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

Sunday 18 August 2019

Overthinking by the Yellow Meeple:- My Top 10 Board Games (2019 Edition)

Each year, for the anniversary of The Game Shelf, I update my top ten games of all time. Unfortunately, this year I forgot my own birthday, but, back in May, The Game Shelf turned four years old! With over 700 articles written for the site during those 4 years, you bet we've been busy playing new games, and so, two of these games have done very well to stand the test of time from my first ever Top 10. If you're looking back at that first top ten now, then I'd still rank Pandemic Legacy Season 1 as my best ever gaming experience, but I now choose to exclude legacy experiences from my list and I took the approach of 'what game do I want to play most right now?' when making this list.

Thanks to the ranking engine at PubMeeple, I didn't lose too much sleep over this top ten - this is just exactly how my ranking came out.

     1    Terraforming Mars is reigning strong as my favourite game of all time! I think it's one of the only games out there where I will forever buy everything that's available, as well as wanting to upgrade the game myself. I have 3D terrain pieces for the board, Amy has printed out awesome little trays for the cubes and we have board overlays that will soon be replaced when the Turmoil Kickstarter fulfills. Terraforming Mars is the ultimate in engine building games for me. There's no restriction to how much I can achieve aside from my own ability to keep the engine running. I love it  in any form, with or without expansions, with or without drafting - it's just the best.

     2    Wasteland Express Delivery Service is my go-to pick up and deliver game. Many have compared the recent Star Wars: Outer Rim to this masterpiece, but having played both, Outer Rim is not a patch on Wasteland Express! Wasteland Express is filled with theme and exciting and challenging pick up and deliver objectives. The action allocation system is really different and well thought out, the player interaction is quite passive, but still a threat, and ultimately, I think I'm quite good at it! There's no denying that I play to win and Wasteland Express is one I really love to play.

     3    XCOM: The Board Game placed highly on my first ever top ten list and is still going strong. I distinctly remember agreeing to get this game for Amy in spite of my apprehension over the theme which was of no interest to me. It turns out that XCOM was destined to ignite a love for real time cooperative games for both of us. XCOM is one of a small handful of games that make time pass at hyperspeed. A game lasts 2 hours, but it feels like about 20 minutes - a real sign that it's so immersive and so much fun that time just flies. XCOM does a great job of balancing stressful real-time elements with a resolution phase that allows lots of discussion and planning. There are so many highs and lows and I just love how cooperative it feels to play.

     4    Bunny Kingdom has been a bit of a sleeper hit in our collection, and I am surprise it ranked so highly in the ranking engine. It recently came back to our table as a result of the new 'In the Sky' expansion that really brought it back to like for us, but even without the expansion it's a game that I always return to from our shelves.  I love how Bunny Kingdom implements drafting into a game full of different scoring opportunities and  decisions that just really work for me. With its lovely art, cute components and a really good low-to-mid weight feel, Bunny Kingdom is a game I just love bringing to the table.

     5    Gloomhaven was never meany to be a game I would enjoy. We backed the second Kickstarter after it became the number 1 game on BoardGameGeek and we really thought it would be a purchase for Amy that I would merely tolerate. However, in spite of a long setup, it's probably our most played 'big game' - we've played it even more than my favourite game, without needing any expansions to give it a refresh and bring it back to the table. We're just about to start a regular Gloomhaven session with friends too and I hope that it continues to be a favourite.

     6    Kitchen Rush picks up on the previously mentioned real-time cooperative theme. It's a game that's guaranteed to be over in under 20 minutes because each round only lasts 4 minutes. If you know the video-game overcooked, then Kitchen Rush is somewhat similar with a mad dash to fulfill and cook orders in a very stressful restaurant kitchen. Using timers as workers gives you just enough time to communicate and efficient communication is really key. Kitchen Rush is not an easy game, but with practice it's possible to progress through the different difficulties and then challenge yourself which adds desserts as well as whole new kinds of challenging to the game! It's one I'd rather play with Amy than with new players so that we can keep getting better and better at working together.

     7    OrlĂ©ans is a slightly odd game in our collection because we decided to buy expansions after just one play. The base game is a fantastic euro game which uses bag building as a mechanism - something I really enjoy as an extension of deck-building. I really enjoy all of the different ways you can craft your bag to take advantage of different strategies in the game. The first expansion we got was the Invasion expansion which was possibly the best expansion I've ever played. The cooperative variant in the box possibly exceeds the awesomeness of the base game for me, plus there's loads of other content too, including a 2-player game that is nice for us to add new ways to play the game. Orleans will definitely give me lots to explore for years to come and I hope we can play it some more soon.

     8    Cottage Garden was one of the first polyomino games - tile laying games with Tetris like pieces where you are typically trying to tessellate and fill up a board. It was the first of Uwe Rosenberg's puzzle trilogy, following on from Patchwork and now seems to be part of a sea of similar games, using both tile laying and roll and write mechanisms to deliver much the same thing. Cottage Garden is my favourite, perhaps because it was one of the first and also because it has worked so well for exciting new players, as well as my family. I love the way that tiles are drafted, the way scoring is a real optimisation game, and that each board is an objective all of its own. It's the best polyomino game for me.

     9    Everdell is perhaps the game on this list that we've played the least, but each play has been so much fun. When Amy first played it, she sold it to me as Terraforming Mars - lite with not only nice artwork, but amazing, cute artwork and fantastic overall production. Based on my number 1 game, what's not to like?! The engine building is great and I love triggering combos in my tableau. I also like that it has a similar quality to Terraforming Mars, where I can do as much as I want - players transition through the rounds asynchronously and so if I've got resources or workers that allow me to keep going then I can keep doing it and squeezing every last bit out of my engine.

     10    Dominion was one of the first games we ever owned and what a great first choice! It's just holding onto a spot on the top ten list, as it has done for the last four years. Dominion is one of the original deck-building games and the clean system is what really makes the game appealing to me. We can setup a two-player game of Dominion and play it almost without thinking, yet get a really interesting experience from any setup. We've picked up a couple expansions along the way, but we primarily still play with just the base game and Prosperity.

We've played a couple of great games recently that might just have a hope of displacing some of these favourites, but I'm starting to think that most of them are here to stay.

Have any of your favourites made it onto my list?


  1. I like your list. Terraforming I've not played as I haven't had a chance for someone to teach me who knows how to play and the tutorial videos have successfully scared me off. I think Dominion would be higher if you had more expansions. I hate the Bunny Kingdom 2 player rules so it won't ever be on any top list for me. Thanks for posting.

    1. I think we've only ever played Bunny Kingdom 2-player. However, you have hit on something that always bugged me. I swear when we first played it at a board game cafe after its Essen release the two-player drafting rules were different to the edition we own, and they were better in the original! Instead of a hidden stack of 12, you had a tableau of 12 cards laid out in front of you and could form a strategy from there.

      Hate drafting is an integral and fun part of drafting for me though, but I can see why people wouldn't enjoy it.

  2. I enjoyed your post as well, and glad to see Wasteland finally get some love :)

    1. I know, it definitely doesn't get as much of the spotlight as I think it deserves! I had a lot of fun painting the minis too.

  3. I’m really interested in Wasteland Express just haven’t gotten to try it yet.