There are certain games that have been sitting on my shelf since the start of lockdown. Not being allowed visitors did mean that it was the games for two players that got the most attention. But excitingly this month, we could actually visit my family! So we loaded up the car with games and headed off.
My family can get very vocal about board games. This time we decided to tailor the games to keep everyone quiet and hopefully calm. The Mind is a simple game, but it went down very well. The idea is you have to place a set of cards in numerical order. It sounds easy, but no one is allowed to communicate. No talking, no gestures, no facial expressions, nothing. You start at level 1 with one card each, then level 2 with two and so on. It is wonderfully simple to learn and fiendishly hard to do. We thought we would play a quick game while waiting for lunch to be done and suddenly we had an audience. Even the people who aren’t as interested in games wanted to join in. What was supposed to be a little distraction turned into an afternoon.
Then we focused on quiet, but not calm. My rediscovered game, Magic Maze, is a terrific game and this was the first time we got to play it with more than two people. Against the clock, you work as a team to complete a series of tasks. However, each player has a specific action that only they can do. You have to coordinate to move the pawns, but again, there is no communication. Having six players made it even more stressful than with two.
These games had been briefly forgotten, but will definitely come out more frequently now that we can play with more than two!
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small (ACBAS) is the two-player version of the popular Uwe Rosenberg game Agricola. I must admit, I have never played Agricola. But, a two-player game involving animals is right up my street!
This is a rediscovered game that has been in my collection for some time. For some time though it has been left languishing at the back of the shelf. A few weeks ago, after a discussion about other Uwe Rosenberg games, my husband suggested that we play it. I am very pleased that he did.
In ACBAS you are trying to build up your farm of animals. Each player starts with a two by three board with a cottage on it. In order to place animals, you need to build pastures by putting fences around fields. A pasture can hold two animals per square in the pasture. You can build feeding troughs to increase the number of animals a pasture can hold. Players can also build buildings. Some are worth points, whilst others give you more resources or just space to store your animals.
The game takes place over eight rounds so it is quick to play. At the end of the game, you get points for how many animals you have of each type. You also get bonus points for having more than a certain number of each type of animal. If you don’t have enough you will lose points. I am yet to be able to get enough of all four types of animal to get no negative points. But it is an enjoyable challenge I am working on!
Since rediscovering ACBAS we have played it several times. I can see us playing several more games of it in the very near future!
So I last played Love Letter a couple of years ago as a filler one evening, having heard this was a classic in achieving so much with so little. I thought it was … fine. Yes, clever, minimalist and elegant to a point – but for me a bit too thin on substance.
Then a kind fellow blogger gifted my rediscovered game, Infinity Gauntlet, as a Secret Santa and my curiosity was piqued. I enjoy the Marvel franchise – been a comic fan in my youth and enjoyed the films – but worry that in games it is an overused IP that can be used to cover up mechanical shortfall. Not as bad as Cthulhu for that, but perhaps a close second. Still, I was interested to play this, and reading the rules it seemed like it might have a bit more to it than its original inspiration. When I could get three more together to play I was up for it… and so, given Covid, for months it sat mothballed.
Until I read somewhere that it was good with two, and so it came on holiday to try out with my daughter. What a great surprise! Still quick and simple, but the asymmetry of Avengers vs Thanos made all the difference. Equally the use of a combat mechanic, power tokens and health points had a really positive impact on the game. It created interesting decisions of what to play and how to whittle down your opponent. It also means that with higher player counts there is no mid-game player elimination. And the team vs one play provides an enjoyable dynamic in 3+ games. All this in a nifty little purple bag, at a very affordable price – if you are buying it for yourself. A real win – sort of re-discovered. Far better than the original and a really worthy addition to the shelf.
I recently updated my top 100 games of all time list out of morbid curiosity for how lockdown had affected my tastes over the past six months. Certainly, games with a good solo mode and/or available on an online platform have gone up in my estimation. None have gone up higher though than my rediscovered game for May: 7 Wonders Duel.
I have to say I’m not a massive fan of the original 7 Wonders. Something about it overloads my head; I forget my strategy easily and what I’ve already passed on etc. etc. But 7 Wonders Duel, with its clever little drafting tableaus, syncs up better with how my brain works. I can plan ahead and keep focused.
Partly fuelled by online play and partly by the introduction of the new Agora expansion, I have got back into this tight two-player tug-of-war big time. I love the multiple routes to victory that also represent different ways to lose. You need to keep a constant eye on what your opponent is doing while pushing forward with your own plans.
This leads to some genuinely difficult choices when drafting cards. Do you take that science card to bring you one step closer to victory? Or do you need to draft a red card to peg your opponent’s militaristic aspirations back? Add to this the push-your-luck gamble of revealing hidden cards in the pyramid and you get a tense experience that is as exhilarating as it is exasperating.
7 Wonders Duel is one of those perfect two-player games that is easy to pick up, but rewards replayability with simple gameplay coupled with intriguing strategy. If you are into head-to-head gaming, give it a try even if, like me, you didn’t get on too well with its older sibling.