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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Wednesday 30 June 2021

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Go Dotty

Game: Go Dotty

Publisher: (Self-Published)

Designer: Neil Barrie

Year: 2019

Perhaps the most overused phrase on this site in the last 12 months has been 'puzzly tile laying game'. We are enjoying them so much and find that they are perfect games for two players who only have 30-45 minutes to spare after long days at work. We have reviewed many and have a large collection that all justify their shelf space for different reasons.

This addiction to the genre led us to decide to give Go Dotty a chance. It's definitely a lesser known game, by an independent publisher, but it does have a listing on BoardGameGeek and is available to purchase directly in the UK and a number of other countries, including the US and Canada. Go Dotty is an abstract tile-laying game for 2-players that plays in around 20-30 minutes.


A game of Go Dotty starts with each player drawing a hand of five tiles from their bag. Each of these tiles is a square with a number from one to four on each side. Players will take turns placing a single tile onto the 7x7 game board grid before refilling their hand to five. Each tile must be placed next to at least one tile already present on the board, with all sides of the tile matching the number present on their neighbours.

Your objective is to make as many lines of three in your colour as possible. These lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. However under no circumstances are you allowed to create a line of four, every time you create a line of three you have created a space on either side which you cannot place a standard tile.  There is a special tile which can only be placed at the end of a line of three which then blocks your opponent from playing on any of the surrounding spaces. should you be unable to place a tile you may discard a tile to draw another, the game ends either when the board is filled, or when a player has discarded their third tile.

Amy’s Final Thoughts

Go Dotty attempts to bring a fresh coat of paint to old game mechanics. The hand of tiles with numbers on the sides instantly brings to mind Dominoes, while the creating lines on a grid is reminiscent of Connect Four or Tic Tac Toe. The added complexity of this merger seeks to create something new and interesting, and it does somewhat succeed. Having a hand of five tiles at any one time lets you engineer situations where it’s highly unlikely your opponent has the right tile to block you, while you are sitting happily on the exact tile needed to plug that gap. Conversely sometimes you can be desperate to place a tile in a space, only to be thwarted for half the game as you simply won’t draw the tile you need.

Go Dotty was at its best when played aggressively, aiming to make as many situations where your opponent couldn’t block you even if they tried. Countering this, blocking moves were the most fun when they also opened up new opportunities. When we found ourselves both playing defensively it did become extremely hard to score any points at all, which in turn didn’t feel much fun for either player. The hand of tiles often led to a logistical puzzle of how best to rotate and place tiles in order to make hard-to-play squares that you just happened to have.

This all leads to a successful abstract game, albeit one with a touch more luck involved than most. But the focus on old-school game mechanics leaves it in a strange place; simultaneously a touch too complex to have that retro feel, and a bit too retro to inspire modern gamers. Go Dotty suffers from being a perfectly average game in a world where average is no-longer good enough.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
Go Dotty reminds me most of a classic game of Connect Four. It's the same type of challenge to try and create an opportunity that means you have two available spots to place a tile and score a line of three - that way you can't get blocked. Of course, in Connect Four, you only need to do this once to win, whereas in Go Dotty, you'll just keep trying to do it again, and again, which made it out-stay it welcome for me, even on the smaller side of the board. There is more complexity here though because there are extra ways in which you might try and create an un-blockable opportunity. The fact that you can only make lines of three, and never extend them does create more interest in the board and you might take a risk and sit on one of these safe opportunities, hoping that your opponent doesn't have the blocking tile in their available hand.

Besides creating those un-blockable opportunities, you do have to decided whether to be aggressive or defensive in how you play, and, as Amy mentions, aggressive seems to be coming out on top. An aggressive strategy can lead to you really conquering an area of the board and a clump of your colour can quickly contain four of five scoring lines of three. Finally, and pretty weirdly, it's very easy to just force the end of the game if you're ahead. All you need to do it perform a swap of three of your tiles and you can force game over. This is the worst described area of the rulebook and makes very little sense, but, if you play by the rules and are playing with two players (you can't play this game with more than 2-players but the rulebook does state if it's a two-player game) then you can just end the game early.

Overall, there can be a few good moments in Go Dotty where careful planning or some cunning moves do allow you to have a real feeling of success, but this is outweighed by too much luck, a game length that feels longer than it should be and a bit of a lack of polish. Both visually and gameplay-wise it just feels graphically poor and out of touch with either mass-market and hobby game needs.

You Might Like...
  • Sometimes you get the change to plan ahead and create perfect spots for future success.
  • There are some hidden moments of depth in creating un-blockable opportunities.
You Might Not Like...
  • The artwork is not very eye-catching.
  • You can get lucky and draw the perfect tile you need, or not...
  • The game can descend into a boring spiral of just trying to block each other's every move.

The Verdict
4.5/10 Go Dotty is not a great game. It doesn't have enough polish and elegance to make it as a mass market game, but its mechanisms aren't enough to impress a gamer audience. It can create a thoughtful moment or two during the game, but overall it's just quite bland in both looks and gameplay and had too much luck for our taste. If you enjoy Connect Four and Qwirkle, it might be worth a look, but I'm not sure it really stands up to either of those games.
Go Dotty was a review copy kindly provided to us by the designer.

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