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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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.

In Piepmatz, you each begin the game with a hand of bird cards. Birds come in different species and different numerical value. There are two of each unique number/species combination in the deck - one male and one female bird. On your turn you will play a card to the central area and resolve it's effects. Depending on player count there will be two or three bird rows, arranged so that the highest value bird card is offset. When you play a card, if the total value of all other cards in the row (besides the head bird) exceeds the value of the head bird, then you gain the head bird in your tableau, you also gain a seed card from position 1,2,3 or 4 based on how large your exceedance was. If you do not exceed the value, then you can play a bird card from your hand into your tableau. Seed cards are worth points based on the number of eggs printed on the cards, but all other points come from your tableau. At the end of the game, a mating pair of birds is worth 5 points and then the player with the most birds in each colour scores the birds of that colour/species, based on the number of eggs printed on the cards.

Although it's a little difficult to explain, once everyone understands the rules, it's actually a very simple game that causes some agonising decisions! Each turn has a couple of key decisions driven my a lot of maths (if you don't want to do a bit of mental arithmetic, then perhaps avoid this game!). If you have cards in your hand that match in a pair with birds already in your tableau then you might try to play them straight into your tableau, but if you play them out into the central area then you get an opportunity to get seed cards, at the risk of another player picking up your bird. Sometimes it might be worth taking a crow or a squirrel in order to win a really important card for you. There's a lot of moving parts to balance compared to the very basic set of components and it's really fun to wrap your brain around.

The real joy is in creating a chain of great moves. If four is the value you are trying to exceed and there's already a three and a one queued up, then if you play another 3, then you'll win the four, and the next lead bird is a three, which you'll also win because the 3 and 1 card are queued up behind it. Not only that, but you get two seed cards. Even better, if there's squirrels or crows hanging around the seeds and you manage to avoid them you will feel so very clever. A single good move in a game like this can easily make even the person with the highest 'game to win' motivation like me.

Piepmatz has the feel of a classic card game with a modern twist. The mechanisms feel like they come straight out of a more complex trick taking game and even the cards have a look to them which is quite nostalgic and ultimately gives you a number of 'suits' of cards to play with. When I posted a picture of this game my Mum commented that I should introduce the game to my Dad. I'm sure that in part this is because the game has birds as the theme, but equally, it looks familiar, meaning that the intimidation factor is a lot lower than many other games in our collection (including recent bird-themed juggernauts).

Piepmatz really makes my brain fire on all cylinders. It doesn't necessarily click immediately, but in every game I've had a great moment, even if I wasn't quite able to figure out why in my early games! The level of satisfaction and room to get better and really figure the game out keeps me wanting to come back for more and so, Piepmatz is an 8/10 for the Yellow Meeple.

Piepmatz was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £10.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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