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 26 April 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 5 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

Observant and dedicated readers might notice that there was no post last week - week 4 of lockdown. In week 4, I really lost my enthusiasm for creating unique board game experiences over the internet. The cabin fever got to me and I was pretty frustrated. Fortunately I got some enthusiasm back and have some more hints and tips to share for games played over the internet in the last two weeks. You can check out more tips in previous posts.

Skype/Teams/GoToMeeting etc.
  • Sagrada is a great choice for remote gaming if you and your friends have a copy of the game. We decided that one player would randomly select dice from the bag and read them out loud so that other players could create the same pool for drafting. Then, every time someone takes a dice, everyone removes the same dice from their personal pool. Similarly, if anyone uses a tool, that needs to be marked by everyone on the call. There's nothing lost when playing Sagrada online, so long as you communicate clearly.
  • Railroad Ink is one of the many roll and write games that work well over Skype. We found that this one went particularly well for us, perhaps because the only shared information is the four dice, which is very easy to implement. All players need a print-out of the board, which can be found here, but otherwise only one player needs  copy of the game to roll the dice each turn.
  • Combo Color is a game we picked up at Essen last year, that only had rules in French. We don't speak French, but we did find the rules online which were thankfully very simple. Combo Color is like a roll and write game, but without any rolling - you just colour in, following the rules of adjacency and try to achieve points in a number of ways. We scanned a couple of the player boards, opening Microsoft Paint and shared mouse control to play with the full four players. It took at least twice as long as it should've but I think everyone enjoyed the novelty value.
  • Pantone is a game about crating well known characters using just the rectangular Pantone shades. The game's designer has been posting daily clues on Twitter and that inspired me to crate some of my own to share with co-workers. I created a Powerpoint and shared it with my co-workers prior to my weekly game night and everyone created a few clues in advance. The quality varied wildly, but everyone seemed to enjoy being part of the preparation of game night, which I usually take on by myself.
  • Azul and Azul Stained Glass of Sintra both play in a similar way over Skype. The thing you need to share over webcam is the factories, and every player needs to communicate the tiles they want to draft each turn. There are a couple of compromises, but for most people they're not a big deal; unless you have lots of webcams you might not be able to see other people's player boards, so you can't hate draft; plus you'll just be creating a discard pile for all of the tiles other players have taken - when you come to reshuffle the bag, you might have some tiles in the mix that are actually out on other people's player boards. Player a slightly longer game like Azul piqued the interest of some different friends and I also played a game with one of our Twitter followers in the US who just responded to a shout out, so that was pretty cool!
  • Tiny Towns is a game I've spoken about here before - I have played it 3-4 times in the last couple of weeks. It's worked with friends, but also on AEG's daily Facebook stream. We featured on the live stream a week or so ago if you want to check it out and play along!

Escape Rooms
  • Agent November is an escape room business based in London, UK. They typically run escape room experiences around the city, but have adapted to our new world situation with a virtual escape room. We took part in a press preview and were amazed by the experience that one man has created in his London flat! With a combination of internet use, logic puzzles and a truly immersive cooperation with an actor who is in the escape room itself, it's honestly one of the best real life escape rooms I've tried. At just £11 per person it's a great opportunity to have a very novel experience from the comfort of your own home and socialise with some far away friends at the same time. 
  • Mr Harris' Math School is an initiative launched by Paul Frohnsdorff-Harris, founder of HandyCon - a board game convention in the UK, but also a maths teacher. He has been streaming maths lessons on Youtube, but this week he used an escape room concept as part of his teaching. I haven't tried this but I thought this was such a good initiative that I really wanted to highlight.
Free Print and Plays
  • Tiny Farms is a new roll and write from designers Ben Pinckback, Matt Riddle and Mike Mullins. It's free to print and download on BGG. We are really enjoying this one because it has a completely unique way of generating the randomness. The two layer dial changes the available animals each turn and then you draft the results on the dice to move the red or blue farmer to collect animals for your red or blue farm. It's a fun little puzzle and one I'm hoping to implement over video conference very soon.
  • Wonderland was a Tabletop Day exclusive game from Renegade Games and now it's been released as a free print and play. Like Tiny Farms, it's pretty ink heavy, but you only need to print 3 pages to play the game. It's a 2-player card game with some bluffing and reading of the other player. You will collectively create the edge conditions for a 3x3 grid - these cards become the multiplier effect for each row and column in the grid - they won't be revealed until the end of the game. The you take turns to play the rest of your numbered cards face up in to the 3x3 zone. Some cards block or boost adjacent cards and ultimately all rows and columns will be scored at the end of the game. It only takes 5-10 minutes, but has a 'let's play that again' quality that certainly makes it worth printing out to give it a go.

As well as throwing new games into rotation each week, we did also play with more new people over Skype last week - including people we know and people we don't. Best of all, I played a game of Illusion and a game of Just One with my parents. It was super fun to spend a bit of quality time with them and I know it really brightened up their day. So much so that they've requested another session this week!

What are you doing to stay connected in the coming weeks? I'd love to get some more creative ideas!

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