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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Monday 2 July 2018

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- My Top 10 Board Games (2018 Edition)

It's the three year anniversary of The Game Shelf! Happy Birthday to us!

It's amazing to me that we've been working on The Game Shelf blog now for three years! Thank you so much to all of the people who read it - we're certainly still growing and that's really exciting to see. It's become a tradition for me to renew my top ten board games this time each year and looking back on last year's list, it definitely needs a refresh. Over the course of the last twelve months we've definitely played more new games than ever and although it's becoming harder and harder for a game to really impress me, there have still been some fantastic new games.

After much deliberation over the list, as of June 2018, here's the Yellow Meeple's Top Ten Board Games of All Time!

10. Takenoko is an ever green title for us. I believe it's the first game we ever played at a public board gaming meet-up and it's one of our most played games ever since. Takenoko is adorable, simple and really elegant in its design. With a few simple actions for the cute panda and confused gardener, Antoine Bauza has created a great puzzly tile laying game which always goes over amazingly with new and old players.

9. Gloomhaven is a surprise addition to this top ten list for me. I am not a fan of dungeon crawling games, but I am a supportive wife, so I fully supported Amy's decision to back the second printing of Gloomhaven on Kickstarter. I was very sceptical when it arrived, but the legacy style or campaign aspects of the changing board, evolving story and character progression really got me hooked. It certainly helps that the game is fully cooperative, so that I don't feel undermined by the surprises of a dungeon crawl, but Gloomhaven has many positives too. In particular the card combat mechanisms make me feel very in control of making great decisions. If only it didn't take so long to set up we'd play it more but it's still a game we've played a lot this year.

8. Cottage Garden is one of a whole host of tetris-sytle, 'polyomino' tile laying games that came out in recent years. Cottage Garden is from Uwe Rosenberg and is, in many ways, a successor to his two player game, Patchwork. Cottage Garden is a game for up to 4 players so beat Patchwork out of our collection. It's also my favourite above Barenpark and Indian Summer as I like the clever way of drafting flower tiles and planning the most economical way to score with pots and plant covers. For some this over complicates, but for me, it really elevates Cottage Garden above the crowd.

7. Azul is an abstract game that has really blasted onto the modern board gaming scene this year. I think what first draws people to Azul is the beauty of the game with it's bakelite tiles intense colours, but then the gameplay is super impressive too. It's a set collection game, but it's so much more with drafting as well as very clever scoring for tile placement on your board. For me it's a modern classic that I can never see leaving our collection and so long as my parents are keen to play it, it's going to be a game that we play tens or hundreds of times.

6. Kitchen Rush is an amazing real time cooperative game of trying to cook different meals in a crowded kitchen, in a very short time frame. If you know the video game Overcooked then the concept will be familiar. Kitchen Rush is great for how much game it packs into just 12 minutes of play over three rounds. It's a really challenging cooperative game where planning and communication are of paramount importance. Practice is definitely rewarded and we're about to move on to the hard difficulty, which I'm very excited for.

5. Clans of Caledonia is possibly the game on this list that I've played the least, but I know its one that I'll play much more in the coming year. After our first game I was desperate for a copy when there were none available in the UK, much the same as after I first played Terraforming Mars and look where that has ended up on this list! It's just the perfect weight of economic game for me, with plenty of strategy, but also the ability to plan out bitesize pieces that makes it manageable and a really meaty experience in only 60 minutes with two players. I'm excited to explore more strategies with different clans and improve my game in Clans of Caledonia.

4. Pulsar 2849 was never on my radar as a game of interest, even though I saw it at conventions quite early on in development. It's a dice drafting game, which is often a mechanism I enjoy in games like Seasons, but otherwise the theme wasn't too interesting to me and the action selection in the game looked like nothing special. I was very, very wrong and Pulsar 2849 is just a great game design. I've seen the game won in so many ways (not frequently by me!) ad I love exploring how to develop new strategies based on variable board setup and player sheets. The dice drafting is great, especially since dice have multiple uses, so the value of dice is quite subjective, but all important for turn order and bonuses. Pulsar 2849 is one I've had great success introducing to new players too and I expect it to be around in our collection for a long time to come.

3. Wasteland Express Delivery Service is the game that made me realise that I love pick up and deliver mechanics because they give me something very clear to do in a game. In Wasteland Express, it's all about planning an efficient route, upgrading your vehicle just enough and taking calculated risks to complete your 3 missions. The theme and production quality are great and really make this game one that jumps to the front of the queue for table time. We still don't own many games with these mechanisms and it's something I'm keen to explore more, but for now Wasteland Express is the pick up and deliver game to beat!

2. XCOM: The Board Game is the only game that is still in my top ten list after three years of writing a top 10 list! Why? It's the first real time cooperative game we played and that has now become a genre we love. Every time we play XCOM we find that two hours just disappears. The game is really cooperative, with big moments of player interaction and no time for quarter-backing. Ultimately I've never had a bad game of XCOM and never had a game without laughter and elation at the table.

1. Terraforming Mars featured on last years list when it was almost brand new to our shelves. 12 months later and it's currently my favourite board game ever! It's simply a fantastic engine builder, with exciting card combos, end game goals and a really streamlined economy. It has very little player interaction and that suits us just fine. Terraforming Mars is certainly our most pimped out board game and more money has been spent on bling for the game than the game and its expansions so far. However, even just the base game alone is so satisfying to me every time that I think it would be my favourite game just how it is.

For the last two years I've kept Pandemic Legacy Season 1 in first or second place on the list. This year I've decided to stick to games that I can actually play again. If someone asks me, I say that Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is by far my favourite game, it's just not my favourite game to play in July 2018.

Looking back at my lists from 2017 and 2016, it's clear that my tastes have swung to slightly heavier games. I've started to develop a taste for engine building and pick up and deliver games, as well as holding on to a love of cooperative games too. As we play more and more games, it's definitely harder for a new game to make the cut, but there's loads of games on our shelves that I love almost as much as the games above.

Maybe one day soon I'll make a Top 100 - it'll definitely be a difficult task, but there's no doubt that there are 100 games that I think I really worthy of a place in that list.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Nice and interesting list. I'm a big fan of Pulsar and interested to try Wasteland Express. Also, try Whistlestop (if you haven't already) for an interesting take on pick-up and deliver! Looks to be up your alley based on this :-)

    1. Thanks - you’re right about Whistle Stop. I do enjoy it and it should get to the table more often than it does!

  2. Played Azul for the first time at the expo and loved it. Now if only it were possible to pick up a copy anywhere...