Few things are more enjoyable than finding out that the gamer gene has been passed on. My son Alaric clearly has it and those that follow my plays will see that my recent board game selections have been all about enjoying the kind of experience games that a 14-year old will more likely embrace. Don’t get me wrong, Alaric has enjoyed SDJ nominee Splendor in recent days, loves Hanabi, and has been enthusiastic about my family’s run through the Alea series. But there is no question that when push comes to shove, he’ll often reach for Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game or Zombicide, so I’m learning to enjoy those kind of games more.
But the inquiry I got tonight was special – my nephew asked about two-player games to get to play with his new girlfriend (who we had the pleasure of meeting recently). Of course, it’s just not my doing since his step-father is a gamer friend of mine as well so we both got the request. But since I’m the one with a gaming blog, I figured I would include my list here for those who might be seeking some great couples games. So, here’s what I’m telling him to get to ease that casual-gamer partner into the fold with some titles that introduce the concepts of euro games without overwhelming your novice.
1. Lost Cities – It’s almost a given that this is on all two-player game lists – gamers call it ‘the Couples Game’. Unfortunately, this beautifully-illustrated and relatively light set collection card game from Reiner Knizia looks to be out of print so the link from the title will only lead to overpriced gougers on Amazon. Wait for the reprint and then enjoy!
2. Jaipur – A relatively new game but one that jumped onto top 2-player game lists quickly. Sebastian Pauchon’s delightful little trading and buying game plays quickly, has a little bit of luck, and has some good options for trying a new strategy next time. Click the name to buy it on Amazon.com at a pretty solid price.
3. Carcassonne – A eurogame classic, Carc is best when you stick with the original game (ignore the endless expansions). It plays beautifully with two, has a puzzle aspect to it, and you can also enjoy it when another couple or your kids join you for a game (it scales well up to five). We kind of like the Winter Edition, which is the basic game with a harmless expansion that ties in the holiday theme. Readers of BGB know I love holiday games so you know this has a permanent home in my collection (complete with Grinch, Elf, and Snowman Meeples from Meeplesource.com).
4. Qwirkle – Susan McKinley Ross’ SDJ winning game is jokingly called “Scrabble for Cavemen” but it is actually just a really good way to get a similar play experience without comparing vocabularies. While this is most obviously best when you play with kids, it doesn’t hurt to level the playing field for couples, too. Regardless, Qwirkle uses shapes and color instead of letters so you make rows and columns of like items instead of words. And it’s a blast. Try also the Expansions, which add some fun variation – plus, this one will also scale well for more players. I also prefer the Travel Edition for just that purpose – it’s a great game to take on a trip.
5.Ticket To Ride – Another bona fide classic of the euro game genre, this SDJ winner is celebrating its 10 Year Anniversary with a massive, gorgeous Anniversary Edition of the game, but you can also enjoy this rummyesque train-themed game from the mighty Alan Moon on maps from all over the place, each with its own feel and sometimes some new rules. There are many more little expansions but the best expansions are just getting new maps, including the tight-and-exciting Ticket To Ride: Nordic Countries version (particularly good for two and also loosely themed to Christmas) and the similarly-scaled Switzerland map (available on the back of the fine India map). They’re all good and the game scales in interesting ways (the blocking and route misery with five is completely different from the two-player route grab and ticket contests). Such a great game!
6. Pandemic – The inventive designer Matt Leacock may not have created the genre of ‘cooperative games’ (where players work together against the game system) but he sure awakened it in a huge way with his brilliant game Pandemic. This plays really well with two and scale nicely up to four. He has expansions
for it and has created kid-friendly cooperative games, too (Forbidden Island feels like a great “Pandemic-light” while the excellent Forbidden Desert
has some clever new ideas and a feel all its own). I recommend and own them all.
These are all pretty mainstream gamer choices. I’ll be posting a second list soon for games you may not be able to order on Amazon or find at your local game store or Barnes and Noble, yet they are worth seeking out.