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 26 September 2017

I'm going deeper underground:- Delve

Game: Delve

Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Richard Launius, Pete Shirey

Year: 2017

Delve is a 2-4 player tile laying game where you control a group of delvers seeking to enter a dungeon and loot as much treasure as they can get their grubby hands on. You’ll have to fight off the resident monsters of the dungeon of course, but you’ll also have to fight other groups of delvers who don’t seem to understand the idea of “finders keepers”.

You start the game with a choice of 3 tiles in your hand and one of the 4 delver teams, each comprising of 5 tokens. Each turn you will place a tile, decide whether to place a delver on one of the rooms in your placed tile, and the draw a new tile to replace your used one. Play continues this way until a room is completed at which point one of two things happens. If you were the only player in that room then an opponent draws an event card, reads its story and presents you with a choice. Each event has 2 options, typically one of which results in success, but requiring a roll off, the other in either lessened success or failure. However if there was another player in the room then instead all of your present delvers fight their team, the winner taking the lion’s share of the treasure. At the end of the game the person with the most gold wins.

Delve set up ready for a two player game, the dungeon must never spread up above the base card, essentially it's one large wall.

Rooms come in three flavours, yellow and blue rooms are both standard rooms and can largely be placed any way you like. Corridors on the other hand must be placed strictly so that they are continuous until they reach a door. If you are clever you can use this to prevent an opponent from placing rooms in a set place and getting in on your treasure, however there are ways to break these rules, so it’s not a foolproof strategy. Rooms can have a few different symbols in them too, bags of gold are simply gold for the taking at the rooms completion, treasure works much the same way, though treasure cards often provide you with a minor power when you draw them. If a room has a torch then all delvers in a room are turned face up, this is important as delvers come in various classes and each gets to roll different dice. Winged boots in a room allow you to take another turn when you place them, magical rifts make your mages far more combat effective and finally suns advance the game end tracker.

At its core Delve as a game is just fine, the gameplay doesn’t do anything horribly wrong, some of the delver teams may seem to have better special powers than others but it’s not unbalanced enough to make much difference and the powers are limited by your XP tokens which can also be spent on other uses. However where I think they made a big mistake was in how easy it is to invade a room someone else is creating, if someone has spend 3 turns making a huge room, all you need to do is add a tile that adds to the room and chuck a delver in and you are guaranteed a portion of the loot. If there is a player vs player fight the winner gets half the gold in the room, while second place gets half the remaining gold, third gets half of what’s left after that and 4th gets half of the final remainder. This makes large rooms incredibly risky, especially in a two player game when it’s a no-brainer to throw a delver in, by deliberately losing you essentially remove almost 75% of the point swing of that room!

Believe it or not this is a single, complete, blue room. An XP token had to be spent to ignore the corridor when placing one of the last tiles down.

Instead the big area where Delve let me down was in it’s presentation. The first thing I noticed when I picked up the game was blurry pixelated art on the back of the box! It’s a shame because the elements are there, the art on the characters is vibrant with a clear style, the art on the back of the treasure cards and base board are all good. But the thing that really lets the game down is the dungeon. The way you place the tiles and the shape of the rooms on the tiles themselves results in a blocky mess where one room abruptly ends into another with no clear dividing wall or definitive shapes. Furthermore quite often the rather sizeable delver tokens don’t even fit into the room you have placed, so you have to straddle them over 2-3 rooms and hope that everyone knows where they actually are.

It’s hard not to compare Delve to Carcassone, at a glance it adds a fair amount of new features to the tile laying map building genre. But I think the biggest thing it adds is randomness, events are random with some being far easier than others, everything is decided by dice rolls and even should you get a load of treasure the gold cards are worth a varying amount so the best strategy really is to “not draw ones”. But the biggest problem for me is that it’s just not polished. At the end of a Carcassonne game you end up with a beautiful map, with some simple rules for how tiles are designed you end up with an organic looking world with flowing cities and vast plains criss-crossed with roads. At the end of a game of Delve you end up with some random shapes joined to each other in weird ways.


Delve was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is available for an RRP of £29.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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