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

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.

     1. Azul has quickly become one of our favourite games and is likely to feature in both of our top ten games lists. It is no surprise that it took home the Spiel des Jahres in 2018, after it has flown off shelves with every printing. For us, it's a game that we play at home with two players, introduce to friends and it's also Fi's parent's favourite game so far, meaning that it gets plenty of table time. With its fantastic looks and simple, yet thinky gameplay, Azul is surely going to become an evergreen title.

     2. Ticket to Ride was one of the first modern board games we played together and added to our collection. We started with Ticket to Ride: Europe, but have since added the UK map, Switzerland Map and Germany base game to our collection. Fi is also addicted to the fantastic app implementation. Again this is a game we've introduced to parents, friends and colleagues and it is always a success. The variety and complexity added by new expansions also keeps Ticket to Ride fresh and keeps it hitting our table.

     3. Dominion is the first game Fi added to our board game collection (just look how far we've come!). We bought Dominion because of it's Spiel des Jahres credentials and it really opened our eyes to deck-building, which went on to be one of our favourite genres. We probably played it five times on Christmas day alone and have played it much more ever since, adding the Seaside and Prosperity expansions. It is still a top 10/20 game for us.

     4. Codenames has really broken through to become a mainstream game since it won the Spiel des Jahres in 2016. It is the most played game in our collection, as well as the game we own the most variants of. We were surprised by how much we enjoyed the two player version - Codenames Duet, and have been having some great nostalgic games with Codenames Disney. Codenames is pretty much a guaranteed hit for us at any large gathering of friends or family and is still a game our friends request frequently.

     5. Carcassonne is a brilliant tile laying game. We own the game with lots of expansions, enjoy the app and have even hand-made a Carcassonne magnet set for our fridge! One of the most satisfying things about Carcassonne is how the map grows and looks great as you play the game and you can play it quite competitively or take a more laid back approach. It's definitely one of the classic gateway games and deservedly so!

     6. Hanabi is a cooperative game that we almost exclusively enjoy with only two players. We've taken Hanabi on many holidays over the years and have enjoyed getting better and better as a team, trying to deduce our was through this firework building puzzle. As a cooperative game and a small box card game, it was quite an unusual Spiel des Jahres winner for 2013, but as you'll see from our next pick, the designer, Antoine Bauza, has form!

     7. 7 Wonders is listed as the first game to be awarded with the Kennerspiel, Connoisseur's Game of the Year, award in 2011. When we were getting into gaming, I knew it was one of the games we needed to try and it was probably our first exposure to a drafting game. I even remember winning the first game I played, with the full player count of seven players, which is always a way for a game to enter my heart. The drafting and set collection were both really appealing and the only drawback to 7 Wonders is the need for three or more players, which has been solved with 7 Wonders Duel instead.

     8. Dixit is another one of our most played party games. Like Codenames, it's not just silly fun though - it really encourages creative thinking and works well amongst a group of friends who can make really interesting clues with 'in-jokes' and references. The artwork in Dixit is a amazing and surreal and we love keeping the game fresh with the expansions that add different artwork. This is a another game that we enjoy with friends, colleagues and family.

     9. The Settlers of Catan is undoubtedly one of the best known modern board games and it win the Spiel des Jahres all the back in 1995! Before we got into gaming, I saw a friend with a copy of The Settlers of Catan and thought I'd never play such a geeky game. Probably a year later I was a much bigger geek! Many of our gamer friends are now bored of The Settlers of Catan, but we still keep it on our shelves with the Traders and Barbarians expansion and play it with some of our more casual gamer friends.

     10. EXIT is an escape room style series of games, which was a surprise winner of the Kennerspiel in 2017. The win was a surprise because the Kennerspiel invariably goes to a medium weight euro game. That said, the designers, Inka and Markus Brand are no strangers to the award! The EXIT games have now released nine titles in English, with more on the horizon and are really tricky puzzle games. We've had varied experiences with the games, as some puzzles are more frustrating than others, but we really have to applaud the variety of ideas that have been captured by just paper and cardboard throughout the series so far.

No matter what our thoughts are on some of these games now. Many Spiel des Jahres winners helped provide a gateway into the hobby for us and still do for many people. Many are now household names and can be the hook in a conversation you have with friends about your amazing hobby. Lots of people have heard or played of Settlers of Catan, more so than if you try to explain to them all about Gloomhaven!