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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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!

With those out of the way, lets take a look at my top 10 games (2018 edition)!

10: Chronicles of Crime

New to the list. Chronicles of Crime is a fantastic detective game. It’s highly app driven with most of the gameplay being as simple as pointing your phone’s camera at a card to scan it. You scan a person to talk to them, then scan an item/person/location to talk to that person about that thing. It’s wonderfully simple but works really well and the stories are engrossing. Not to mention the highlight of the game; the crime scene investigations where you turn your phone into a VR headset and look around a scene to accrue evidence!

9: Calimala

Another new game to the list is Calimala - a game about producing goods and shipping them to locations. In theme it’s nothing to shout about, but the way this is done is incredible. When you send a worker to make (for example) silk and wood, the next player who uses the silk and wood location will also trigger your worker. Get in early for big rewards, but eventually you will be ousted, which triggers a scoring round for one of the 15 locations on the board. There is so much player interaction, both from the resource grid, control of the scoring locations and even bluffing about your end game scoring tile. It’s a shame there isn’t a 2-player variant out of the box.

8: Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Down from number three last year, Flash Point is a cooperative game where you save a puppy from a house fire! There may also be people in there too. Flash Point remains one of my favourite games, in part due to the recent expansion which adds a deck of cards for the fire which keeps the game tense. I love that each player gets a unique player power, but if you want to you can always run back to the fire engine and swap characters to better suit the situation.

7: Wasteland Express Delivery Service 

Up one from last year, Wasteland Express Delivery Service is a game about being a courier in a Mad Max style world. Wasteland Express is surprisingly free-form; you can choose to buy and sell goods, or instead raid bandits to steal what they stole, or both. By the end of the game you’ll find that your vehicle is customised to be completely different to everyone else’s in your unique attempt to claim victory. Then again maybe you'll find that the trick to win is not wasting money on upgrades at all and instead aiming straight for the final objectives.

6: Orleans

New to the list, Orleans is a bag-building game where you claim and trade goods all around the city of Orleans. Another game with multiple paths to victory, you get rewarded fro pretty much doing anything. One of the best thing sis the sense of progression, late in the game you will have a vastly superior bag to what you started with, and maybe even a few unique locations to use. While Orleans is a good game it’s, the Invasion expansion that really made Orleans stand out to me. It's a multi-part expansion, but most importantly it added both a 2-player mode and a cooperative mode which both blew my socks clean off!

5: Telestrations

Up one from last year, bringing it back to the 5th spot. Telestrations is my party game of choice. If you want to make a room full of people laugh then grab this game. All you do is take turns drawing something, then looking at a drawing and guessing what it is. Naturally things go downhill very quickly as drawing on a time limit never creates the masterpieces you hope for, but that’s where the laughter comes in. Telestrations is always a game I am hoping will come out whenever I’m at large gathering.

4: Terraforming Mars

Staying steady at number four, Terraforming Mars is a game with a theme I love, gameplay I really enjoy and presentation that’s acceptable at best. Fortunately there are enough aftermarket options to make the game truly beautiful and at this point I think we have almost all of them. The game has an element of cooperation as your opponent may raise oxygen enough for you to be able to play new cards, but it’s certainly not a cooperative game. Each expansion has added more to the game, with my favourite so far being Venus Next, adding an extra planet to colonise in the depths of space.

3: Gloomhaven

New to the list and straight in at number three, Gloomhaven combines my love of dungeon crawling with my love of legacy style games. As you fight your way through a story (which you can follow in multiple ways) you will unlock new classes of adventurers, new goods and functions in town and perhaps a few more mysteries to uncover. The combat system is elegant, partially because dice have been swapped out for decks of cards. Part of the level up rewards are being able to customise these decks, do you want to have more lucky big hits or be more consistent? You get to choose how your character develops which just helps draw you in more!

New to the list and all the way at number two, Azul is an abstract game with some of the most satisfying components I’ve ever encountered. Playing Azul literally feels great as you move about the chunky faux-ceramic tiles. The game itself has a huge element of player interaction and even pushing your luck to see if you can get all the pieces you want by the end of the turn. While things start off light towards the end of the game choices start to get more and more limited and nothing is more satisfying than forcing your opponent to take a load of tiles only to “drop them” and lose a chunk of points. Part of the joy of Azul is how easy it is to play, almost anyone can learn which makes it a great family game.

1: X-Com: The Board Game

Sitting pretty at number 1, X-Com is a fantastic cooperative app-based dice chucker. It’s strange because over the years I feel I’ve enjoyed dice mechanics less and less, but X-Com is still up there. Perhaps it’s because 1 person actively has the job of developing technology that mostly exists to manipulate those dice. Or perhaps it’s the sheer vast quantity of re-rolls that you can get (each at a higher risk of alien attack of course). X-Com keeps the pressure up by having a timed phase to devote troops/planes/scientists to their tasks, then a more relaxed phase where you actually see who succeeded. This keeps everyone interested and interacting with the game at all times.

Finally a brief look at the games which have fallen out of favour: Ravens of Thri Sahashri is still a game I love, but it’s simply not getting to the table anymore. The confusing rules mean after taking a long break you’ve likely forgotten something important. Takenoko is also still a fantastic game, but simple not as fantastic as some of the other games on the list. It’s still one of my top gateway games though. Mysterium is a game I don’t find myself playing as much mostly because I seem to be far less often in 5-6 player groups where the game shines. I still prefer being the ghost when I do play! Ticket To Ride has finally fallen from my graces, I think in part due to Fi playing the game on her phone a lot and getting painfully good.

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