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.

Get in touch by emailing thegameshelfblog@gmail.com

Thursday, 14 June 2018

The Game Shelf @ The UK Games Expo - Day 3

Sunday - the final day of the UK Games Expo. It was a long weekend, but I think we were slightly less tired than we expected to be after ensuring at least 5-6 hours sleep per night. We were at the convention for over three times longer than ever before and we still didn't see everything. We're quite bad at taking the time to walk the halls in an organized way, so I'm particularly sad not to have seen Quality Beast and not to have attended more live events.

Three takeaways for next year;
  • Staying at the airport Premier Inn involves some walking and some planning, but is totally fine and so much more economical than the Hilton. We're booked again for 2019.
  • Demo games should be shorter. When your sitting at the demo table, it's great that you can play a whole 1 hour game, but it's not great for the people around you waiting! I'd be really happy to just play a couple of rounds and then move on - I'd see more, plus the publisher would get to show the game to more people. In many cases the demo'er played with us and it felt like we were in it for the long haul whether we wanted to be or not.
  • Don't expect to play so many games. I expected to have the opportunity to play so many games in the evenings. The halls close at 6pm which gives me 8 hours before open gaming closes! I couldn't have been further from the truth - we probably played around 6 games outside of convention time. Next year I'll set my expectations a lot lower or make better plans to ensure more efficient gaming.

Games Played

Sunday was definitely a quieter day, so we managed to tick off a huge list of games we wanted to demo. Reef, from Plan B/Next Move games was our top priority and we basically ran to be the first at the demo table, after never seeing a space over the previous two days. With hindsight this was unnecessary, but it's good to priorities!
  • Reef is the second game about building Coral that we played over the weekend. In Reef, cards enable you to both add coral to your board as well as score different patterns of coral that you make. It's all about making a chain of actions to score big points, but also set yourself up for the next scoring. It's a great family weight game, yet again from Plan B and Next Move, following on from Azul.

  • Coimbra is a dice drafting game where both dice colour and number matter. It's a medium weight euro game, but one that has a lot of interlocking moving parts, making every decision count. I really enjoyed how the rounds were interdependent and in each round you had built an even bigger machine that might trigger other actions or abilities if it was well thought out. I'm excited to play a full game of Coimbra when it releases later this year.

  • Drop It, from Kosmos Games is a cool dexterity game where you drop pieces into a plinko style perspex board. In the game you score points for where your piece lands so long as it doesn't tough a piece or wall of the same colour or a piece of the same shape. It's a very simple game, but not without some tactical elements. Plus it has great table appeal.
  • Vadoran Gardens is a light tile laying game with a very cute aesthetic. Each round you place a tile onto your garden, looking to make a grouping of at least one of the 3 areas (grass, dirt and river). your tile must overlap the previous one, and each round has special rules about what tiles are allowed to be placed and occasionally how you may rotate them! Vadoran Gardens is a quick, light game with some interesting spacial elements to it.
  • House of Danger is a game in the style of a classic choose your own adventure book, coming from Zman Games. The game adds a little more than the experience of just reading a book. It has unique items that might give you a one-off ability and also two tracks for your stats that affect the difficulty of your encounters and can also be affected by whether you die throughout the story. Unfortunately for us, reading out loud a lot of story doesn't keep us entertained and we thought House of Danger was probably a better solo experience for a different style of gamer.
  • Shadespire was one of the demos that seemed most popular, probably because Games Workshop were right in front of the main entrance to the show. Tactical miniature games are not normally Fi's thing, but we have heard so many good things about Shadespire, that we needed to try it. The game is quite short, just lasting a fixed number of rounds and the objectives really helped to give some structure to the game. Surprisingly, Fi really enjoyed the game, probably because she won, but ultimately we decided that if we bought it, it was likely to sit on the shelf and not be played.
  • 5 Minute Chase is a competitive 5-minute game of frantically placing cards on a table. The runner must make a route that matches and importantly where all police cars are opposite trees. The chaser must follow them by analysing the tiles placed and looking at the faces printed to see which way they face and place the appropriate token on each tile. Unfortunately we found that the job of the runner was just too hard - to search for the right kind of card for each spot, whilst the chaser found it too easy to catch-up. 5 Minute Chase was unfortunately just 2 minutes of frustration for us.
  • Hero Master: An Epic Game of Epic Fails is a D&D themed take-that card game. Each player will shuffle together 2 decks, one for their race and one for their class. You will use a hand of cards to fight monsters in the dungeon, or to weaken your opponents attacks, ever competing for treasure cards to add to your deck. However the game is as much about failure as success, should you roll a 1 on the d20 when it's time to attack you draw a critical miss card which can actually be strangely beneficial.
  • Orbis is coming from Space Cowboys, who are best known for Splendor and T.I.M.E Stories. In it you make a pyramid from hexagonal tiles. New tiles on your pyramid must match the colour of one of the tiles it touches on the layer below. Tiles are bought from a 3x3 market area, every time you buy a certain tile it puts cubes of that colour on adjacent tiles, incentivising their purchase.
  • Fairy Tile is a lightweight tile placement game that Fi has been looking forward to trying for a while. It's a simple race to complete all of your cards first by manipulating the position of the three figures on the board according to their movement rules. For example, you might need to make the Dragon and the Princess meet on the river. There's a bit of a tug of war as well as logic puzzle and it was a fun little game. Expect a full review coming soon.

Games Bought

We set ourselves a budget of £200 each for the UK Games Expo. By Sunday, we were pleasantly surprised to have some of this money left and we were keen to spend it on a few more bits and pieces from the retail stores. We were hoping for final day bargains, although these were hard to come by - we only saw 10% off at Meeples Corner and a few specific games discounted elsewhere.
  • Alien Artifacts: Discovery is a small expansion for Alien Artifacts from Portal Games. We really enjoyed the base game and although we don't really need to expand it yet, it's nice to support the publisher directly and get the expansion at a good price.
  • Shards of Infinity is a deck-building game that we believe is very similar to Star Realms. Star Realms is still one of our favourite deck-builders, so that's no bad thing. I do wonder if they'll be too similar, but it's a good value game, so worth a try.
  • Oh My Goods is a really small game, so it actually fits on our shelves! It's also one that I often hear good things about, so I'm intrigued to play this one.
  • Port Royal falls into the same category as Oh My Goods and also had the same designer. Another small game to try.
  • D&D stuff: Amy has recently started DMing a D&D 5th edition game and the expo was a great place for find accessories. Of all the dice there she walked away with a highly impractical golf-ball that she claims is a D100. She also grabbed a Nolzur's marvelous unpainted miniature for an important NPC and a new dicebag from DnDice.

Things we Saw
  • Solomon Kane is a cooperative miniatures game with a rather unique twist. You might expect one player being Kane himself and the others being allies of his. Instead no-one plays as Kane, everyone plays as one of the 4 virtues that guide him. Should your virtue not currently be at the top of Kane's priorities then you can instead use your power to enhance the other virtues.
  • X-Wing 2nd Edition is Fantasy Flight's answer to of feature creep in the X-wing game. When you had a star wars game where Luke was considered a bad pick you know something is wrong. The 2nd edition characters cards will have rules, but not point costs, they will add a force builder app allowing for points to be adjusted should something be deemed too good. Of course upgrading to the second edition will require you to buy an upgrade for each faction you have.
  • Frenetic is a word game where you make as many words as you can in a time limit, using a group of chemical element symbols front the periodic table. Harder combinations are worth more points (points are the element's atomic weight) and you're just trying to get the highest point total from all of your words at the end of the round. Simple words that latch onto a high value element are just as valid as long, complex words, which means that the game is a bit more a level playing field compared to other word games.
  • Robot Royale is a 2-4 player arena combat game. You take control of a robot roaming through an ever-shifting maze arena trying to be the first to 3 kills. On your turn you get to rotate one of the arena squares, then move, then rotate another square before shooting. To make things a little more difficult the ground will fall out from under you after you move, so the arena gets smaller as it approaches the climax. It is on kickstarter now!
  • Lightseekers Is a 2 player collectable card game with very similar mechanics to Age of Sigmar Champions. There is no build up in the game, you can play your powerful cards as soon as possible (though some of the more powerful cards do require you to discard other cards too). However many of the cards have a duration, some take time to power up, while others start strong but then lose power. Lightseeker cards can also be scanned into the Lightseeker video game, but it should be noted that this has no impact on the card game itself.

Fi's highlight from Day 2 - Reef

Like many gamers, we are hotly anticipating Reef, the next game in the ‘Next Move’ line from Plan B Games that will follow on from Azul. Azul is a very hard act to follow after its fantastic success and recent Spiel des Jahres nomination. After a first play, we’re not quite sure it hits the same heights as Azul, but it’s still a great little puzzle game.

You’re building a coral reef (the second game of this theme that we played at the Expo) and to do this you are drafting cards that, when played, mean that you add some coral to your board and then have a scoring objective that will give you points for different configurations on you board, for example having yellows on level two or purples adjacent to greens. The joy in the game is creating a chain of actions that work in perfect harmony to give you consistent scoring opportunities.

Although we only played with prototype components, the final products looks like it will have the high production quality we’ve come to expect from Plan B with Azul.

Amy's highlight from Day 2 - Shopping

It may be a little unfair to put this exclusively on Sunday, but shopping is a wonderful experience at the expo. Sunday was the highlight for me as the shops were noticeably quieter, and a few had some decent deals going on as they didn't want to take their stock home.

Games can, of course, be bought anywhere and you know what you are getting, so the real pleasure for me was in the accessories. Being able to look at a dice bag at one stall, then wander 2 minutes away to check out the ones in the next stall allowed me to find one that was a decent price that also looked and felt like a quality product. Similarly I got a chance to check out the humongous difference in weight (and price) between the broken token and folded space inserts before picking which to get. You don't get that element of choice anywhere else!

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