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

Saturday 24 November 2018

The Game Shelf Previews:- Ragusa

Game: Ragusa

Publisher: Capstone Games & Braincrack Games

Designer: Fabio Lopiano

Year: 2019

One of our biggest surprise hits in gaming this year has been discovering Calimala - a first time design from Fabio Lopiano. We were super excited by the announcement of his second game, Ragusa, as well as the understanding that it was, again, a game that made euro games and worker placement interactive and engaging, even at higher player counts. Even better for us, it plays two players right out of the box, which is perhaps the only drawback we could find when we reviewed Calimala.

Ragusa is currently live on Kickstarter from publishers Braincrack Games and Capstone Games. Set in the city of Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), the game gives players the task of building the city in the 15th century, constructing its great towers, boosting trade with the East, and finding their fortunes. Over the course of 12 rounds you'll build up houses, towers and city walls and compete to become a successful merchant and/or landowner.


Ragusa is a 1-5 player economic, worker placement game. Each turn you will build 1 house, and then resolve any and all of the 3 actions that surround it. These actions may generate you raw resources, refine raw ingredients into advanced resources or trade resources for goods. They can also assist with building the city's defensive structures or give you political power, both in the interest of end game points.

The map consists of hexagons in 2 main areas: the inland forest where you will gather raw building materials and farm foods, and the city where you will cash in your resources to gain points. When you place a building it must be put on the intersection of 3 hexes, after placing the house you must then have the resources on hand to build it. Houses cost 1 wood for every house of your colour next to the most populated hex (if you want 6 houses around 1 hex you'll need 6 wood for the last one). This isn't spent, but rather represents your ability to access the construction resources. If you are building next to a city tile you'll need stone instead, but otherwise the same ruling applies. Finally you cannot build next to a hex if you can't use it's ability, no going to the fishery without any fish!

Most of the forest areas simply grant you resources, but the city lets you process them. There are 3 hexes in the city that let you turn ore into silver, olives into oil and grapes into wine respectively, whenever you do these you get the number of raw resources, multiplied by the number of houses in advanced resources.. There are then 2 ways to turn these into points, you can sell them at the market, which has varying value throughout the game, or you can ship them for goods which give you immediate rewards and affect the market value of goods. Whatever you  choose to do you get to do it one time for each of your buildings adjacent to that hex, surrounding 1 hex can result in powerful turns! However you also activate all of your opponents buildings next to that hex, so make sure you aren't giving them more than you are getting!

Once everyone has run out of houses, the game ends and the final score is calculated. To add to their final score, each player will have at least one hidden objective, though you can pick up more. In addition you gain points for the longest wall that you own, walls must be surrounded by buildings or towers in your colour.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Ragusa has a delightfully simple worker placement concept - place a house and gain the action or resource of the three surrounding hexagonal spaces. Out in the forest, you need wood to place houses and you generate resources. In the city you need stone to place houses and you gain powerful actions which earn you  points in many different ways. Understanding how many resources you need to be allowed to play in a certain spot is the most complex bit of the game, but once you understand it, the game flows very easily.

The game almost feels like it has an early game and a late game. In the early game you're gathering resources, which is a solitary activity, unaffected by other players. However, once you move into the city then in most locations you'll trigger an action for every house on that hexagon - either yours or another players. This creates some of the best decisions in the game where you decide whether you'll benefit more than other people from a particular action. Even the order you'll trigger people's actions can be important.

There is enough diversity in the city actions to create different strategies in the game, and the bonus cards you pick up throughout the game certainly help to guide your strategy. The games that bring about competition over city walls definitely create the most visually interesting end-game, adding to the colourful art of the board with the 3D walls and towers.

Although the designer openly says that his goal is to design euro games that play well and don't drag at the higher player counts, I'm glad that we can still recommend the two player experience in Ragusa. In terms of rules, the 'powerhouses' are a very small variant which extends the game by two turns. In terms of how the game plays, we haven't played with more than two players, but I think it might be improved with more players because the spread of houses from different players will make the decision on whether to give  a particular player actions as part of your turn a more interesting one.

I find Ragusa to be a pretty unique euro game. It's around mid-weight, but I'd happily introduce it to a broad range of people. It's economic, but not in any way overwhelming and it brings a new spin on worker placement. It's possibly not a game that will wow a new gamer, but I see it as a game that would be a refreshing change for euro game fans who are more drawn by the interest of the mechanisms Ragusa offers. If you're interested in a euro game with low down time that will easily play the 4 or 5 player count, then I'd definitely recommend checking out Ragusa on Kickstarter.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Calimala was a huge hit for us, so we were obviously very excited to give Ragusa a go. The first thing that strikes you is the comparative simplicity, Ragusa is a much lighter, and quicker, game. Gone is the economic development of warehouses and boats, gone is the variable objectives throughout the game. What is still there is the essence of action selection, you still have the ability to place 1 token out early in order to get your opponents to trigger it multiple times. Being first in an area therefore becomes hugely important, but so does not over-investing, there's no need to be producing more oil than you can use.

The resource requirements can be confusing at first, but thanks to the rotatable cards that track your resources it's easy to work out where you can build. That being said near the end of the game the city can be very busy, so mistakes wouldn't be hard to make, especially if one of your buildings is covered by another player's tower.

For me, Ragusa doesn't quite have the same spark as Calimala. While the gameplay is fun, and it is very quick when played 2 player, it lacks an element of depth. It almost feels like I'm playing the game, but missing the resolution. I do enjoy Ragusa, and if you are looking for a light economic game with some very clever action selection mechanics then this is the game for you. But for my money, I'd get Calimala if you haven't yet!

You Might Like...
  • A light economic element, that's much more accessible than many economic games.
  • Worker placement that keeps you engaged and participating in every player's turn.
  • Great components that interlock as you build the city walls.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game can feel a little lacking in depth with two players.
  • Poor early planning with resources can leave you blocked in the latter stages of the game.

The Verdict
Designer, Fabio Lopiano has done it again: creating an amazing worker placement euro game with masterfully intertwined player interaction. Ragusa looks fantastic on the table and you are engaged throughout the whole game on everyone's turn. The game just gets more and more exciting as you play, having bigger and bigger turns over the course of the rounds. We really love it!

Ragusa was a prototype provided for preview purposes. The Kickstarter goes live on 20th November 2018.


  1. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your review. Particularly as I'm only interested in the 2 player experience of the game. I have some questions.
    In two player is the board and/or paths to victory so open that intentionally blocking your opponents with house placement is not a big set back for her plans?
    I wonder if you could elaborate on your comment that it lacks an element of depth because I'm afraid I did not understand your sentence "I'm playing the game, but missing the resolution". Are you saying that the game is very tactical and little thinking is about planning a few turns forward?

    Overall, which would you prefer to play at two player Ragusa or the 2 Players Variant of Calimala?


    1. Intentionally blocking your opponent is tricky. Every spot on the board (at least in the city) is technically unique, it's the only place to get that combination of the 3 surrounding things. however given that there are 6 places to put your house for each ability it's incredibly hard to prevent your opponent from getting a specific action if that is what you are worried about. Additionally I don't think I mentioned the extra 2 power houses you get in the 2 player mode that activate the surrounding hexes as if every building is of your colour, very powerful for end game scoring, but further making it harder to prevent your opponent achieving things.

      You definitely do need to think a few turns forward when it comes to resource production and selling goods. What I meant is that the game feels like it ends too soon without an adequate climax, the last house is placed, you get a few actions and its over. There is a little end game scoring, but it lacks the excitement I was hoping for.

      I would certainly prefer to play Calimala's 2 player variant over Ragusa, though Ragusa is by no means a bad game.