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, 1 October 2018

First Impressions from Tabletop Gaming Live 2018

Tabletop Gaming Live was held at Alexandra Place, London on 29th and 30th September 2018.  It was a brand new tabletop gaming convention and we went along for the day on the Saturday to see what it was all about.

Alexandra Palace is a really impressive venue, with lots of space and amenities as well as being an impressive backdrop for the convention. In the first year, the different spaces included the main exhibitor hall, open gaming and seminars and a demo room for RPGs and miniature games. We spent most of our day in the exhibitor hall, but also checked out the open gaming which was a big space for the number of attendees and had a small library which was notably stocked with quite a number of hot recent releases.

Half of the board game library

The exhibitor hall probably had around 100 exhibitors in total, ranging from big UK distributors, demoing games from Days of Wonder, Fantasy Flight, Iello, Gamewright, Blue Orange etc., to many smaller UK and European independent publishers and designers. There were also plenty of retailers for board games, miniatures and general geeky things. The hall was significantly quieter than you would experience at the UK Games Expo, or similar conventions, so getting a game at a demo table was much easier, which was great as a visitor, although for some retailers the level of traffic might have been a bit lower than they had hoped for.

The big hot release for the convention was Forbidden Sky, but many other games, such as Ticket to Ride New York, were flying off the shelves. We got the chance to demo quite a number of games that are upcoming on Kickstarter or that are releasing at Essen, which was a great chance to get a sneak peak. We'll jump into our first impressions below, but some big games that we didn't get the time to play were; Planet, from Blue Orange games; Gingerbread House from Lookout; Pandemic: Fall of Rome from ZMAN; Key Forge from Fantasy Flight; and Cryptid from Osprey Games. All of these games seemed to me like a really exciting chance to see them for the first time at a convention in the UK!

Games Played

  • Dice Hospital was being demonstrated by Alley Cat Games and is one we've been trying to demo at a couple of recent conventions. It's a dice manipulation and worker allocation game, set in a hospital where dice are your patients. The game is really puzzly as you try and care for and discharge a number of dice in the same turn to score maximum points and free up space in your hospital. There are plenty of interesting choices, including whether to treat really ill patients or quite healthy patients - taking different levels of effort, but giving you a different priority in the draft of new workers or new tiles for your hospital. It's quite a light game but also pretty unique, so we'll definitely be interested in getting hold of a copy when it gets a wider release.
    Fi's winning Dice Hospital
  • Monumental is due to relaunch on Kickstarter in October 2018, from designer Matthew Dunstan and publisher Fun Forge. On first impressions, the map is beautiful and the miniatures are some of the best high-definition moulds we've ever seen. However, far from being your typical dudes on a map game, Monumental is a really interesting combination of deck-building, area influence and civilisation building. We loved how each turn you can trigger a whole sequence of interlocking actions, by activating cards in your tableau and exploring or conquering new territory. For much of the game you're just building up your civilisation, until in final turns you'll start to attack other players to gain more control around the board. Each turn is super interesting for the active player, but downtime did go a little long with four players. However, we're super excited to try a two-player game, where the modular board will scale for player count. We 100% recommend checking this out when it launches on Kickstarter.

    The amazing miniatures in Monumental
  • Wildlands is a new game from Martin Wallace, coming from Osprey Games. As a card-driven miniatures combat game, it feels like a bit of an outlier amongst other Martin Wallace games. It's not necessarily our style of game, but with four players we certainly had a lot of fun with the take-that elements. The use of the cards is really clever in terms of how they activate different characters on the board to move attack, or pick up gems, but ultimately you're a little beholden to luck of the draw and luck in the setup. Wildlands was good fun but ultimately might not be a game we seek out to play again and again. 
    Wildlands from Osprey Games
  • Forbidden Sky is the next game from Matt Leacock, following Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. In forbidden sky, you're cooperating to build the map, creating electrical nodes and connecting them with electrical cables to enable the launch of a rocket. We played on 'normal' mode and found the game to be really punishing. We were constantly being pushed around the map by wind and being electrocuted. It was very difficult to plan to mitigate this and we very quick lost due to reduced health. I'd like to play again with two-players to try and keep some more control and mitigate some of the bad luck, but I was left a little disappointed by Forbidden Sky. It feels like an outlier in the series and I'm not sure it will be as successful as the others for us.
  • The River is the big 2018 release from Days of Wonder. It's a light worker placement game of  adding tiles to your personal player board, collecting resources and storing them based on your river tiles, and constructing buildings with those resources. It also has turkey meeples! It's definitely an entry level worker placement game and only lasts around 30 minutes, even with four players. It's even a light games by Days of Wonder standards, but it's definitely one I'd consider playing with the family to get them into some more challenging euro games, rather than the standard party or abstract games that they typically see as their limit.

Games Acquired

Going to a board game convention with Fi is a risk. The risk is that you'll come back with a huge mountain of games, even though the board game shelves are already overflowing. It is with great pride, that we can announce that we brought home all our new games in just one bag!
  • Heaven and Ale is a game that has still not come to the UK with an English language edition. Finally, after waiting for over a year, I caved and bought a German copy. With a new expansion now announced I can't see why this highly rated euro game hasn't been released here, but at least now I get the chance to play a game I'm super excited for.
  • Warhammer Age of Sigmar Champions is a new trading card game following the model of Lightseekers from Play Fusion. We got the chance to try it out at the UK Games Expo and really enjoyed the clever card combos and interesting spatial mechanisms. We're excited to play all four factions and should have a review comping soon.

Overall Impressions

The convention overall was certainly bit quieter than we would've hoped, but hopefully it can grow as it builds a name and reputation. For visitors, like us, this was no bad thing as the small crowds meant more opportunity to play the hottest games. 

The convention closed at 6pm and by 8pm the venue was a ghost town. We stayed at the on-site bar playing games, but pretty much no-one else did and there wasn't really space for gaming after hours. The location is impressive, but perhaps a little too isolated to keep the convention buzz going after closing time.

We were really impressed with the range of brand new and upcoming releases available to demo and it was a great opportunity to see some games that we'll miss out on seeing due to not going to Essen.

1 comment:

  1. I went with my wife and son and we really enjoyed it. The only negative being the location as Alexandra Palace is a complete pain to get to from Reading.