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What games work particularly well with just two people? The girlfriend and I like to play Othello, a game which no one I know seems to have heard of (nor by its other name, Reversi). It's great because the rules are simple, and we're about as good as each other so it never ends up being boring for either of us.

We have a copy of Carcassonne, but we got off to a really bad start with that one. Our first game just sort of "happened", as neither of us really knew how to play to win, so we didn't get to strategise which meant we didn't feel like we were "playing". I'm keen to give it another go though, I think it's a case of re-reading the rules and maybe having an actual person explain it to me before trying it on the lady again.

Ticket to Ride was fairly enjoyable, the map is a little big for just two which meant the interaction between us was a little limited, but it can still be an interesting game if you make efforts to interfere with your opponent's planned routes. I hear there are expansions that are better suited to smaller groups, with smaller maps.

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Aye, Carcassonne will work well, but you do need to get a feel for the game first. Like all games with a random mechanic (the drawing mechanism in this case) there is a degree of luck to things, of course, but it is a game which allows for many viable strategies to help put the odds in your favour - but it's this freedom which can make it initially a bit overwhelming, even though mechanically it's fairly simple.

The only advice I can really give without being there is: next time, have a set basic strategy to aim for from the outset, and go for it. Er, which might sound like odd advice to someone who isn't used to the system, but basically there are a few different ways to play the game (I should mention I'm rusty - it's been a few years - and I was never a 'master' of Carcassonne or anything like that - I've just played it a good few times :) ):

  • Play constructively - just focus on making large and numerous cities. The most obvious tactic, but actually a difficult one - you need to get used to the tiles to work out what sorts of sizes you can make reliably, and what shapes work well
  • Play 'destructively' - try and make your opponent's cities impossible to complete (by placing terrain in ways that make it difficult to close, e.g. sticking several roads pointing towards an empty spot they need to fill with city walls to close it off - means they'll need a city + crossroads tile, which isn't too likely)
  • Focus on agriculture. By which I mean, aim to score most of your points in the endgame, using farmers and priests. But particularly farmers.

Generally, you'll actually want to mix these tactics up (learning to recognise the endgame, i.e. when you want to stop focussing on cities and start making farmers, is a core part of the game, as well as knowing when to build and when to sabotage), but to be able to do so reliably you'll need to get used to the game, hence my suggestion to focus on one aspect at a time. At least the game is quite fast, which means that you should be able to run through a few more games quickly and get the hang of things :)

(alternatively, as you say, try and find a regular Carcassonne player and play with them :D )

Um, anyway, that's enough Carcassonne talk :D

Great 2-player games... well, there's always Games Workshop's games. Specifically, their specialist games. Specifically specifically, Space Hulk. Oh, and Blood Bowl. Expensive, but great fun, and very random (and in the case of Space Hulk, absolutely rock hard for the Marines player, which is actually a large part of the appeal). Other than that... sadly, I'm a big fan of 3+ player games. Oh, I've always been a big fan of Stratego too - the fog of war/hidden unit mechanic is something I really like. See also Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, though I've not played that.

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There are loads of fantastic two player games around. Some of my favourite ones that are also easy to learn would include:

Pick n Pack: be careful with this one as it can be brutal. Not only player interaction but absolute player fuck you. It's great though. :)

Monkey Dash: a great quick game.

Mr Jack: A great two player deduction game. One plays the detective and the other the killer.

Hive: may be good for you since it's basically an abstract like othello. Actually Monkey Dash also fits this description.

Jambo: A fun game about buying and selling.

Then you get the biggies like 1960, War of the Ring or Twilight struggle. :) These are all long, involved and rather trickier to learn.

My current favourite is Gosu but it's harder to teach and learn. It's worth keeping in mind though.

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Othello :wub: I had an old travel Othello game many years ago that was almost impossible to open, and when you did eventually manage it, the pieces went everywhere.

It seems to be Game Du Jour at the moment, but Dominion is great with two players, and can be played with up to 5 (and potentially more too). The standard set is pretty simple, and there's lots of scope for replayability as you will play with a different set of cards each game.

Summoner Wars is pretty simple, not all that expensive, and a good laugh - if you've ever played any of the Advance Wars games then think of that, but with cards, and with elves and shit instead of Nell, Andy and Sami. Simple to learn and difficult to master.

If you like playing together to achieve a common goal, Pandemic is playable with two, though does benefit from three or four - you're trying to prevent the extinction of the human race by the flu, and you travel around the world trying to treat people, find the cure for four distinct diseases all whilst managing outbreaks of the disease around the world, which can happen with alarming regularity.

All three games are expandable if you get in to them, Dominion has four expansions though the base set alone will keep you occupied for plenty of time; Summoner Wars has at least one expansion, and Pandemic has one expansion which provides a load of extra game modes and also a load of petri dishes to keep your game pieces in :D

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Oh man, I think I have an Othello at my mum's house! I never learned how to play it.

I echo most of what Donk has said, Summoner Wars and Dominion are probably the best 2, along with Carcasonne and MAYBE Ticket To Ride, although the last one I've only played on XBLA.

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I found this Carcassone tutorial on youtube really useful. It's mostly how to play but I think it touches on strategy on the way. I've only played a few times but strategy seems to either be to focus on building up your own points or hampering your opponent : making their cities so big they are impossible to complete has cropped up a lot in the games i've played.

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I'm sure there are loads of great card-based games for two players, but for us, what tends to work best are the more tactile games. Games with pieces. TtR was great because of all the little trains, and I'm keen to try Carcassonne again because having an evolving board with little meeples on should be fun. I have Zombies!!! too, but I think the girlfriend is less keen on the sort of B-movie humour it uses and that's a game which works best with a group rather than a couple anyway.

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I had a travel Othello set as well... struggle to open... ping!... pieces rain down everywhere... pretty sure it was this one-

PressmanPocketOpen.jpg

Have you tried Dominoes? Seriously, I've been playing it quite a bit for the past few weeks- didn't realise how much tactics there was in it and how many opportunities it threw up to screw over the opposition. I hadn't played it for years and years (probably not since I was kid) but I've really been enjoying it.

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Ticket to Ride was fairly enjoyable, the map is a little big for just two which meant the interaction between us was a little limited, but it can still be an interesting game if you make efforts to interfere with your opponent's planned routes. I hear there are expansions that are better suited to smaller groups, with smaller maps.

Ticket To Ride is an awesome game but you will indeed be missing out on some of the pressures and cut-throat aspects with only two of you. We usually have five player games which can be really manic. You can get the Ticket To Ride: Switzerland expansion for about £15 which has a smaller board making it suitable for just 2-3 players which should make your games more engaging.

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I'm in the same boat, just myself an the wife play. We play a lot of Carcassonne and both really enjoy it, so I'd echo the support for that - definitely give it another go! You could also try Carcassonne: The Castle which is a two-player variant of the original game and set within the confines of a castle's walls, rather than the free tile-laying of the original. I haven't bought it yet, but it seems to be well liked and it's on my list!

Space Hulk is also excellent, but the nerdier roleplay-ish type tabletop games don't appeal to everyone. My wife won't play my incredibly expensive copy of the Space Hulk re-release with me :(

I may as well have left £100 gathering dust on the shelf.

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With regard to Carcassonne, I was having trouble getting into it too and experienced something similar to what you described above. Howver, following some helpful advice in the Digital Board Games thread on here (Wiper?), combined with playing through a few games by myself on the iPhone/iPad, I'm really getting into it now.

So yeah - if you have an iPhone/Touch/Pad, get Carcassonne on that and it may help :)

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With regard to Carcassonne, I was having trouble getting into it too and experienced something similar to what you described above. Howver, following some helpful advice in the Digital Board Games thread on here (Wiper?), combined with playing through a few games by myself on the iPhone/iPad, I'm really getting into it now.

So yeah - if you have an iPhone/Touch/Pad, get Carcassonne on that and it may help :)

Afraid that wasn't me - I missed that thread! Might be worth linking to it, as the advice given in there was probably better than the advice I gave here :D

That said, you've just reminded me: it's worth noting that there's also a version of Carcassonne up on Xbox Live! (and maybe PSN?), which is another good way to play solo if you don't have an iPhone or iPad :)

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Afraid that wasn't me - I missed that thread! Might be worth linking to it, as the advice given in there was probably better than the advice I gave here :D

That said, you've just reminded me: it's worth noting that there's also a version of Carcassonne up on Xbox Live! (and maybe PSN?), which is another good way to play solo if you don't have an iPhone or iPad :)

You're right - it was MalevolentPanda. But both bits of advice are helpful :)

Digital Board Games thread

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There's a dice version of Settlers of Catan which two players can play (The normal board game version is 3-4) I've not played it myself, but have been tempted to grab it so that we can get our Catan fix while on the road.

Be interesting to know how well it stands up to the friendship breaker big brother version.

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The settlers dice game is ok but you might be better looking at something like Roll through the Ages as it feels much more strategic or at least as strategic as a dice game can be. They're both about the same price and I think you get a lot more game with Roll through the Ages. I don't think either game will strain friendships though as they have very little player interaction in them and can just as easily be played solo.

For travel you can get the Express series of dice games which come in a plastic dish which also acts as somewhere to roll your dice. I've got four of these and I actually really like the Monopoly Express which is a pretty cool push your luck game where you try and collect sets of dice and put them onto a scoring plate. (Monopoly Express) I also have Risk Express, Battleships Express and, of course, Yahtzee all in the same format. It's worth keeping an eye out for these as they often turn up in places quite cheap.

There are also a few interesting free dice games. Try looking at Knizia's Decathlon (Decathlon) and also The Utopia Engine which is a rather excellent single player dice adventure. (Utopia Engine)

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