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 4 April 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Reykholt

Game: Reykholt

Publisher: Frosted Games

Designer:  Uwe Rosenberg

Year: 2018

The geothermal energy in Iceland allows you to cultivate the most unexpected fruits and vegetables, and attracts tourists from around the world. But, the tourist season in Reykholt is short, and competition is fierce to serve the right vegetables at the right time to ever more hungry tourists.

Reykholt is a farming game from Uwe Rosenberg, something we've certainly seen before! The twist on the theme provides some eye-catching cover art, but suitably bland in game artwork and the theme is really not there. However, Reykholt is in the middle-weight section of the Uwe Rosenberg catalog, which is an area we've not explored, so let's take a look at what lies between Cottage Garden and Agricola.

Reykholt takes place over 7 rounds and each player has just 3 workers. In each round your goal is to amass enough vegetables to serve at the tables that form the perimeter track of the main board. The first 5 tables simply require one of each vegetable, but then it will be two vegetables, three vegetables and so on. Some of the worker placement spots allow you to take vegetables into your supply, but it's generally more effective to build up  a tableau of greenhouses and then seed vegetables and harvest vegetables to get a better return. At the end of each round you'll automatically harvest one vegetable from each greenhouse too. Importantly, when it comes to advancing around the table track, you must pay your vegetables from supply, but you must also gain the vegetables from a single table instead of paying. After seven rounds, the player who advanced furthest around the track will win.

Reykholt is a short game. With just 21 decisions to make, every decision counts. It's likely that you'll encounter moments where players will need to count out their vegetable tokens, do some maths and perhaps take a little too long over their turn, but certainly with two players, our play time has be 30-40 minutes. Seven rounds go by very quickly and no sooner will you have built up your greenhouses, than you'll be cleaning them out like a plague of locusts and selling the greenhouses themselves to move forward past some tricky customers on the table track. This can feel like a pretty abrupt arc to the game, although I do like the length and how quickly your turns build up from a very slow round one and two, into huge mountains of vegetables towards the end of the game.

I'm starting to notice that one of the things I look for in a game that I enjoy is moments where I feel satisfaction or even pride in something I've achieved. Where I can feel like I've pulled off a really cool move or sequence of actions. Reykholt does this for me in most games, so it ticks a difficult to define box, but it is also a very, very tight game of efficiency. In spite of the potential for an immensely satisfying turn, that joy can often be very elusive and most turns are dominated by a sense of frustration about how inefficient I am being. With your greenhouses you are ultimately building an engine and with only three knobs to turn in the round, you need to make sure all of your ducks are in a row to really succeed. I wonder if this frustration manifests itself more strongly at two players, where the seemingly few action spaces on the board give only one chance to take the style of action you really need on a turn and that chance can easily be taken away from you.

Reykholt has a very simple rulebook and is significantly less overwhelming than many Uwe Rosenberg game. I could teach the game to people with very little gaming experience, but I might choose not to because it is a serious efficiency puzzle, rather than a 'fun' gaming experience. With a great cover and the lovely component quality of the resource tokens and their containers, it's a game that would entice an audience, but I wold worry about letting them down with the actual game experience.

Reykholt is a game that I find perplexing. I want to keep playing it to try and improve and become more efficient, but I fear one of two things. Either, the level of efficiency that will satisfy me is unattainable, or I will find an efficient strategy and then the game will lose any interest for me. I would also have to endure a number of frustrating games to get to my ultimate end goal and it's only very rarely that I'm prepared to play a game that doesn't provide me with some joy rather than a headache. Reykholt is simple to learn and play, but just a bit annoying. For the Yellow Meeple, it's a 6/10.

Reykholt was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £57.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk/.

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