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 September 2017

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- Top Ten Party Games

Party games are not a genre that we are typically drawn to in our household, so we don't own that many. However, there are actually many occasions when we use these games. I typically find them to be a hit when introducing non-gamers to board games, before moving on to something bigger and more complex. We can enjoy them with my parents and when you have a large group they're sometimes the only genre that works.

Even though we don't own all of the titles that will be in the list, we've played many of them multiple times with friends or at board game cafes. So here's my top 10 recommendations for party games that aren't only for a party setting.

     10. Concept is a game of getting a group of people to try and guess a word using pictures and symbols as clues. The board has around 100 different symbols and pictures and you indicate symbols on the board with cubes to try and give clues to your word. Concept is an interesting new take on a 'get people to guess your word' style of game and it makes for a really fun activity where you can decide your own difficulty level. There is a points scoring mechanism awarding you for the difficulty of word you chose and for the the person who guesses it right, but I rarely see the scoring used and instead people just play for fun and can join and leave the game as they please, which makes it great for a party situation.

     9. Articulate will be the most mainstream game on this list, but it's still one that I enjoy. Unlike games where you have to draw or do charades, in Articulate you just need to describe a word without saying it. You are in teams, so as long as you have 4 players, the upper number is quite limitless. In your teams you take turns as the describer, describing words in a different category, depending on your progress. Like Concept, it's often one of those games where the point scoring doesn't have to be too serious and you can just keep playing until you're done.

     8. Dobble is a kids game that I find to be a really impressive variant on a game of snap. The way that every card only has one picture that matches with every other card is a really impressive design to me. When playing with adults it still seems to provide a challenge, with moments where you really struggle to identify a match due to the different size pictures and similarity between colours and shapes. Dobble gets the most play with my work board game group where it always causes laughter and a great group atmosphere.

     7. Unusual Suspects is a commercialised version of a game I used to play with university friends called character flaw guess who. Nine caraciatures are placed out on the table and one player knows which of the people on the table is the suspect. The other players take turns drawing a question card and asking the yes/no question to the player in the know - something like "Has this person ever stolen from a shop?". The rest of the table then try and get really judgemental, bringing up as many stereotypes as possible to figure out which of the people have ever stolen from a shop to eliminate possible suspects. So long as every has a good sense of humour about it, this game can be really funny with a group of friends you know well.

     6. Dixit is a game of storytelling with beautiful artwork. Typically people choose to only say one word rather than tell a story, which makes it less intimidating for players who don't have the active imagination to tell a story on the spot. I love that in most rounds all players are on a level playing field trying to get inside the mind of the story teller, but one in a while you have an 'aha' moment where it's just you who latches on to the storyteller's clue, perhaps through an in-joke or shared experience in the past. Although you could play Dixit with 3 players, it definitely benefits from higher player counts and is accessible enough for everyone to enjoy at a party.

     5. Sheriff of Nottingham is a bluffing game that benefits from everyone's urge to get into character when you're playing it in the right group. If you try to smuggle contraband into Nottingham by lying to the sheriff or you decide to be truthful throughout you have chance of winning this game. Sheriff of Nottingham isn't the easiest game to teach, but I've taught it to all kinds of players and it definitely works in the party context if it's played earlier in the evening. As a game with a minimum player count of 3 people, I'm just sad that it doesn't come to the table more often, but love it when we get the chance.

     4. Beasts of Balance is definitely in the dexterity game category, but it's so accessible and technically it can support any number of players, so we're really enjoying it for party-type gatherings. It's quick and has the visual appeal that makes almost anyone want to give it a try. Sometimes people really want to play for points and other times people just want ot stack the animals and other pieces for fun, but the unique way that the physical stacking and app animations interlink really engages a crowd.

     3. Codenames can be surprisingly intense for a game categorised as a party game. As a word game that requires some lateral thinking to make connections, you do sometimes need to think pretty hard and there's no doubt this can be stressful, especially for the two team captains. However, it never fails to start your friends trash talking and laughing around the table. The beauty of Codenames in a party setting is that it will support any number of players in two teams, as well as allowing for players to drop in and out of the game with ease.

     2. Telestrations is a cross between Pictionary and chinese whispers. You write down a word and the next player in the circle has to draw it. Then the next player in the circle looks at the picture and has to guess what it is. This continues until you have completely messed it up and you collectively do a post mortem and see which final answers match the original word. If you can't draw, it only makes Telestrations better. It has created so many stories amongst my friends and I've just invested in the 12-player party pack whilst on my travels in Canada so now no-one needs to be left out of the fun!

     1. Rhino Hero is probably one of my favourite games. It is simply pure fun and has been a massive hit with every crowd I've introduced it too - including a hen party, my own wedding day, work gaming groups etc. Building a tower out of cards, making it slightly more wobbly with a wooden rhino meeple and watching it fall just seems to be an activity that everyone can enjoy!

As you can see, my list of party games are probably not all 'technically' party games - there are a lot of children's games and dexterity games that I think fit into this category and go down really well at a party with a mixed group of gamers and non-gamers alike.

Please leave a comment below if there's any other party games you think we should try.

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