The Game Shelf

The Game Shelf Blog can be found at thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk We post twice a week, with our thoughts on games that we've recently been playing. As a couple who are relatively new into gaming, we post the following content; - Recommendations of games that are either 2-player or work great with 2-players but also for a larger group. - Two contrasting opinions on each of the games we review each week. - Thoughts that are relevant to newer gamers and gamers trying to get their spouse in the hobby. - Photos of games, as our collection expands almost every week. You can also follow us on twitter @game_shelf

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Week 108:- Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama

Fiona Dickinson
United Kingdom
Horley
Surrey
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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.



Check out the full reviews here;
http://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/KokoroYellowMeepl...
http://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/the-long-and-wind...

@game_shelf posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays with two different opinions from two halves of a gaming couple.
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Thu Nov 23, 2017 5:20 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 13th November - 21st November

Fiona Dickinson
United Kingdom
Horley
Surrey
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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;


Fast Forward: FLEE is one of a series of games from Friedemann Friese and Stronghold Games called the Fast Forward series. The appeal of these games is that they can be played straight out the box because they have no rulebook. Flee is the first one we chose to try because it's the only one of the three that is cooperative. Flee is a simple card game where you have four heroes from Alice in Wonderland who are trying to avoid the monster who is chasing them. You cannot begin your turn holding the monster so you need to work together to adjust the turn order and skip players, swapping the location of the monster to ensure you meet this condition. This is a very, very challenging co-op experience, which isn't a problem for us, but my negative first impression comes from the fact that it is very repetitive. If you fail at the puzzle, you start again from the beginning and you start to learn exactly what cards are coming and you're just trying to adjust the order of your actions to try not to fail the next time though the process. It feels like there's only one right answer and many, many wrong answers and I just found Flee frustrating to work through.

Exit: The Game – The Polar Station is the first game we've tried in the second wave of EXIT games. EXIT games are a one time escape room experience and after really enjoying the first wave of 3 games, we were excited for the new wave. The first thing we noticed was that this wave is harder - it makes that clear on the box with the different difficulty ratings, but this one was marked as the easiest of the three, and it's still the worst score we've got in an EXIT game. The Polar Station was also our least favourite EXIT game - partially because of the difficulty level, but also because we sometimes felt like we had to use clues for the wrong reasons, either because of very unclear previous clues or deliberately obfuscated information. For us the fun of these games comes from a level of difficulty that challenges you but is also rewarding when you figure it out - here we were too often frustrated by annoying puzzles and an inability to progress. We still have the other two new games to try but I am worried that we've now gone beyond a fun level of difficulty for us.

By Order of the Queen is the third cooperative game on this list. The initial appeal of the game is the artwork - the box cover is not too appealing, but the board and card art is from Justin Hillgrove, who created some art for Adventure Time. The game is about fighting off monsters, going on quests and attempting to complete three orders for the Queen. In each different scenario you are selecting heroes from your hand to try and match symbols to the scenario you'll face. Your number of matching symbols lets you roll a number of dice to try and gain a 5 or a 6 result to succeed. The game is heavy on luck and this is compounded by the fact that sometimes you don't know what symbols are needed for a given encounter. If this game was competitive I'd find this intensely annoying, but in the cooperative game, it's a little annoying but doesn't ruin the game for me. Completing the queens orders is what draws out the length of the game because you can only attempt it once in every four turns - it probably does take too long, but the overall game length for us has been around 90 minutes which we found to be OK. So far I'm actually enjoying By Order of the Queen, in spite of it's flaws. It's a little different to other co-op games we own and definitely provides a challenge and the artwork really helps to elevate it.

This weekend, my Mum will be visiting, so we probably will get the opportunity to play some games, but we'll be sticking to older titles that she is familiar with or introducing lighter games that we're confident she will enjoy. I'm hoping that on Sunday we'll get the chance to visit The Ludoquist cafe with a few friends and maybe then we'll get the chance to try something new!

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Wed Nov 22, 2017 9:13 pm
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Week 107:- Mystic Vale: Mana Storm

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
Surrey
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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.



Check out the full reviews here;
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/thoughts-from-ye...
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/mana-mana-doo-do...

@game_shelf posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays with two different opinions from two halves of a gaming couple.
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Thu Nov 16, 2017 12:51 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 11th November - 12th November

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
Surrey
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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;


Photosynthesis is a GenCon/Essen release that definitely grabs your attention due to how fantastic it looks on the board. The rules to the game are deceptively simple - obtain light points and spend them to obtain seeds and trees and to plant the seeds and grow the trees. However, this is an amazingly fiendish spatial puzzle where in each turn the sun will shine in a different angle at the board, hitting some trees, giving the owners light points. However taller trees overshawdow smaller trees, so from different angles you need to make sure you overshadow opponents and not you own smaller trees. To get points you'll harvest your biggest trees, trying to time this right so that you still have a good income of light points and you're not opening up the board too much for opponents. This could be the kind of abstract-style game I will forever be very bad at, but I am very keen to try Photosynthesis more, especially putting into action some of what I learnt from our first game.

Queendomino is the sequel to Kingdomino, which won the Spiel des Jahres this year. The main premise is still a tile laying game, with domino-like tiles depicting different land types. Your basic score is still the number of squares in a matching land grouping, multiplied by the number of crowns depicted. In addition, Queendomino adds knights which give you an income when placed on your board anf buildings which offer lots of different styles of end game scoring, but that can only be built on red terrain. Kingdomino was very simple for a Spiel des Jahres winner and it seems like Queendomino is more like the weight for a slightly more challenging family game. With four players, we found the game a little slow, which left me feeling that there were too many complications that stopped the game from flowing well. That said, I still want to try Queendomino with two and see if the fact that we are both quick players improves the game.

The Chameleon is a party game I've been waiting to try and 4 players was probably the lowest number we should've played with. The Chameleon is very much like Spyfall, in that one player is in the dark, whilst everyone lese knows the codeword. There is a grid of words, all with one theme, eg. cities, and all but one player (the chameleon) knows which is the right word for the round. Each player, including the chameleon says one word in turn, associated with the right answer, and then everyone votes for the chameleon. An unidentified chameleon gets points and an accused chameleon who guesses the correct word also gets points. It's a game about picking a word that let's everyone know you're not the chameleon whilst not giving the chameleon a big hint. The fact that each round was just one word was too simple for us and the game just lacked any excitement. It works, but there wasn't a big fun factor with just four players.

Fabled Fruit is a game I wasnt that interested in until the new fabled games were released at Essen. The new games, such as Flee and Fear, are exciting to me because they have no rulebook, they just evolve as you play, but the original game, Fabled Fruit, also has the evolution aspects. It's not quite a legacy game, but the game does appear to change in every game you play. It's quite a simple set collection card game with different actions on the board. As people manage to cash in sets of fruit for juices, more different action spaces are added to the table and some of the original action spaces can run out over time. Some actions have no player interaction, some are directly confrontational and others manipulate common areas of the game, such as the market. We were really surprised by how strong the game is for a simple card game, but what is most exciting is the idea of playing more games and seeing it evolve. We're deep in other legacy/campaign games right now, but Fabled Fruit is very much on my radar.

Fabled Fruit is firmly on our Secret Santa wanted list, Photosynthesis has already been pre-ordered and I'm taking some more time to think about Queendomino, since it didn't quite live up to my expectations. This week, we'd like to concentrate more on some games in our own collection - Pandemic Legacy Season 2 is feeling a little unloved and I'm keen to play at least one of the new EXIT games. We might also have a work board game evening, where I'm excited to have a slightly smaller group to play something with a bit more strategy.

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:00 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 5th November - 10th November

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
Surrey
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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;


Kitchen Rush is that perfect blend of challenging real time cooperative game that Amy and I seem to really enjoy. Presumably inspired by the video game Overcooked, in Kitchen Rush, you are trying to create different meals to order. Your workers and sand timers and they go to different zones of the board to get ingredients, take orders, use the ovens etc. Unlike most real time games we enjoy, the resolution phase in Kitchen Rush is short, but the stress level is mitigated by the fact you have to wait for your timers to run low, which can give you a chance to think. It seems like a very difficult cooperative game and I'm not sure where we're going to find more efficiencies, but with a set game length of around 30 minutes, depending how much you talk, I'm looking forward to trying to master Kitchen Rush.

Mystic Vale: Mana Storm is the first expansion we've managed to try for Mystic Vale - the first card crafting game released by AEG. The title of Mana Storm caught by eye because it sounds like the 'big money' expansion. Dominion Prosperity is my favourite Dominion expansion because everything is bigger and more powerful, so I was hoping for the same here. Mana Storm adds new cards to all of the decks, but also adds a leader card for each player, and a new amulet with a unique evoke power. The new leader powers are particularly interesting - they are double sided, so once you save up enough to flip them, they can we really powerful, but also completely dictate how you choose to play your game and build your cards. The amulets are less powerful, but a good synergy between your amulet and leader can really be a great engine. I'm yet to master this expansion, but I do enjoy the new opportunities for unique strategies and great combos. It fits in our bases box, so there's nothing not to like.

Le Havre is an older Uwe Rosenberg title that I've been keen to try after fantastic praise from Tom Vasel at the Dice Tower. We enjoy Uwe Rosenberg games, but we struggle to get them to the table. In Le Harve you are obtaining resources from different ports, spending money or resources to build or purchase buildings and eventually trying to figure out how to make money rather than just surviving from turn to turn by generating enough food. I think we had bad luck with the card draw and it took us a long time to get a wharf and build boats, so food was a struggle and I found this even more depressing than Agricola. I was quite angry throughout the game, but also really keen to keep playing because it was interesting to try and make your town work. I'm interested to try the short game that is included in the rules and hope that it is designed well so that it doesn't just replicate the first 6-8 turns of the longer game which were the turns I found tiresome. So far I'm disappointed in Le Harve, but I want to persevere.

Kokoro: Avenue of the Kodama is a quick game inspired by roll and write style games. In Kokoro you have a dry erase board which is a grid with 5 sanctuaries and symbols of worms and flowers around the board. In a series of 5 turns you'll have to connect the worms and flowers to the sanctuaries or guardians for points. You draw potential routes from a deck of card and all simultaneously draw the route segment on a grid square. The trick of the game is that you really need to score slightly more each round by interlinking routes to different sanctuaries. The game is really accessible for everyone, but you need to really consider your moves and perhaps get a little bit lucky to win. It has the same endearing artwork from Kokoro and I'm really happy that it plays up to 8 players because I think it will be great for larger groups of non-gamer friends or as something a bit different for my work group. It's nothing revolutionary, but Kokoro is a lovely production and I'm sure it's going to hit the table a whole lot!

We're spending this weekend visiting board game cafes. Unfortunately it's unlikely to be our usual gaming marathon, but instead just an opportunity to spend time with friends. On Saturday we'll be at The Ludoquist in Croydon where I'm hoping to at least try Queendomino and Photosynthesis. On Sunday we'll be a Draughts in London and hopefully we'll be trying something new as well as introducing more games to our friends. I'm also hoping to share some exciting news next week about plans for The Game Shelf in the coming months.

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Fri Nov 10, 2017 8:33 pm
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Week 106:- Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
Surrey
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The Legend of the Five Rings is a re-boot of an older 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?



Check out the full reviews here;
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/yellow-meeple-le...
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/collect-100-for-...

@game_shelf posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays with two different opinions from two halves of a gaming couple.
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Thu Nov 9, 2017 1:59 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 30th October - 4th November

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
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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;


Rising 5: Runes of Asteros is a Kickstarter project I didn't back but was fortunate enough to play on the day they arrived with backers. It's a vastly over produced, but very well implemented version of the old game Mastermind. In this cooperative game you are rolling dice to beat monsters that give you energy cubes. When you have enough energy cubes you're allowed one guess at a 4 colour/4 position puzzle a-la-Mastermind, where an app on your phone or tablet can tell you if you have the right answer. I've always loved Mastermind-style puzzles and this game adds different cooperative elements and methods to manipulate your dice and your luck. It's not really worth the price to me, but I'm really glad I'll get to play it again at my local board game cafe.

A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a bit of a cross between Pictionary and Spyfall. One player writes down a category then gives each player a card with the same word in that category, except that one player gets a blank card. So, every player but one knows that they need to draw 'Rock Climbing' and one player just knows it's in the Category 'Sport'. In turn, all players then have to add one line to a communal drawing in their colour of pen. At the end of the round you all vote for who you think is the fake artist, and if the group is right, then the fake artist gets to guess what the word is. It's definitely a fun game - especially looking at the ridiculous drawings you create. It comes in a very small box from Oink Games, but for me, this just doesn't need to be a commericalised or published game, you just need some paper and some pens.

When I Dream is a party game in which one player is blindfolded and trying to guess the words in a deck of cards. The dreamer has two minutes to try and guess as many cards correctly as possible based on the one word clues given by the rest of the group. However the group are randomly assigned roles meaning they are either good (fairies), bad (bogeymen) or want an equal mixture of right and wrong answers to be given (sandman), so it's in the dreamers best interests to try and identify and ignore the bogeymen. It's definitely overproduced with the plastic bed and tarot size artwork that serves no game purpose, but we still has a fun time with it. We played with 4 players which is the lowest player count, but didn't see it as much of a disadvantage because the dreamer can let the group give as many clues as they like before guessing - if anything making it a bit easier to figure out who is trying to throw you off track. It's great to have another high player count game in the collection and I'm sure it'll see a lot of play for that reason, even though for me personally it doesn't blow me away.

Indian Summer is the second in Uwe Rosenberg's series that started with Cottage Garden. This is another game that uses polyominoes - Tetris shaped tiles - that you use to fill up your personal player board. In Indian Summer you are covering your forest floor with leaf tiles - your goal is to fill up your board first, but there are two additional mechanisms that add complexity to the game. Each large tile has a hole in it and you are trying to align these with blueberries, nuts, mushrooms and a feather than are printed on the board - if you place a tile and can see one, then you will eventually get the corresponding tokens, each of which has a special ability. The second mechanism is about creating groups of holes, even if some of them are over blank square - making groups together gives you a second opportunity to 'score' the special tokens. We found that the game was very tight, going down to the tiebreaker and then having one point in it at the end. It has a lot more going on than Cottage Garden and slightly more player interaction, but I'm not sure if it feels like extra complexities added to a game that needn't be there - kind of the opposite of streamlining a game. I liked Indian Summer and I'm sure I'll play it again, but over time I think Cottage Garden will come out on top.

In even more exciting news, Amy has started working at The Ludoquist - a new board game cafe opening next week in Croydon. She is going to be working as a games guru, sharing our love of board games with the wider world. I am extremely jealous, but I'm sure I'll be spending lots of time there too, working my way through their huge board game library or at least 800 games. First on my hit list is Queendomino, Photosynthesis and Altiplano - games I didn't preorder from Essen, but that I'm really excited to play.

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Sun Nov 5, 2017 2:22 pm
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Week 105:- Flatline

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
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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?



Check out the full reviews here;
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/nurse-roll-me-sc...
https://thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/thoughts-from-ye...

@game_shelf posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays with two different opinions from two halves of a gaming couple.
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Thu Nov 2, 2017 1:37 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 23rd - 29th October

Fiona Dickinson
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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;


Deckscape: Test Time is our first experience of this new "escape room in a box" system from DV Giochi. Deckscape: Test Time is the most "no frills" escape room game we've played - just a deck of cards, with no app or additional game materials. It also seem to packs the most actual logical puzzles into the game, which is something I enjoyed. There were definitely a few moments when I felt like it was very unclear what the next step should be and whether we had enough information, but I've found this with most games in the genre, and if we had decided to allow ourselves to use the clues, every issue we found would've been resolved. I'm quite looking forward to trying more of the Deckscape games - they're not the most exciting escape room games, but they're definitely a solid choice if many little puzzles to solve during your game.

Rhino Hero: Super Battle is a sequel to our favourite dexterity game Rhino Hero. In Rhino Hero Super Battle each player takes a wooden hero meeple and your goal is to be highest up the tower at the end of the game and not to be the one who makes the tower fall. Each turn you will place a new floor into the structure by adding one or two short or tall walls to the structure. You then roll a dice to climb the tower and enter a dice rolling battle if you end up on the same level as another player. The game allows you to make really large, impressive structures, but it's actually not too hard to place all the cards in the box. The dice mean that there's a lot of luck in whether you win or lose if the tower is still standing at the end of the game. For me, the original Rhino Hero is a better game, but I still love the sequel because of the amazing spectacle of the huge constructions you build.

Dairyman is a push your luck, dice rolling game about making milk and turning it into cheese and ice-cream. Each turn you roll a pool of dice and try and make sets of dice that add to 10 exactly. Each roll you can lock any number of sets of 10 into a barn, but if you manage to lock dice in all three barns you'll get a snow token which you can use to upgrade milk tokens later. So long as you stop before you fail to make a set of dice you can lock, you can use the sum total of your locked dice to buy milk. For a very quick simple game, I actually really enjoy some of the mechanisms. There's a good catch up mechanism to compensate for turns when you push your luck too far, and the special abilities you get for upgrading your milk can be really helpful in mitigating dice luck. Dairyman is not typically our style of game, but I can see it being really good as a travel game, using the box lid as a dice tray and having 15 minutes of dice rolling fun.

Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 has been so hotly anticipated in our household. It's been a long time since we completed Season 1 and we've had a lot of fun speculating about new mechanisms. (I won't tell you what we speculated, because some of our speculation is actually correct!) The prologue game is in many ways similar to Pandemic, but it also has a number of differences, that gives us confidence of how different Season 2 will be to Season 1. It was actually a really punishing first game and we played the prologue twice to get familiar with new strategies you need to use to secure a win! We've also played a first game of January, which had so much to explore and made for a really exciting experience. I'm a little concerned that we're wasting all the good stuff by exploring too quickly, but I'm very hopeful that the reality is that there's just loads of legacy content in the box!

Gloomhaven is our first ever Kickstarter arrival! This alone has me really excited, in spite of the fact that dungeon crawls really aren't my thing. We backed Gloomhaven because we couldn't ignore the rave reviews and how high it has soared on the BoardGameGeek rankings, and if the dungeon crawling isn't for me, it's likely Amy will still enjoy it. The set-up for this game was definitely long and a steep learning curve, and after all that our first game lasted about 15 minutes because one character died when they entered the second room. Our second game was much better and we started to get a feel for how we needed to work with our decks ans work together to succeed. I'm not blown away by Gloomhaven so far, but I am interested enough to play more and see if anything changes as we work through a campaign.

DC Comics Deck-Building Game is a game that is currently available very cheaply at a discount chain in the UK. Without the bargain price point I would never have been interested to pick this game up, simply because I've not heard great things about it. After our first game I'd say there is nothing special about the DC Deck-Builder, but it's a perfectly solid game. It reminds me a lot of Star Realms with its very simple, pure deck-building mechanics and sometimes that's all I want from a deck-building game. I enjoyed how your starting character gave you the opportunity to focus on something slightly different to your opponenets and I liked the style of point scoring on some of the cards which rewards you 'themeing' your deck. The only drawback for me was the infrequent opportunity to remove cards from your deck, since we ended up with very large, diluted decks. For the price we paid I'm happy to own the DC deck-building game and the expansion we picked up for it.

Last week I was also tempted by a couple of UK stores offering an Essen preorder service. This is a great opportunity for those of us who don't want to attend the Spiel in Essen to receive some of the hot games just a couple of days after the convention finishes - some of these games won't get their UK release until January or February 2018. I've made a preorder for Kitchen Rush, Indian Summer, Flee and the three new EXIT games and we're also hoping to get a copy of When I Dream. It's definitely not all of the Essen releases we want to play, but it's a good starting point!

Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Wed Nov 1, 2017 3:21 pm
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The Yellow Meeple's First Impressions:- 19th - 22nd October 2017

Fiona Dickinson
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Horley
Surrey
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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;


Baobab is a dexterity we've wanted to try since the UK Games Expo. You are laying (or throwing, or dropping) circular cards onto a tree canopy. Depending on the animal on the card you'll follow different rules, such as having to hang off the side of the tree or throwing the card onto the tree frisbee-style. Cards you knock off the tree are negative points, as are cards you don't place by the end of the game because you chose to push your luck less than your opponents. The structure you create from just placing over-lapping flat cards is really impressive. If I had kids to play with, Tumble Tree would be a must buy, but for a pair of grown-ups we only have one need for a stacking dexterity game in our lives and we love Rhino Hero too much to swap.

Go Cuckoo! is a dexterity game from HABA which is spoken about a lot by the guys on Shut Up and Sit Down. In Go Cuckoo you are drawing sticks from a central pot and laying them horizontally to create a nest. On most turns you must balance an egg on the nest. If eggs fall into the tin then you are given eggs by your opponents. This is bad because the winner is the first to use all their eggs and place the cuckoo onto the next. Once again, this is another visually impressive dexterity game, but, for me, the elements of luck when drawing sticks outweigh the reward for dexterity, and I probably won't be playing this one again.

Arboretum is another game that is loved by Shut Up and Sit Down, and as such is now out of print and very hard to find! The high price currently has been putting me off buying, but it's still one I really wanted to try. In Arboretum you are planting tree cards and you can extend your tableau in any direction to create as many different scoring paths of cards in ascending order. Starting with a one, ending with an eight and using all cards of the same colour are all ways to score extra points, but any ascending run will score if you can hold back high numbered cards in your hand. This game is so simple and yet such a massive brain burner as you discard cards making them available to your opponent as well as trying to do the math to ensure you will have the highest numerical total in your hand at the end of the game in colours you want to score. Arboretum seems to be a fantastic design and I'd like to dig into it more.

Viral is a game about being a disease inside the organs of someone's body. Each player is a different disease and each turn you pick one action and one group of organs. The actions might be to introduce disease, attack other diseases or to become resistant meaning that it's harder to find a cure for you. I wanted to try before you buy with Viral because it relies on area control which we tend not to like, especially with two players. Unfortunately I was right to be wary with Viral - I'd still like to play it with more players, but the two player game just didn't appeal to me because you're always attacking the same person, even if it doesn't make much difference to you. With more people on the board I think Viral would be a really nice entry level area control game with a great, different theme.

Shahrazad is a small tile-laying puzzle game for one or two players. We played with two players, which seems to be the standard mode. You each have a hand of tiles and you need to play one tile per turn onto the cooperative tableau in the centre of the table. Your goal is to make sure that all numbers ascend from left to right and that you make the longest possible runs in each colour so that it tells a logical story. The puzzle is really enjoyable and it has a similar feel to Hanabi where you are trying to deduce what your partner has in order to play the best you can as a team. We really enjoyed Sharazad, but found the puzzle a little too easy and the system of rating your final score didn't really encourage much replayability, so we don't see much need to own this game.

Carcassonne: The Castle is a version of Carcassonne that I've been keen to try because it's a 2-player only variant. There are a number of changes to the original game, some of which we found to be positive and others negative. Firstly, the board spread is restricted by a city wall which forms the score track and this track also has some specific starting locations for cities etc. In terms of the main scoring mechanics, the main difference is the addition of a style of 'city' that scores 1 point per tile, but the player with the largest zone will also get some end game points. The most positive element for me is that there are some bonus tiles around the score track which can give different point scoring benefits, but you only get them when you land on the token exactly. The most negative part for me is the aesthetics because everything is straight lines and you only need to match roads, so it just doesn't have the lovely look to the map when it's complete. I'm not sure why Carcassonne needed a two-player variant and Carcassonne the Castle isn't that exciting to me.

Capital is a city building tile-laying game from the Polish publisher, Granna. It's not the most beautiful game, but mechanically I was really impressed. In the game you draft different city tiles which can depict up to four different coloured district types, but each quadrant of the tile can be the same colour. You buy these tiles for money or you can discard a tile for some income, but once purchased you add the tile to your city grid. At the end of each of the 6 rounds you will do scoring and each district type scores in different ways, some giving you points and some giving you money for different features or adjacencies in your city. What makes Capital a little different is that your space is limited to a 3x4 grid, meaning that at some stage you're likely to want to build on top of old tiles, with newer more powerful tiles. This will also help you when you are bombed in the round with World War One, although it will do little to help in the next round when World War Two takes place. The combination of mechanisms just really works for me, as well as the fixed number of rounds which I always enjoy working towards. Now we just need to find ourselves a copy!

Herbaceous is a small card game about potting herbs. It has a very simple rule set where each turn you take a card and either put it in the communal garden or your private garden, followed by a second card which you put in the other location. In each turn you'll also get the opportunity to plant one of your pots with different kinds of set collection such as all herbs of one type or all unique herbs. You can pot from a combination of your private or communal garden, so there are definite push your luck elements as you stay aware of what the other players are collecting. Herbaceous is very fast and very light, unfortunately slightly too light for us with only a few simple decisions to be made. The art is lovely but there's not enough game there for us.

So now we're looking for a copy of Capital to add to the collection - it's a really interesting tile laying game and a nice weight for a city building game. There's a chance I'll be tempted to buy Arboretum too - although it was a big brain burner, I think it would be really satisfying to play repeat plays with the same person and improve at the game. In the coming weeks we've got a lot of gaming to look forward too, including the arrival of a couple of Kickstarters and our eagerly anticipated copy of Pandemic Legacy Season 2!!


Please check out thegameshelf.blogspot.co.uk for more weekly reviews from this UK-based board-gaming couple.

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Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:24 pm
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