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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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.

Tiles are laid on the area to the right, mergine and breaking up armies. Honour is tracked to the left, with big rewards for the most honourable!
When you earn a fort you must place it immediately onto a colour the board. This causes a few important things: firstly no player may now score points when adding to that area. This includes you! Everyone can still earn honour as normal. Secondly at the end of each of your turns you will score points equal to the size of the areas your forts are in. The game suddenly changes to one of defending your armies to try and score the most points passively, while using tiles to break up your opponent's armies and starve them of their well earned rewards.

While the theme and the art aren't particularly to my taste, I can respect that they have done a good job, each colour has it's own distinct unit style, which doubles to help colour blind players be able to play. The balance between playing for immediate points vs honour is extremely well done, early in the game it can be very tempting to build large armies almost cooperatively, with each new tile a higher reward is earned. But as soon as someone gets close to building a fort these armies are broken up to prevent that player from scoring big every round. This is, unfortunately, where the game takes a bit of a hit with 2 players. While the game doesn't require any rule changes for playing with 2, there is no chance to gang up on a player, if someone has a large army there is every chance that they can defend it as often as you break it up, all they need is a tile with the right colours on it. While this doesn't ruin the games balance it definitely presents a different experience to playing with a larger group.

Each player has a set of 5 1x1 tiles that they can choose to use instead, these are extremely useful when you go through a dry patch for a certain colour.

Gunkimono presents a good balance of strategy and puzzle as you try to scheme your way ahead while blocking your opponents. Building a large army early on can be worth a lot of points, but is someone else gets to claim it then your hard work can be turned against you. As a two player game it is a little lacking, you really do want that 3rd or 4th player to mix things up a little between turns. As is though it's an easy game to understand which makes it a good introduction to modern gaming that is still enjoyable to play yourself.


Gunkimono was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £36.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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