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

Monday 3 June 2019

The Game Shelf @ The UK Games Expo 2019 - Day 1

We just got back from an exhausting weekend of gaming at the UK Games Expo 2019. After arriving on Thursday, Amy visited the retailer event in her capacity as Senior Games Guru at The Ludoquist board game cafe, whilst I played some games with Joel from the Devon Dice podcast. In the evening we had the press preview which was both bigger and longer than ever before - with publishers showing off all sorts of exciting goodies. 

There's no attendance figures yet, but there seems to be no doubt that UKGE grew again this year. They took up more space than ever before, with more open gaming space, more exhibitor space and a larger bring and buy. Although we've never been to Essen, some are saying that Saturday was as crowded as Essen (I don't quite believe this!). The show also attracted a larger crowd of big international publishers, and it's great to see UKGE becoming a major destination on the board game convention circuit.

We played 43 games in total this weekend, so we have a lot to write about, starting with Friday...

Games Played

This year we scheduled more demos than ever. Scheduling is both a blessing and a curse. It's good to know that you'll get to play some of the big hitters and especially on Saturday when free demo tables are like gold dust, it's nice to know you'll get to play some games. However, exhibitors are, understandably, not so great at keeping the table free for your allocated demo time so that can certainly cause some frustration and domino effects if you have a tight schedule! Overall I think we scheduled about the right amount. So, onto a few first impressions of the games we played...
  • Pandemic Rapid Response is a Pandemic game that doesn't have Matt Leacock's name on the cover. Whilst it uses the Pandemic brand, it's actually a very typical dice game from Kane Klenko. As huge fans of Flatline, it's easy to see the influence here. In this cooperative game, you are trying to solve emergencies around the world by bringing supplies of food, water and medicine in by plane. Real-time dice rolling and allocation is how you gain resources and move to the correct location to drop off supplies. Every time the 2 minute timer runs out you add a new city in crisis and if you don't cure faster than they appear, or you cause too much pollution, then you'll lose the game. Our first game was a disaster, but the second game was a huge amount of frantic fun - it's definitely one we'll add to the collection.
Pandemic: Rapid Response
  • Sushi Roll is more than a fantastically named game. This dice version of Sushi Go will have you drawing dice from a bag and adding them to the conveyor system that serves up the dishes. Each turn the conveyor will place a number of dice in front of you which you will roll and then pick your favourite. After choosing a die you pass your part of the conveyor with the remaining dice to the next player and will receive a new one from the other side. Dice are colour coordinated so you know the desert die will always give deserts, but it can give anything from 1-3. While maintaining the same drafting elements of the original game Sushi Roll adds some push your luck elements as you can gather menus to gain re-rolls or simply wait for the the die to come back and hope for a better roll.
Sushi Roll
  • Century: A New World completes the Century trilogy from Plan B games. This time it's the same cube management operation, but driven by a worker placement mechanism. Each turn you'll either place workers or recall all of your workers from the board. Once you've gained and converted enough cubes, you'll cash in for cards that are worth points but that also give you special abilities such as worker discounts, boosted resource generation or exploration, which opens up new spots on the board. End game scoring is based on cards, as well as some set collection objectives that you pick up along the way. It's probably my second favourite of the series, after Eastern Wonders, but it's a solid entry level worker placement and I can't wait to try out all of the new combinations for all three games in the series.
Century: New World
  • MegaCity Oceania is coming from Hub Games later this year. It's a re-implementation of Tokyo Jutaku, from Jordan Draper and it combines dexterity with a euro game feel. You are each building constructions that will form part of a new city on the central board. On your turn you can select a base for your city, a card that gives you building rules or pieces at random from the bag, which will be what you build with. When you have a building that meets your objectives, you carefully slide it onto the board and start to build a new one. Overall, the game is a lot of fun, and simply beautiful. It's like playing a tiny dexterity game multiple times whilst trying to meet different objectives and its great to see what you've all made at the end of the game.
MegaCity: Oceania
  • Ticket to Ride: London is a follow-up to Ticket to Ride: New York, and the second 15 minute Ticket to Ride game. The main rules are the same as standard Ticket to Ride, you'll still be collecting card sets to lay down routes to complete tickets. The London version also adds local routes which reward you bonus points if you connect all the locations that share a colour. It is also bursting with British charm, the player tokens are the traditional double-decker buses, the score trackers are adorned with Union Jacks and the cards sets include black cabs and yellow submarines! Expect a full review coming soon.
Ticket to Ride: London
  • BarPig asks what if there were a bar that serves exclusively porcine adventurers? The answer is a chaotic bar/party game that will have you performing various challenges depending on which adventurer wins each round. While the gameplay is rather simple the challenges make this light-hearted game a lot of fun, with the inevitable bouncers constantly kicking out adventurers forcing your to take on a new persona with a new challenge to issue. If you're interested in BarPig, the standalone expansion is currently live on Kickstarter

Games Bought

It seems there are two types of people who go to the UK Games Expo - those who save money all year and have a huge blow out, and those who hate to see giant haul photos and stick to a very tight budget - seeing it as a social, rather than commercial convention. What's great about UKGE is that both gaming and shopping are equally weighted. Personally, it's been a bit of a blow out! We rushed into the convention to pick up a few hot games (which ultimately didn't sell out for hours, days or even at all!).
  • Imperial Settlers Roll and Write was definitely one of the hottest releases at the convention. We pre-ordered our copy and we were the second people to the stall on Friday, picking up our exclusive UKGE promos too!
  • On Tour is a game from Kickstarter that we didn't back, but when I saw people playing it on social media, I got huge remorse for not backing. It's not available in the UK, but FanBoy3 made a bulk order from the publisher and had some copies at UKGE, which is awesome!
  • Century: A New World is the third and final installment in the Century series. It was one of the biggest releases of the convention, but it was really plentiful and I could've shopped around a bit more with hindsight.
  • A Pleasant Journey to Neko was an Essen release that I was super sad to miss out on last year. When I saw that Quality Beast were carrying some of The Wood Game's products I was so excited. I got some free penguin promos too, so I'm a very happy customer.
  • Die Tavernen im Tiefen Thal was briefly available from Meeples Corner. As the next big box game from Wolfgang Warsch I decided to be impatient and get a Germany copy in advance of the English release. All game components are language independent, so I'm OK with my choices.
  • Tokyo Highway: Cars & Buildings is an expansion which I don't believe changes the gameplay of Tokyo Highway, but it has unique different shapes vehicles, rather than all cards, as well as four different buildings. Whilst it's totally unnecessary, why not make a fantastic looking game look even better?

We also took part in the BoardGameGeek Math Trade. We traded away six games, mostly for cold hard cash, but we also picked up two games. It was super easy to coordinate this year, although the 10am meetup was a little to early when we wanted to be running around the convention like kids in a candy store. This trade was shortly followed by a huge queue for the shop and drop!

Finally, as regular readers might expect, I got my chance to go to the bring and buy. The queue was long and we didn't go in until around 1pm, but thankfully there were still a few bargains to be had. On Friday I picked up two games:
  • Asante was £20, which is frankly pretty expensive for a second hand small two-player game, but you just can't get hold of it anywhere. We played Asante at Cakes and Ladders board game cafe and it was a big hit, so I had to pick this one up.
  • Factory Funner was just £15! I'm pretty sure this was a great deal. We've never played factory fun, but since that had a £50 price tag at the same bring and buy, I was all over the sequel as a viable alternative. The cashier that I paid was jealous, so that's always a decent indication of a bargain.

Things we Saw

Even with three full days at the convention, it's so large that you have to realise that you can't see it all! There wasn't time to demo every game I wanted to, so sometimes a short explanation from the publisher just was to suffice. Here's a few highlights of games we saw on the Friday.

  • Symphony No. 9 may be the first game I've seen where you have a 'check for dead musicians phase'. In this game you aren't the musicians, but rather their patrons, trying to gain the rights to great classical composer's music. You then take this music to perform at concerts to make money from the arts. But don't get too greedy, throw too lavish a show and expect to go bust as the peasants start reaching for pitchforks! Moaideas were also showing a huge range on new games as well as their hit games from convention season last year. Expect a full review of Symphony No. 9 coming soon.
Upcoming games from Moaideas Game Design
  • Tribe is a dexterity game, from Itten Games, that has you managing the beliefs of a tribe of humans. Carefully balance the tribal icons on the humans and score points when enough people believe in the same shape or coloured symbol. Expect a full review coming soon.
  • Undo is a cooperative story driven game, from Pegasus Spiele, that has you traveling through time trying to correct mistakes in the past to save the life of someone who died. You will have to choose which moments in history to visit (how could an event in 2000BC affect a death in 2012AD? but no single time period is essential so you should always have a chance to win. Even if you do badly in one area the developing story will inform your future choices. Expect a full review of Undo: The Cherry Blossom Festival coming soon.
  • Seize the Bean is a coffee themed deck-building game, from Quality Beast, that has you running a coffee shop in Berlin. You'll build your deck, but also have to deal with the order your receive your cards in order to satisfy your customers and be successful. It's worth noting that this game has some of the best resource tokens you'll ever see! 
    Seize the Bean
  • Endeavor: Age of Expansion adds complete new decks of cards and buildings for Endeavor, giving you a totally fresh take on the game. Expect a more aggressive game as you use the 3 new actions to manipulate your opponents more than ever!. If you are looking to expand Endeavor, then the expansion launches on Kickstarter on 18th June 2019.


Fi's highlight from Day 1 - Bring and Buy
I love a bring and buy sale, but the one at UKGE can be a bit overwhelming. It was great that they had a bigger space this year and enforced the no bags rule, which meant that it was slightly easier to move around and see games, although it really was a sea of games - probably around 8000 games at its peak! There were certainly bargains to be had, even though there are still people who spend their whole convention waiting for bargains to be added to the 'Goods In' shelf. Whilst selling games there would still be too much of a time sink for me, I love shopping there and finding either rare out of print games, or real bargains like Asante and Factory Funner, as well as more games still to come!

Amy with Tsuro VR, looking far more composed than Fi did on her turn!

Amy's highlight from Day 1 - Tsuro VR
UKGE isn't just about physical board games, look around the stalls and you'll find many digital versions of popular tabletop games. This year we were lucky enough to demo Tsuro VR by Thunderbox Entertainment. It's incredible how quickly the game whisks you away to a calming garden complete with a 20 foot square Tsuro board in the center. With the Oculus Quest giving complete freedom of movement I was able to walk right across the board to get a closer look at was going on in the game, or wander over to pet the fox that peeked around the corner half way through. It's wonderful to see an emerging technology embracing the world of traditional games rather than seeking to replace it!

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