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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Saturday 21 March 2020

The Game Shelf's Airecon 2020 Round-Up

Last weekend, we visited Airecon, in Harrogate, UK, for the third time. Airecon is a 3 day event, held on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Harrogate Convention Centre. Their focus is on open gaming - they claim to have the most open gaming of any European board game convention - and I wouldn't be surprised if that's true.

This year, given the global health concerns, in was touch-and-go whether Airecon would go ahead, but we, and many other people, did make the hard decision to take the risk and attend. Attendance was up on last year, which is a huge credit to the organisers, given how many people chose not to attend. It was also great to see a bunch of UK retailers and publishers getting what might be their last chance to sell at a convention for quite some time!

We had the chance to play a few demos with exhibitors and arranged a lot of larger games with old friends and new people. We also picked up more than a few games to add to our pile of shame at home!

Exciting Demos
  • Adventure Mart is scheduled to release at the UK Games Expo 2020 (or perhaps before now that the convention dates have been pushed back?) In Adventure Mart, each player is a store that's designed to equip adventurers for their upcoming quests - they'll need weapons, food and all sorts of accessories, but you've got to entice them to buy your wares. Money is used to add stock, staff or furniture to your shop, which is one option on your turn. Your other option is to reveal a customer and start the war to win their attention and get their money. Each customer is looking for certain types of goods and the person who can outbid all the rest with the combined shiny-ness of their goods will get the customer's money. There's a great deck-building aspect to the game and the game really ramps up as you start to add special abilities and combos to your deck and store. Adventure Mart was a massive highlight of the convention for us! Adventure Mart is just one of three exciting games that Hub Games were demoing. Prisma Arena will be coming to Kickstarter and Michael also has a game that's an ode to Animal Crossing that's currently in prototype form, for release in 2021. I'm super excited to get to try more from Hub Games!

  • A Fistful of Meeples is a game from Final Frontier Games and designer Jonny Pac. Much like their bigger game, Coloma, A Fistful of Meeples uses the wild west theme, but it's a much smaller package. The game is a very pure implementation of mancala, where each turn you pick up all of the meeples in one location and drop them, one at a time in each location around the circle, moving either clockwise or anticlockwise. The meeples come in different types and will perform different actions when they land in a location - starting a shootout, getting arrested, getting the resources of an inn, or spending resources to claim an inn as your own. The resources of stone and gold will slow throughout the game until an end game condition is triggered, at which point and gold bars, as well as the saloons you own are worth points. It's a very quick game, that really distills the basics of a game like Five Tribes into something far more simple and less analysis Paralysis inducing. It's a great filler that we hope to play again soon.
  • Stay Cool release in the UK this week from Scorpion Masque - the publishers of Decrypto. Like, Decrypto, Stay Cool is another party game for a larger group, but this time it's a speed trivia game that designed to confuse the heck out of you. Each player take sa turn in the hot seat, and while you're in the hot seat, two other players will subject you to two simultaneous quizzes. One quiz is just questions you need to answer out loud and the other quiz is question you need to answer by spelling the word with the six sided dice you are given. Two dice are dedicated to vowels, while the others are your consonants. If you can think about two things at once, you'll be fine - the questions are typically not hard. Some people thrive in this game while other people really flounder. I loved it, but Amy, who hates trivia at the best of times, was not a fan. BUT, she did say Stay Cool was her favourite trivia game!
  • Wavelength is certainly one of the biggest party games released last year, but since we're mainly 2-player gamers, this was our first chance to check it out. The dial is spun randomly and a card is selected that gives you two opposites eg. large and small. The player giving the clue secretly looks at the dial position and comes up with a clue that they think falls at the relevant point on the scale of large to small (in this example). Their teammates then try to guess where on the scale that word falls and the opposing team them vote if they think the answer is higher or lower. Points are gained for being close to the correct position and the first team to 10 points wins. Wavelength is a great social game that's all about debate and getting inside the minds of your friends. It's super accessible and makes a perfect party game in every way, except for the fact that the production quality makes it one of the more expensive party games out there. I'd love a budget version to come out to make Wavelength rival Codenames in my party games to recommend to others.

Oink Games showed us Fafnir, which was available for the first time in the UK, ahead of a retail release later this year, and let us know that Nine Tiles Panic will be heading to UK retailers in just a few short weeks.

Lot's of independent publishers were also showing off games that are upcoming on Kickstarter, with Die of the Dead and Theurgy getting a lot of good feedback over the weekend. Loke Battle Mats are also on Kickstarter right now with Towns and Taverns - the second in their series of modular books. But, if you're looking for something less traditional for your RPG, then they also have a Big Book of Cyberpunk battlemats coming straight to retails in the next few weeks.

Games We Played

We are convention planners. We create a schedule and we stick to it. Having said that, last year we tried to do too much and scheduling demos at people's booths has always been a problem. What we did instead, was learned from our experience at SHUX and organised games with new people.

The convention's G.A.M.E. system allows you to prearrange games and advertise them for other people to join. We organised five big games this way over the weekend and I wish more people used it. Airecon has all of the usual players wanted signs, but for people who don't like approaching a group of strangers, then arranging something in advance is a perfect way to meet new people. We taught and played some fully expanded games of old favourites, like Everdell, Wasteland Express and Underwater Cities and were taught a couple of new games too.

  • In The Hall of the Mountain King is my second stand-out game of the convention. The game is a combination of resource management, engine building and polymonioes. Each turn you can spend resources to add polyominoes to the board to build your network of tunnels. Getting closer to the centre of the board gives you opportunities to score bigger points and you'll want to connect to the statues, to get them into your network and then transport them around in carts to get them towards the centre. To generate resources, you'll be building up cards into a tech tree which triggers all of the card you already own as well. The game is that perfect medium weight with lots happening but not too much to make it slow the game down. In the Hall of the Mountain King is like the equally awesome sibling to Super Motherload - I'll be going to Super Motherload for a deck-building fix, but for some more intense engine building, then In the Hall of the Mountain King is set to become a favourite.
  • Tang Garden feels like gamer Carcassonne. It's really just a tile-laying game, but since it's a Kickstarter it has production quality through the roof, as well as some added complexity. In Tang Garden, you get a couple of choices on each turn - you either add a tile to the board - trying to extend or complete terrain of certain types, or you add an accessory to the board - populating it with trees, fish, flowers, bridges or shrines. Finishing areas of terrain and walls get you points, but end game points are available if you can place your miniatures onto the board in places where they really enjoy the view! It's probably not a game we'll be seeking out, but I'd be more than happy to play it again - it's just a little over-done for me and the complexity doesn't do any more for me than the elegance of a more simple game.
  • The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is definitely high on the list of latest hotness. It's a cooperative trick taking game that recently got a retail release from Kosmos, and I was surprised that we were the first to take this out of the library on Friday evening! The Crew contains a series of scenarios of increasing difficulty in which all players need to play tricks according to the rules of the round. It may be that a certain player has to win the trick containing the yellow 7, or the trick with the green 2 has to be played last. You need to achieve this without communicating. We played a couple of scenarios with 4 and 5 players and were pretty impressed, although not quite as excited as all of the hype. I think Amy and I could get really addicted to this game, but since it only has a 2-player variant, we'd rather have a third person to get addicted with us. It's a game we'll definitely play whenever we get the chance but might not be one we need to own.
  • Between Two Cities is an older game that we've never got the chance to play because it's 3+ players. I love it that Airecon gave us the chance to play with more players on so many occasions! In Between Two Cities, players draft tiles and select two tiles each round - one to add to the city on their left and one to add to the city on their right. There are different kinds of tiles and each scores in a different way - perhaps for being in a straight line, or for different kinds of set collection. At the end of the game, your final score will be the total score of the city to your left or right, whichever is lower. The game really feels like a cooperative game, where you're discussing the best plans with your neighbours, but its really fun to sometimes have to let one neighbour down because you favour the other city. It's a game that gets you talking and its generally pretty fast and has low complexity so it's a relaxing game that really has a social feel to it. I'd definitely play again.

Another great way to play games with new people at Airecon is to join the megagames. This year Draftosaurus was added to old favourite NMBR9 and Karuba. We joined for NMBR9 and Draftosaurus, which were both great experiences. Our game of Draftosaurus had about 25 people drafting in a single circle to populate their dinosaur parks!

Bring and Buy

The Airecon bring and buy is the best bring and buy around! Compared to UKGE, I never have to queue, it's easy to see games and the bargains I find are second to none.

Firstly the online system to add games to the bring and buy is super simple and it makes booking your games into the bring and buy a quick and easy process too. So easy, in fact, that we booked in 39 games. I was a little worried by how quiet the bring and buy way on Friday, but the attendees of Airecon came through in the end and purchase about 25 of our games for over £300.

But, then I spent at least £300 purchasing bargains! We bought 14 games in the bring and buy to add to our collection, including a surprising number of the games we missed out on at Essen 2019 - Expedition to Newdale for £25, Lorenzo il Magnifico: The Card Game for £20 and Cities Skylines for £15 to name just a few. We also managed to buy some new EXIT games and Unlocks, plus some gifts for friends. Add to that pre-arranged sales through Facebook and the maths trade through BGG and our car was more full on the return journey than on the way there!

All in all, it was a brilliant weekend! Thanks again to Mark, Ben and the team for organising another fantastic Airecon. We can't wait to come back next year, and if anyone reading wants to make plans then the dates are 5th - 7th March 2021.

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