The Shelf of Opportunity is often fit to burst with dozens of games still in shrink and today I wanted to take some time to sit down and highlight some of the unplayed treasures in my collection and hopefully, by doing so, inspire myself to get them played!
10. Adventure Games: The Dungeon
The Dungeon finds itself at the bottom of the pile when it comes to my Shelf of Opportunity. Initially I was much more excited by the concept, an adventure game from the minds of Phil Walker Harding and Matthew Dunstan. And the initially reviews were positive, the system was well liked, but then came a series of not so great reviews and then a nationwide lockdown which really put the kybosh on any hopes of getting this to the table. And as the years passed the layer of dust grew thicker and thicker.
So what is the The Dungeon? The Adventure Game series is a series of adventure games in the point and click style of ye olde computer games. However instead of pointing and click you look up numbers in a book. Numbers can be combined to allow you to use items, such as a number for a key and a number for a door give a four digit reference and then you look up to see what happens.
The Dungeon (which lacks imagination in its title at least) sees the players cast into a dark dank dungeon and they must find their way out over a series of three, hour long adventures. This game shares DNA with the Exit and Unlock series of escape room games, however, unlike Exit, the game is not destroyed in the process of playing so can be passed to another group when you're done.
I've had success with escape room style games before and I liked the idea of a mini campaign which we could spread across multiple game nights without committing to something too long, like Pandemic Legacy for example.
9. Mafia de Cuba
When Games Night began we had six members, which is a tricky number when it comes to board games. So I sat down and I watched as much youtube as I could handle on games that supported large player counts and one game that came up time and again was Mafia De Cuba.
A game with a simple premise to be sure, but also one with a beautiful production. Each round one player is the Godfather, they pass a box around the table and each player chooses to take something from it or not. They make take a role token, or a handful of diamonds. When the box makes it back to the godfather the game begins.
The Godfather questions each player trying to work out who took what from the box. He is trying to find the thieves, who must empty their pockets, returning the stolen diamonds to the Godfather. However if he accuses too many of his loyal henchmen or accidentally accuses a CIA agent hiding amongst his crew then the Godfather loses.
This one never hit the table for one very good reason, it requires a minimum of six and shortly after its inception our six man gaming crew became a five man gaming cohort and so this one simply waits for its time to return.
Battlelands is a card battling game set in the post apocalyptic, anthropomorphic world of Aftermath from Plaid Hat Games. Players battle for control of locations in a series of "Wars" each of which consists of 3 battles, or turns. Each round players play cards into two rows in front of them and activate abilities. At the end of a battle they total up their power and the one with the most claims the location.
At the end of the day this one initially intrigued me but not enough to actually bring it to the table. I brought it back with me this Christmas but still failed to get it played.
7. Air, Land, and Sea: Critters at War
OMG... talk about cute artwork... you may be starting to notice a theme with my purchasing decisions. I watched a review for Air, Land and Sea with Shut Up and Sit Down who absolutely raved about the game. So when I saw that Arcane Wonders were doing a Conker's Bad Fur Day-esque retheme I knew I was going to be tempted to pick this one up.
Air, Land and Sea: Critters At War is a 2 player combat game played with a single deck in the three theatres of war. The 18 cards in the deck are known to all players, you know which 6 cards you have and so you have some idea about what your opponent might be holding. As you play out the round you have the opportunity to retreat, the earlier you retreat the fewer points your opponent scores, if you hang in to the end of the round and lose you'll give your opponent the maximum points.
And it is this push and pull that is the hook for Air, Land and Sea, can you win and if not, when do you choose to fold? I'm really intrigued with this one and it hasn't hit the table yet just because we're doing a big epic campaign right now (ISS Vanguard) so not much else is hitting the table. I should absolutely just chuck this on in my bag though because it's quick and simple and should absolutely be getting played... plus it sooooooooo cute!
Fort might not have universally loved artwork, but once again, it was the art that suckered me in here. I've always been intrigued by Leder Games games with both Vast and Root sounding like they would be right up my alley with the one caveat that I don't know who I'd play them with. When Fort released and it was a smaller, simpler game than Leder usually put out, so I decided to pull the trigger.
In Fort you play as a group of kids building a tree fort. And everything in the game is thematically connected to the idea of being kids. The currencies are toys and pizza and you can only fit so much of either in your satchel. The cards you play are your friends, but the ones you don't play might go off and play with another kid instead, unless, of course, they are your best friend as they will always stick around, even if you're not playing with them... Best friends are ace.
And it is this aspect that really makes me want to play the game, this theme is so unique in my collection, but I also know that the game is a little tricky for new players to grok and that's why, for now at least, I haven't brought this one out at Games Night.
Crossfire, again, falls into the lack of players camp. The concept seemed very intriguing but with 5 players I have the bare minimum required to make the game function, however, typically social deduction style games work best at their higher player counts.
Crossfire then is a social deduction game from Emerson Matsuuchi where players are split into two teams, one trying to protect a corporate VIP while the other attempts to assassinate them. This simple concept is then lavishly draped in the post apocalyptic art of Spectre Ops giving it great table presence.
The game also features a cat and mouse style Sniper mode where one player is the sniper trying to eliminate all the assassins without hitting a bystander.
As much as I personally love social deduction games they typically don't hit the table that much with our group, perhaps because they are best when used in regular rotation and we tend to play a medley of new games in each session. However the small size and short play time does mean this one has a higher chance of hitting the table in the near future than games lower down on this list.
4. Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game
Marvel does Love Letter. I'm honestly not sure why this one hasn't gotten played, it seems like it's a no brainer. My group has played and enjoyed Love Letter and they all enjoy the Marvel theme, the game has even made it into my bag for Games Night, just never actually on to the table!
Love Letter is a micro game consisting of a small deck of cards. Each player is dealt one card and on their turn must draw a card and then play one of their two cards. The last player remaining in the round is the winner.
Infinity Gauntlet flips the script on this classic, changing the game from fully competitive to a one vs. all style game. While the game play remains similar the Heroes work together to bring down Thanos, while Thanos works to assemble all the infinity stones to win. This brings some fairly big changes to the game, players are no longer eliminated, but instead have a shared health track, which, if reduced to zero triggers the loss condition. Players also no longer have a single communal deck, but instead two decks, one for the Heroes and one for Thanos.
I really can't place a reason on why this one has languished so long on my shelf of shame, Marvel burn out, maybe? I should dust off this little purple bag and bring it to our next session!
3. Dinosaur World
Dinosaur Island sounded exactly like the Jurassic Park themed game that I've always wanted, breeding dinos and building a theme park, rollercoaster tycoon style, there was just one problem, the neon pink style choice! So when it was announced that a successor was coming out with a more palatable art style I had to jump on this one.
In Dinosaur World you play as an entrepreneur investing in a dinosaur park. Each round you hire new staff which determines the types of actions you can take in your park. You can collect DNA to resurrect dinosaurs from eons past, you can build new buildings and you can improve your infrastructure and security. At the end of the round you drive visitors through your park to show them the attractions you have built, deploying unspent workers to operate rides, stalls and other guest services.
I don't have much of an excuse as to why this one hasn't hit the table. I got a little burned by the idea of being able to play this one solo, only to find that the solo components weren't included for retail. Beyond that my main reasoning for not getting this one played is the sheer amount of space it takes up on the table. Each player has two large player boards in front of them and then an area they are playing tiles to to expand their park. There are also 3 central boards players are using for buying tiles and drafting dice.
Will my excitement for theme be enough to get me over the hurdles of setting up and teaching this beast? I really hope so because it really does look like a lot of fun!
2. Millennium Blades
Oh yes! This is one that I am desperate to get to the table but there are literally two people I know that might enjoy it. Millennium Blades is a meta-game. It is a game about gaming, you play as a gamer who is just getting started in the world of collectable card games, à la Magic the Gathering. You begin with a starter deck and some stacks of cash, yes, literal stacks of cash. Once the game begins you have a set amount of time to go to the market, buying sealed boosters or trading open cards with those in the market place or with other players, all in real time.
Meanwhile you are also building your deck for the upcoming tournament and setting cards into your binders as part of your collection for end game scoring. Once the time runs out it's time to start the tournament. Players score points as they play out the deck they built, then the timer starts again and another market phase begins.
For Millennium Blades to have any resonance you have to be involved in the world of gaming to a certain degree. The mechanics are so tied to the theme that it would difficult to explain to a casual gamer why you are doing what you are doing. That, coupled with the real time aspect, just means that this is a game I'm only planning to play with people I know will love it.
I REEEEEEALLY want to play Millennium Blades and I've come close to teaching it a few times. The main reason it hasn't hit the table is that the guys I want to play it with usually choose a campaign style game over a one off game session, which means that the opportunities to get this one played just haven't really happened yet.
IKI is number one on this list, perhaps, because it is the most recent of the games on the list. I got this one for Christmas, along with several other titles that all got played and this one just didn't. The main reason is that it's not one that would work well with my little brother, who almost always games with us now meaning we tend to play heavily thematic ameritrash style games rather than beautiful euros. With my game group we've been struggling to meet up a little bit this year and when we have we have five members, meaning IKI is not a good fit there either.
IKI is a stunning production from Sorry We Are French. Taking place in the edo period in Japan, players are gathering resources and visiting artisans to generate points and occasionally fighting a fire. But other than that last part, this game is an idyllic looking, crunchy euro, with a relaxing theme and a gorgeous table presence.
I think this one hits my top spot because it's the style of game I want to play with my game group that we just haven't been getting to play. Since returning from COVID we've been focusing on shorter games, fun little party games, or shorter fillers, and I think part of me wants to have a beautiful game with lots of decision space to hit the table again.
So that's the top ten games on my shelf of shame, and of course, since I started writing this list ten more games have jumped on to the list... and honestly, I wish that were a joke! What games are you guys trying to get to the table? Let me know in the comments. And if you have an idea for a top ten list you'd like to see let me know and I'll see what I can do!