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 29 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Covalence

Game: Covalence: A Molecule Building Game

Publisher: Genius Games

Designer: John Coveyou

Year: 2016

Genius Games create board and card games that provide educational value in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. But, these aren't your standard educational games - they're good modern board games first and science knowledge is embedded in the process of playing the game.

Covalence focuses on organic chemistry. As the name suggests, the game teaches players about covalent bonding and correctly structuring molecules. It's a cooperative card game where 2-4 players work together to accurately build a number of secret organic molecules.

Thursday 27 December 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pandemic Fall of Rome

Game: Pandemic Fall of Rome

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer:  Matt Leacock & Paolo Mori

Year: 2018

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Pandemic. Pandemic is many people's first experience of cooperative gaming and it has had a big part in defining that genre of tabletop gaming. You can now buy the very attractive looking 10th anniversary edition, but if you're looking for something a little different, then Pandemic: Fall of Rome is one of a number of slight variations that have been released in the last couple of years. Pandemic Fall of Rome is the first box with the label "Survival Series" - seemingly sparking a new range of games that might not all be about disease.

Pandemic: Fall of Rome is set in the time of the Roman Empire. A weakened military has left your borders open to invasion from a myriad of forces such as the Anglo-Saxons, Goths, Vandals, and Huns. In order to defend Rome, you will march through the land recruiting armies, fortifying cities and fending off the invading hordes.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Romanes Eunt Domus:- Pandemic Fall of Rome

Game: Pandemic Fall of Rome

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer:  Matt Leacock & Paolo Mori

Year: 2018

Pandemic Fall of Rome is a 1-5 player cooperative game where you take control of Roman leaders and attempt to rally your armies to defend against the raging barbarians before Rome can be overrun. While you could, in theory, kill all the barbarians, life can become a lot easier if you manage to form an alliance with at lease some of them, allowing you to recruit their troops into your legions, even if it doesn't stop them trying to sack Rome...

Pandemic Fall of Rome follows the common Pandemic playstyle: There are 5 colours of cubes, and should you collect enough player cards in their colour then you can ally with that colour, which lowers, though doesn't remove, their threat. However while the grand picture may be similar, the details are all very different. Instead of being able to simply remove cubes, you'll need to bring legions with you. When trying to defeat barbarians you roll 1 die per legion with you (up to 3), each die can vary from 2 dead barbarians to a dead legion with no barbarians killed. Should you ever run out of legions then you'll need to return to/construct a fort to recruit new soldiers from. Legions also serve as a defence mechanism, preventing barbarian cubes being placed in their city, though legions die when then do this, so you have to keep your defensive line well maintained.

Saturday 22 December 2018

Amy's Top Ten Board Games (2018 Edition)

It’s been a little over a year since I last compiled a top 10, and since then our game collection has changed expanded by a ridiculous amount. Every year making this list gets harder and harder as I’ve simply played more and more fantastic games. Before we get onto the list proper I’ve got a pair of honourable mentions:

Formerly my number 2, Pandemic Legacy has now fallen off the list, this shouldn't be taken as a slight to the game, but rather that it seems futile to have a game in my top 10 that I probably can't play again until I start getting old enough to lose my memory. Pandemic Legacy is a great experience and I highly recommend playing both seasons if you even slightly enjoy playing Pandemic.

My number 11 is Albedo, but I simply can’t go without mentioning it. Albedo is a very small print run game with a recent expansion from Kickstarter that barely funded. The rules aren’t the easiest read in the world, but once you are playing it you’ll find it has some incredible unique twists on the deck-building genre. Your starting deck isn’t big enough to fill your hand twice, so if you recruit a new card turn 1 then you might have it turn 2! You have multiple targets to send your troops to, giving you the choice of focusing on one or spreading thin for lesser rewards. Many of your cards have duel uses, either as air forces (let you go first) or ground forces (let you get bigger rewards). If you ever get the chance to play this game then take it!

Friday 21 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Treasure Island

Game: Treasure Island

Publisher: Matagot

Designer: Marc Paquien

Year: 2018

Matagot, as a publisher, seem to really enjoy publishing games with dry erase boards and markers! Captain Sonar certainly made a big splash, with real-time submarine hunting a la Battleship. However, we preferred the slightly more sedate pace of Sonar - the family edition, which we were able to play with 2 players.

With their latest release, Treasure Island, you can certainly see some similarities with the style of game. With the pirate theme, and beautiful artwork of Vincent Dutrait, Treasure Island delivers a treasure hunt that you will seek to solve with geometry and coloured pens!

Thursday 20 December 2018

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Dice Settlers

Game: Dice Settlers

Publisher: NSKN Games

Designer: Dávid Turczi

Year: 2018

Dice Settlers originally caught our eye on Kickstarter because it is designed by one of our favourite designers, David Turczi. With our household policy of ‘one Kickstarter per month’, we ultimately didn’t back the game because I didn’t like how the printed dice looked. (A fickle reason but sometimes it’s very hard to limit yourself to just one project per month!) It turns out that the dice look great and whole game’s art and production is really high quality.

Dice Settlers was released at Essen this year, as part of a one-two punch from NSKN games who also released Teotihuacan. Both of these very popular games will now be sold with the Board & Dice logo after a recent merger between the two publishers.

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Don't Settle for Less:- Dice Settlers

Game: Dice Settlers

Publisher: NSKN Games

Designer: Dávid Turczi

Year: 2018

Dice Settlers is a 1-4 player bag-building dice game with area control and exploration elements. As you play you will use your dice to upgrade your dice pool, settle new lands, research new technology and fight for control of the new lands with the highest value.

Each turn consists of a rolling phase and an action phase. During the rolling phase you will draw a number of dice from your bag, the exact number can vary depending on territory you control and research you have done. You then roll these dice and decide if you want to spend any dice faces for re-rolls or drawing extra dice from your bag. Once you have settled on your final results then you move on to the action phase. During the action phase players take turns performing 1 action by spending sets of dice with the same face. You only get 2 actions a turn through so it's important to try and manipulate your dice to be as potent as possible.

Sunday 16 December 2018

Top Ten Board Game Stocking Stuffers for Christmas 2018

If you're anything like me, you're currently a little stressed about buying last minute Christmas gifts. Buying for gamers can be hard, but buying a small gift to introduce your friends or family to your board gaming hobby could really bring joy on Christmas day.

Our list of 10 stocking stuffers has something for everyone - families, children and even seasoned gamers. Plus, they should all be available for under £20/$25.

     1. The Mind was a surprise hit for us this year. It's such an amazingly simple concept, only requiring you to play the cards in your collective hands in ascending numerical order. However, the catch is that you can't talk, so you simply have to read each others minds and judge your timing perfectly to progress through the rounds of the game. We've found that The Mind works well as a couple's game, as well as with friends and family. It's addictive, portable and never fails to get a group of players laughing and smiling around the table.

     2. Rhino Hero is a staple of our board game collection. It's a kids game that transcends the boundaries of age. I often describe Rhino Hero as 'reverse Jenga'. You're building up a tower using folded cards creating walls and floors in a tall apartment block. Much like Uno, you have a hand of cards you're trying to get rid of and those cards allow you to reverse turn order, skip people's turns or force players to add the wooden rhino figure to the unstable tower. 9 times out of ten, the game results in the loser knocking over the tower, but sometimes you run out of cards and have a spectacular tower on your table. Rhino Hero is an evergreen title with my work board game group and is amazing value for a family dexterity game.

     3. Illusion is another small card game from the designer of The Mind. Once again its an unbelievably simple idea - put cards in order based on the % of a certain colour in their abstract design. This simplicity really means that anyone can play, but even as big board gamers we find the game really fun. It's all about judgement on whether the current timeline of cards is right or wrong before you choose to add another card into the line up. You can even be quite tactical with the way you play. Illusion has a been a favourite travel card game for our family this year.

     4. Harvest Dice is a roll-and-write game - a game where you roll some dice and use the results to fill in a paper sheet in front of you. In Harvest Dice you are planting a vegetable patch with tomatoes, lettuce and carrots. The colour of the dice describes the type of vegetable and the value of the dice rolled describes where you can draw a picture of that vegetable in your patch. The game is easy to teach, but still has some interesting decisions along the way. The endearing theme, and cute pig character, also helps the game to appeal to a family audience. If your family enjoy Yahtzee, then Harvest Dice would be an interesting next step into the world of modern board gaming.

     5. Star Realms is widely recognised as a fantastic 2-player deck-building game. Even with many, many other options, it's a game that we return to because it's quick to play and really portable. Star Realms is still our favourite version of the game, but Hero Realms is an option if you're buying for someone who prefers fantasy over the space theme. If you're looking for a larger gift then there is plenty of additional content for both games that adds in the ability to play with more players, or cooperatively - really expanding the experience.

     6. Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions is a trading card game, but you only require two different base boxes to get started and have a really fun two player game. I'd highly recommend the game for two siblings or for a parent or child who would enjoy the fantasy theme. Age of Sigmar Champions stands out from the crowd of similar trading cards games with some really unique spatial mechanisms and different ways to play each faction. Since the game is still relatively new, you also won't be miles behind the crowd in terms of your deck-building if you want to get more involved in the organised play scene.

     7. Hanabi is a very unique cooperative card game. As a team, you are trying to build fireworks by playing cards into stacks by colour that are played in order from 1-5. The catch is that you have no idea what is in your hand, because you hold them backwards. You need to help the other players to know what to play by giving limited clues. Mistakes will quickly cause an explosion, so logical thinking and clear communication is key to succeeding in Hanabi. We enjoy it most with two players, and find that it's great for couples who start to learn how each other think. However, the game can support up to 5 players.

     8. EXIT: The Game is a series of games that bring you the experience of an escape room in a very small box. There are now nine different games available with a range of difficulties to suit most groups. It's amazing how many different puzzles have been crammed into this series, using all sorts of different skills like maths, logic, brainteasers and language, as well as making you think outside the box. Our recommendation for a first game would the Dead Man on the Orient Express, both because the puzzles are at a good level of challenge and the game had a murder mystery story that helps the game to appeal to a wider audience.

     9. Albedo is a game for the gamers in your life. It's a little known game from a small publisher, but it's swift become one of our favourites. If you have friends or family who enjoy deck-building games like Dominion, then Albedo uses similar mechanisms to offer something very unique. It has a space theme and demands really tactical use of your hand of cards to try and outbid other players for the resources or actions you want each turn. It's a quick game and a very small box, but the experience feels much bigger than many small games. Albedo is a little harder to find than most games on this list, but you can pick up a copy online here.

     10. Fugitive is another two player game that offers something new and different. It's a deduction game where one player is a fugitive trying to avoid getting caught by the other player. By playing cards and bluffing, the fugitive tries to quickly travel to the escape route, whilst the law enforcement try to track them by counting the speed of their movement and acquiring some hidden information about locations the fugitive has not visited.  It's a very small card game that delivers really well on its theme with great artwork and clever design and would be a great gift for a gaming couple.

Hopefully you found some inspiration on our list! Wishing you a fantastic festive season from The Game Shelf!

Saturday 15 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- ICECOOL2


Publisher: Brain Games

Designer: Brian Gomez

Year: 2018

ICECOOL2 is the sequel to the huge hit game ICECOOL which won the Kinderspiel des Jahres in 2017. Don't let that children's game title fool you though, ICECOOL has been a huge hit with friends, family and work colleagues and is one of our favourite dexterity games. The sequel promises new game modes, as well as the opportunity to play with 8 players if you combine both ICECOOL and ICECOOL2.

Get your skates on, and let's take a look at what's new!

Thursday 13 December 2018

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Whistle Stop: Rocky Mountains

Game: Whistle Stop: Rocky Mountains

Publisher: Bézier Games

Designer: Scott Caputo

Year: 2018

Last year Whistle Stop made it into my top ten board games of 2017. It was one of two games that opened our eyes to pick up and deliver mechanisms and cemented it into one of our favourite mechanisms that we always look out for. I even found myself considering trying out an 18XX game this year - then I saw one and backed away.

However, in a sad turn to this story about a great game, that inspired a love for a whole genre, I am ashamed to admit that since the end of 2017, Whistle Stop hasn't hit the table. As board game reviewers, we are quickly sucked up into the cult of the new - seeking out exciting new games. It often takes an expansion to bring an 'older' game back to the table.

Whistle Stop: Rocky Mountains arrived on our doorstep and breathed new life into Whistle Stop, but did it enrich our experience?

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold:- Whistle Stop: Rocky Mountains

Game: Whistle Stop: Rocky Mountains

Publisher: Bézier Games

Designer: Scott Caputo

Year: 2018

Rocky Mountains Expansion is an expansion to the 2017 train game Whistle Stop. The core gameplay of trying to get your trains from one side of the board to another, trading in goods along the way continue. But this time someone put a mountain range in your way. How inconvenient! Rocky Mountains physically makes the game bigger by adding a 3 tile wide extension to the game board. This mountain is covered in tricky terrain that will be taxing to lay dow new tracks, however with the promise of gold and other valuables in the foothills it might jsut be worth the reward!

In addition there are a variety of new tiles added to the game, such as tracks with stops that reward you whistles or give you a choice about which resource to receive. Others are new special tiles which allow for selling your ties from your hand for instant resources or trading shares for gold! There are also a new set of final stops offering varies rewards, a new company to gain shares in and several new upgrades to fight over.

Sunday 9 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- King's Forge

Game: King's Forge

Publisher: Starling Games

Designer: Nick Sibicky

Year: 2014

A new third edition of King's Forge was just released by Starling Games. It's a game that has received a lot of support through at least four Kickstarter campaigns for new editions and expansions, but it has only recently caught our attention. We've had the chance to play the latest edition, along with 'Gold', the newest expansion.

King's Forge is a 2-4 player game of pool building, dice allocation and set collection, in which players are blacksmiths racing to be the first to craft a number of wondrous items to please the King. Through a series of gathering and crafting actions you'll start to gain access to more precious materials to allow you to compete in making the most ornate items to suit the King's ever more demanding whims!

Thursday 6 December 2018

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Gunkimono

Game: Gunkimono

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers

Year: 2018

Gunkimono is a re implementation of Heartland - a Pegasus Spiele title from 2009. We actually tried Heartland at a board game day earlier this year and really enjoyed it, so we were excited to see the announcement of an updated edition. Heartland's theme was farming and it had a very generic boring box cover and uninspiring overall look. Gunkimono changes the theme to Japanese samurais, which gives a more exciting box cover, but isn't a theme with instant appeal for us, nor does it particularly make thematic sense for a tile laying and stacking game.

With that said, we're still super glad that a reprint has made the game more available and we were looking forward to the chance to play some more. let's see how the game plays.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Do-Re-Mi-Bushi-do:- Gunkimono

Game: Gunkimono

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers

Year: 2018

Gunkimino is a 2-5 player tile laying game in which you seek to build the largest army of warriors and conquer feudal Japan. It's a remake of Heartland, a game about farming, which begs the question: is war more appealing than potatoes? You'll manage your troops by laying tiles onto a puzzle board and then choose to either harness them for honour or for points, finding the proper balance between honourable actions and outright war is important to win.

On your turn you will place one of 3 tiles from your hand. The tiles are reminiscent of dominoes with 2 separate coloured sections on them. The rules for tile placement are fairly lax; you must place on a level ground (though you can manipulate this a little) and you cannot cover up a colour with the same colour. After placement you get a choice for each colour on your tile, either gain the number of honour points on the tile or you gain points equal to the number of squares of that colour that are now touching. The honor track is split into 5 for the 5 colours and each column is a race to the top where bonus points sit waiting. However should you get enough honor on all 5 tracks then you earn a fort.

Monday 3 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Planet

Game: Planet

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Urtis Šulinskas

Year: 2018

Blue Orange Games publish games that range from simple kids games to some timeless family classics, such as Kingdomino and New York 1901. Planet falls into that family category, with it's amazing table appeal and simple gameplay.

We first spotted Planet at Tabletop Gaming Live convention in London where it was such a popular demo that we never got a seat at the table! That's certainly testament to it's visual presence and accessibility.

In Planet, you are presented with dodecahedrons with magnetic faces, and a bunch of magnet tiles. Over the course of the game, you'll cover your empty planet with twelve pentagonal tiles, showing five potential types of terrain. With this unique appearance, the game could easily be dismissed as a gimmick in the tile-laying world, but what does Planet have to offer in terms of gameplay?

Saturday 1 December 2018

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Roll Player

Game: Roll Player

Publisher: Thunderworks Games

Designer: Keith Matejka

Year: 2016

Roll Player is a game of dice drafting, dice placement and RPG character creation. It's a game that originally passed us by because of its theme, but one that we were eventually introduced to and found its way into our collection. Creating a character for a fantasy RPG couldn't be further from an appealing theme for Fi, but the games mechanisms were interesting enough to overcome theme alone.

Although it released around the same time as Sagrada, a game with pretty similar mechanics and a much more appealing theme to Fi, with her architectural past, it is Roll Player that won us over, so much so that Fi has played it solo - something that we never do! So let's take a look and find out what's so interesting that she could learn the language of Race, Class, Alignments, Traits and Skills!