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 1 November 2020

The Game Shelf Previews:- Ukiyo

Game: Ukiyo

Publisher: Walnut Games

Designer: Ian Walton

Year: 2020

is an 18-card tile-laying game that will launch on Kickstarter on 3rd November 2020. It's a first-time self-published design by Ian Walton and Walnut Games, that plays with solo and multiplayer modes. While it most definitely fits in your pocket, you'll need a small table to play, but if you do travel a lot by train or plane, then this would make a perfect game to take with you. At least in its prototype form, the rules are neatly included on the inside of the cardboard sleeve that holds the game, which really works with the compact simplicity of the game.

At the start of the game each player is given a hand of cards, each of which features six symbols and a scoring rule. On their turn they must play one these cards overlapping at least one other card by at least one square. In addition, the whole group of cards in the centre of the table must be contained within a 6x6 grid. The game continues until each player has one card remaining at which point each player will evaluate their single remaining card's scoring rule.

The scoring rules are simple, being either succeeded or failed. All players who failed their scoring are immediately eliminated, while those who succeeded are ranked by the card number, representing the difficulty of that challenge. The player with the highest numbered winning card wins the game.

Amy's Final Thoughts

That was a brief rules breakdown huh? Well, that's because Ukiyo is a lightning fast game. In the time it takes you to read this review you could have easily completed a game, perhaps two if you're a slower reader! Ukiyo is elegant in its simplicity- just 18 cards with a mix of four symbols between them. All you have to do is play them in an order which suits you. The complexity comes from deciding which objective to hunt for. Every card you play diminishes your options at the end game as well as changing the map for everyone. Eventually you will be left with your final fateful card, hoping that your plans have thwarted your enemies and left you successful.

While playing the game is hugely variable based on your opponent's actions, it seems unfair to say that this is a game with a focus on player interaction. What a player does might affect you, but it isn't because they know what your are going for. One game I had a very clear strategy in mind to score the "have one symbol on all four corners" card, but Fi kept extending the area the wrong way resetting all my progress until I gave up and switched tactic. Ukiyo doesn't lend itself to that kind of rigid planning, but instead rewards a fluid play-style where you refocus your aims based on the ensuing chaos.

All of this makes it an enjoyable filler game, with lighting fast 2-3 minute rounds that are enjoyable enough to play multiple times in a sitting. It's also wonderfully portable being a simple set of 18 cards with no scoring tokens or similar to take up extra space. 

Fi’s Final Thoughts

Ukiyo is perhaps the game with the fewest rules I have ever seen. I really like that they're printed on the inside of the box and I hope it stays that way for the production version. As you can imagine, with simple rules comes a very simple game. We've only played with two players and I really enjoy the decisions you get to make about your own play - deciding which card will be your scoring card is really just a bet on yourself and your own power to keep the board in a status that you like.

What I feel is perhaps missing from the game is an ability to try and play offensively or defensively. What I do might ruin your plans , but honestly it probably isn't through my own cunning - I have no idea what you're trying to achieve and perhaps until quite late in the game, neither do you! After playing the game many times, I imagine it will become possible to learn some of the scoring objectives and perhaps try to card count a little to deduce what your opponent is working towards, and that could be quite a satisfying way for the game to develop over multiple plays.

Ultimately, Ukiyo is a 5-minute game that we definitely wanted to play more than once in a single sitting. It will fit in your pocket and can be played on a very small surface, making it a charming little travel game. Perhaps the Kickstarter will also give a boost to the card artwork and make the artwork a little more aligned to the theme of the game too, giving this game a chance to shine.

You Might Like...
  • There's a good trade of between going big or playing safe.
  • The rules are incredibly simple to learn and teach.
  • Portability is absolutely at the forefront of the game's design.
You Might Not Like...
  • It's not often obvious what you might need to do to thwart your opponent(s).
  • The card artwork is currently extremely simplistic, not living up to the beautiful cover.

The Verdict
While the artwork isn't quite there, the gameplay is enjoyably puzzly. The game will reward multiple plays as you get to know the scoring objectives your opponent might be working towards, so it's one that gets better with time. Ukiyo is simple and portable, which is a great combination, and we wish it success on Kickstarter.

Ukiyo was a prototype kindly provided to us by Walnut Games. If you want to be notified on launch or check out the Kickstarter running from 3rd November, you can find it here.

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