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Top 100 People's Choice for Two - my picks

Martin G
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Bristol
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Just a quick plug for the 2020 Edition of the Top 100 People's Choice for Two, which I failed to notice last year.

Here are my picks, done pretty quickly on PubMeeple. I wanted to pick games that I *prefer* to play with two than other counts rather than just games I love that *can* be played with two.

1 Innovation - I only play with more than 2 with the team rules
2 Cribbage - ultimate 'couch game' with Sarah
3 Baseball Highlights 2045 - tournaments are great but they're just a series of 2p match-ups
4 Wir sind das Volk - need to get back on the online plays
5 Race for the Galaxy - great with 3 too but 2p advanced is the vast bulk of my plays
6 Elements/Khmer - just a brilliant microgame
7 Twilight Struggle - only suffers from being so long, the tension is unmatched
8 Mandala - a recent favourite that deserves to be in this company
9 Haggis - modern but feels traditional and classic
10 Scrabble - will always bring back memories of my grannies
11 Aton - great tension from multiple victory conditions
12 Crokinole - another that's also excellent with 2 teams
13 Hanamikoji - painful choices every turn!
14 Azul - 2p really ramps up the hate-drafting that this game is so good at
15 Battle Line - my preferred Knizia 2p colours and numbers game
16 Throne & the Grail - excellent quick drafting game
17 Metropolys - the one where I differ most from consensus on player count but I adore this with 2
18 Circle the Wagons - so much in 18 cards
19 Iron Curtain - and likewise - the best distillation of Twilight Struggle
20 Blue Moon - wish I could spend more time with this
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Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:37 am
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New to me October 2020

Martin G
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Chartae - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Chartae


Knizia does it again! This is a really clever game made from just 9 tiles and two rules and over in five minutes. Players take turns to either place or rotate a map tile, one aiming to connect as big a landmass as possible, the other an ocean. Only being able to rotate clockwise and only having two successive turns of rotation allowed pushes the game forward to its conclusion rather than getting bogged down in attrition.

Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2019
Board Game: Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game


Felt like good timing for this to appear on BGA - I'd read something about it a while back and was interested to try. Neat little game! Kind of a reverse area majority where the control tokens are all placed already but then the players try to divide them up into areas in the most favourable way. Really does give the feel of gerrymandering ('packing' and 'cracking') with a tiny ruleset.

Merchants of Dunhuang - 2 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Merchants of Dunhuang


Another neat one (dare I say Knizian?). The basic idea is set-collection from a triangular deck (1x1, 2x2, 3x3... 10x10) but with a clever double majority system. For each type of cards you have the majority in between all the players' hands you score one card of that type for its face value. But you also collect cards in front of you on the table and you are only eligible to score as many hand cards as you have majorities on the table. Ideally you'd have high-valued majorities in your hand and low-valued majorities on the table but it doesn't always work out that way.

The set-collection itself is driven by a rondel -- you move a (shared) pawn round to collect a card from a space and then also take the special action associated with that space. The further you want to travel round the rondel, the more it will cost, so there's a money management element too.

I'd assumed it was by a Korean designer (the publisher is Korean) but checking it out afterwards I discovered it was by the Italian Gabriele Bubola who also designed Hats, another game I noted as having Knizian touches. One to watch!

悪魔でお仕事 (Idle Hands) - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Idle Hands


Yet another Japanese trick-taker-with-a-twist. This one's mostly about avoiding negative points, which I usually do better at than winning tricks thanks to being brought up on Hearts! The twist is that each player starts with three face-up cards in front of them as well as a hidden hand. When you lead, you choose one of your face-up cards to be the suit to follow, but that card isn't eligible to win the trick. Shenanigans ensue...
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Mon Nov 9, 2020 11:49 am
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Game giveaway: Piko-Go!

Martin G
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As mentioned in a previous post, I'm giving away some games that I never play in the hope they'll bring more joy to someone else. The rules are:

1. Comment here to say you want the game and explain why you think you'll play it. I will use this rationale when deciding who to give the game to so make it convincing!

2. By commenting you are pledging that if you end up with the game you will play it in the next year. If you don't, you promise to pass it on to someone else who will. I'm not doing this to shift clutter from my dusty cupboard to yours - I want the games to get played. I'd love it if you'd come back to this blogpost once you've played and let me know how it went!

3. I will ship anywhere but you must agree to cover the postage (£5 or less in the UK, 7-15 euros depending on weight to Europe and $10-20 to US) via PayPal.

This week's game is the trick-taker where you can't see your hand, Pikoko (bonus: signed by designer!) It's a decent little game but I have so many trick-takers and this one takes up more space than most of them!

Board Game: Pikoko


I will pick a winner in a week's time and post the result here.
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Wed Oct 7, 2020 1:30 pm
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New to me Sep 2020

Martin G
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Village Green - 10 plays -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Village Green


I picked this up on a whim as it's by Peer Sylvester and very cheap. Solo it's a little reminiscent of Sprawlopolis in speed and objective - building a spatial tableau from a hand of cards to satisfy various scoring rules. The big differences are twofold: the restrictions on spatial placement are much more stringent which makes it quite brain-burny, and you can change your scoring goals on the fly rather than having them set at the beginning. It makes for a neat 10-minute puzzle with a gentle theme and pleasant artwork.

My wife saw me playing solo and said it looked pretty, then *asked* to play on two different nights. Unprecedented! As you might expect from the description above, it's not massively interactive as a multiplayer - just a bit of hate drafting if you can be bothered. That's perfect for Sarah though, she enjoys working her own puzzle (and I enjoy doing it alongside her!)

The Fox in the Forest Duet - 1 play -  7 
First Published 2020
Board Game: The Fox in the Forest Duet


This is nowhere near as interesting a co-op trick-taker as The Crew but it does a nice job of converting the feel of the original's special-powers into a co-op form. The basic idea is that a counter will move along a path towards the winner of each trick, with the number of spaces moved determined by the two cards played. You want to visit a number of specific locations while not venturing off the end of the track, so some co-ordination and judicious use of the powers is required.

Cathedral - 1 play -  6 
First Published 1978
Board Game: Cathedral


I'd never played this 70s abstract polyomino-game but it was quite pleasant, with some ideas seen earlier in Go and later in Blokus. The chunky wooden buildings are a big part of the charm though.

FlickFleet - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2018
Board Game: FlickFleet


A space battle dexterity game in which you flick plastic ships into position to fire missile dice at your opponent's fleet. Good fun and comes with a bunch of varied scenarios - clearly a labour of love.

RevoltaaA - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2015
Board Game: RevoltaaA


A Knizia card game I implemented on playingcards.io to give a try. The gameplay was as puzzling as the ducks v robots theme but I think there might be something there.

Upset Kakumei - 1 play -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: Upset Kakumei


535 - 2 plays -  6 
First Published 2020
Board Game: 535


A couple of recent Japanese climbing games Hanibal introduced me too on pc.io. 535 lets you add cards to other player's sets rummy-style as an alternative to beating them with a higher combo; while Upset Kakumei lets you reverse the direction so you can climb back down after climbing up. There are so many of these things now that I'm starting to get desensitised...

Kluster - 3 plays -  5 
First Published 2018
Board Game: Kluster


A bunch of strong magnets which you take turns to place inside a stringed-off area without attracting any others. Unfortunately you don't seem to be able to do anything cool with the magnetic properties; the only thing the magnetism does is make you lose.

Lucky Numbers - 2 plays -  5 
First Published 2012
Board Game: Lucky Numbers


An old Schacht game that's new to BoardGameArena. A bit Lost Cities-ish but not nearly as good.

----

I also played a couple of unpublished prototypes: Hanibal's nice climbing game mash-up; and the forthcoming trick-taker from the La Mame Games crew, of which more later!
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Thu Oct 1, 2020 1:59 pm
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2020 Q3 review

Martin G
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Total plays: 189

Distinct games: 66

New-to-me games: 25

Dimes: 5 - My City (18), The Field of the Cloth of Gold (14), Eggs of Ostrich (11), Letterpress (10), Village Green (10)

Nickels: 5 - American Book Shop (9), For Sale (8), Mandala (8), 7 Wonders (7), Texas Showdown (6)

Another quarter of the 'new normal' and no end in sight There has been a bit more face-to-face gaming this quarter as I've permitted myself a few meetups with one other gamer friend for 2p games. Online gaming continues apace too.

Now a look at the collection.

Acquired: 5 - The Game of 49, Rosetta: The Lost Language, The Field of the Cloth of Gold, My City, Village Green

Removed: 5 - Prosperity, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases, The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet, Finished!, King's Road

Owned: 224

Unplayed: 3 - Res Publica, Uruk: Wiege der Zivilisation, The Game of 49, Rosetta: The Lost Language

My City, Village Green and FotCoG are all 2p-suitable which is ideal these days. Game of 49 and Rosetta aren't, and haven't yet been played as a result. I also started my game giveaway which has been going nicely.

Best new-to-me: My City got a mixed reception but Knizia rarely fails me and I'm really enjoying my two 2p campaigns.

 10   6 nimmt! x2 (161 all-time)
 10   Cribbage (126 all-time)
 10   For Sale x8 (71 all-time)
 10   Hanabi x2 (78 all-time)
 10   Innovation x3 (90 all-time)
 10   Kingdom Builder x2 (90 all-time)
 10   Love Letter (137 all-time)
 10   Race for the Galaxy x3 (257 all-time)
 9   Decrypto (18 all-time)
 9   Eggs of Ostrich x11 (51 all-time)
 9   Letterpress x10 (13 all-time)
 9   Northern Pacific (11 all-time)
 9   Perudo (79 all-time)
 9   Senators x2 (16 all-time)
 9   Stick 'Em (16 all-time)
 9   The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (16 all-time)
 9   Voodoo Prince x3 (21 all-time)
 8   American Bookshop Card Game x9 (14 all-time)
 8   Coloretto x2 (27 all-time)
 8   Dealt! x2 (17 all-time)
 8   Mandala x8 (16 all-time)
 8   Maskmen (15 all-time)
 8   My City x18 NEW!
 8   Ninety-Nine x3 (9 all-time)
 8   Quirky Circuits (6 all-time)
 8   Res Arcana (33 all-time)
 8   Spies & Lies: A Stratego Story x4 (5 all-time)
 8   Sprawlopolis (39 all-time)
 8   Texas Showdown x6 (21 all-time)
 8   The Field of the Cloth of Gold x14 NEW!
 7   Can't Stop (11 all-time)
 7   Carcassonne (17 all-time)
 7   Dragon's Breath (11 all-time)
 7   Guess Club (3 all-time)
 7   Heir to the Pharaoh NEW!
 7   The Bottle Imp (14 all-time)
 7   The Fox in the Forest Duet NEW!
 7   The Rose King NEW!
 7   Time Palatrix (4 all-time)
 7   Turn the Tide (2 all-time)
 7   Village Green x10 NEW!
 7   Watergate x3 NEW!
 6   535 x2 NEW!
 6   7 Wonders x7 (38 all-time)
 6   Cathedral NEW!
 6   Chicken Cha Cha Cha (6 all-time)
 6   Dois (3 all-time)
 6   Downforce x2 (3 all-time)
 6   FlickFleet NEW!
 6   Glasgow x2 NEW!
 6   Kingdomino x2 (9 all-time)
 6   Ohio x2 NEW!
 6   RevoltaaA NEW!
 6   Super Susuru Soup NEW!
 6   Tea Time x2 (7 all-time)
 6   The Search for Planet X NEW!
 6   Upset Kakumei NEW!
 6   ドキッと!アイス (Dokitto! Ice) x2 NEW!
 6   呪術トリック (Cursed Tricks) NEW!
 5   Kluster x3 NEW!
 5   Lucky Numbers x2 NEW!
 5   Rummy Five NEW!
 5   ジャンキー (Junkie) NEW!
 4   Finished! x2 NEW!
 N/A   Unpublished Prototype x4 (13 all-time)
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Wed Sep 30, 2020 2:41 pm
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Game giveaway: watch this flee my collection

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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As mentioned in a previous post, I'm giving away some games that I never play in the hope they'll bring more joy to someone else. The rules are:

1. Comment here to say you want the game and explain why you think you'll play it. I will use this rationale when deciding who to give the game to so make it convincing!

2. By commenting you are pledging that if you end up with the game you will play it in the next year. If you don't, you promise to pass it on to someone else who will. I'm not doing this to shift clutter from my dusty cupboard to yours - I want the games to get played. I'd love it if you'd come back to this blogpost once you've played and let me know how it went!

3. I will ship anywhere but you must agree to cover the postage (£5 or less in the UK, 7-15 euros depending on weight to Europe and $10-20 to US) via PayPal.

This week's game is Friedemann Friese's Fast Forward: FLEE.

Board Game: Fast Forward: FLEE


I will pick a winner in a week's time and post the result here.
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Mon Sep 28, 2020 2:18 pm
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Hello! Is it me you're looking for?

Martin G
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BGG recently added a feature to tell us bloggers how many subscribers we have, and in my case it's about 450. I generally get about 10% of that number in thumbs and the usual (much-appreciated!) suspects commenting.

If you're a subscriber but not a (regular) commenter, consider this is an invitation to say hello and a little about what brought you here!
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Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:24 pm
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Game giveaway: Make me a bargain!

Martin G
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As mentioned in a previous post, I'm giving away some games that I never play in the hope they'll bring more joy to someone else. The rules are:

1. Comment here to say you want the game and explain why you think you'll play it. I will use this rationale when deciding who to give the game to so make it convincing!

2. By commenting you are pledging that if you end up with the game you will play it in the next year. If you don't, you promise to pass it on to someone else who will. I'm not doing this to shift clutter from my dusty cupboard to yours - I want the games to get played. I'd love it if you'd come back to this blogpost once you've played and let me know how it went!

3. I will ship anywhere but you must agree to cover the postage (£5 or less in the UK, 7-15 euros depending on weight to Europe and $10-20 to US) via PayPal.

This week's game is a slightly battered but perfectly playable copy of The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet.

Board Game: The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet


I will pick a winner in a week's time and post the result here.
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Mon Sep 21, 2020 10:30 pm
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Lost in the Shuffle review: Iron Curtain

Martin G
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This is one of an occasional series of reviews of games that I feel have been undeservedly overlooked in the flood of new releases. They will be games released in the last couple of years that are still widely available, not obscure out-of-print ‘gems’ that you’d have to track down second-hand.

Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen have had three attempts at condensing the drama of Twilight Struggle into a shorter, leaner package (13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis and 13 Minutes: The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 being the others). In my opinion Iron Curtain is easily the best of the trilogy, despite being owned less than its cousins (according to BGG stats).

Board Game: Iron Curtain


To boil the multi-hour Twilight Struggle down to a 30-minute game you need to single out particular aspects to focus on. The two Cuban missile crisis games fittingly emphasise the tension of the Defcon track and avoiding nuclear war, but Iron Curtain instead focuses on the spatial battle to spread and block political influence. Since I’m a huge fan of spatial games, it’s no wonder this one is the more appealing to me.

While all three games retain the events/ops cards that drive Twilight Struggle’s agonising decisions, Iron Curtain brilliantly makes each card also represent a country, which gradually form a world map as the game proceeds. As in the original, countries are grouped into regions which score during the game as well as at the end. But rather than ‘scoring cards’ being inserted into the deck, a region simply scores as soon as all its constituent countries have been played to the map, according to the influence cubes that have been placed upon them.

Board Game: Iron Curtain


The abstracted geography of the ‘board’ can be configured in a very different way each game. The only restriction when you lay a new card is that it must be adjacent to any other cards in the same region, while the first card of a region can be placed anywhere. This combines with the rule that you can only ever place influence (cubes) on cards adjacent to your existing influence to make the geography extremely important.

What’s more, Iron Curtain keeps the ‘control’ rule from Twilight Struggle – it costs double to play influence into a card where your opponent already leads by two cubes. That means it’s possible to ‘tuck away’ Africa, for example, behind a South American card you already control. It’s a little stretch to make sense of this thematically, but for gameplay it’s ingenious.

Board Game: Iron Curtain


As well as the geography they represent, you’ll be weighing your hand according to the familiar Twilight Struggle factors of how much influence it allows you to place, whether you’d rather use one of your own powerful events, and how you’re going to mitigate the damage of your opponent’s events triggering when you play one of their cards.

The deck comprises a mere 18 cards but the events can be real game-changers. In particular they often offer you the chance to ‘infiltrate’ cubes into cards that you wouldn’t be able to reach through the normal adjacency. There are also a few gotcha cards affecting specific countries, but with the smaller deck, trying to remember them isn’t as big a frustration in learning the game as it can be in Twilight Struggle.

The final twist is that not all regions will score during the game. In the first half of the game each player is dealt 5 cards to be played in turn until they only have one left. That card is put aside face-down to be used as part of the final scoring, if the game makes it that far, before the game continues with the players taking four more cards each and playing the second half in the same manner.

Board Game: Iron Curtain


The ‘aftermath’ cards score you points directly according to the number of influence they are worth (or points for your opponent if you bury one of their events) but they also mean that their associated region won’t be completed during the game, so they can be used to reduce the impact of a region you feel you’re unlikely to capture. Like Twilight Struggle, points scored during the game as regions score move the players back and forth on a see-saw score track, with an immediate victory if you reach your end. But often the game goes all the way to final scoring of the aftermath cards followed by each region scoring again in a dramatic finish.

There’s a fair amount of luck to the distribution of cards, with a couple of USSR four-cube events sometimes proving pivotal, but more than enough room for cunning tactics too. If you enjoy the map play and area majority of Twilight Struggle, then like me, this could well be the shortened version for you. I love the variation between games, with the map sometimes evolving into a compact grid, and other games a spindly spider.

Iron Curtain is available for under £20 in the UK and a steal of $12 in the US. The box is too damn big for 20 cards and a bag of cubes but I’m sure you can sort yourself out with a travel solution!
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Mon Sep 21, 2020 4:09 pm
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Game giveaway: can you detect a bargain?

Martin G
United Kingdom
Bristol
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As mentioned in a previous post, I'm giving away some games that I never play in the hope they'll bring more joy to someone else. The rules are:

1. Comment here to say you want the game and explain why you think you'll play it. I will use this rationale when deciding who to give the game to so make it convincing!

2. By commenting you are pledging that if you end up with the game you will play it in the next year. If you don't, you promise to pass it on to someone else who will. I'm not doing this to shift clutter from my dusty cupboard to yours - I want the games to get played. I'd love it if you'd come back to this blogpost once you've played and let me know how it went!

3. I will ship anywhere but you must agree to cover the postage (£5 or less in the UK, 7-15 euros depending on weight to Europe and $10-20 to US) via PayPal.

This week's game is Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases. It's the first Ystari English edition so it does have some translation errors in one of the cases, but errata are available online.

Board Game: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases

* pipe not included

I will pick a winner in a week's time and post the result here.
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Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:51 pm
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