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

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.

     1. Welcome To is probably our favourite game in the roll and write genre. It delivers great theme as you build and customise your neighbourhood, as well as really solid scoring mechanisms, with lots of interesting ways to score. With one choice each turn, simply picking a pair of cards with a number and an ability, it's easy to teach, but also keeps bringing us back to play again and again. I love trying to figure out the least risky way to lay out my houses and rushing towards the different building permits by optimising my street layouts. I've laminated some player sheets and will be playing Welcome To for years to come.

     2. Coimbra is my perfect mid-weight euro game. It is focused around a very clever dice draft where both number and colour are important for a number of different reasons. I find this mechanism so elegant that in spite of the complete lack of theme, Coimbra is a game that just comes together so perfectly, giving me enough interesting decisions, in just 40 minutes with two players. Every game I try to explore something different and I can't wait to play Coimbra some more.

     3. Reef arrived with high expectations, being the next abstract game from Next Move games, following the incredible success of Azul. It did not disappoint! I love how Reef sets up a puzzle where you need to create elegant chains of cards that feed into each other. It feels like a great game to optimise as you carefully select cards to try and make each turn count as well as possible. The game also looks fantastic with the interlocking pieces of colourful coral that give the game a great tactile feel and table presence. It's one I'll continue to introduce to friends and family in the coming months.

     4. Scythe: Rise of Fenris is a complete cheat on this list. It's an expansion that would certainly be my number one expansion of the year, with no contest. However, having played the whole 8 game campaign it felt very much to me like a standalone experience and so I've put it on the list! By playing Scythe: Rise of Fenris, I actually became a competent player of Scythe - still not a good player, but at least I can enjoy losing. Any game with secret packages tends to have me hooked and although I didn't enjoy some of the more combat focused scenarios, I loved my overall experience. We're looking forward to playing with the modules in 2019 and getting even more value out of this fantastic expansion.

     5. Feudum is a game that myself and Amy disagreed on. I think that overall Amy thought it was a little overwrought with details and fiddly mechanisms, but I loved the complexity in the game. In spite of having lots of different elements, Feudum just felt right to me, everything worked nicely together and clicked, making it feel a lot less complex than first appearances. I particularly enjoy the programming element of each turn and then executing a fantastic plan that is a chain of actions, maximising resource management, board presence and your use of the intriguing guild mechanisms.  Feudum is definitely one of my go-to big game experiences.

     6. Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Champions would probably be my number one surprise of the year. I have never had an interest in collectible card games, but I'm so glad we sat down to try Age of Sigmar Champions at the UK Games Expo. With just two pre-packaged decks, you have a fantastic two player card game. Each faction has some unique mechanisms and a play style that might take a couple of games to master, but the mechanisms are all very different and fun to play with or against. My favourite element of the game is the spatial aspect that really helps to guide your gameplay, and I think it's this guidance, led by how you want to activate and spin your champions, that really helps make the game more accessible and perfect for a player like me.

     7. Chronicles of Crime takes a genre of games I typically don't enjoy and creates an experience I've loved exploring. I often find that story driven deduction/crime solving games are frustrating, long and boring, but Chronicles of Crime delivers a fast paced and intuitive game, rather than one where I fall asleep reading passages from a book. The app integration in Chronicles of Crime really shines. It has a VR element, which might be seen as a gimmick, but the impressive aspect for me is how the QR codes allow you to interlink different pieces of information - interrogating a suspect about a location or object by scanning the two in succession. The level of difficulty and linearity of the story is just right for me and we're excited to see more content delivered in the app very soon!

     8. The Mind is another surprise hit for me. I was really to be in the 'this isn't a game' camp, but I picked up a copy whilst in Germany to see what all the hype was about. In spite of my misgivings, The Mind won me over. Yes, you're sitting 'silently' around a table, but I've had so much fun and laughter around the table with friends and family, or even just with Amy, when playing this game. The Mind has an unbelievably simple concept, but it creates an atmosphere and experience like no other I've had this year, and for that I applaud it!

     9. AuZtralia is a weird mixture of a Cthulu theme with a dry euro game. It's set in the alternative reality of Australia where the old ones hide around every corner... AuZtralia packs a really satisfying, mid-weight game into a pretty short space of time, especially at the lower player counts. There are a few mechanisms I really love, including; action selection on your personal player board; the time mechanic where it is always the turn of the player at the back, meaning you can have multiple actions in a row or might carefully plan to do a quick action followed by another that takes more time; and the powerful helpers you can recruit, that can really help you at a certain moment in time or focus your strategy. We still haven't quite mastered the semi-cooperative elements of the game, but hopefully we'll beat Cthulu during 2019.

     10. Quacks of Quedlinberg is a late addition to the list after the English edition was just released in the UK and North America. A lot of my interest in the game was driven by its award as the Kennerspiel, expert game of the year and it didn't disappoint. I love bag building in games, and Quacks takes it back to basics with a simple push your luck mechanism and some interesting bag-building decisions. The different ingredient tokens have a variety of special abilities that can boost your scoring or mitigate your luck and the variety of these in the box has kept our interest high in the game. Like many of Wolfgang Warsch's 2018 games, it's simple but clever.

As is often the case, there never seems to be enough time to play all of the games we want to play. There are a number of games I've only been able to try once so far that I strongly believe will find a place in the top ten of the year after more plays. Brass Birmingham was my first experience of the classic game of Brass and I loved the economy and puzzliness. Everdell was sold to me by Amy as Terraforming Mars with worker placement. After one game, I'm not convinced on the comparison, but it was a very strong and endearing tableau building game. Finally, we only got the chance to play Teotihuacan in the last week, but it felt like a really unique rondel game crossed with dice placement - I can't wait for the reprint to add a copy to our shelves.

Looking back at my list from 2017, it seems to be pretty accurate - all ten games are still in our collection and are still seeing table time. No doubt I missed a few games, that we were yet to play at the end of the year - Gloomhaven, Clans of Caledonia and Heaven and Ale would have probably featured. 

Based on this, I'd imagine there are still some great games from 2018 that we're yet to discover - feel free to recommend some in the comments below!

No comments:

Post a Comment