Joseph Knowles
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Allow me to explain a little . . . ok, a lot . . . so you can get a good feel for where I'm coming from before making a recommendation.

I think it's fairly safe to now classify my wife as a Ticket to Ride junkie. We played several games with my parents/siblings over Christmas vacation and a couple games since getting home (we received the game as a gift from my brother and his fiance). She loves the game, hates losing, and will probably be willing to play whenever we have the time. I have some Christmas cash that is burning a hole in my pocket and I definitely want to use at least some of it on a board game (or maybe two).

Here's the thing: as much as I have loved Ticket to Ride so far, I'd like to step things up a notch or two in terms of complexity. In addition, I don't want us to play it to the point that we get tired of it. I don't want to get tired of it any time soon. As for stepping it up, I've been raring to try Maria ever since the rules have been up online. It's definitely more complicated than anything I've ever played, but I'm fairly confident that I could handle it.

Unfortunately, I have doubts that I could actually corral my wife into playing it with me. She says she will if I go ahead and buy it, but I want her to . . . you know . . . enjoy playing it with me, mot just do it out of obligation. We also played Small World with my brother and sister and that seemed to be pushing the limit for her (although, it was late, she was getting tired, and as we discovered the next week, she was pregnant at the time, and, granted, after a few turns she seemed to get it . . . mostly) So, for the time being it looks like Maria is probably off the table.

To that end, I've been doing a little research into games that employ similar mechanics to TtR, games that I just think she might like, and games that might push us in the direction of eventually being able to take on Maria. Let me know if you think any of these fit that bill:

Alhambra
Lost Cities
Carcassonne
San Juan
St. Petersburg
Age of Discovery
Mr. Jack
Memoir '44
Tigris & Euphrates (this one is a question mark because although it shares mechanics with TtR it would seem to be too heavy for us at this point)
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I don't know that Lost Cities would be much of a next step. If she hadn't played and liked TTR, and you wanted an intro game, then maybe, but it would be an equal step, if not a half a step back, at this point.

I would look at Condottiere which is a card driven game about winning "battles" and "territories". The happier, more colorful version with a similar mechanic is Montgolfiere, about hot air balloon races (it is OOP, but still findable). In either case, you have a hand of cards where bigger beats littler, with a few cards with special powers that you have to employ at the right time.

While it seems odd, I would also look at Kingsburg, which is played in year cycles, and you have to win a battle at the end of each year by employing soldiers and rolling a die (if you employ enough soldiers and have enough fighting power from buildings you have built, the die roll doesn't matter). You roll dice each turn and select areas on the board which give you resources, soldiers, VPs, etc. You build buildings with resources, which can give you bonus soldiers and VPs.

San Juan might make sense, as it's a card game with a little more depth, if you think the mechanics will help with Maria. Carcassonne is a tile laying game about the same complexity as TTR, so it depends if you think tile laying will help with Maria.
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Richard Morris
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My wife is not really a games player, but joins in when the family plays. She really likes Carcassonne, and is fine (thoug not a junkie) with TtR. She likes Alhambra, which we play as often as the other two I mentioned. So I think either of those would work. I like the idea of another 'gateway' game, but with completely different mechanics. Carcassonne is just tile laying, though complex as tile laying goes. ALhambra has an element of resource buying and money collecting going on at the same time. So I would recommend investigating those (both have full rules posted online). I cannot talk to the others on the list.
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Kevin Brazee
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I think our spouses are the same - not gamers per se, but always willing to play. My wife likes some games like Through The Desert and Power Grid (the latter surprised me).

Let me give my opinions on the game you listed.


Alhambra - My wife likes the basic game. I want to get the Big Box expansion. Between the basic game and the mini expansions there is probably a combination that she would like and you would feel like its a notch above TTR.


Lost Cities - Have not played but I agree it is not a step above as far as complexity.

Carcassonne - My wife doesn't like this as much but I agree it might be a good fit.

San Juan - I prefer Puerto Rico and my wife enjoys PR. There is a good verison of a 2P PR. I don't find San Juan useful for us.

St. Petersburg - Have not played.My guess is that you might like it but your wife might not.

Age of Discovery - No opinion

Mr. Jack - No Opinion

Memoir '44 - My abosulte fav game but my wife hates it.

Tigris & Euphrates (this one is a question mark because although it shares mechanics with TtR it would seem to be too heavy for us at this point) - Again I would your guess your wife might not like it.

Finally one last point. As I have tried to introduced more complex games to my wife I found one aspect to be a key. I had to know the game inside and out before I introduced it to her. While I have the patience to learn a more complex game she will not enjoy herself if I do it on "her time". A perfect example was Power Grid. I would have guessed she would have not liked this game. But I spent a lot of time understanding it, playing solo games and reading up on it. When I introduced the game it went well and we have played a few times in the last month.

If you have a game that you think is at the top of your complexity level best to work through the kinks with other gamers. If you do it with a nongamer you will have lost them with respect to that game forever.

Buddy Holly
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DMSamuel
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The question that I have revolves not on whether more complex mechanics are alright for you to try, but rather, on what themes you wife might like. The mechanics are important, yes, but if the game doesn't appeal to your wife at all, due to theme, it doesn't matter how the mechanics go (see Mr. Jack below).

To address your suggestions:

Lost Cities - I agree with the posters above when they say this is NOT a step up. This is probably more simple than TtR in several ways. We just got this and it is a great little game, don't get me wrong, but it is a filler game, short and simple. It's a great gateway game, but not really on the level of what I think you are looking for.

Carcassonne - Does the tile laying mechanic seem like it would excite your wife? For me it's a bit blah, but the plus side to Carcassonne is that there are a plethora of expansions available that can expand and change your game in the future.

Age of Discovery - do you mean the original Age of Discovery, or Age of Empires III: Age of Discovery? I'm assuming the former since the latter is relatively more complicated... This may be one for you, since it has the secret mission aspect that each player strives for separately (like TtR has routes that each player must accomplish), but this game tends to get repetitive, so you may not enjoy it for the long haul. On the other hand, if you are using it as a stepping stone to increase complexity in the games you can play with your wife, then it may be good.

Mr. Jack - I have heard many people praise this game, but I have also heard that many people (wives/girlfriends usually) are turned off by the premise. One of you is Jack the Ripper. Now, some would say that is just a thin theme pasted in a two-player version of clue, but still. Will your wife be turned off by the fact that she has to be a serial murderer? If so, then don't buy this.

Memoir '44 - Does your wife enjoy historic battles? If not, this may suffer from the same problem as Mr. Jack. Otherwise it may be a really good choice.

Tigris & Euphrates - probably too complex for your situation.
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Joseph Knowles
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BuddyHolly wrote:
Finally one last point. As I have tried to introduced more complex games to my wife I found one aspect to be a key. I had to know the game inside and out before I introduced it to her. While I have the patience to learn a more complex game she will not enjoy herself if I do it on "her time". A perfect example was Power Grid. I would have guessed she would have not liked this game. But I spent a lot of time understanding it, playing solo games and reading up on it. When I introduced the game it went well and we have played a few times in the last month.


This actually makes perfect sense.

We initially tried TtR at a game night at the local library. Before that, however, at this same game night, I had Carcassonne on the table and was trying to explain that to them. The scoring being somewhat more complex, I could tell they were following me, but only just barely and very slowly. I think I had a grasp on the rules myself, but not quite enough of one to explain it so they could easily understand.

We started putting the tiles back in the box when I spotted an unopened copy of TtR. Having read up on the rules for TtR quite a bit (simple though they are), I was able to explain them pretty clearly to my wife and 11 year old niece and we were able to jump right in to TtR.

So, I guess the point you are making is a good one, that I actually knew from prior experience. Thanks for the reminder!

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Jason Cleal
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I would recomend Memoir 44 that is an awsome game with heaps of variety and also Battlelore.

Carcassonne is a good game but you cant really play with to many expansions at the same time, to me that takes the enjoyment out of the game. 1-2 expansions is fine.

Lost cities is a great game i love it but for a step up from ticket to ride it is not.
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Corey Allen
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Maybe you could try a Mystery Rummy type game, perhaps Bonnie and Clyde.

This would not be a huge step up based on complexity, but it would add a little variety to the rummy universe you are currently in (assuming you believe TtR to be a Rummy game).

Also, this will give you a cheap, portable game to play in the case you buy 2 games with your christmas money.
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Joseph Knowles
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lorddillon wrote:
The question that I have revolves not on whether more complex mechanics are alright for you to try, but rather, on what themes you wife might like. The mechanics are important, yes, but if the game doesn't appeal to your wife at all, due to theme, it doesn't matter how the mechanics go (see Mr. Jack below).


This is helpful also. Thanks for the tip.

Now then . . . what could be as intriguing as cute little plastic train cars . . . laugh
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Joseph Knowles
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By the way, I think everyone has given recommendations based on this assumption so far, but I do want something that plays well with two (though not necessarily something that only plays with two).

I fully intend to get my daughter (and her future siblings) hooked on boardgames, but since she is only 14 months old at the moment, it might be a little while before that can realistically happen.
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First off, congrats on the pregnancy news!

Seeing as your wife enjoyed Ticket to Ride, I would think she would like to possibly play a game similar in mechanics but more complicated, which could help her ease into the more complicated games later on. I believe Thurn and Taxis would be a great consideration because it uses similar characteristics to Ticket to Ride but I find it a little more involved. If you are looking for a game that strays away from the trains, Stone Age seems to be the ideal choice when trying to move into a more complex ground, but don't worry, the game isn't over the top complicated.
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Craig Liken
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I like the previously posted suggestion of Thurn and Taxis and Stone Age. Both are very good games that play well with two (and extend up to 4) and are a small step up only from TTR.

As for you main list, I think Alhambra and San Juan are good options. St Petersburg is a very good game, but perhaps a tad risky - I know one gamer whose wife hates it. Tigris and Euphrates would be a definite no I would have thought, unless your wife has a strong abstract game-playing background - I don't see it as a step towards Maria at all.

Lost Cities is pretty simple and a good filler, but if you want to go with a card game then I would have thought Dominion would be worth a go. We pretty much get nothing else to the table here at home when we only have two players.

Another game that provides card based play combined with a board and is relatively straightforward is Notre Dame.

I haven't played Maria, but from reading up on it, it seems to be a historical simulation/wargame but driven by cards. Given your scenario, I suspect it might be a tough ask to get this to the table (ie small child with another on the way). While I think you are better to go for simpler, shorter games, if you want to head towards it then maybe something like 1960: The Making of the President might be worth a look. Not a wargame, but a shorter card driven historical simulation. The same designer is also releasing Founding Fathers next year.

From experience I suspect that the general problem you will run up against in getting a game like Maria to the table is the time frame for the game. In the 3 to 4 hours it takes you have will have many decision points. My wife is a very good gamer, but I doubt that she spends much time away from the table pondering strategy for games (as I often do), as she has too much else (managing kids, other hobbies etc) to think about. I think the more decision points (which are usually incremental) in games then the wider the gulf can potentially be between someone who has thought about the game a lot and someone who just sits down to play it. Hope that makes some sort of sense, but I just know that I wouldn't get a game like Maria on the table - my wife will play games like Agricola, and Puerto Rico is her favourite game (alhtough Dominion is getting close I think) so we get some very good gaming in.
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Joseph Knowles
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Thanks again for all the recommendations.

While looking at the Days of Wonder Game Guide that was included with TtR, my wife spontaneously volunteered that Memoir '44 looked interesting and that she might like to play it.

I guess my decision wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be . . .
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Another quick update here: got Memoir '44 on the table for the first time last night and it was a big hit with the wife. As the Allies, she stuck it to me in the Pegasus Bridge scenario. I think she might be hooked.
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Geoff Hall
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pcaharrier wrote:
Another quick update here: got Memoir '44 on the table for the first time last night and it was a big hit with the wife. As the Allies, she stuck it to me in the Pegasus Bridge scenario. I think she might be hooked.


Awesome! I've only played Memoir '44 once myself but would happily do so again, it's a really fun game and surprisingly simple to grasp, set-up, etc.
 
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Dan O'Brien
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I think Carcassone will provide variety and keep your wife interested in gaming. My wife loves it. It's not more complex but I think it's good to introduce new mechanics before more complexity.

I think you should also consider Stone Age, which is not on your list.

Mr. Jack is a step up in complexity. I was planning on trying it out with my wife when she finishes school this spring.

For now, when we have time to play, her favorites are:

Carcassone
Ticket to Ride
Dominion
Stone Age
Pandemic

We also started learning Galaxy Trucker together but I picked up Dominion around the same time and that was like being addicted to crack for a few weeks before things settled down.

These games provided a nice variety while all being accessible to us. Even better, I have my wife interested in trying out some heavier games as soon as we have the time. I have Twilight Struggle and Agricola sitting on the shelf waiting...
 
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Dave Sinclair
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I think you are on the right path with:

Alhambra
San Juan
St. Petersburg

Leading to games of more variety/complexity in the future.

Just my opinion. Happy Gaming!
 
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