Exploring my Collection

I've got too many games on my shelf of shame. I've been a sucker for sales and Kickstarters. Time to make progress on getting them played and determining what we really need to keep. I'll highlight my unplayed games and also discuss the other games I've been playing.

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Shelf of Shame update for December 2021

Alan Hyde
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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Expedition: Famous Explorers
Board Game: Expedition: Famous Explorers
Of the games we got to this month, this one has been on the shelf the longest. I think that's mostly due to the look of the game, it just doesn't grab me, and the board itself is a bit of a mess. The idea of the game is that you have 3 large expeditions traveling the world and visiting famous locales as first explored by these explorers. You either extend an existing expedition or start a new one if you want until 3 are in progress. You have cards representing the different locations on the board and you score when an expedition visit your card, or you can claim them from a face up row of cards which replenish during the game. For our family the game was just OK. It's a very straight-forward family style game, but doesn't offer enough interesting choices for us to come back to it.

Last Will
Board Game: Last Will
I had heard good things about this one, but just sat on it for a long time because I just wasn't sure about it. But I finally pulled it out and it's quite good. You are trying to spend all your money the fastest (if you seen the movie Brewster's Millions https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088850/, that's the premise here). Functionally spending your money means gaining points and so the first to the spend the required amount (variable each game) wins. You are trying to make reservations you don't attend take lavish trips with friends, buy and sell property for a loss, various things to spend that money. The theme fits well here. There's a mix of worker placement and then performing actions. Each round starts with a difficult decision of determining turn order by selecting a spot, but each spot comes with a varying amount of number of workers to place, cards to draw or actions to perform. So figuring out the right position can be tough. I was only able to play this one with my boys, but they are getting to the age where they both put up a challenge with me, even though I still want to play this with the gaming group as well. Quite enjoyable.

Corsairs of Valeria
Board Game: Corsairs of Valeria
While several of the Valeria games aren't complex this one easily comes in as the lightest one out so far. This is a simple dice-chucking pirate race. Trying to gather coins to convert into treasure. Either the first to get 6 treasure, or who has the most after 2 trips to Skull island wins. You get 1 dice roll each turn, unless you have grog to spend to perform a re-roll. Each dice face gives you a different action and some of them are stronger the more of that face you have. Each player also has a captain card which gives you a special ability that you can use during the game. The cannon symbols let you attack the other players if you roll enough of them so there's some direct player attack in this game, but that's in the majority of pirate games so it's to be expected. As I mentioned up front it's a very light game, and if you are looking for something piratey that is quick and simple this fits the bill.

Maracaibo
Board Game: Maracaibo
this one also vaguely fits into the Pirate theme as well. Technically we are just adventurers in the Caribbean helping the different nationalities (Britain, Spain, France) in the area. There's no direct player attacking. This is essentially a large rondel where you can move between 1-7 spaces each time, and once around the board a round is completed. The game ends after 4 rounds. You have a hand of multi-use cards which can be spent as resources, or activated as powers in your tableau. You also have a shipboard on which upgrades are activated to increase handsize, improve different actions, award points, etc. I really enjoyed this one, this is one of my favorites of the entire year. I definitely want to play this one some more. I haven't tried to introduce it to my wife yet, but I hope to do that soon, as we could try the campaign with it if she likes it as I do.

Smartphone Inc.
Board Game: Smartphone Inc.
I got this one for Christmas. I have been hearing a lot of good things about this game, and having a background in the cell phone industry the theme was interesting to me. It did not disappoint. I like the general round structure. You play 5 rounds, each round begins with a planning phase. You take 2 double-sided boards with icons on them and overlap them in some way where between 1-4 icons are covered by the other. The different icons affect your strength for each of the subsequent phases in the round. You set the prices of your phones for the round, perform research to have more features in your phones, and do logistics to be able to sell in more regions. Then you sell your phones in the regions you have access. Do you aim for selling low? You'll probably get less points, but maybe you produced and sold enough to overcome that? I look forward to trying this more.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
Board Game: The Crew: Mission Deep Sea
This is another one which I was given as a Christmas present. I have and love the first The Crew, although we haven't gotten too far into it's campaign. I've played it with several different groups multiple time and just haven't been able to get very far into it. So far I haven't gone very far into this one yet either. In face we really just played through 1 round as time only allowed that. It's essentially the same as the original just with a different approach to how the missions are determined for each hand. I think I'll be spending more time with the original before getting deep into this one, but I'm certain I'll work a lot on this one once I've done more with the first.


Year-long summary: 80 unplayed games played
Total on the unplayed list now: 238 (this number did get smaller, but I still need to reduce the number of games incoming during the year)
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Sun Jan 2, 2022 12:23 am
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Shelf of Shame update for November 2021

Alan Hyde
United States
Kernersville
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Reavers of Midgard
Board Game: Reavers of Midgard
is a followup to one of my all-time favorite worker placement games Champions of Midgard (and yes, for that it's much better to play with the expansions). So this keeps the viking theme and is still worker-placement-ish. It's not what I consider real worker placement because you only have 1 worker to place each round. The action selection in it more reminds me of the Puerto Rico style. You get to choose one of the still available actions. Everyone playing will get to perform that action as well, but the player who selected it will get extra benefits. Even the next player in turn order gets a bit extra and then 3rd and 4th just gain the basics. Some of the spots (half of them) involve combat, but the combat is different that you typically see. Each combat gives you options. You can either discard dice you have with the correct matching faces to gain the rewards, or you discard dice showing hammer icons and you are able to roll combat dice for the number of hammers discarded. If you roll a high enough number of hits with those dice you gain the same benefits. Glad to have this one in the collection and look forward to trying it out more. With the combat being less dice roll dependent my wife might enjoy this one (she despises CoM).

Kabuto Sumo
Board Game: Kabuto Sumo
is a dexterity game where you are a beetle and you are pushing disks onto a platform in an attempt to cause your opponent to be pushed off the edge. I picked this up because my family in the past has enjoyed Push a Monster. This one is set up more as a 2-player battle though there is a team mode for 4 players (2v2) which works well. Generally you are pushing on a disk of 3 different sizes and any thing which is knocked off the platform you gain in your supply to push back onto the board your next turn. You win by either knocking your opponents piece off, or by them not having a piece to push onto the platform on their turn. So it's very important to knock anything you can off the platform on your turn even if it's not your opponent. There are special powers associated with the different beetles and special shaped pieces that can be pushed onto the arena. The game length can vary as we had some that went pretty fast and others that were back and forth for quite a while. If you are looking for a head-to-head dexterity game this fits the bill.

Dizzle
Board Game: Dizzle
changes things up just a little bit from most roll and writes. Here you are drafting the dice which are rolled, and you only write down the results once the draft is finished. When you draft a die each round the first one has to be adjacent to a spot you claimed previously, then all dice in that round must be adjacent to dice you have drafted that round. You must take a die if it matches, but have the option to pass or roll all dice in the pool otherwise. If you re-roll and can't take a die you have to put a die from your sheet back into the pool. So there's a bit of push your luck to determine if you want to risk a bit of progress to try to get a die you can use. You are trying to place the dice onto the grid into specific rows or columns or on specific spots themselves for points. Overall it's an enjoyable quick moving R&W with a touch of push your luck.

The Butterfly Garden
Board Game: The Butterfly Garden (Second Edition)
is really just an abstract game of collecting sets of colors, but instead of colors they are butterflies. My wife even noticed it and it is the butterflies that kept her enjoying the game. She said if it didn't have them she would have been done with it but because of them she loves it. There is a deck of cards with some number of butterflies on each card, between 1 and 4 of them (maybe some with more). Each card is also numbered 1-55. A second deck of cards are the target collections you are aiming for with a number of points on it based on how difficult it is to achieve (3-8 IIRC). Each turn all players secretly play one of the butterfly cards face down. This card will be added to your jar as butterflies you have caught in your net. Then based on the number on each card a turn order is established to draft the face up butterfly cards (1 per player) to add to your hand. This turn order also establishes the order in which player can claim a point card as well. Each point card additionally has a location on it and if you obtain a set of cards with each location in it (4) you gain additional points. So you are trying to play cards with the butterflies which are currently needed for points, but you need to play cards with a number low enough that the other players won't be able to block you from getting it. Very quick-playing and fun.

High Noon Saloon
Board Game: High Noon Saloon
isn't one which I had high hopes to enjoy. It's essentially an all out brawl with limited spots to move around. You can either shoot or melee attack each other, and you have to have found a weapon in the deck in order to shoot. Luckily there are a lot in there so you aren't often without one. Guns can reach most anyone on the board while melee has to be adjacent, pretty standard stuff. The different rooms in the saloon offer different bonuses or restrictions. So you try to be in cover for when you are attacked and hope you have some defense cards in your hand. This one doesn't really offer anything new in the battle royale style of game, but it is a pretty quick one. However I'm not likely to hold on to this one for much longer.

School of Sorcery
Board Game: School of Sorcery
is another game from Dr. Finn and we enjoyed it. This is a two-player dice game where you have a row of magic related items you are trying to obtain for points. Each turn both players roll 3 dice and then assign crystals to each one. So if you assign a 2-crystal card to a die showing 3 you will end up putting 2 crystals on the item at location 3. Some of these crystal cards let you flip the die. You do this to get area control of the available items. Each item has a minimum number of crystals in order to claim it and also an amount you must be higher than your opponent. So if it'a 3-2 item you must have at least 3 crystals on it and have at least 2 more than your opponent. This means some items can hang around a while if both players are trying after the same items strongly. The dice might keep you from fighting over the same spots, but they can also let you sneak in and claim an item your opponent thought they would easily get. It's a good 2-player game, although it doesn't really stand-out from the crowd. I do have the expansion content and want to try it again with that to see how that changes this up.

That's a Question!
Board Game: That's a Question!
didn't work well for us, although we weren't able to finish a full game due to timing. The premise sounds like a good party game, you create a question from a series of cards with 3 standard prompts. You are trying to craft a question for a person at the table for whom you think it will be the hardest for everyone to predict their answer at it. Each question is a choice between 2 items, would you rather type of questions. Our hiccup was just in the scoring (and possibly playing with too wide a range of ages family-style). There are bets you can place if you think you really know how they will answer and if you think it's too hard for most to get right. You get these back at certain points on the score track. It's also a bit wonky in how you choose who to address the question to. You must ask someone who has an acorn, this is to try and spread out who is being asked, but it still seems to allow some folks to be left just answering more than others. I still want to try it again, but other recent party games Just One and Medium were much more fun.

Tussie Mussie
Board Game: Tussie Mussie
brings about another game which was really enjoyed by my wife thanks to the art, flowers in this case. She also loved the flavor text on the flower cards, which gave some meaning being the different colors used for these Tussie Mussie flowers. In this game over the course of a round you are collecting 4 flower cards. On your turn you draw 2 and select one to offer to your opponent face up and one face down. Face up cards go into your bouquet while the face down ones are keepsakes. All are inserted to the right of the previous so you can't re-arrange them. Flowers will score based on the colors you have or their arrangement to other the others flowers sometimes matching in the bouquet or keepsakes. After 3 rounds most points wins. We played this as just a 2-player and it works really well for that player count. It likely is good at 3 and 4 as well, but this one will probably be mostly done 2-player with us. The decision of which card to play face up vs down can be tough, do you hide a card you want face down, or hide what they want face down, etc. We'll be playing this one a lot more.

Circle the Wagons
Board Game: Circle the Wagons
is another 2-player small game from Button Shy. This one is similar to Sprawlopolis, Squire for Hire, etc. where you add cards to your tableau to expand the size of your area and/or cover up existing sections of cards to achieve the best scores. Also each card is double-sided and the backs have scoring objectives on them, so depending on the cards used for scoring a number of them are not available to go into your area. The draft here is interesting you can take any card ahead in the circle, but any which you skip are automatically give to your opponent, so it's risky to skip ahead unless you can see that they don't help your opponent in scoring. And just because the icons aren't part of the scoring goals doesn't mean the cards are useless as you are trying to make large areas of each of the land types. This one worked well for us, it'll get to the table many more time.
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Sun Dec 5, 2021 6:17 pm
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Shelf of Shame update for October 2021

Alan Hyde
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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Loony Quest
Board Game: Loony Quest

This is essentially the same game as Doodle Quest, which is loved by my family so as expected this one was well received. For me I'm of two minds when comparing it with Doodle Quest. I preferred the visuals and theme of this one. The levels are more engaging and the progression feels like it ramps up. It feels more like a video game in a way. So that aspect pulls me in. But I don't like the penalties and pranks. You can get bonuses that let you mess with the other players or hit penalties. These are things like draw with your off-hand, hold the marker with just 2 fingers, etc. Just drawing the lines correctly is hard enough, these extra parts just make it annoying. Even with those annoyances I think I still would rather play this one over Doodle.


...and then, we held hands.
Board Game: ...and then, we held hands.

My wife loves to play Lost Cities. Almost every time I mention playing a 2-player game she suggests it. But I'm always looking to try others out to see if I can get some other options into her request list. This is not one that will make it. We gave this multiple attempts, but it just didn't click with us. One of them we even got all the way to the end game, but you have to be able to both end on the same spot on the same turn in balance, and we saw that no matter what we did at that point there was no way for us to do so. That was a bit demoralizing and with being mostly bored with it otherwise it's just not going to hang around our shelves.


GPS
Board Game: GPS

This new line of small-box games from BoardGameTables.com have been enjoyable. GPS continues that trend. This is a dead-simple game. Get your satellites to be in numerical order around the earth. You each have 12 satellites, but you don't get to choose the ones available to you. They are all face down and you flip 3 face-up. Then the spinner is spun and you have to place one of the face-up satellites at the location pointed. Flip another so you always have 3 and spin it again. Once you have all 12 in orbit you continue to spin to select the location and you can then move a satellite in orbit to this position. The game ends once one player has all of theirs in numerical order 1-12. Sometimes it's obvious what you need to place, when the spinner ends up at the extremes. But even then it might not be. You know you'll have to move it later if you have to put a middle-tier number there because it's all you have face-up at the moment. There's a lot of luck in the order you get your satellites, but this is a 10-15 minute game which is fun.


Trickster: Champions of Time
Board Game: Trickster: Champions of Time

This has a nice twist on trick-taking. The start player plays a card, but the style of trick is determined by the 2nd player to the trick (the trickster). They either match suit, match character, or mis-match both. Then it's up to everyone else in turn order to do the same. If all players are able to play then the trickster loses the round and must take the pot, else if a player is unable to match they lose and take the pot. Then that loser is the new start player. In general you don't want to take the pots because each card you took costs you a point at the end of the round, unless you have the most of a given character then they don't count against you. So if you can take a majority of specific characters it doesn't hurt you to lose tricks. Additionally, each card a player plays into the pot has an action on it which is performed as the card is played which often involves moving around the cards you have in front of you. We did only play with 3 players and that involves a variant, so I didn't really get the full effect. I look forward to trying this again with at least 4.


Bonfire
Board Game: Bonfire

After the other 2 most recent Feld games this one goes back to the deeper end of his designs. In high-level terms you place tiles on your board which give you action markers for specific actions. As the game goes on you place more of these tiles and appropriate placement of them will give you more of certain types so you can plan your game approach with those. You know the order of how these will become available at the beginning of the game, and you see all of the available tasks up front. So you can see most everything up front and determine a strategy and push to see it through. You can be thrown off potentially by other players grabbing certain items before you grab them, but there's little in the way of randomness once the game gets started. The randomness is only in the set of gnome cards and the paths that are replaced as the game goes on. There are several ways to get points, but they most all build from lit bonfires, so you absolutely cannot ignore grabbing tasks and then completing them to create bonfires. I did pretty horribly at this one, but enjoyed the actions and working through trying to get something going. I think I focused on an inappropriate task right off the bat and I feel that slowed me down somewhat in getting a good trajectory going. I'm definitely looking to remedy that in the future. For me this is another good one.
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Wed Nov 3, 2021 1:33 am
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Shelf of Shame update September 2021

Alan Hyde
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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Deckscape: Test Time
Board Game: Deckscape: Test Time
This was another excellent escape room in a box. This is now all of the Deskscapes which I have but I hope to be able to find more of them. I went through these on my own, unlike the Unlock series which we do together as a family. This one better than the last one worked well as a solo experience.

Mountain Goats
Board Game: Mountain Goats
Roll dice, move your goats up the mountains and try to stay at the top. You earn points when you are the top, but you get bumped out as soon as someone else can reach the top. Roll dice, make numbers and move up where you can. But there is no push your luck or busting, you get one roll and make the best of that. The smallest number to be claimed is 5 so if you roll a lot of small numbers it can hurt you, but if you roll multiple 1's at once you can convert each but one of them into any other side, so 1's don't hurt too much.

Merlin
Board Game: Merlin
Roll and move by the Euro master. Here you are in control of a knight of the round table and Merlin. Each round you roll 3 dice for your knight and 1 for Merlin. Each turn you move either your knight or Merlin the number of spots matching the die you select and gain the benefit of the location where you land. For the most part you know where your knight will ultimately land based on the 3 added together, but which two actions between there do you use along the way with the dice. Or do you use a special action you might have gained to change that up. As typical with Feld games you have lots of ways to gain points. Really look forward to trying this again, will likely include some of bonus modules next time.

Kingsport Festival
Board Game: Kingsport Festival
Cthulhu themed dice worker placement. You play as a cultist trying to curry the favor of the gods. There are 20 available elder gods and each round you roll your dice pool and then proceed to combine the dice into different numbers to claim the benefits of one or several of them. There are plenty of spots, but your dice limit your options. It's difficult to grab a powerful spot and will likely use all your dice at once if you do manage it. You are collecting evil, destruction, and death to exert control over Kingsport. Every few rounds an investigator will hamper the cultists progress unless you are able to defend them. I enjoyed the dice placement aspect and it plays much quicker than some other Lovecraft inspired games. The family didn't like it as much, but I'll be trying to get this one to table some more in October with the game group.

Ankh: Gods of Egypt
Board Game: Ankh: Gods of Egypt
The new Eric Lang. I like the action selection mechanism of this. 1 or 2 actions which must be done in a specific order. When the end of a track is reached an event is triggered. You want to be the one who triggers an event and not set up someone else to do so. But if you trigger an event on your first action that's all the action you get that turn. I know there's a lot of scuttlebutt about the merge mechanism, but I found it to be fine. One aspect of it is that you are then able to perform the same action twice for the combined god, instead of 2 different actions you normally get. This is pretty powerful. And while we were in last place, by a good amount when the merge happened we still clawed our way up to 2nd. I'll be getting in a lot more of this one. And I even have dived into the model painting a bit on this one. I had to paint those action selection tokens, they were so dull, and the monuments are next on my list. I might even get around to the models. Good stuff in this one so far. I do hate the mummy cats though, they can die in a fire!

Sprawlopolis
Board Game: Sprawlopolis
It's the roads that get you in this. Sprawlopolis is worthy of it's hype if you like solo games. Just lay some cards on the table and score based on the point goals for that play. The biggest trouble for me is dealing with the roads. Each separate road costs you a point, and keeping the roads to a minimum while hitting your other goals, arghh! So tough, so good.

Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science
Board Game: Einstein: His Amazing Life and Incomparable Science
Don't come into this one looking for a highly thematic game, of course I'm not sure most of could play it if it truly captured the essence of Einstein. This one is essentially an abstract where you are trying to lay tiles to make certain patterns matching goals cards you have privately and some which are public. You are all building onto a common area so you can use other players shapes to complete your goals, but they get a point for each shape of theirs you use. It's quick playing and light, and I did enjoy the little nuggets of Einstein trivia on each card.

Kokopelli
Board Game: Kokopelli
The newest Feld title. This one is very likely the simplest one of his I've played yet. Each player has a deck of the same cards, of 10 action types selected for the game. On your turn you perform 2 actions primarily either draw a card or play a card. You have 4 areas in your play area in which you can start a new ceremony. Plus you can play cards onto 2 areas of the player to your left and the same to the right. You gain points when you complete a ceremony (4 cards) and when someone else completes yours you gain 1 point. While you have a ceremony active within your 4 areas you have whatever power that grants you. So you often decide when to convert a power into its points, or your opponents might close it for you to take away that ability.

Popcorn Dice
Board Game: Popcorn Dice
This is a push your luck dice game. It consists of 14 d6, all of which have 3 kernel sides, 1 single pop, 1 double pop, and 1 burnt pop. On your turn you roll all the dice and set aside any popped ones. You put all kernels back into the bucket and you can return burnt ones if you return a double which was rolled at the same time with it. If you have 4+ burnt on your turn you bust. Otherwise your score for the round is the sum of single and doubles rolled. Your turn ends immediately and scored if you ever make a roll which results in only kernels and/or burnt items. In a bit of a twist from most push-your-luck games which one includes a bit of a shoot-the-moon objective. If you can manage to get all 14 dice to be single or double pop on a given turn you will win regardless of score, otherwise you play until the round where someone gets 30+ points. We've already had a lot of fun with this one. The one complaint was that the plastic popcorn bucket makes the dice rolling very loud. So I lined the interior of it with felt and it greatly improved that. Quick-playing game will likely see a lot of table action just because it's quick.

Arcane Academy
Board Game: Arcane Academy
I was ho-hum on this one but I think the family has more fun with it. Here you select a tile on a grid in front of you and activate the abilities on it, along with any tiles immediately linked with it. Once a tile has been activated directly it's unavailable for activation until you take a rest turn to re-activate them all. The actions you are activating are to gain shards, gain will, add more tiles, trigger magical items, or claim items and spells. Items and spells give you the special actions of the game and the majority of the points. You play until someone has completed 8. It's a fun family weight game with a light amount of take-that in it. We don't like a lot of take-that, and the level of it here was tolerable.

Second Chance
Board Game: Second Chance
This one is a flip and write using polyomino shapes. Everyone gets a unique starting shape to be placed in the middle of your area. From then on 2 shapes are revealed from the deck and each player must draw one of them into their grid. If you get into a position of not being able to fit a piece you get a second chance of revealing the next card from the deck just for that person. If you cannot fit that one then you are out at that point. Fewest remaining boxes wins the game. This one is about the fastest playing of this genre, because there are no special abilities. You simply choose between the 2, rotate and/or flip as necessary to fit it in, that's it. It's fast and both boys really enjoyed playing it, which I was actually surprised about. Good stuff here.

The Little Flower Shop
Board Game: The Little Flower Shop
My wife and I played this one just 2-player. It's a drafting game and those can be hit-and-miss at 2-players. But this one worked well enough. The 2-player variant is to select a card as normal, then add another card to your and and then select one to discard. It did a good job of getting most of the deck to be used in the game. The point of the game is to gain points by adding flower vases into your shop and getting the correct flowers into them. You can earn money by fulfilling orders for customers, but money has limited uses. You can buy hanging baskets which you draft which will score you points. And if you don't like the last card you are stuck with in the draft you can spend $2 to take the top off the deck. Other than feeling like the money aspect could have been more used it was a satisfactory draft. Deciding which vase/flower combos to go after was good and I think its speed of play is consistent with most of the simultaneous play draft games out there. I do still want to see how the play changes when played with 4 players.
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Wed Oct 6, 2021 4:40 am
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Shelf of Shame update August 2021

Alan Hyde
United States
Kernersville
North Carolina
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Pack of Heroes
Board Game: Pack of Heroes
Last month I mentioned that we have really enjoyed Phil Walker-Harding designs, and I realized we had another unplayed of his on the shelves. This one is a 2-player game and puts you in control of a team of 5 heroes. You play on a 3x3 grid with each player starting with a hero in play. On your turn you can perform a move action with one of your active heroes, then choose between adding a new hero into the play area or activating the ability of one already in play. Some have special events which happen when they are first put into play. When a hero is down to half hit points they become stunned, and they become stunned each time they take damage once at that point, so it can be difficult to do anything with a hero low on health. I think there's some nuance in choosing the order of putting your heroes into play based on how some of their abilities interact. It's not at the top of the PWH games for me, but it's a fast-playing fun 2-player that will probably see a bit of play between my boys. I also appreciate the guide in the rule book indicating the difficulty of the varying hero groups.

Cascadia
Board Game: Cascadia
Getting another Kickstarter played quickly after receiving it. I've got to do this more often. This one has a lot of good things in it. You are placing hex-tiles into your area building out the environment of the Pacific Northwest. Each tile has specific animal types which can live on it, and each tile comes with a randomly set animal to place into your environment. So you take a combination of tile + animal and place both into your area for your turn. You are trying to create large contiguous regions of matching land areas while also being able to play the animals onto the tiles in certain configurations. Each animal type in the game has its own scoring condition. There are several scoring options for each type of animal so you get different focuses each game. For instance the foxes always score based on the animals around them, but in one game it might be for distinct animal types surrounding it, while in another it only wants 3 of one, 2 of another, and 1 more. Highly recommend, it's quite good.

Hero's Crossing
Board Game: Hero's Crossing
I pulled this one off the shelf and we were loving the art aesthetic. The boys were especially looking forward to it. And I was interested in trying the action system, where each round a new card with the available actions is available. The same 8 actions are on each card, but you activate 1 row of 2 on your turn. So they are done in different combinations on each one. Sadly for us, the character and location art ended up being all we cared for with it. There were ergonomic issues, with fonts being too small, icons being too small, and the blue color of tier 2 buildings confused things (you have to bid on buildings based on their resource type, magic (blue) being one of them. Each player has a 4 dice in unique colors matching the resource types. These are rolled at the beginning of the round and then you use a die with a selected action row each turn. If you don't have a die you want you can trade with another player (giving them a bonus). This made for frustrating turns where you couldn't manipulate the resources you wanted based on the dice used or taken by the other players. I can see this working for some groups, but my family was really annoyed with the way it played out. It felt like we just kept being held back the whole time.

Captive
Board Game: Captive

This is part of the Graphic Novel Adventures series published in the US by Van Ryder Games. They are solo games and I need to explore them more. Here your daughter is kidnapped and you are trying to get her back. I stupidly chased a dead-end (which I expected was a bad idea) and was killed, but it was fun. In many ways it's a choose your own adventure where you are keeping track of a series of stats/health. The nice thing about these is you can just play it for a little while, put a bookmark in it and come back later if you only have a few minutes at a time.

Deckscape: The Fate of London
Board Game: Deckscape: The Fate of London

I decided to do this escape room solo. My family has done several of the Unlock and Exit games together, but I wanted to see how I could with one on my own. These Deckscape games are even smaller than either of those. Deskscape is even simpler than Unlock because it is simply the deck of cards, no app required. While I love the Unlock series I think I like this simplicity even more. The hint system is conveniently right there, you just have to read it backwards so it's not something you accidentally read. The puzzles were a mix of easy to challenging. I ended up spending way too much time on it on my own, and then with the several puzzles which I did get wrong my time was way past the upper limit. But I had a good time with it.

Deckscape: Heist in Venice
Board Game: Deckscape: Heist in Venice

After London above I decided the next night to do another one. This was either easier or I was just in the right frame of mind after having done one the day before because I found Venice to be quite a bit less challenging. I was able to complete it much faster, and I didn't answer quite so many incorrectly. I found the story to be more fun for this one too. I enjoyed both of them and will probably seek out more of this series. I do still have 1 more on the shelf to try out.

Cafe International
Board Game: Café International

My local group had an "old-school" night to celebrate the back-to-school season, so I brought this one out being that it's the 1989 SdJ winner. The game started out to be enjoyable, you place tiles on the board matching with the correct nationality and gender requirements of each table. You are limited to the 5 people you have drawn from the bag. The trouble came in the end game when the cafe is mostly full and you have to start placing people into the bar. You just lose points like crazy when this happens, and if you are drawing the tiles which can still fit on the board then you won't be losing points. Due to this annoying end phase I can't see ever wanting to play it again.

Outsmarted!
Board Game: Outsmarted!

This is a recent trivia game, very similar to Trivial Pursuit. You have 6 categories and you are trying to earn a "ring" in each one by dice rolling to move around the board and landing in a ring space to answer the question for that category. The main difference between this an TP is that it is an app-based game. The box only contains a board, the character pawns and a die. The rest is in the app. It nicely provides multiple player age ranges, so that the entire family can play and you will get questions which are appropriate to your age. It also has a time-limited options. So you can just put in a 1 hour game, and even if you don't get all 6 rings, the game will end and the most rings at that point will win. What's confusing is that my wife and I had the same number of rings, but I had a higher overall % of correctly answered questions, but it gave her the win. Not sure if that's a bug or what. But the family enjoyed playing and the questions were well implemented within the app.
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Wed Sep 1, 2021 1:26 pm
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Shelf of Shame Update for July

Alan Hyde
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Kernersville
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Oceanos - This is another one that I'm not sure how it's managed to sit unplayed for so long. I decided it would make for a good game to take with us on our beach vacation. The family really enjoyed the theme in that environment. Each player has a submarine made up of 5 sections which are independently upgradeable between levels 1, 2, and 3. Each one represents a certain aspect of your game, for instance how many cards you get to look at each turn is the number of periscopes you have, etc. The dealer each round doesn't get any cards directly from the deck, but is given the un-chosen cards from the other players for them to choose a card. Once everyone has revealed you add that card to the grid in front of you. The game is played over 3 rounds, each round you are adding cards to the next row of your ocean. You can't re-arrange the cards once they are placed, so you must pay attention to the cards you are selecting to be sure it's going into a spot you need. Adjacency or order is important for a lot of scoring and upgrade options. It's a fun game which moves along at a nice pace.

Summer Camp - When I see Phil Walker-Harding on a game design I'm immediately interested. The theme is great for the family because we've got 2 boys right in the middle of summer camp age so they were right on board. This is a nice casual deck-builder which is essentially a race. The race aspect is just the end-game trigger, but it seems most likely whomever triggers it is likely to win the way the points are handed out. It's got nice combo opportunities as you move along the 3 tracks. Phil is great at making interesting casual games and this is yet another one.

Trick Taking: the Trick-Taking Game - I'm no expert with trick-taking games but I enjoy them. I've played my share of Hearts and Spades, and really love Diamonds and the more recent co-op The Crew. So I was glad to get this one out finally. Sadly this one was not intriguing for us. I think it's because it introduced too much variability to the rounds. Making a player pick up their card, changing the winning card from low to high, etc. Just too much chaos within a round. I like that you play through the deck, and then you play a final hand with your winnings to determine the winner of the game. That's a fun premise, it's just the game to get to that point fell very flat for us.

Mind MGMT - I played a lot of Scotland Yard growing up, but I haven't added any hidden movement games to my modern collection. This is a kickstarter I was backing regardless of the game because I'm a fan of the comic, I've got all the issues of it. Luckily, as is usually not the case, this is a good game. The movement options for the hidden player are more restrictive than I'm used to, but that's just because there are fewer spaces overall. It also gives the hidden player 2 ways to win, get enough points or stay hidden long enough. I've played as both roles and I found both to be fun. Naturally the turns you take as the hidden player generally go much faster than the other players. But since only 2 of them go between your moves it comes back to you quicker. I've only played this one with my game group so far, but I look forward to introducing my family to it too. I think the deductive aspects will make it a hit, and the theme matches with this style game perfectly.

Glen More II - I've played the original Glen More and very much enjoy it so I was glad to pick up this sequel. You have a starting castle and village with a river running through them. You can only place other river tiles to extend the river. You place tiles orthogonal to existing tiles, and only if there is a clansman adjacent to the new tile. Then that new tile and all adjacent tiles are activated and you gain the benefits of them. There are a couple of changes to the original so it's definitely a different game. The rondel movement is still intriguing and the last player in line is the next player, so if the other players take a big jump in front of you you could have a lot of turns in a row. But that is risky because if your area is larger at the end of the game you will lose points. Each turn you are taking the tile to which you moved and placing it in your area. There is a new type of tile (people) that don't go into your area at all. When you take a person you just keep the tile in front of you and you take a spot on the clan board which provide varying benefitsI. This person/clan board essentially replaced the extra restriction of a road in the original game. In some ways this makes this new version simpler, because the puzzle of fitting tiles into your area is simpler, but there's the choice of what benefit to claim when taking a person. Trading one thought process for another. In addition to all of that this also introduces chronicles, which are optional modules for changing up the game play. I started with the 2nd one which just adds a spot to the rondel which you much pay to skip over, or if you stop on the spot you will claim all resources paid to it. The modules are fun, but they aren't really needed. I like the change to bring in the clan board, others at the table more familiar with the original were lamenting that change a bit. I'm happy with it and glad to have this one.

Squire for Hire - This is another of the small deck card games where you lays cards out partially covering existing cards (ala Circle the Wagons, Sprawlopolis). The scoring is less variable than those, but it uses a similar dual sided nature of the cards. The back of the cards is a condition you must meet in order to add a face-up card into your bag. You are building your bag over the course of the game and trying to fit more items into it in such a way that they combine to score more points. Each squire persona changes the way your bag will score. I haven't tried it solo, but the 2-player mode works great. It's quick playing because it's such a small deck of cards. This is definitely staying around.
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Tue Aug 3, 2021 11:58 pm
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Shelf of Shame update for June

Alan Hyde
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Kernersville
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Roll to the Top - I enjoy roll and writes and backed this one when it was on Kickstarter. I played their solo online version (http://rolltothetop.com) but never got my physical copy on the table, so I finally threw it in the gaming bag on the way to my gaming group this week (back to in-person!!). It's a simple first to fill in all the spots on their map race. Trying to keep the low numbers grouped together, deciding when to add numbers together, or just skip altogether gives it a nice change of pace from a lot of the others R&W games. It also feels a lot faster than a lot of the others, likely because there's no scoring to keep up with, once a player fills up their grid the game is done. Also, it's fun to get roll a bunch of different sided dice all at once.

Sequoia - I noticed this was described as a mix of Can't Stop and Las Vegas. After playing it I agree that's a very good description. Can't Stop because your adding 2 sets of dice together to get 2 numbers. This does have you rolling a 5th die so you have more flexibility in the numbers you create. And then you are claiming majority on the different numbers (2-12) which is the Las Vegas aspect. At the end of the game each number awards a number of points to first and second place. It's a very fast playing filler. Faster than both of its influences just because each turn is simulataneous. It's a total of 10 turns, no re-rolls, just make the best of the numbers you have.

The Walking Dead: The Best Defense - This one has been on the shelf for many years. Honestly not sure why I got it in the first place. We've watched the 1st season, it's interesting and we hope to watch more, but other shows have just always been more interesting to us. This co-op game is very simple and thus its decision space makes it much less interesting than others. As the leader of a round, move every character if you want. Optionally draw a card from your location, then play both event cards you have. Then on that turn all other players can "defy" you and move again themselves if they have a food, and then draw a card from their location, then play 1 event of the 2 they have. Then everyone battles. The battles are problematic because if you weren't lucky enough to draw a weapon from the equipment deck then you can't fight at all. After fighting the zombies they then attack the players and if no-one is present they attack the decks at each location. I can see the basics of a good game here, but it's missing something.

The Castles of Tuscany - Got this one back at Christmas and finally got it on the table. This is another enjoyable Feld game. It definitely has a lot of influence from Castles of Burgundy, but this is a much quicker playing game. While the dice and card games versions of Burgundy are quicker playing as well, they feel very stripped down. This one still feels like a "board game" but just stream lines a lot. The best description I can give it is a mix of Ticket to Ride with CoB. You are collecting cards to get a set of a specific color in order to place that color tiles into your area. But all the sets are just of size 2, plus you can use a set of 2 of another color to stand in for any card you are missing (and there are workers which do the same). The different tiles placed in your area each provide a different bonus (place a tile from the middle for free, take a stone which can be used to take an extra turn, gain workers, gain points, etc). And point scoring is a bit unique as well. Early game green points are worth more, because they end up scoring additional times for you during the game. There are 2 score tracks, green and red. Most of the time you gain points you gain green points. At the end of each phase (3 of them), you apply your green points to your red points, but the green do not reset. So if you gain green points during the 1st phase those are essentially tripled. I look forward to playing this one much more in the future, I don't think it replaces CoB, but the speed of play will probably get it to the table more often.
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Sun Jul 4, 2021 3:14 am
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Shelf of Shame update for May

Alan Hyde
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Red Rising - It feels good to get a new arrival to the table quickly so that it is barely on the shelf of shame. Red Rising is an interesting game. There's definitely a large amount of luck to the game since most all cards are unique and you are trying to get a set of cards in your hand that score well together. We played 2 games of this and the first one I had to work to find cards that went well together. At 2-players the number of cards which appear on the board can be rather limited. If you can manage it you can get a bit of an engine going with the cards moving between your hand and the board, but anything you put on the board can be an opportunity for your opponents. So it's got a small bit of a Lost Cities in it. For our 2nd play we wanted to ensure that more cards would be in play so we incorporated the solo automa rules. We definitely had more cards in play, but in this one my starting hand ended up meshing so well that I was avoiding putting cards onto the table from my hand for the most part. Which might have been a poor strategy as my wife handily beat me this go-round after a close first game. We definitely enjoyed it.

Viscounts of the West Kingdom - We enjoyed this one as well. There are primarily 4 actions in the game: gather resources, build structures, transcribe manuscripts, and send workers to the castle. Essentially the gather resources gains you items which help you do the other 3 actions which are the point gaining actions. As you move around the board and perform these actions you are also able to acquire additional character cards which also help you perform these actions. It's a bit of a deck builder with a twist of being able to purchase a card for a 1-turn usage instead of adding it to your deck. So if you really need to boost your build capability and where you are building is a character with that symbol, you can "dismiss" that card to use it for just that turn. Or if you don't use that character for that then you can purchase that character near the end of the turn to be added to your discard and become part of your deck to be used multiple times during the rest of the game. Lots of euro-goodness in this box with a small amount of negative player interaction in the castle. Overall good stuff and we'll be back for more.

Shutterbug - I found this one at our local used bookstore for cheap about 2 years ago. Hadn't heard great things about it, but hey, maybe it would be good for us? It's a very simple set collection game where you collect creatures by trading in matching cards. So you have to collect the right cards move to the right spot and trade in the cards. There's one nagging item in that... if you land where someone else is sitting you can swap a card with them. You select the card you give them, and you take a random one from their hand. The game last eight rounds and if you are lucky you'll collect a creature most every round. A random card loss can really feel bad. So we tweaked that rule. Instead I put out a 5 card display and if you landed where someone else was your trade action was to trade with the display. This actually gives you the chance to know that you can get a card you want if it's there. Even with that "fix" it's still just ho-hum. I almost think the theme hurts this game. Since it's basically a shape/color set collection I think it might have been better to just lean into the abstract nature of it. It doesn't really feel like you are taking pictures. Additionally, the point scoring at the end is under-whelming. Even with the house rule for trading I don't see anyone requesting to play this one again. - Culled

Paladins of the West Kingdom - After getting Viscounts on the table I had to make sure we finished out the trilogy. This one is another well implemented distinct approach to worker placement. Here the spaces are primarily on your own player board, so you aren't preventing others from taking them. For many of the spaces you have 1 chance to use it on a turn and you have to commit a number of workers to get a less or greater benefit. Of the 3 West Kingdom games this one feels like it has the most going on, thus more AP-prone than the others.

Relic Runners - Here's another Days of Wonder title which has sat on my shelf un-played. Looks like there are 2 more of them still to go. We had fun with this one. I was surprised since it's not very popular. It's got a neat mechanism where you are building a route which allows you to travel further when you are able to use it. So you are rewarded for continuing to extend and use it. It can be tricky to get the right route in place, and you have to watch out to see if someone else is able to position themselves to take advantage of you opening up a site.

Vikings on Board - This one has cool looking ship pieces where you are making viking longships and aiming for the majority on them to gain goods which have been placed on them. This turned out to be another one which the family did not enjoy. I got some proud dad moments when one of the boys would do something devious and trying to plan several moves ahead, but that's not enough to keep this one around. Just too much take-that for what we enjoy. - Culled

Path of Light and Shadow - I keep forgetting I have this one. A kickstarter for an expansion is in progress so I was reminded of it and pulled it out. This is a worker placement with area control, but the type of area control in this is not what I call in your face. Controlling areas of the map can be key as they will score for you 3 times during the game, but the last is the most crucial. And a building strategy can offset a lot of map points. I like the alternative deck-building approach with this one as well where you are adding random cards instead of specific ones to your deck. You know the percentage of the faction that you might get, but not the specific card within it, or which specific one. It also has a card upgrade system in it so that you can improve a card, Thunderstone Quest does that as well. There's also some randomness in conquering territories as you are usually needing the dice to roll your way, which resulted in a horrible score for me in the first game. But even with a rough first game this is a fun one. I've even managed to play it twice more since then, which is not typical for me.

Island Dice - The custom dice in this got me. So many dice, you roll 6 dice each turn, 3 are always the same and the other 3 you pick based on what you are hoping to do. Then you resolve them as best benefits you. Seems good, but the problem is that once again it's an in your face game where often my best move is to mess with you. Only played this one 2-player with my wife. She'll probably not play it again but I'm curious if this one would work with the boys.

Core Worlds - I've always read good things about Core Worlds and finally got it on the table. Similar to Path above Core Worlds takes a different approach to how cards are available to add to your deck over the course of the game. Here each round the available cards come from decks which are specific to a set of rounds 1-2, 3-4, etc. So you have the ability to get stronger cards later on in the game. There's no huge breaker which can appear early in the game since they are all distributed this way. You also have to manage 2 different types of "resources" in your deck in order to conquer planets as they need both fleet and land units in varying amounts to be claimed.

Margraves of Valeria - This is another excellent game in the Valeria series. It's a bit like Concordia where you play a card from a hand of cards and eventually have to pick up your discards to have actions again while getting the chance to add more over time. Except here each card is multi-use 2 possible actions printed on the card and then 2 actions which all cards can be used for as well. There is slightly confusing Knight movement on the board which confused my wife when I taught here and another player at my game group. But once you grasp that it seems to flow pretty well. The 4 possible actions for each card and having a bunch in your hand at once can make it a bit AP-inducing for those inclined toward that.

Agropolis - After all the love for Sprawlopolis I backed it's successor for another solo experience. The mixture of different scoring goals and how they can work together or not can make for some tough decisions on card placement. On top of that the way the roads affect the score adds even more to it. The first play of it I just ignored the roads, and you just can't do that if you want to get a decent score. Did much better on the subsequent plays. I did go ahead and pick up Sprawlopolis also, so I'll probably be having it on this list next month. I appreciate that more games are including solo options with them, but enjoy these smaller games when it comes to solo.
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Wed Jun 9, 2021 4:09 am
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Shelf of Shame update for April

Alan Hyde
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Boardgaming took a backseat to other things this month. Very little games played overall and so the unplayed games were even less. As a quick preview of May I'm already at 2 unplayed's on the table; so it will at least be better than April.

Both of these games are small games with a pretty quick play time.

Zooscape - We only played this one 3-player. I think it would be even more annoying with more players. Each turn the available cards are split into 2 groups. You secretly select a group. If you are the only player to pick a group you get it, otherwise the group multiple players selected ends up being further split in 2. On top of that you don't just want to get as many animals as possible because of them have a maximum and if you go over that you begin to lose points. The contention this game presented was greater than the fun we found in it.

Zoinx! - This is a game in which you are guessing how far a player will push their luck. You secretly select 0,2,4,6,8,10. 0 means you think the active player will bust. You also select the number yourself (can't select 0). Then the player begins rolling 4 dice in a push your luck fashion. You roll until you meet the number you selected or bust. Each die has only 2 values, 4 "misses", 2 "hits". As long as you roll a hit you keep re-rolling, and keep a running total of hits on this run. If you get your number you gain the running total plus the number you selected. All other player score a point for the number they predicted if you at least met it, and a choice of bust is worth 5 points if the player busted. Play goes around the table until a player hits 30 (for the most part, end condition is not that simple). I liked the different take on push your luck where the other players are actively invested in your turn. They want you to succeed enough to get points and then bust. It wasn't a complete hit in our house, one of the boys was rather annoyed at his bust percentage, but I enjoyed the twist. This is a super fast and quick game.
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Tue May 4, 2021 3:55 pm
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Shelf of Shame update for March

Alan Hyde
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It's been another light month of attacking my unplayed games. Work hours this month were ridiculous.

Isle of Trains - most train games are about building routes on the board, Isle of Trains is just about building your train and loading goods on it to be delivered. It uses multi-use cards very effectively and it has some similarities to Fleet, in how you are pretty restricted at the beginning but are making pretty large moves by the end of the game. We played at the 2-player count, and at that player count I prefer Isle of Trains over Fleet.

Fast Forward: FLEE - We love playing Fabled Fruit, and we have played Fast Forward: FORTRESS, which is entertaining for what it is. So I had hoped to enjoy FLEE. Ooooff... it's such a slog. It's particularly annoying to be the player who gets stuck with the monster, because you are left not really playing the game as we decide how to delay letting you take a turn in order to move it away from you. Just not enough enjoyment for all players in how this one plays out.

Stardew Valley: The Board Game - my sister surprised me with this one for my birthday. It was completely under my radar as I haven't spent any time with the video game. Since she gifted this to me and I had some other gift cards I picked up the game for the Switch just to get an idea of the background. It's a nice chill game. I have played a lot of Animal Crossing and there are some similarities to that. So we got the board game out and I carefully punched out the chits as I had heard that was a potential issue with this printing, luckily I had no major issues there. We've played through it just once so far, my sister wanted to give it a try too, but we were short on time, so we decided to collectively just run through it with a single character. Overall all I enjoyed the game. There's definitely quite a bit of luck in it as there is quite a bit of dice rolling for the fishing and mining. So I can see potential frustration points here and there. I'm glad I spent some time with the original game first because I was able to understand why everything was handled how it is. At some point I'll be playing this with the family as a full game. It was funny because my younger nephews who have experience with the video game had wanted to play, but we ended up not including them, and sadly I think that was a good thing. The pacing of this I don't think is ideal for the majority of elementary age kids.

Food Chain Island - a couple of ButtonShy games were delivered and since they were solo games I was able to quickly get them out and give them a try. Food Chain Island is essentially a deck of cards 1-16 (each number is a unique animal) which you randomly lay out in a 4x4 grid. You then try to get them into a single stack by a higher number consuming a lower number (within 3) adjacent to it. Each animal has a special ability which is applied when it eats. If you get to 3 or less stacks you have one. There are a couple of other sea animals to the side which have abilities you can use as a single 1-time bonus during the game. I can definitely see that certain layouts of the grid could be easier than others just due to how the numbers end up, but it's an interesting puzzle.

Ugly Gryphon Inn - This is the other ButtonShy game which came, another solo one. Here you have patrons at an Inn's bar and you are trying to get enough of them to rent a room for the night at the Inn. But they all have different irks that you have to account for. Some will move into the Inn and then be annoyed and leave if too many noisy patrons are near them, etc. You want to end up with at least 7 still in the Inn when the deck runs out. I think this one is a bit more intriguing than the other. You have to be careful in selecting which patron moves to the Inn, but keeping in mind that you have to monitor the desires and irks of each patron. This is a nice solo game which plays quickly.
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Sat Apr 10, 2021 12:49 am
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