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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Thursday, 10 September 2020

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Truffle Shuffle

Game: Truffle Shuffle

Publisher: AEG

Designer:  Molly Johnson, Robert Melvin, Shawn Stankewich

Year: 2020

 

 

Truffle Shuffle is a new card game from the design team at Flatout Games, who are continuing their publishing partnership with AEG, who brought out their fantastic design Point Salad. Point Salad won a number of awards in 2019 in the different card game and family game categories and is a game that we love to play when we visit board game cafes. 

With Truffle Shuffle we have a food theme that I feel a lot more enthusiastic about and the artwork looks particularly tasty on some of the cards, and of course the box. Truffle Shuffle is a drafting and set collection game for 2-4 players that plays in around 30 minutes. It calls on a number of mechanisms that are familiar from modern board gaming and traditional card games, so could Flatout Games have another family hit on their hands?



Truffle Shuffle is a game that takes place over three rounds. In each round you will assemble a pyramid of cards (requiring a lot of patience to lay them out carefully!) with some rows of cards face up, and others face down. Cards come in four different colours and the card backs show that colour, but the front of the cards gives you the card's value - either a number from 1-5 or a special power card. On your turn, you will take one card that is available in the pyramid, where an available card is one that has no cards covering it - cards higher up the pyramid are each trapped by the two cards below. After taking one card, you can cash in card of your hand to make a set and gain the associated points. Sets are similar to a hand in poker, such as a large straight flush, which needs 5 consecutive numbered cards in the same colour, or a small straight which needs four consecutive cards coming from any colour. Some of the trickier sets are worth more points, but there are also small incentives to cash sets early in each round to gain bonus points (which are represented by chocolate coins). At the end of each round you can only carry over two cards, and then you'll rebuild the pyramid and go again. Three rounds will use up all of the cards in the deck and the player with the most chocolate coins at the end of the game will win.
 
 
There are two significant comparisons that come to mind when playing Truffle Shuffle. For those familiar with modern board games, the card setup and drafting mechanism is the similar to the one used in 7 Wonders Duel. The big difference is that when a card is 'set-free' by removing the blocking cards beneath it, if it's face down, it stays face down. The colour is known to you, but the value is not. That can be a really huge luck factor in the game that I'm not a huge fan of. Having to adapt to that randomness is quite fun, but your opponents luckily getting perfect cards while you accumulate a handful of trash is not so fun!
 
The second comparison is with poker because of the type of sets you are trying to collect - you can get points for a flush or a straight, three of a kind, etc. I can appreciate how this scoring is perhaps going to provide a familiar touch point for players who are not so familiar with modern board gaming, it could be a great way to get parents or grandparents to give the game a try. However, I found the set collection really unintuitive - it would take many tens of plays for me to become familiar enough with the sets not to use a player aid. Perhaps its because of some of the little additional restrictions like needed a set of three 3s or four 4s, or because of the colour and number change cards, which are definitely a clever twist, but means that it's hard to read your own hand at times.
 
 
There are lots of moments in Truffle Shuffle that give you the opportunity to feel pretty clever and put together some high scoring moves. The 'Take 2' and 'Skip' cards are the cards that we are always fighting over in particular. In a two-player game with this style of drafting, there always comes a point where you have to take a move that will start unlocking new cards for your opponent and the Take 2 and Skip allow you to avoid this, as well as giving you an opportunity to gather a group of really helpful cards all at once. However, the two-player situation is one that I found to be a real flaw in our experience. If you don't have a take 2 card, then one player has no choice but to be the one unlocking new cards for the other player - it's just the way the pyramid is built. Once you are the 'unlocker', you are trapped. I had two consecutive games where I was forced to unlock not one, but two Skip cards from the pyramid and as a result Amy had all of the control. There was nothing I could do to stop it and it really spoiled my experience.
 
I'm honestly quite disappointed with Truffle Shuffle. I was stung by bad luck in all of our games, which won't have helped my opinion. However, the combination of a particular flaw at two-players, a fiddly setup and gameplay that felt so simple but also not easy enough for me to grasp good scoring opportunities, left me not wanting to play again. It's certainly a game that Amy and I disagree on, but for the Yellow Meeple, it's a 4/10.


Truffle Shuffle was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £19.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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