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 26 July 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- City Explorer: Tainan

Game: City Explorer: Tainan

Publisher: Moaideas Game Design

Designer: ゆお (Yuo)

Year: 2018

We met with Moaideas Game Design and talked about some of their more well-known titles, but we also came away with City Explorer: Tainan - a small box game comprised of just 35 cards that feels almost like a souvenir from the trip to Taiwan that we've never had. Each card features a site of interest in Tainan and tells you a little about it (in both the local language and English) and whilst this was pretty much overlooked by us when we played the game, I'd comment on the fact that this game might be able to sell modern board games to a tourist audience if it could be found in gift shops. (I made a similar comment about the power of Ticket to Ride: London, and I really to hope there's some truth to it!)

City Explorer: Tainan is the second such game from Moaideas Game Design, with a Kyoto version also available. It's a set collection game for 2-4 players which plays in as little as 10 minutes, but packs some interesting mechanisms into its small package.


At the start of a game of City Explorer: Tainan the deck of cards is shuffled and dealt out evenly into a number of rows depending on the player count. Each row will consist of 1 face up card, while the rest remain face down. Players will then have an opportunity to flip a card each before the game begins. Once setup the game will continue in turns consisting of 2 phases. During the first phase the current first player will flip any two cards face upright for all to see. These two cards must be orthogonally connected over 2 rows.

After this each player takes a turn choosing whether to take a row, or to manipulate the cards. If they choose to take a row then they will take all the cards from that row into their hand. They are then essentially out of the game, this is the hand of cards that they will score with. If they choose to manipulate the cards then they get two chances to perform one of the available actions, either the same one twice or one of each. They can look at a face down card secretly before putting it back, or they can remove a card from the top or bottom of one of the columns and push it in from the opposite edge, ideally moving cards into a more favourable position.

The game continues until every player has taken a row (though if the last player takes too long they can time out). At this point every player will score their hands. Cards score in multiple ways, there are 5 numbered sets (5-9) each of which will award the player who has the most of that number with the marked number of points. In addition if you have a complete set of 1 of each number you will score bonus points. All cards also have 1 of three special symbols, the first of which lets you win ties when scoring the numbers, the second simply awards 1 point, and the third awards 5 points so long as you have 3. The player with the most points wins.

Amy’s Final thoughts

City Explorer: Tainan is a push your luck game at it's heart. While it is about manipulating cards and gaining hidden knowledge that your opponents don't have, it's also about deciding how long you are willing to do this before taking a row. How many cards of a row do you need to know before you deem it worth taking? How long are you willing to gather information, risking that your opponents will take the row you want? How many cards are you willing to take blind and hope suit your hand? While the gameplay is really rather simple, the decisions made are not easy and there is a lot of excitement to get from seeing if that one card you were taking a gamble on worked out well, or completely screwed you over!

City Explorer: Tainan is a game that does one thing and it does it extremely well. Which is exactly how I want my filler games to be. It's short, it's sweet and every decision counts. While you do run the risk of being the first player to take a row and then essentially sitting out the rest of the round, each game is only 10 minutes, so you won't be waiting long. In a two player game you actually get to take 2 rows each, which works perfectly to adjust the game to a smaller player count without changing the feel of the game.

It's important to judge City Explorer: Tainan as what it is, a quick, approachable filler game. and in that niche it has made a perfect home for itself. You are never going to get the depth of a full game in a 10 minute time-span. But few filler games manage to explore a concept as competently and completely as City Explorer: Tainan. It's well worth trying if you are in the market for a quick card game.

Fi’s Final Thoughts

City Explorer: Tainan is perhaps one of the simplest games I could ever describe - "You manipulate the cards for a while and ultimately everyone will pick a row and then you'll score". And that's really all that it is, except that in two players you take two rows each. The game could be over in less than a minute if everyone just took blind. But the true game is in pushing your luck and taking just the right balance of public information, private information and no information at all based or the cards that are visible or invisible or that you've peeked at.

There's actually quite a lot of ways that your set can score, and so even knowing what row is best can be quite challenging and I've found that it's a gut feel developed over a number of games. If you want to sit and optimise the score, in a game where you'll probably take some face down cards anyway, then I probably don't want to play with you. 

Personally, there's not really enough going on in City Explorer: Tainan for me. I admire what it manages to create from real simplicity, but the only gap I can see it filling is that of a very portable microgame and it just takes up too much table space to work perfectly in that niche. However, if you are looking for more unique fillers then I have to admit that City Explorer: Tainan was a big surprise and is certainly a strong and simple game.

You Might Like...
  • City Explorer: Tainan is extremely portable.
  • It will take a number of games to master the set collection.
  • It has really interactive and tense push your luck elements.
You Might Not Like...
  • The game is very simple, so might not scratch the itch of heavier gamers.
  • The theme was completely lost to us, although it might appeal if you actually know the place!

The Verdict
7/10 City Explorer: Tainan does a huge amount with just 35 cards. It's a really intriguing set collection game with push your luck and memory elements. It's unlikely to set your gaming world on fire, but it's an admirable package and one that we hope sees a bit more love in the micro-game space.

City Explorer: Tainan was a review copy kindly provided to us by Moaideas Game Design.

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