Welcome to the very first post on Shelf Gamer! I wasn't sure what the best way would be to kick everything off, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to do something that'll likely be a recurring series: Shelf Updates.

As we head into the final weeks of the year, it's good to look back at how the year has been—and in the case of launching a new blog, maybe this is a good opportunity for me to take stock of my board game collection and show you where I'm at before I get my hands dirty with my first official reviews.

Join me in my first Shelf Update, in which I show you what left my collection this year, what entered my collection this year, what's on the chopping block, and what I'm hoping to add in the coming months.

A Brief History

Though I've been board gaming since the 1990s, I was poor so most of those years were spent playing whatever games my friends happened to own. I only bought my first "real" board game in 2018 (The Resistance) and my collection has been slowly ramping up since then.

In 2021, I learned how to affordably ship packages after a brief reselling stint on eBay. (The trick is to use PirateShip!)

Then, in 2022, with my newfound confidence in shipping packages, I was comfortable enough to try participating in BGG's monthly Math Trades—and that's when my collection was injected with steroids.

These days, I still participate in the monthly Math Trades but I also seek direct trades using BGG's trade manager, buy used games from BGG's GeekMarket, and buy new games from online retailers if used copies are overpriced.

What's Gone?

2023 was a year of heavy trading. I'd bought a lot of games at the end of 2022 and into the first half of 2023 in an attempt to catch up on the popular, oft-recommended games that had come out in 2020 and later. Turns out, most of them were fine but not interesting enough to keep—so, I traded them.

Adventure Tactics: Domianne's Tower
I wanted to love this one because Final Fantasy Tactics was one of my favorite video games as a kid. The theme and concept were right up my alley and I thought my girlfriend would love the leveling up process and the cooperative progress. But we both disliked it. It has way too many components, it's too fiddly, and there's too much overhead during battles. Sold it at a big loss and don't regret it. It made me realize that I'd rather just play video games when it comes to RPG-style campaigns.

Bad Company
I have two main gripes with Bad Company: it feels aimless and it has no tension. Not enough options when choosing how to grow your gang and not enough turns to actually grow your gang to a meaningful degree. No highs or lows. Completing a heist doesn't feel challenging or satisfying. Too many rules for an ultimately shallow experience. Sold it and don't regret it.

Bang! The Dice Game
A lovely hidden role, social deduction game. I like that it has an actual game as its foundation as opposed to negotiation-heavy types like The Resistance, but doesn't overdo it as to become overwhelmingly gamery. I ended up trading it because I think it plays best at 5 to 6 players and I usually have 4 max. Do I regret it? Yeah, but I'd rather someone have fun with it than for it to gather dust on my shelf...

A casual multiplayer solitaire experience that's quietly puzzly without being a brain burner. I think it lacks tension and replayability, so I sold it. Bärenpark is the game that helped me realize I like the idea of polyomino games more than actually playing them, and that makes me sad.

Pleasant but a little long for what it is, especially with players who want to nickel-and-dime every single turn. The theme is a turn-off and makes it hard to get to the table, so I sold it. If an enticing retheme ever comes out—I'd personally love a Stardew Valley version—I'll snatch it in a heartbeat.

Got this due to all the hype and it was fun for about 10 plays with 2 players, but the shine rubbed off when it fell flat for me at 3 and 4 players. I realized I felt no urge to play whenever I looked at the box—plus, I really don't like the cover art—so I traded it away. In hindsight, I think Kingdomino Origins is better.

Clank! Catacombs
I was so excited to get Clank! Catacombs when it came out. The tile-based board brings out the feeling of exploration and amplifies the push-your-luck aspect of making it back out before you die. It's just too long for me. Our 3-player games were 1 hour 45 minutes and our 4-player games were 2 hours 30 minutes. I regret selling it but I know I'd probably never get it tabled again.

Council of Verona (2nd Edition)
Grabbed this years ago because I heard it was a great 3-player game for mind games, but the game arc is flat and the end reveals are anticlimactic. It finally sold on eBay after being listed for a long, long time.

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
I love this hidden role game because the investigators aren't trying to uncover the murderer's identity, so there's less scrutiny and stress. The murderer is just there to offer misleading suggestions and I find that fascinating and fun. Sadly, it plays best with at least 6 players and I only have 4 max, so I sold it.

Fell for the hype on this one. My experience with Earth can be summed up as: "If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome." I like point salad games but this one is excessively generous such that the chaos (of churning through a billion cards) is hard to wrangle and the scores feel random. Plus, the tableau is overly fiddly with way too many pieces to manipulate constantly. Traded it for Wingspan and haven't looked back.

Helped get me into the hobby but I haven't played it in 10+ years so I put it up on eBay. It finally sold after a long, long time.

Forbidden Island
Good introductory game to the hobby. I personally don't like games that are basically action point puzzles with a countdown, so I traded it for Marvel United.

Love the theme and the gameplay is fun. Very tight with about 10–15 actions for the whole game, and the tableau building is satisfying. Ended up trading it for Long Shot: The Dice Game (which I love), but I do wish I had kept it.

Get on Board: New York & London
Got this when I was on a flip-and-write bender after discovering Welcome To, plus Mike and Zee gushed about it in their Top 100s. Love the idea of playing on a central board, but not enough player interaction to justify it. Apart from traffic jams (which were rare), this could've been personal player sheets. Sold.

Beautiful game that packs a punch. A little too thinky and too prone to analysis paralysis, all while feeling like more of a mental exercise than a tense battle. Wanted to keep it for the art but ultimately sold it.

Better than chess but disliked it for the same reasons: too abstract, thinky, and mentally draining. I'm not as sharp as I used to be and I don't like games that revolve around looking several moves ahead. Sold.

Kingdomino Origins
Really great tile-laying game, especially at 2 players using 7x7 grids. Love the simple base game and the advanced mode with tribespeople and resources. I rashly traded it away when I got Cascadia and I regret that. Now that I don't have either game, I think Kingdomino Origins is the better one.

Letter Jam
Awesome concept that mixes creativity, cooperation, and deduction... but really clunky in execution. Too fiddly for what should be a simple game. Sold.

Marvel United
Love the concept of a timeline where playing a card lets you use your actions AND the actions of the previously played card. But for how light it is, it takes up a lot of table space and has so many fiddly tokens. It just felt like such a chore to bring out and set up, so I sold it.

The Mind
Fun gimmick but little more than that. Once you understand how to play (I won't spoil it), it's clearly less about cooperation and more about individual performance in line with the group. Sold.

Modern Art
Solid and clean game, if somewhat fragile. I had the CMON version which was gorgeously produced, but it fell flat more often than not and I ran out of people who wanted to play it. Traded it for a few sets of Dice Throne. Wish I still had it but I know I'd never get to play it.

Love the idea of this more than actually playing it. Same feelings as Hanamikoji and Hive: too abstract, hate having to think ahead, not exactly fun. Traded.

ROVE + Sprawlopolis
Got these during a short period when I was exploring solo games. Turns out, I'd rather play something bigger if I'm going to bust out a board game on my own. For lighter time-killers, I prefer mobile games. Sold.

One of the first card games I bought at the start of the hobby. I like social deduction but this one's too light and doesn't give enough info to go off of, yet also feels overwrought with too many rules for how light it is. The hindrance cards that prevent you from playing were the last straw. Finally sold it.

Spirit Island
I can see why people love this game. The entire framework with different Spirits having their own unique player boards and powers is phenomenal, and the idea of playing cards that need to be retrieved back into hand is also great. But all the pushing and pulling and invader mechanics are just too much for my overworked brain, so I reluctantly sold it.

Splendor Duel
Way better than Splendor. Love the spatial puzzle with the chips and the tactical use of scrolls, but the engine building aspect fell flat. Despite the brilliant production, I reluctantly sold it and ended up getting two other 2-player games that I much prefer: Jaipur and Caper: Europe.

Summer Camp
Excellent as a "my first deckbuilder" type game. Played around 10 times at 2 players and I lost 9 of those games so skill certainly plays a role, but it's a bit too shallow for many repeat plays with the same people. I'd have kept it if I were regularly introducing it to new gamers. Sold.

Switch & Signal
Ideal for gamers who love co-op puzzles. Similar vibes to action point puzzles like Forbidden Island and Pandemic, except you're playing cards for your actions. Not a fan of that style and this one mostly felt like busy work. Sold.

Trekking Through History
Love the production but gameplay fell flat. In the 6-card market, you usually only have two real choices: one that's best for your timeline and one that's best for your itinerary. The decisions in Trekking Through History are tough but uninteresting, with few highs and lows that result in a bland experience. Sold.

Tumble Town
A not-so-terrible engine/tableau builder where you roll dice of different colors to build cards that grant points and abilities. It's fun enough but we graduated to Wingspan and haven't looked back. Sold.

We're Doomed!
This was an impulse buy at PAX East 2020. Turns out it's not as good at home with 4 players as it is when demoing with 10 players at a con! Crazy, chaotic, sold.

Whale Riders
Fills the same niche as Ticket to Ride: contract fulfillment on a central board that gradually loses options until someone wins. Main difference is its economic feel (buying tiles with gold) over hand management (playing drawn cards). It's great but I sold this one because when I want a family-weight game with a central board, I'm always reaching for Mille Fiori. Plus, given its production issues and its rarity, I wanted it to find a home that would actually play it.

What's New?

Azul Mini
I don't have Azul but heard lots of good things about it, so I grabbed Azul Mini when it released this year. Not only is the game great, but I love the plastic trays that keep the pieces locked in place and the integrated score trackers.

Caper: Europe
Fantastic production that doesn't feel overproduced, which elevates the experience of what's essentially a back-and-forth card drafting game for 2 players tugging-of-warring over three locations via set collection. I like that you can win even if you lose the tug-of-wars. Time will tell if this has lasting replayability.

Enjoyable multiplayer solitaire where you're tactically filling in a personal grid with polyomino shapes. The four-phase scoring goals drive your decisions, but I mainly love this as a sort of meditative activity because we play using colored markers and it's quite calming to just sit there and color in blocks.

Codenames: Duet
Tough but engaging, all the fun of Codenames but successfully adapted for 2 players. This one took a back seat once we got So Clover! and we haven't played it since, but I can't get rid of it because my girlfriend still loves it.

Dice Throne
My favorite head-to-head battler because the dice luck makes it feel less personal when I lose, as opposed to games like Hive or Onitama that make me feel stupid when I lose. Yet, between the card play and dice re-rolls, it doesn't feel like a complete luckfest. We have 6 characters, they all play differently, and there's a lot of replayability with the various match-ups. Just a lovely game!

Dungeons, Dice & Danger
A longer-length roll-and-write that feels surprisingly strategic. Everyone plays off the same dice results, but sheets diverge quickly as everyone makes their choices. And despite being a victory point game, it feels like a race because the various objectives give more points to whoever can complete them first. We don't table it often, but it's always engaging when we do.

For Sale (Travel Edition)
This tiny game is a classic for good reason. Between the first-phase auctions and the second-phase mind games with simultaneous selections, it's a great game for introducing these mechanics. I expected the money chips in the Travel Edition to be card stock, but they're thin cardboard. Good enough for me!

Frantic real-time contract fulfillment using dice. It's cooperative but it's hard to actually cooperate because of the time pressure; everyone's just working on their own contracts with the shared goal of trying to clear the central pool of contracts. I've never won but it doesn't matter—it's fun!

My favorite 2-player game right now. Perfect blend of hand management and set collection with a market race. Instead of trading with each other directly, you're both trading with a shared market and trying to get what you want while denying them what they want, which isn't so easy due to the camels. It only takes about 10 minutes per game and it's easy to table and play repeatedly.

Long Shot: The Dice Game
Phenomenal roll-and-write where you're betting on the action that happens on a central board. But it's not just a game of calculated risks and gambles! You also have tactical actions that let you interfere with the race track, which can cause last-minute upsets that have everyone screaming. Tons of fun at all player counts.

Love Letter
I'm unimpressed by Love Letter, but I got it for free and it's so small that I might as well keep it. Nobody in my group liked it, though.

Mille Fiori
Only played twice so far but it's just so intriguing and I'm eager to play it more. The turns are quick, the bonus action chains are satisfying, and there's enough tension as spots on the board start disappearing. My number one suggestion when we're in the mood to play a family-weight central board game.

Point Salad
Fantastic little card game for killing 15 minutes. It's the purest distillation of open card drafting. There's a good chunk of luck involved, but nothing wrong with that given how quickly it plays. And with so much variability—every card has a unique scoring condition—it continues to feel fresh.

Project L
Played once and was unimpressed because the "tactile satisfaction" often mentioned in reviews is overblown. But it's a crowd-pleasing engine-builder so I'll probably keep it. Maybe it'll grow on me.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg
Really like this for that slot machine essence. The GeekUp Bits truly double the fun given that the whole game is fishing for tokens in a bag. Sadly, I stupidly got the Mega Box which makes it hard to store and harder to table.

The family likes to play Big Two, so Scout is a perfect step up with hand management that's far more interesting. Love that the box is SO TINY, making it easy to take anywhere. No reason not to keep this one forever.

The Search for Planet X
The ultimate logical deduction game for gamers. The app-driven gameplay keeps it from being fragile while the different actions provide different avenues for gathering information and making deductions. Love the risk-vs-reward of submitting theories, and love that whoever finds Planet X isn't always the winner.

Silver & Gold
Fun little game for when we're in the mood for Cartographers but don't have 45 minutes to dedicate. Snappy turns but doesn't play itself. Only grabbed it because it was on sale for $5, but I'm glad I did!

Skulls of Sedlec
The only Button Shy game I'm keeping. A fun little puzzle that feels like a miniaturized version of Cascadia that plays in 15 minutes.

So Clover!
We love word association and this is up there as our favorite for chill nights. We mostly play this as 2 players, simultaneously filling out our clover boards and then trying to figure out each other's words. Killed Codenames: Duet. For larger groups, we'd rather play Just One.

Sushi Roll
Fantastic dice drafting game that I don't see mentioned a lot. It's basically Sushi Go but better for us because the dice that get passed to you are re-rolled, so the game is more about risk management than memorizing cards. We mainly play at 2 players, but it's been good at 3 and 4 players, too.

Take 5 & Take a Number (6 Nimmt & X Nimmt)
A surprise hit! Every turn is like a puzzle (which card to play) but also a gamble (you don't know the order cards will be played in), and it can be really tense when the rows start to fill up. Great for family nights or when you want to shoot the breeze while playing a light game. Will never leave my collection.

Ticket to Ride: London
It's Ticket to Ride boiled down to a much smaller map, perfect for 2 players and playable in 15 minutes. Also not bad at 3 players!

Viticulture & Tuscany: Essential Editions
The heaviest game in my collection and I don't think we'll ever go heavier than this. That said, it's really pleasant and engaging. We prefer playing with the Rhine Valley cards and we also have some minor house rules to help mitigate luck.

Waterfall Park
After playing so many "pleasant" games this past year, I recently got this and it re-opened my eyes to the fun of direct player interaction. It's pure negotiation and it landed well with my group at 3 players. Hoping to play it at 4 before year's end!

Welcome To
For me, Welcome To is the ultimate chill-out game. The puzzle is engaging enough to not be boring, yet never feels like a brain-burner. Mistakes are forgiving and you always have options, so it's really easy to get into a flow state. Love it.

I've been burned by hype so many times that I actively avoided Wingspan. But when Earth fell flat, I decided to trade it for Wingspan... and I'm so glad I did. It's a recent acquisition so I need to play it some more, but I have a feeling it's going to be a staple, especially because my group really liked it.

On the Chopping Block

I got this hoping it would be a more streamlined Clank! Catacombs with shorter play times, but I'm coming to realize I just don't like this mixture of mechanics. Love the Clank mechanic and the idea of pushing your luck to stay in the dungeon as long as you can without dying, but dislike the lack of control in the chaotic card market and fast-inflating deck.

The quintessential action points puzzle. Been trying to get rid of this for a while, but I have the 2008 first edition by Z-Man and nobody seems to want it.

Say Anything
I like it but it's hit or miss. Sometimes it's raucous fun, sometimes it's a snoozefest... even with the same group! These days, I'd rather play Jackbox games if I'm itching for a Say Anything experience.

Timeline: Inventions
Great travel-sized game that fits in your pocket. Loses replayability the more you play because you start to internalize the event dates, and I have no interest in buying more packs to inject more life. Skulls of Sedlec fills the "pocket game" niche for me now, so looking to get rid of this one.

And there you have it! The state of my collection as 2023 comes to a close. How's your own collection looking? What's your favorite acquisition of the year? Do you regret getting rid of something? Let's chat in the comments below!

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