30 (!) games my 'non gaming wife' has repeatedly asked to play
Joe Grundy
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I was just doing a session report for Palazzo and it occurred to me to reflect on which of my roughly 120 games, over time, my wife had really taken a liking to.

This list is games which she enjoyed enough that she cheerfully asked for replays of her own free will.


For a little history... before we met she never played games. Even today she still affectionately views boardgaming as "my" slightly strange hobby which she indulges me in.

Little does she realise... devil

While it's true I believe if I got hit by a bus she really would probably never game again of her own accord, I still think she's in waaaaay deeper than she likes to pretend.

Read on...
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1. Board Game: Palazzo [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1440]
Joe Grundy
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We opened this just a couple of days ago and we're four games in with much enjoyment and no sign of early burnout.

Recent session reports:
"Oh... have you run out of money? Again?" ;-P
That'll be my one win then. (First game, my wife and I)
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2. Board Game: duck! duck! Go! [Average Rating:6.02 Overall Rank:3880]
Joe Grundy
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This kinda fills a space where RoboRally used to go. (Curiously, we didn't really burn out Roborally, we just got busier with other things. Also, I kept winning... funny that!)

This is one of the "softest" successes on this list. We're both happy to play it, she's asked a few times, it's a good game even with two, but it's not been out as often as some. It seems to be more fun with more players, and usually we're just two.

Recent session reports:
Duckie bonking doggy style.
First 4P session. Two guys, two gals, plenty of bonking.
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3. Board Game: Balloon Cup [Average Rating:6.70 Overall Rank:903]
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This one got a few weeks of hammering, and then very little since. I have the feeling it'll come out again sometime... it's a good length and interaction level to be a pleasant "after daughter is in bed" game, and we've paused rather than stopped playing it, I think.

After trying out a few styles, we now play this variant by preference.

Session report (not with that variant):
Games 1.5 to 2.5 - tight on blue, tight on grey, photo finish
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4. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.66 Overall Rank:73]
Joe Grundy
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We had an early run of good games with Pandemic. Again, we have our own variant here to stop me pushing and her yielding to my every suggestion. (It's wierd... head to head she's as brutal as they come but in co-op games she's all "oh ok I'll do that then".)

Anyway, we play with our cards laid out but no dialog beyond the scope of the current player's turn, and then only "if I do ... will you ..." (eg give me that card / accept this card / play your special)

We've won all but one of our games I think, but they're still delicious and not at all a foregone conclusion. This has worked for us where other co-op attempts have not. I'm pondering packing this one for the holidays.

Session reports:
Yet another example of how tight this game is
Missed it by *that* much!
Opening game. Me and she.
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5. Board Game: Zooloretto [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:606] [Average Rating:6.86 Unranked]
Joe Grundy
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This one hit the table with just us, with friends, with her family, we took it interstate. Lots of requests from she.

I'm glad we got it, but I'm not asking to play it myself. It's not objectionable, and ok for some time together.

Session report:
"This exhibit currently being refurbished."
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6. Board Game: Return of the Heroes [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:1673] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Joe Grundy
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This was a great Win. After our first game She asked for it every night for at least two weeks, and it's still one that'll come interstate with us over Christmas.

As a result of enjoying this game, she decided to try reading some fantasy fiction!

She'd mostly enjoyed Talisman, but there are a few glitches in that game and we'd prefer something we can reliably play in under two hours. Return of the Heroes manages to tell a rational tale of high fantasy (ie mostly fetch and carry and only time to time edge-of-your-seat life threatening combats), it flows well from easy foe to medium to hard without "stall" points, and you need a range of planning and resource management to win. The badge of being something of a euro-fantasy-adventure game is well deserved.

While the underlying tactics remain fairly constant, every play manages to tell a different story. It's easy to enjoy writing session reports for this game. I didn't realise I'd done this many until I came to list them:
4P... and the DWARF wins! (Here's how...)
Cleric, Dwarf, Mage. Race of the underdogs.
A dwarf on a mission
Black is White. Up is Down. A magical Elf, a sharp shootin' Cleric.
You stole my thief!
2P - the follow up game
First game, 2P, and a slow start.
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7. Board Game: Crokinole [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:75]
Joe Grundy
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$300+ dollars well spent to get one of these in Australia.

(And that's our daughter )

The best medicine
Essence of First Game
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8. Board Game: The Pillars of the Earth [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:230]
Joe Grundy
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This one was good enough to try roping in a couple of her friends. That ... sort of worked. Mostly. (But one of her friends is very much "no hang on I did that wrong I should've ... can I take that back and ..." ... she wants to have done the right thing in hindsight which makes her quite challenging to play with.)

Anyway... we like this game. Been sitting in the cupboard a while now while other things have been coming into the house, but I'm pretty sure it'll be back.

Session report:
It all led to the horror of the final round...
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9. Board Game: Nexus Ops [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:334]
Joe Grundy
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Here's my wife and daughter (when daughter was eight months old) ganging up on me.

Nexus Ops was quite hard to get onto the table. The "creepy bug" things really freaked out my wife for quite a while and for our first couple of plays she was trying to come up with ways to move the Rock Striders and the Dragons without having to actually touch them.

She got over it.

It was also a hard slog for her to get through her first couple of games, since you have to learn what all the different pieces can/can't do and get some idea of the contents of the decks of cards. She didn't enjoy either of her first two games, but persisted (for my sake) to the third. And found she likes it.

This one will also be coming interstate with us for Christmas.

Our Nexus Ops session reports include far and away our most popular report:
"Operator? Put a collect call to Galactic Syndicate pls..."

Also:
4 players, two newbies. (game halted during last turn!)
2P. My opponent held the monolith the whole game.
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10. Board Game: Fearsome Floors [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:908]
Joe Grundy
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This is two games in one, and we like both of them. And we've introduced lots of other players, gamers and non gamers, and most of them have really enjoyed this too.

Two games? One version, take it slowly, ponder, be devious, scheme and plan ahead. Lots of brain burning and analysis paralysis. We love it. ("Hurry up Joe!!") Erm... I love it and She thinks it's pretty good.

The other version, we have a 15 second resetting timer per move. Panic, speed play, move on instinct, mayhem and great fun.

I really want to get more games with many players. Alas, last time I organised this (a friend's gaming birthday party) there was one more player than seats and I bowed out.

Another one that will definitely be coming interstate. (We're staying with that same friend.)

Session reports:
Basic rules, 2P. Missed it by *that* much!
15 second timer variant
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11. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:494]
Joe Grundy
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I think what we like about this is that there's no real leader/loser feedback, and no sudden death. You win or lose by the accumulation of a hundred tiny decisions. The variation introduced by the randomiser of card draws has to be really really unusual to turn the tide, as long as you make good use of the discard/redraw hand management.

It's really a superb game. Long after its initial weeks of limelight it's still a regular delight for both of us.

Session report:
Me, my regular opponent, a newbie actuary: "is there skill?"

I also had BMC at the office for a while and (uh oh) played without my wife:
2 experienced, one new player
2P - High numbers vs power cards
2P - The actuary gets a second bash.
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12. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.13 Overall Rank:447]
Joe Grundy
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"WAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH! (*goooosh*)"

We've played with up to five people, and it works great with just the two of us.

Not an all time favourite, but plenty of fun and gets air time regularly.

Session report:
2P with "video" (I'm not doing this again )
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13. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.90 Overall Rank:709]
Joe Grundy
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Here's a gem of a game I heartily recommend you try. I have to add "if you like that sort of thing of course" but it's hard to put a simple category on this... it has limited action chits in the disguise of money, it has majority competing, it has one way traversing of branching (but cyclic) "trade routes", and it has this interesting thing where all the players share the one location marker.

It flows really well.

We play a variant where as soon as you buy a good you get to see what will be restocked in that warehouse next time, rather than restocking being a complete surprise.

This one was a "game of the week" for us. Or, two weeks I guess. And then it stopped, with only a couple of revisits since. But it's one to keep anyway. When I completely stop adding games (cough cough) this'll come back out.

Anyway, I know that if I asked to play this she'd be pleased.

Just the one session report here.
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14. Board Game: Elfenland [Average Rating:6.74 Overall Rank:793]
Joe Grundy
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Here's another game that works well with a wide range of player numbers, and which can be played "casually" or with furrow'd brow.

It's a "travelling salesman" problem where you get to mess with the connection costs. (Just don't read the dicky "justification" burble at the start of the rules.)

My only Elfenland session report was the one time I ever played without my wife:
Introducing two new players
(We've had many games of Elfenland. I'm surprised I haven't done a full on "colourful" writeup.)
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15. Board Game: Tikal [Average Rating:7.35 Overall Rank:217]
Joe Grundy
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This one's a strange one. This is sheer brutal numerical optimisation at it's most serious... which is normally where I do ok (though often I notice I don't enjoy it in a game) and my wife struggles. But this one she (a) enjoys and (b) ALWAYS wins. Alas, our plays come in a little longer than my attention span. Her enjoyment of it is a pretty natural extension of her enjoyment (and dominance) of El Grande.

I think Tikal has numbers and options floating in quantities exceeding my ability to accurately recall and track. So my wife's more instinctive play style works better than my own attempts to analyse.

So I think this is the one game in the cupboard that my wife really wishes we played more but I just can't get myself to do it.

I've never written anything about this game, nor taken any photos.

Move along. Nothing to see here.
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16. Board Game: Shear Panic [Average Rating:6.39 Overall Rank:1581]
Joe Grundy
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The sheep are now a favourite with our 2yo daughter, but the game itself has been a regular for us since we got it. Again, it's not on the table frequently, but it certainly pops out again from time to time and will continue to do so.

This is one game where part of the fun is quite frankly the incredibly cute bits. But it really is quite an interesting game, with almost zero luck but just enough to make you have to re-evaluate your plans from time to time. (Though every so often the luck is a nail-biter "will she get just the right roll?" thing.)

My one session report for this is a bit hard core:
Step by step, two sheepish players, one game, two endings...
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17. Board Game: Odin's Ravens [Average Rating:6.68 Overall Rank:1065]
Joe Grundy
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Oh my! This one got played! And played!! And played!!! But no way on any planet would we ever finish this in the nominal time.

It was never an every-day game, but it stayed out for months. I'd happily play it more, though lately we haven't, and I'm pretty sure if I dropped it on the table on a night when my wife was feeling gameful she'd still be happy with the choice.

Session report:
Pushing the odds...
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18. Board Game: Ark [Average Rating:6.28 Overall Rank:2403]
Joe Grundy
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That's "Tortome the tortoise", our daughter's toy, who now plays the dummy hand for our two player variant. (eg see the most recent session report.)

Ark's had a long life with us. It keeps getting to the table even when there's new stuff in the door.

Ark is deceptive on several levels. The superbly sweet Doris artwork hides a fairly rules-complex game. And since new players have to think about what's legal or not they sometimes miss all the tactical nuance in the card-drafting and hand management side of this game, and the way you can cut options for play for your opponent/s while keeping them open for yourself.

We love this game, and it's a "keeper". It often comes with us to waiting rooms or on tightly-packed travel. (Though I'm not sure if I'm bringing it on our next particular trip.)

Session reports:
2P (variant). Luck + the skill to leverage it = crushing victory
2P variant. I never played the Pig.
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19. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.03 Overall Rank:393]
Joe Grundy
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We got this. We played it a fair bit at first. We played it with my wife's relatives and mostly they liked it too. We played until I realised I was spending no brain power at all on any turn during the game.

Then we stopped.

But by the time we stopped we'd certainly got our money's worth.
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20. Board Game: Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot [Average Rating:5.49 Overall Rank:15067] [Average Rating:5.49 Unranked]
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This game featured during the birth of our daughter two years ago. (I wrote a geeklist of Analgesic games (in childbirth!) at the time.)

This one got regular play, and then none for a long time now. And it got my first ever session report, in which I discovered writing sessions can be fun:
Night of the Lepus
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21. Board Game: ZÈRTZ [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:475] [Average Rating:7.31 Unranked]
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I bought the whole GIPF series in a bunch when we were still trying to work out what range of things my wife would willingly play. (Rather than being dragged into a game and putting up with it 'cause she loves me so much.)

I had a suspicion she was a bit standoffish on the colours and presentation of most of my boardgames, and thought perhaps a set of well presented abstracts would echo the traditions of Go and Chess. I thought perhaps she'd play the games if they seemed more "mature".

Well, it's turned out (as you'll have seen so far in this list) that if she had any such qualms she got over them. But ZERTZ and to some extent DVONN have both done ok for us.

I never did session reports for these. So here's a DVONN session report in a photo:
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22. Board Game: Tigris & Euphrates [Average Rating:7.71 Overall Rank:70]
Joe Grundy
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I was suprised how well my wife took up T&E fairly early in our attempts to game together.

We played maybe a dozen games, which was a heckuvalot at the time. She would play again currently if I suggested it, but it's me that hasn't been in the mood. (No, really. I like the game but it's been 18 months since I've been in the mood for it.)
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23. Board Game: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:390]
Joe Grundy
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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This game is SUPERB! It's been an ongoing revisitor since we got it and it's unlikely to "wear out".

You really don't get the best of this game unless you're playing somewhat "aggressively" ... muscling in on each other's "territories", and blocking possible growth plays by your opponent. And it's muchly best with only two players. Playing with four just devolves to chaos and strips away any ability to plan.

The rules and flow are very "clean". Our one tweak is a speedup with no game effect... we draw our tile at the end of the turn so we can contemplate it until it's our turn to play again.

Session reports:
It's all luck, I tell ya!
2P ... neither has memorised tile distributions.
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24. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:294]
Joe Grundy
Australia
Sydney
NSW
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Yes we bought Lost Cities. And played Lost Cities. Lots. Certainly enough to say "try Lost Cities" with people who are wary of anything they think might be unconventional in a game.

But I doubt that we'll be playing it again.
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25. Board Game: Kingdoms [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1045]
Joe Grundy
Australia
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This was a suprise. My wife took to this one like a duck to water. It came overseas with us, interstate... it got played a few times a week after we got it. (And we're talking back in the day where once every couple of weeks was deemed to be a lot of gaming.)

And this is a game with artwork she doesn't like where the underlying game is putting randomly picked numbers into a grid and trying to claim intersections that add up to the highest values.

We never played with anything other than just the two of us.

It eventually dried up, for both of us.
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