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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Thursday 1 November 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Gingerbread House

Game: Gingerbread House

Publisher: Lookout Games

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2018

Phil Walker-Harding has become known for some amazing family games. Sushi Go still gets a lot of love, especially with my work colleagues who often request 'the Sushi game'. More recently Barenpark was a big hit and is widely regarded as a favourite 'polyomino' style tile laying game for many people. And most recently, Gizmos, from CMON games is getting a lot of buzz.

Gingerbread House caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly, it is from the pairing of Phil Walker-Harding and Lookout Spiele - the same pairing that brought us Barenpark, along with even the same artist, Klemens Franz. Secondly, I thought it might be a game I could classify as Christmas themed, and since my colleagues were very disappointed in the lack of festive games in my collection last year, I've been very conscious to build up a collection in that area!

We've had the chance to introduce Gingerbread House to a few different friends, including seasoned gamers and less regular players, so let's find out some more about the game.

In Gingerbread House, each player is building a multi-level gingerbread house using 2x1 tiles. The tiles feature gingerbread tokens in four colours which you will collect in order to trap character cards based on the types of gingerbread they require. Additional symbols allow you to lure new character cards, gain staircases to add to your grid and create level ground, or exchange two gingerbread tokens. When you successfully trap a character you gain a 1 x1 wild card tile, in addition to the end game points on the card. When you successfully complete a 3x3 level of your house you draft an end game scoring card. In the advanced game, the points on these cards are driven by the characters you've collected during the game, for example, humans or monsters or characters who like pink gingerbread.

Covering two squares gives you the resources you cover. Using a staircase this tile can cover two pink gingerbreads, giving you two pink tokens, and a bonus token for covering a pair.
Gingerbread House is a very simple, but that in itself wouldn't be a bad thing for us, since lighter games still hit the table quite frequently in our house. However, there were a couple of issues we had with the game that just meant it didn't shine for us. Firstly there's a visual aspect. Some of the joy of many tile laying games is building something and seeing it spread out before you. Gingerbread House doesn't allow you to achieve this, because you are stacking up your pieces and covering up everything you've done. 

The second issue for us was a feeling of unfairness that was mentioned by every group we played with. You are dealt a random stack of 15 tiles at the start of the game - many of the squares have a picture of a coloured gingerbread square, but others have the special symbols that allow you to take staircases, take new 'victims' or swap tokens. If you get too many or too few of the special symbols you can really feel like you're at a distinct disadvantage. In one game where a player got tons of swap symbols they felt like they weren't actually accumulating tokens. In other games, the player who got no gate symbols felt like the just didn't have access to a balanced number of 'victims'. Ultimately we found that it was possible to win from the positions that players perceived to be less favourable - I'm not sure they were that bad, but the players still felt hard done by which was a negative atmosphere to have at the table.

The complex side of the scoring cards.
Gingerbread House is a very accessible game, and even has a simplified scoring system for entry level players. The art is charming and the theme can be very fun if you get into it - we have definitely been saying that scoring characters is known as 'eating'. It has more of a fairy tale or Halloween theme than the Christmas theme I was originally hoping for, but it's definitely a nice theme for families. Overall, for us, the game was just OK, it was a decent 30 minute tile laying game, but doesn't stand out from the crowd and the random deal of tiles left a bad taste in the mouth of some players. For the Yellow Meeple it's a 6/10.

Gingerbread House was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available for an RRP of £32.99 at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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