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 31 December 2017

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Board Games of 2017

This year we've definitely been more active in following the hot new releases, in part because the popularity of the blog has been growing significantly and we want to cover the games that readers are most excited to hear about. Compared to my lists in 2015 and 2016, this year my list is huge, so hopefully this blog gives a much better sense of the really good games from 2017!

No-one can play all of the new releases at the current rate of incoming new games. In previous years I've listed the games we've played in this blog post, but this year we've played over 70 new releases, so you can check out what we've played on Board Game Geek (User:fibobs) if you're interested.

For me, there have only been 3 or 4 stand out games this year, followed by a large number of very good games - far more than just the ten on this list. Some of these games are games we've only had the chance to play once or twice, so over time they might move. However, here’s the Yellow Meeple’s Top 10 board games of 2017!

       10. Barenpark is perhaps not as high on my list as it will be for some other reviewers, but I personally still prefer Cottage Garden as my multiplayer 'polyomino' game of choice. However, Barenpark is still a really fun game of building out your bear park, trying to fit in the large pieces and racing to build the higher value bear statues before your opponents. You definitely should play the 'advanced' game with the awards to get the most out of it and it should be accessible for almost anyone, even with these included.

      9. Azul is not as high on my list because I struggle with how mean it can be as a 2-player game. However it's one of those games that I see everyone playing in cafes and amongst friends. Also, really importantly, I introduced Azul to my mum who now requests to play it - a big seal of approval, and one that will recur on this list. Azul is a beautiful abstract game that's easy to teach but is definitely interesting enough to hold the attention of gamers, non-gamers and children alike. It's one I'm keen to keep playing and get better at and based on its current popularity, I can see Azul becoming a timeless classic.

       8. Whistle Stop is a game we invested in due to a really interesting aesthetic, as well as because our new found love for pick-up and deliver games, found through a game higher on this list. Whistle Stop also brings in tile laying and route building as you build a route across the board, collecting whistles and coal for movement and resources to drop off at stations along the way, or to take all the way to the end of the line. In some ways the game is a race, so you need to make sure that your opponents don't get all of their engines to the end of the line for big points whilst you're making small movements in the central board to make the most of using stations to get shares. Whistle Stop is a very quick game for two players but one that has lots of decision making and just looks great on the table.

       7. Bunny Kingdom is a game that I predict might end up higher on my list, but we've only played it once and it still makes it to number 7. I was initially a little put off by the two-player drafting rules, but after a couple of turns I found that I enjoyed the ability to plan my turn in this drafting phase. After drafting cards you use them to take territory on the board and then to improve this territory with resources and cities to score points each round. As well as thinking about how to create high scoring territories and prevent your opponents from doing so with some hate drafting, you can also work on a longer term strategy dictated by the parchment cards you take. I'm very happy that we tried this game, in spite of it being called 'area control' - it's not the kind of area control game with a competition for majority in a few areas of a map - a type of game that we do not enjoy.

       6. Yamatai is this year's Days of Wonder release, which has been widely compared to Five Tribes, from the same designer, Bruno Cathala. I really enjoyed Five Tribes, but Amy hated the level of over-analysing that was an issue for many players. Yamatai has some similarities, but we find it to be a pretty quick game, other than any teaching game. I like the turn order mechanism and the very tight resource managament. The specialists can be very powerful and help you to come up with a strategy as you play the game. We've not really played Yamatai as much as I would like to, but Days of Wonder typically support their games well and I hope that Yamatai gets expansions to keep it coming back to our table.

       5. Ticket to Ride: Germany is a new Ticket to Ride base game which I understand has some elements of Ticket to Ride Marklin. It offers passengers as an additional strategy for getting points in addition to completing tickets. It's been interesting to watch players win with different strategies, but also to note that it has a simplicity that makes it a great map for new players. This simplicity means it's now my Mum's choice for favourite Ticket to Ride game, so it continues to see lots of play for us, at a time when we're overwhelmed with new games.

       4. Kitchen Rush is a frantic real-time cooperative game, that is very reminiscent of the video game Overcooked. Each player takes on orders for different meals and needs to collect the right dish, ingredients and seasoning, as well as cooking the dish for the required amount of time. Your workers are sand timers who need to spend a certain amount of time at the limited number of stations on the kitchen board. It's a difficult game to win, depending on the win conditions that you draw at random at the start of the game, but, with sufficient communication and cooperation, it's beatable and the fact that it's challenging is what makes it fun for us.

       3. Flatline is another game aimed squarely at what we enjoy - a cooperative game with a real-time element. It's fast, has some luck, but also plenty of luck mitigation and it definitely provides us with a challenge. In a real time game, it's really hard for one player to take over and I always feel like every player needs to think independently but be very aware of the dice everyone else at the table is rolling. Flatline is just a well produced, puzzly cooperative challenge that I think we'll enjoy playing for a long time to come.

       2. Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a game I initially only has a passing interest in because of how great the production quality looked. The first game I played was fraught with rules errors and the whole game dragged, but for once I saw through it all and realised that I could really enjoy this game. Wasteland Express made me realise that I love the pick up and deliver mechanic, and in particular when there are clear objectives that allow you to come up with a strategy for the game based on a set of goals. I really love the challenge of picking a route, planning ahead on how much to upgrade your vehicle to just scrape through with enough resources to win the race to complete 3 contracts and win the game. The theme, the production quality and the mechanics just create a fantastic game for me.

       1. Pandemic Legacy Season 2 was destined to be at the top of this list, after all, Season 1 was probably my favourite ever gaming experience. We are currently in October and are trying to savour our final few games, but we've really enjoyed the exploratory nature of this game and have found it challenging, but not too punishing. The design is so clever and it impresses me even more than Season 1, although I did prefer the story in Season 1. Nevertheless, it's hard to fault Pandemic Legacy Season 2 as a great couple's gaming experience and it's my number one of 2017.

We've also played a few great expansions which I excluded from the list. In particular I enjoyed Legendary: X-Men, Mystic Vale: Mana Storm and T.I.M.E. Stories Expedition Endurance.

We've had a great year in gaming and we've been really excited to watch The Game Shelf audience grow in 2017. Next year we're hoping to step up again with plans to attend at least 2 additional conventions, hopefully including Essen if I can persuade Amy! I hope we can meet and play games with some more followers and have another great year of new games!

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