If you are reading this post I’m going to guess you are pretty into boardgames. But how keen are you? Of course, in the world of boardgames we judge our peers by their game collections. And not by the games themselves, but pretty much just how nice they look on the shelf. Do they fit nicely into the Kallax cubes? Are they sorted by colour? It’s a wonder that it took till now for a true Boardgame Collection Acquisition and Organisation Simulator to arrive, but all our gamer-prayers have been answered with the delivery of Shelfie Stacker.
2-4 Players | 1 Hour | Designed by Shem Phillips
Shelfie Stacker is a cheeky meta-stab at boardgaming culture, and especially the online trend of showing off your collection of games via a ‘Shelfie’ (it’s like a selfie .. but it’s of your game shelf). Arkus Games has brought together a Shem Phillips (of Garphill Games) design and paired it with a light hearted theme that most boardgame collectors can relate to – buying too many games and then having to fit them onto your shelf! The game was brought to life via a 2020 Kickstarter, delivering to backers around July 2021 and having a limited retail release via the Arkus website.
How does it work?
Shelfie Stacker is an abstract dice placement game that includes some drafting and action selection mechanics. Players will compete to get best pick of various shipments of games each round and place them on their shelf, trying to create the best collection of games and earn the most likes on their Shelfie.
A game of Shelfie stacker lasts for 7 rounds. At the beginning of the game, each player is given a hand of 8 cards (which in the basic game match for all players) numbered from 1-8. Each round, players begin by secretly selecting one of these cards. The number on the card played in each round will determine the draft order for new dice, and the cards also have useful once-off abilities on them that may be used at some point later in the game once the card has been played.
Players draft dice to place on their shelves. No self respecting Shelfie enthusiast would violate these rules: Each column of your shelves must be one colour only. Shelves are filled from the bottom up. Each dice placed must be higher than the one below it. If you can’t (or won’t) abide by these rules for a particular dice, it must be placed on your shelf of shame, which will lose you points at the end of the game. Cards sometimes let you break these rules, for example, you can ignore the colour of a dice or change the number up or down to fit it in better. Oh – and don’t forget that sixes are wild!
After placing 21 dice on the shelf (3 for each of 7 rounds) you will be running out of space and it’s time to score! Points are awarded per column for how full they are, plus the top dice of each column is worth it’s face value in points. There are some bonus points awarded by variable setup cards, and after subtracting shelf of shame points, a winner is found!
What do I think?
I’ve played Shelfie Stacker several times with 2-4 players. I found the game-play fairly similar between player count but with more sets of dice to choose from with more players, making the decision on which to pick can become harder (and take longer). Despite playing quite a few times, I actually never felt the need to move on past the starting 8 player cards, and so I’ve yet to begin to explore the variation the game offers in that respect.
The Good Stuff
- The custom dice are amazing! I love that the faces are printed to look like games packed into the shelf while still being functional D6 dice. The pastel colours are vibrant and they really make this game pop.
- I like the cartoon style of Paul M Tobin’s artwork and the in-jokes and characters are all masterfully illustrated in ways that really make me feel like someone has been watching me in my home. The artwork fits really well with the light theme of the game, and there are so many little easter eggs hidden in the game that will have you poring over the artwork trying to find all the references!
- With a simple rule-set, the game is quick to teach. I found the rulebook was well written and laid out nicely. There are lots of clarifications for potential edge cases at the end and comprehensive details on all the cards!
- I really like the core gameplay mechanic of Shelfie Stacker. It feels very ‘Azul like’ (and I like Azul). It is simple to play but challenging to make good decisions with the information available, and it feels like there is a lot of depth and breadth of strategy available.
- I think that Shelfie Stacker is a great example of a ‘well dressed’ abstract game. It is appealing and vibrant, and it feels like the theme is actually relevant to the gameplay. When a game manages to do this despite the fact mechanics could technically be given any other theme I think it’s a mark of a job well done by the game developers building the game’s world up around the mechanics.
- The base game includes variable content for subsequent games. You will have different bonus scoring criteria each game, and once you’ve played a few games there is the option of changing what action cards are used by players, with suggestions in the rule book for how to do this – ranging from all players having the same set to everyone choosing a unique set!
- Shelfie Stacker has a nice compact and well organised box! As my collection grows to look a lot like the shelf in the game itself, I am increasingly appreciative of a game whose box doesn’t have lots of extra air inside.
- Overall the game is very meta-humorous. For anyone into boardgames there are so many in jokes and it really is a work of art in that respect.
The Bad Stuff
- This game is very much the epitome of ‘You took my stuff’! Often times you will spend a while eyeing off a set of dice only for someone else to take it. I think this is partly because the game evolves in the same way for each player, there is usually one ‘very good’ pick each round that will fit well with everyone’s strategy.
- Turns can be pretty slow since the decision space in Shelfie Stacker is just small enough that checking every possibility is an option. This can really blow out turn times when players want to analyse possible dice drafts combined with card plays.
- I don’t really like how the pattern bonus cards works. Since it’s a race to achieve, everyone can go out of their way to try and do it but only one person can get the reward. Often games have lesser rewards for 2nd etc, which I like.
- As a boardgame shelfie nerd… (like I’ve actually arranged by shelf with the help of a measuring tape before) thematically, why can’t I put games anywhere in my shelf! Why do I need to sort by colour in vertical columns. What are these weird small square game boxes that fit 6 to a cube?? So many questions here…
- While the theme is hilarious for me, it’s an interesting stopping point when I think about playing this game with others. The kinds of players I know who would enjoy the jokes are probably all looking to play something heavier than this. I usually play lighter games like this with my family, and while they might get a few of the jokes because they know me, I think a lot of it would be a bit baffling for them.
I’m actually surprised I didn’t have more things to say in my ‘Bad Stuff’ section, but I’ve noticed for me that’s common for lighter and straight forward games like this. I think the game I’d compare Shelfie Stacker most closely with is Azul as it’s a very similar feel and style. It’s a good game mechanically and the theme is amazing for gamers but I worry about the game’s potential for success in the market with a weird theme. The Venn diagram of the types of players who would generally like this weight of game and people who have 200 games to get all the jokes might be limited. Maybe Arkus only had aspiration for the Kickstarter success and not wider distribution, I’m not sure. I think mechanically the game is great and should see a wider retail release though, and I’m excited to see what Arkus does next!