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Subject: Hanging Gardens as a 2 player game rss

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Sharon Khan
United Kingdom
Shefford
Bedfordshire
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This is part of my series of reviews of how multiplayer games work with just 2. For the full list see: My 2 player game reviews.

Rules - how are they different in a 2 player game?

The only difference is that each turn four cards are drawn, instead of just one per player, and you take it in turns to take two cards, alternating turns.

How is the game different with 2?

The major difference in the game doesn't actually come from the rules change above, but from the number of turns. There are 60 cards in the deck, and you play until the deck runs out, so with 4 players you get 15 turns each, with 3 20, and with 2 30 turns. This makes a great difference to the strategies you use, as it's so much easier to build up your board. In a 4 player game you almost never see anyone repeat score a large temple, and the main aim is just to hope to be able to take sets when you do score. In a 2 player game a much more major part of the strategy is building your temples so that when you start moving them around, you can move them back to a big temple and maybe get a double score, or at least a full choice of tiles from the rack. This also means the scoring tiles vary in value between player counts, as it's much easier to complete the relevant set for a leader, or collect the required number of tiles for more valuable sets, whereas in 4 player games it's often better to take the smaller sets that are easy to score a guaranteed, but lower, number of points.

The rules change mentioned above also has a slight impact - when you're taking cards you know what your second card is likely to be, from the selection available, and as a result you are able to plan your first card placement to aid your second (or make sure it causes at least damage as possible, if you're going to be stuck with a really bad card for your second one!).

There are also different strategies in taking and placing cards because of the extra length of the game - in the early game in particular you want to get your board as big as possible, and to some degree this outweighs the early scoring. If you can only score a temple by squashing everything you've already built up, it's less worth it, as there are so many more turns afterwards for you to take advantage of your big board, and getting double scores later in the game will make up for it.

The other difference I find with the 2 player game is that as it's zero-sum, taking cards and tiles is as much a blocking move as it is positive for you. In a 3 or 4 player game although you might consider your opponent's board before choosing between two fairly equivalent options, in general it doesn't help to block, as you can't block all three players. With just 2 blocking becomes a much bigger aspect of the game - taking the cards they can place easily, and leaving them ones that are awkward for them, even if they're also better for you.

Verdict:

I personally think Hanging Gardens is at its best as a 2 player game, ok with 3, and unplayable with 4 - with 4 you lose all the strategy of the game, and it becomes a very light luck-driven game. With 2 there is a lot more depth to the game, and the game really shines.
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Charles Snakes et Lattes
Canada
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Please excuse the four year lapse in responding to this original post (which is excellent). I finally experienced Hanging Gardens for two players, after some years of enjoying it as a 4-player game.

All of the points above are valid. But there is one problem with the two-player game. Since sets are so much easier to get, the game can be badly skewed by when the bonus(leader) tiles are drawn - They come out quite randomly and if you find yourself on the wrong end of this (which has happened to me three games straight) you have very little chance of winning.

So while the game is quite enjoyable for two players, it is not balanced.
 
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Liallan G
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It can be badly skewed if that happens. Obviously this is a luck thing due to the randomness. But this is only going to happen sometimes. Actually it happened to me in the last 2 player I played, where the bonus's were left for my opponent and not much I could do about it. But I have played many more games in which that did not happen.

It does do well 2 player, but I also like 3 and 4 player, and don't consider 4 unplayable. Admittedly, I don't do 4 player as often, but like it as a variety. I don't think you "lose all the strategy" - I think it's just a different strategy.
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