Review – My Shelfie
|Designer||Phil Walker-Harding, Matthew Dunstan|
|Artist||Shannon Grosenbacher, Sara Valentino|
|Publisher||Cranio Creations / Lucky Duck Games (Asmodee North America)|
|Category||Tile-Laying, Family Game|
|Release Date||Summer 2023|
Quite often, I’m attracted to a game by the theme. Not because I play games for the theme, but because I have a 9-year-old who does. She’s also a bookworm, so My Shelfie was a natural fit. Furthermore, Phil Walker-Harding and Matthew Dunstan are both designers I highly respect, so this seemed like a real slam dunk. Was it? Let’s take a look!
Almost every tile-game has a two-part system. There is a mechanism for acquiring the tiles, and then a system for how to display and score the tiles in your own personal tableau. Two obvious examples would be Kingdomino (player order mechanism, then 5×5 grid) and Azul (drafting from the center, then the fairly complicated system for placing tiles on your player board). My Shelfie is no different. Players draw bookshelf tiles from a central board 1-3 tiles at a time, and then slot them downward into a vertical bookshelf (think Connect Four) and try to match personal and public goals. Anyone who’s played a “family weight” tile-laying game like the two aforementioned titles will be right at home.
So, I tend to judge these kind of games on the strength of these two big mechanisms. Let’s start with the good. I really like the use of the Connect Four type system, and the variability of both the public and personal goals. It makes for some tricky decisions on how to lay out your bookcase, and you have something you can show off and take a picture of when you’re done. That said, I have to sidestep into the components here. The MSRP of $40 is understandable with the unique bookshelf components, even though there’s very little else in the box (tiles, a bag, a few cards, and the central board). However, two of the four bookshelves that came with the game are bowing, and the tiles fall through and stack on top of each other. Given that this gimmick is like 80% of the game, this is a real disappointment. I’m open to fixing them myself, but I’m not really sure how.
Let’s move on to the selection mechanism. The scoring of the tiles are often at odds with each other, which is good, because it makes the tile drafting a bit trickier. I’m also really impressed that the game balances well even though players can take variable numbers of tiles (1-3) each round; this is not easy to do. I also think the Connect Four aspect of the bookshelf makes for some interesting decisions on what to take. However, I don’t actually like the selection mechanism much, for two reasons. The first is that it’s just really easy to get AP, primarily because it’s so easy to forget which tiles are “too deep” to be taken, and so you spend a lot of time thinking you can grab three tiles you want when you actually cannot. The second issue is that when the tiles run low, you have to reset the entire board, and for such a short game, this is an extremely long break in the action. I would have preferred some sort of “reveal” as you go mechanism, or at least some kind of mid-game scoring when the tiles are emptied, simply so players have something to consider while they wait.
It sounds like I’m being harsh, but the game really is light, breezy fun. It’s a wonderful theme that appeals to a wide audience, and it’s not too complicated to learn, with some nice variety to the scoring. However, the issues are pretty glaring, particularly the warped bookshelves. If I could properly play with four players with my copy, I would more easily overlook smaller issues like the time it takes to reset the board. However, it is worth mentioning that all of my issues are easily solved by playing on BoardGameArena, so maybe check the game out there first.
The Bottom Line
A light and fun tile-layer marred by component issues.