Gifts for two game lovers. (And two lovers of games).
A wise old bear once said that it was much friendlier with two. As it is in Winnie the Pooh, so too it is in boardgames. I often come across games which are better with more players and it can be hard to think of games for couples: so here are some suggestions for pairs of game lovers.
Always the first game out at every event. Some people use this as a warm up game, and others play it happily all night until someone tips the table over... As with all the best games there is a simple premise and truckloads of strategy. Push your partners marbles off the board before they push yours off. You may move up to three of your own marbles together in order to push your opponents off the board - but you must always move more of your own than you push of theirs. So, for example, move 3 black, push 2 white, or move 2 white, push 1 black. That's it. It sounds simple but quickly gets fiendishly difficult. A quick strategic game that you will want to play again and again.
Mancala is an ancient game: hundreds and hundreds of years old. As with many great oral traditions, rules have been passed down, adapted and assimilated into gospel truths. The rules I teach - and consequently the rules we play by in the pub - are as follows: empty any pod and redistribute the olives in a clockwise direction dropping one in each subsequent pod. If the last olive you drop lands in a cup, you get an extra turn. The person with the most olives in their cup wins.
One of the things that I really love about this game is how tactile it is; as soon as it comes out people are interested and want to play. And, just like with Abalone, you play one round and you're hooked. I end every round convinced I've worked out a winning strategy. And sometimes... I have!
There are some beautiful hand crafted versions available on Etsy.
I found Mr Jack (pocket version) tucked away in the treasure trove that is 'Just Games' in Whitby. As big fans of all things Sherlock in our house (my partner enjoys Elementary, my daughter enjoys 221B and I enjoy Benedick Cumberbatch) it seemed an obvious choice. As a bonus it comes in a small box but is set out like a board game, a perfect alternative to card games while you're on holiday.
While it is easy to learn the basics and easily accessible, you can also play with a lot of strategy. We started off playing in a very straightforward way and soon realised that you can play at a much deeper, strategic level. Much of this lies in the cleverness of the asymmetry: Mr Jack must avoid detection while The Inspector must discover Mr Jack's identity before time runs out. The Inspector moves the character tokens around the edge of the board, looking down the alleys for Mr Jack. Meanwhile, Mr Jack must try to disrupt their view to stop the Inspector deducing Mr Jack's identity. The game is well balanced; neither character has any advantage over the other. We have played this a lot.
One of the challenges of promoting Board Gaming Events is finding pictures of people smiling whilst concentrating. Here's Mark having fun playing Mr Jack:
This is a perfect two player game. Your objective is to deal enough damage to kill your opponent. Each player only has 4 life tokens, and the life tokens are actual hearts (for fans of romantic realism)
There are three monsters in the pack and spell cards which have various effects. All of the cards state clearly what you must do when you play the card and many work together, so consider your choices carefully. For instance, Terrible Monster deals 4 damage and so when played can end the game... but you need to be able to summon it, and both the Leech and Deduction cards allow your opponent to take Terrible Monster from your grasp!
This is another of our favourites - you can check it out on Sweet Lemon's website
What review of games for couples would be complete without Love Letter?
Love letter plays up to four people but is just as good with two. The way it is presented makes it a lovely present; the cards come in a velvet pouch and I pimped mine up by replacing the standard red scoring cubes with love hearts.
Your aim is to get your love letter to the Princess or failing that to the person closest to her. You play with a hand of one, picking up a card and playing one each turn. But - discard the Princess card and you lose immediately! It can be a brutal game but then courting princesses is fraught with danger.
Love Letter is available now at another excellent friendly local games stores Games Crusade in Harrogate, or their sister store Present Planners in Skipton.
And if you want something completely different, there's always Naked Guess Who. And yes that's a real thing. And don't blame me if you click on the link.