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 15 August 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Arraial

Game: Arraial

Publisher: MEBO Games & Pandasaurus Games

Designer: Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro, Paulo Soledade

Year: 2018

Arraial is a game that makes me grateful not to have a Youtube channel or a podcast. I've heard its name pronounced many different ways, from the phonetically obvious, all the way to something sounding like 'Ohio'. Arraial was first published by Portuguese publisher, Mebo at Essen 2018 and has now been picked up by Pandasurus for English-speaking markets. It appears that in Portuguese, arraial means village or fair, and you can see from the tiles in the game that a 'fair' seems to be a pretty raucous party!

Arraial is a tile laying game for 1-4 players that plays in around 30 minutes. It's perhaps one of the closest recreations of Tetris that I've seen in board games, even surpassing Spring Meadow and the roll and write game, Brikks. That means we took the opportunity to play Arraial with both two-players, as well as with some video game fanatic friends!

In Arraial, each player takes a player board and over the course of the game you'll add polyomino pieces to your board, obeying Tetris rules (humming the theme tune is optional). Pieces fall down from the top of your board and can only undercut an adjacent piece by one space, so long as no other pieces block the way. Your board is capped in height by a horizontal bar, but you can move this up by completing a row (getting a Tetris). On your turn you have 3 actions, which you can use to either take a piece from the central supply of three, or spin the supply wheel to change the orientation of all three pieces by 90 degrees.

You gain points by grouping colours together to gather meeples. When you have two pieces of the same colour connected you get a meeple. When you have the largest group of any colour connected you get the double meeple - this can pass around the table if one player exceeds the size of your largest group. You also get a meeple foe each row you complete. At the end of each round, the cap to your board falls two spaces, and if that causes an overlap, then you'll lose the capping card and any opportunity to score meeples for completed rows in the future. At the end of three rounds you'll count up meeples and the person with the most will win.

Arraial is a winner on a few levels. The game has great components and they've gone a step further than just giving you coloured pieces, by bringing their theme to life with characters on each tile that are certainly unique! The game is definitely an eye-catching one! It's also easy to teach to new players and the fact that it's so close to Tetris is a perfect hook to get people to understand a bunch of the rules in the game.

Whilst you're certainly doing your own thing, playing  game by yourself on your personal player board, there's no lack of player interaction with Arraial. No only is there the game of denial as you choose which pieces will be available in the supply for the next player, but the whole game seems to be about managing the majority, double meeple tokens. Building a big clump of a single colour will secure you the double meeple, but you'll only ever have one additional meeple in that group, whereas if you'd started a new area you'd get more single meeples and perhaps no-one was going to challenge your 3 connected tiles in blue in the first place. The game of completing rows is an agonising personal decision of whether it's worth sacrificing to help with adjacencies or just to work harder on other more lucrative colours.

On the downside, Arraial is surprisingly mean and competitive. It's got a similar issue to Azul, in that you only affect the player to your left in turn order and so if you're an experienced player or particularly cunning, you'll be able to really hinder the perhaps inexperienced player who is next to you. Conversely, if you're after an inexperienced player, you might be gifted lots of golden opportunities. The ability to deny opportunities to your opponents is a really fun aspect of the game that works fantastically for two-players, but is less meaningful with four players, because you lose the turn-to-turn control.

In the overcrowded space of polyomino games, Cottage Garden still reigns supreme for me. Whilst Arraial is simpler, I have no trouble teaching Cottage Garden to my parents, which is a good measure for how accessible a game is. Therefore I don't have a need to play the simpler Arraial and it's likely to be one we forget. For the Yellow Meeple, it's a 6.5/10.

Arraial was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £43.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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