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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Friday 5 April 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- The Old Hellfire Club

Game: The Old Hellfire Club

Publisher: Jamie Frew

Designer: Jamie Frew

Year: 2019

The Old Hellfire Club is a storytelling card game in which 2-6 players join forces to tell a story of their greatness in order to convince the locals down the pub to buy them a gin. However there is only one gin on offer, so players will have to be imaginative in their own storytelling, but also cutthroat in correcting any "embellishments" that their fellow revellers may have added to the story. Tell stories involving all the important Victorian people, places and things and you'll earn yourself a drink, but should someone point out that you weren't actually with the queen then prepare to be laughed at and, even worse, go home thirsty!

Players will have a hand of cards each consisting of one of seven storytelling suits (people, places, perils, motives, crimes, weapons and objects) and a number from 1-10 indicating how influential the story may be, but also how easy it is to point out your embellishment.You will also have 1 helper who can assist you by backing up your story, or hinder your opponents in several ways. On your turn you will continue the ongoing and ever evolving story that the group is telling. Whenever you reach a salient point then you should mention one of the cards in your hand and play it onto the table before pausing the story for a second, At this point everyone has a chance to play a lower numbered card in the same suit in order to undercut you, causing your section of the story to end. Should no-one do this then your cards will be banked into a personal tableau. If someone interrupts then all of your cards are forfeit and they get to bank the card they used to interrupt instead.

At the end of the game the player with the most cards of each of the seven suits will earn pennies for each card, in addition each player who owns the highest numbered card in a suit will also earn some pennies. Combine these with any earned during the game through the use of helper cards and the player with the most pennies shall win the gin!

The cards are based on real historical figures/items/intrigues of the time and are rated by how impressive they seem.

The Old Hellfire Club is a mechanically simple game with a strong focus on take-that gameplay. Trumping another player with a less-impressive card is actively encouraged and almost always the right thing to do. Let's be fully honest here, if you play The Old Hellfire Club for it's gameplay alone then you will leave the table disappointed without a doubt. Where the game shines is in the storytelling aspect. You are given a bunch of Victorian stereotypes to string together into a drunken tale. While it might not be fun to say "Oh you played a 10, well I have a 4 so sorry you lose" it suddenly becomes it when you are saying "What!? Backed up by the rifle brigade? Don't be absurd, why the closest thing to a weapon you had on you was an umbrella!" before slamming your card down onto the table in disgust.

Can't think of how to start the story? The game comes with a pair of cards dedicated to prompts to help your creative juices flow.
Rather fittingly the most fun I had with this game was with a large group after having a drink or two, or perhaps three. Our story was perfectly incoherent, utterly rambling, and punctuated with more than a fair share of laughter. That is where the best moments of The Old Hellfire Club come into play, a group of friends sitting around prepared to laugh at whatever silly thing comes up next and the total absurdity of the quintessentially British tale that your imaginations, and a handful of cards, are building together. You won't find me saying that The Old Hellfire Club is innovative or one of the best games of the year, but for all its simplicity it is fun with the right group.
Playing the best card in a suit will earn the favour of the crowd who might reward you with pennies, or even a shiny sixpence!
So long as you are willing to be pulled into the story then this game might be for you!

The Old Hellfire Club was a prototype kindly provided to us by Jamie Frew. It is on Kickstarter from 9th April 2019.

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