Byron Campbell
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It's time to start working in earnest on my board game Xmas wishlist. I've already got a great selection of games picked out (my top picks are Macao, Spyrium, Jaipur and Targi), but there's always room for more games on my radar.

In recently took the plunge and tried a number of new games online that I had never played before. As a result, I came to a realization that I'm not really a huge fan of grand strategy games. Agricola and Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar fell flat for me in a major way, and Seasons started to lose its charm after a few plays. The way I see it, the similarity in all those games is that a lot hinges on being able to plan many moves ahead. On the other hand, Spyrium was great, and I really enjoyed Jaipur and Coloretto, which I would never have tried if it weren't free--I thought they would be too light for me. Stone Age was also fun, but I am thinking of getting Village instead. After getting to try Tikal on iPad, I think I might add that to the list.

Since almost all of these recommendation threads are looking for games with high interaction and a lot of strategy, I thought I would ask about games that have a lot of decisions to make, but don't require the player to plan too many turns ahead. I also prefer games with low interaction or indirect indirection instead of direct confrontation. Finally, the game should be at least playable with 2. Unless there is a gaping flaw, I usually have a high tolerance for games that aren't "best" for 2; for example, 2-player Ra on the iPad is pretty tolerable, though I can see it is better with more.
 
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Ryan James
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Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is way more tactical than strategic, has pretty low interaction and IMO is best with two.
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Byron Campbell
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Sandmanx82 wrote:
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is way more tactical than strategic, has pretty low interaction and IMO is best with two.


Thanks for the suggestion! Have played that on iPad as well, and you are right. I'm not sure I liked it enough to add it to my list, though. Is it better if you start with one of the later standalone expansions?
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Justin R
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Sandmanx82 wrote:
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is way more tactical than strategic, has pretty low interaction and IMO is best with two.


I would go further and say that I found Ascension to have no strategy whatsoever. It's not a bad game, but you are utterly beholden to the cards that hit the floor.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I actually Citadels quite a bit with 2 people.

Maybe RftG?
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Ryan James
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kittenhoarder wrote:
Sandmanx82 wrote:
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is way more tactical than strategic, has pretty low interaction and IMO is best with two.


Thanks for the suggestion! Have played that on iPad as well, and you are right. I'm not sure I liked it enough to add it to my list, though. Is it better if you start with one of the later standalone expansions?


All of the later expansion add something new to the mix, but it's essentially the same game.
 
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JJRR_Esq wrote:
Sandmanx82 wrote:
Ascension: Deckbuilding Game is way more tactical than strategic, has pretty low interaction and IMO is best with two.


I would go further and say that I found Ascension to have no strategy whatsoever...


I agree with you to a point. You are absolutely beholden to the cards, as you say, but you can attempt to choose a heavy rune deck to go for the most high-point cards, or you can try to get more cards that concentrate on attacking, in hopes that more monsters come out. It's not like there are no decisions to be made. I normally attempt to have some sort of strategy when I buy cards. You just have to have a very loose and general strategy and just hope what you want comes out. It's most definitely tactics over strategy, though, that's for sure.
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Jordan Booth
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Race for the Galaxy Was what I thought of when I saw the thread title. Best with 2, super tactical, pretty much every turn you re-evaluate what you want to do based on how long the game is likely to go on.

Ascension is another great one. Definitely some strategies based around what faction mix you choose to buy, but also one where you need to be malleable. For 2 players get Ascension: Apprentice Edition it has a custom mix from the first three sets. The deck is just enough for two though so not a bad teaser for $12 (vs. $50 for a base set) but that's really all it is.
If you want to bypass the base Ascension set check out Ascension: Return of the Fallen it adds the most interesting bits without getting carried away or unbalanced.


BTW, These are my two favorite games.
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Kevin Garnica
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Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Le Havre: The Inland Port
 
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Josh A
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Jambo is good medium-weight 2 player game. It's not very expensive and easy to find. Another game I recommend is Starship Catan when it came out it was a really fun under-appreciated game, one of the best values per box. Now it's hard to find and expensive when you do find it.
 
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Byron Campbell
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Born-of-Ashes wrote:
Race for the Galaxy Was what I thought of when I saw the thread title. Best with 2, super tactical, pretty much every turn you re-evaluate what you want to do based on how long the game is likely to go on.

Ascension is another great one. Definitely some strategies based around what faction mix you choose to buy, but also one where you need to be malleable. For 2 players get Ascension: Apprentice Edition it has a custom mix from the first three sets.


Thanks so much, I didn't even know that Ascension: Apprentice existed. Is it possible to combine that with another set if I decided I needed more variety? Would it synergize well with RotF?

Race for the Galaxy is another game I added to my list after playing it online. I like that your strategy evolves with the cards you draw, but you're going to have to discard some of them to pay the cost anyway, so the cards you end up playing reflect your own decisions more than luck of the draw.

pacman88k wrote:
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Le Havre: The Inland Port


I'll bite. If I didn't like Agricola, what makes ACBaS better? I do find myself liking Le Havre (iPad again) quite a bit. I appreciate that there is less blocking than Agricola, and you seem to be able to recover okay if you forget to plan ahead. Is Inland Port more tactical, or just refined for two players?

Technicolorville wrote:
Jambo is good medium-weight 2 player game.


Is it worth getting that and Jaipur? I am getting Jaipur for sure.
 
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Maori
 
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Jordan Booth
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kittenhoarder wrote:

Thanks so much, I didn't even know that Ascension: Apprentice existed. Is it possible to combine that with another set if I decided I needed more variety? Would it synergize well with RotF?

Absolutely, the apprentice deck has a good variety of cards, but none of them have any of the special mechanics that make any other set after the first unique. This is so that it is easy to learn, then once you're hooked...

Will RotF synergize best with Apprentice? I'm not really sure. The fact that Apprentice has vanilla cards means it will fit into any set without much conflict but that also means there are no obvious combos that jump out just from looking at the cards, that is something I'd have to play it with other sets to get a feel for. RotF comes with everything necessary for two players just like Apprentice Edition. So with both you should be able to play a four player game. The only thing to be aware of when mixing Apprentice in with other sets is that there will be some duplicates. But all of the sets indicate by the color of their set symbol how many copies there should be, and Apprentice edition makes it even easier by having X pips for X copies. Also it's kind of obvious that the really powerful and expensive cards should be unique.

I should note that while you can certainly play any and all sets together, the designers suggest that you play just with one "block" at a time. A "block" is a base set and the following release of a half size expansion that expands on the mechanic introduced in the base set. This suggestion is based on making sure the unique mechanics are not diluted too much and that you aren't trying to shuffle and stack 500 cards of which only 100-150 will be seen in any one game. That said there are plenty of custom cubes that can be found on this site and the official Ascension forums.

While I'm at it I may as well break down the whole series. Then you can see exactly which set(s) will appeal to you.

Block 1
Base: Ascension: Deckbuilding Game - Vanilla, sets the foundation, nothing crazy.
Exp: Ascension: Return of the Fallen - Adds 'Fate' where cards have an effect when they enter the market. This is the only mechanic to be in ALL future sets and thus why I recommended it, clearly they had something that worked too well to drop.

Block 2 (My personal favorite, but it adds a LOT, so I wouldn't start with it unless you like diving in the deep end.)
Base: Ascension: Storm of Souls - This adds events that grant global effects and Trophy Monsters that you can keep after defeating for a single use bonus later.
Exp: Ascension: Immortal Heroes - More events (YAY!), new Ongoing Trophies that give recurring bonuses, and Soul Gems that are single use cameos of block 1 heroes.

Block 3 (No more events, BOO!)
Base: Ascension: Rise of Vigil - Adds Treasure cards that grant Energy. Energy is a new resource that is not spent but instead builds up anew each turn and many cards have effects that only trigger if you have at least the required amount when you play them. Some Trophy Monsters, but no Ongoing Trophies.
Exp: Ascension: Darkness Unleashed - Use energy to Transform cards into stronger cards (They are double-sided if you use sleeves, they also provide single side copies for each level if you do not use sleeves.) Some Trophies, one single Ongoing Trophy.

OK, I guess Trophies has also been in all sets since the third, because it's a great mechanic that adds agency in a game often criticized for being too chaotic.

Hope this helps. Thanks for reading.
 
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Paul Kimmel
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Good suggestions here, but I'd just add Parade as a suggestion for a stocking-stuffer. It fits the bill exactly (even though it's a filler) and is fantastic with two.
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