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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Tuesday 14 September 2021

Around the World in ~80 cards :- Subastral

Game: Subastral

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Ben Pinchback & Matt Riddle

Year: 2021

Subastral is a 2-5 player card game in which you compete to explore the globe, discovering the many and varied biomes of Earth. There are eight biomes to explore and you'll be rewarded both for variety of biomes visited, and for having extensive notes on your two most visited biomes. At the start of the game you'll have three cards in hand numbered from 1-6. These cards relate to the six cloud locations in the centre of the table. On your turn you'll play one card from your hand to the cloud matching it's number. You'll then have a choice to take cards in one of two ways. If you are taking from a cloud location of a lower number, then you'll draw the cards into your hand, along with a bonus from the top of the deck, before giving the now empty cloud a replacement card. If the cloud you choose is higher than the card you played then you'll add the cards to your tableau before refilling the now-empty cloud. 
The game will continue like this with each player taking a turn to do one action until the end game card is revealed, at this point everyone continues playing until they’ve all had an equal number of turns. Scoring consists of two phases; first you score your runs in your tableau. Runs are a series of up to the eight different terrain types. As you gain cards of differing terrain they are placed in the order you acquired them, while repeats of the same terrain type are placed in a stack on top of the old one. You can therefore have multiple runs so long as you have multiple copies of the first card you collected, but as soon as a run hits a gap the run ends. For example if you had 2 forests, 1 desert, and 2 tundra and you had gained them in that order you'd have a run of three and a run of one as there wasn't a second desert to continue the second run. Lastly you will score points for the two largest piles of one terrain type that you have. The point value of these cards is based on how far along your tableau they are. For example if you manage to get three copies of the eighth terrain type you went to then you'll get a handsome 24 points.

Here we have a run of 6 cards, and two runs of three.

is a fast card game that can easily be played by two within 15 minutes. Nevertheless the process of playing is not so simple, choices are constant, and the game is at it's best when the choices are difficult. Picking up cards into your hand is a necessary evil to keep your game flowing, but means that those cards are unlikely to ever end up in your tableau. At the same time every card you play from your hand will end up in a tasty looking pile of at least two cards ready for an opponent to snap right up. This can work extremely well in a two player game as one player's actions can restrict the other player's access to a terrain type that they desperately want. When you first play the game you'll be more than likely more focussed on what you can achieve for yourself, which keeps the game feeling light, with every turn having a handful of options to go for. 
However things can also end up less easy going. While you would like the abundance of choices on offer to be a veritable smorgasbord to choose from. The reality is you are limited by your cards. If you have a hand full of a single number then you'll find your options extremely limited. A clever opponent could track which numbers you are picking up (though to be fair you also get a random one each time), and which terrain types you desperately need, and try and ensure that those. two things never complement each other. 
Where you play in the clouds dictates what cards you can potentially add to your collection.
Subastral really impressed me with it's simple, yet deep, gameplay. It's only a quick filler game, but it manages to scratch that gaming itch each time it comes to the table. It helps that the game is gorgeous with fantastic art of some of the more wonderful views available on our planet. It also helps that being a small card game it's easily portable, its always a bonus when a filler game can be easily slipped into your gaming bag. Overall I'd highly recommend picking up Subastral should you get the opportunity.
Subastral was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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