We’ve started doing some game days where my friend and I play 2-player games while my brother plays solo games in another room (generally playing our friend’s games). This was our solution for playing games we can’t bring out for 3-player; 2-player games and games my brother doesn’t like. Formosa Tea is one of those.
It had a pretty limited release, so most people missed out, but it’s such a fun worker placement game. You have two types of workers—tea farmers and tea masters—and some spaces can only be used by your tea masters. And the process for making tea from leaves is really interesting with multiple steps as you move your tea master along a track with special actions on it. And there are a lot of different ways of using your finished tea, regardless of its quality. So even bad tea has use. If you ever have the opportunity, try this one out!
This was another one we brought out on 2-player game day. What a unique little game. The decisions are so difficult. And it takes time to get the hang of how the game works since many of the cards you’ll draw into your hand you won’t get to keep; you have to give some to your opponent. And as I mentioned in my top 100, this might be the only board game with anime-style artwork that no one has complained about.
7 Wonders Duel
Here’s another 2-player game, and one my brother would definitely not like. It can be absolutely brutal. And the expansions make it worse! But my friend and I like it. This was our first in-person game, so we just played the base game. It can still get nasty. But like Hanamikoji, even simple decisions in this one can be really tough.
We tried this out online during the Kickstarter and we were hopeful but still a bit unsure about it. There were aspects of the game when we played that didn’t quite fit together right. But they made additional changes before finalizing the game, so we were hoping those changes improved the experience. They did.
The technology cards felt smoother. The player boards were improved a lot. In fact, my friend also bought the giant deluxe player boards, but not only are they so large that the game won’t fit on his table, the boards just aren’t as good as the normal ones. And it’s a pretty smooth play experience. Most turns are quick. And building up your tableau is satisfying.
There’s still quite a bit of randomness to the technologies, though. It’s a massive deck, and cards you need may just never show up. My military strategy never took off when we played because I needed more military tech that never came out. I might have done better spreading out instead of trying to compete with mega-populated regions, but I don’t think there was a chance to win. So, you may have to be either more flexible or just lucky.
Despite the incredibly boring theme and extremely dry nature of the game, it’s actually a really solid game. We played on BGA during the KS, and I also tried it solo. It’s really interesting, though pretty difficult to wrap your head around at first, and it can be a little chaotic.
Each round, the current player chooses an action, then everyone can take that action. You really need to try and be lined up to take actions when opponents pick them. I missed a couple of turns in a row because my opponents chose actions I couldn’t do, and it really cost me a lot. There aren’t that many actions in a game, so losing any is brutal.
There’s also so much to consider that the game is very AP-prone. I ended up losing the game because of a rushed decision toward the end that could have easily gotten me 3 more points if I took an extra minute mathing everything out. It won’t be for everyone, but if you like really crunchy, tight, economic games, well, you probably already know about this one.
We had time after our game of Carnegie and our friend had wanted to add Flamme Rouge. We had to learn this one at the table, which we used to do with heavy games (what a terrible idea!), but this was pretty easy to learn. We just played the basic map without modules, but it was fun. My friend also has the expansion with more stuff to throw in.
There are some interesting elements tied together in a very simple way. You’ve got some hand management, push your luck, and reverse deck building. You shed cards as you play them, making other cards more likely to come up as you reset your deck, but if you jump ahead or split from the pack, you take on bad cards. It’s a really neat little game.
My brother really enjoyed this when we played 3-player, and when Barnse & Noble had a sale on board games, he went and picked up a retail copy. It’s just as much fun 2-player as 3-player. I’m sure eventually we’ll need to start adding expansions to keep it fresh, but the core experience is tons of fun. And even the retail version has great production.
Legend of the Five Rings: The Card Game
I had only played this solo using a fan-made variant, but now that we’ve figured out a good way of doing 2-player game days for games my brother won’t play, I finally got a chance to play this 2-player. We stuck with the suggested starter decks from the core box, but it was still fun. It’s definitely not an elegant design, but I enjoy it. I’ve also played some more solo.
My friend bought me some expansions on discount for Christmas, and I ended up buying a couple more clan packs after. Now I have my modest collection sorted into the deluxe expansion box (with a printed version of the updated rules). Can’t wait to get this to the table some more.
Star Wars: Outer Rim + Unfinished Business
While I enjoyed the base game, I enjoyed it less with how unbalanced the characters were. Doctor Aphra is now banned from our games. But the expansion really improved the game for me. I think my brother liked it a bit less because he likes to take a pacifist run doing only jobs and delivering cargo. He doesn’t even like fighting NPC ships or bounties. But most of the Ambitions call for at least some amount of combat. But I especially like the improvements to bounty hunting.
It’s a bit of an awkward fit on our table though. And I wish there was at least some brief primer in the rules somewhere that explained who these characters are. A few of them are pretty obscure, and I have no clue who they are. Just a short paragraph would have been nice.
I was not really getting into the hype for this during the KS. The main game looked interesting, but all the mini-games felt like a random assortment of Euro mechanisms. You could make the game by throwing darts on a board of Euro game tropes. Playing it felt a bit better.
I like the deck building aspect to it. The worker placement part is okay. There are very few places to go, and each one is basically just how you interact with one of the mini-games. I enjoyed the set collection of hunting and the area majority on the map. Though the two totem tracks and the monuments felt tacked on for me. The monuments especially were very abstract compared to other parts of the game, and the one totem side that just scores points is a bit boring for me.
But after having watched a playthrough and then playing it, I can’t help but feel like there’s not a whole lot of strategy; you’re not choosing a particular path to achieve victory, you’re going to do a bit of everything. In fact, if you do really well, you might be doing pretty much everything in the game. For me, that feels like an issue, but we’ll see how it is with more plays. For such a big game with lots of mini-games, I would have expected something more like Trajan or Maracaibo where you need to specialize and not try to do everything.
My friend also has all the expansions, so maybe those will break things up some and improve the experience. Gotta say, though, writing this in February, the hype has sure died down a lot. I wonder if maybe it doesn’t have much staying power?