Valentine’s Day Gaming

Today is Valentine’s Day here in the States, and for some people that will mean a day full of spending time with the special someone in your life. Some dinner, maybe some chocolates, a little candlelight, and if you’re REALLY lucky…some quality gaming time with the one you love. So in honor of two-player gaming, no matter the reason, I’d like to give a very brief overview of a few games that will accommodate more players, but really shine when played head-to-head.

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Glass Road

Glass RoadSet in the Bavarian Forest in the Early Modern Age, players will shape the land and build buildings in an attempt to gather resources and produce glass. To help you with this, each player has a starting set of resources and fifteen workers that will perform various tasks. The game will play over four “building periods” and can be easily completed in 45 minutes.

Uwe Rosenberg has packed so much goodness into this game:

Role Selection – The heart of this game is a role selection mechanic. Each player has the same fifteen cards representing the available workers. Each worker will have two actions on their card, and a player will be able to perform at least one (but hopefully both) of them on their turn. Five of these fifteen cards will be used in a building period, and matching cards with the other player is the only way you’ll be able to maximize your actions.

Resource Wheels – To track their resources, each player is provided with two resource wheels. The wheels are set up so there are two sections to each: a larger section in which clay, sand, water, food, and the more common resources are tracked, and a small section that tracks either brick or glass. As resources are earned the markers for each is moved clockwise around the wheel. As they are spent? Shift them back counterclockwise. Of course the kicker is that once you’ve produced enough basic resources they auto-spend themselves to make the bricks and glass you’ll need. So you have to plan that out carefully.

Variable Buildings – There are three types of buildings in Glass Road: anytime use buildings which typically convert resources, one-time use buildings that offer a bonus when built, and end-game scoring buildings which will increase your point total at the end of the game. As buildings are purchased they are replaced once the next round starts. The wonderful thing? There are 93 buildings in the game. You’re seeing new things every time you play.

The building periods will play out with each player revealing their selected workers and then performing that worker’s action. You need to figure out what you need to get done…as well as what you think your opponent needs. Because if you don’t match up at least one of the roles they reveal? You’re going to be short on actions. And if you aren’t VERY careful with your resources? You’ll gain three water and then wind up losing one of each of your resources as you auto-produce glass.

For a game that can be played in a short time it is absolutely amazing, especially with two players. Read through the rules carefully though. There’s a minor change to how the building period plays out with two players that should be noted prior to starting.

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SeasonsIn Seasons, you play the part of a great wizard that is taking part in a tournament to select the archmage. To win this tournament you will need to summon the most amazing creatures, call forth great artifacts, and harness the powers of the very seasons themselves!!! Or, you know, play the cards with the most victory points. I mean, whichever works for you.

The game starts with a card draft, each player selecting nine cards that will be played out through three years. Then the game itself starts with three dice (well, the number of players plus one dice…but this is about the two player game) being laid out for each season. On your turn you roll the dice for that season, the start player selects one, the other player takes a second, and the third set how quickly the seasons advance. You play the action on your dice, play a card if able, and then move to the next turn. It’s that simple.

You’re setting up the flow of your game before the first die is even rolled, so you don’t wind up altering your strategy too much during each year. But it works. The dice can be unforgiving and your opponent might wind up leaching all of your crystals away. But that works too…and adds an element of anxiety that makes each round entertaining.

But they key to the success of this game with two players? It’s quick, and you can keep track of everything without it feeling like a luck-fest. Hell, you can even start with some pre-generated card sets to eliminate the draft and speed that part up. And once you’re into the game things move right along…and you only have one person to keep track of. Those cards can get nasty, which isn’t bad, but with more than two people it feels more like a spreadsheet nightmare than a fun game. “Right, well, I’m taking three crystals for you because of this, and I lose one for that and then I get two wind because it’s past tea time…”

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The Castles of Burgundy

The Castles of BurgundyAnd last, but certainly not least? Stefan Feld brings us to the Burgundy region of France where we are aristocrats trying to grow our tract of land into a bustling princedom. To do so, each player can choose from an available pool of building, animal, and knowledge tiles, purchasing them with the dice they have rolled.

The flow of the game is quite simple. You get two actions on your turn, and the option to pay for a third special action. Each player will use their dice to take tiles from the main board, place tiles on their personal board, sell goods, or acquire workers. The tiles are the meat of the game, not only because they build your princedom, but also because they will each give you a benefit of one sort or another…but it all depends on the dice.

Unlike some dice games where a rough roll can really put your back to a wall, The Castles of Burgundy offers you a way to combat that: your workers. Say you’ve rolled a 4, but the tile you want to buy is on the 5 spot. Well, you’re not totally out of luck. If you’ve got a worker, you can modify your die roll up or down by one digit, thereby allowing you to acquire that tile and carry on.

Eventually you will create combos with your various buildings that will allow you to take free tiles, more money, place tiles on your board…any number of things. But this isn’t just multiplayer solitaire – all the while you’re trying to keep an eye on the other person. Are they moving towards the same tiles you are? Do you need to maneuver into the start position to go first? By the end of the game you’ll be lamenting that one tile you let go on turn three just to grab the start player away from your opponent. It’s brilliant.

Feld has gotten a reputation for his “point salad” games, and there are certainly a variety of ways to score points in this one. But unlike some games, it never feel overwhelming. Your board will help guide the construction of your princedom, so all you need to do is fill in the tiles. Simple in premise, but if the dice are fickle you better be prepared to work for it.

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So there you have it. Three games that deserve to be looked at when you’ve only got one other person to play with. Each one of them offers something different, but will provide a solid depth of play in a relatively short span of time.

Now go grab one of them and start playing!