The Lockdown Knockdown - Getting Rid of the Shelf of Shame
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This is scarcely an original idea, but Becky made me do it!

We are - like most people - confined to our four walls, so what better time to try and reduce the shelf of shame to a manageable size? Of course, we have to play everything 2-player, but Becky is pretty good at scaling games in her head up to 3/4-player now, so she generally won't dismiss something out of hand because it feels a bit awkward.

Here's a record of our Lockdown Knockdown...
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1. Board Game: Get Off My Land! [Average Rating:6.35 Overall Rank:9322]
Board Game: Get Off My Land!
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This one was cracked open on my second-day of self-isolation (I'm asthmatic, so I pre-empted the Government by about a week). It's fairly new on the SoS, but Becky is a sucker for farming themes.

It works pretty well: one of those games, a bit like Imperial Settlers, where you have to work out whether to manipulate cards for short-term boost, medium-term earnings, or long-term gain. There's a nasty back-biting element too.

Becky's View: She likes it. Repeat plays have been requested.

My View: Yeah, I quite like it too. Would be interested to push it up to the full player count when the time is right.
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2. Board Game: Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done [Average Rating:7.55 Overall Rank:595]
Board Game: Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done
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6 days of quarantine brought this one to the table, and kick-started the plan for making this geeklist.

Crusaders is a rondel/mancala action-generator with typical Kickstarter big-box elements. I bought it second-hand because I thought it would probably appeal to Becky and others in my games group.

Becky's View: She LOVES it (+1 to my games-buying credibility!). Several repeat plays requested since, despite the fact that she hasn't won one yet.

My View: I like it. I don't love it. It doesn't feel scripted, like others have claimed, but it does have a modern-Euro 'points for everything' anodyne feel. There's a germ of something interesting in the variable player powers - I think they, and the action-tile upgrades, need to be more significant.
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3. Board Game: Imperial Settlers [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:230] [Average Rating:7.39 Unranked]
Board Game: Imperial Settlers
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Day 11 of quarantine saw the introduction of this, a game I intuitively knew I'd enjoy, in spite of my dislike of most of the designer's back catalogue.

Imperial Settlers is a really refined take on combo-building. Instead of trying to latch onto the best combo and make the most of it, each game comes with an 'ultra-combo' and you need to refine the very most out of it. Poor moves are ruinously expensive. It's not a game for beginners.

Becky's View: Initial dislike, but she played the Romans for two games. After switching to the Barbarians, there was a slight rise in feelings. I might still struggle with this one, though.

My View: Extraordinarily clever, but I needed to resort to BGG strategy articles to see how to get the best out of the Romans. The Egyptians and Japanese are - as yet - untouched. I think this is the gaming equivalent of striking up a Chopin Toccata & Fugue at a cousin's wedding: impressive, but quite a lot of showing off.
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4. Board Game: Petrichor [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:1662]
Board Game: Petrichor
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Day 13 saw Petrichor on the table.

I nearly didn't own this one at all, pledging to buy it after a few glasses of wine on Facebook, and then having it thrust in my face at a convention. I'm pretty glad I did, to be fair: it looks lovely and is a real conversation piece.

Becky's View: Beautiful, and loves the rainy-crop-growing theme, but the 2P game is too petty.

My View: Yes, completely agree. Let's shelve this one until we have a table of 4.
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5. Board Game: Cacao [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:576]
Board Game: Cacao
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New to the table on day 14.

Cacao had spent ages on my reserve shelves because I'd spent ages printing out some player aids and laminating them. These tasks didn't take ages in themselves, but they did rather get pushed to the bottom of my to-do list. Turns out it probably wasn't necessary: the game is a highly intuitive, semi-abstract, tile-layer which won't need a player aid after game one.

Becky's view: Very smart. Cute, fun, quick. Definitely a keeper.

My view: A little too straightforward, but I can't deny any of Becky's conclusions either. An open mind - will certainly play again.
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6. Board Game: Mercado [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:4565]
Board Game: Mercado
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The choice for Day 16.

Rudiger Dorn games are generally a hit for us, and this one was released to almost no fanfare whatsoever a couple of years ago. I picked it up cheap in a post-Essen sale. It would probably best be described as Splendor-meets-Quacks of Quedlinburg, without the silliness of either.

Becky's View: Good, works surprisingly well with 2. All done in a half-hour makes for a decent filler option.

My View: Not as deep as it could have been, but strangely enjoyable for all that. I like the various ways you can manipulate the points board and this might be a boon with more players. Dorn produces another winner for me.
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7. Board Game: The River [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:2130]
Board Game: The River
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Day 20 already? Here we go with another.

I thought this looked really cute set up on another table at HandyCon and bought it as an entry-level worker-placement game for casual sessions with the regular group. Turns out that being entry-level doesn't preclude really bad strategy as I dwindled my worker base far too quick and got slaughtered.

Becky's View: Highly amusing. Beating Ben by nearly doubling his score is always good for the laughter muscles.

Ben's View: So, I learned two things here. Don't underestimate gateway games, and don't try strongly-alternative strategies unless you've researched them first. One positive balances one negative - this one is firmly in the balance.
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8. Board Game: Animals on Board [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2180]
Board Game: Animals on Board
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Day 21: a weekend of blasting through new games.

Animals On Board is a Zooloretto-esque piece of fluff, with one of my pet-favourite mechanics (split/share) in the middle. It's exactly the sort of thing we should enjoy.

Becky's View: Enjoyed!

My View: Enjoyed. Lots to love here: cute art, surprising depth to the gameplay, quick enough to go into a games-night filler slot. Simple ideas continue to generate first-rate gaming.
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9. Board Game: Master Builder [Average Rating:6.11 Overall Rank:6822]
Board Game: Master Builder
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Day 23.

This has been on sale at rock-bottom prices in the UK for several years now. It's a relatively simple economy game, but Wolfgang Kramer has a touch of gold most of the time. And you get to build a little model village in the middle of the table - how cool is that?

Becky's View: Completely failed to comprehend the (fairly straightforward) rules for building, but came out victorious and happy to play again.

My View: The odd sequence of play (having to gamble on which workers you take due to the random events) is a little at odds with a game which is purely about good economy. I'm not convinced yet.
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10. Board Game: Clippers [Average Rating:6.58 Overall Rank:3100]
Board Game: Clippers
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Day 25 is the day of Clippers.

I've had this one a while without really even plugging my way through the rules. One thing I love about Alan Moon's games is that you can really see the developmental links between games: this is an evolution of Santa Fe, which carries quite a lot of the flavour of Airlines Europe. It's perhaps one of the least pre-possessing boards ever. But don't let that fool you...

Becky's View: Wow. Even with 2P, this has a lot going on and really is intriguing. Probably her favourite of the lockdown so far.

My View: A lot of adding up (I put some poker chips representing 10,50,100 points in the box just for this purpose), but I can certainly see the appeal. I think this one might just dump Airlines Europe out of my collection.
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11. Board Game: Century: Eastern Wonders [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:592] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
Board Game: Century: Eastern Wonders
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Day 27. Easter Sunday. Seems appropriate.

I've had parts 2 and 3 of the Century trilogy on the shelf for ages. One really under-rated thing I like about them is the sheer precision of the rules writing: they are impossible to misinterpret if read carefully and literally. OK, so the Century games aren't exactly rules-heavy in the first place, but it's still an achievement.

Becky's View: Fascinating. Better than Spice Road.

My View: REALLY fascinating. A lot better than Spice Road. The area-control and planning aspects make this seriously crunchy, and the game is all the better for it. New World is next on our Lockdown list, but I can't see it ousting this.
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12. Board Game: Century: A New World [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:648] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Board Game: Century: A New World
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Day 28. Another Bank Holiday, another Century game.

Century-goes-worker placement. I've heard a lot of people claim that this one is the best of the series.

Again, I'm really impressed with the authorship of the Century rules, I have to say. All on no more than three sides of A4, and very little wiggle-room for misinterpretation. Whoever did these did a sterling job.

Becky's View: Yup - more good stuff. Nice intuitive rules and the second-dimensional scoring.

My View: Good, but not the best in the series. I found the cut-throat area control of Eastern Wonders distinctly better. Now to see how all three of them fit together....but that's for another day.
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13. Board Game: Hamsterrolle [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:1642]
Board Game: Hamsterrolle
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Day 29 was a 'back to work' day (I am still nominally working from home) so the evening was a chance to kick back with something silly.

I've had Hamsterrolle for a long time without ever working out the right opportunity to put it on the table. We fudged together a rule set for taking one-and-a-half sets of pieces each because our table is ultra slippery and we didn't want it to drag on.

Becky's View: Initially unimpressed (as she is with pretty much all dexterity games), but warmed to things slowly as we developed our house-rules.

My View: Jolly good fun. Two more games left in the 'silly dexterity' pile.
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14. Board Game: Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:5142]
Board Game: Pharaoh's Gulo Gulo
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Day 30, and we were getting into the swing of 'nonsense dexterity games', so we gave this one a try.

The claims that this is easier for children than adults seem to be well-founded. I have a notoriously fat-fingered friend who would be hysterical playing this. I mostly went for the 'plunge in and hope nothing falls out' approach.

Becky's View: Good enough to request a repeat play. At which she won.

My View: Harmless, quick, and just a touch of real strategy. Plus it's nice to find a dexterity game that doesn't involve flicking or stacking.
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15. Board Game: Tybor the Builder [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:2082]
Board Game: Tybor the Builder
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Day 31. A whole month in quarantine!

This is a little oddity that has been sitting on my shelves for quite a long time. We have had mixed success with the Longsdale series of games so far (Oh My Goods - OK, OMG expansions - poor, Newdale - good).

Becky's View: Very good. This is one to take on holiday. If we're ever allowed to have holidays again.

My View: Mmmmmm...not sure. Seems to be missing something and the scoring is far more trouble than it should be. Will play again to find out, though.
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16. Board Game: The Climbers [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:1345]
Board Game: The Climbers
Ben Bateson
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Day 34. Time to break out something heavy.

Well, heavy in weight, anyway. I put this on my Essen wishlist as a 'sort of might want' when the reprint came out, and ended up with a copy anyway. As you do.

Becky's View: Not sure. Spatial reasoning games are not her strong suit by any means.

My View: Also unconvinced for now, but that is almost certainly a function of player count. With more players, I think this will shine.
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17. Board Game: Raptor [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:408]
Board Game: Raptor
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Day 38 and finally a 2P only game!

I was pretty sure the asymmetric player powers would go down well in this, and after she chose the raptors (I'm willing to bet over 90% of wives do this in their first game), Becky won fairly comfortably.

Becky's View: Was a bit hung-up on the raptor cruelty at first (Really? You've seen Jurassic Park. Getting out of lockdown is not going to be helped by having a team of small-brained dinosaurs working on the problem. Oh, hang on...) but really got into the swing of things once she started massacring scientists. Repeat plays have been requested since.

My View: Yeah, this is cool. Great designer pedigree and asymmetric without being wackily so (qf: Imperial Settlers).
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18. Board Game: Seeland [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:1570]
Board Game: Seeland
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Day 40, and a new winner for 'prettiest board'. This one just stayed on the table being admired for a few days before we got around to playing it.

Becky's View: Not quite convinced at the player count. Would like to try it with full complement.

My View: Quite agreed. This all felt a little anodyne at 2P. Nothing Wolfgang Kramer touches is actively bad, but there felt like lots of gaps. Need to scale up.
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19. Board Game: Australia [Average Rating:6.49 Overall Rank:2778]
Board Game: Australia
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Day 41. I had been prioritising the 'games Becky might like' by shelf, but her eyes dipped from the first shelf to the second and picked this one out.

Despite never really getting to grips with the scoring, she soared to a convincing win.

Becky's View: Started off with the 'not sure if it's for 2P' syndrome, but warmed to the theme quickly and made good use of exploiting it. I suspect this one will get requests for club nights but not for home play.

My View: Wow. For me, this is the stand-out game of the knockdown so far and I'm amazed more people don't know about it. It scales pretty well (certainly in comparison to Seeland), and knocks out some of El Grande's area control in favour of bonuses for completing a region, meaning you probably don't want to try and score everything too quickly. This needs some serious exploration.
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20. Board Game: A la carte [Average Rating:6.46 Overall Rank:2024]
Board Game: A la carte
Ben Bateson
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Also Day 41, a frivolous filler after we'd burned our brains with Australia.

Surely the only game with little metal frying pans can't be bad?

Becky's View: Despite a stirring inability to make crepes, a real hoot of a game, made more so by the bottles falling apart at inopportune times.

My View: The three-action rule makes it feel a little stodgier than it should be. I'm wondering if it should be cut to two actions per turn. But, yeah, hilarious.
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21. Board Game: The Road to Canterbury [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:2557]
Board Game: The Road to Canterbury
Ben Bateson
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Day 57. We had a bit of a break.

This should have been high up on our list really: a game that doesn't even go up to four players. It's a deliciously quirky little thing, building up a goofy - but historically precedented - theme around a simple little hand management exercise.

Becky's View: Passable, but unlikely to become a favourite. Quite a lot of draw luck for what it is.

My View: Charming, and looks marvellous on the table. Awesome production values are to be expected from the publisher. But, yes, felt a bit trite for a big-box game.
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22. Board Game: Dream Home [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:935]
Board Game: Dream Home
Ben Bateson
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Day 61. Two months in! Bizarrely, I am no longer in lockdown, but Becky is.

Looks cute and family-friendly. What's not to like.

Becky's View: Insubstantial. Doesn't seem to be enough there. Meh.

My View: I find it quite cute and engaging, but there is way too much adding up at the end to account for the simple central mechanic. I think this needs exactly 3P to make it shine.
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23. Board Game: Progress: Evolution of Technology [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:2328]
Board Game: Progress: Evolution of Technology
Ben Bateson
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Day 66. OK, so it turns out we're both on lockdown again. Don't ask.

This game forms part of my - so far unsuccessful - quest to find a Civ game that works for me. Progress strips out everything apart from the tech tree to make a literally labyrinthine card game.

Becky's view: A bit baffled at first, but quickly asking for second and third games. We might be onto a winner, here.

My view: I think this is clever: perhaps not Innovation-clever, but certainly deserving recognition that the luck levels are surprisingly low. It's a half-dozen years old now, and it seems like the expansions are never going to come to fruition, which is a shame, because playing a full six-Age game would be awesome.
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24. Board Game: King Chocolate [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:4725]
Board Game: King Chocolate
Ben Bateson
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Day 68 and the race to empty the shelf has gained momentum again.

King Chocolate is a strange beast that seems to be loved and loathed in equal measure. I suspect this is due to little more than the fact that it is a thinky abstract game and - actually - not very much to do with chocolate at all.

Becky's View: Ooooh...thinky. Really thinky. Quite pretty in a muted sort of way, too. Would play again.

My View: A bit too open with 2P, but there is no doubt that this is a meticulously-constructed game with suprisingly few parameters. With a full complement of five, I expect this would be amazing.
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25. Board Game: West of Africa [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:6705]
Board Game: West of Africa
Ben Bateson
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Day 73. I'm normally a very stable person, but even I'm going a little bit weird in the head.

Played this one outside on the patio during a lovely hot spell. It's been sadly neglected since it came back from Essen a couple of years ago, and totally doesn't deserve it.

Becky's View: Surprisingly thinky - frustratingly easy to make mistakes. Deceptively heavy.

My View: Ooooohh...this is clever. Lots of good things wrapped up in this game, especially when throwing in the various promos and mini-expansions that came with it. Want to play this a lot more.
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