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 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.

In Gunkimono, each player has a hand of three domino-like tiles and on your turn you place one tile onto the board. Each tile has two squares in two unique colours and for each square, you can choose to either score points based on the size of area you've placed it into - 1 point per square of the same colour, or you can move your marker up the coloured tracker a number of spaces equal to the number of temples drawn on that square on the tile placed. Your ultimate aim is to score points and prevent your opponents form having significant scoring opportunities. However, working on the tracks allows you to unlock your temples to score consistently more points each round, and ultimately reaching the top of the tracker gives you some end game points.

Gunkimnoo is a very simple tile-laying game - it's super quick to get to the table, teach to new people and be playing in minutes. The tile laying mechanisms are extremely clear, with the only rule being that you can't place the same colour on top of itself. In terms of accessibility, there are far fewer tile-laying rules than a game like Carcassonne. What Gunkimono does differently to almost any other tile laying game I can think of is to layer the tiles. The ability to stack up your tiles, turns Gunkimono into a significantly more interesting puzzle and creates an appealing 3-D landscape on the table.

Most of the key decisions in Gunkimono come from when you choose to score points vs. going up on the track. After a couple of games, it seems to become clear that the best plan in the early game is to go up the track, whilst the opportunities to score big points on the board are minimal. I very rarely get the feeling that I 'know' how best to play a game, but Gunkimono felt disappointingly 'solved' in this regard. I think this is exaggerated at two-players where there are fewer people making attacking moves between your turns, meaning that larger areas of a single colour are more likely to form and persist between your turns.

Your other key decision is in where you can place your temples, to score points each round for their zone and then how you can best place tiles in future turns to ensure that your temple is consistently scoring well/ getting these temples out early is key, so long as you can find a good spot for them and keep that area protected. The later game certainly becomes more aggressive as you try to tailor your strategy to include some blocking moves to the areas that other players control with temples. I like how the game focus changes from something quite solitaire int he early game into something more interactive in later rounds. There is attacking in the game, but the opportunities feel well spread so that I never feel too attacked by other players.

On our first play, Gunkimono's predecessor, Heartland, wowed me with the simplicity of its concept. Gunkimono does nothing more than re-theme the game with another themeless skin - the theme neither improves or reduces the appeal of the game to me. However, unlike many simple games that I often find to be some of the greatest games that I want to revisit over and over again, like Azul or even The Mind, Gunkimono lost the initial shine after a few plays. In part, I feel like the two-player experience isn't as strong as the experience with more players, but I also feel like the gameplay just has quite a short shelf-life.

Gunkimono is a good abstract game, that uses tile-laying in a way that I find quite unique, but the solid gameplay and high component quality are just not enough to make it stand out from the crowd. The the Yellow Meeple, it's a 6.5/10.

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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