Dinner, a Movie, and Meeples

Gamers are often stereotyped as dateless losers.  What girl would want hang out with a guy that plays Magic and uses an oversized d20 as a paperweight?  Where lies the common interest?  But I contend that girls share more interest with a gamer’s hobbies than those of a jock.  Many girls are interested in board games, so guys need to take an opportunity to show their ladies that there is more available than Monopoly and Chinese checkers.

Of course, I just equated “gamer” to “male,” and that itself is untrue.  Spending a lot of time in a game shop, I’ve noticed many women shopping with and without guys. Personally, I am newly married to a girl gamer, who happens to be sisters with a girl gamer, who are both friends with girl gamers.  I’ve played in plenty of RPGs where the Y chromosomes are outnumbered.

But roleplaying games won’t cut it on a date.  Many games we learn to play as children, chess, checkers, and tic-tac-toe, are only playable with two players, but more “grown-up” games can involve four or more people.  When you’ve cleared your Friday night for a hot date, it won’t impress anyone to pull those two player “classics” from the shelf.  While on honeymoon with my new wife Ashlee, we took time to discover new favorites.

Card Games

Lost Cities

We started with card games we bought specifically for the trip – Lost Cities and Coloretto.  I found them to be similar. I enjoyed Lost Cities more, but Ashlee liked both.  Card games are nice for quiet evenings, and I’d suggest playing them early in a relationship.  They allow for good conversation, and if your date is unfamiliar with games, the simplicity keeps the discussion free of rules and explanation.

Lost Cities is an award-winning game from Reiner Knizia, and its box boldly claims “A Daring Adventure for Two.” The game fulfills that claim because the art on the oversized cards do feel as though you are exploring ancient ruins.  The game is similar to solitaire, and as you play cards of higher value, the forgotten temples are brought into greater detail through the art.  While the game is easy to compare to solitaire, a clever discard system allows for a good deal of interaction with your opponent and makes true solo play impossible.

Coloretto is the conveniently portable predecessor to the successful Zooloretto games.Coloretto Instead of running a zoo and collecting animals, you are a chameleon changing its colors by collecting cards.  The more you have in three chosen suits, the better you score, but suits beyond the first three lose you points.  This is the same idea that Lost Cities uses to score, and I felt the former game did it better.  As a fan of Zooloretto, however, I am still happy to own its little brother.

Other card games you may want to look into are Unspeakable Words, Munchkin, Wizard, and Citadels.  These are also great with more players, so they add flexibility to your game closet.  Unspeakable Words is a great word game on its own, but the letters pop more when C is for Cthulu, S is for Shoggoth, and H is for ______.  Experienced gamers suffer Munchkin fatigue after several expansions, and perhaps you already have!  If that is the case, Wizard and Citadels will entertain you longer.

Board Games

Card games are a great way to warm up for any gaming session, and with a good sweat built up, we unboxed the board games.  We brought several with us, but only had time to play Mr. Jack and Ticket to Ride.

Mr. JackMr. Jack is a strategic game of deduction where one player is the murderous Jack and the other is the cunning Detective.  The players manipulate all the characters on the board with separate goals.  Jack knows who he is and must try to escape while the Detective uses all the suspect’s special abilities to trap the murderer. Mr. Jack feels like a cross between Clue and chess.  We both enjoyed it, and Ashlee proved her superior deductive skills when she tricked me into thinking I was several steps ahead of her when I was really several behind.  There is a lot of interaction between the two players in this game because players have to share all the pieces on the board.

Ticket to Ride features fewer ways to affect the other players, but it is still fun.  It is known as one of the three pillars of entry-level games, with Settlers and Carcassonne being the others, but strangely we had not played it yet.  We caught on to the rules quickly, but there isn’t much to learn.  Building destinations is fun, and when you stretch a train route from the East coast to the West it feels appropriately epic.  The quick turns and ease of play left room for conversation, and we even watched a movie during our game.  While it made for a good date, we have played several times with other people now, and it’s also great in groups.  I have been told that other versions of the game are even better with two people, so you may want to look into Ticket to Ride: Europe, or Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries.

Ticket to Ride

We didn’t have time to play the Traders and Barbarians expansion to Settlers of Catan, but I would recommend  it for the new two-player rules.  You can fill a whole weekend with the new campaign rules as well.  Other board games I’d recommend are Viking, Pandemic, and Hey, That’s My Fish.  We’ve mentioned Viking here before, and while it benefits from a few more players, it is suitable with two.  I’ve not played a two player game of Pandemic yet, but cooperative games are often the most fun.  I’ve heard a two player game is difficult, but I’m sure Pandemic is difficult no matter how you play it.  Hey, That’s My Fish is a silly choice, but we love the game.  It’s a typical Euro-style tile-laying, worker placement game with a kid-friendly feel to it.  The strategy is deep, however, and several heated battles can happen quickly. When bringing a board game out on a date, be sure to consider the length and theme.  People can be pickier about a board game than a card game.

Puzzles

The last day of vacation was spent working on a puzzle together.  Terrible idea.  Puzzles are boring and can barely be considered a game.  At first, you may find yourself enjoying the challenge, but once you finish the easy sections, the rage will consume all that you hold dear.

The puzzle we had was of a castle with a large blue sky in the background.  Nice picture.  Unfortunately, once the castle was done I had no interest in the sky.  Completely blue, one piece was the same as the next.  I wanted to go play Ticket to Ride again, but Ashlee NEEDED to finish the puzzle.  This episode led to our first domestic squabble.

I would never recommend a puzzle date.  With everyone concentrating, there will not be socializing.  One person stock piling puzzle pieces they think might be theirs will lead to a few fights, and once one person is bored the day is ruined.  Let us not forget that a puzzle will take at least an entire day to finish, so they are not designed for an evening and curfews. If you find yourself trapped and forced into puzzling, I will mention that the jigsaw pieces go down smoother with a boxed set of Arrested Development.

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It might seem odd to think of board games as romantic, but they open more discussion than a movie could.  With the price of movie tickets these days, board games offer greater value than ever.  There are many games that would be great to take on a date, and it’s difficult to come up with the perfect guideline.  The most important tip is to choose a game that you both enjoy.  Encourage each other to be open-minded, but don’t force your girlfriend to play Lord of the Rings: The Trivia Game when she may not even be sure how to pronounce “Tolkien.”  This doesn’t force you to play nothing but Wits and Wagers either.  Choose a game for a date the same way you would choose a game for an afternoon with the dudes.  And if you don’t need a game for your date, all of the games I’ve suggested would work well with any friends or family.  All of them are solid games, but leave the puzzles for your enemies.

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