Categories
Game Reviews

My Ten Favorite Two-Player Tabletop Games

Looking for something fun to play with your spouse or that one person in your family who likes tabletop games? Ten years ago, it’d be difficult to find a game that’s designed for two players. But now there’s a whole market for two-player games out there! Here’s my list of favorite games that either work well with two players (but can support more) or are designed specifically for two people to play.

10. Coup

You control two of five different persons of influence—each with their own unique abilities. Your mission? To kill both of your opponent’s persons of influence before they can kill yours.

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Image is from the beautiful, Brazilian-artist edition of Coup gifted to me from some friends

A great buffing game becomes an intense interrogation in a two-player setting. Coup is a lot more difficult when you have to look the same person in the eyes and claim that you have the Duke, the Captain, and the Contessa all in one match. It’s more fun to play a few games in rapid 10-15 minute successions.

My internal torment includes:

  • Do you really have the Duke this time around?
  • Should I call your bluff, you lied last game?
  • What the fuck am I supposed to do?!

Coup is a game that provides a thrilling setting of hidden identity politics whether you have 2 players or 8 players. Most importantly, it doesn’t seem like you’re getting a reduced version of the game when you play in a 2 player setting. We have the Reformation expansion and swap out the Ambassador for the Inquisitor for extra flavor.

Despite what she keeps telling me, my partner is a master at bluffing. I’m on to you! (I think.)

9. Boss Monster

As a famous dungeon-crawling hero, have you ever wondered what it was like to be that grotesque villain with impeccable interior design instincts? Wonder no more with Boss Monster: the game where you play the boss at the end of the dungeon that you’ve built! Create dungeon rooms and use spell cards to lure entirely suspecting adventurers to your crib and kill them before they can reach you directly. In Boss Monster, souls are currency, and it takes ten to win and be the best bad guy-girl-thing in town!

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Behold, the 16-bit inspired artwork!

This game is built for two- to four-players. I think this game is more fun with two, as you can reduce extra layer of having to pick your indirect spell battles against your opponents and just focus on trapping more souls than one other person.

8. Bohnanza

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Is that anthropomorphized bean committing genocide?

Grow and sell beans in this fun game about…well, bean counting. The more coins you get at the end of the game, the better off you are as a farmer. Bohnanza takes the tried-and-true mechanics of the classic commodities game Pit and adds the nuance of balancing what’s in your hand versus what you plant in your field versus what you sell to the market to support your rich farmer lifestyle.

7. Machi Koro

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Be the first to activate the attractions that will put your city on the map. Machi Koro is all about playing the odds. Compete with your opponent to purchase buildings from a market area which will give you coins or other benefits depending on how you (or sometimes how your opponent rolls).

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I love the minimal, but still expressive artwork for Machi Koro

I typically dislike games that rely on a luck factor, but I think that as long as you can spread everything out enough to the point that you’re collecting money for most of your rolls, you’ll be swimming in metropolitan tourist money for days.

The reason that I like this game in a two-player setting is due to the amount of things you need to keep track of in the mid- to late-game stages. I think it’s just right with two players.

6. Welcome to the Dungeon

This game is quick and hilarious. Welcome to the Dungeon is a “push your luck” style game where you fill a dungeon with monsters, destroy buffs from a dungeon crawler, and then ultimately decide whether you’re going to make your opponent run the dungeon with that crawler. If the dungeon crawler dies, the person who had to run it takes a wound. If they survive, a victory point is awarded. Two victory points and you win. Two wounds and you’re out.

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This barbarian might not make it through the dungeon

I think that Welcome to the Dungeon is fun with two, three, or four players. The game was designed so well that you don’t have to entirely change your strategy (if you even have one) to accommodate for the extra players.

5. Century: Spice Road (or Golem Edition)

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I blogged about this one awhile back. I love this game. It’s a delicate balance of holding gems, upgrading gems, and trying to claim those golems!

4. Illimat

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This is another game I blogged about. I appreciate modern life being breathed into a classic card game like Hearts or Spades. The artwork is lovely—something that I’d frame and hang on my wall if I didn’t need the cards to play the game!

3. 7 Wonders Duel

Are you starting to see a pattern here? This is one of two games on my list that was actually designed as a two-player only game. I love 7 Wonders Duel. It gives me all of the open strategy and theme of Civilization, but it doesn’t take three years to finish.

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(Here’s my review on 7 Wonders Duel and white wine.)

2. Jaipur

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Jaipur—the city, not the game

Ah memories…this was my first review! (I should experiment with more frozen lasse, that stuff was delicious.) Jaipur is the other game on this list that is designed just for two. My partner and I are so familiar with this game that when we play it, we fall dead silent so that we can focus on getting into the good graces of that Maharaja. (That merchant looks so excited and worried at the same time.)

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Jaipur—the game, not the city

1. Carcassonne

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The real Carcassonne—I hope to go there and play a game of Carcassonne (then the universe will collapse in on itself, I think)

This isn’t just number one on my two-player list, this is my number one of all time. Period. Out of all of the games on this list, Carcassonne always finds it way onto my table—and into my heart. I have fond memories of playing this game with the people that I love. It has everything you need from a tabletop game: strategy, rivalries, city planning.

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Not to mention the expansions, of which there are like eleven. Each one weirder and more fun than the last. Playing with five or more expansions makes my brain explode with madness! (In a good way.)

Categories
Game Design

PSA: Get Crafty With Your Tabletop Prototype

I’ve seen some shit prototypes. That’s OK.

Is it?

Kind of. If another designer invited me to play their game and their prototype was absolute junkyard trash, I would get over it and play their game. Not everyone is like that, though.

Right now, my game looks like this:

*Those Joy-Cons are not a part of the game. (Although that may be possible for me in the future…)

Here’s a rundown of what we’re looking at with my grotesque-looking prototype:

  • All of the logos you see are icons are from The Noun Project. (Which I recommend checking out for placeholder icons or ideas on how to approach your icons.)
  • The vote tokens (fist icons, heart icons, peace icons and the like) are pieces of paper which have been folded around (like a hot dog bun) and glued to poker chips (like a hot dog bun…wait).
  • 8mm and 10mm wooden cubes represent currency, guild power levels, chaos tracker levels, and the players themselves.
  •  A blank hex tile that I haphazardly colored brown to represent the Speaker: a rotating position where someone can control the time allotted during the discussion phase.
  • Printed cutouts for cards on plain, white 90w paper.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

I’m not! Do whatever you need to do to get your game to a point to where it can be played. Even if it’s not winnable, get it to playable. Then play it. Play it at least twice a week. (Play it every day if you can.) Breathe your game in and out. It’s the only way that you’ll be able to correct the essence of your game.

Then why bother trying to put lipstick on this turd?

There are parts of the game that I think could detract from the point of people providing honest feedback about the mechanics of the game. I think there are some easy changes that I can make here to the assets to make the game a little easier on the eyes.

My partner is cutting stamps out of rubber that we can use on wooden chips that I purchased. We’ll make these our new vote tokens.

I also have some metal Spanish doubloon coins! I’ll likely bring those into the mix!

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 That’s smart, maybe no one will notice how crap your game is with those cool trinkets

Must you be so negative all of the time?

It comes naturally when it’s directed at you

Who even invited you here?

You did

That’s not true, I don’t even know you!

But, neutrinoburrito, I am you

Uh oh.

 

 

Categories
Game Reviews

7 Wonders Duel + Pantheon + White Wine: Reimagining a Tabletop Game for Two Players

When I play and review tabletop games, I try to figure out what type of alcoholic drink thematically pairs with them. When I think of a game like 7 Wonders—I think of an alternate history of the old world. At first, I was going to pair this game with a barley wine, but then I thought about what most people drank during the time of Ancient Greece and Rome: white wine.

Truth is, 7 Wonders blends many cultural landmarks, not just that of Ancient Greece and Rome, but also that of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians. These are all different peoples who lived along the Mediterranean Sea. The main reason that I chose white wine is because I’m not much of a wine drinker and I thought that I’d give it a shot. (It wasn’t bad!)

What’s so good about this game?

As a history major (and lover), a game like 7 Wonders intrigues me. As a tabletop gamer, the mechanics of 7 Wonders keep me engaged. As a wine-drinking amateur, I found the white wine we had, a Pinot Grigio called Chloe, to be semi-sweet and smooth.

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We don’t have wine glasses, so a glass from the Vivant brewery will have to do!

7 Wonders Duel is a two-player only reimagining of the game 7 Wonders. The spirit of 7 Wonders is definitely there in Duel, but mechanics are streamlined and meant to only work for two players.

What are the differences between the original 7 Wonders game and Duel?

There are a lot of similarities between the two: you take a card and construct the building on it (granted you have the resources at hand or can trade for them), discard it for sweet coin, or use it to construct a Wonder.

Duel has a few different ways for you to win:

  • Military supremacy—move a military tracker all the way to your opponent’s space
  • Scientific supremacy—collect six out of seven scientific symbols
  • Civilian Victory—after three ages of card drawing have passed, whomever has the most victory points wins

There are other major differences between 7 Wonders and its two-player adaptation. For one, drawing mechanics are different—you arrange the cards in a special pattern for each age, with certain cards face-down or face-up. (You flip over face-down cards when they become uncovered.) You can only draw cards from the pattern which aren’t partially covered.

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Age I starting pattern

Secondly, the trading mechanic works a little differently in Duel. Players pay two coins plus the number of brown or grey cards that their opponent has in order to trade for a resource. There are yellow card buildings that players can employ which lock trading at one coin. (You can see two of them in the image above.)

Wonders also work differently: each player draws four Wonders at the beginning of the game and they can only construct seven Wonders between them—it’s a race for players to construct their anachronistic attractions!

What’s with those little tokens some of the cards?

That’s a part of the Pantheon expansion! In Age I you activate gods from the pantheons of five different ancient civilizations (the Phoenicians, Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Romans, and Grecians).

  • Age I—religious tokens trigger a god to placed in a slot on the pantheon
  • Ages II & III—players pay coins to activate a god’s single-use ability
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The Pantheon board attaches to the top of the base game.

So who won?

My opponent beat me with a rare military victory! When you construct military buildings, you move the military token (that bright red piece on that track of oval-shaped spaces in the image above) one space toward your opponent’s city. If you move it all the way to the end, you win.

Typically, players are able to last out all three ages and compare their victory points, but not this time. My opponent had just a few spaces left to a military victory and I thought that they wouldn’t be able to build any new military buildings, but I was wrong!

What’s your verdict on 7 Wonders Duel?

I love this game. It captures the card generating mechanics and the ancient city development that you’d find in a game like Civilization, while keeping gameplay to a tight 45-60 minute. The Pantheon expansion adds more opportunities for you to change the balance of power in your favor.

I’ll definitely bring 7 Wonders Duel back to the table.

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Categories
Game Reviews

Unearth and Woodinville whisky: are we archeologists or prospectors?

In Unearth, you represent a tribe of The Delvers, a once powerful people who have fallen in disarray. You compete with other tribes of Delvers to restore your ilk back to power by surveying different environments and unearthing (get it?) sturdy minerals and different technologies from ruins to build your civilization back up.

At its core, Unearth tests your luck in an interesting way with a dice-rolling mechanic. Each of your Delvers is represented by a different type of die (one d4, three d6s, and one d8). Select a die, and a landscape—which is represented by a tarot-sized card—then roll your die for that landscape. Each landscape has a number on it, once all dice rolled on that landscape meet or exceed that number, the player with the highest value on the die with the most sides wins that landscape card for end-game scoring.

For example: If there are two dice on a landscape that add up to 10 to meet the landscape card’s value, one player’s d6 who rolled a 5 and another player’s d8 who also rolled a 5, the player who rolled the d8 would win that landscape.

So it’s a dice battling game?

Sort of, but the theme and some of the counter-balancing mechanics make Unearth a little easier to lick your wounds from a loss. Another element (pun intended) to the game is the collection of minerals, represented as hexes with a cube design on them, which allow you to construct wonders. Wonders grant you special abilities and give you additional points at the end of the game. You can only collect minerals if you roll a 1, 2, or 3, so your turn isn’t completely wasted if you didn’t get a high value. Collecting minerals is also a great strategy if you find yourself unlucky at collecting landscape cards.

If you lose a landscape card to someone else, you also get Delver cards, which you can play to give you a slight advantage or put your opponents at a disadvantage before you roll your die.

For a game that is primarily based around luck, there are plenty of opportunities to try and score points with bad luck.

Doesn’t the artwork look a bit like…?

Yes. The artwork appears to be a rip-off of inspired by Monument Valley’s combination of vivid colors and minimalist “iconography” artwork that purposefully uses color and shape to depict the illusion of depth instead of shading techniques.

It’s a beautiful artistic approach and it’s good to see it embraced by a tabletop game.

Why Woodinville?

We had two drinks, Woodinville neat and mixed with Rachel’s Ginger Beer (lemonade version). Bourbon and Rachel’s Ginger Beer go well together. Woodinville straight also has a great flavor with the punch of whisky and the sweet undertones of Bourbon. Everything from the color to the bottle screams one thing at me: prospecting.

Unearth doesn’t have a theme based on a real location, rather the theme is artfully ambiguous. When I think of this game, I think of gambling; I think of gold digging; I think of prospecting. And I think of whisky. Don’t you?

I thought that you didn’t like games that relied on chance as their main mechanic

I typically don’t but Unearth balances that chance with augment-your-luck opportunities (Delver cards) and benefits to getting low values (Mineral hexes). I’ll admin that while I do like the game and have replayed it a few times, when I look at my catalogue for something to play—it’s not my first pick.

Categories
Game Reviews

Century Golem Edition & Field to Ferment: Rethemed Game with a Rethemed Beer

In my last pairing, I voiced disappointment with the form of cultural appropriation that happens in tabletop games with giving games that have a market, buying, or trading system a generic “middle eastern” or “Indian” theme. Century: Spice Road is one of many games which fall into that category, so I was pleased to see this game fitted with a new skin.

Really? Another scalding on cultural appropriation?

I love Century: Spice Road. It’s another European-style (lovingly referred to as a Eurotrash game) game which focuses on gameplay mechanics, balance, and having multiple strategies to gain the most victory points and win. The game focuses on collecting and upgrading different spices in your caravan that you’ll sell to merchants to gain victory points. At its core, Century: Spice Road is a resource management game. You must make decisions on whether to keep or upgrade resources to get that merchant card that you want. Merchant cards are your key path to victory in the game. Using your spices to buy 5 merchant cards ends the game, and the player with the most victory points wins.

Century: Golem Edition’s mechanics are no different from the original. The game is a “retheme,” meaning that the only difference between Spice Road and Golem Edition is the artwork and core story.

(I know the diamonds are upside down here.)

In Century: Golem Edition, you collect gems (equivalent to Spice Road’s various spices) which you can use to power golems (Spice Road’s merchant victory point cards). Here’s my recommendation if you’re wondering whether to buy this game or not:

If you already own Century: Spice Road, I’d recommend against purchasing Golem Edition unless you prefer different artwork.

Golem Edition is a great retheme. I didn’t own Century: Spice Road, although I have played it a few times, so I leapt at this game when I saw it at friendly local game store (FLGS). I think that the artwork on the cards (especially the golems) and replacement of spices (which were painted, wooden cubes) with gems (which are translucent hard plastic) is for the better. I’m glad to see this resource management and trading game take on a new life with these fantasy elements.

I played this game with one other person—this game works well with two players but can support up to six.

What is Field to Ferment and why did you pair it with Golem Edition?

Just as Century: Golem Edition is a retheme of a tabletop game, Field to Ferment is a retheme, of sorts, of a beer. It’s a beer with three different variations, which are each brewed the same way but with different types of hops added! We performed a tasting of all three variations.

Field to Ferment has three variants: one made with Centennial hops, another with Simcoe, and one with Citra hops. I love all three versions of this beer. Field to Ferment is a nice, well-rounded (but on the lighter side) ale with a great finish that reflects hops from the Pacific Northwest region. It’s brewed by Fremont Brewing, which I consider to be one of the best breweries in the PNW. This beer is interesting, because the only difference in flavor is the hop variation.

Each variation brings unique notes to the taste:

  • Centennial hops have a smooth, slightly herbal taste with a clean finish
  • Simcoe—my favorite of the three—has a strong pine flavor but also with a clean finish
  • Citra hops, to me, had a similar taste to the Centennial but with interesting citrus notes

Just as Century: Golem Edition is the same game with a new skin, Field to Ferment is the same beer with a different flavor.

I get it. But why care so much about these variations on the same thing?

You can gain a lot of insight by looking at the same thing with a different perspective. Making slight variations on the same thing, whether it’s making a small change to something that you’re creating or making a minor change to your daily routine for the better, you can stimulate yourself such that you think outside of the box. To me, this can turn a fun game with a common, Indian goods and spices trading theme into a fun, whimsical game about powering friendly golems with gems.

In the same vein, hop farmers who dared to innovate on selectively cultivating their hops have produced interesting flavors which create a trademark for a great beer three times over.

Thanks for reading! Until next time…