Just an update on a few two-player games Kim & I have been playing.
We’ve played at least half a dozen games of Blue Moon recently, all but the last one with the two decks in the basic set (Vulca and Hoax). After the first game, I wasn’t quite taken – it’s one of those games that seemed neat, but it wasn’t clear where the game was. There are lots of interesting cards, it feels like you’re doing stuff, but it wasn’t immediately clear if any of it mattered, or if it was just about doing obvious stuff and making sure the cards came out in the right sequence. On repeated play, though, this game has really grown on me and I like it a lot. It still doesn’t quite rate as highly as Starship Catan or the Settlers Card Game for us, because it’s a highly tactical game and lacks those games’ strategic element, but it’s a challenging game and there are a lot of meaningful tactical choices. I just picked up the Flit deck, which we played the last time out, and it’s cool just how different all the decks are. The Flit seem to be a bit more interesting to play than the Hoax or the Vulca; they have a few more hold vs. play decisions.
San Juan is a game I didn’t expect to be that great 2-player, but it worked out better than I expected. Well enough, in fact, to play two games in immediate succession. It isn’t as interesting as the 3 or 4 player version, and it does have more of a runaway leader issue, but it’s still pretty good. The Guild Hall certainly seems more and more powerful with fewer players in the game. Ideally, the deck should be thinned a bit with 2 players (maybe 2 of each violet building, one of each 6 building, and reduced numbers of production buildings), but this would be annoying to have to do.
Finally, Scrabble is a game I didn’t have high expectations of (I hadn’t played in several years), but I got a fairly nice set cheaply a while back. Granted, the case has a design problem which makes it impossible to get open if the components get stuck in a bad state, but after destroying the box to get into it we were able to play. This was a very entertaining game, which I enjoyed. Like the better games of this type, there are quite a few tactics and some strategy. You want to take advantage of the multipliers, make sure you aren’t setting up your opponent for a triple word score, realize which letters are valuable, and make choices about when to spend and when to save those letters. Very nice, and a lot of fun. However, the insert with the rules demonstrated why I will never be serious about this game. They had a strategy tips session, in which they list all the words that have Q not followed by a U. This includes QWERTY(S), QAT(S), QOPH(S), and several others that are not in my dictionary and, quite frankly, I don’t actually believe are English words. They’re in the Scrabble dictionary, though (apparently). Still, as long as you’re playing with people who haven’t gone off the deep end in terms of being insanely competitive, and have a sensible dictionary, a very fine game.