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

Thursday 28 March 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Piepmatz

Game: Piepmatz

Publisher: Lookout Spiele

Designer:  Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Year: 2018

It's not unknown for board gamers to bemoan overused themes in board gaming. Zombies, trading in the Mediterranean, generic fantasy...But if you've been sitting at our gaming table during the month of March, you'd be forgiven for thinking that birds were the next big thing. Whilst Wingspan is grabbing most of the limelight, Piepmatz has found its way to our table an into our hearts.

This game, from one of our favourite designer parings, Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, is all about little Songbirds. It's a set collection game for 2-4 players, that will really make you think as you try to create mating pairs of birds whilst also collecting the most birds of each type and collecting lots of eggs and protecting both from squirrels and crows.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Games to Play on a Car Journey

The title of this blog post might have brought you here under false pretenses, and if so, I'm sorry!

     This is not a post about games that anyone besides a board gamer might like to play in the car.

     Nor is it a post about board games you can play in the car.

This blog post is a post about games that you can play with other board gamers whilst travelling to your local board game convention or board game night. As many of our friends point out, I am very lucky to have a wife who wants to play board games together and it is the topic of many conversations while travelling, but sometimes you've exhausted all board game related topics and you just want to play a game to pass the time. Here's a list of games we've 'invented' for those long car journeys. We typically are just a driver and passenger, so these games work best with two.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Bird good, Squirrel bad:- Piepmatz

Game: Piepmatz

Publisher: Lookout Spiele

Designer:  Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle

Year: 2018

Piepmatz is a 2-4 player card game and certainly the only interesting game about birds that has been released lately. In it you will play bird cards from your hand in order to best position birds along the queue at the birdfeeder. Playing big birds will likely help you claim the seed cards you want, while smaller birds might help you build up your flock and create breeding pairs. Along the way you'll want to make sure you attract large numbers of each breed to your garden to maximise your bird-watching enjoyment!

Each turn in Piepmatz you will play one of the 4 cards you currently have in your hand to either side of the bird feeder, adding it to the queue behind the front bird. You will then compare the sum of the numbers on all the queued birds with the number on the front bird. If the queue is the same or lower then you get to play a card directly from your hand into your tableau. Should the queue be higher then you take the seed card equal to the difference (if you were 1 higher take the first seed card etc) and take the bird at the front of the queue into your tableau. After this the largest numbered bird in the queue will move to the front, if the queue's sum is still higher than the number of the front bird then you can take additional seed cards, repeating the action until the front bird is no-longer exceeded by the queue.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Dice Forge: Rebellion

Game: Dice Forge: Rebellion

Publisher: Libellud

Designer:  Régis Bonnessée

Year: 2019

I'm really enjoying twists on deck-building at the moment. Quacks of Quedlinberg has been a fantastic example of bag building, with Orleans and the Invasion expansion also ticking loads of boxes. Even standard deck-building is back in vogue at our table with Aeon’s End Legacy and some classic Dominion. Dice Forge: Rebellion has given us a great opportunity to revisit Dice Forge, where similar mechanisms are used to allow you to customise your dice with new faces to build up your chances of rolling a good turn, boosting your resources and ultimately scoring points.

It has to be said that Dice Forge: Rebellion is quite a pricey expansion, with an RRP that is the same price as you can buy the base game for, but it’s an expansion with a ton of content. As well as tons of new cards to increase variety in your game setup, it also includes two new modes of play to explore; The Labyrinth of the Goddess and the Rebellion of the Titans. With all this new content, no two games of Dice Forge need ever be the same. We’ve taken both new game modes for a test run and I’m excited to share my thoughts.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Overbooked

Game: Overbooked

Publisher: Jumbo

Designer: Daryl Chow

Year: 2018

Overbooked was an unknown game to us when we encountered it at this year's London Toy Fair, but as a frequent flyer, the theme of this game was an instant draw. In Overbooked you need to optimise the seating arrangement on your plane in order to keep everybody happy. The sports team all want to sit together, as do a group of older travellers. Children must be surrounded on all sides! And lovers want to sit side by side with no awkward third wheels interrupting their flight. Not only that, but you might find that your flight is overbooked and a seat has been double booked, so you'll have to kick someone off the plane onto standby!

Overbooked was originally funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 and is now being released by Jumbo Games, as part of their relatively recent endeavour into strategy board games.

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Defy the Very Gods Themselves:- Dice Forge Rebellion

Game: Dice Forge: Rebellion

Publisher: Libellud

Designer:  Régis Bonnessée

Year: 2019

Dice Forge Rebellion is the first expansion to 2017's Dice building game Dice Forge. In Dice Forge you play as heroes who are fighting for the gods in a plot that will be ignored entirely by the gameplay and would be all but forgotten if the rulebook didn't reference it every other sentence. You know they are committed to their bit when they call a roll of the dice a "Divine Blessing". Aside from the tacked on theme the game is quite innovative, featuring dice that have removable faces that you can upgrade by spending gold during the game. The purpose of upgrading your dice is then to spend the advanced resources on cards that reward special powers and victory points. But It's also valid to throw a ton of victory point faces on your dice and roll your way to victory!

Rebellion is a modular expansion, though the modules are not mixable, so it might be easier to think of it as 2 mini expansions. One of which has you advancing golems through an ancient labyrinth recovering treasures and earning divine favour, while the other questions your loyalty to the gods as the Titans attempt to sway you with quick earthly rewards rather than the long-term rewards of faith and devotion. Both modules come with a full set of new cards, about a third of which are exclusive to that module and must be used if you are using it, and 2/3rds of which can be mixed with cards from the base game should you wish.

Sunday 17 March 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Herb Witches

Game: The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Herb Witches

Publisher: Schmidt Spiele

Designer: Wolfgang Warsch

Year: 2019

 In the UK, we've been very fortunate to have the expansion for The Quacks of Quedlinberg arrive surprising early in an English edition. After winning the Kennerspiel award, The Quacks of Quedlinberg has really become a massive hit among gamers, in spite of being a light game and with the amount of table time our copy has been getting, it's already perfect timing to expand it.

The Quacks of Quedlinberg: The Herb Witches adds plenty of extra content to the game, which you can easily combine with your base game box. There's a couple of new ingredient types, including a size 6 pumpkin (!) and a set 5 & 6 of recipe books giving new abilities to all of the existing ingredients in the game. There's a selection of witches, which give you one-off in game abilities. Plus, it also adds a 5th player, which is a no-brainer for a game that is often multi-player solitaire - it doesn't slow the game down and makes the game cover an often awkward player count.

Friday 15 March 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Gartenbau

Game: Gartenbau

Publisher: Fisher Heaton Games

Designer:  David Abelson, Alex Johns

Year: 2019

Gartenbau is a game of planting your seeds and watching your wonderful flowers bloom. It's a tile-laying game for 2-4 players that takes place on three layers, giving you lots of puzzly optimisation, to ultimately try and obtain the most points from your 4 or fewer large and impressive flowers.

Gartenbau is coming to Kickstarter in March 2019 who have previously funded a couple of small projects on Kickstarter and after a few plays, we think Gartenbau really has some potential.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Res Arcana

Game: Res Arcana

Publisher: Sandcastle Games

Designer:  Tom Lehmann

Year: 2019

Tom Lehmann is probably most well known as the designer of Race for the Galaxy, which is definitely one of the classic engine building games in our hobby. We are among many fans of the game, in spite of the standard complaint about overwhelming symbology.

Res Arcana is also an engine building game, but this time with a fantasy setting. It's also coming from Sandcastle Games who are a first time publisher. Each player plays as a different mage, using  Life, Death, Elan, Calm, and Gold to fuel the art of magic. The game is a race to gain points by conquering places of power and summoning dragons and mystical creatures.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Phenomenal Cosmic Powers! Itty Bitty Deck Size:- Res Arcana

Game: Res Arcana

Publisher: Sandcastle Games

Designer:  Tom Lehmann

Year: 2019

Res Arcana is a 2-4 player card game in which players take control of dueling mages. Victory can be obtained by summoning powerful dragons that can weaken your foe's resolve, or by using your magical essences to claim places of power which can then be further charged with magical arts. Alternatively you can amass gold to build monuments to your glory or combine all 3 into your winning strategy. Whatever your game plan is it's a race to be the first to 10 victory points at the end of a round, though if multiple players reach that lofty height then the player with the highest number of points will claim victory.

The game begins with each player being handed a deck of 8 cards (though there is a drafting variant if you want more control). You then look at this deck, shuffle it and draw 3 cards before selecting one of your 2 mage cards to represent you. hopefully all this lets you build up something of a strategy, but if you want a bit less variability there are 4 default starting hands to ensure all players get a balanced and viable start. After this each player will take turns choosing one of the available items, these cards are only kept for a round but give increased income or extra powers.

Monday 11 March 2019

Amy's Round-Up of Airecon 2019

We just got back from Harrogate where we were attending Airecon - one of the UK's largest board game conventions. Here's some more info about the event and the games we got the chance to play.

Games Played

Rome & Roll is an asymmetrical dice drafting, resource management and city building game. Each round players will draft 2 dice and then take turns using the actions and gaining the resources on them. The city of Rome is a shared board on which players will draw the buildings they construct with major benefits for adjacency encouraging you to build next to other players. Meanwhile each player also has a personal board on which you store your resources, build your armies and wealth and, most importantly, bribe officials to unlock new, unique player powers. Rome and Roll is extremely heavy for a 'roll and write' style of game, although many of the difficulties we had were clearly due to prototype components which will be improved upon.

An early prototype of Rom and Roll, At the top the players are rebuilding the city of Rom, at the bottom regions are being conquered for glory, and taxes!
Adventure Games are a series of escape-room style games coming from Kosmos. Each game consists of 3 chapters, each around an hour in length. with the ability to take a break in the game between chapters. Unlike most escape room games there is no time limit. You are free to take your time and enjoy the more story-driven direction that the Adventure Games series brings. Each player will have their unique character that has different interactions with objects they encounter. The item interaction is extremely well implemented, if you want to use item 10 on item 11 then you look in the book (or search in the app for the final game) for entry 1011 to see what the result is. This cooperative system really embodies a point and click adventure and has loads of potential.

Magnate: The First City is a property development game in which you play as property developers buying up land and building properties in the midst of a pricing bubble. But like all bubbles this market is soon to burst and bring all your profits crashing down with it.Build and fill buildings and make money off the rental market while you wait for the property values to soar. Magnate tasks you with manipulating the market in order to sell your properties at the right time just before the market crashes. When the crash occurs all properties must be sold off at the lowered crash price and then the player with the most money wins.

Large shopping centers can attract lots of businesses renting out your property, the more shops inside the more you can sell it for, but is it worth your initial investment?

Assembly is a 2-player cooperative puzzle game in which you have to work together to construct a functional space ship before the space station you are in vents all your oxygen. You have to use cards to move module tokens around a circular blueprint and then lock them in place when they are in position. Cards allow you to add more tokens to the blueprints, rotate tokens around the board or swap the position of 2 tokens. Whenever you play a card the other player must support you by revealing the same card type in their hand, with the age old catch that you are very limited in your communication. Should you not cooperate well then you will be forced to discard cards instead and should the draw deck run out for the 3rd time then you'll be out of breathable air!

Coloma is a 1-5 player euro style game that challenges you to construct a town in the wild west. It's currently on Kickstarter from Final Frontier Games. Players will secretly decide which of the 5 (of 6) available actions each turn to use. Should you choose the most popular action then you will get a weakened version of the action, while the less popular actions can typically be performed twice or at a discounted rate. You'll be having for fight off bandits while you build up your town, ford and build bridges over rivers and explore nearby colonies to recruit workers to your town.

After selecting actions the player's cowboys head out to the central board, the area with the most cowboys gets weaker.
We played lots of other games, and Fiona included lots in her convention write up too.

Convention Experiences

In a suite at the back of the convention there are regular events from escape room experiences to the incredible BGE raffle. Among the many events held over the weekend we got the change to take place in mega games of NMBR 9 and Karuba. Of the two, NMBR 9 worked flawlessly with the near 2-dozen players we had. I certainly had a moment of pride when I won the second game, knowing that you beat so many other people when everyone had exactly the same input was wonderful. Karuba required a few modifications to make into a mega game and in my opinion this was slightly to the game's detriment, but there was still something fantastic about hearing the whole room cheer when a much-needed crossroad piece was drawn!

One of the events that drew the most people by far was the Board Game Exposure raffle. For a small fee (proceeds going to charity) you could enter tickets into one of 5 raffles. Each raffle was for a table covered in games donated by generous publishers. Let's be clear here, you weren't up for winning 1 game from the table, the winners won the entire table, each with well over a dozen games going to one lucky soul!

Airecon is known as a convention where you actually get to sit down and play games. There is a huge amount of open gaming space that you can sit down to play games you brought with you, recently bought or, of course, borrowed from their library. For a small fee of £10 you can borrow as many games as you want, 1 at a time. At the end of your weekend you can even return your library card to get your money back! The library had a great selection of games, although you'd have to be lucky to get hold of their copy of Wingspan this year!

The Yellow Meeple's Thoughts from Airecon 2019

This weekend we spent 3 days at Airecon in Harrogate. It was a whirlwind few days, playing games for over 12 hours on both Friday and Saturday. It was a great opportunity to meet up with friends and to try a bunch of new games.

Bring and Buy

I love a good bring and buy and Airecon has a fantastic one! This is the first time we've ever tried to sell games in and bring and buy, but the new online system they put into place was super organised, which meant no queues to check in your games (on Friday at least!). We also hardly queued to buy games and we were excited to see so many newer games and some great bargains. Here's how it worked out for us!

Sold: We sold 16 games, including a mix of new and older games.

Unsold: We arrived with two full IKEA bags, and we left with less than one whole bag full of smaller and less appealing games. We were super happy to only be taking home 12 games!

Bought: I'm really happy with some of the games we bought. Two of the best we're Dixit Odyssey, which we bought to replace our 6 player Dixit with a 12 player version, and Thunderbirds with the Tracey Island expansion, which we've been on the lookout for to complete out Thunderbirds collection. We also added a couple of bargain party games and roll-and-write games, as well as two Keyforge decks, that are already hitting the table.

Overall I think we made more money than we spent, so that's a definite win!

Games Played

Airecon is most well known for being a  convention for playing games. Whilst it has a small retailer zone, open gaming is the focus. We spent a lot of our gaming time demo'ing new games with smaller publishers, as well as some demos with Paul Grogan, from Gaming Rules. Here's a few highlights of my weekends and Amy's blog features another five exciting demos.

Tiny Towns is a small scale city building game where players all play simultaneously to try and make the best combinations of buildings to earn the most points. On each turn, the active player will select a resource cube and all players will place this type of cube on their personal board. If you place the cubes in the right pattern you can convert them into one of the corresponding buildings and place that on your board. As the game progresses, the puzzle becomes clear and you start to realise the gaps you should've left and the opportunities you missed when trying to tessellate the right pieces together. With each building having a unique scoring ability, the game is all about working towards high point combos without blocking yourself into a corner. It's a really enjoyable lighter game and with no downtime, it would be a great game to bring to the table with new or experienced players.

Kingdom Rush:Rift in Time is coming to Kickstarter very soon from Lucky Duck Games. It's a cooperative tower defence game that is very puzzly in nature. Enemies are represented by a 5x5 tile covered in enemies. You need to use Tetris like pieces representing a hit zone for your attacks to try and cover all of the enemies to eliminate the tile before it damages your base. The game has many scenarios that offer different levels of challenge. Based on our first game, I think this should be their most popular game since Chronicles of Crime.

Solar Storm is a cooperative game coming to Kickstarter later this year from Dranda Games. Your ship is caught in the gravity whirl of a star and you need to redirect the power from each of the eight non-essential systems to the engine before a solar storm destroys your ship. Each player gets three actions per turn in order to repair the systems and then redirect the power by using combinations of the right coloured cards. Each system has a special ability that can be used when the systems are undamaged. If you ever have to damage a system with no more damage tokes remaining then you will lose. The game seemed really polished for a prototype and we really enjoyed trying to figure out this difficult puzzle.

Dice Hospital Expansion - We had the opportunity to try out one of the new expansion modules that designer Mike Nudd is working on for Dice Hospital. In this expansion, the new method of drafting patients is by sending your ambulance out to the town to collect the patients in need of treatment. This really thematic twist to the game gives you more control over how you want to populate your hospital wards, but also makes losing a patient a bigger risk if the group as a whole chooses not to help the critical patients who are waiting for ambulances! In addition there are some bonus tokens to collect as part of each draft which give you powerful one-off abilities that enable you to take bigger and better turns. I really enjoyed the expansion both thematically and mechanically and will be interested to see how this develops.

Convention Experience

For many people, Airecon seems to be all about catching up with old friends, making new friends and making use of the largest open gaming space in Europe. We had the chance to to this through a number of games during the convention. Some of my favourites were games of Cerebria, Captain Sonar and Everdell.

Cerebria was a chance to use convention time to bring a big, unplayed game to the table. Luke Hector (The Broken Meeple) kindly taught us in a three player game and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, in spite of the area control mechanics. Hopefully it won't take too much effort to learn the two-player game at home.

Conventions also give you the chance to bring lots of people together, and we managed an 8-player game of Captain Sonar with some old friends, their friends and a random passer by who made use of the Airecon 'Player Wanted' balloons. Although I'm not the biggest fan of Captain Sonar when played real-time, it was still a hilarious experience to have so many people laughing, shouting and cheering around the table. I only hope no-one was playing and intense strategy game nearby!

Our goal for this Airecon was to spend less time by ourselves, so we also used the convention's Facebook group to offer to teach a game of Everdell. We got ourselves a taker on Friday afternoon and reminded ourselves just how beautiful and awesome this game is. I can't wait to play it some more!

Although we focused most of our time on gaming, we also got the chance to talk to a number of exhibitors. Many of the exhibitors are smaller UK board game companies, but Airecon now attracts a few publishers from Europe too. We were excited to take a look at 1066: Tears for Many Mothers from Hall or Nothing and finally caught up with The Old Hellfire Club. It was also great to see some of the new products for Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Champions and get a brief look at Fired Up, coming soon from Drawlab Entertainment.

Thursday 7 March 2019

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Comanauts

Game: Comanauts

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Jerry Hawthorne

Year: 2019

Comanauts is an adventure book game from Plaid Hat Games and designer Jerry Hawthorne. Their first adventure book was Stuffed Fables, which was aimed at the family audience, but Comanauts is aimed at adults, with the main character trapped in a coma and exploring many dark themes through the story line. Mice and mystics is certainly the first in this line of games and it was a game that we tried, but found it too mechanics light and story heavy. As a result, we avoided Stuffed Fables, expecting the same from a family weight game.

However, with Comanauts, we were anticipating a game for adults, and we were hoping this meant both mechanically, as well as in terms of its theme. We love cooperative games, but story driven games don’t often grip us with their narrative alone. With that said, there is something about delving into someone’s past and their regrets and successes that is almost morbidly interesting. We’ve enjoyed Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr for similar reasons because it is interesting to get to know a person and their dark past, so long as the story is convincingly put together.

Tuesday 5 March 2019

You have the insanity... of a manatee!:- Comanauts

Game: Comanauts

Publisher: Plaid Hat Games

Designer: Jerry Hawthorne

Year: 2019

Comanauts is a 2-4 player cooperative dice game and the second of Jerry Hawthorne's Adventure Book games. Comanauts is a highly story driven game where you play as a group of bizarre characters entering the psyche of Dr Strobal; A respected scientist who has gone into a coma. While in the coma, elements of past trauma have manifested into physical beings attempting to tear the Dr's mind apart and it's up to you to deduce which of the trauma's is causing the problem and then hunt them down and stop them.

Comanauts works via a dice bag, on your turn you will draw 5 dice from the bag and then use those dice to perform actions. A basic melee attack for example would have you roll a red die and compare the result to the target's defence. If your opponent is a little stronger you may need to combine 2 dice at once to get a result of 2-12 instead of 1-6. There are 4 main dice colours that you will be using along with purple dice that can be used as a wild card. On top of this white dice give you re-rolls, the clear blue dice summons the inner child which... usually... helps you (but also brings Dr Strobal closer to death). Finally the black die cause bad things to happen, whether that's causing enemies to attack, reviving dead enemies or simply making you draw a new life card for Dr Strobal bringing him closer to flatlining! There are also a black dice with red pips which acts the same as a black die, but only if your character is suspicious in the particular zone of the Dr's psyche you are currently in.

Sunday 3 March 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Evolution

Game: Evolution

Publisher: North Star Games

Designer: Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre, Sergey Machin

Year: 2014

Evolution would probably count as an evergreen title for North Star Games. A game that really seems to be standing the test of time, with numerous expansions, off-shoot standalone games, an upcoming spin-off on Kickstarter and a recent app implementation for iOS, Android and Steam. I guess it was a new game just before we got into the hobby, and it's one we missed.

Evolution is a competitive card game for 2-6 players, in which players create and adapt their species in an ever-changing landscape of predator vs. prey. Traits like a hard shell, or the ability to climb can help to protect you from carnivores, whist a long neck allows you to collect food that others cannot reach.

Friday 1 March 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Nagaraja

Game: Nagaraja

Publisher: Hurrican Games

Designer:  Bruno Cathala, Théo Rivière

Year: 2019

Twin temples devoted to two long-forgotten divinities - Ananta and Garuda - have been discovered in India. With rumours of hidden relics throughout the temples, you cautiously set off on a race to be the first to find the relics and unlock their powers. However, the legends also tell of three cursed relics and if you find those on your search you will be damned for all eternity.

Nagaraja should be releasing at the end of March 2019 in Europe and North America. If you're looking for a 2 player game that mixes hand management and push your luck, or if you're always on the lookout for the next fantastic looking game from artist Vincent Dutrait, or indeed the next game from Bruno Cathala, then read on to find out more.