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

Friday 31 August 2018

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 25th-28th August 2018

Recently we've been finding that our gaming falls into one of two categories; games for review, and old favourites that we are teaching to other people. We've been finding it more difficult to find time to play new games that we have added to our collection - it's no fun to teach a game from the rulebook and our list of upcoming reviews is long! This weekend it was really nice to take a long weekend and go to visit a fellow reviewer (Nick from Board Deck and Dice) and it was great to share some experiences and have the willingness to play and learn some new games. 

As a result, here are the Yellow Meeple's first impressions, for the first time since April!

Thursday 30 August 2018

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Thanos Rising

Game: Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War

Publisher: USAopoly

Designer: Andrew Wolf

Year: 2018

Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War is published by USAopoly. Previous games they have published with licensed themes have been exclusive to North America, so it was a nice surprise when Thanos Rising because available in the UK in the last few weeks, along with a few more questionable titles from the publisher.

USAopoly typically publish mass market games, but, although Thanos Rising may look like a bit of a cash grab for a recent box office hit, its box also looks like one for a hobby game. Given that the cooperative dice allocation mechanics reminded me of one of our favourites - Flatline, as well as the positive early reviews coming out of the USA that indicated this was a tough co-op, Thanos Rising was definitely one we wanted to check out!

Tuesday 28 August 2018

This game is a snap:- Thanos Rising

Game: Thanos Rising: Avengers Infinity War

Publisher: USAopoly

Designer: Andrew Wolf

Year: 2018

Thanos Rising is a 2-4 player cooperative dice game in which you play as a super-hero team attempting to stop Thanos from collecting all the infinity gems. You will spend your time recruiting more heroes, each with their own abilities and fighting lesser villains. Thanos himself is untouchable, but if you defeat enough of his army before he collects all the infinity stones, or kills too many heroes, then you can claim victory.

Monday 27 August 2018

40 Years of the Spiel des Jahres - Our Top 10 Winning Board Games

It's been 40 years since the Spiel des Jahres award was first made in 1979 to Hare and Tortoise. 40 great games have received this honour, and we know friends who began a board game collection only based on games that had won this coveted award. Winning the award guarantees a huge boost in sales, but for gamers, the games can often be a bit too simple and more towards the family end of gaming.

As gamers we enjoy both the heavy and lighter end of the spectrum, we've chosen to make a top ten list based on the 40 Spiel Winners, as well the eight games that have won the Kennerspiel (Connoisseurs' game of the year) and the 30 games that have won the Kinderspiel (Children's game of the year). We used Wikipedia as our source of information.

Saturday 25 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Kingdomino: Age of Giants

Game: Kingdomino: Age of Giants

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Bruno Cathala

Year: 2018

Kingdomino: Age of Giants is a new expansion for both Kingdomino and Queendomino. The expansion introduces giants who also want a piece of the kingdoms you are building. Some areas of land are already plagued with giants, whilst others have the ability to scare them on to pastures new. Kingdomino: Age of Giants adds giant meeples, a tile tower, end game scoring objectives, and most importantly, a score pad, to Kingdomino.

For the purposes of this review we have played the expansion only with the Kingdomino base game, as we don’t own Queendomino. For us, the simplicity of Kingdomino was always its selling point so we’ll see if the expansion takes things too far or becomes an essential addition.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Manhattan

Game: Manhattan

Publisher: Foxmind

Designer: Andreas Seyfarth

Year: 1994

Manhattan is an older game that got a recent face-lift and reprint from Foxmind Games. It won the Spiel des Jahres Award in 1994, the year before The Settlers of Catan won the same award! 1994/1995 is really the tipping point between Spiel winners I've heard of and Spiel winners that I've not really heard of or that were only ever printed in German. That makes Manhattan a pretty old game by modern gaming standards and we were keen to see if these skyscrapers have stood the test of time.

The new reprint of Manhattan certainly looks amazing, with its colourful transparent towers that make it an Instagramer's dream. The aesthetics really do try and bring to life the theme in this 3-dimensional abstract game.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Fairytale of New York:- Manhattan

Game: Manhattan

Publisher: Foxmind

Designer: Andreas Seyfarth

Year: 1994

Manhattan is a 2-4 player area control game in which you seek to build the tallest, and the most towers across several different blocks on the island of Manhattan. Players will compete for the tallest building on the board, as well as for dominance of each of the individual areas, and finally for having the most towers owned by them. To make things more complex towers you own can be built upon by your opponents, wresting control from you so long as they can equal the number of blocks that you have built.

Gameplay in Manhattan is simple, each turn you choose a number of towers from your pool depending on player count. Towers come in 1-4 block varieties, with 1 block towers being the weakest, but most abundant type. Once everyone has selected their buildings for the round players will take turns playing 1 card from their hand and building a building on the highlighted spot in any of the areas of the board. If the building site is empty then they get to build whichever tower they want, but should there be a tower there aleady they must have equal or more blocks than any other player. For example if you have a 4 block tower, opponents must place a 4 block tower or else they cannot play on top of it. If you ever manage to build a tower up to be 5 blocks above anyone else then it is yours forever!

Saturday 18 August 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Microbrew

Game: Microbrew

Publisher: One Free Elephant

Designer: Sarah Kennington, Nigel Kennington

Year: 2018

Microbrew is a game that comes in a mint tin. It came second in the 2017 Mint Tin Design Contest which was started off the back of the success of  Mint Works on Kickstarter. The rules of the contest are that the full game fits in a mint tin - making the game super portable, but, in all likelihood, meaning that it is a smaller micro game.

Microbrew definitely crams in something more than a microgame into this small package and, in exciting news for beer enthusiasts like Fi, the game is being given a full release through Kickstarter in September 2018. After a brief demo at the UK Games Expo in 2018 we were hooked into this 2-player game by both its theme and it's puzzly mechanisms, and we're excited to share our thoughts after a few plays of the prototype.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Spy Club

Game: Spy Club

Publisher: Foxtrot Games & Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Randy Hoyt, Jason D. Kingsley

Year: 2018

We first came across Spy Club on Kickstarter last year, when it definitely caught our eye, but became a victim of our ‘one Kickstarter per month’ policy. Spy Club comes from the pairing of Foxtrot Games and Renegade games that brought us Lanterns and World’s Fair 1893 – both games we have enjoyed. What caught our eye about Spy Club was that it was a cooperative game and that it appeared to have some campaign or legacy aspects. We were, however, a little worried about ‘who-dunnit’ style games, having had bad experiences with games like Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective. Nevertheless, it was added to our Board Game Geek wishlist and I’m really happy that we’ve now had the opportunity to try it.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

I Spy Something Beginning With Crime:- Spy Club

Game: Spy Club

Publisher: Foxtrot Games & Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Randy Hoyt, Jason D. Kingsley

Year: 2018

Spy club is a 2-4 player cooperative card game in which you control a band of enthusiastic kids looking to solve crimes as an extracurricular activity. Together with the rest of your team you will cooperate to find the location, motive, method, crime, and perpetrator in order to close the case. This all has to be done before the perp can destroy the evidence trail and escape your clutches. Spy club can be played both as a single game, and as an ongoing campaign with each game adding new skills and challenges to the game.

In a game of spy club your objective is to get 5 of a single colour of card played to the central board, when that is done you have successfully deduced that 5th of the crime, should you manage to get all 5 colours collected then the game ends and you win. However there are multiple ways to lose, as time passes the perp will move along the escape track, should he reach the end then he is out of your reach. He will also seek to destroy evidence, if you run out of clue tokens in the supply or run out of cards in the deck then the game also ends with failure.

Sunday 12 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Cytosis

Game: Cytosis: A Cell Biology Board Game

Publisher: Genius Games

Designer: John Coveyou

Year: 2017

Cytosis is a worker placement game from Genius Games, who specialise in making games based on real science. After seeing their Kickstarter campaign for Covalence and some interviews with them, we’ve been extremely impressed by how closely they try to replicate the science in their games. Fiona is an engineer and Amy studied biochemistry, so these themes are very exciting to see. In particular Cytosis is about cell biology and it’s certainly cell biology at an advanced level! Amy is enchanted by the details whilst Fiona is learning all about cell biology and finds Amy’s enthusiasm very endearing.

Our copy of Cytosis also includes the virus expansion and we’ve played both the base game on its own as well as the expansion to put together this review.

Friday 10 August 2018

The Game Shelf's Top Ten Kickstarter Board Games

We backed our first board game Kickstarter project back in January 2017. Since then we've been trying to stick to backing a maximum of one game each month, no matter how enticing some of the games are. This has led to some difficult decisions, some of which we discussed in a blog after our first 6 months as Kickstarter backers.

Currently the number one game on BoardGameGeek was a Kickstarter project, something which would've been unthinkable just a couple of years ago. The success of Gloomhaven and other very highly rated games like Scythe and The 7th Continent, really shows how Kickstarter can launch a small designer or publisher to success through crowdfunding. Sure, some big, successful publishers are now using Kickstarter as a pre-order system, but some of the most successful Kickstarter games are still from small independent sources.

Since we came to Kickstarter late, we were surprised when researching for this list, at how many of the games on our shelves that we bought in retail editions, originally launched on Kickstarter. Here's a list of our top ten favourites.

Thursday 9 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Brothers

Game: Brothers

Publisher: Ankama

Designer: Christophe Boelinger

Year: 2018

Brothers is a small family weight game from Ankama games, for 2-players or for 4-playrs playing as teams. Ankama games are a publisher we hadn’t come across until the UK Games Expo this year. Their most notable game is Krosmaster Arena – a game that looks colourful and amazing, but miniature games are typically not something that interests us.

At the UK Games Expo, Ankama were showing three upcoming titles, with Brothers appearing to be the smallest and simplest of the three. As a two-player game, and with tetris-looking tiles, we decided to take a look at Brothers.

Monday 6 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Movable Type

Game: Movable Type

Publisher: Uncanny Cardboard

Designer: Robin David

Year: 2016

Word games have often been a favourite style of games for us. Even before we really got into gaming, Bananagrams was a game we would take on ever holiday and enjoy with an evening drink. One of the reasons we get on with them so well is probably because Fi is often better at creating words from a bunch of letters more quickly than Amy, and Fi likes a game that she tends to win!

There are a number of different alternatives to the traditional Scrabble, like Paperback and Letter Tycoon that integrate new mechanisms and in particular introduce more modern gaming mechanisms into word games. Paperback has probably been our favourite so far, integrating deck-building, but Movable Type is the first game we've seen that integrates drafting. It is even described as 'Scrabble crossed with Sushi Go' in its BGG listing. Let's take a look at how its done and whether this makes a successful combination.

Friday 3 August 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Lowlands

Game: Lowlands

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Claudia and Ralf Partenheimer

Year: 2018

We first saw Lowlands at the UK Games Expo - we walked past a table and honestly just thought it was an Agricola clone - the boards looked so alike. It wasn't until after the show that we started to hear some more about the game and found out that it had a semi-cooperative element thrown in. Our interest was immediately sparked! 

We enjoy Uwe Rosenberg farming games, and own a few of them, but find them hard to get to the table and quite similar to each other. In spite of the thematic and visual similarities, this game is not an Uwe Rosenberg game, however "cartoon Uwe" in the instruction book will tell you that he has endorsed the game and was involved in the development.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Star Realms Frontiers

Game: Star Realms Frontiers

Publisher: White Wizard Games

Designer: Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle

Year: 2018

Star Realms Frontiers was a massive Kickstarter campaign last year that we found overwhelming. The contrast between the small but perfectly formed deck box that was the original Star Realms and the huge box full of expansion content that was available in the Kickstarter campaign for Star Realms Frontiers.

We love Star Realms and it's one of our most played games, but it has sat on the shelf unplayed for some time, although we still play a lot on the app. The arrival of the new standalone expansion Star Realms Frontiers has been a great excuse to get an older favourite back to the table!