Article by: Jillian Schmett
Hey everyone! With February 14th approaching, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of games that I think will be good for the occasion. So whether you plan on celebrating Valentine’s Day (with your sweetheart), Gal-entine’s Day (with your favorite ladies), or Pal-entine’s Day (with your regular game group or just some people you found on the street that agreed to play a game with you, although they gave you some weird looks when you asked…), have a look and see some of the options out there that I recommend!
First, I’ll highlight some 2 player-only games that I’ve enjoyed:
Patchwork (Uwe Rosenberg; 2014): Patchwork is a great abstract 2 player game in which you are acquiring fabric using buttons for currency and constructing a quilt on your player board. This game has been a favorite for many since it’s release and if you enjoy tile placement and Tetris you should definitely check it out.
Jaipur (Sebastien Pauchon; 2009): Another long-time favorite among 2 player games, Jaipur incorporates hand management, card drafting, and set collection smoothly and plays in about 30 minutes. Collect and sell cards, or trade camels to try to gain the most points and the title of most powerful trader in the city! It comes in a small box and has a relatively small footprint so it would be great if you plan on spending the evening at a restaurant, pub, or anywhere that would require compact games.
Lost Cities (Reiner Knizia; 1999): Lost Cities is the oldest game in this article and has proven it’s staying power. Designed by well-known German designer Reiner Knizia, that alone is enough to convince some people to give it a shot. It’s a hand management, set collecting card game with deceptively simple mechanisms being used to create a great 2 player gaming experience.
Codenames Duet (Vlaada Chvatil, Scot Eaton; 2017): After the massive success of the original Codenames, many versions have followed, and each have been enjoyable (in my opinion, at least. My entire half-shelf dedicated to them can attest to that). 2 player variants have existed for years, but 2017 finally delivered Codenames Duet, which was designed specifically for 2. It stays true to the experience offered by the original, and the 2 player adaptation was done well. If you have enjoyed other versions of Codenames in the past, I don’t think you will be disappointed by this one.
The Fox in the Forest (Joshua Buergel; 2017): A trick-taking game that works for 2 players is nearly impossible to implement, but The Fox in the Forest does and it does it well. The implementation of special card powers allows this and the fact that it’s entirely composed of a deck of cards and plays in approximately 30 minutes means that it’s another great option for gaming while out and about. I just got this game myself about a week ago and have enjoyed it very much.
Now, here are some games that I think work well at 2 players but also accommodate higher player counts.
Castles of Burgundy (Stefan Feld; 2011): One of my all-time favorite games, Castles of Burgundy is, in my opinion, Stefan Feld’s best work. It seamlessly implements dice rolling, set collection, tile placement, and variable phase order to create a 30-90 playing experience that I have enjoyed countless times and at all player counts. The art is rather bland, as is usually the case with Feld games, but if that doesn’t bother you then this point-salad is a wonderful gaming dish to be enjoyed any time of year.
Sagrada (Adrian Adamescu, Daryl Andrews; 2017): Released this past year, this dice rolling, pattern building, set collection game has been one of my favorites since my very first play. The art is beautiful, and the brightly colored dice are fun, although a bit small. I think it almost has the feel of a roll-and-write game (which I love) and I have enjoyed it at many player counts, although admittedly I like it best at 2. I have heard that the solo gameplay is almost impossible to beat, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve also heard that the special power cards can be OP, but honestly I haven’t found that to be the case in my games. Perhaps we just play a different strategy than most people? I can’t be sure but I do highly recommend this game if you enjoy dice rolling/placement and are looking for a fun game on the lighter side.
Exit the Game Series (Inka and Markus Brand): So far there are 6 Exit games released in English, and 4 more scheduled for 2018. I have played all 6 available and have thoroughly enjoyed every one of them. These games do a great job of bringing the feel of an escape room to the game table. They are a one-time experience, as components will need to be destroyed to solve the puzzles, but at a price point of approximately $13 I have not found that to be a problem. I will say that, although these games can be played at higher counts, so far my best experiences have been at 2, because it can be little difficult to share all the information and components necessary to solve the puzzles if there are a lot of people at the table.
San Juan (Andrew Seyfarth; 2004): Based on the classic, Puerto Rico, San Juan implements the city building and economic categories with only a deck of cards. I have played this game many times and it has remained a favorite for years now. It has simple mechanisms but the decisions you make continue to feel important throughout the game. The way the cards are used as currency and also buildings/goods makes for a more in-depth gaming experience than you would expect from a deck of cards.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective (Various designers and publishers): Originally appearing over 30 years ago, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective has seen many reprints, revisions, and expansions in that time. Consisting of a few books outlining different cases (to be played in different sessions), a map, some newspapers, and a few other booklets with information, this game is probably along the lines of escape games in that it could be considered more of “an experience” than a board game. Working together to gather information, you will be trying to solve various murders and see how your investigating skills hold up against the great Sherlock Holmes. I received this game this past Christmas (2017) and have absolutely loved it. It’s definitely not for everyone, as it involves a LOT of reading, note-taking, and can be quite difficult, but I have found it extremely satisfying to try to solve the cases with the information provided (even though we are usually terrible at it and have never come close to matching Sherlock’s score, let alone beating it). If you enjoy mind-puzzles and crime-solving, this is definitely a game you should check out.
**Games that I feel are worth mentioning in this article, although I have not played them:
Fog of Love (Jacob Jaskov; 2017): This 2 player deduction game that incorporates bluffing has been described as both an excellent and a horrible experience for couples. I think whether you enjoy it or not depends greatly on your ability to role-play, become engrossed in a theme/game, and also to leave all of that at the table. As I said, I have not played this yet but I really would like to, as I think my husband and I would really enjoy it.
And Then We Held Hands (David Chircop, Yannick Massa; 2015): This is a 2 player abstract card game that is cooperative and has players working together to complete objectives and reach the center of the board. Players take turns trying to fulfill the current common emotional objective by discarding emotion cards, but they must do so without verbal communication. The idea is to be able to empathize with each other and consider each other’s decision making when making a move. It seems like an interesting concept that would really be enjoyed by some.
And that’s it for this week! Thanks for tuning in and if you’ve read this far I hope you found at least some of this helpful. Happy Valentine’s Day to all and even if you don’t plan on celebrating it, I think we can all agree that half-price chocolate on February 15th is something to look forward to!
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