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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Tuesday 6 June 2017

Amy's Rundown of the UK Games Expo 2017

The UK Games Expo is now the third biggest board game convention in the world! This is the second year we’ve attended, and once again we were forced to only attend for one day. We’ve booked a hotel for next year as this mistake is not one to be repeated! There is no end of things to do at the expo, and plenty of money to spend.

There are tons of stores, of course, many of which are at very reasonable prices, but if you want a bargain then you need to head to the bring and buy. Here you can get almost any second-hand game you can imagine, and the prices tend to be very reasonable. We had a list of 15 games we were willing to buy if we saw them, I think we saw 10 of them, but budget constraints held us back. There are also plenty of accessories to buy, from box organisers (like the broken token Imperial assault one I bought last year, highly recommended) to wargaming terrain.

A special mention should go out to Thirsty Meeples, not only did they have a very reasonably priced shop, but they also brought their huge game library with them, a good tenth of the hall was devoted to gaming table where you could sit down and play the games from their library. The staff are lovely, and they do events… like our wedding in 3 weeks time! See you soon Thirsty Meeples!

Of course, the big thing about the UKGE is the games! Some old, some new, some yet to release, and some still in development, you get to see a vast variety of the best, and some of the worst, that gaming has to offer. As well as a vast number of stalls with tables set up for demos, or giant versions of their games to play, there is a section of the hall devoted to playtesting, should you want you voice to be heard about the games of tomorrow!

The main hall closed at 6pm each day, but that’s not when the expo stops. Outside of the hall you will find an incredible amount of gaming going on at the nearby Hilton hotel, where many people chose to stay. You could easily just turn up for a three-day gaming marathon and never go into the main hall, though personally I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself.
One of the few times there is a gap in the crowd is when a Dalek is wandering through
Despite only having a single day we managed to make the most of it, being shown or trying about 20 games! That’s on top of spending over £100 each and bringing home 31 new games to add to our collection, and of course meeting plenty of lovely people who I only wish we had more time to spend with. Here’s my thoughts on the games we had time to squeeze in to a single day at the expo:

·         Scrumpy is a deck building game about cider making, you will hire certain workers, like barrel makers, and use them to make resources (by placing cards upside down into your stores). One of the more interesting things was that workers hang about, much like bases in star realms, so if you need a lot of barrels then you can work your barrel maker to the bone! I’ve played a lot of games about brewing beer, but since I’m a cider drinker this is a refreshing change of theme! The Kickstarter should be coming soon, so I’m going to keep my eye on this one

·         Corks is a small party game from Ginger Fox, you have to collect a set of cards, once you have a full set you can grab the coloured cork matching your set. Once one player has grabbed a cork everyone can grab one, naturally there is one less cork than there are players and you are eliminated if you end a round corkless. It’s simple and probably fun with the right crowd, but I’m not expecting much from this one.

·         Reef Route is a kids game from Brain Games, but one that looks to have enough meat on it to be fun. You have to get your fish from one side of the board to another, while avoiding predators swimming the other way, it looks to have an almost survive-like element to it as you can move the predators and your rival fish with the right dice roll. It’s not going to be the game of the year for me, but for a kids game I’m pretty hopeful, the art on the predators is cute too!

·         Champion of Earth is a card game where you team up to defeat waves of aliens, undead, and monstrous creatures. While you can lose as a team, if you defeat every last enemy the only the player who killed the most is the winner. We had the time to sit down and play this one, it’s a competent game, though I felt most of the gameplay was down to luck of the draw. I’d be up for playing this again, but I don’t see a place for it on our shelf.
Champion of Earth has a... distinctive style, and a tongue in cheek sense of humour
·         Ominoes is a dice game where you are trying to make clumps of your dice face to score them. Groups of 4 (or more) dice of the same colour get scored for that colour player. Each turn you roll a die and add it to the board, seems simple enough but there are a couple of wild card faces which allow you to mess with the board, moving your opponents dice around or changing their faces. Ominoes looks intriguing, I’m looking forward to trying this one.

·         Ironclads is a Victorian themed space combat game, you have ships with interchangeable weapons which will fight each other, with dial-based movement actions. We didn’t se much of the game to comment on any gameplay, but the interesting thing is there will be no physical sets of miniatures to buy, instead you will buy the 3D-printer files and print off as big an army as you want with whatever weapon options you like. An interesting idea, though I worry that this is a confusing way to buy a game.
One of Ironclad's 3D-printed ships, that missile launcher can be replaced with a gigantic chainsaw, should you want to get up close and personal.
·         Genie Express is a tile laying pick up and deliver game, first you use tile laying to create a town map, then you fly your carpet around to deliver goods. To move around you roll dice which have certain manoeuvres on them (eg turn left, right, and move straight) and rearrange to try and hitting walls. Genie express has peaked my curiosity; I love the mental image of delivery boys on magic carpets bouncing off walls at high speed like pinballs.

·         Exploriana is a push your luck set collection game. You start the game buying equipment for your explorers, then send them out to various parts of the world. Once there they drawn cards, hoping to get sets, but if you draw cards you aren’t prepared for… well death by angry panda is a risk…

·         Tumble Tree (also known as Baobab) looks to be a lovely warm up game. It’s a quick dexterity game where you place cards on top of a cardboard tree. These cards all have placement rules which can restrict how you place them, or how future cards can be placed. If you knock any cards off the tree then that counts against you. It’s not a serious game by any means, but it looks to be fast and fun, great for filling those 10 minutes while you wait for the rest of your group to turn up.

·         Ticket to Ride Germany is a standalone addition to the Ticket to Ride range from Days of Wonder, which to me is a disadvantage, as I don’t need another big box full of plastic trains. But aside from that it looks like a very nice take on the classic gameplay, adding passengers that you can pick up, with rewards for collecting the most of each colour of passenger. I look forward to trying Ticket to Ride Germany. The Ticket to Ride games are consistently good, though I don’t imagine this will dislodge UK as our favourite map.
You can't deny that the ticket to ride games are very pretty, I love the little meeple hats!
·         When I Dream is a party game involving one blindfolded “dreamer” who has to guess what they are dreaming about based on clues given by other players (eg, small, fluffy, likes cheese, they might be dreaming about a mouse). To make things more challenging some players are helpful fairies seeking to collect correct answers, but one player is a boogie man, seeking to give bad clues to confuse the dreamer and score from wrong answers. Finally, one player is the sandman seeking to maintain balance between dreams and nightmares and scores so long as the dreamer had a balanced amount of each. I think this will end up being a great party game, and I hope they keep the cute model of a bed that holds the deck of cards, it might serve no real purpose, but it’s cute as buttons!

·         Carcosa is a Carcassonne style tile-laying game, but with a few more dirty tricks up it’s sleeve. You are still trying to complete ley lines (think roads) and… blobs of flesh? (think cities), but when you complete tiles you flip them over, some with powerful abilities to score points, or traps to kill workers. The idea is interesting, the art we saw was a little hard to make out (though they said it wasn’t final), and I am getting a little tired of playing games about Lovecraftian horrors dooming the earth, but I’m interested to see if the gameplay in this is as good as I think it could be.

·         First Dates the Game is a bit of a curve ball on this list. Let’s be clear, First Dates is our guilty pleasure, that TV show that you know is bad, but you watch it anyway… because it’s the good kind of bad. The Television equivalent of a McDonalds. First Dates the Game is a party game where players are coupled up to answer a series of questions as their “date” progresses. The questions are about the “couple”, for example each player much choose which of the two of them would make a better politician. Everyone else votes and scored on whether they think the couple will agree in their answer, or disagree. Questions get quite a bit racier as the game progresses, don’t play this game with kids! Honestly this looks like it won’t be a good game… but then It could be the board game equivalent of McDonalds, just because something is bad doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable!

·         Mars Rover is probably my pick of the expo! It’s got a great theme, players are a group of scientists behind the controls of a mars rover, the rover only has so much time on the red planet before dust clogs up its gears and it’s battery runs flat. Much like in real life the scientists must fight over time running the rover’s laboratory for their tests, meaning temporary alliances may form when players share temporary goals. I am in love with this theme, I think it’s a great idea and I hugely regret not having time to go and see more of this game!
Look at this cute little guy, Mars being a planet that is (to the best of our current knowledge) entirely populated by robots. I can't wait to drive this guy around and do some science!
·         Petrichor is a game about rain. You seek to control clouds to rain over crops to create a bountiful harvest. Petrichor was a game we almost backed on kickstarter, but after playing it I think I am glad we didn’t. While the gameplay seemed good, it was all too clear that it won’t be at it’s best in a two player game. Much of the mechanics reward second place almost as much as first. I would like to try it in a bigger game group, I want to like this game. But as a gaming couple, I don’t think we’d play it.

·         Dark Souls is a miniatures game which is just about done shipping it’s kickstarter. I have this game coming, but due to a technical hitch mine is substantially delayed, so getting a chance to play it at the expo was something I couldn’t turn down. We fought against one of the bosses, and actually won! I like the game; the minis are stunningly gorgeous and I can’t wait for it to arrive. However, from what I’ve heard the boss fights are the best part of the game, so I’m very much keeping my hype in check until I can try the full game.

·         Glux is a number based strategy game with a lot of hidden depth. You start in one corner of the map and then expand a number of spaces equal to the dice face showing on one of your tiles. Tiles always add to 7, so you have a limited amount of choice on how to expand, but with the ability to block and cap enemy pieces and control of scoring areas being based on the sum of showing numbers the strategies here look very interesting. I’m not sure that Glux is for us… but I am sure that it’s a very good game.

·         Secrets is a hidden role game, there are 3 teams, Americans, Soviets, and hippies. The American and Soviet teams are both seeking to get the highest score, but the hippies are seeking to get the lowest. I’m not normally the biggest fan of hidden role games, but Secrets handled it well, there isn’t much overt bluffing, each turn you offer a player a card and they can choose to accept it or send it back to you. You can help your allies or try to fool and poison your enemies score, but be too obvious and you might give away your team. Fortunately, most of the low scoring card have powerful abilities to either work out who is what team, or even change which team people are without them knowing!

·         Burger Boss is a compact dice-based worker placement game where you run a fast food restaurant specialising in burgers and salads (seriously the number of people who order a cheese and lettuce burger with only one bun…). Dice rolls won’t restrict you too much, as most numbers can be used to get each ingredient as long as you get in there early enough, though some numbers will get you more of an ingredient than others. Burger buff also comes in the cutest packaging you’ve ever seen, a life-sized plastic burger, which even serves as trays for components when you open it up!
Do not eat the game... do not eat the game... You have to hand it to them for this creative packaging!
I can safely say that I had a magical day at the expo, and though I left exhausted from carrying some very heavy loot around, you couldn’t get the smile off my face. If you are on the fence about going next year, get right off that fence and straight to the NEC, I promise if you even moderately like board games then you will have a wonderful time. I’m looking forward to next year, where hopefully we will have much more time to game with friends, both old and new, and of course, buy more games, because our shelves haven’t broken yet!

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