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 27 March 2018

Hedge Wizardry:- Topiary

Game: Topiary

Publisher: Renegade Games

Designer: Danny Devine

Year: 2017

Topiary is a 2-4 player tile laying game in which you will attempt to arrange tiles on the board to give you clear views of your impressive trimmed hedges, while also blocking your opponents views. Every time you place a meeple you will get to carve out a hedge design somewhere that meeple can see, so it's important to play at angles that let you combine these carvings into a long visible hedge-row.

Perhaps it;s not the most fascinating theme in the world, but Topiary is a surprisingly tricky competitive puzzle game that rewards good play and good counter-play equally. A lot of the decision making in Topiary is deciding when to further your own goals, and when to block your opponents, of course blocking your opponents view requires a high-numbered hedge, so unless you are destroying a large run of tiles then you may be giving them almost as many points as they had before, while scoring yourself nothing!

At the start of a game of Topiary you start with a 5x5 grid, the center tile is flipped over so that you can see the number, but the rest are un-carved, ready for manipulation. You give each player a hand of 3 cards and a full set of meeple. On each of your turns you will play a meeple along the outside of the grip, this meeple will either be facing along a straight line or along a diagonal. It's important to note that any diagonal is available, you can place a meeple along a diagonal on the middle tile, they will then only have a sight line of 3 tiles, but it can be well worth it. After placing a meeple you choose one of the tiles in a line that it is looking at and take it in to your hand before replacing it with a tile hedge side up. The game will continue like this until all players have played all their meeple.

The very beginning of a game of Topiary, the green player has managed to get a chain of dinosaurs, so could potentially score bonus points unless they get blocked.

 When it comes to hedges size is everything, meeple can see the hedges infront of them (and thereby score points) only if the hedge is bigger than the hedge before, so a row going 1,2,3,4 would score you 10 points, but a row going 4,3,2,1 would score you only 4. However there is also bonus points available for seeing multiple hedges of the same design. Sure a dinosaur hedge may look impressive, but a row of three in ascending height is truly a work of art! Finally you score the tiles left in your hand, but only if there is a larger hedge of that design on the board somewhere, this adds a nice amount of pushing your luck, holding on to a 3/4 is risky, but worth a lot more points than a hand full on ones.

There are 5 sizes in Topiary, although size 5 isn't used in a 2 player game. there are also several designs, though frank;y the dinosaurs are the best.

Topiary is a simple game, easy to learn, but surprisingly complex to play. The main selling point to me was being able to play a meeple diagonally in the middle of one of the sides, this allows for the end of your view to easily be the start of an opponents, opening up the game for all kind of sabotage. Topiary isn't a game that you play with someone you want to be nice to, the board doesn't quite fill, but enough of it does that almost every tile is being viewed from 2 or 3 angles. That being said there is a frustrating amount of luck in the game, sometimes you will keep drawing high or low tiles, and in that situation you have little you can do, having a hand of 3 ones doesn't leave you in a good situation.

The art design is good, with the hedges both clear in size and type, and with enough extra little details to put a smile on your face when you look closely. A particular winner are the meeples themselves, particularly the green wheelchair meeples, its always nice to have player tokens be recognizable by shape as well ass by colour. While I did enjoy Topiary I don't see it being a game that I'll be playing in the long run, I'd happily play it as a filler game at a meet up, but i's not the kind of game that I'd be getting out at home. It's also another case of a quick game that has too big a box, this time because of a large score tracker.


Topiary was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £28.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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