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Whether it’s as the father of the legacy genre or one of the minds behind Betrayal at House on the Hill, Rob Daviau has made a name for himself as one of the most joyously creative game designers out there. ShipShape continues his reputation for brilliantly playful and inventive games, but in a much lighter form.

The premise is grinningly simple: bid for goods, stack goods in your ship’s hold, score points. The goods are gold, cannons and contraband, and they appear as arrangements on frame-like foam tiles that you literally pile up on your board, squishing (not literally) ship rats with the barrels and booty when you can.

Here’s the Daviau twist: to score, you look down through your three stacked tiles and count the bits you can see. It’s oh-so-simple, but a delightful visual gimmick every time. The 3D trick adds a cunning layer (literally) to each turn’s opening bidding too, as players peer down the stack of tiles, trying to bid just right using their numbered cards to get a particular tile in the tower – and predict what precious goods might lie under the bits blocking their view.

There’s some interesting not-toohigh, not-too-low objectives in the scoring, with too much contraband voiding one player’s take (it gets confiscated) and too few cannons earning you zilch. New boards with different starting setups are dealt out for each round, keeping things nicely balanced between players – even over three rounds, the light rules mean things wrap up swiftly.

With things kept to a basic, the central gimmick is the thing here, but it’s absolutely enjoyable enough (almost) by itself to make ShipShape a rollicking half-hour or so of light, breezy fun. We just have our fingers crossed that it sees a fuller outing in another Daviau game – though we suspect he’s already thinking up his next clever trick.


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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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