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

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Over-thinking by the Yellow Meeple: The Dice Tower Awards 2018

The Dice Tower was definitely one of the first board game media outlets I was aware of when entering the hobby. When we started The Game Shelf around 12 months later, the Dice Tower Awards were the first awards I covered. It's now the 5th year I've covered the awards. Of course, no-one can ever play all of the new games each year, but we try extremely hard, logging on average around 80 games played each month and generally being a little cult of the new in the games we choose to play.

Unlike last year, where Gloomhaven took home a huge number of awards, this year's winners are more spread and represent a wide range of games. One or two match my own picks for best games of 2018, which a few seem to have been influenced by 'The Dice Tower effect'.

For those interested in the context for my opinions on the winners, the nominated games we have had the change to play are: Gizmos, Reef, Space Base, My Little Scythe, Grimm Forest, Cerebria, The Mind, Endeavor: Age of Sail, High Society, The Estates, Brass Birmingham, Coimbra, Terraforming Mars: Prelude, Roll Player: Monsters and Minions, Duelosaur Island, Decrypto, Drop It, Architects of the West Kingdom.

First I'd like to look at the winners that we have had a chance to play...

Just One won for Best Party Game - a choice that I would totally have agreed with until I got the chance to try Decrypto in the last couple of months. Both Just One and Decrypto are amazing though. Just One is the game that I can get anyone to play and it will certainly become one of our most played party games, but Decrypto is the party game I want to play as a gamer because I just love the deduction.

Teotihuacan: City of Gods won for Best Strategy Game. I've only had the chance to play it once and I really enjoyed it. I can't wait to get it back to the table some more. Whilst Coimbra is the game I've played most in this category, it's slightly lighter, so I understand why it wouldn't win in the strategy game category. I need to play more of Brass Birmingham too, as well as cracking the shrink on Underwater cities. I think it takes us more than 9 months to decide on our best strategy game from a given year, because they get to the table less frequently.

Keyforge: Call of the Archons won for Best Two-Player Game, which is not unexpected. So many people play Keyforge, ourselves included and whilst it's not my favourite game, it's still one I enjoy playing and it's got such a low barrier to entry. For me, 2018 was not great for 2-player games, with Duelosaur Island being the only other nominee we've played.

Chronicles of Crime won two awards - Best Cooperative Game and Most Innovative Game. I'm really happy that Chronicles of Crime got the recognition it deserves for the amazing way it incorporates technology into a board game. I love how the app allows you to ask anyone about anything to piece together your theories. It's definitely the right crime solving game for me, with the right level of difficulty and a high level of engagement in the game.

Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is another crime solving game, that seemed to go head-to-head with Chronicles of Crime. However, Detective won for Best Theming which I think is a fair reflection of the fact that it really goes to great lengths to make you feel like a real detective. The game is a much longer experience that Chronicles of Crime and much more detailed. Your using real world information from the internet, as well as a huge web of important and less important encounters and information to make connections like a real detective.

Scythe: Rise of Fenris won for Best Board Game Expansion and you'll find no disagreements here. Playing through Rise of Fenris was one of our best board game experiences of 2018 and really meant that we got to know Scythe after only having a few plays prior to the expansion. I loved the variety in the scenarios, which gave me my first ever opportunity to win at Scythe! Any game with secret packages tends to have me hooked and although I didn't enjoy some of the more combat focused scenarios, I loved my overall experience.

Everdell won for Best Artwork, which certainly reflects my opinion on the cute woodland artwork in the game. Not only that, but Everdell's an awesome game. I'm surprised that it wasn't nominated in the strategy game category or foe the overall game of the year. It would certainly hit my Top 10 of 2018 now that I've played it a few more times.

Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar won Best Reprint and Best Family Game and it's the choice that I most disagree with. Fireball Island is fine - it's imposing on the table, it's quite amusing to play, especially because of the gimmick factor, but it's nowhere near the other nominees in either of the two categories based on the quality of the gameplay. I think that the Dice Tower's enthusiasm for this game and a general sense of nostalgia has swayed the votes here.  For me, Reef would have been the best family game and Endeavor: Age of Sail for best reprint.

Finally, the award for Best New Designer went to Wolfgang Warsch. This is no real surprise, since Wolfgang Warsch seemingly came from nowhere last year, to produce three huge hits in The Mind, Quacks of Quedlinberg, Ganz Schon Clever, as well as Illusion, which is a family favourite in our house.

There's two winners that we haven't played, which are Root, which won Game of the Year and Best Game from a Small Publisher and Rising Sun, which won for Best Production. I'm in no rush to play either of these games because I understand that both have lots of conflict and area control that are totally not my thing. It's sometimes hard to let games with so much hype pass you by, but I know for sure that buying them would be wasted money, so I'm happy that I know my own tastes.

From the nominees, I'm still keen to play Underwater Cities, which we own but haven't played. Also Vindication, which we backed on Kickstarter for the second print run. Otherwise it seems we've done a pretty thorough job of playing the best games of 2018 and now I just want to play some of our favourites lots more!

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