Games for Two – Quick and Easy

Finding games that you are able to play with only two players can be relatively easy. Finding games that are worth playing with two is another story entirely. It’s not rare to find a game that says 2-4 on the box, is a decent game, but falls flat as a two-player game.

So, to help avoid those pitfalls, I’ve decided to start a new series of articles focused on games you can play with two. Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of two-player gaming over the years. So to kick things off we’ll look at a few games that are easy to pick up and play, which can be finished in about 30 minutes or less.

Steam ParkSteam Park

A game based around speed and a little bit of chaos, Steam Park is an excellent choice for two. In this game you are the owner of an amusement park which is made for robots, trying to make the most money off guests that never leave. The art is by Marie Cardouat, the artistic genius behind Dixit, so you know it’s going to be surreal and entertaining.

The core of the game is based around simultaneous dice rolls – you’re racing to be the first one to finish rolling your dice so you can get the biggest bonus. This can get a bit nutty when there’s four people playing, but with two it’s a fun little exercise that will have you laughing at each other. It’s light and enjoyable, and will play quickly after the first game. You can read more about Steam Park in our review.

Machi Koro
Machi Koro

Machi Koro

If you’re looking to do a little town building using cards and dice, Machi Koro is the game for you. Known for good player interaction, this game does change a bit with two…but not in a bad way.

In a game with four players will find you in the wrong seat at the wrong time at least once in the game, especially if the three people in front of you all roll numbers that allow them to pilfer your coffers. You don’t really encounter that in the two-player game, and it turns into more of a race. But while the essential feel of the game changes a bit, it certainly doesn’t harm the fun. You’ll be able to bang out a game of Machi Koro in 20 minutes, so this certainly fits the bill. Check out our review of Machi Koro for a more in depth look.

Red7Red7

Carl Chudyk created a nifty little card game which gets more and more layered the more times you play. Red7 is a deck of 49 cards numbered 1-7 in seven different colored suits. Each color suit has a rank, which is based on their chromatic position (there’s a chart in the game…you don’t need to be a designer or artist to play).

The premise of the game is simple – each player is dealt 7 cards which form their hand and one card which is their palette. The goal of the game? At the end of your turn, you have to be winning. Each colored card has a “goal” written on it. For instance, the starting goal is a red card which means the person with highest card in their palette is winning. On your turn you can play a card to your palette, one to the canvas in the middle where the goals live, or one to both. But at the end of your turn, you have to be winning. If you aren’t? You fold and you’re out of the game.

I was initially worried about how this would play with two, but it’s quick and extremely enjoyable. A round will last about five minutes, and once you’re used to how the colors and cards interact with one another you’ll see how the game is all about trying to set your opponent up to play the cards you want them to play…almost leading them on.

So there you have it – a few games that are quick, easy to learn, and will play just as well with two people as they do with four!

Review: Steam Park

Remember going to the amusement park as a kid? It was so amazing! All of the lights, and the smells, and the sounds…and those rides! Towering rides that would whip you around or take you up higher than you’ve ever been before! And once you were on them you never wanted to leave! You just wanted to stay there forever…

Steam Park is a game by the design trio of Aureliano Buonfino, Lorenzo Silva, and Lorenzo Tucci Sorrentino with absolutely amazing art by Marie Cardouat.  The 2-4 players will assume the role of amusement park architects, with a little twist: these parks are for robots. And they never leave. Ever. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing, as you will soon find out.

Steam ParkThe gameplay is quite simple, with each round broken up into two parts. In the first part, you roll dice to determine what actions will be able to take in the second part. But it isn’t as simple as just rolling dice. You have to race the other players to get the results you want and then claim a turn order card from the center of the table. So you can roll to get what you want – but you’ll wind up going last.

After you have your dice selected, you will use them for the actions in the next phase: building rides and stands. cleaning dirt, playing bonus cards, or placing guests on your rides. You can also use dice to expand your park, and because of the ride adjacency rules you will need to do that sooner than later. Once everyone has taken their actions, every robot in your park will provide you with income and will also create dirt.

Dirt. It’s everywhere here. Everything you do generates dirt. The turn order cards get increasingly filthier the later you pick them. The dice have dirt on them. The robots generate even more dirt. It turns your whole park into a filthy mess. And if your park is dirty, well, no one will want to come there. So cleaning up is one of the most important things you can do. If you’ve got leftover dirt at the end it’s cutting into your income, so keep that park clean!

One of the things that I love about this game is the playing time. Once you’ve played the game a couple times you will find that it only takes 20-30 minutes to complete. This makes it a nice game for an evening where you aren’t looking to commit to an entire evening, or perhaps one that opens or closes a get together.

Steam ParkAdmittedly, the simultaneous dice rolling won’t be for everyone. Some will find it too rushed and chaotic. I think that it’s actually cleverly balanced. One of the die faces is blank, so chances are pretty good that people will be rolling quite a few times trying to maximize their action potential. It could be viewed as too much luck by some.

The game is quite clever though. You can purchase stands which will help mitigate the limiting factor of the various dice – especially a stand that will allow you to attract robots which normally wouldn’t ride your rides. The bonus cards will give you some direction for your turns and will also be one of the easiest ways to earn money.

I do want to touch on one thing – you need to be careful when first opening the game. Iello did a fantastic job printing the game, and the components are top notch. But make sure you have an sharp knife handy when punching this one out. The ride and stall pieces aren’t always fully punched through and are susceptible to tearing. The game is far too pretty to wind up with damaged pieces.

Needless to say, Steam Park is a fun little game that will have you laughing while rolling the dice and swearing about the amount of dirt your robot guests are generating. It’s a great game to play at any player count and makes a wonderful game when you’ve only got 20 minutes. And come on, who doesn’t want to build an amusement park…even if no one ever leaves?

Game Day – The New and The New Old

[dropcap background=”yes” bgcolor=”#176D13″]W[/dropcap]inters in Vermont (especially this one) can be bitter cold with miserable weather. This makes you want to do nothing but curl up inside and play some games…which is what we’ve been doing! Let’s catch up on some of the titles to hit my table recently. Some were new, some were old favorites, and some were old games that were new to me.

 

The New

[divider type=”thick”]

Patchwork

PatchworkAh, Uwe Rosenberg. He’s on this little list more than once. Patchwork is a wonderful little two-player game where players use various cuts of fabric to make a quilt. The catch is that all the fabric tiles are different shapes and sizes, each costing you a certain amount of time to place on your quilt. This is quite thematic, as it is much easier to sew a square into an actual quilt than a Tetris shaped piece. Buttons are the currency here, and some of the quilt patches have buttons on them to help you build an economy to keep things moving along.

This game really threads the needle when it come to two-player games. The gameplay is simple, but the fabrics you choose can pin you down later on if you aren’t careful – you lose points for empty squares at the end. Any gamer will appreciate this game, and if you know a gamer that quilts, even better.

 

Steam Park

Steam ParkMy brother and his wife recommended this one to us, and I can see why. Steam Park is a light, fun romp where players build an amusement park…….for robots. Marie Cardouat, best known for her work on Dixit, was the illustrator for this game. The surreal style of art makes the game even more thematic – of COURSE a robot would ride a metal octopus ride!

The gameplay features real time dice rolling, a race of sorts, which is actually reminiscent of the building round in Galaxy Trucker. It adds a fun little press your luck element to the game as you try to keep rolling to get the results you want while hoping your opponents don’t finish first. It’s a light, fun game that acts as a wonderful opener to a gaming evening.

 

The New Old

[divider type=”thick”]

Airlines Europe

Airlines EuropeWhen looking at Alan Moon’s catalog of work, it’s hard to see past the behemoth that is Ticket to Ride. That game is so successful and has produced so many expansions that Moon can be mistaken for a one-hit wonder. Airlines Europe is an excellent reminder that this designer has more than one trick up his sleeve.

In what is essentially a stock game, players will purchase routes for one of several airlines, place a marker on this route, and adjust the price of that company’s stock. The game is so easy to grasp, at least from a rules standpoint. But at about turn three, when you see what is really going on, you suddenly stare at the board in wonder. Manipulating the market, knowing when it’s time to cut and run, jumping on underdeveloped airlines…it’s a lot to pack into a deceptively simple ruleset. But Moon pulls it off and this is a great game to help bridge the gap between a gateway game and the heavier games one will encounter.

 

Ora & Labora

Ora & LaboraUwe, Uwe, Uwe. You magnificent bastard. I’ve always enjoyed Rosenberg’s games, from Agricola right down to Bohnanza. But this one eluded me for years. It was only in print for a short time, and my gaming was at a different phase back then. Finally I was able to trade for this rare gem, and I’m glad that I did.

In Ora & Labora each player is attempting to grow their plot of land into a thriving society based on work and prayer. I’d get into the gameplay, but there’s no concise way to do it and this would wind up turning into a full blown review. Suffice it to say that we fell in love with this game about halfway through our first play. It combines elements of city building, tile placement, set collecting, and worker placement (among other mechanics) to make a wonderful stew which each player will partake of using their ONE action per round. It’s really a masterpiece.

 

So there you have it…some of the notables from the past couple weeks of gaming. If you have the chance, I highly recommend checking any one of these out!