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

Monday 11 November 2019

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions of Games from Essen Spiel 2019

We've spent the last two weeks staring at a pile of games we brought home from Essen and trying to find the time to play them. I think it might be a long time before we play them all, but we have managed to play a few from our own pile, as well as a few from the haul we took to The Ludoquist board game cafe in Croydon, UK. Here's some first impressions and some reviews to look forward to.

  • Azul: Summer Pavilion is the third game in the Azul line. The tile rafting in this game is similar to the first two games in the series with one twist. There will be a wild colour in each round and a single tile of that colour must be taken alongside the tiles you pick if possible. You can also save tiles in between rounds, so you might save up the tiles that are going to become wilds next round -each colour has a turn being wild over the course of 6 rounds. The way you score is the biggest difference though. You'll be laying your tiles into one of the stars on your player board and scoring based on the connected tiles in that star. A '1' space only need one tile to fill, but '6' space needs you to have 6 matching tiles - place one and discard the other five. I've played it a couple of times and I really don't think I like this version of Azul. Of course the tile drafting is the same and it's fun, but the scoring is far more tricky and cannot be done simultaneously. The phase of placing tiles on your board is slow and full of questions with any more than two players. I like trying to optimise my plan and account for bonus tiles, but I don't like trying to heard cats and force people to take turns during that phase. The first Azul still reigns supreme for me.
  • The Mind: Extreme works just like The Mind, except that instead of trying to play the cards 1-100 in ascending order, you're now trying to play all of the white cards, 1-50 in ascending order and all of the red cards 1-50 in descending order. This creates two interesting situations. Firstly, it's easier to slip up and forget whether you're ascending or descending. Secondly, you could be in deadlock with someone, not knowing who should play next, and in reality you're both playing on different piles. The other change is that some rounds are played blind, with cards face down. Who knows how, but this actually works! We've barely failed a single pile when we flip over the cards and reveal at the end of the round. Playing blind seems to turn everyone to rapid fire, but intuition often comes out ahead of the over-analysing that sometimes happens with the cards face up. I'm not sure The Mind: Extreme will have an audience as broad as The Mind, because it is more fiddly to teach and play, but I love how it mixes things up.
  • Nine Tiles Panic is one of the latest releases from Oink Games, who make game in very small packages. Nine Tiles Panic is a very tightly packed box, containing a 5-player real-time tile laying game. Each player has the same nine double sided tiles and needs to assemble them into a 3x3 square to best meet the three scoring objectives in each round. With a slight Men in Black theme, perhaps you need aliens to be caught by agents, have the most boys, or the most girls. It's a clever little puzzle and one of the best real-time competitive experiences I've had. I am looking forward to travelling with it and also introducing it to colleagues - that small box is going to come in very useful.
  • Skytopia: In The Circle of Time comes from the same publisher and designer as Smartphone Inc - a surprise hit of last year's Essen. We had a great introduction to the three new releases from Cosmodrome Games and were really pleased to see that each had something about it that was truly unique. In Skytopia, the unique factor is the time wheel. In this dice placement game you will pay to place a dice out onto a card that you wish to activate and add to your tableau. You'll activate it straight away, but you can add the dice to your tableau until its the turn of a specific dice value. For example, you can place a dice out for zero cost, but it will be 6 turns before those dice activate, allowing you to take the card, or you can pay ten and you'll get the card next turn. The tableau building is really satisfying too, because adding a car in one of the four card colour will trigger all cards of that colour in your tableau. Different end game objectives will also influence how you choose to build you tableau. It's quite a light engine building and dice placement game, but one with some really satisfying twists.
  • Majolica Painting is a flip and fill game that uses colouring pencils. Majolica was released at Essen 2018 and caught people's attention because of its resemblance to Azul - it's a pretty neat tile laying game that we certainly want to play some more. This roll and write version unfortunately doesn't live up to its predecessor. Each turn you flip a card that has a scoring objective and then a pathway of 4 colours which you must add to the board. Most squares on your board can support two colours and you're ultimately trying to connect together like colours into the biggest connected areas you can. There were two main flaws to the game for me. Firstly the deck has twenty cards and both our boards were filled after about 12 or 13 cards. You're allowed to pass on a card, but I just never saw the point. Secondly, the scoring objectives are too easy - by the 5th or 6th card flip, everyone will be gaining the bonus every time. If you're patient enough to colour in neatly and you use some finer crayons - not the ones included in the box, you'll create something pretty, but the game will certainly outstay its welcome. There's too many flaws in this one and it's a shame because I really want to like a roll and write that uses colouring.

Once we have enough plays under our belts you'll start to see reviews of a few Essen releases too. First up was Walking in Provence - a completing different game from the same publisher and in the same series as Walking in Burano.

Next week we'll have a review up for Escape Tales: Low Memory, the Sequel to Escape Tales: The Awakening from Board & Dice - the only board game so emotional that it made me cry!

And, coming soon after that we'll have reviews for Rush M.D, MegaCity Oceania and Electropolis.

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