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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Thursday 28 December 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Otys

Game: Otys

Publisher: Libellud and Pearl Games

Designer: Claude Lucchini

Year: 2017

Otys was an Essen release in 2017, which definitely appeared to attract some attention, for its artwork if nothing else. The art style is definitely something that drew us to the game and Libellud have a great track record, contributing some beautiful art to our game collection with Seasons, Mysterium, Dixit and Dice Forge, all part of their beautiful back catalogue. However, theme and artwork don't sell a game to us and Otys needed to impress mechanically too, so let's take a look at how it plays.

In Otys you have a group of divers who must dive to the depths to collect resources. Each of your divers has a unique ability. It's up to you to decide how deep each diver should go, but once you've activated them, they will surface and will have to wait in line to dive again. The game has elements of set collection and resource management, but for me it's a puzzle game with many moving parts. Your goal is to collect resource cubes to fulfil contracts. Contracts give you points and sometimes other resources and when the first player hits 18 points, the winner will be the player with the most points.

Each turn you activate a diver for their ability, but also to trigger the ability of the sponsor tile that corresponds to the row that you've activated. There is a diver corresponding to each colour of cube, which will put a cube into that row, but the rest of the divers have abilities that allow you to improve your engine, for example drawing some private contract cards or upgrading your different rows with some bonus points or money for when you complete a contract. The other piece of the puzzle is that once activated, the diver will surface and all others will drop to fill the hole in the column. Also the number that you use to trigger the row is used and removed, which will continue until you're able to recharge all of you numbers - this can make it challenging to collect cubes in a single row as you can't continually activate the same row.

The set-up for a 2-player game.
To win a game of Otys you're really playing a simple set collection game and racing to achieve points for collecting cards that give you points for different sets. However, the game is far from simple because of all the moving parts that can really melt your mind - I haven't tried to mention all of the parts in the short game description above! Forward planning and even some spatial awareness is key to manipulating your player board to allow you to accumulate the required cubes in the same row of the board. You also need to be efficient with your resource management, choosing the right abilities to upgrade to build a good engine, whilst also being opportunistic and triggering a row that will give you a useful ability, perhaps even using the X token to rotate the abilities of the sponsor tiles before you do so.

A game of Otys can be a little bit overwhelming and personally I am still at a stage where I'm very reactive in my play style, because planning ahead is just a really complex puzzle. It's noticeable that this game can cause some slow turns as you try and predict the consequences of different options and ensure that you're able to pull of a chain of actions with the resources you have available. When we play with two players, we play quickly, without over analysing, and we find that a game is around 40 minutes long. However, at higher player counts there is no doubt that this game will take longer, especially with a player who wants to optimise.

You can see that production quality was high on the list of priorities for Libellud. The board is a a double layer of cardboard, allowing you to slide the divers. They've also tried to create an indent underneath the board to slide your Mechanic and Hacker token - a move that hasn't quite paid off. The insert to the box is also designed really nicely with an inbuilt component box, designed to look like a submarine hatch. I'm not sure the production quality quite realises the ambition - the boards are slightly warped so rotate on the table and it's hard to slide your Hacker and Mechanic. The component box also doesn't really fit the components. However, for the price of this game, the art and the efforts they have made with the components are definitely appreciated.

I'm really enjoying playing Otys to try and get better at the puzzle. The game tries to embed some replayability and variability with the double sided sponsor tiles, but personally I prefer their basic side in most cases. The 'advanced' side is just too fiddly and restrictive for us, but it definitely changes the game. For me the replayability comes from the fact there's many different ways to play by focussing on the different abilities of the divers - something that I'm keen to explore further. Otys feels really unique and that's why I think we'll be playing it again and again. For the Yellow Meeple it's a 7.5/10.

Otys was a review copy provided by Esdevium Games Ltd. It is available for an RRP of £35.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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