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, 13 April 2021

The Fourth Pig Made a House of Plastic:- Fairy Tale Inn

Game: Fairy Tale Inn

Publisher: CMON 

Designer: Remo Conzadori, Paolo Mori

Year: 2021

 
 Fairy Tale Inn is a two player tile placing game with an immediate resemblance to the classic connect four. However instead of faceless tokens, the tiles you are adding to the grid represent different fairy tale characters, each with their own abilities and uses. Your objective isn't simply to get tiles in a row, but instead to place them so that each can maximize their own unique scoring mechanism to get you the most coins.

Each turn you'll be taking one tile from the market of four to place. The first two options are free to take, while the final two will cost you a coin or two to pick. You then can drop that tile into the top of the vertical grid board. Many characters then have an immediate ability that can be triggered, for example the little pigs want to be grouped in clumps, scoring you one coin per friendly pig they are in a group with. After placing a tile you'll draw a new one from the bag and place it at the top spot of the market ready for the next player to play. Turns continue like this until there are three columns where the tiles have reached the roof of the inn. At this point the game ends, end game scoring characters are assessed and the player with the most coins will win.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods

Game: Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods

Publisher: Board&Dice

Designer: Jakub Caban, Bartosz Idzikowski

Year: 2021

Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods is the third in the Escape Tales series from publisher Board&Dice. These narrative driven escape room experiences are the most in depth tabletop escape room games we have found and their themes definitely speak more to an older gaming audience than a family one. Children of Wyrmwoods is best played over two sittings since its a long game, especially if you go out of your way to explore each and every puzzle

Children of Wyrmwoods takes inspiration from vintage fantasy for it's theme, presenting you with a rather underwhelming character to start with. Naturally things aren't going quite as well as he would like in his small rural community and he soon finds himself out in the wild with no understanding of his surroundings or how to survive. With a bit of ingenuity you can guide Gilbert from commoner to hero... or at least to the end of his journey, hero might not be on the cards!

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- It's a Wonderful World: Corruption & Ascension

Game: It's a Wonderful World:

Publisher: La Boîte de Jeu

Designer: Frédéric Guérard

Year: 2020

We like to think of ourselves as discerning Kickstarter backers. We typically only back games when there's a good reason to do so - perhaps the Kickstarter is super good value compared to retail, or perhaps the game, or parts of the game will never come to retail at all. With It's a Wonderful World we were drawn in by all of the campaign content the game had to offer - campaign content that we have so far never touched!

Like many Kickstarters, It's a Wonderful World came in a huge box, with lots of room for additional content and we have a rather large, air and foam filled box on our shelves as a result. Inside it is a very small drafting and tableau building game that we absolutely love. Its box is far too large, but it deserves its shelf space. The latest expansion, Corruption & Ascension recently got a retail release and we have easily added it to the box for the main game (and could probably do so about 20 times over and still have more space!).

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

A Corrupt Dystopia!?:- It's a Wonderful World: Corruption & Ascension

Game: It's a Wonderful World: Corruption & Ascension

Publisher: La Boîte de Jeu

Designer: Frédéric Guérard

Year: 2020

It's a Wonderful World is a 2019 engine building game which has you draft and build cards in order to create an efficient dystopia capable of making bigger and better projects and attracting the bravest and brightest to your shores. Corruption and Ascension serves as a 'Bigger and Better' expansion, with new cards that produce humongous amounts of resources and points, assuming you can afford the damn things! Should your budget be more limited then you might want to veer more towards the corruption side of things, these cards tend to be far cheaper to produce, but some of the more crooked people involved might happen to wander off with some of your existing resources. You weren't using that anyway right?

A brief explanation of the base game: Every round each player will be given a hand of cards. From this they choose one to keep and pass the rest on. This repeats until everyone has seven cards, at this point each player can decide which to try and build and which to throw away for resources. Then each player's base will generate the five resources of the game, with a bonus token going to the player making the most in each category. This continues for four rounds at which point the game ends. Corruption and Ascension adds a new deck of cards from which players add a number of cards to their card pool for the draft. This gives them more options, including the new cards which either have ways to altar your production both positively and negatively, gain huge production boosts at huge costs, or tremendous end game points with ridiculous construction requirements.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

The Digital Game Shelf:- Still Gaming Online During Covid-19

March 23rd 2021 marked the 1 year anniversary of when the UK first went into national lockdown. We've had some brief phases of less strict rules during that time, but mostly it feels like we've not seen anyone, or got together and played games for a year at this point. At the start of the pandemic I had energy and enthusiasm which I channeled into coming up with creative ways to continue to get my physical board games to the table by playing with friends over Skype. For many weeks, I posted weekly blogs, sharing ideas for which games play well online. Over the course of a year, my enthusiasm has definitely diminished, but I am still trying to keep a regular meetup for Skype gaming with one friend and by co-workers.

Here's some highlights of the best online gaming successes we've had in the past few months!

Thursday, 25 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Photosynthesis: Under the Moonlight

Game: Photosynthesis: Under the Moonlight

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Hjalmar Hach
 
Year: 2021

 
It's wonderful to see so many games with a nature theme now populating board game shelves - it's a theme that has a wide range of appeal both inside and outside of traditional hobby gaming circles - really broadening the market for the games we all love. Photosynthesis was one of the first games we noticed making the most out of a nature theme and it did so in a big way. I have really vivid memories of sitting on the sofa, punching and assembling the trees - such an iconic board game piece! The look of Photosynthesis has instant appeal and elevates Photosynthesis from an abstract game to one that really integrates theme and mechnics with the trees literally overshadowing one another.
 
Photosynthesis has been a standalone game for 4 years, since its relaease in 2017, so a first expansion was unexpected. Like many abstract games, Photosynthesis feels elegant and complete, so we were intigued to see what Under the Moonlight might try and add into the mix.

Saturday, 20 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Bandido

Game: Bandido

Publisher: Helvetiq

Designer: Martin Nedergaard Andersen

Year: 2016


Bandido is a small box game from publisher Helvetiq. Helvetiq make a number of games in this line with really stylish graphic design, typically aimed at a family market. They're extremely eye-catching and Bandido is the second from the line that we've tried.
 
Bandido is a cooperative game for 1-4 players, themed around a prisoner trying to dig and underground tunnel network to escape his cell (or her cell if you choose to buy the new version, Bandida!). Collectively, players must build a network with no open ends to ensure that the prisoner is trapped in his own network. 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Dive

Game: Dive

Publisher: Sit Down!

Designer: Romain Caterdijan, Anthony Perone 

Year: 2021
 
 
 
Dive is a simultaneous programming game for 1-4 players. Plaers are divers, descending into the dpths of the ocean and passing many of its creatures along the way. Divers must carefully avoid sharks, whist taking advantage of freidly turtles and manta rays who might be able to give you a free ride, hastening your descent.
 
The ocean is represented by layers of transparent blue acetate that are stacked in the centre of the table. This stack is a very eye-catching centre piece and you'll spend the whole game gazing into its depths in this very unique, and stunning game of visual perception.
 
 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Kombo Klash

Game: Kombo Klash

Publisher: Hub Games

Designer: "Nero" Ondrej Sova

Year: 2021
 
Kombo Klash follows on the heels of Flip Over Frog, in a series of smaller games published by Hub Games. What these games have in common is that they create a fantastic puzzle using animals on tiles and manage to deliver a satisfying game in a small package, not by cramming a big game into a small box, but by distilling a very simple set of mechanisms into an addictive and fun puzzle. With the aid of some charming animal artwork, and a fabric playmat that keeps the box size down, Kombo Klash is a very impressive small package. 
 
While Kombo Klash is a reimplementation of the game Kombo Afrika - it's not one that ever seemed to make it to the UK market and Hub Games have really taken it to a new level with the new artwork. What is, at its heart, a tile-laying abstract puzzle for 2-4 players definitely brings fun to the table with the character-filled animals. 

Sunday, 7 March 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews: Deckscape: Escape from Alcatraz

Game: Deckscape: Escape from Alcatraz

Publisher: dV Giochi

Designer: Martino Chiacchiera, Silvano Sorrentino

Year: 2020

The tabletop escape room craze does not seem to be slowing down and we are here for almost all of them! I think that we follow all of the major series, from the largest ones, like Escape Room: The Game to the smallest, which are the Deckscape games. Each series has its own unique twist and the Deckscape games continue to impress us with what they can do with a simply deck of cards.

Like all of these escape room games, we sometimes find that the harder ones can be a source of frustration and sometimes arguments between the two of us and yet we keep coming back for more and we're up-to-date with almost all of them!
 

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Holi: Festival of Colors

Game: Holi: Festival of Colors

Publisher: Floodgate Games

Designer: Julio E. Nazario

Year: 2020

 
Holi: Festival of Colors is a game with gigantic table presence. You'll begin each game by constructing the three-layer board, where each layer is a transparent sheet of plastic grid. Aside from its three-dimensional form, this extremely colourful game instantly reminded me of another recent title from the same publisher, Floodgate Games. Bosk was a similarly colourful, light, area control game that had you placing out your coloured markers on a grid. Being that Bosk and Holi are from different designers, I do wonder how that pitch went down - "I have a game that looks a lot like another game in your catalogue, it's also area control, but it plays very differently". I suppose that's the key though, Holi is a very different game and ultimately seems to fit into a catalogue of very colourful games from Floodgate Games.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Dyeing to Play Again?:- Holi: Festival of Colors

Game: Holi: Festival of Colors

Publisher: Floodgate Games

Designer: Julio E. Nazario

Year: 2020

Holi is a 2-4 player area control/abstract game that takes place on a unique three-layered board. Each player has a meeple that will be throwing colours around, staining the floor and other players in order to earn points. Eventually you'll be able to climb higher on the tower, with any paint thrown on the floor on tier two falling down to tier one if there is an open space below it. From your high vantage point you can rain death paint from above to soak your opponents in your valuable points.

A game of Holi starts with each player placing their meeple on a corner of the ground floor 6x6 grid. On your turn you may do two optional actions along with one compulsory action. You can move to any space on the floor, should you end up on top of candy or paint tokens then you'll pick them up. Paint of your colour can then be thrown once again, but paint of other players and candy will be kept until the end of the game. The second optional action is to climb. If you are surrounded by paint on the four orthogonal spaces then you can climb up to the next layer, giving you a height advantage over your foes. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

The Game Shelf Previews:- Three Sisters

Game: Three Sisters

Publisher: Motor City Gameworks

Designer: Matt Riddle & Ben Pinchback

Year: 2021

Designers Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback are behind a couple of my (very different) favourite games, like Wasteland Express Delivery Service and Piepmatz. They are now collaborating under a new self-published label - Motor City Gameworks and there first game, Three Sisters will be coming to Kickstarter on 9th March 2021.

If you're a fan of the roll and write genre, like we are, then perhaps you've heard of Fleet Dice - a game all about fishing that really ups the ante on roll and write games. Three Sisters feels like a spiritual successor to Fleet Dice, with a very different theme and different dice drafting mechanism, but some of the same mechanisms and feel in the combos you can trigger throughout the game. If you like Fleet Dice, or other very combo-centric roll and write games, like the Ganz Schon Clever series, then it's worth learning more about Three Sisters.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Cloud City

 Game: Cloud City

Publisher: Blue Orange Games

Designer: Phil Walker-Harding

Year: 2020

 
 
Phil-Walker Harding is well known for family weight games, like Sushi Go and Barenpark. Cloud City is another puzzly tile that immediately reminded us on the monorails in the Bad News Bears expansion for Barenpark. Mechanically there's nothing in common, but visually the two have a similarity that makes both very eye-catching on the table.
 
Cloud City manages to look like something I'm desperate to play - it's super tactile and you can pretty much look at the photo of a finished game and figure out how to play!

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

The Game Shelf Previews:- Buru

Game: Buru

Publisher: Crafty Games

Designer: Stephen Selego, Alex Flagg, Taran Lewis Kratz

Year: 2021



Buru is the next game coming to Kickstarter from Crafty Games, who recently funded with Dollars to Donuts - a tile laying game we enjoyed quite a bit. Buru is a game for 1-4 players that combines a clever bidding mechanism with engine building and resource management in a wonderfully colourful setting. That setting is 14th Century Indonesia, where you will play as nobles exploring a new island, trading and paying respects to the gods. 

Buru is coming to Kickstarter in early 2021.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Heart of Crown: Fairy Garden

Game: Heart of Crown: Fairy Garden

Publisher: Japanime Games

Designer:  ginkgo

Year: 2013


Japanime Games certainly have a niche - deck-building card games with an art style that is certainly not to everyone's taste. While there are a couple of games that fall outside of this mould, there aren't many and Heart of Crown certainly fits it perfectly. Fairy Garden is a standalone expansion and a lot of the art is rather cute, fitting nicely into the fairy theme with some anime charm. In other areas, especially the princesses and maids, you will certainly recognise the over emphasis of certain features, that was common in Japanime Games' other titles like Tanto Cuore.

Heart of Crown: Fairy Garden is a standalone expansion to Heart of Crown. In terms of gameplay, we were pleased to find that this isn't just a Dominion or Tanto Cuore clone and it actually has quite a few new and fresh ideas that really change up the formula.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- SINS: Gloom of Greed

Game: SINS: Gloom of Greed

Publisher: Cortadoo Games

Designer:   Daniel Greve, Jacob Lindborg

Year: 2019

SINS is a deck-building game which comes in three different flavours - Gluttony, Greed and Wrath. In this review we'll look at SINS: Gloom of Greed, which on its own is a two players game, although multiple decks can combine to play with more players. SINS was a Kickstarter project and it has a couple of red flags that tell me it might have a few traits of a 'bad' Kickstarter game - one where a few corners have been cut.

SINS made a bad first impression when I couldn't find the rulebook. It's a small box two-player game, so I looked hard for rules written on cards, or a small folded copy and eventually found a QR code. Rules should always be online, but they shouldn't be ONLY online. I don't want to spend ink printing out rules and they won't fit in the box, so I need internet connection to play your game. The excuse here is to keep a 'living rulebook', but this game isn't complicated (although the poorly written rules might have you believe it is). This was just a rush job. Evidenced by the fact the rulebook was evidently written in word and has Tabletopia screenshots as the only graphics!

Now that we're past that first impression, let's take a look at the game!

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire

Game: Tawantinsuyu: The Inca Empire

Publisher: Board & Dice

Designer:  David Turczi

Year: 2020


Tawantinsuyu
is the next in line of a family of board games from publisher Board & Dice set in various ancient civilisations. If you enjoy medium to heavy euro games then you'll no doubt have come across the series and, perhaps like us, you've at least given each one a try. David Turczi is often the designer of the solo modes in these and many other board games, but Tawantinsuyu is a full game, all of his own design.

Tawantinsuyu is a worker placement game for 1-4 players which revolves around the Coricancha Temple - a pyramid-like structure that dictates the actions your workers can take. There's many ways to gather points in the game, but that simple worker placement action is one that has so many factors and interlinking parts that this game is for people who really enjoy a crunchy decision!

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- 1565, St. Elmo's Pay

Game: 1565, St. Elmo's Pay

Publisher: Hall or Nothing Productions

Designer:  Tristan Hall

Year: 2020



Tristan Hall and his company, Hall or Nothing Productions make great historical games. 1066, Tears of Many Mothers was the first in a series of card driven games that provide a very accessible entry point into wargames. I'm not really sure what categorises something as a war game, although these two-player experiences certainly are themed on specific battles and wars. 

1565, St. Elmo's Pay is the second game in this series and plays out in a very similar way, and with 1815, Scum of the Earth coming soon to Kickstarter, Hall or Nothing Games really have you covered if you're a history buff looking to get your feet wet with a tabletop wargame-like experience.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Tiny Towns: Villagers

Game: Tiny Towns: Villagers

Publisher: AEG

Designer: Peter McPhersonJosh Wood

Year: 2020




When Tiny Towns first released, we played it once or twice, enjoyed the puzzle and then moved on. However, when Covid lockdown hit many nations around the world, AEG began to do live plays of Tiny Towns with an online audience who could play along if they owned a copy. We first borrowed a copy and then bought a copy because of how this game was helping me to feel connected during a very isolated time. After playing it so much, we tried added both the Fortune, and now the Villagers expansion to our copy. Now, aside from the 'Trees' promo, Tiny Towns is one of the very few fully expanded games we own, and it all fits into the base game box!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

A Squirrel & a Hedgehog Walk Into an Inn:- Tiny Towns: Villagers

Game: Tiny Towns: Villagers

Publisher: AEG

Designer: Peter McPherson, Josh Wood

Year: 2020

Tiny Towns: Villagers is the second expansion for the resource puzzle/town builder Tiny Towns. While the first expansion added the concept on money to the game, this expansion adds people to live in your town. Animal people, in the form of cute hedgehog, mouse, and squirrel meeples. In addition to these cute new locals there is  the usual selection of new building cards and monuments to further deepen the available strategies in this cube-laden puzzle.

At the start of a game of Tiny Towns: Villagers you'll shuffle and deal out one building card for each building type as normal. You'll then place out two villager cards, one with a low cost and one with a high cost. These villager cards define what the villagers can do in this game. The game will then play much as normal with players taking turns to name a resource, each player taking a cube of that resource  adding it to their board. Once they have made a pattern as defined on the building cards they can replace all those cubes with a building token built in one of the spaces that the cubes were removed from. The game will continue like this until there are no spaces left on anyone's board at which point you'll earn the points for all your buildings, minus points for spaces on your board without a building on it.