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Subject: Games for a budding group rss

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Tom Kane
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Hello,

While I find games (board, card, doesn't matter) to be quite enjoyable, my family growing up, did not so much (the constant playing of uno, five crowns, phase 10, etc when my grandmother came to visit spoiled it).

However, I have since married and found that my wife, my pastor, my pastor's wife, and I really enjoy playing games together. In fact, I found out by accident. We were invited over for dinner and I just had Mille Bornes, but we messed up the rules and went to 1000 miles instead of the 750 that you're supposed to go to in a four-player game. We also didn't take out the extra hazards. What followed was the world's most epic game of backstabbing as we all scrambled to limp our way to the finish line.

I had bumped into Dominion and gotten it for Christmas for my wife this past year, which we greatly enjoyed. After playing with the Pastor and his wife, I pulled it out one time when we were all there. It is a smash hit all around, both when I'm just playing with my wife, and when playing with all four.

I recently picked up Pandemic (I didn't want them getting bored, after all), and we just played that this past week, where it too was enjoyed. We all agreed that the cooperative experience had a very different feel too it, so that was good for variety.

But I have the unique problem that the more we play games, the more often they want to play them. Apparently, they love playing games, but their families don't. They're still expressing joy at finding someone who wants to play games with them, so now they want to get together and play more, which suits us just fine. And the more they want to play, the more I feel that I need more than just two games to cycle between. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but it's difficult to keep the string of hits going, so I thought I'd call in reinforcements on this one.



So without further ado, background...

The Cast

1) Me, the big kid. I don't list me first out of ego, but rather because I know myself fairly well. I've had to put up with myself all these years, but that's irrelevant. I grew up playing the old standbys as well as some more advanced games, such as Ming, Dark Tower (this rocks, by the way. I just dug it back out and performed a little electrical surgery to repair it), and some MOTG with my sister. I am quite flexible, but I like some time to think. Things like The Pit make me anxious, but Dominion doesn't (I'm not an obsessive analyzer, fortunately). Give me time to think, and I will come up with a grand strategy (which may or may not work, but that's besides the point).

2) My wife, the most amazing woman in the whole world. Perhaps the most crucial, as we often play 2-player, but also quite forgiving. She only grew up with games like Sorry, but is much better at thinking on her feet than I am (She enjoys The Pit). She enjoys fantasy, but anything with miniatures she does not understand. She does not enjoy overly complicated (no games that take eight hours), nor does she enjoy games that require picturing the board moves ahead. I played a game of Labyrinth with her that ended VERY badly. For some reason, she can't visualize things (she admits this), so I like abstract things for her, as opposed to something like Drakon. She enjoyed Pandemic though, so I think it was the labyrinth maze constantly changing that was making it difficult for her. Something like Pandemic doesn't require picturing how paths change, and she's fine with.

3) The pastor, the competitor. One of the coolest people on earth. No joke. He's hilarious, snowboards, and drives a car named Deer Slayer. He is very competitive, and enjoys Dominion more than Pandemic, though he liked both. He loses gracefully, but is of the competitive nature in that he thinks about why he lost, and wants to play again with a better strategy. I think he prefers more indirect player competition (such as dominion), vs direct player attacks, but I'm not sure. None of the games I have are directly competitive, shy of that crazy Mille Bornes game we played.

4) The pastor's wife, the backstabber. Normally very quiet (soft voice) and meek, she is hilariously and surprisingly competitive (surprises herself, too, and then gets embarrassed about it). She had great fun playing flat tire, out of gas, and all the other hazards in Mille Bornes on me, simply because I had the audacity to give her a flat tire immediately after she'd fixed one. She also likes the Militia in Dominion. She has a great sense of humor, but I imagine, like my wife, miniatures and complex rules are not her forte. She had no problems with the rules of Pandemic, but I wouldn't want to pull out a wargame on her.

The setting:
1) 2-player: My wife and I enjoy games together. My wife thinks I'm rediculous, but she enjoys seeing me get giddy any time we get to play. But we really only have Dominion to play together, as Pandemic 2-player just seems a bit weak. I'd like to get her another game for Christmas, but I'm not sure what.

2) The weeknight: Many Thursday nights, we get together and play games after work. They get here at about 6:30, and like to leave at 10:30. We'd like to be able to play two games, if we can, so the up to two hours is the sweet spot. Probably slightly less than two hours is best, as we generally eat pizza and talk a little.

3) The weekend evening: Sometimes (maybe once every 5-6 weeks), we get together on a weekend, fix a big meal and play a game afterwards. Despite having about as much time to play games, the crew is more comfortable with going overtime/learning new games.

My thoughts on games to get:
(Mainly for my wife and I
Thunderstone (probably with the new expansion, as I've read it fixes most of the problems.) While we both enjoy dominion, we feel it is a little to fast when played 2-player, and the added dungeon aspects sounds fun to me. I doubt it would replace dominion in the 4-player group, but we might enjoy it. Plus, I can play it by myself if no one else likes it (so there!)
Jaipur - a light game, and quite different from anything we have.
...? I'm really not sure of what games are good with two players, so please don't take the last two as the only types of games I want to get to play with her. These are just two games that I looked at, and I think are better suited for just the two of us, rather than all four.

(for 4-player)
Small World - always changing combinations, that's one of the things I like most about Dominion, it's always FRESH. Also, the combat is light and you always know the result, and the board changes wildly over the course of the game, so no player is "out".
Puerto Rico/Agricola/San Juan - Is there a list of games that one of these are NOT at in the top X games? Personally, I like building an economy, and I think these are so much easier to understand than Race for the Galaxy, etc.
Cutthroat Caverns - We can playfully jab at each other, and I think we could have a lot of fun with the "uneasy alliance" aspect.



You'll notice most of these are Euro-games, and I don't think that's by accident. I am by far the most "gamer" out of all of them, and while I might enjoy the idea of Drakon (for example), Euro-games are much more casual group friendly (I feel), and I particularly like that everyone gets to play until the end. I don't want anybody just sitting there (Yes, I know Cutthroat Caverns can, but still)!

So I'm still trying to figure out what to get next. I have 1 game to play with my wife, and two games two play with my friends (and wife), and I'd like more, but I just have vague ideas of what they might like. So I ask you, what do you think?

Thanks!



(P.S. What's the difference (for the completely uninitiated) between San Juan, Agricola, and Puerto Rico?)
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euronoob

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twkify wrote:
What's the difference (for the completely uninitiated) between San Juan, Agricola, and Puerto Rico?)


I haven't played Agricola yet...have skimmed through the rules.

Puerto Rico's main "oh, this is different" mechanic is the idea of role selection. So, say you start a round, and you say,

"I'm going to be the builder." So, you build something. Then, your wife builds something. Then, the pastor builds something. Then, his wife builds something.

Now, your wife picks a role. "I'm going to be the settler." So, she gets a new plantation. Then the pastor gets one. Then, his wife. Then, you.

Then the pastor picks a role. "I'm going to produce goods." So he produces goods. Then, his wife does. Then, you do. Then, your wife does.

Finally, the pastor's wife picks a role. "I'm going to ship goods." So she does. Then, you do. Then, your wife; then, the pastor.

And so it goes. That's a vastly simplified, very narrow slice of the game, but it's the essence of how the game flows--and, how it's different from traditional games, and even non-traditional games, which follow the "it's my turn, I'm going to do this, this, and this; now, it's your turn, and I have to wait until it's my turn again to do anything" model.

San Juan is Puerto Rico's "little brother." It has the same mechanic, except, it's strictly a card game. (versus Puerto Rico, which has no cards, but has lots of wooden bits and cardboard bits)

Puerto Rico plays well around here. So does Small World. Two other games to consider might be

Stone Age
Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery

good luck!
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Small World works very well for 2 players as well (there's a different board for each number of players).

Puerto Rico is role selection (someone explained the flow of the game above). You get to build buildings that modify the standard rules of the roles a little bit and plantations, you're shipping goods to the old country and building buildings to get points, and selling goods to get money. We've found that new players usually get the game after a few rounds.

San Juan is Puerto Rico the card game. You still have role selection and there is a somewhat similar feel to PR. The cards are used for a lot of different purposes in the game, they are used to represent the buildings you build, the goods you produce (you put them face down on top of the building that produces goods), and money (you pay for building something by discarding cards from your hand). So this is hand management as well.

Agricola is a worker placement game. There are a number of places on the board that represent different actions, and every turn every action can be picked only once. You put one of your guys on the action you want and then do the action. Then the next person does the same, and so on until no one has any guys left. You're building a farm, you can extend and improve your house, plow and sow fields, raise animals, build fences and stables, and extend your family. The tension in the game comes from having to feed your family every harvest, which will come after fewer rounds as the game progresses. If you play the full version, there's also cards that you can play to help your farm along (we don't usually use the cards, so I can't comment on them really).

PR works for two, but only with a variant (which I think is pretty good). San Juan and Agricola work just fine with 2 players.
 
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Seth Brown
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P.S. What's the difference (for the completely uninitiated) between San Juan, Agricola, and Puerto Rico?)

San Juan is an inexpensive card game that you can easily teach to your group. Agricola is very expensive, and more punishing to new players, although it has the prettiest pieces and most attractive theme. Puerto Rico is the board game version of San Juan, much more complexity. (a much better game, IMO, but if you're just starting, you might start with San Juan instead.)

The only other game you list that I've played is Small World, which is just what it seems. If your group is okay with direct conflict on a map where people kill each other's pieces, should work great. If not, it will be frustrating for some.

Some of my favorite games to introduce to gateway gamers are Vikings and Oregon, both of which are relatively simple to learn, have indirect conflict, play in a reasonable amount of time, are good with 2-4 players, and have cute wooden meeples with appropriately themed hats (horned helmets and cowboy farmer hats, respectively). And most importantly, they're fun.
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Tom Kane
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I'm still attempting to absorb the collective knowledge displayed here.

Thanks for the tips, and a bit of an update. We were at church today, and everyone agreed all around that we all like Pandemic, but we like Dominion just a little more. Less stressfull. We're also penciled in for this Thursday, and I might try to engineer a more direct conflict Dominion game (my wife and I have Dominion: Intrigue, but we've never pulled it out with all four).


Thanks for the ideas. Race for the Galaxy and Reef Encounter seem a bit too complex. Maybe someday, but probably not now. I just tried to watch someone (Board Games with Scott, actually) explain how to play Reef Encounter, and felt my brain fusing. I can't imagine taking them from Dominion to that :-). (That said, I'll keep them in mind, as my Dad would enjoy them. He wins every game he plays.).

I'm still watching reviews, and getting overviews, but you've certainly put some on my map that I wasn't looking at before.
Stone Age seems like a fun game that's really going to be up their alley. It's light, good-natured, and I feel like a fairly good intro to economic games. It's not as in depth as something like Puerto Rico, which I feel would overwhelm them before they understood the strategy.

Cyclades also looks like a whole lot of fun, and another that seems to be able to keep a dominant player under control.

I'm still going through the information put here (thank you also for the San Juan/Puerto Rico comparison. Based on what you all have stated, San Juan/Puerto Rico definately sounds like something we will EVENTUALLY get. Maybe not first, but we'll get it. I'll probably give Agricola a miss.

I'll try to post more tomorrow, as my wife just woke up and I can't exactly show her this... .

Thanks all,
TWK
 
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Geoff Hall
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Check out Blue Moon City as a 4 player game. It plays 2 as well although I don;t know how well it handles that number as I've only ever played it with 3 or 4. Very good game that could easily be one of the best gateways games out there but gets bizarrely overlooked. It's easy, it plays in about an hour (if that) and it's got very, very pretty artwork.

Ingenious is a really nice abstract game that will work great with 2 to 4 players that you should check out as well.
 
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Markus Hagenauer jr.
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I agree, Ingenious would be a good choice for sure.

But as your sayed, your wife does not enjoy games that require picturing the board moves ahead, i´d suggest my Topology, as the barin callange is to optimize your turn with the given tiles, but not to look ahaed more than one turn.

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Tom Kane
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After reading and reading and reading, and watching and reading...

Thank you for the suggestions. I actually just ordered Stone Age as it is currently out of print and everywhere is out of stock. And yet Amazon suddenly had a link for one copy sold by Mayday Games for $25. Yoink! I've bought from Mayday before, so I don't think anything hokey is going on.

So my list is currently:
Stone Age
Blue Moon City (thanks for the suggestion, I'd never heard of it.)
Small World
Jaipur

The Eventually List:
Cyclades
San Juan/Puerto Rico

Done little research on:
Ingenious
Carcassone


And it's entirely possible I've missed some, and I will go over your other suggestions as I find time. Thanks for the help!
~TWK
 
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Kevin Shillinglaw
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I thought I'd give you a few more suggestions that may work:
Citadels
Condottiere
The Hanging Gardens
Lost Cities

Check them out and see what you think.

EDIT: Medici
 
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