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

Thursday 31 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Tranquility

Game: Tranquility

Publisher: Board Game Hub

Designer: James Emmerson

Year: 2020

Tranquility is a cooperative card game for 1-5 players, in which players set sail on a journey through paradise. The game embodies its title in two ways – first the beautiful artwork, from artist Tristam Rossin, really sets the peaceful tone, but, more importantly, the game is played in silence.

Each card features a scene of an island, depicted at both day and night. By placing these cards in a route of ascending order, you’ll create the pathway for a beautiful voyage, hopefully before time runs out. Tranquility is a first publication from James Emmerson, and it launches on Kickstarter on 2nd November 2019.

Monday 28 October 2019

The Game Shelf Visits:- Spiel 2019 in Essen, Germany

We're home from our first ever visit to Spiel in Essen, Germany! Along with 209,000 other visitors and 1,200 exhibitors we spent some time at Essen last week buying games, playing games and meeting up with friends. Essen is the largest board game convention in the world and WOW, it certainly felt like it too!

In 2.5 days we did mange to explore all 6 halls, played a few demos each day and came home with a lot of games. Thursday and Friday were actually less busy than I had expected, but Saturday felt like Armageddon at times. Next year, we'll either be booking meetings or avoiding the halls on Saturday! I didn't expect to be able to find a demo table at all, but I was really surprised by how often we got lucky and found a game we wanted to play, even on Saturday, although it was significantly more difficult!

From a personal perspective, I'm really happy with the games we found to buy or review and generally happy with what we got the chance to play. But, although it seems a little cliche, I'm also happy that we upped our social game for this convention. We're certainly not the kind who want to approach people from Twitter or Youtube, just to say 'Hi', but we did connect with more publishers and friends and had social plans every night - it's starting to feel a little more like home during conventions thanks to people like Kai, Nuria, Paul, Dan, Vince and Mark.

New Games

Essen is still growing. The number of new games this year was 1,500, compared to 1,400 last year. However, there was a general consensus that this year had no big stand-out game that sold out in minutes. On Thursday there was a smattering of sold out signs, and more and more each day, but its hard to know what the big hit was.

We decided to pay to ship our games home from the halls, shipping one box on Thursday and a smaller box on Saturday. Our boxes haven't arrived yet, but they're both on their way. Since we were paying to get them home, we didn't want to buy games that will make their way to the UK in a matter of weeks. We focused on the games we think might not come out in the UK at all or publishers who have often taken a long time to get their games to the UK, as well as some games for upcoming reviews. We also shipped a bunch of games to The Ludoquist board game cafe in Croydon, where Amy works.

Coming home in our hand luggage were:
  • Pret-a-Porter was a Kickstarter pick-up from Portal Games. It was exceedingly heavy and a bit of an issue at check-in!
  • Trismegistus: The Ultimate Formula  was on my most anticipated list, since it's from the same designer and publisher as Teotihaucan. I expect that it's heavy in more ways than one!
  • X-Wing Miniatures were hugely discounted at the show. Amy could've bought a lot more than 5! the smaller ships were just 3 euros and the fact that they're in German doesn't matter because we have a 2nd edition conversion kit. We avoided the larger ships, but at just 7 euros, they were a huge bargain for the miniatures alone!
  • Everdell Bellfaire & Everdell Spirecrest are the two latest expansions for Everdell. I wasn't even sure they were going to be at Essen, but now I'm glad I chose not to back the recent Kickstarter because I have the two expansions in my hands!
  • T-Rex's Holiday and Majolica Painting are both from Blue Magpie Games, one of the publishers represented by Taiwan Board Game Design. Last year they brought out Majolica which many people compared favourably to Azul. Both of these games are roll and writes, but I'm excited to try them out.
  • Silver & Gold is a game I finally gave up waiting for an English language edition of. It's a small card-based 'roll and write' type game from Phil Walker-Harding. I'm sure Pandasaurus will get their edition out very soon, but it was inexpensive, so I'm happy to have it now.
  • The Mind Extreme is a version of The Mind where you have two decks numbered 1-to-50 - one red, one white, White cards must be played ascending, red cards must be played descending and some rounds are played face-down!
  • Walking in Provence is from Emperor S4 and is a sequel to Walking in Burano. The game looks quite different, and much more like Honshu than Walking in Burano, but with a similar harming art style.
  • Escape Tales: Low Memory is the second Escape Tales game from Board & Dice. Escape Tales: the Awakening was an epic narrative escape room game that was a superb gaming experience and I can't wait for more.
  • Nine Tiles Panic is one of the latest releases from Oink Games, who release really small box games. It's a competitive real time game and there's a whole lot packed into that tiny box!
  • Albedo: Yggdrasil is the latest expansion for Albedo, from designer Kai Hebertz. Albedo is the best hidden gem we've ever found and we are glad to continue to support this innovative deck-building game.
  • Fleet: The Dice Game is a really heavy looking roll and write from Eagle Gryphon games. It was an impulse purchase after not seeing a release in the UK.
You can fit a whole lot into two small suitcases!

In a cardboard box somewhere between Essen and Surrey are a bunch of games for The Ludoquist:
  • Zoom in Barcelona is a game we tried at UKGE. It's the first published game from the lovely people at Cucafuera game and we're excited to try the advanced mode now we have a copy to play again.
  • L.L.A.M.A. is a card game from Reiner Knizia that was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres. I don't think I've seen it in English yet, so for 6 euros, I'm happy to try it.
  • Papillon was Kickstarted by Kolossal Games. It has lovely 3D flowers and you put butterflies on them. It's supposed to play well with two as well!
  • Cairn is a two-player only game from Matagot that looks like fun chess.
  • Bloom Town is the first game from Sidekick Games - a publishing company founded by Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen - designers of Deep Blue, Flamme Rouge and Copenhagen. We played a demo and really enjoyed it.
  • Plunderbund was a game highlighted by a few media folks on Twitter during the show. We followed the tip-off and got a really exciting explanation of this economic game with a side of deck-building.
  • Skytopia: in the circle of time is from the designer and publisher of Smartphone Inc, one of the break out hits of last year's Spiel.
  • Rush M.D. is a new game based on the system of Kitchen Rush - one of our absolute favourite cooperative games. This time you're in a hospital, completing mini games and dexterity challenges, all in real time.
  • Ka Pai is one of many roll and writes. It was hard to not buy all of the roll and writes at the show!
  • Underwater Cities: New Discoveries is an expansion to a game we've only played once, but we really wanted the Delicious Games edition to match our base game!
  • MegaCity: Oceania is from Hub Games. It's a great dexterity experience crossed with a euro game that we tried at UKGE.
  • War of the Worlds: The New Wave is an assymetric 2-player only game that was Kickstarted by Grey Fox Games.
  • Vast: The Mysterious Manor will be our first venture into the games designed by Leder Games and wer're ecited to find out what all of the fuss is about!

The Demos

As I noted, I was surprised how many demos we got the chance to play. Essen, more-so than any other convention we've attended seemed to have huge booths with significant gaming space. Every game we played was a full game and that even seemed to be true for some of the larger 2-3 hour games that we chose to avoid to maximise the number of games we had the chance to see.

Here's a few of the best games we had the chance to play. While none of them fit the criteria for games we needed to bring home in our luggage, we will hopefully find a few releasing in the UK soon.
  • Last Bastion is a re-implementation of Ghost Stories from Antoine Bauza. The game has a new theme and a few changes to mechanisms, but stays very close to the original game of Ghost Stories. The ghosts are now skulls, but they still advance onto the board, with 3 skulls meaning that you lose. There are still 5 different colours of tokens used to defeat monsters. Most of the village tiles have also had their ability slightly tweaked. The production quality is high, with 8 different character miniatures (and the option to buy a painted miniature set) and minis to hang a banner and to represent a net and a cart full of explosives. If you missed out on Ghost Stories, which is now 10 years old then you might as well buy Last Bastion - it's still a fantastic and very challenging cooperative game. If you have Ghost Stories, like we do, then it might not be worth buying a whole new game.
  • Bloom Town is an elegant tile-laying and town building game. Each turn you take a tile from the 5 face-up tiles in the market and add it to your 5x5 grid player board. The type of tile will determine how it scores eg. parks like to be in groups of 3, whilst subway stops want to be in a diagonal pattern. Where you place the tile will determine which tile will take next. Your board is split into 5 columns, each with a printed symbol and these correspond to the 5 tiles in the market. In addition to the scoring when you place a tile, there will be bonus scorings, as well as a few special powers you can use during the game. We really enjoyed the simplicity of Bloom Town - it's a very clean design with a classic feel to it and we're looking forward to playing some more.
  • Big Dig is a small release from Tasty Minstrel Games. It works much like a roll and write or flip and fill game, expect you're not rolling or flipping over cards. Each player works with an identical player board depicting an area to mine - including different coloured gems, fossils and artifacts, a tunnel and some rocks. Each game will use three objectives from the deck, perhaps mine all green gems or completely surround the fossil. On your turn you can either take one of the five cards and draw that shape on your board - mining through the soft earth only, or you can blow up a rock. All of you crossed out areas must connect to each other or the surface. Once all 5 cards in the centre have been used they're flipped over and returned to the centre as a new supply. It's only a 10-minute game and it's a nice little pocket roll and write.
  • Miyabi is the latest family title from Haba Games. You can spot their family titles because they're not in the classic yellow box. Miyabi is a tile laying game which, like many, uses tetromino pieces. There's a fixed supply of pieces for each round with pieces in a variety of shapes and sizes, depicting one of 6 different feature types. You'll each be constructing a Japanese garden by taking one tile per turn and placing it so that the feature is in the correct row of your player board and in a column you've not yet placed something in in that round. With a 6x6 grid, you'll take 6 turns per round. Once you have a base, tiles can be stacked, with bonuses for the first to reach the 5th level on any given row. Tile placement gets more and more interesting as the game goes on ad you try to score big points for placing features on higher levels while maintaining a majority of symbols in each row compared to all other players. It's a brilliant puzzle that ramps up as you go along and I'd love to try again to beat Amy after her runaway victory in our first game.

  • Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 7 - Japan & Italy jumps the queue of Ticket to Ride maps we're yet to play. We played the Japan side of the map which adds a couple of interesting new elements. The first obvious difference is the board, which has two 'zoomed in' areas for major cities. There's no real effect on gameplay, you just need to be mindful of how to connect a place on the main map to somewhere on the zoomed in section -which the ticket cards are very good at showing graphically. The main gameplay difference is the bullet trains, which add a semi-cooperative feel to the game. The bullet trains can be placed by anyone and there's an end game point bonus for contributing the most, but all bullet train routes are considered connected for everyone when it comes to scoring tickets. During the game, you play card the same way, eg. three matching red cards to claim length 3 bullet train route, but instead of scoring points, you just go up 3 on the bullet train track. I love how much of a difference this adds into the game - it feels far more significant than many expansions, really changing the strategy in the game, but also making the map more open and making this map a bit of a ticket-fest, much like Switzerland - another map I really enjoy.
  • Mine Deeper is a very tactile, toy-like game from Korea Board Games. It's pretty much a Battleship game for two players in which you need to be the first to find all 5 of your opponents red gems. Each player takes a different setup card, placing red, yellow, grey and a single purple gem. On your turn, you poke on of the doors and cause the gem behind it to fall - a purple gem indicates that two adjacent gems are red, a yellow gem indicates that one adjacent gem is red, a grey means nothing and finding reds is your goal. A a deduction game, it's very simple, but satisfying, even though Amy basically won by guessing all of the locations of my gems without clues. Unfortunately, it is a little too fragile and gems fall out either with great difficulty or way too easy, causing a landslide of boulders to fall from one push. It's a lovely concept for a kids game, but just not quite executed in production.

  • Trails of Tucana is a roll and write game from Aporta Games and the designers of one of our favourites - Kokoro. Each player takes a map sheet, but denotes outpost locations in different places on their board. One of the key goals of the game is to connect outpost A to the opposing outpost A, B to B and so on. Each turn you can draw one line segment based on two cards flipped over. Each card shows a terrain type, so you might be able to connect water and forest. As well as connecting outposts there are objects around the board that you'll also score for and you can gain a bonus line segment for connecting both symbols of one type to any outpost. We really liked this roll and write, although the players with us definitely didn't understand it. It's got a lot of similarities to Kokoro, but with a couple of extra scoring benefits that are perhaps simpler, but add more strategies into the game. I think I might need this one, in spite of our pretty large roll and write collection.
  • Porto is a family weight game from Portuguese publisher Mebo Games, about building the colourful buildings of Porto. Each turn you either take cards or play cards. If you take cards, you can take  total value of three from the supply. If you play cards you play 2 cards - one for its colour and one for its numerical value eg. 3 red. In this case you would take 3 red building level tokens and either start a new building on the board or add them to an existing building. If a building is completed, you add a roof tile. There are different scoring objectives to work towards and some private end game scoring objective too. What really makes this game stand out is how it looks - the board is a work of art and the houses have a really satisfying look to them. For us, the game is perhaps a little too simple, but I'm really glad that we managed to play it once.
  • Glen More II: Chronicles is a reprint of the classic tile-laying game Glen More. In preparation for our demo, we played Glen More in the run-up to Spiel for the first time. The base game of Glen More II keeps all of the same basic concepts as the original, but its been given a new, more modern art style. Mechanically, only the personalities have been added, who allow you to explore the new map board, which reminds me of travelling in Orleans. The major changes with the second edition come with the 8 chronicles - which are each a mini expansion that can be mixed, matched and combined. Glen More II was probably the best game we played all weekend, however it's at least four times the volume of the original, so the expansions need to be great to justify the game's size - I'd really like to give them a try. If you don't have Glen More, then I really think Glen More II is a must try!

We did play a few more demos, which for one reason or another didn't fit with us, including Kingsburg: The Dice Game, Funkoverse, House Flippers, Bronze and City Blox, but I guess that's not a bad hit rate.

To Wrap it Up...
  • I had spiral potatoes.
  • Food at the convention was very reasonably priced. Water was not.
  • Spiel was HUGE!
  • Saturday is bad.
  • Crowds are crazy.
  • People are awesome.We should spend more time with people.
  • We played much more than we expected to play.
  • There wasn't one huge standout game.
  • We have so many new games to play!
  • Shipping games home was a good plan, but suitcase Tetris is also fun.
  • The nicest toilets were in between Hall 5/6.
  • The press conference was in German - Doh!

Sunday 27 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Lifeform

Game: Lifeform

Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions

Designer:  Mark Chaplin, Toby Farrands

Year: 2019

Hall or Nothing Productions are a UK-based publisher whose first few published games have been based on historial themes - an obvious passion for designer Tristan Hall. Lifeform if their first game from external designers and so it takes on a very different theme.

Lifeform is a sprawling survival horror game with a theme that might seem a little familiar for the movie Aliens. Your are the crew aboard a mining ship - a warren of interconnected rooms that is now infested by an alien Lifeform. You must evade and make your way to the cargo shuttle before you become lunch!

Wednesday 23 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Paranormal Detectives

Game: Paranormal Detectives

Publisher: Lucky Duck Games

Designer:  Szymon Maliński, Adrian Orzechowski, Marcin Łączyński

Year: 2019

Paranormal Detectives casts one player as a ghost, who has recently been victim to a murder. The ghost appears in front of you, bearing wounds (if they have any) and a few visible features. As detectives, you'll want to piece together the mystery of what has befallen the ghost - Who killed them? Why? Where? And what with?

If this sounds a little bit like Cluedo, or the more modern game, Mysterium, then you wouldn't be far wrong. Here you can compete or cooperate, but each of the detective characters has certain tricks and tips for communicating with the dead. The result is a cacophony of varied clues all leading to a graphic story of the ghost's tragic tale.

Monday 21 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- UBike Tour: Taiwan

Game: UBike Tour: Taiwan

Publisher: Big Fun Games

Designer:  Chih-Fan Chen

Year: 2019

We’re excitedly preparing to make our first visit to Spiel in Essen, Germany. The listings show over 1200 new releases, but I’m also excited to discover games that haven’t made the list of hot new games. Looking at the maps of Halls 4, 5 & 6 shows how many small publishers will be present from all over the world. Taiwan Board Game Design represents lots of small publishers from Taiwan and brings them all under one banner. They can be found at booth. The first of their games that we have had a chance to try is UBike Tour: Taiwan – a game based around a city-wide cycle hire scheme, which I assume is like London’s ‘Boris Bikes’.

We wanted to check out this one because of its really endearing cartoon artwork and also because it’s from a publisher who has never before been on our radar. It’s a family-weight card drafting and set collection game for 2-4 players which plays in around 20 minutes, where you are cycling around different sites in the city and gaining points depending how far and where you’ve travelled.

Saturday 19 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Skulk Hollow

Game: Skulk Hollow

Publisher: Pencil First Games

Designer:   Eduardo Baraf, Seth Johnson, Keith Matejka

Year: 2019

Skulk Hollow is a two-player, assymetric, head-to-head game from publisher Pencil First Games. For me, Pencil First are best known for their games Herbaceaous and Sunset Over Water which boast gorgeous artwork and calming themes. Skulk Hollow is a very different beast. The cartoony artwork is incredible, but very different from what I've seen before from this publisher and the game is definitely not a serene experience.

The guardians of the ancient woodland of Børe have risen. They're literally rising from the ground, laded with trees, rocks and moss, taking on the Foxen race that have lived peacefully in the area. Reminding me of a scene in the movie Detective Pikachu, the Foxen characters are tossed into a battle with the gigantic guardians. What they lack in size, they make up for in cunning and numbers, mounting the guardians and firing arrows to try and take them down piece by piece. Only one side can continue to exist in Skulk Hollow.

Thursday 17 October 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple: Era: Medieval Age

Game: Era: Medieval Age

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2019

Era: Medieval Age is a new game from designer Matt Leacock, most well known for his cooperative games - Pandemic and Forbidden Island (or Desert or Sky). Era: Medieval Age has more in common with one of his earlier releases - Roll Through the Ages - competitive game that has a lot in common with roll and write games which are now all the rage.

Whilst Era is not a roll and write, it's very possible to imagine playing the same game with a pen and paper. The reality is an ode to plastic pieces. Your player board is a plastic tray, all of the building are unique 3-dimensional plastic components and it does create a pretty luxurious and tactile experience in a very big box.

Eggertspiele and their parent company Plan B Games rarely put a foot wrong for us, with Blackout: Hong Kong and Heaven and Ale among recent favourites, so do we have another hit with Era: Medieval Age?

Tuesday 15 October 2019

A new kind of R&B: Era: Medieval Age

Game: Era: Medieval Age

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2019

Era: Medieval Age is a 1-4 player Roll and Build game. Notably different from a Roll and Write game as instead of drawing on a paper sheet you are placing plastic buildings onto a player board. This allows for buildings to be removed and replaced as the game goes on, while still providing gameplay akin to a traditional Roll and Write. In Era you will be rolling dice to generate resources and then using those resources to build new buildings, all to create a flourishing medieval society. buildings provide a variety of different bonuses such as new dice to roll, income every round and end game bonuses.

At the start of the game you will take a handful of basic buildings to populate your board with before the game begins. Each round you will take your dice and roll them behind a screen. You can then set aside any dice you want and reroll the remainder, then set aside any more dice you like and take a final reroll. If you roll any die face with a skull then you must put the die aside and cannot reroll it. Once all players are done rolling the screens are removed and the rest of the round progresses. Players will then gain resources, feed their people (each die needs 1 food/round), assess disasters (based on skulls rolled), build new buildings and finally see if they invade any neighbors. This will continue until a number of building types have run out (depending on player count) at which point points will be assessed.

Monday 14 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sushi Roll

Game: Sushi Roll

Publisher: Gamewright

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2019

Sushi Go was probably one of the early games I played. It was certainly my introduction to drafting and it's a game that we still have in our collection. I still pull it out, especially to play with friends and colleagues, who are definitely drawn in by the cute sushi and really get into the simple and satisfying gameplay.

Of course, many games are spinning off with smaller dice versions and card versions. But Sushi Roll bucks the trend and goes bigger with its dice version. Plus it's not a roll and write like you might expect many dice versions to be these days. Players who have played Sushi Go will be very familiar with the rules of Sushi Roll, with dice simply standing in for cards in the drafting and a few rules and scoring tweaks. Your cute sushi friends are back, and perhaps even a little cuter on their colourful custom dice, but even if you love the pun, do you need this game?

Sunday 13 October 2019

The Game Shelf's Rundown of SHUX 2019

This year we decided we would go to one board game convention in North America. Initially we were going to try and celebrate around my 30th birthday, with the Dice Tower Cruise, but in the end the pull of a holiday in Vancouver was greater. Vancouver is a beautiful city and one that I desperately wanted to share with Amy. So, after a week spent in Victoria and Vancouver, our SHUX started with a pre-convention dinner.

Here, we met a few convention attendees and started to build a picture that the attendees of SHUX really are super-fans of Shut Up and Sit Down's board game review channel. I was kind of surprised that it was so fan driven. For me SHUX was just a large (not sure it's the largest) board game convention in Canada and I thought it might stand on its own for that reason. But no, the merchandise stall must do really well at that show! I listen to the SUSD podcast, but Amy doesn't follow them at all and we were a little worried about how the convention would unfold.

What we also learned is that everyone told us SHUX is all about the people. Many people we met had travelled their on their own and seemed to have no apprehension about finding people to play with. SHUX is primarily an open gaming convention, with a large library, and a huge amount of open gaming. People were there to meet people, make friends and play games.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Most Anticipated Board Games of Essen 2019

After much regret last year when we didn't go to Essen, we booked our 2019 hotel room right away. This year will be our first visit to Essen and I'm equal parts excited and terrified. Our biggest convention experience so far has been the UK Games Expo and Essen promises to be double or triple the size, with perhaps 50 times the number of new releases. It's really the peak of the board gaming year, where many of the big new games will first find their way into gamers' hands. Since we're travelling by plane and our currency,the British Pound, is worth next to nothing right now, we will be limiting the games we bring home, but that doesn't stop me from getting very excited about them!

SPIEL is taking place from 24-27th October 2019. According to the listings by BoardGameGeek and Tabletop Together Tool, there will be nearly 1200 new games available at Essen this year. 66 games made my long list, and I was strict! To whittle this down to just a Top 10, I've applied a few rules;
  • No games that we've backed on Kickstarter.
  • No games we've already played. (A few of the big games have had a UK release in the past few weeks, and we tried a couple at SHUX last weekend.)
So here's my Top 10 Games we are interested to get hold either during Essen or soon after. There's a range of reasons why a game might hit this list, so welcome to an insight into my mind at work!

Thursday 10 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Astroforce: The Dice Game

Game: Astroforce: The Dice Game

Publisher: Word Forge Games

Designer: Carl White

Year: 2020

Astroforce: The Dice Game is coming to Kickstarter in October. The game has been developed from Star Trek: The Dice Game, a free print and play that won the Golden Geek Award for best print and play in 2016. Inspired by the designer playing Deep Space D-6, another solo, space themed dice rolling game, Star Trek: The Dice Game was a solo experience.

Without a license to use the Star Trek IP, Word Forge are launching Astroforce - a developed and re-themed version of Star Trek: The Dice Game, which also includes cooperative rules for two players. Players represent the crew members aboard the A.S.V. Pioneer during its five year mission of exploration.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

The Game Shelf Reviews:- 50 Clues

Game: 50 Clues

Publisher: Norsker Games

Designer: Jeppe Norsker

Year: 2019

50 Clues is a new series of escape room games from designer and self publisher Jeppe Norsker. This trilogy will be released at Spiel 2019 in both English and German.

Be warned, 50 Clues is an experience for adults only. The theme has pretty graphic violence, and you are taking on the role of a character who begins the story in a mental health facility and goes on to do some truly awful things. If this doesn't sound like something you're comfortable with, then don't try 50 Clues, but if the theme doesn't make you want to turn away then you'll find a great escape room experience in these three boxes.

We put together some SPOILER-FREE thoughts on our experience. (All photos are of a preview deck and in no way spoil the games)

Saturday 5 October 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Calico

Game: Calico

Publisher: Flatout Games

Designer: Kevin Russ

Year: 2020

Cats sell board games. Just ask the makers of Exploding Kittens. On a rather more sedate level, Calico benefits from adorable cat art from Beth Sobel, as well as a quilting theme. In the world of abstract games, quilts are pretty sure fire bet too, with Patchwork paving the way.

Calico is an abstract, tile-laying game for 1-4 players in which you assemble the hexagonal pieces of a patchwork quilt. If you group together colours you can adorn your quilt with buttons, but more importantly you want to attract the attention of the different cats who all have different requirements for the quilt they want to snuggle up on.

Calico is coming to Kickstarter on October 8th 2019 and we got a chance to play the remarkably high quality, handmade prototype.

Thursday 3 October 2019

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Hadara

Game: Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Benjamin Schwer

Year: 2019

It’s not 100% clear to me what caused the early buzz around Hadara. It released from publisher Hans Im Gluck much earlier than the English language edition from Z-Man, and after seeing it on the table at the UK Games Expo, we liked what we saw. Hadara has a pretty standard euro game theme, of either ‘nothing’ or civilisation, depending on your perspective, but its colourful cards and jigsaw puzzle board with rotating centre, certainly help to grab your attention.

Hadara is a competitive game for 2-5 players, where each player is adding people, statues and colonies to their civilisation. Each of the three eras has two phases. In the first phase, you use the rotating central wheel to assign each player with a coloured card pile on the central board. You take two face-down cards from the corresponding pile, pick one to either buy or sell and one to discard. Red, yellow, green and blue cards typically add that resource to your civilisation tracks, whilst the purple cards mainly have special abilities. Once all of the card piles are depleted, you gain income and the opportunity to buy statues and colonies. The second phase is the same, except you’re making a more informed choice from the face-up discard piles. Additionally, at the end of the second phase you need to feed your people, comparing your food resource track to the number of cards in you tableau, and then you have the opportunities to buy medals to contribute to your end game scoring. At the end of three rounds you’ll score victory points for medals, statues, colonies and the cards in your tableau and highest points wins.

Tuesday 1 October 2019

Coming Up with a Title has Never Been:-Hadara

Game: Hadara

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Benjamin Schwer

Year: 2019

Hadara is a 2-5 player civilisation game in which you will build a civilisation by developing new technologies that will help you in one of 4 ways. You can improve your finance, military and culture of course, which all come with their own benefits, but ensure you don't slack on food or you may have to discard some of those cards that you would rather keep! Investing in certain areas will make it cheaper to make continued investments in that area, but there are bonuses for having a well rounded civilisation too, so long as you sponsor the right awards anyway.

A game of Hadara takes place over 3 eras, each of which has 2 distinct rounds, with each round followed by an income/cleanup phase. In the first round of each era you will start by seeding the board with 2 cards per colour per player. The start player will then choose where to start the central disc, which determines which order each player will get their cards in. At the same time each player will take 2 cards of the colour that their symbol on the disc is pointing at. From those 2 cards you discard one and either build or sell the other. Selling a card removes it from the game in exchange for a little money, while building a card costs money, but rewards you by improving your civilisation. most cards have coloured boxes with numbers in them, when you gain that card you increase the tracks of those colours by the numbers shown. This repeats until everyone has looked at cards of every colour.