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

Wednesday 30 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sherlock: Death of the 4th of July

Game: Sherlock: Death of the 4th of July

Publisher: GDM Games

Designer: Francisco Gallego Arredondo, Martí Lucas Feliu, Josep Izquierdo Sánchez

Year: 2018

Sherlock is a new series of games from GDM Games and Enigma Studio, and as the name suggests, you are crime solvers. There are currently three games available in English and we chose to take a first look at the one with the most appealing theme from 4th July, an aeroplane or archaeology. Despite our initial impression that these would be a similar size of game to the EXIT series, we were surprised to see that each game is smaller than a standard deck of 52-playing cards. The game is just 32 cards and a rule/solution sheet, making it easily one of the smallest games we’ve ever seen!

The game is played cooperatively with a recommended 1-8 players (with special rules for solo play). You start the game knowing nothing and eventually, through identifying the relevant information, you will together come up with a theory of what happened and who committed the crime. We won't spoil any of the story in this review.

Monday 28 January 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Fertility

Game: Fertility

Publisher: Catch Up Games

Designer: Cyrille Leroy

Year: 2018

Fertility certainly wins no prizes for its theme and game tile, nor its image of a child milking a bull (or at least a cow with horns) on its cover art. However, Catch Up games have put out some interesting games, including Paper Tales and the tile laying mechanisms of Fertility were something that we wanted to try.

Fertility is a tile-laying game for 1-4 players in which players lay domino-like tiles. Each tile you lay will gain you small wooden resource tokens based upon the type of terrain you are able to match with. The terrain types are; Alabaster, Bovines, Papyrus Flowers and Grapes, so if you lay a grape tile adjacent to two other grape tiles then you’ll get two grass resources. These resources can then be used in one of two ways. You can either spend them to buy additional locations for your player board, or you can use them to power locations on your player board. A single location might have a couple of different locations you can place resource tokens – perhaps converting them directly into end game points, or into god symbols, which are a type of set collection, or into grain which is an exponential point track. Grain can also be gained by placing your tiles out on the board adjacent to the pre-printed grain fields.

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Game Shelf Visits...The UK Toy Fair 2019

Boldly called 'The Toy Fair', the UK Toy Fair is held each year in London. This year the event took place from 22nd - 24th January. I hear that it is by no means a rival to the size of Nuremberg Toy Fair or the New York Toy Fair, but it is an industry get-together for retailers and toy manufacturers to share what is up and coming for 2019. I believe that the big new releases are likely not to be announced until the larger international fairs.

Of course, the full spectrum of toys is shown at Toy Fair, from motorised cars, to baths full of green goo, to board games, which is why we were there! (We we're also there to see the Lego room, but it turns out that that room is private and shrouded in secrecy!) Being that the fair is focused on selling to mass-market retailers, there were of course a lot of examples or mass-market games that aren't really aimed at us as gamers. However, some big UK and European names were still represented. Here are some highlights of the 'hobby board games' being shown.

Thursday 24 January 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Coral Islands

Game: Coral Islands

Publisher: Alley Cat Games

Designer:  Richard Maass, Rohan Dagard

Year: 2019

Alley Cat Games are back on Kickstarter with Coral Islands - two different dice stacking games in a single box. After widespread success with Dice Hospital, Alley Cat Games have become a publisher to watch on Kickstarter - typically launching a mixture of smaller and medium sized family weight games throughout the year.

Coral Islands has been in development for a long time and we first saw it at the UK Games Expo in 2018, where we played Coral - a puzzly 3-D spatial game which will play 1-4 players. Islands is new to us and uses drafting and set collection in a very different game for 2-4 players. The games feature artwork from Sabrina Miramon and the colourful setting really comes to life of the table.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

The River's Blessings:- Fertility

Game: Fertility

Publisher: Catch Up Games

Designer: Cyrille Leroy

Year: 2018

Fertility is a tile laying resource management game set in ancient egypt. The flooding is over and now it's time to make the most out of the newly fertile land as you gather the riches of the valley. Of course goods aren't any help without somewhere to sell them, so you'll also have to build shops to sell or trade your newly acquired goods, or even offer them up as gifts to the gods.

Each turn in Fertility you'll add one of your hand of three 2x1 domino style tiles to the board. When you do so you'll gain resources for every time one of the 2 squares of your tile matches a neighbor. You'll also gain grain should you build next to a grain field and additional resource if you build on top of a resource square. Finally should you leave a gape on the board surrounded on all four sides then you can either gain a resource of your choice, or build a statue in your honour worth end game points. After placing a tile you can then spend your newly gained resources to build new shops or fill your existing shops with goods, any goods not placed during this phase will be lost forever, so there's no point gaining resources you can't use.

Monday 21 January 2019

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 8th - 20th January 2019

We've definitely been more social gamers in the past few weeks. This week alone, we've had game nights three nights in a row with different friends, plus attending a board game day last weekend. It's good to get back to some gaming with other people, rather than staying in the comfort of gaming as a couple. It also has the added benefit of trying out some 3+ player games and some games we don't own, but are interested to play.

So here the Yellow Meeple's first impressions!

Sunday 20 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- VektoRace

Game: VektoRace

Publisher: KaleidosGames & Gen42 Games

Designer: Spartaco Albertarelli, Davide Ghelfi

Year: 2018

VectoRace was first released at Essen 2018 from Italian publisher KaleidosGames and Gen42 Games is bringing it over to gamers in the UK. It introduces a system called the 'Octogon System' of vector movement, in to a racing game for up to 4 players.

Each player has a paper car, which must be constructed before you play. I personally enjoyed this little craft project - they're pretty easy to build and there are also a huge array of fan made card on BoardGameGeek! Although the box says the game is for 4 players, there are 8 cars in the box, so you could easily play up to eight and add to the fun!

Saturday 19 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Giant Book of Battle Mats

Book: Giant Book of Battle Mats

Publisher: Loke Battle Mats

Year: 2018

Giant Book of Battle Mats is a 62 page tome made of Wipe-clean A3, square-grid, battle mats with a lay-flat spiral binding for use with fantasy roleplaying games (you know the ones). Each page can be used individually but can also be twinned with it's neighbour to create a double-page spread for larger encounters.While most of the pages have full-colour prints of terrain and buildings to bring the maps alive, several are purposely blank allowing you to use a dry-erase pen to draw in your own details as needed. Of course all the pages are wipeable so you can add your own flourish or notes to any map as needed and then wipe clean later

Anyone who has ever tried to run a roleplaying session has come across the same problem The plot is in one direction and your players are desperately trying to go the other. For some reason you didn't prepare for the obvious encounter that was the party rogue backstabbing the king openly in court or the bard infuriating the entire town by trying to woo the wrong person. For all those unprepared encounters the Giant Book of Battle Mats is there for you. and that's why I find it an invaluable tool in my DM kit. Suddenly you are prepared for the unprepareable.

Thursday 17 January 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Forum Trajanum

Game: Forum Trajanum

Publisher: HUCH!

Designer: Stefan Feld

Year: 2018

Designer Stefan Feld had a big year in 2018, with two major releases at Essen that hit the 'Top Ten of 2018' list for many fans of euro games. Of the two, Forum Trajanum is the heavier and certainly the more well produced of the two, although that's not too difficult when comparing with Carpe Diem. Having said that it's the heavier game, I'd still only consider it's complexity on a par with The Castles of Burgundy - our favourite Stefan Feld game.

Forum Trajanum is a tile laying game, set in ancient Rome, where you each govern a Colonia and hope to contribute sufficiently to the city to win the favour of the Emperor Trajan. Like many of Stefan Feld's games, the theme is of little consequence, but the mechanisms allow to explore different paths to victory and often lead to a few head scratching moments. Available from Huch! in Europe and soon to be available from Stronghold Games - is Forum Trajanum your next euro game investment?

Tuesday 15 January 2019

When in Rome:- Forum Trajanum

Game: Forum Trajanum

Publisher: HUCH!

Designer: Stefan Feld

Year: 2018

Forum Trajanum is a 2-4 player tile laying game of sorts in which you seek to make the best district in order to impress the emperor Trajan. You will utilize your workers in order to construct buildings to efficiently create your forum, but along the way you will have to ensure that you build in the way the emperor desires if you want to maximise your points. You can hire citizens to help you along the way, but while useful they do need paying and resources spent on them are not spent on your forum. With a careful balance of buildings and workers behind you can you please the emperor the most and be invited into his inner circle?
Each turn 2 cards will be revealed from the 3 decks that mark the duration of each round. These 2 cards give you 2 symbols which are found on your player grid, you can take 1 worker off of your board for each of these cards so long as it is on the axis pictured. The back of each of these worker tiles tells you which rewards you get, but life isn't so simple, you get to choose one of your 2 tiles to keep, and pass the other to an opponent. This will leave you with 1 worker tile of your own and a new worker tile from another player, and from these you must choose 1 tile to gain the rewards from!

Saturday 12 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Papering Duel

Game: Papering Duel

Publisher: Mandoo Games

Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Year: 2018

Mandoo Games are a new publisher on our radar. Mandoo are a Korean publisher who publish original titles, as well as localisations in Korea. In Europe, it looks like the best place to find their games it at Nice Game Shop, whilst in other regions you might have to look a little harder.

Papering Duel is a two player abstract game in which you and your room-mate are arguing over how to wallpaper a room in your apartment. The rulebook goes to some length in explaining this very obscure theme, but ultimately this is an abstract game of laying tiles and trying to get three instances of three in a row - much like tic-tac-toe. However, every turn your opponent wants to destroy all of your hard work by covering up your wallpaper designs!

Thursday 10 January 2019

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Endeavor: Age of Sail

Game: Endeavor: Age of Sail

Publisher: Burnt Island Games, Grand Gamers Guild

Designer: Carl de Visser, Jarratt Gray

Year: 2018

Endeavor: Age of Sail is a Kickstarter reprint, of the 2009 game Endeavor. The Kickstarter project has allowed the game to be improved in terms of component quality and artwork, as well as adding a lot of new content with modular expansions.

We never played the original game, but were very enticed by the look of the game on Kickstarter - both in terms of mechanisms and the awesome Gametrayz, which never fail to increase the appeal of a game for me! When I opened our retail edition, I was very happy to see that most of the component upgrades were retained. Endeavor is a massive, imposing box, so much so that it wouldn't fit on our Kallax, and for a while it intimidated us - but the big box disguises a pretty streamlined and simple game, that we were pleased to discover plays in about an hour. Let me share our discovery!

Tuesday 8 January 2019

Shanties and Scurvy:- Endeavor: Age of Sail

Game: Endeavor: Age of Sail

Publisher: Burnt Island Games, Grand Gamers Guild

Designer: Carl de Visser, Jarratt Gray

Year: 2018

Endeavor: Age of Sail is a reprint of 2009's Endeavor, a game that sparked many conversations due to it's inclusion of slavery as an action that players could take. 2018's edition refused to back down on this issue, and even includes a paragraph in the manual explaining why it would be unfair to ignore this dark stain on humanity's past. The reprint, Endeavor Age of Sail, is a 2-5 player exploration and light area control game in which you seek to expand your empire across the new lands and trade routes being discovered.

The game consists of 7 rounds. At the start of each round you build a new building, pay your workers on your current buildings and gain new workers, all depending on your location on 3 of the 4 tracks on your player board. The final track determines how many card you can keep at the end of your turn. After gaining your new building and workers for the round you take it in turns performing 1 action or passing out of the round. Most of the actions in the game require you to place a worker on a building spot that rewards that action, tho this end you can occupy, ship, fight and draw cards.

Monday 7 January 2019

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of 2019

During 2018, we managed to play around 100 games released over the course of the year. I don't think we can hope to exceed that in 2019, but that still means we should get the chance to play lots of  exciting new games. At such an early stage in the year, it's difficult to know what the hot new games are going to be, but for me, it's still fun to speculate and get excited about the games of the future. of course, we'll still be playing many 2018 games during 2019 - there's so many "Essen releases" that we still haven't seen here in the UK.

This risks being a list of games we backed on Kickstarter during 2018, but with a self imposed limit of one Kickstarter per month, there should still be lots of other games to get excited about! I'm going to try and stick to games I know will be released this year, but delays happen and I think there are one or two games on this list at risk of becoming 2020 games, especially the Kickstarter games.

So, with no further caveats, here are my top ten most anticipated board games for 2019!

Sunday 6 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Vengeance

Game: Vengeance

Publisher: Mighty Boards

Designer: Gordon Calleja

Year: 2018

Vengeance funded on Kickstarter back in 2016. It was a first Kickstarter project for Mighty Boards who have since had success with Petrichor, Nights of Fire and Posthuman saga, and was definitely a festival of unlocked miniatures. Our copy arrived from another reviewer having experienced 'significant movement in transit' and I can attest to the shear amount of content in the box.

Vengeance is a competitive dice rolling game for 1-4 players that attempts to portray the essence of pulp revenge movies like Kill Bill, Old Boy and Django Unchained. Throughout the game you are forever being wronged by the characters in the game, having detrimental effects on you both mental and physically, and it's up to you to be the person who most successfully delivers revenge.

Saturday 5 January 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Game: The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch

Year: 2018

As far as designers go, 2019 felt like the year of Wolfgang Warsch. With three games nominated across the Spiel des Jahres and Kennerspiel (expert game) award, it was The Quacks of Quedlinburg that took home the accolade of expert game of the year. At that time, it was a game that only seemed to be available in German, but die hard board gamers made paste-ups to tide themselves over until Schmidt Spiele released an English version for Europe and North Star Games took the game to North America.

Now that it's a pretty easy game to get hold of, we've had the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. In The Quacks of Quedlinburg you are in the business of offering 'interesting' ointments and potions as medicines. The more weird and wonderful ingredients you can add to your potion, the more notorious you will become, so grab some spiders, pumpkins and some dubious looking mushrooms and let's see what you can cook up!

Thursday 3 January 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tokyo Highway

Game: Tokyo Highway

Publisher: itten

Designer:  Naotaka Shimamoto, Yoshiaki Tomioka

Year: 2018

Tokyo Highway was originally published in 2016 and was brought to Europe in small quantities by Japanese publisher, itten. Tokyo Highway really put itten on the map as a publisher. Those lucky enough to get copies at Essen, or through importers like Nice Game Shop discovered a really eye-catching 2-player dexterity game.

Just days after I sent my wonderful friend Ellie to live in Japan for a year so that she could get hold of a copy for me, Asmodee announced that they would be giving a wider release to a new 2-4 player edition. I apologised to my friend, tasked her with finding Let's Make a Bus Route, and got very excited to try Tokyo Highway.

Tuesday 1 January 2019

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Board Games of 2018

For me, 2018 has been a year filled with lots of very good new games, but not quite so many excellent ones.

If you look at BoardGameGeek, there are 50 pages of 2018 releases - that's 5000 games! That's a truly unimaginable number. As board game reviewers (and addicts) we find that we probably play a lot more new games than many people and our total plays of new releases for 2018 comes to a mere 97 games! Of those games, I've picked my ten favourites - all games that we've added to the collection and hope to play for many years into the future.

Life is a Highway:- Tokyo Highway

Game: Tokyo Highway

Publisher: itten

Designer:  Naotaka Shimamoto, Yoshiaki Tomioka

Year: 2016

Tokyo Highway is a 2-4 player dexterity game in which players attempt to be the first to place out all their cars before they run out of building materials. As the highways get busier it becomes harder to place new roads without interfering with the old ones, and if you knock anything over you'll have to pay a fine, lowering your supply of construction materials.

A turn of Tokyo Highway is simple: add a stack of wooden cylinders to the board, and then a lollypop stick to connect the new stack with your last one. Your new stack of cylinders must be 1 higher or lower than the previous one. However, this alone scores you no points, you get to place out one of your cars only if your new road crosses over another road that has not been crossed over before, or goes under another road that has not been built under before. You must also achieve this without going directly over any of the cylinder stacks and without touching any other road.