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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Sunday 29 October 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 19th - 22nd October 2017

Last Friday we had a 6 hour gaming marathon at Thirsty Meeples in Oxford where we played new games for the whole session. In addition, we came home from our week away to a small pile of new deliveries, so this week's first impressions could be very, very long - so I'll keep my thoughts on each game brief. In our time at Thirsty Meeples we only played one game that's jumped straight onto our wishlist and, as is always predictable, it's one that's a little hard to get hold of!

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

  • Tumble Tree is a dexterity we've wanted to try since the UK Games Expo. You are laying (or throwing, or dropping) circular cards onto a tree canopy. Depending on the animal on the card you'll follow different rules, such as having to hang off the side of the tree or throwing the card onto the tree frisbee-style. Cards you knock off the tree are negative points, as are cards you don't place by the end of the game because you chose to push your luck less than your opponents. The structure you create from just placing over-lapping flat cards is really impressive. If I had kids to play with, Tumble Tree would be a must buy, but for a pair of grown-ups we only have one need for a stacking dexterity game in our lives and we love Rhino Hero too much to swap.
  • Go Cuckoo is a dexterity game from HABA which is spoken about a lot by the guys on Shut Up and Sit Down. In Go Cuckoo you are drawing sticks from a central pot and laying them horizontally to create a nest. On most turns you must balance an egg on the nest. If  eggs fall into the tin then you are given eggs by your opponents. This is bad because the winner is the first to use all their eggs and place the cuckoo onto the next. Once again, this is another visually impressive dexterity game, but, for me, the elements of luck when drawing sticks outweigh the reward for dexterity, and I probably won't be playing this one again.
  • Arboretum is another game that is loved by Shut Up and Sit Down, and as such is now out of print and very hard to find! The high price currently has been putting me off buying, but it's still one I really wanted to try. In Arboretum you are planting tree cards and you can extend your tableau in any direction to create as many different scoring paths of cards in ascending order. Starting with a one, ending with an eight and using all cards of the same colour are all ways to score extra points, but any ascending run will score if you can hold back high numbered cards in your hand. This game is so simple and yet such a massive brain burner as you discard cards making them available to your opponent as well as trying to do the math to ensure you will have the highest numerical total in your hand at the end of the game in colours you want to score. Arboretum seems to be a fantastic design and I'd like to dig into it more.
  • Viral is a game about being a disease inside the organs of someone's body. Each player is a different disease and each turn you pick one action and one group of organs. The actions might be to introduce disease, attack other diseases or to become resistant meaning that it's harder to find a cure for you. I wanted to try before you buy with Viral because it relies on area control which we tend not to like, especially with two players. Unfortunately I was right to be wary with Viral - I'd still like to play it with more players, but the two player game just didn't appeal to me because you're always attacking the same person, even if it doesn't make much difference to you. With more people on the board I think Viral would be a really nice entry level area control game with a great, different theme.
  • Shahrazad is a small tile-laying puzzle game for one or two players. We played with two players, which seems to be the standard mode. You each have a hand of tiles and you need to play one tile per turn onto the cooperative tableau in the centre of the table. Your goal is to make sure that all numbers ascend from left to right and that you make the longest possible runs in each colour so that it tells a logical story. The puzzle is really enjoyable and it has a similar feel to Hanabi where you are trying to deduce what your partner has in order to play the best you can as a team. We really enjoyed Shahrazad, but found the puzzle a little too easy and the system of rating your final score didn't really encourage much replayability, so we don't see much need to own this game.
  • Carcassonne The Castle is a version of Carcassonne that I've been keen to try because it's a 2-player only variant. There are a number of changes to the original game, some of which we found to be positive and others negative. Firstly, the board spread is restricted by a city wall which forms the score track and this track also has some specific starting locations for cities etc. In terms of the main scoring mechanics, the main difference is the addition of a style of 'city' that scores 1 point per tile, but the player with the largest zone will also get some end game points. The most positive element for me is that there are some bonus tiles around the score track which can give different point scoring benefits, but you only get them when you land on the token exactly. The most negative part for me is the aesthetics because everything is straight lines and you only need to match roads, so it just doesn't have the lovely look to the map when it's complete. I'm not sure why Carcassonne needed a two-player variant and Carcassonne the Castle isn't that exciting to me. 
  • Capital is a city building tile-laying game from the Polish publisher, Granna. It's not the most beautiful game, but mechanically I was really impressed. In the game you draft different city tiles which can depict up to four different coloured district types, but each quadrant of the tile can be the same colour. You buy these tiles for money or you can discard a tile for some income, but once purchased you add the tile to your city grid. At the end of each of the 6 rounds you will do scoring and each district type scores in different ways, some giving you points and some giving you money for different features or adjacencies in your city. What makes Capital a little different is that your space is limited to a 3x4 grid, meaning that at some stage you're likely to want to build on top of old tiles, with newer more powerful tiles. This will also help you when you are bombed in the round with World War One, although it will do little to help in the next round when World War Two takes place. The combination of mechanisms just really works for me, as well as the fixed number of rounds which I always enjoy working towards. Now we just need to find ourselves a copy!
  • Herbaceous is a small card game about potting herbs. It has a very simple rule set where each turn you take a card and either put it in the communal garden or your private garden, followed by a second card which you put in the other location. In each turn you'll also get the opportunity to plant one of your pots with different kinds of set collection such as all herbs of one type or all unique herbs. You can pot from a combination of your private or communal garden, so there are definite push your luck elements as you stay aware of what the other players are collecting. Herbaceous is very fast and very light, unfortunately slightly too light for us with only a few simple decisions to be made. The art is lovely but there's not enough game there for us.
So now we're looking for a copy of Capital to add to the collection - it's a really interesting tile laying game and a nice weight for a city building game. There's a chance I'll be tempted to buy Arboretum too - although it was a big brain burner, I think it would be really satisfying to play repeat plays with the same person and improve at the game. In the coming weeks we've got a lot of gaming to look forward too, including the arrival of a couple of Kickstarters and our eagerly anticipated copy of Pandemic Legacy Season 2!!

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