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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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.

Board setup is variable, with three ‘slices’ being used for 2 or 3 player games and 4 ‘slices’ being used in a four player game. This is achieved using a jigsaw type board. The variable board layout creates different zones that might be bounded by water or by the grain fields, plus the edges of the board. This is important, because you can also place monuments by bounding and mining a solitary square of the board. Placing out the most or second most monuments throughout the game is another source of end game points. Although the difference between first and second is pretty minimal in a 2-player game, it’s still hard not to let opportunities to place monuments distract you from significantly more lucrative tile placements.

Your personal player board as 9 squares in total, with one printed locations and 8 free spots that you can fill with buildings throughout the game. However the game has such a tight resource system that you’ll find it difficult to fill up the spots on just 6 or 7 building tiles of your board. However, since these building tiles are drafted from the common supply, there may be a reason for you to hate draft something that you feel has good synergy with an opponent’s strategy. One of my favourite aspects of the game is to identify a strategy for my buildings, with my favourites focusing heavily on set collection – I enjoy the god strategy because I like the exponential points on offer, but also the tiles that reward you a number of points for every resource you use of a certain type eg. 2 points for every grass resource on your player board at the end of the game.

Although you’re creating a common board, most of the ‘game’ feels like it takes place on your personal player board. In general I would observe that the drafting is a little weak. I can certainly choose a terrain tile or a building tile that suits my strategy, but it’s hard for me to impact other players. With two-players there is even an advanced variant which allows you to take a tile and trash a tile, but more often than not, my reasons to trash a tile are based on pretty weak information and I’m just as likely to replenish the market with tiles that are even better for my opponent. This is also fed by the fact that I feel that at least the first 60% of the game is very opportunistic and it almost doesn’t matter what terrain tiles you get so long as you place the tile well to get resources – you can even pick a building that immediately uses those resources, if there aren’t other spots on your player board ready and waiting. I don’t dislike this about the game, but I feel like the game does tease me with mechanisms that would, in other games, give me some power and agency and here, they just don’t deliver the same significance.

The tile-laying in Fertility is very simple, and very accessible. It has my favourite aspect of tile laying games where all players are working on a common board, which allows you to watch a world unfurl before you. It also creates a very interactive experience because you can covet spots on the board or benefit from the tile placement of others, much like in classics like Carcassonne. With the domino-like tiles, I’d definitely recommend Fertility as a next step from Kingdomino – both have strong tile-laying mechanisms, but Fertility then layers on top some tight resource management that is a joy to introduce to a new player to show how games can gradually become more complex.

Unfortunately for the gaming time that we share, Fertility falls into an odd position on the scale. It’s probably not simple enough or exciting enough to introduce to the non-gamers we have in our lives, but it’s not interesting enough, with enough tough decisions and diversity for us to want to play alone as a 2-player game. For the Yellow Meeple, it’s a 6/10.

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/.