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, 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.

The shops themselves cost between 0 and 2 resources to buy, with the more expensive shops typically offering a larger reward for less good input.This might be an observation on the merit of shopping around for the best price, but from your point of view the more points you get per good the better you will do. But shops don't just reward pure points, you can also find shops that exchange goods for grain, or for patronage of one of the gods, both of which offer exponential point rewards the more of them you have achieved.

The cheaper shops might offer lesser rewards, but you can get more of them and will have more resources to spend on those rewards, can you find the right balance?

One thing you soon notice while playing Fertility is how limited your goods are, a typical turn will result in you gaining 2 resources, gaining 4 would be truly outstanding, or possibly your opponent making a huge mistake. The tiles in your opponent's hands are open knowledge, so it's possible to play extremely tactically, denying as many opportunities as possible. In theory the two player variant adds to this, giving you the option to throw away a tile at the same time as you refill your hand, though in practice this seemed to just make the game a touch more random with 2 of the 3 tiles available to take each turn being brand new.

With the right positioning you can build statues on the board, if you build the most you'll get a handsome reward.

With these limited resources Fertility becomes a game of clever resource use, with early decisions often making huge differences. Deciding to ignore goods can be a worthwhile endeavor as it lets you focus on the other ways of gaining points, however focusing on gods can reward you a huge amount of points if you are able to get a complete set. Similarly grain can be spent as a resource to buy buildings, but pushing yourself up the grain track gets better the further you go, but spending grain keeps your resources free to go in those fancy, expensive shops you bought which gives you cheaper gods and more points. There is no real bad choice while playing fertility, which does add to the feeling of being outplayed when you lose. You did nothing wrong, but evidently they did something better. Overall Fertility is a combination of lovely art, and components with a game that's easy to play buy difficult to play well. The general lack of resources can actually lend to a feeling of rationing rather than the touted fertility, which isn't necessarily a good thing. For me Fertility sits in that awkward zone of not quite a Filler game, but not quite a full length game either, and while it's fun it just doesn't scratch my gaming itch hard enough.

6.5/10

Fertility 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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