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, 31 December 2017

Overthinking by The Yellow Meeple:- Top 10 Board Games of 2017

This year we've definitely been more active in following the hot new releases, in part because the popularity of the blog has been growing significantly and we want to cover the games that readers are most excited to hear about. Compared to my lists in 2015 and 2016, this year my list is huge, so hopefully this blog gives a much better sense of the really good games from 2017!

No-one can play all of the new releases at the current rate of incoming new games. In previous years I've listed the games we've played in this blog post, but this year we've played over 70 new releases, so you can check out what we've played on Board Game Geek (User:fibobs) if you're interested.

For me, there have only been 3 or 4 stand out games this year, followed by a large number of very good games - far more than just the ten on this list. Some of these games are games we've only had the chance to play once or twice, so over time they might move. However, here’s the Yellow Meeple’s Top 10 board games of 2017!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 24th December - 27th December 2017

Over the Christmas period we typically only get the chance to play lighter favourites with our families, and so far we've played Qwirkle and Azul which have been a hit. However, on Boxing Day, we got the opportunity to indulge in some new games at Coffee and Dice - a board game cafe in Bournemouth. It was great to try some of the games that they managed to bring home from Essen that haven't reached a broad circulation in the UK yet.

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 22nd - 23rd December 2017

After a couple of good gaming sessions earlier this week, I've already played enough new games to share some more first impressions -this festive season is off to a great start! We only managed to play one new game at the gaming cafe - after which we ran into a friend and played games we know. It's great to have so manY friends frequenting the cafe that we can now just bump into friends to play games with. My Saturday gaming day was actually a small gathering of board gamers in the corner of a room full of people playing war games. It was interesting to see how some of the war gamers were gravitating towards the board games, although I'm not sure any of my board game group were tempted by the war gaming!

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Otys

Game: Otys

Publisher: Libellud and Pearl Games

Designer: Claude Lucchini

Year: 2017

Otys was an Essen release in 2017, which definitely appeared to attract some attention, for its artwork if nothing else. The art style is definitely something that drew us to the game and Libellud have a great track record, contributing some beautiful art to our game collection with Seasons, Mysterium, Dixit and Dice Forge, all part of their beautiful back catalogue. However, theme and artwork don't sell a game to us and Otys needed to impress mechanically too, so let's take a look at how it plays.

In Otys you have a group of divers who must dive to the depths to collect resources. Each of your divers has a unique ability. It's up to you to decide how deep each diver should go, but once you've activated them, they will surface and will have to wait in line to dive again. The game has elements of set collection and resource management, but for me it's a puzzle game with many moving parts. Your goal is to collect resource cubes to fulfil contracts. Contracts give you points and sometimes other resources and when the first player hits 18 points, the winner will be the player with the most points.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

We devotin' full time to floatin' under the sea!:- Otys

Game: Otys

Publisher: Libellud and Pearl Games

Designer: Claude Lucchini

Year: 2017

Otys is a 2-4 player game in which you play as a group of divers scavenging the resources from the long-drowned ruins of the world. During the game you will send divers down to differing depths to collect resources that you can trade in for rewards, but you will also be having to carefully watch the ever-changing whims of your sponsors if you want to be the most successful.

In Otys each player gets their own player board, these are made out of two individually cut pieces of card which were later glued together. This allows the board to have indents, both in the top and bottom layer, which are used to full effect as placement areas for your divers, as well as your hacker, mechanic and key tokens. This works very well for the divers and key tokens, but unfortunately the process of making these boards leaves them with a very slight bend, which does mean the boards tend to rotate at the slightest knock. When this happens the hacker and mechanic are often left behind, so I hope you remember where on the track they were.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men

Game: Sheriff of Nottingham: Merry Men

Publisher: Arcane Wonders

Designer: Sergio Halaban

Year: 2017

Word has got out that the Sheriff around these parts is frankly quite ineffective. Contraband goods are making their way into Nottingham left, right and center. As a result a black market has developed with people prepared to pay handsomely for large stashes of contraband.  Contraband goods are a bit of a new craze around town and some of the rich have started to make special orders, realising perhaps that pepper is rather a good seasoning for chicken. The Sheriff has been so ineffective, that the merchants have also realised there is money to be made by trying to smuggle some merry men into town too!

Be careful though, the Sheriff isn't taking this lying down. He's instigating new laws and hiring deputies to try and stop the influx of contraband into Nottingham. Find out if he can be successful in the new expansion Merry Men for Sheriff of Nottingham.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 11th December - 21st December 2017

In preparation for Christmas we appear to be stocking up on new games to play. It's easy to forget that I only really have one week off work and most of that time will be spent catching up with family. Instead I'm imagining we'll be trying all sorts of games and putting up a review every day because we're playing so much! The reality is that my Mum has at least requested we take home Azul and Animals on Board! This week we've done our board game group Secret Santa gift exchange which was a good excuse to play some games at The Ludoquist board game cafe and we've started to take a look at some new games for review.

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Harvest Dice

Game: Harvest Dice

Publisher: Grey Fox Games

Designer: Danny Devine

Year: 2017

Harvest Dice is a roll-and-write game, a style of game where you roll dice and based on the results, you fill out a paper sheet in front of you, the most obvious examples perhaps being the classic game Yahtzee. The genre appears to have gained a lot of popularity over the last 12 months, with games like Qwixx from Gamewright games and a whole host of games from Asia, as well as increasing number of print and play games and games from newer designers. Harvest Dice is one of our first experiences with the genre, as it's typically a lighter game than we play, but let's take a look at how it plays.

Harvest Dice is a 15-30 minute game for 2-4 players in which you are planting your vegetable garden with cabbages, carrots and tomatoes. You do this by drafting dice. In a two player game you roll 6 dice per round - 2 green (cabbages), 2 red (tomatoes), 2 orange (carrots). The value on the dice face represents which of the 6 columns you must draw your vegetable into. You have three rows and once a column is full you can no longer plant dice of that number. At any time you can choose not to place a dice, and sometimes you won't have a legal place to play one, so instead you can feed the vegetable to the pig. The more you feed to the pig, the more pig bonuses you get to use to manipulate the dice rolls.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A quick roll in the mud:- Harvest Dice

Game: Harvest Dice

Publisher: Grey Fox Games

Designer: Danny Devine

Year: 2017

Harvest Dice is a 2-4 player dice drafting game in which you play as a farmer attempting to make the best field full of crops. It's not as simple as choosing the best vegetable to sow and filling your field, there is a market that changes the value of the crops depending on which dice are taken. Sometimes you won't have a use for any of the dice, in these cases you can always feed one of them to your trusty pig who will reward you with points at the end of the game because bacon reasons.

At the start of the game each player is handed a sheet of paper that depicts their land, their pig and the value of crops in the local market. Each turn one player will roll all the dice, then one at a time players will choose one of the dice to plant in their field. The position is determined by a grid reference along the top of the field, if you take a green die showing a 4 you must draw a cabbage in the 4 column on your playing sheet.At first this is the only restriction, but you must also keep all of your veggies of a type together, so our hypothetical player could now only take green dice if they were a 3,4 or 5. Players continue drafting dice until only 1 die is left, the colour of this die dictates which of the 3 markets (carrot, tomato and cabbage) increases in value this turn.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Mystic ScROLLS

Game: Mystic ScROLLS

Publisher: Drawlab Entertainment

Designer: Evangelos Foskolos, Stelios Kourtis

Year: 2017

You are a young magician, with a thirst for knowledge. You have searched the enhanted forest and found a temple with an enormous library, filled with all the scrolls and knowledge you've ever dreamed of. The only problem is that some other magicians have also sumbled upon this source of wisdom. Luckily you know a few basic spells and you can cast these to try and defeat for opposing magicians, as well as tryig to catch some of the scrolls flying through the air.

Mystic ScROLLS, as you may be able to tell by the pun-tastic name, is a dice rolling game. In the game, you and up to 3 friends are trying to roll dice as fast as possible to achieve the combinations to cast spells, heal yourself, damage your opponent and obtain scrolls so that next turn you can hurt your opponent even more. So how does it play?

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Fiona's Board Game Christmas Wish List

For someone like me, with an addiction to buying board games, it can be very hard for my friends and family to identify good board games to give to me at Christmas! However, during November and December I try really hard to not buy too many games and to keep a Christmas wish list, for different Secret Santa gift exchanges and for anyone else who feels generous and wants to buy me a game at this time of year. (Any family reading this, please note that Secret Santa has delivered on of these games already!)

This year my list includes a lot of new Essen releases, some of which may not be release in time for Santa to load them on his sleigh, but here are five games that are definitely available and that I’d be very happy to see wrapped up under the tree this year!

Friday, 15 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Letter Tycoon

Game:Letter Tycoon

Publisher: Breaking Games and Squirmy Beast

Designer: Brad Brooks

Year: 2015

Imagine if you owned the rights to letters of the alphabet, every time someone wanted to print a word they'd need to pay you to do it! This business is lucrative, but every other person with a printing press is competing to buy these patents first - the competition for the common letters is hot, but if you spend a long time saving up for the letter 'E', your competitors might buy up a few uncommon letters and get ahead in the printing game.

Letter Tycoon is visually fantastic for a word game, with a kind of steam punk machinery style that evokes the Victorian printing press for me. It mixes the mechanisms of classic word games some speculation and economics that makes you think even harder about the words you can make. I was interested to find out if this game fell into the trap of games like Scrabble where the player with the better vocabulary will always have the upper hand or if it would successfully incorporate more modern board gaming mechanics to compete with a game like Paperback, where a word game becomes a little less one sided when you're playing against the same opponent.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Game: Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment

Designer: Travis R. Chance, Nick Little

Year: 2017

I have not watched many popular geek culture movies/TV shows. As such the many different versions of Legendary don't hold much appeal from a thematic point of view. I enjoyed Legendary Encounters: Alien from a gameplay standpoint, and we own Legendary Marvel, in which some of the characters are familiar. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a show that I have never seen and I don't understand a single reference, but I was surprised to find that my wife used to love the show and was keen to try it. So here is a review of Legendary: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the mechanics version!

Legendary Buffy is a deck-building game in which each player is forming a deck of good guys to defeat a villain and their evil plot. As with most deck-building games, each player starts with a small deck of very basic cards and it is typical to try and get rid of these basis cards as the game progresses and to replace them by purchasing  stronger cards. Some cards are focused on generating you the money to buy more cards, whilst others are focused on giving you attack points, which you spend to attack the mounting pile of smaller villains or henchmen. Ultimately you're trying to get enough hit points in a single hand to punch the big bad, since that is worth the most end game points and punching them 4 times will mean you collectively win the game.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Awoooooo... *guitar solo* :- Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Game: Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment

Designer: Travis R. Chance, Nick Little

Year: 2017

Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a 1-5 player semi-cooperative deck builder in which you recruit the help of Buffy the Scoobies, and some of their photo-phobic pals in order to dust vamps and save the town of Sunnydale. Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer takes the core Legendary ruleset and adds a few thematic twists to complement the Buffy theme.

For those already familiar with the Marvel version of Legendary you will already know 90% of the mechanics, so feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.

Legendary: Buffy The Vampire Slayer works as you'd expect of many deckbuilder, you start the game with a deck of 12, pretty bad, starter cards and each turn you will draw 6 cards from your deck. Once you play these cards you can spend the two main resources, attack lets you combat the vampires and demons, as well as eventually taking on the "big bad", which you must defeat 4 times to win the game. Each villain gives you a number of victory points, and should the good guys win the player with the most points is the overall winner. Recruit points allow you to add new cards to your deck which have improved abilities. At the start of each turn you must draw a card from the villain deck, this largely comprises of villains that you can fight, but also contains scheme twists which bring the villains closer to winning and master strikes which allow the big bad to attack you personally. To counter these enemies the hero cards you recruit can combo off each other in many ways, either based off their faction (Scoobies, Slayers, Vampires, etc) or their card colour.

Monday, 11 December 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 5th December - 10th December 2017

This week in gaming, Telestrations was a huge success at my office Christmas party! I'm so glad that we invested in the 12-player version from North America. We also had our traditional meet up to play the next T.I.M.E. Stories expansion - it's a great excuse to meet up with our friend Luke - The Broken Meeple - and play some extra games too.

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Can't Stop Express

Game: Can't Stop Express

Publisher: Eagle-Gryphon Games

Designer: Sid Sackson

Year: 2017

Can't Stop Express is a roll and write game which funded on Kickstarter in March 2017. It seems that roll-and-writes are a booming genre, gaining lots of popularity with gamers who enjoy something light and Can't Stop Express came out at just the right time with a very low price point. It also has a good pedigree - being a sequel of sorts to the original Can't Stop from Sid Sackson - first released in 1980 - a game that is still talked about  now as a staple of the push-your-luck genre.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- When I Dream

Game: When I Dream

Publisher: Repos Productions

Designer: Chris Darsaklis

Year: 2017

When I Dream was originally a limited print run release at Essen 2016. It got a lot of positive feedback, so far Essen 2017 it was reprinted by Repos Productions, and Asmodee definitely put a lot of marketing effort into the release. At Essen I believe they had a full sized bed and lots of people walking around in pyjamas, and in the run up to the show they even sent a copy of When I dream to space with a weather balloon (surely a tongue in cheek response to the release of Clank! In! Space!). So after all that hype, does When I Dream live up to expectations?

When I Dream is a party game for 4-10 players where in each round one player plays the dreamer and all of the other players are 'dream spirits' giving you limited information about your strange and surreal dream, represented by the word cards in the centre of the table. The dreamer is blindfolded and the other players around the table are each dealt a role. The role will determine whether you want the dreamer to guess words correctly or incorrectly. The fairies want the dreamer to guess right answers, the bogeymen want wrong answers and the sandmen want an even distribution of right and wrong. A round lasts 2 minutes and you go round the table giving one word clues until the dreamer makes a guess. The dreamer gets points for correct answers but also for reciting a dream from memory containing all of their correct guesses.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 22nd November - 4th December

There's been a short break since we last posted first impressions, but we're still playing new games. Two factors have combined to mean that a lot of games are going straight to full review, and I don't want to spoil those reviews by telling you what I think two days before the review goes live. Firstly, all of the Essen releases are starting to hit the UK, and we want to share our reviews of those as quickly as possible. Secondly, we've started to write for Board Game Exposure, so we're playing games quite quickly to stay on top of the number of games we need to review.

However, I've still got some thoughts to share, so here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Take my hand, We're off to never-never land:- When I Dream

Game: When I Dream

Publisher: Repos Productions

Designer: Chris Darsaklis

Year: 2017

When I Dream is a Picture based party game for 4-10 players. In it you take turns being a dreamer, attempting to work out what the other players, as the spirits, are making you dream about. This would be a challenge by itself, but not all the spirits want you to have restful dreams. Some spirits just want to watch you slip into nightmare!

 Each round of When I Dream the dreaming player will put on the blindfold while a 2-minute timer is started. The rest of the group are given a role card, they will either be helpful fairies, nasty bogeymen, or the sandman who is seeking balance. These players will take turns trying to get the blindfolded player to correctly (or incorrectly) guess the topic on the central card. As cards are guessed they are assigned to either a correct or incorrect pile which are used to work out each players score. The dreamer then has a chance to recite their dream, if they manage to name every correct topic that they guessed during the timed phase then they score bonus points. 

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Samurai Gardener

Game: Samurai Gardener

Publisher: Osprey Games

Designer: Hisashi Hayashi

Year: 2017

As a fiercely competitive lord in the time of the Samurai, there are many ways you could demonstrate your prowess, but why not wow the Shogun with your house and garden?Take some time away from your training, tend your plants, feed your koi carp, get a dog, or maybe a cat. Design pathways for your garden, so that if the Shogun ever visits, he'll look past your shoddy Samurai skills, caused by lack of training, and be won over by your fantastic horticulture and landscape garden design.

Samurai Gardener is a game with quite an odd name and no real theme. However, the Japanese setting has inspired some lovely card art, from Kevin So and Ryo Nyamo, for this simple tile-laying game from Osprey Games.

Samurai Gardener starts by presenting each player with one card, representing the start of their garden. They also receive a point-scoring reminder and a feature card representing each of the 4 terrain types in the gardens (Pond, Tatami, Paths and Garden). At the start of each round 1 card per player is dealt to the center of the table, players must start with their hands placed firmly on their knees as the lead player calls out "Ei! Ei!". To which every will reply by shouting "Oh!" before moving their hands as quickly as possible to cover the card they want. Card selection is first come, first served so you have to be quick to get the card you want. If you aren't willing or able to play the game like this you can always draft the cards instead.

Once you have a card you must add it to your garden, You are allowed to rotate the card 180 degrees, but it cannot be turned sideways. You can partially cover up previously laid cards, but cannot cover up any lines of the same kind of terrain that are 3 or longer. After you place it you are able to score any and all terrains which you have just created a line of three or more in, the longer the lines the more points, although you score nothing for lines of 6 or more. 

You also gain bonus points for scoring 2 or more rows in one turn. When you score the line of any terrain you must turn your feature card representing that terrain upside down, you are no-longer able to score cards of that terrain type. When all 4 of your feature types are upside down you can flip them all back over allowing you to score again. The game continues until one player has exceeded 25 points, at the end of that round the player with the most points wins.

Amy’s Final Thoughts
Samurai Gardener is a slightly unusual tile laying game, the restriction on tile placement (either of the short ends must face you) seems rather unnecessary, only serving to reduce player choice and, frankly, infuriate you when you see the perfect move only to realise you can't do it. The restrictions on which tile type you are able to score is actually rather clever, meaning that you have to balance your garden well in order to score well in all 4 terrain types.

The weakest part of the game is how you pick your cards, using the shouting method isn't practical more often than not, and does feel especially silly when you do it as a couple, these kind of things tend to work better for large groups, but Samurai Gardener can only support 4 players. If you decide to draft instead then you will find the drafting rules are extremely bare bones. The starting player picks up all the cards, picks one and then passes it to the left, and so on until the last player is forced to take what they get.

Tile placement and scoring is done well, creating a combo where you score 2 or even 3 lines in one turn is pretty challenging and it does reward a combination of forethought and patience in waiting for the right card, while ensuring that when you get it you are able to score those types of terrain. Overall Samurai Gardener is a pretty average warm up game, it could have been better with a bit more polish, but as it is I doubt that it will be gracing our table that often, there are simply better options.

Fi’s Final Thoughts
My favourite part of Samurai Gardener is the spatial puzzle. It's really satisfying to try and identify optimal locations for a card that either build a long single row of five, or preferably trigger two or even three lines to score simultaneously. With a little more practice, I hope it will be possible to plan out my early moves so that I'm able to maximise these double and triple scoring opportunities, but right now it does feel a little bit like there is some luck of the draw determining whether those opportunities become available.

Perhaps Samurai Gardener doesn't make for the greatest two player experience. Whether you're choosing cards with the speed method or drafting, there's only two cards in each round, so the chances of  seeing a really good card for your current board situation are lower. The speed method of card selection does seem a little ludicrous to me in a game that is otherwise quite serene and thoughtful. The card drafting seems better, but it does seem like the puzzle of the game was the core concept and the way that you actually got cards each round was an afterthought. Although drafting with two players is barely a draft at all, it does introduce a lot of denial, making the game perhaps more interactive than it would be at higher player counts.

Samurai Gardener is a nice game, but nice is about where it ends for me. I enjoy the tile laying and puzzle aspects, but I don't see myself going back to the game again and again because it just doesn't really excite me. Although it probably isn't the right game to introduce to my parents, I can see it filling that niche because of it's inoffensive theme and puzzly aspects. The rulebook is short and very accessible so it could make an inexpensive gift for family members.

The Good
  • The game looks good on the table.
  • It's an interesting game for people who like spatial puzzles.

The Bad
  • Card selection feels like an afterthought of the game's design
  • The need to place cards in a 'portrait' orientation always feels restrictive.
The Verdict
5.5/10 - Samurai Gardener is a relaxing tile-laying game, that is suitable as a filler. However, in our opinion, in a crowded market, there are more refined options, such as Honshu that fulfil the same goals.

Samurai Gardener was a review copy provided to the Board Game Exposure reviewer collective.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Thoughts from The Yellow Meeple:- Azul

Game: Azul

Publisher: Plan B Games

Designer: Michael Kiesling

Year: 2017

Azul is the latest game from Plan B Games, who brought us the hotly anticipated Century Spice Road earlier this year. Century Spice Road was definitely a solid first game from this new offshoot of publisher ZMAN Games/F2Z and their follow up game has also been eagerly awaited due to the eyes on this new publisher, as well as the heavy hitting designer on the box - Michael Kiesling. Azul has a very eye-catching box, but does a good game await you inside?

In Azul you are a tile laying artist, creating your artwork on the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora. Each turn, tiles will be available in one of the factories in the centre of the table. You must take all of the tiles of one type from one factory and the rest of the tiles from that factory are placed in the centre of the table. You may alternatively take all of the tiles of one type from that central pile. You must then place the tiles into a single pattern row on the board - if you have too many tiles then you drop some on the floor. You continue to take turns taking tiles until all tiles have been taken from the factories and centre of the table.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Game Shelf Previews:- AOX

Game: AOX

Publisher: Half Wing Games

Designer: Chris 'Shep' Shepperson

Year: 2017

AOX is a new game, coming to Kickstarter from UK designer, Chris Shepperson, creator of Package?! - a microgame which funded at the end of 2016. AOX is a traditional abstract game for two players, much like classic games like Chess and Go, but it is a neat package and brings some new twists in the rules that are quite intriguing.

AOX will be Shep's second game and we were lucky enough to receive an early preview copy that we've been playing over the last couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The other 4 colours aren't worth mentioning:- Azul

Game: Azul

Publisher: Plan B Games

Designer: Michael Kiesling

Year: 2017

Azul is a 2-4 player abstract game in which you play as tile layers decorating the Royal Palace of Evora. To do this you will take turns drafting the decorative tiles in order to fill your player boards. Each tiles has a specific location where it must go, and placement matters as certain patterns net you bonus points at the end of the game. But be careful, if you get greedy and take more tiles than you can use you break them and have to lost points.

Each player in Azul gets a player board with a 5x5 grid on it that they must fill as the game goes on. The grid is laid out so that each tile type appears only once in each vertical and horizontal line. Point scoring is reminiscent of Quirkle. When you place a tile on your grid you earn points based on the lines it now forms, both horizontal and vertical if applicable. For example if you had a single tile by itself then you would score 1 point, but if you added a second tile below it then that tile would score 2 points. This scoring mechanic gives the game a good sense of progression as you fill in gaps and score larger and larger points. 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The Game Shelf Reviews:- By Order of The Queen

Game: By Order of The Queen

Publisher: Junk Spirit Games

Designer: David Gerrard

Year: 2017

The Kingdom of Tessandor has been in disarray since the King did not return from battle. You, as representatives of the guilds, have been called upon by the Queen to organise the heroes of the land to defend the borders of the city whilst also catering to the whims of the Queen which might distract you from you tasks. Hopefully you can do so in time before you lose all of the villagers in battles with monsters, or all of the regions of the land are overwhelmed.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Game: Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby

Year: 2017

Kokoro is one of the first Kickstarter games we backed. What attracted us to this Kickstarter project in particular was the meeting of two strong games. At the time we had recently enjoyed Kodama - a great little card placement and set collection gma set in a very whimsical world. Kokoro is a re-theme of an Essen 2016 hit, Avenue, into the universe of Kodama. We didn't get the opportunity to play Avenue, but it received considerable buzz for a small game and Kokoro promised to be a good re-theme with some additional modifications.

Kokoro is a competitive game for 1-8 players. It comes from the genre of roll-and-write games, but mechanically it works with a deck of cards. The game has 5 rounds and in each round you will draw cards from the top of a deck. The cards have 6 different routes on them - 4 different turns, a horizontal and a vertical line. Each player has a grid and must choose where to draw each line segment. Each round you are trying to connect a line back to one of the correct sanctuary - there are 6 sanctuaries and one is active in each of the five rounds.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 13th November - 21st November

Unfortunately we're not finding a lot of time for games at the moment. Amy is working at a local board game cafe, which sometimes means working evenings, giving us less time to play through our 'pile of shame'. However, for once, I don't think we actually added anything new to our shelves this week which is something to be proud of! Our one new arrival this week came from our new collaboration with Board Game Exposure - a reviewer collective in the UK, who are working to promote both new and older board games to a wide audience. We're excited to see what interesting games this collaboration will bring our way and hope to post these reviews on Saturdays each week.

So, there's only a couple of titles to talk about, but here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Long and Winding Road:- Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Game: Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Publisher: Indie Boards and Cards

Designer: Eilif Svensson, Kristian Amundsen Østby

Year: 2017

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is a route-building game for 1-8 players. In it you are tasked with connecting flowers and caterpillars to the sanctuaries of the forest by restoring the ancient paths. But you have to be careful to plan ahead, because if you ever score less than you did in the previous round then you get heavily penalised.

Kokoro’s gameplay is elegantly simple. Each player has a dry erase board with the exact same map layout on it. A sanctuary is revealed which players have to connect the flowers and caterpillars to in order to score. After the sanctuary is revealed a card is drawn. Each card has a line, either a straight up/across or a 90 degree turn in any of four directions. Every player must then draw this line on their map. These cards are either plain or golden, after 4 golden cards are drawn the round ends, players add up their connected items and note down their score. Then a new sanctuary is revealed and gameplay resumes. If you would score less than the previous round then you instead score 0, with a penalty of -5 points at the end of the game for each zero you scored. At the end of the game there is a final scoring for flowers connected to the lion in the bottom right and caterpillars connected to the lady in the top left, then the player with the most points wins.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Game: Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Publisher: AEG

Designer: John D. Clair

Year: 2017

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm is the first expansion we've tried for Mystic Vale. Mystic Vale was AEG's first game with the card crafting system where you add to and improve your cards throughout the game, so that you are deck-building, but not actually adding cards to your deck throughout the game. I really enjoyed the system in Mystic Vale, as you can see in my older review, but I've held back from investing in expansions because nothing about them seemed game changing and the price point for a box of cards was very high in comparison to the base game.

Mana Storm makes two or three key changes to the game. Firstly, it adds new cards to all of the decks. Secondly it gives each player a leader card, which becomes one of the ards in your deck and gives you a unique ability which can also be upgraded using mana. Finally, each player has a unique amulet which replaces the double sided mana token, giving you each unique abilities when you spoil and flip the token.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Mana-Mana, Doo-doo do-doo-do:- Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Game: Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Publisher: AEG

Designer: John D. Clair

Year: 2017

Mystic Vale is a card crafting game which we previously reviewed in January this year. As a quick refresher, Mystic Vale is a deck building game with a twist, you start with a full deck of sleeved cards. Instead of buying cards for your deck, you buy clear plastic advancements, which slide inside the sleeves adding their powers to the base card. Each card can support up to three advancements, creating an incredibly vast number of unique combinations. I finished my Mystic Vale review by saying that one day the card crafting system would produce a great game, but Mystic Vale wasn't that game.

So, does the Mana Storm expansion change that? Mana Storm brings with it 48 new advancements and 18 new Vale cards for you to play with, but most importantly it introduces leaders and amulets. The new advancements have a strong tendency to be more powerful than the advancements found in the base game, but to balance this out a large number of them have caveats to their function, some require you to collect enough guardian symbols on the card by adding other enhancements before it starts to work, while others simply cost you victory points at the end of the game to balance out their power. It's wonderful to see the guardian symbols being introduced in greater number, making collecting them far more meaningful. The base game didn't really use this mechanic to the fullest, but now you can create a few cards that start neutered, but gain power exponentially as you add more symbols.

Monday, 13 November 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 11th November - 12th November

This first impressions blog covers a whole 2-day period! That's because we had the chance to play new games at two different board game cafe's this weekend. We spent Saturday afternoon at  the Ludoquist in Croydon, who are having an amazing first week - so amazing that it's hard to find some table space! Then we spent Sunday at Draughts in London. Both occassions were with friends, so we did a mixture of sharing some games we already know and learning some new, lighter games at the table.

It was a busy weekend, so here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 5th November - 10th November

Today we're had our second ever Kickstarter delivery. Unlike our first Kickstarter (Gloomhaven) I was really happy to be able to get this one straight to the table! By lunchtime today we had already played Kokoro twice - more than a lot of games on our shelves have ever been played! This week we've also started to look at our small number of Essen games and an old classic to round off the week of new games.

Here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Thoughts from Yellow Meeple:- Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Game: Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Designer: Brad Andres, Erik Dahlman, Nate French

Year: 2017

The Legend of the Five Rings is a re-boot of an old collectible card game into Fantasy Flight's living card game (LCG) model. In a living card game, you are still encouraged to buy additional content and customise your decks, but you kow exactly what you're getting inside every expansion box. Core sets, like this game just released are the starting point and should include enough for you to play a full game and they are, of course, designed to get you hooked. We have not been hooked into any licing card game franchise so far, having tried Android Netrunner and The Lord of the Rings, so is Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game one that will grab our attention and open our wallets?

Legend of the Five Rings is an asymmetric, 2-player card game. You each pick a faction and in the base set you'll receive two pre-made decks - a dynasty deck and a conflict deck. Your dynasty deck contains people and holdings who you use to start conflicts or defend from conflicts, whilst your conflict deck contains a mixture of items, events and weaker people who you can pull out as a surpise to use during conflicts. Each player has four provinces and a stronghold and your goal is to be the first player to break 3 out of 4 of the other players provices and break their stronghold.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Collect 100 for a 1-up:- Legend of the Five Rings

Game: Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Designer: Brad Andres, Erik Dahlman, Nate French

Year: 2017

Legend of the Five Rings is a 2-player living card game (LCG) in which you take control of one of seven clans and attempt to conquer another clan through the combination of political intrigue and outright brute force. Legend of the Five Rings uses two decks for each side as well as a series of provinces which you must take over before you can finally conquer your opponents stronghold and win the game. However you must be careful, if you fight too shamefully you will be dishonored and unable to win.

Legend of the Five Rings works in a round based system, each round you get a certain amount of fate, the game's currency. This can be spent at the start of the round to recruit troops from your dynasty deck, or held back to pay for surprise cards from your conflict deck. Next both players will bid honor in order to draw from their conflict cards. Honor represents a secondary way to win or lose the game, if you run out then your armies are demoralized and shamed enough to abandon you. Similarly if your opponent reaches 25 they will instantly win. To bid honor you select a number from 1 to 5 on a dial, then both players reveal their dials simultaneously. The number you select dictates the number of conflict cards you can draw that turn, while the difference between your number and your opponents results in honor being given to them/taken from them.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 30th October - 4th November

This week has been very exciting in terms of new deliveries. Our three Essen preorders arrived from Thirsty Meeples, I decided to order the three new EXIT games from Kosmos and review copies of When I Dream and the new expansion for Mystic Vale also turned up on our doorstep. We have so many games to play, as well as keeping on top of our campaigns of Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy Season 2 and having friend over to continue Mechs vs. Minions or Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle

There's a lot going on, so here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Flatline

Game: Flatline

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios

Designer: Kane Klenko

Year: 2017

Flatline is a sequel to Renegade’s hit game Fuse, where you were working to defuse a bomb. Unfortunately you failed at that game and now Flatline reflects the consequences for your ship. Flatline is a game of real-time dice rolling where you need to work together quickly to make the right dice combinations to treat your patients, deal with emergencies and buy yourself time to ensure that you complete all of your tasks before the power runs out. We’ve had a great track record with real-time cooperative games. XCOM: The Board Game is definitely our favourite, but the only one we’ve tried and not enjoyed is Bomb Squad. In that context, how does Flatline fare?

In Flatline, each player has a set number of customized dice, showing 6 different symbols. Each turn there is a one minute timed phase where everyone simultaneously rolls their dice and then you try to use the faces to complete tasks on the board. At any one time there are 4 receptacles on the board representing your patients and on each will be a number of tasks where the right dice must be placed – sometimes by one person and sometimes by a specific combination of people. Once all tasks on a patient are completed, that patient is replaced with a new one until you complete all patients and win the game.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 23rd - 29th October

After a week away hunting for new board game cafes and board game stores in the north of England, we came home to 3 new board game arrivals. In the following days two amazing parcels arrived - our Kickstarter pledge for Gloomhaven was the first excitement, followed by our preorder of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 which stole all of the limelight! 

We've got a lot of new games to play, so, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Nurse, roll me the scalpel:- Flatline

Flatline is a real-time cooperative game in which you assume the role of emergency medics after a bomb blast. You have to cure all of the patients that come to you before your emergency generators run out of power and all your equipment turns off, dooming the remaining patients. When I say you have to cure all the patients I mean it, should you save the lives of 7 out of 8 critically wounded people you aren’t congratulated on a job well done under stressful conditions. No. Save everyone or go find a new job!

Flatline takes place in a series of rounds, each with a preparation phase, a real-time phase and a conclusion phase. Each round you lose a cube from the power supply, which acts as the round timer. After that you draw a number of crisis cards equal to the newly revealed number on the power bar. Crisis cards are either standard blue cards, which have negative effects and form a numbered track or emergency orange cards which need to be dealt with this round or they start to trigger a failure state. After drawing crisis cards you roll the two crisis dice and resolve associated crisis cards. Then comes the planning phase where you can take stock and talk to each other for as long as needed to decide what you want to achieve this round. 

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 19th - 22nd October 2017

Last Friday we had a 6 hour gaming marathon at Thirsty Meeples in Oxford where we played new games for the whole session. In addition, we came home from our week away to a small pile of new deliveries, so this week's first impressions could be very, very long - so I'll keep my thoughts on each game brief. In our time at Thirsty Meeples we only played one game that's jumped straight onto our wishlist and, as is always predictable, it's one that's a little hard to get hold of!

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Yellow Meeple Starts a Board Game Group at Work:- Week 14

Four weeks later and it's time for another board game night. Everyone who can is still attending and it's really obvious that people are looking forward to it each month! In the last four weeks I know that at least one colleague has bought two games - Rhino Hero and In A Bind - and a few others are talking about buying games as Christmas gifts, so I must be doing something right!

Week 14

Number of Attendees: 7

Games Played: Sushi Go, Telestrations, Codenames

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Contrast

Game: Contrast

Publisher: Pink Monkey Games

Designer: Julien Percot

Year: 2017

Contrast is a small box card name, which at first glance is trying to do something similar to games like Dixit and Mysterium, using weird artwork to create a sociable party game. Contrast is a game for 2-6 players in which each player has the same 6 cards, each showing 12 symbols. These 12 symbols is the way you'll need to describe each artwork card, with one symbol which might be; a circle, the colour green, a small or large weight or a tall or short arrow. If you can get into the same mindset as other players then you're likely to score points, unless everyone picks the same, obvious symbol, meaning that no-one scores points.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

It's more of a Juxtaposition in my mind:- Contrast

Game: Contrast

Publisher: Pink Monkey Games

Designer: Julien Percot

Year: 2017

Contrast is a 2-6 player picture-based card game that will immediately make you think of Dixit and Mysterium. You will be presented with a selection of weird and wonderful picture cards that you have to relate to the symbols on the cards in your hand. If you match the same symbols as other players do then you'll win points, but if everyone guesses the same or everyone guesses differently then no-one gets anything!

Each player has a hand of 6 identical cards. Each of these cards have 2 contrasting attributes on them, for example red/yellow or long/short. Each round every player has to choose one of these cards to lay face down with the attribute of choice pointing towards the picture. Once everyone has chosen a card they are all revealed and everyone who played the most common attribute wins the round and gets to take a picture card as a reward. For example if a picture of a giraffe was revealed and 4 out of 6 players chose to play their long/short card with the long side towards the picture then they would all win and be rewarded with a picture card. At the end of the game the player with the most cards is the winner.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Amy's Top 10 Board Games (2017 Edition)

It's been almost 2 years since I last took a long, hard look at our game collection and devised a top 10 list. In that time I've played countless new games, so have my favourites changed all that much? Before we get to the list I want to bring up one honourable mention:

Escape Room: The Game is the first escape room boardgame I’ve played that *truly* feels like an escape room. The puzzles are perfectly tooled to be a challenge but not be too hard and should you get stuck the hint system is well designed to drip feed you help as you need it. That being said it is only 4 games, not all of which are as good as the first. It’s not that easy to get in the UK which means we won’t be getting the expansions any time soon. Whilst there is plenty of quality, there simply isn’t enough quantity for this game to make the list.

Now onto the Top 10;

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 16th - 18th October 2017

We were hoping to tour the board game cafes in the North West of England this week, but unfortunately things haven't been going our way (in particular a failed trip to Liverpool where both cafes were closed). However, we still had a great time visiting Fan Boy 3 in Manchester - a board game store that offers tables for gaming from their modest sized gaming library. We had a great time playing some new games and talking with the owners about the challenges of running a friendly local game store or a board game cafe.

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Thoughts from the Yellow Meeple:- Nomads

Game: Nomads

Publisher: Ludonaute

Designer: Gary Kim

Year: 2017

Nomads is the second game in the Legends of Luma universe from Ludonaute. Their first game, Oh Captain, is highly regarded by our gaming group who have said that it replaces Sheriff of Nottingham, but I have not actually played it. The next game in the line is Nomads - a reworking of a Korean title - Jeju Island. The characters have been changed and the game has been tweaked so that it is apprently more tactical and less random. Overall it's an impressive presentation, so how does it play?

In Nomads, each player takes two circular tokens in their player colour. Each player also gets a special ability and for the green character, this means they have three circular tokens. The board has a circular track with 8 spots which are initially filled with blank nomad tokens, then the coloured tokens that are non-player tokens (in a game with fewer than five players) are placed. Finally each player can place their two tokens onto the stacks in one or two of the eight stacks. During the game you have to move a full stack, dropping off one token into each spot, in a mancala style mechanism. Then every coloured player token that is on top of a stack is able to take a cardboard quare token from the corresponding stack.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 8th - 15th October 2017

It's proving challenging to try and play new games at home at the moment. We have our regular gmaing night on a Thursday where we play campaign games and now we've started a Pathfinder RPG campaign, which is another day taken out of the time for board gaming. I'm not completely sure how I feel about my first ever RPG, but for now I'm going to persevere since the group of people is making it fun. Nevertheless, we've managed to play a few games, thanks in part to our visit to PLAY Expo Manchester this weekend and are getting plenty of free time in the coming weeks. 

So, here's the Yellow Meeple's first impressions;

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Pass the Peace Pipe:- Nomads

Game: Nomads

Publisher: Ludonaute

Designer: Gary Kim

Year: 2017

Nomads is a 2-5 player Mancala-style game in which you take one of the pirates from Oh Captain and attempt to learn the legends of the Nomadic tribe that rescued you. This would be an easy experience, but the peace pipe they passed around is clouding your head making the stories difficult to grasp. You will wander around the campfire, picking up fragments of each story and trying to piece together the original legends.

Each turn in Nomads a player will collect up one of the stacks of tokens that contains one of their tokens and then move it either way around the central campfire. Each space you pass over you drop one tile from your stack until your stack is emptied. After moving every player with a token at the top of a pile collects the adjacent story fragment. Finally the active player can cash in story fragments for legend cards that provide end game scoring. Occasionally you will reveal moon tiles instead of story fragments, these become a tracker when collected and at 4 tiles a mid-game scoring begins, during this the player who currently has the most points collects 3 moon tokens, while second player collects 1. Moon tokens are worth a point each at the end of the game.