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

Saturday 24 April 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- A Gentle Rain

Game: A Gentle Rain

Publisher: Mondo Games

Designer: Kevin Wilson

Year: 2021

A Gentle Rain is a solo or cooperative game from designer Kevin Wilson. This small game (think of the box size of Oink Games, like Deep Sea Adventure and A Fake Artist Goes to New York) is perhaps not what you might expect from a board game design behemoth like Kevin Wilson, best known for his work on Fantasy Flight titles like Elder Sign and Arkham Horror.

It's definitely a little out there with its packaging and concept, inviting you to put on some comfy clothes, make a cup of tea and take some deep breaths before enjoying the relaxing experience in the box where you'll be trying to cause eight blossoms to bloom with optimal tile placement. There's not many games out there that can truly make me relax, so I wonder if A Gentle Rain can bring some much needed calm to our board game table.
Your objective in A Gentle Rain is simple, get all eight wooden flower tokens out on the board. Each flower token must be safely nestled in the cutout space formed by the corners of four tiles. Each tile has four half-flowers on it, each half-lily being one of the eight colours. Each turn you will take a new tile from the stack, and place it so that no mis-matched lilies are formed by the edges of tiles. If doing this creates a circular gap between four tiles then you may immediately place a wooden token in the gap. The token placed must match one of the four surrounding completed lilies on the edges of the surrounding tiles.

You continue taking tiles in this way until either you have used the last tile, in which case you lost the game, or you have placed the last wooden token, in which case you win the game. If you won then you can calculate your score based on how many tiles were left unused.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
A Gentle Rain is an incredibly simple game, the tile placement is obvious and satisfying and the game's minimalisting art style works well to its purported calming nature. From the moment you open the box you'll be playing in minutes and have completed your first game, win or lose, within ten. That's when the compulsion to play again kicks in, in the most wonderful way A Gentle Rain encourages you to play again, that things will be better next time, the flowers will all go together perfectly and everyone will be happy.

However for me a large chunk of the enjoyment was lost by winning first time. To me there was a rather obvious way to play to maximise your ability to place tiles down in the 2x2 areas needed to place a flower token. This technique has never failed me (though I have had the occasional close call) which made the game feel almost solved as soon as I'd first played it. Playing cooperatively only enhanced my ability to win as an extra pair of eyes helped spot additional opportunities. It's not much of a co-op game, but there is certainly benefit and the games's strangely addictive nature does result in all players getting invested quickly.

A Gentle Rain is a palette cleanser for a busy mind. Being just the right level of complexity to give you brain something to focus on to the exclusion of all distractions, and just the right length to provide enjoyment without the feeling of having to put time aside to relax. So when I consider if it has earned a place on the shelf I genuinly think the anser is no. It's instead earned a place on the coffee table! Ready to be whipped out when someone needs to have a mental restart. The perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
I am not a solo gamer. I wish I was, because there are definite times where I want to play games and Amy has other plans, but even games that I love that have solo modes typically don't appeal to me. There is not a single solo game in our collection right now, but I have enjoyed a few along the way. The solo games I do enjoy are small, puzzly games that were only ever designed to be solo games, like Palm Island or Maquis. A Gentle Rain fits nicely into that niche and its small box and nice production really caught my eye.

A Gentle Rain has a hugely simple premise - place tiles so that their edge match and try to complete 2 x 2 areas with a colour of flower that you have never created before. I initially thought that there wasn't much strategy and that you were just subject to the whims of how the deck had been shuffled. However, after more plays, I'm starting to think about my gameplay more, trying to create a many potential opportunities to place a blossom token as possible. You might still end up getting bad luck, but every single move should be about creating more and distinct spots on the table that could be completed by an upcoming tile. When I feel like I'm getting bad luck, the game loses its relaxing nature and becomes a little frustrating, but when you're in the zone and thinking carefully about your next move I can see why they've really tried to push the relaxing aspects.

While A Gentle Rain doesn't do anything revolutionary, and I don't find its design particularly impressive, I cannot deny that it's highly addictive. On the day the game arrived I played 6 times! It's perfect for a quick break to step away from work, only taking 10 minutes to play. I still haven't won the game and so my addiction continues. I know it's possible though, since Amy has won. Perhaps the shine will wear off once I beat the game, but it's been nice to have an option that's easy to get to the table and is very enjoyable to relax with.

You Might Like...
  • The puzzle in A Gentle Rain is highly addictive.
  • There is a good level of difficulty. I can't seem to win the game, but Amy and I won once together.
  • You can squeeze in a game of A Gentle Rain almost any time,
You Might Not Like...
  • The game goes out of its way to convey a relaxing feeling, but we found its trickiness a little stressful.
  • There is no real way to rate your performance other than recording your own high scores.

The Verdict
6.5/10 Solo gaming isn't really our thing, but A Gentle Rain has managed to become very addictive, almost like doing a sudoku or other puzzle as a quick, relaxing distraction during the day. There is not a great deal of game here, with very little decision making and a lot of luck of the draw, but it has a simplicity and ease of play that keeps us returning to A Gentle Rain many times per day.

A Gentle Rain was a review copy kindly provided to us by Mondo Games.

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