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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Little Two Player Chatter

I thought I'd take this week to look at some of the board and/or card games that Jodie and I like to play in the evenings after we've gotten Megan off to bed.

Jodie tends to prefer games that don't have direct confrontation. There are exceptions, but that's the general tendency. Also, we're usually both in the mood for something lighter and/or shorter when 8pm comes around – we save the longer games for weekends when Megan's napping.

We typically start off with a quick warm-up game. This is usually Bohnanza, 6 Nimmt!, or Guillotine. They're light, fairly mechanical, and get our brain back into game playing mode. After that, there's a number of different options. Here's a list of some current favorites in no particular order:

St. Petersburg. We've played this a lot. We're at the point where we know each others tendencies, so there's some subtle look-ahead maneuvering going on. This is a game that looked deep after two-three plays, then looked forced, then after 20-some plays is starting to look deep again, but not in the way originally expected. At first, it was the strategic plan of how you're going to build up your points coupled with the play order situation for the various rounds. Now, we're actually playing the game to maneuver the opponent into a forced play they didn't want two-three moves ahead. An unexpected development for this game.

Alhambra. Jodie has referred to this as her favorite two-player game. There's definitely some interesting timing choices, and you have a lot more control than with more players. We don't use the “give it to Dirk” option very often – probably should do that more. We've picked up all the expansions as well. They're like dim sum for gaming. Each mini-expansion tweaks the game a little bit, and you can add in as many as you want. We rarely play with more than one, however. They're really more variants than expansions. I like this approach better than Carcassonne, for example.

Carcassonne and its many flavors. This has been all over the map for us. Neither of us like The Castle, and I like The City but Jodie doesn't. We haven't played Hunters and Gatherers much at all, but I know Jodie had trouble getting into that one. (She likes it, just had trouble visualizing it.) Our favorite mini-expansion (for two-player at least) has been The Princess and the Dragon. We've got the brand new game (The Discovery) here on the shelf (Jodie brought it back from Germany last week) but don't have a translation available, so it's just sitting there taunting us.

San Juan. This has almost turned into a starter game for us.

Ticket to Ride: Europe
. The Europe edition is probably the better game, but they both play well with two. The best way to play is Europe with 3 players. The board's more constricted than four or five players and you have turns more frequently. The stations in Europe give you the chance to escape from being trapped, and the tunnels add uncertainty.

Settlers of Catan. Nearly any variant, though I don't think we've ever played Cities and Knights as a two-player game. We play two-colors each, high total score wins. I've never beaten Jodie at Siedler von Nürnberg, however. And it's usually not even close. Das Buch is an absolute gold mine for Settlers fans. We haven't been playing Settlers games as much recently, however. Just a phase, I'm sure.

There's obviously quite a few more games on this list. I haven't even touched the Kosmos 2-player or Empire Builder series. I'll get into those in a later post.

I've got a quick request for readers: if anyone knows of translations for Labyrinth - Die Schatzjagd, or Carcassonne - Neues Land, could you point me to them? It would be greatly appreciated.


  • At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Mikko Saari said…

    Hi! No translation for Die Schatzjagd, but I've had it for a while now (since April, actually) and know the rules, so here's an explanation:

    Each turn, you turn up one of the labyrinth tiles. Each player must then start from the starting point and calculate how many treasures they can reach. You can't pass traps or doors.

    Once you have a total, you shout it out loud. Check it behind the map and if you're correct, you get a key. The keys come in certain order; I think it was pink, green and blue, but it's easy to figure out.

    Once you have a key, you can and you must go through the doors of that color and include those treasures, as well. The back of the maps has the totals for different keys, so you can see it there.

    Once you have all the keys and win a round, you're the winner.

    That's it, it's very simple as I said. I think it's a fun little game, but the maps are too easy and the numbers are too low. Just shouting out "four!" does it most of the time. Perhaps playing two maps at the same time would solve this problem? Don't know, haven't tried. This seems more like a children's game, really.

  • At 10:54 PM, Blogger George said…

    Scan and email me a copy of the German rules and I can give you the gist of it.


  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    Thanks, Mikko. That's enough information to get a feel for what it's like.

    We definitely weren't expecting more than a kids game, so that's no big deal.

    George - I may take you up on the offer. I'll scan in the rules in a couple nights. After you're done unpacking, take a look if you've got time.


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