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 10 June 2018

The Game Shelf @ The UK Games Expo - Day 2

Having only ever attended one day of the UK Games Expo in previous years, we had never experienced Saturday. Our original plan was to get a table in open gaming for the whole day to avoid the crowds and ensure we had somewhere to play during the evening. That plan went out of the window, but we did a lot more with our day as a result!

With that said, Saturday was probably our worst day of the Expo. It felt like we spent a lot of the day waiting for people eg. our math trades, demo tables, meeting friends and the very long charity raffle. I think we learnt that we should make more solid evening plans with people we want to see and game with and that pre-organised trading or selling through BGG or Facebook groups is perhaps more trouble that it's worth.

Games Played

Although we weren't expecting to play many demos on Saturday, we actually spent our whole day in the halls and didn't play any additional new games in the evening either. Demo tables were busy, but with some persistence, it was still possible to demo a few of the games we wanted to try and also to generally walk the halls and make sure we saw most of the games we wanted to.

  • War of the Buttons is a game based on a French novel I'd never heard of. It's a dice placement game where you are trying to obtain enough wood to build your hideout first. It has some very different areas on the board, such as tug of war competitions to represent fighting with other kids, areas to trade for buttons and the ability to tell tales on other people or recruit the help of kids from out of town. We loved the way that the actions felt quite thematic and the game was really light and accessible, but with some interesting decisions and tension. Expect a full review coming soon.

  • Ticket to Ride: New York is a very streamlined version of Ticket to Ride, at a much lower price point and in a smaller box than other standalone Ticket to Ride Games. In New York, you are placing taxis rather than trains. Most of the rules remain the same, but the board is very small and the game only lasts 15-20 minutes. The twist in this version is that there are some bonus points printed on the board for traveling through some cities, which may encourage you to take convoluted routes, rather than direct ones. I'm not really sure where Ticket to Ride New York fits in between the first journey games, aimed at kids, and the standard base game which almost any new gamer can apply themselves too, but maybe its small size will make it a travel option for some people.

  • Raids was one of the big pre-releases that you could buy at the UK Games Expo this year. (Its full release is not until GenCon). To quote a friend from Twitter, Raids is a cross between Jamaica and Tokaido. The board really looks like Jamaica and you are traveling around with boats over a series of four circuits of the board – loading different cargo into slots on your player board which looks like a boat. Like Tokaido there is a mechanism where the player at the rear is always the active player. Points are available for collecting runes, slaying monsters, getting money, off-loading goods and hitting different objectives at the end of every round. There is competition because you can sacrifice Vikings to go into battle with a ship on a space that you really want for your strategy, but overall there are a lot of interesting decisions as a result of the movement mechanics in the game and the limited capacity of your boat. Raids looks great and is the kind of game I’d love to use as a slight step up from a gateway game with lots of our friends.

    • Shadows: Amsterdam is like Mysterium, set in the world of Zootropolis. The board is a series of hexagons, each with pictures of animals in the city, either going about their lives or committing crime. In teams, one player is trying to guide the other to the clues and then an exit, based on a hidden grid, like in Codenames. They only have picture cards to do this and make the other person either move one or two spaces a turn without getting into trouble. The pictures often seem t have very few links, so you really need to be on the same wavelength, but I can see this being a slightly more accessible party game for my work game group than Mysterium.

    • Coral Islands was a prototype we demoed from Alley Cat Games. We were attracted to the game for it's dice stacking, which reminded me of Blueprints. You are playing dice into a 3-d grid, in different ways, based on the values you roll. Your goal is to try and make shapes in your colour to earn points. We found that because all of the shapes were two dimensional it became too easy for each player to have a slice of the cube and make any shape they wanted without really interacting with others. We gave feedback and would really like to see some more 3-D shapes to really make this game shine for gamers.
    • Giant Rhino Hero Super Battle was a game experience not to be missed. Whether you're traveling with kids or adults, the giant versions of games like Rhino Hero, Ticket to Ride and Ice Cool are always great to see. Giant Rhino Hero Super Battle is just simple fun - even when passers-by are staring!

    Games Bought
    On Saturday the bring and buy opened early - before the convention officially opened. The look of disappointment on people's faces who queued at the entrance to Hall 1 was awful when they realised that they could've got into the Bring and Buy early using the Hall 2 entrance. We happened to be in Hall 2 gaming at the time and went in early for a quick looked around - only purchasing one additional game! We also participated in the BGG Math Trade and traded our games at 10am on the Saturday morning, which wasn't perfect but was pretty efficient.
    • Noch Mal! is one of the earlier roll and write games, that came just before the huge roll and write craze we're in the midst of now. Fi picked this up for just £4 in the bring and buy and we played it two or three times over the weekend, so it's already paying itself back!
    • Viticulture was one of our games from the BGG Math Trade. We played it for the first time recently at the Ludoquist board game cafe and it's one that we really loved and wanted to add to our collection.
    • Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game is the other game we got in the BGG math trade. The theme is what really appeals to Amy in particular and this particular trade was very much in our favour from a value perspective - the game we traded for it was of much lower value, so we can't complain.
    • The Networks: Telly Time is a small expansion for the Networks. The timing of this release is perfect because it's themed on British TV shows, so we are looking forward to seeing what's in the box and to bringing the base game back to the table.
    • Christmas Tree is a game that hit our radar last year after Essen and given its minimal distribution, Fi was very excited to find it at the UK Games Expo. In fact it was the highlight of her day, so we'll explain why at the end of this blog.
    • An insert for Dominion is something we desperately need. We have the base game and two big box expansions on our shelves and we're hoping that our new insert from Basically Wooden will condense that into one box, freeing two valuable game spaces on the shelf!
    Things we Saw
    • Courage is a tile laying game of dominance, the objective of the game is to capture your opponents castles. But when you do so the player isn't eliminated, but instead joins your team and now fights for you! You move around the board and fight monsters using dice combat in order to speed yourself towards your rivals.
    • Forgotten Floofs is a game about guinea pigs, the pets that time forgot! You each take control of a tribe of feral Guinea pigs searching for resources to advance their tribe, and also trying not to die! It's a cute game, with great art and good humour, but unfortunately their funding goal on Kickstarter is probably far too ambitious for a small first project.

    • Microbrew is a small, scratch that, it's a tiny game, fitting into a tiny tin. However it has big ideas. You will have to brew your beer carefully to avoid contaminants, should you make the ideal beer then you will get repeat customers that you can score over and over again. The game uses worker placement to manipulate a puzzle inside the brew kettle. Make sure you only bottle your beer when it's perfect!

    • Exploriana is a push your luck set-collection card game. You will gear up your explorers during the auction phase before sending them out into the wilderness. Out there there are 3 hazards which can end your career early. It's up to you if you want to search for those extra cards for your collection or run home with your tail between your legs before those tigers get too hungry. 

    • Dragon Castle and Gizmos were being shown by Asmodee and they're both games that Fiona is super excited for. Dragon Castle should be available in the UK this month and we can't wait to see if this abstract game with Mah Jong style tiles is the awesome hit we hope it will be. Gizmos will be coming from CMON a little later in the year and has a marble dispenser like Potion Explosion and the kind of engine building we really enjoy. Both of these games will be going straight into our collection as soon as we get the chance!

    Fi's highlight from Day 2 - Christmas Tree
    When you have a large board game collection like we do, it can be harder to find older games that you're still really excited to pick up. Finding Christmas Tree on the Imagination Gaming stand, just after they started a 20% discount on Saturday afternoon was a really happy moment for me. Christmas Tree is a game that came out at Essen last year and I'm not sure it ever got a wide distribution. You can purchase it directly from Clevergreen's website, but shipping from Hungary was the factor that stopped me buying the game in the run-up to Christmas last year. My work colleagues really wanted me to bring in Christmas themed games for board game night last year, and this year I'm much more prepared!

    Amy's highlight from Day 2 - Raids
    I couldn't help but enjoy Raids, and while I didn't really know what to do on the first go around the board by the end of the game the various strategies became all too clear. The key factor is the limited space on your boat, you can pick up goods, but then that's less space to carry vikings, and if you don't have enough vikings then your opponents can force you off the market before you get to sell your goods! Combat is simply a matter of sacrificing enough vikings to overcome the challenge (it's fine, they want to go to Valhalla anyway) which, combined with the catch-up mechanics, keeps the game flowing at a fast rate.

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