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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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!

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