When I think of a game I take with me to a café, I think of the smallest game in my collection. It takes up a tiny footprint, fits in my pocket or my partner’s purse and is a quick and easy game to play whilst waiting for a sandwich and a hot chocolate. That game is a retheming of the classic micro game, Love Letter, and places us firmly in the Marvel Universe with Infinity Gauntlet: A Love Letter Game. In this game, players are split in a one-against-all fashion, with one player taking on the role of Thanos the Mad Titan, and the others set up as the Avengers. In a twist from original Love Letter, the players have their own goals. Thanos is attempting to gather all the Infinity Stones, and the Avengers… well they want to defeat Thanos. In order to achieve them, the players will play a card on their turn and resolve its power. If a card lets you fight an opponent, whomever has the higher value card wins and deals a damage to the opponent.
What I love about this game is that it does away with the thing I disliked the most in Love Letter: the player elimination. Because it’s a team against one, it’s all or nothing. And it scales well for a two-player game, with the Avengers player having two turns back-to-back. It’s one of our favourite games to take anywhere we go, and it’ll probably stay that way for a long time to come.
Usually, if there were bugs on my cafe table I would complain! But not if they are the bug pieces from Hive. Hive is my go-to gaming option when out and about with my husband. It comes in a small pouch. Perfect to pop into a handbag. Better still, it can be played in a reasonably small space.
In Hive you are trying to capture the other player’s queen bee. To do this you have to catch her in a circle of pieces. These can be your opponent's pieces as well as your own. There are four different bugs, besides to the queen, and these all move in different ways. The ant has a lot of movement around the Hive. The grasshopper can hop over other pieces, presenting a surprise! The spider can move three spaces around the hive. The beetle can only move one space, but it can climb on top of other pieces. But whatever you move, you can never break the hive. You always have to have the pieces connected to each other. This presents a challenge when considering how to move your pieces and can lead to some very clever gameplay.
The base rules are very simple though - perfect for when you are waiting for that caffeine fix. Games are often very quick too. Most of our games of Hive are about 15 minutes. That means you can set up again for a quick replay before you finish your drink.
Small game footprint, fits in a handbag, great gameplay. What more could you want with your coffee?
On a trip out, my bag is always filled with little card games to pull out when the conversation dries up or you need a break from cake (if such a thing exists!). 2005’s Addams Family-esque addition to the hobby, Gloom is one such game that makes its way on my journeys. Designed by Keith Baker, Gloom is a card game with a few kooky differences. Each player is given a family of cards to place face up in front of them. All of them have wonderfully macabre flavour text with a great sense of humour and your job is to kill them all off whilst they are at their most miserable. You see, Gloom is all about scoring negative points. The more negative points your family has at the end the better. Oh, and they must be dead to score. The key element of this game is you are over-laying clear plastic cards in order to change the mood of characters either in front of you, or your opponents. Each card will cover certain scores, some negative and some positive, and offer new ones as well as icons that might allow for bonus points when they are killed. You also have special ability cards you can play that will allow extra powerful plays like bring someone’s character back from the dead or to kill off one of your own. The game encourages storytelling as you play cards and it’s great fun finding a way for characters to go through the events played in the most creative ways. And it works terrifically at two players. In fact, I prefer the game at two or three as it allows for more detailed storytelling and it doesn’t outstay its welcome, which at the higher player count it has a tendency to. Not to mention the wipe clean plastic cards make it much less of a worry when playing with stick, cakey fingers or the inevitable spilled tea.
I love playing games when we head to a café. Granted we don’t get much time to indulge our Costa addiction much at the moment. But when we do, sitting down with a game is the cherry on top of the coffee cake!
One thing cafes don’t have much of though is space. Tables are usually a bit of a squeeze, particularly those designed for two! But have no fear for there are plenty of small box, big fun games out there that will go down as smooth as your single shot macchiato with caramel! And Battle Line by GMT games is indeed one of our personal go-to choices.
This sharp strategic game is a hand management duel to capture flags courtesy of Reina Knizia’s cunning card play.Using just one horizontal line 9 cards long, a few pawns, and a deck, this game is perfect for 2 gamers who take no prisoners in small spaces!
Simple to learn, you play armies fighting to secure 3 or 5 “flags” by creating the most powerful troop formations. And power here comes in the form of laying 3 card poker-style sets. But with only ever seven cards in your weaponry (including optional special power Troop cards) you must rely on your mind to mitigate your constantly evolving hand of cards. You know you have to lay a card. But you won’t want to lay a card and tip off your opponent. But you have to lay a card. Ooh it’s crunchier than a cornflake covered cucumber!
With games taking around 20/30 mins to play, you won’t need caffeine to keep you going. But I challenge you to stop after a single session. This game gets under your skin and you’ll demand the chance to go again. Lucky for you, you’re at a café! Waiter, please can we have another round? We armies fight on our stomachs!
Shards Of Infinity – John H
Back in the 90’s at uni I got hooked on Magic the Gathering and it became my go to game for whiling away the hours in the café in the Student’s Union. I am proud to say I eventually kicked the habit, and have been clear since about 1996. In fact about three years ago, when I found the cards in an old shoe box I resisted the temptation and sold them. That said, I miss it – you never give MtG up, you just stop using. So I am a sucker for a lean head-to-head card game, as long as it’s not collectible.... or even an LCG. And I love a good two-player game you can play in a café.
Shards really scratches that itch. Sure, it’s a deck builder: a game in which you build as you play rather than crafting a deck before you start. But to be honest it is all the better for it. Mechanically it combines the usual attack/shield/heal and buy card effects common in many deck builders with a levelling system. Some cards will grant extra effects as you hit particular levels. But ultimately the level cap of 30 allows you to trigger the infinite damage of the Infinity Shard card in everyone’s common starting deck of 10. The cards are in 4 factions, each with a different theme and mechanical flavour and as the market cycles there are interesting decisions about how much to specialise. Card synergies are smart and interesting. You can play it with 2, 3 or 4 and it’s over and done in about 15-20 mins depending on player count. It packs down fairly small and doesn’t hog too much table – so it’s a great cafe game. Equally if you pick up the expansions and build content and rules out can make for a crunchier experience with a gang of gamers. I really think this is best in class and well worth picking up the core set.