About Shelf Gamer

Welcome to Shelf Gamer!

My name is Joel and I'm just a mid-thirties guy from the Philadelphia area who's really into board games—playing them, trading them, writing about them.

This site has NO ads and NO sponsored content.

I believe board games are universal and deserve to be celebrated, especially in our current age of digital addiction. I was a digital addict for most of my life (i.e., video games, Netflix, Reddit, etc.), but in recent years I've developed an appreciation for board games as a way to get away from all of that.

I want to help you find the board games that you'll love. With my in-depth independent reviews, my goal is to give you the fullest sense of every game so you can be informed and have no regrets with your purchasing decisions. Whether you're a newbie to the hobby or a long-time veteran, I hope you find them helpful.

Contact Me

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My Gaming Tastes

A review is most useful when you know the reviewer's background and tastes. So, let me give you a sense of who I am as a gamer:

I play solo to 4 players, but mostly at 2 players. My girlfriend is my primary gaming partner and we play together several times a week. Solo games are generally too fiddly for me to play regularly, but I do like them from time to time. We meet with family a few times a year and that's when we get to play at higher player counts.

I prefer games that are light to medium weight. The most complex game in my collection is Viticulture: Tuscany Essential Edition. Between the stresses of work and adulthood, we usually don't enjoy heavy or fiddly games.

I love both Euro-style and American-style games. I'm just as happy playing Survive: Escape From Atlantis! or Dice Throne as I am playing Bohnanza or Ticket to Ride. There's a time and place for every style of board game, and I try to be mindful of that every time I have the privilege to play a new game.

I've been board gaming since the 1990s. I fondly remember toying around with worn boxes of Monopoly, Pay Day, Guess Who, and Jumpin' Monkeys. As I grew up, I encountered games like Illuminati, Munchkin, Carcassonne, Citadels, Bang!, For Sale, Fluxx, The Resistance, and so many more. The hobby has evolved quite a bit since those days—and it's so exciting!

Ethics & Review Policy

I never charge or accept payment for reviews. That's a hard line I'll never cross.

I always disclose how I sourced the game in a review. Most of the time, I purchased it with my own money or traded away something in my collection for it. If I'm fortunate enough to receive a free review copy, it's never in exchange for anything (except my honest thoughts) and my review process remains unchanged.

I only review games with retail releases. I personally hate when reviewers gush about games that haven't been released yet. Plus, with as much time and energy I put into each review, it feels wasteful if the game isn't readily available. Also, I have no interest in participating in Kickstarter culture.

I base all my reviews on physical playthroughs only. Online board gaming platforms are convenient, but they undeniably change the experience—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

I play at least 3 times before reviewing a game. Some games only open up once they've been played a few times; other games are immediately exciting but quickly lose their luster. I've found that 3 plays is enough to judge this aspect. (Exceptions made for one-time experiences like the Exit: The Game series.)

I score every review using a 5-star scale. For more info on why I use this system and what the star ratings mean, see the page on my review scoring system.

I will update or unpublish a review if major issues are found. I do my best to adhere to a game's rulebook, but I sometimes make mistakes. When mistakes are significant, I understand that they can unfairly impact the game experience—so I will re-evaluate as necessary or take down a review if re-evaluation isn't possible.

Earnings Disclosure

Earnings are mainly used to offset operation costs (e.g., domain, web hosting, buying games to review, etc.). Any amount after that is taken in as income, which allows me to invest more time and energy in the site and community.

Earnings come from two sources only:

Affiliate links. If you click a link to a product and end up buying it, I may earn a small commission. I strive to clearly mark every affiliate link for full transparency. I only recommend products that I personally believe in, but I may still provide affiliate links to non-recommended products.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Patreon. I may open a Patreon campaign at some point, which allows me to be financially supported by readers like you. This would make you my highest priority so I can be 100% honest and independent in whatever I write.