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

Wednesday 6 May 2020

Over-thinking by the Yellow Meeple:- The Golden Geek Awards 2019

Every year, I write a commentary sharing my thoughts on the winners of the Golden Geek awards. I almost didn't write it this year.

TLDR: Wingspan won!

I personally decided to sell Wingspan. It was fine, but didn't thrill me. The European expansion made me mad. On the other hand, I can't deny it's popularity, and it seems to really work for a lot of people. I also love how its theme helps broaden the audience and media coverage for tabletop gaming. It's a game that has been fantastic for our hobby and I'm very happy for the designer and publisher and everyone who loves the game.

However, it's a little odd how can a game win for Best Strategy Game AND Best Family Game? Personally it seems like a better fit among the family game nominees.  And Most Innovative? Perhaps it's innovative that a game break down barriers like Wingspan, or perhaps people generally just pick their favourite game on the nominees list and don't think about how well it fits the actual category. Wingspan also won for Best Expansion, Best Solo Game, Board Game of the Year, Best Artwork and Presentation and Best Card Game. 7 awards in total!

Now that that's out of the way, let's see if we can find some other games in the list of winners and runners up. We played a lot of new releases last year, but we had a big blind spot, surprisingly, in our two-player gaming, so let's find out what else we need to play.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine won for Best Cooperative Game and came runner-up for both Best Card Game and Most Innovative game. It was probably done the second best out of all games released in 2019 and based on the praise it receives, that's not too surprising. We played and enjoyed this one, but chose not to add other two-player variant game to our collection. It's truly innovative and a lot of fun for more players though - a real twist on trick-taking.

Wavelength won for Best Party Game and also got a runner-up position in the Innovative Games category. It's fast becoming one of my favourite party games, as I play it more and more over video conference. It's great to know that more simple but brilliant party game concepts are still out there.

Paladins of the West Kingdom was runner up for Board Game of the Year and Strategy Game of the Year. I feel like I heard a lot more buzz around its predecessor, Architects of the West Kingdom, but for me Paladins is certainly the better game. It's definitely a heavier game, with lots of paths to victory and you won't do everything each game. I really love all of the upgrading you do on your personal player board and the different experience I have each game. It's definitely one of my favourite heavier games of 2019.

Tapestry was the other runner up for Board Game of the Year, and also Artwork and Presentation. It was certainly overshadowed by Wingspan, being from the same publisher, and being the heavier game by far, with a much more narrow audience. I've only played once and enjoyed the game quite a bit, but I've not felt the itch to play it since and I know that Amy was less of a fan. It's probably one that will be forgotten for us.

Marvel Champions feels most like the game that was robbed of an award. It was runner up in the Card Game, Solo Game and Cooperative game category, but it seems to have such a huge following, that I would've expected a win in there somewhere! It's not a game that excites me, but Amy plays it at least weekly and enjoys it in both cooperative and solo mode. The theme certainly helps it along, but there's a great card game there too.

Azul: Summer Pavilion is a runner up in the Family Game category. It's the third in the Azul series and was our least favourite because it's slightly more fiddly and lacks the simultaneous play that works for well in the other two versions. I have seen many people saying that this is their favourite version though, especially after multiple plays. Maybe I should take another look.

PARKS is another runner up for Artwork and Presentation. There's not double that PARKS has some of the nicest artwork of 2019, although I understand that the artwork is not original, simply being the artwork from an existing artwork series. Nevertheless the production is not only about the artwork, but also the great wooden pieces and that thematic insert. It's a great family game too!

Tiny Towns was a runner up in the Family Games category. It's perhaps one of my most played games from the last month because of how well its bingo style adapts to gaming by Skype. Tiny Towns is a simple puzzle, but the many configurations of buildings add so much potential for you to play a different strategy in each game, making it great for new players and experienced gamers to enjoy. It's colourful, simple and addictive to play and I really recommend it as a game for families, solo players or those who want to play online right now.

Letter Jam was a runner up in the part games category. It's definitely the most appropriate category for this innovative word game, even though I wouldn't play it at a party. It's a word game that you really have to be on your toes for, able to think of anagrams and deduce the words that you're not able to see based on the clues given by your team mates. I've had this work really well with gamers though and I think it's a brilliant design.

Maracaibo is a runner up for Best Strategy Game and is perhaps the heaviest game to get a winner or runner up spot. It's another game we've only tried once, but on that first play I didn't tick many boxes for us. There's only so many spots for heavy games in our collection and Maracaibo didn't do enough to get me excited.

Star Wars: Outer Rim is a runner up for Most Thematic Game. It's very hard for me to comment, having never seen Star Wars, but Amy tells me that it feels a lot like Star Wars! I like pick up and deliver and this is a very pure use of those mechanisms. I prefer something with a few more layers, like Wasteland Express for pick up and deliver games, but Star Wars Outer Rim still has a spot in our collection.

Blitzkrieg! was a runner up in the 2-Player and War Games categories. I only had the chance to try this over Skype recently, where it worked extremely well. It's a game of tug of war where two players compete for control of different countries. It is very, very simplified and abstracted for a war themed game and that's part of its appeal for me.

And finally, here's the games that BGG voters think we should definitely go back and look at from 2019.

Undaunted Normandy is the winner for Best Wargame. What I found quite unusual about the winner and runners up in this category is that all three are more like war-themed board games than ever before. A war game used to mean a dusty game that lasts 4 hours+ and has lots of little cardboard chits. Something seen in WW2 war rooms. Now it seems that war games are far more accessible. I've not played this one yet, but with deck-building in the list of mechanisms, I'd certainly like to try.

Watergate was the winner in the Two-Player Games category. Political themes in games really don't appeal to us, and those that call this game a quick answer to Twilight Struggle, really aren't helping to sell it to me! I more-so feel like this is a game that I should try, rather being excited to take a look.

Men at Work is a dexterity game from the same team as Junk Art. It was Runner Up in the Party Game category. It's probably not a game we need to own, but it's definitely one we want to play. Stacking construction meeples who wear little hard hats must be good fun, right?

Dune also won for Most Thematic Game, but holds no appeal for me to check out. Similar with UBOOT which was runner-up in the wargame category. And finally Lord of the Rings Middle Earth Adventures, which sounds awesome for Lord of the Rings fans, but not so much for me.

What do you think of this year's winners? Let us know in the comments below.

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