect weight of game for us to play in an evening. It feels really cooperative and I can't wait to complete our campaign and start all over again with two extra players.

Number 3 - Flash Point: Fire Rescue is another one of our most played board games and is still one that comes off the shelf regularly. I guess what makes this game rank so highly for me is the unique theme, some interesting character abilities, the expansions which add whole new elements to the game and the opportunity to rescue a puppy from a burning building. Sure, your luck can be pretty random in the game and we've had games when there are just chain reactions of explosions due to bad dice rolls, but it is a fire after all! We can now even play as the rescue dog with one of the mini expansions! The game just flows really well and is pretty thematic and is a favourite for two-players in our house.

Number 2 - XCOM: The Board Game is a game I had no intention of enjoying. Video games are not my thing, luck driven dice chuckers are not my thing and timed games have sometimes been a challenge too, but XCOM: The Board Game is awesome! I love the timed phase followed by the resolution phase, forcing you to make quick decisions, but giving you time to think everything through later. I love the different roles which all play integral parts of the game and I love the tension and difficulty in the game. We most often play this with 2 players, adding more pressure - time seems to fly by and when we look at the clock when were done we've no idea how the 1.5 to 2 hours flew by so quickly. One of my biggest surprises and one of my favourite games.

Number 1 - Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is still my number one game of all time. I still remember fondly our eagerness to play through each month but also to make sure we didn't play it too quickly so that the experience wasn't over too soon. When we finished I was planning to write a blow-by-blow account of our experience because the story was so strong and the game experience was so memorable. Over 1 year later I actually can't remember everything that happened, but the big surprises are still with me and I can't wait for Season 2 to be released, as well as being excited to try other legacy games. We've not played the original Pandemic game very much since because it just pales in comparison, although it does still deserve a mention as a really strong co-op game and one of my gateways into co-op gaming.

I'm sure this list will change over time, especially since I'm anticipating a few great co-operative titles in the coming months, in particular, Pandemic Legacy Season 2, Unlock! and the EXIT series. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Mechs vs. Minions rise further in the list as we play it more times. I can't wait to try more soon!

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