One of the biggest cliches in football states that it is a “game of two halves.” Sometimes one half of the game can be completely different from the other. This can also be the case with board games too – so here are five examples of games where the second half feeds very different from the first!
Claim - Hannah Blacknell
Claim is the literal interpretation of a game of two halves since each game has two distinct stages. In the first stage you are playing cards to win tricks and curate your hand for the following stage. You win then you can take the card in the centre, if you don’t want it then you get to draw blind. The other option goes to your opponent. Once you have played through your hand, then we move onto stage two. During stage two you play a standard hand of trick taking, and your aim is to win points. You want to collect the largest number of each type of card for scoring purposes.
This is a two player only twist on a trick taker. You use the basics of play on suit if you can, and high beats low. Except each of the card types has a different special ability which may trigger in round one or in round two. These cards instead of suits are factions like dragons, gnomes, seers, dwarves etc. Some will help you see what cards you can choose from in order to choose your best option (the seer is an example). Other cards like the Dragon will let you lead the next trick regardless of whether you won or lost this one. In each version of the game, you have different faction cards available to you, but the general premise of the game remains the same.
If you have enjoyed Fox in the Forest, The Crew: Mission Deep Sea or The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine, then you cannot go wrong picking up this one. There are a bunch of different options, all are a twist on the basic, I think my favourite is probably Claim 2.
Brass Birmingham - Drew Leonard
Brass: Birmingham very openly separates play into two distinct halves. These are the canal era and the rail era. At first the differences seem surface-level. Canals and trains use different network links, some of the earlier buildings aren’t allowed in the rail era, and rail links need coal. You can also build multiple network links with one action in the rail era, which costs more and requires beer. Otherwise the rules of the game are the same in each half.
But when you start playing in the rail era, the less obvious differences start to become clear. First, some (but not all) buildings stay on the board at the end of the canal era. This means you then have to piece your network back together with those as your starting points. And the buildings that give the most points cost more, both in money and in resources. This quickly drains your cash reserves as coal, iron and beer disappear from the board. Beer in particular is easy to undervalue judging only on the canal era. But suddenly in the rail era everyone wants it so they can sell goods and build rail links.
These differences make the two halves of the game feel very different. The canal era feels quite free and open, with the endless possibility of an empty board. You can start your industrial network anywhere, every type of building is available and resources are plentiful, even if you don’t have a lot of money. The rail era, on the other hand, feels like a mad dash to reconnect your industries and refill the market with resources. Meanwhile, you only have a few turns left to use those resources and gather all-important victory points.
For Sale – Panto Pete
For Sale, if ever there was a game of two halves this is it. A very clear divide too. It’s all about buying and selling property. In the first half of the game you compete to buy all the properties until they’re all gone then in the second half – you guessed it! – you compete to sell them all.
There are 30 properties from 1 a cardboard box all the way up (literally) to 30 a space station. The delightful artwork makes For Sale a joy. Properties are dealt out, face up, equal to the number of players. (For 4 players 2 properties are first removed).
You now bid to get the highest value card on offer. You either bid higher than the previous bid or drop out and take the lowest card. If you have already made a bid in this auction you pay half the coins you’ve staked and get back the other half rounded in your favour (not the bank’s as stated in the Zatu review!) If you have’nt bid you get the property for free! This is where the tactics comes in. If the properties are all similar in value you might as well keep your money in your pocket but if the difference is great it’s worth vying for the top cards.
Once all properties are bought you sell them. There are 30 cheques ranging from 15,000 to Zero! A number of cheques equal to the number of players are played face up and each of the players secretly choses a property to play. These are revealed simultaneously and the highest number gets the biggest cheque and so on down. Once all the cheques have gone, total up to find a winner.
A quick and easy, brilliant game of two halves.
Paris: La Cite De La Lumiere - Andy Broomhead
Ah Paris. Known as the city of lights since the early 1800s, but now at the end of the 19th century, the city’s twinkling gas streetlights are on the verge of being replaced by electric lighting. Can you place lights to highlight and inspire the many artists of the French capital?
This is the first game that springs to mind for me when I think about those split into two clear halves. The early game revolves around you and your opponent placing cobblestone tiles onto the board which is beautifully set inside the box or taking an available building tile. Getting your own colour of stones on the board and intertwining them with the shared spaces is crucial as you weave spaces for buildings to be bathed in light.
The second phase sees you adding building tiles to your cobblestone spaces, scoring for the size of the building multiplied by the number of adjacent light spaces. You’ll also score for the largest contiguous area of buildings as well, so how well you’ve laid your foundations in the first half is the key to success.
I love Paris: La Cité de la Lumière. It’s a great two player game where you’re solving the same puzzle twice, in slightly different ways. You can give yourself a good start, but being able to adapt in the second phase is a real skill. The pieces and art are really evocative of late 19th century France, and the action postcards, which give you one-off bonuses or abilities to ‘break’ a game rule on a turn are beautifully illustrated too.
This really gripped me from the first time I played. It feels different enough each time and gives you two wonderful puzzles within the same game.
Fjords – The Midland Meeple
The reason I decided to do a feature on games with two halves is because within about a week of each other, I was chipping in on other features by writing about Fjords and Jaws. Both of these games are played over two halves and got me wondering how many others were like it.
In a game of Fjords, players work together to construct the player board. They do this by adding one of the four available fjord tiles, beautifully illustrated by the talented Beth Sobel, to the board. During this phase, players can also opt to add one of their four longhouses to the board. The reason you’d want to do this becomes apparent in the second half.
In the second half of the game, Fjords turns from a tile placement game to an area control game. Each player has an army of 25 Vikings and in turn are going to add them to the board. Vikings can only be added to spaces that are adjacent to a longhouse or another of Viking of that colour. Unless you play with the runestone variants, Vikings cannot cross over water, mountains or empty spaces which may occur.
When you’re teaching Fjords, it’s really hard to convey how important the placement of longhouses is for the second half of the game, because it feels like the game does a bit of a handbrake turn. It shifts from being a nice almost cooperative experience, to being a cutthroat game of spite and cutting off your opponents. Once you’ve played the full game, you also realise how important it is to try and build the board around your longhouses, rather than trying to just simply get tiles on the board. Its low ruleset make Fjords a great intro to the hobby and a great family-weight game!