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

Tuesday 30 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Game: Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Publisher: Space Cowboys

Designer:  Cyril Demaegd, Guilaine Didier, Théo Rivière

Year: 2019

Unlock is one of many choices for bringing the experience of an escape room to your tabletop. If I remember correctly, it was the first series that we tried and it wasn't our favourite. But, it's big benefit is that you can play it once and pass it onto a friend with no destruction. With such a cost effective solution to have lots of new, 1 hour, cooperative escape room experiences at home, we've played almost every box.

Unlock initially stood out from other escape rooms because of its need for an app. In early boxes, the app seemed to be a way to take care of what might otherwise be a frustrating crib sheet to find out your answers. More recently we've been really impressed with how the app has become a hugely integrated part of the game play and has brought to the table some of the most creative things I've seen in escape room style games. I don't think anyone would be able to complain any more about the app being unnecessary - it's the best bit!

Like all Unlock releases in the UK, Unlock! - Epic Adventures contains three games, each lasting approximately one hour. We'll be sharing spoiler-free thoughts in this review of each scenario, all strangely themed around the number seven...

Sunday 28 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Break the Code

Game: Break the Code

Publisher: IELLO

Designer: Ryohei Kurahashi

Year: 2017

Break the Code is a small box deduction game, now published by Iello, but originally from Jelly Jelly Games and published in Japan. Break the Code is pure logic. In this game for 2-4 players, each player has a five digit code, and you need to be the first player to guess another players code correctly. The questions you can ask are limited to a display of 6 question cards which are laid out each round, so you'll need to carefully pick the best questions based upon what you know.

To make things a little more difficult, all numbers come in a black and whit variety, so to get the codes right you'll need to know the colours and the numbers.

Thursday 25 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Project: ELITE

Game: Project: ELITE

Publisher: Artipia GamesCMON Limited

Designer:  Konstantinos KokkinisMarco Portugal, and Sotirios Tsantilas

Year: 2020

Project: ELITE was originally published by Artipia Games, and perhaps wasn't on too many people's radar until Tom Vasel, of the Dice Tower, named it as his number one game of all time. That certainly put it on my radar, since real-time cooperative games are a favourite for the two of us. The game was picked up by CMON games who brought it to Kickstarter with huge amounts of expansion content and, quite importantly for many people, upgraded miniatures.

Players are members of the ELITE squad , working together to stop an invading force of aliens. Working in real-time, the games progresses as a series of two-minute combat rounds, where frantic dice rolling is your only option. Hoards upon hoards of new aliens will arrive each turn, but as you get slightly more powerful over time, you stand a good chance of obliterating them and completing your mission objectives.

Tuesday 23 June 2020

120DPM (Dice per Minute):- Project: ELITE

Game: Project: ELITE

Publisher: Artipia Games, CMON Limited

Designer:  Konstantinos Kokkinis, Marco Portugal, and Sotirios Tsantilas

Year: 2020

 Project: ELITE, CMON Limited/Artipia Games, 2019Project: ELITE is a real-time cooperative dice game in which you take the role of a combat-veteran ready to wade into an endless swarm of aliens and mow them down with your endless supply of bullets. Along the way you will probably have an objective to do which is more complex than put lead into non-human lifeforms. If you can complete that, and escape alive to tell the tale then you will win.

Each turn consists of a new event card being revealed, providing instant or ongoing problems to deal with. Next new aliens will spawn.
There are 3 types of spawn aliens: runners which move fast, but don't attack, biters which move at a medium speed and attack in melee, and shooters who move slowly, but attack at range. You will then also draw from the boss deck, many of the cards in here are "all clears" meaning no boss arrives, but there are a wide range of boss aliens which are all tougher and have a special ability unique to them.

Thursday 18 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Adventure Mart

Game: Adventure Mart

Publisher: Hub Games

Designer: DigiSprite

Year: 2020

Adventure Mart is one of the many stores that you might choose to frequent if you're an adventurer, about to set out on an adventure. Their store mascot, Hank, is a rather charming dragon, but nevertheless each player in Adventure Mart believes that they can build a store to rival Adventure Mart, filling it with stock appropriate to catch the eye of any adventurer.

In this deck-building game you'll create a store with just a couple of members and staff and some furnishing, but the items you choose to stock will really make the difference in whether the array of adventurers each turn will buy from you or your rivals. Each adventurer only has so much money in their pocket, so you might even choose to under sell to make sure they spend with your store.

Tuesday 16 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Buzzle Box 2: Doughnuts & Cake

A Buzzle Box is a veritable treasures trove of board games and puzzles (conflation, ‘buzzle’) from publisher Dark Imp Games. Through her social media presence, it’s clear to see that founder Ellie Dix is passionate about bringing board games to families. Her Buzzle Boxes are just one of the products that are designed to provide huge amounts of activity for families to enjoy together.

Opening up our Doughnuts & Cake Buzzle Box was very much like being a kid at Christmas. In a sustainably minded way, the outer box is the box in which your collection will be posted and inside there are many treats to discover. The first thing I noticed where all of the doughnut stickers hidden all over the box and contents, which for a series of word puzzles to figure out. The box also has a couple of larger puzzles, including a word puzzle and a logic puzzle. I found these puzzles genuinely hard, so I hope they’re more aimed at the older members of the family! Then there’s a pack of three activity cards – two that give the rules to games that can be played with a standard deck of cards and one for a pen and paper game. These are a great bonus to give the box even more entertainment content! Of course, for us, the focus of the box is the three new games – Top Cake, Doughnut Dash and Sleuth Box, which we’ll give a brief overview of here.

Saturday 13 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Istanbul Digital Edition

Game: Istanbul

Publisher: Pegasus Spiele

Designer: Rüdiger Dorn

Digital Edition By: Acram Digital

Year: 2014

Istanbul is an award winning game - having won the Kennerspiel award as part of the Spiel des Jahres in 2015. It's a game that we've had in our collection for a number of years, but barely played at all. That's not to say it's a bad game, it just doesn't do anything that makes me excited to bring it off the shelf and onto the table. In preparation for taking a look at the digital implementation we did bring Istanbul down from the shelf and had a really enjoyable game, remembering the fun of the movement mechanisms, freeing your cousin from jail and racing other players to trade money and goods for gems. It's a very elegant euro game and I've been reminded why it has a place on the shelf, but what if the digital version could replace it and give me back one coveted shelf space in return?

Wednesday 10 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Root: The Clockwork Expansion

Game: Root: The Clockwork Expansion

Publisher: Leder Games

Designer: Benjamin Schmauss, Cole Wehrle

Year: 2020

Root is a game that seems to have huge popularity and every time a new expansion hits Kickstarter or arrives with backers, the buzz for Root is very apparent. It’s a game that we avoided for a long time, in spite of wanting to know what all of the fuss was about. The fact that Root is essentially a war game wrapped up in board game paper, is both highly intriguing but also off-putting for us. Tactical games with area control elements will often be a miss for us as gaming partners.

Eventually the pull of Root was enough for us to try out the base game, and so long as I am playing as the rather non-confrontational Vagabond, then I have really enjoyed discovering the interlocking mechanisms of Root as a truly asymmetric game. Cute meeples and enchanting artwork have no doubt helped to get me excited for a game that wouldn’t normally be in my mechanical wheelhouse.

The Clockwork Expansion introduces robotic versions of each faction for use in solo play, cooperative play and to add factions to competitive, low player count games.

Sunday 7 June 2020

The Digital Game Shelf:- Week 11 of Board Gaming During Covid-19

Finally, after 11 weeks we might have come towards the end of all our ideas for board games that you can easily play over Skype with friends. We have one addition this week that is on the slightly more ambitious side. With friends and co-workers some favourites have really started to right to the top and the games I'm playing most are Azul, Trails of Tucana, Welcome To and Telestrations.

New to me though, is that I've finally been persuaded to try Board Game Arena and Tabletopia. When other people are so familiar with these online platforms it can be hard to persuade them to go the route of playing a game over Skype and I do kid of see why. Board Game Arena in particular has fully scripted games and it's so quick to play games like Incan Gold, Coloretto and Takenoko.

Friday 5 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tang Garden

Game: Tang Garden

Publisher: Thundergrpyh Games, Lucky Duck Games

Designer: Francesco Testini, Pierluca Zizzi

Year: 2020

Do you consider yourself a little green fingered? What if we upped the stakes? Nobles would like to visit your garden! A few herbs and some straggly tomato plants will not impress, try koi carp, lilies, beautiful willow trees. Only the best vistas will please the nobles, full of interest in the foreground and just the right scenes on the horizon.
Don't be fooled by the 3D trees - Tang Garden has a lot more to offer in the component territory than Photosynthesis or Bosk. Make way for 3D pavilions, bridges and miniatures, and we're not even talking about the deluxe Kickstarter here, this is all in the retail edition.

Thundergryph Games successfully ran Tang Garden on Kickstarter in 2018 and Lucky Duck Games have now licensed the game to release it to retail, first with an English and then a French edition.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Game: Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2020

With the release of Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America, it's hard not to talk about timing. Pandemic jumped up the UK bestselling board game list in March, at the same time as other people took to social media about not wanting to play a game that reminded them of the dire situation of the world facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Personally, the idea of becoming the heroes and working together to fight a pandemic on your tabletop sounds like a pretty fun way to pretend you aren't powerless in this difficult time!

Pandemic Hot Zone - North America is to Pandemic what Ticket to Ride New York is to Ticket to Ride. It's a smaller, faster, simpler version of a very popular modern, family board game. It is absolutely following the same model, with its size and price point, as well as the intention to turn this into a global series, much like Ticket to Ride's London, New York and now Amsterdam versions.

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Perfect for a Summer Vacation:- Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Game: Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

Publisher: Z-Man Games

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2020

Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America is a smaller, faster version of Pandemic, designed to be playable in 30 minutes. With the reduction in play time comes a reduction in scale, instead of curing the world, this pandemic is focused entirely on the continent of North America. Instead of four diseases, you only have to handle three and you only have 4 characters to do so with! But this game isn't just a reduced content version of its bigger brother, the addition of crisis card adds a new twist to the gameplay. These optional cards help adjust the difficulty up, and I highly recommend them if you have already played the original Pandemic.

If you have played Pandemic then you will find Hot Zone to be extraordinarily similar. you control a pawn, on your turn you get four actions to perform. This can be moving from one location to another via a line on the board. Or instead you can use one of your cards in hand to fly to, or from, the city printed on that card. You can use an action to remove one disease cube from the city you are in, or all the cubes if you have completed the cure for that disease. You can trade cards with other players matching the city you are in, and you can cure the diseases. To do so you need to head to Atlanta and spend an action to discard 4 cards of the same colour, to cure that colour of disease. Veteran players might have noticed that there is no talk about setting up medical centers, that's because there are none in Hot Zone, you get the CDC in Atlanta and you'll like it!