Gaming with Amy
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I've been dating Amy for almost 5 months now. We started off seeing each other once a week and now are up to twice a week. She knew about my gaming addiction long before we started dating and had said she liked to play games too. Once we started dating, I started introducing her to games slowly.

We didn't (and still don't) play every time we get together. In fact, at one point, a month passed between games. However, in general, we play a game at least every week or two (and often when we play a game we play more than one).

Below is the progression of games we'e played. I thought about creating an entry for each play, but decided to just summarize it by game arranged chronologically by the date we first played it.

All plays (except for one time) were played just the two of us and most of the games are strictly 2-player games. For the most part, I've taken my cue from the games she's seemed most excited about. So far, that has been puzzly games -- games where she can figure out the best way to do things. In a sense, these are optimization games, but they can be optimization of resources, actions, currencies, dudes on a map, etc. She also really enjoys "special power" games. While these aren't generally my favorite genre, there are a few I enjoy and so far those have been more than enough.
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1. Board Game: Haggis [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:685]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Not a particularly auspicious start. We technically played this two weeks before I asked her out, but as it was out first game, I wanted to remember it.

While I generally include comments with my plays, in this particular instance I didn't... it couldn't have anything to do with the company, so I'm thinking the game just fell flat. In any case, neither of us ever expressed interest in trying it again.
 
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2. Board Game: Cribbage [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:560]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I was shocked to realize we only played this the one time. I had played it with a friend at a FLGS two weeks earlier and I was anxious to try it with Amy. So, I stopped off at Meijer on my way to her house and picked up a copy.

We both really enjoyed the game and I left it at her house. I guess I always figured with it being there, we'd play it again, but so far that hasn't happened. It's one of the lightest game on this list, but it's one I really enjoy... I need to remember to suggest it one evening when we are short on time.
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3. Board Game: The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:870]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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The first game we played twice, although since both plays were the same night, I'm not sure that counts

As I recall, I wanted to show her a different sort of game but still stay away from a game with a lot of nastiness. While with more players, this is a nasty game, with 2, it isn't that bad. A nice set-collection game with lots of double-think mixed in with a cute theme.

It went over well, but I haven't brought it back as I prefer it with more players.
 
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4. Board Game: Scopa [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2627]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Another neat, old card game. It actually felt lighter than Cribbage and, while I'd play it again, it isn't one I'll ask to play.
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5. Board Game: Le Fantôme de l'Opéra [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:1458]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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To play this, I had to take Amy to my FLGS as I don't have a copy. We played the store copy and she really liked it. With Christmas coming up, I kept this in the back of my mind as a potential gift (don't worry, I ended up getting her a more sensible gift).

I really liked how it took Mr. Jack and improved it on several levels:
1. Ability to scale the difficulty
2. No possibility of "winning by guessing"

Since I never did acquire a copy, this has only been played once. However, I think both of us would be happy to play it again, given the chance.
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6. Board Game: Kingdom Builder [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:450]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Our first "big hit" and so far, the biggest hit of all games we've played. I introduced this to her two days before my birthday and we played it four times that night.

It has the two things that I think are Amy's favorite mechanics - a puzzle to solve and special powers. We've played it 17 times and I've won most of the games. Sometimes I win by a lot, but most of the time it's close. That means that after each game, there's that feeling of "just one more time". Each new game is a new puzzle to figure out and each time there's the chance that this time, I'll figure it out better and faster. It's quick. It's mostly multi-player solitaire (particularly with 2) so it's not too vicious but there's definitely enough interaction that you can mess with each other.

Once we started playing Kingdom Builder, we continued playing it through the end of December. Then, in January, we took a month-long break from games and when we came back, we moved onto other things. That said, I'm sure both of us would be happy to play this again at any time.
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7. Board Game: Innovation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:278]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Fitting that the next game we played after Kingdom Builder was Innovation.

Like KB, it's a special power game (though with a lot more powers).

Like KB, players need to balance racing for points with building up a good engine (though unlike KB, there are multiple times when players may switch back and forth between the two).

However, unlike KB, and unlike any previous game I had shown Amy, Innovation is a game with high interaction. While players are trying to build their own VP-engine, messing with other players (and leeching off of them) is a huge part of the game.

We played it twice that weekend. The first time took two hours. The second time, we dropped the play time to one hour as Amy began to grok the mechanics. While I've suggested it a couple of times since then, she hasn't taken me up on it. I think the game may intimidate her as it's really a lot to absorb at first. I'll keep trying as I think it's a game that could fill the same niche as Kingdom Builder.
 
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8. Board Game: Medici vs Strozzi [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:1755]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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As I alluded to in the previous entry, our first game playing in 2015 was a weekend together at the end of January. As a result, we got to try a bunch of different games.

Medici vs. Strozzi was another of the games we tried. Unfortunately, with the exception of Scopa, this has been the worst received by Amy. To be fair, it was late when we tried it, but it just didn't excite her. She said she'd be happy to try it again, but as I said to her, "there's lots of games you love; why would we play a game that, at best, you might like?"

I love Medici and found Medici vs. Strozzi to have most of the same feel. So it's staying in my collection for the time when I want to play Medici but only have two players.
 
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9. Board Game: Mr. Jack in New York [Average Rating:7.29 Overall Rank:609]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Although I never got a copy of Fantome, I did manage to snag this at a Black Friday sale.

This is clearly the most complex of the Mr. Jack games. There are more moving pieces to consider than any of the other games. Despite that, Amy and I have played it 6 times (I think I've won all of them) including twice that first weekend. It's one I think we'd both be happy to play anytime, but possibly not one that either of us would ask to play.
 
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10. Board Game: Schotten Totten [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:366]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Definitely the biggest hit of the weekend, despite only being played once since then. We have yet to play with the tactics cards and really love the purity of the game without them.

The best play we had was when the deck was empty. We had resolved all but one pile and it was my turn. I looked at her and said, "Congratulations"; she looked confused and said, "what do you mean, you won.". When I pulled the game out, I'd accidentally left one card in the box. If it had been in her hand, she'd have won. As it was, I won. We called it a tie.

I'm not sure how much it's possible to overcome luck of the draw in the game. Certainly many plays will come down to who plays better (or gets luckier with their early card placement) but I wonder if now and then it just comes down to who gets dealt the better early cards. :shrug: It's short enough that it doesn't really concern me.

Happy to play this anytime and very like to suggest.
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11. Board Game: Spot it! [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:862]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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So far, I've only introduced Amy to my kids once. On this particular night, we decided to let everyone pick one game. My 9 yro daughter picked first and she picked Spot It! What crazy, great fun! I can't recall who won; I just remember laughing all the way through the game.

This is one game that's always been a sure-fire hit every time it's played.
 
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12. Board Game: The Magnates: A Game of Power [Average Rating:6.81 Overall Rank:2770]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I bought this because I thought it was an affordable version of God's Playground that plays with 2 - 5 players. It is not!

That said, that's a good thing! The potentially broken defection mechanic in God's Playground is replaced with one that ensures if players defect too much, everyone loses. For family games, this is (generally) good because it encourages clumping.

The other thing that this improves over God's Playground is the simplicity of rules and lack of downtime. I had no trouble teaching this to my kids (9 and 13) or Amy. The rules are simple and clean with no irritating exceptions. In addition, the blind bid auctions resolve quickly ensuring that everyone is always engaged (huge for playing with a 9 yro). Although it's hard to believe, I think we laughed more during this game than Spot It!. The auctions were often resolved by a single point or by the Primate resolving the tie. Of course, there are lots of one-time use cards that let players influence the auction causing lots of laughter as player 1 thinks he won until player 2 decides to play his card followed by player 3 playing his.

I think my favorite part was at the end of the game when I defected to knock Amy out of the running figuring that we'd win at least one of the next two conflicts and we lost both (by a single point both times) causing all of us to lose blush Amy turned to the kids and said, "now you know what it's like playing with your Dad" and my 9 yro laughs and says, "oh, we already know what it's like; he does this all the time."

Best kid-game memory of 2015.
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13. Board Game: Patchwork [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:57]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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and as we approach the end of our story (or at least, the story so far), we come across the next great contender.

Patchwork is a game I can't stop raving about. It is a 2-player 2-currency spatial economic game that plays (usually) in about 20 minutes. With 2 simple rules, some buttons and a (big) handful of tiles, Rosenberg has created a game equal to Bohnanza and Agricola. More than harvest, Rosenberg's trademark has always been cards. However, Patchwork has no cards. It only has buttons (for income), tetris-like tiles for placement and a forever plodding forward time (the second currency) track for determining whose turn it is and how much time is left in the game.

It's absolutely brilliant and Amy and I have so far played it 6 times (that number seems to be a recurring theme in this geeklist). However, I'm very hopeful that it will continue to see many more plays in the months to come.
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14. Board Game: Roll for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.78 Overall Rank:60]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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We've only played this once so far but Amy seemed excited enough that I'm cautiously optimistic that it'll see more plays. It took her almost to the end of the game to "get it" but by the time it was over she said she really liked it. It has the two components she most prefers -- special powers and puzzles. It also has a race element that seems fairly common to the games we've been playing.

I personally really like Roll. I find it much easier to teach than Race and, paradoxically, less random. I doubt it'll ever replace Race as my favorite 2-player game, but it's one I'll probably choose over Race in every casual game situation.
 
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15. Board Game: Akrotiri [Average Rating:7.33 Overall Rank:600]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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This one caught be my surprise. I had it in my cart to get from CSI but removed it when the release date kept slipping and Z-Man wasn't releasing the rules.

It had pretty much left my mind until John Brier (verandi) mentioned how much he liked it and thought of it as a real brain-burner. I decided to pick it up from my FLGS and try it out. My first play was with my son and convinced me that it was one Amy would probably like. In fact, she liked it so much that after our first play she insisted on playing it again right away.

It's a game that's right up Amy's alley. It's very much a puzzly game with a race element. While it doesn't have special powers, it does have goal cards that vary between games. The biggest decision point in the game is each round figuring out where you'll place your single tile in order to (1) help complete your maps, (2) help get you points for goals, (3) affect the market, and (4) screw your opponent if possible. So far, our 2 plays have taken about 90 minutes each. I'm hopeful that the play time will drop with repeated plays. However, I expect the 45 minutes on the box may be a bit optimistic. Frankly, I'd put the weight of this game to be comparable to 2-player 'Gric, Madeira, or Russian Railroads (though beyond the weight and puzzly aspect, it doesn't share anything with these games).

While I don't love it and doubt I ever will, I like it and am always happy to play it. Amy, on the other hand, loves it and this may end up being our "heavy" game, at least for a while
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16. Board Game: Caverna: The Cave Farmers [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:15]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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Which brings us to the end of the list (for now). We played this for the first time last Saturday. There is some online game that it reminds Amy of (I don't think she every told me the name). For whatever reason, she picked it up quickly and scored a respectable 61 her first time out with a good farm -- 3 workers, lots of animals, veggies and grain as well as a decent cavern. After the game was over, she remarked on how she thought she was losing badly because of the animals but didn't notice the special power buildings. I expect the next play may be a bit harder for me.

Personally, I love Caverna and it's my solo game of choice. This makes playing it with Amy not particularly fair, but she seemed to really like it and we'll see if it gets regular plays or not.
 
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