compiled mostly from rec.games.board


Ace of Aces  Nova Game Designs  1980

I've found Ace-of-Aces to be a great one. It's head to head. It requires you to outwit your opponent. It's a good "ha ha, I got you" type game. I've played with men and women. You don't have to learn a lot of rules. I do not know if it is still in print, however.

[Cris Whetstone, '97]


Al Cabohne  AMIGO Spiel + Freizeit GmbH  2000

I have played this much more as a solitaire game, but it works quite nicely with 2 players against the Bean Mafia, and can be quite competitive. The phantom third player mechanism works well. Rating: 6 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]


Babel  Kosmos  2000

I have this and like it very much (currently a top 10 game for me). It has a lot more strategy and depth than other two-player card games I've played (Lost Cities, Battle Line). In fact, it's almost like a board game disguised as a card game. I recommend this very heartily if you want a strategic card game that's heavier than Lost Cities (which is also very fun). The theme in this game also maintains its integrity much better than other card games I've played. It's a really great value too since there's a lot of great gameplay for not too much money.

["jake", '01]

A great game, lots of fun and not that light. Plenty of options to build or destroy. One of the best games in Essen, maybe the best 2-player game in 2000. And surprisingly, nothing with "beans" !!!!!!

[Andreas Keirat or Claudia Schlee, '00]

This was one of the Essen games I was looking forward to and had a chance to play it for the first time this weekend. I was not disappointed. There seem to be plenty of options during a players turn to think about and seems to be deeper than many of the others in Kosmos' two player line. I'm looking forward to playing it again and if I were a betting man, I would guess it will quickly become my favorite in the series.

[Craig Massey, '00]

This was my feeling after first game, but I've been very disappointed by the two next ones. I have the feeling that the control and strategy are totally illusory, and the game is in fact uncontrollable chaos. Not that I despise this usually, but I don't like chaos disguised as strategy, and I'm afraid that's what Babel is. But maybe the strategy is way too deep for me.

[Bruno Faidutti, '00]

Bruno, I hope you re-read the rules, as I taught you the game wrong in Essen. The way we played it, it's just a good game, with the right rules it will be an excellent one.

[Claudia Schlee, '00]

I totally agree [with Bruno]. This game has very interesting mechanisms that disguise the fact that, although the player has a lot of choices to make, there are not a lot of options. Even worse is that the destructive element in the game is stronger than the constructive element. When you are looking for a good 2 player game, try Moreisi.

[Rob van Wijngaarde, '00]


Battle Cry  Avalon Hill Game Company  2000

My wife and I have a few favorite two player games: Die Siedler card game, Lost Cities, Caesar and Cleopatra, and Ta Yu... But our new favorite is Battle Cry. I am not a fan of wargames by any stretch, but Battle Cry is an excellent game. It is more like a great German two-player game disguised as a war game. It has it all - 15 different scenarios, nice pieces/bits, cards, and good old die rolling! Nice mix of luck and skill - every game seems to come down to the wire. The whole thing can be played in less than an hour. My wife just beat me for the fourth time in a row - the south will rise again!

[Scott Tullis, '00]

Well, I've only played once, but I had a fantastic time playing. No, I don't think the game is going to strain one's mental capacities, but I did find it to have that nice blend of choices, tension, interaction and simplicity that you speak of. Plus, it played in about 35 - 45 minutes. It seems too simple and luck driven to me but I would like to try some of the more involved scenarios before I pass final judgment. I think I was just hoping for something with just a wee bit more detail. Units don't have facings, they are just 360 degree nodes of sustained firepower. When a unit loses units it isn't degraded in performance. You just slug away until the units are knocked out. Basically the whole strategy in the game is card management so that you can position your troops to maximize your firepower on your opponents units. In the end I guess I was underwhelmed because I was hoping for a little more detail. However this is a beer and pretzel wargame like Axis and Allies so I'm sure that one could easily modify the game to fit your own tastes.

[Neil Carr, '00]

> Units don't have facings, they are just 360 degree nodes
> of sustained firepower.
And that's precisely why I like it. Morale rolls, facings, possible routing, reduced firepower, and all that crap are the elements which bog down traditional wargames and miniatures. This simple system puts the importance on *commanding* the armies, not hacking and slashing. I think this is a fine game and a superb simulation of just how frustrating it must have been to command troops in the age of rifle.

[Randy Cox, '00]

This is a war game for non-wargamers. I'm not at all surprised if people looking for a simulation (whatever that is) are disappointed with it. I, on the other hand, think it's a lot of fun. I even quickly ended up with an absurdly useless hand of cards in my first game, but slowly the luck of the draw started to balance out and the game got competitive. I haven't acquired that bad a hand since, but I'm sure it's more than a rare occurrence. It's quick, light (for a war theme), well designed, IMHO, in a way that captures at least some of a historical flavor. I was actually surprised when I opened it how much it structurally resembles the American Heritage series Battle Cry of my youth - three basic pieces, artillery, cavalry, and infantry, each with separate strength and movement capabilities - but there is a lot more game play here.

[Bob Scherer-Hoock, '00]

I think this is a great game. I already bought three copies because I'm sure I will play it plenty over the years with my kids and wanted replacement pieces. Yes it is light and fun, but it's not a "dumb" game. I don't think that it's one where you go from one turn to the next always with an "obvious" move. You actually have to plan and more importantly REACT to both your opponent's moves and what your cards will allow you to do. Keys for me on liking this game so much: Short playing time (30-60 minutes), Rules don't strain the brain, Very high visual appeal, Not just obvious moves. All of these scream to me - play with kids. It also says after I finish a true wargaming session and want to unwind a little and talk a little longer, we can play a little Battle Cry versus pulling out a German family two-player game.

[A. Lewis, '00]

I think that if you enjoy Battle Masters, you'll definitely enjoy Battle Cry. I think Battle Cry is a much more interesting game. There are no unique units, it's true - just cavalry, infantry, artillery, and generals - but these units' differing abilities, coupled with the card effects that work on them, make for very interesting game situations. I also like how different the different scenarios are. There's one - I think it's McClellan facing off against Lee - where the Union has a 2 card hand size and the Confederacy has 5 cards. It's remarkable to see how numerical advantage fades away once you don't have the ability to plan out your next 3 or 4 moves when it's your turn. I think this game is brilliant. Yes, it's light, and it's got a lot of randomness in it. But if an American game could be in the running for Spiel des Jahr, this one would be a good candidate.

[Bob Rossney, '00]

I still *love* a good sim (the old AH's "Great Campaigns of the American Civil War" series is *brilliant*, IMHO), but it's good to have a *good* beer and pretzels game like Battle Cry for a change - one that's not "dumbed down" to the point of mental retardation and provides some excitement and decision-making opportunities. When I was a hardcore wargamer back in my 20's, playing a game like Battle Cry would have been *unthinkable* ("God, this is for *kids*!"). But now that I'm 40 and time is limited (wife, kids, job, other hobbies) as well as space (there's no room to set up all three maps of "Terrible Swift Sword" now that the kids have essentially taken over most of the house), I have a hard time finding the hours and patience required to read a long set of rules and then play a "true" simulation game anymore - so games like Battle Cry are really a boon to us "oldtimers." I'm at a point where I'm able to appreciate the "simple" games as long as they're *good* - and Battle Cry definitely fits the bill.

[Steve Lopez, '00]

[If you're looking for] a beer and pretzels game with lots of
luck based elements then it's great! If you're looking for a serious
tactical wargame you will be disappointed.

[Scott Alden, '00]

I think that it is a great game. Battle Cry is definitely on the simpler end of the scale for wargame complexity but it is not simplistic. There are a lot of tough choices to make and you really have to pay attention to force allocation. The best move is not always obvious. A definite recommend from me.

[Larry Welborn, '00]

Battle Cry is an excellent game. I've played just about every Civil War boardgame you can think of and Battle Cry is one of my favorites. Yes, it is much simpler than the other games, but on the other hand, it is much more FUN. While the Battle Cry mechanics are simple, the more battles you play, the more elegant and interesting the system becomes. You are somewhat at the mercy of your cards, but you will learn to manage your hand more efficiently, thereby making the game less luck dependent. The more you play Battle Cry, the more in control you will become as you learn to better handle the system's nuances. I have shelves full of hardcore wargames, but I love Battle Cry, too. I would give it 5 stars. An excellent game!!

[Thomas Boeche, '00]


Battle Line  GMT Games Inc.  2000

I own Schotten-Totten and have played Battle Line. I rate Schotten-Totten a "7" and Battle Line an "8". I think the 10 tactics cards improve the game by giving you another choice (one that can pull you out of a hole if your card draws aren't very good). I plan to sell or trade my copy of ST and eventually purchase Battle Line.

[Fen Yen, '00]

I prefer Schotten Totten over Battle Line. I find the 'Tactics' cards lessens the control a player has in the game. With Schotten Totten, one of the main strategies is to play the odds and plan accordingly. You can time the placement of your cards so that you optimize your chances of winning a certain stone. You can also use this timing to guarantee that you will win a certain stone. The 'Tactic' cards severely limit such careful planning. Sure, you can make plans based on the 'Tactic' cards you happen to draw, but your opponent can hold cards to dash these efforts. So, I actually find there is more control in Schotten Totten than in Battle Line. However, if you own neither, purchase Battle Line so you can play whichever version you find you enjoy most.

[Greg Schloesser, '00]

I find that Battle Line is a bit like an "Advanced Lost Cities" with more head-to-head conflict and no tedious score figuring at the end. I'm not sure I'll be pulling Lost Cities out as much with this one around. Very nice game.

[Rich Shipley, '00]

Well, I've got to put myself on the opposite side of this argument. I love Schotten-Totten, even more than Lost Cities. It's a game where the randomness is not equivalent to luck. In other words, while the game is totally random, it is won simply by skillful play. Sure, there is the off chance that you'll get all of the 9's or something similar, but you won't draw all of the wild cards or "move a card from here to there" cards that would give you a decided advantage. The addition of these to S-T seems to me the removal of much of the skillful play in place of luck, and I don't care for that.

[Will Beckley, '00]

The addition of the Tactics cards [to Schotten-Totten] add a high degree of luck and randomness to an otherwise very tight game. In my opinion, the effects of these cards are not at all balanced. Some of them are much more powerful than others. And so, the luck of the draw of the Tactics cards *can* be game dominating. These cards are too powerful for you not to draw some. As a result, your actual number card hand size is reduced, limiting the options you would otherwise have (as opposed to ST). Then, because the Tactics cards are not balanced, the player who gets lucky in his draws will usually win the game. Battle Line is not a bad game, it's just not as good as the game it is based on. It seems likely to me that Battle Line is an attempt by Dr. Knizia and/or GMT to bridge the gap between traditional wargamers and "German" gamers by taking a very nice German-style 2-player game and adding "wargamey" chrome to it. If that's the case, I suspect it will ultimately fail because it's too luck-based for wargamers and too chrome-atically fiddly for "German" gamers.

[Pitt Crandlemire, '00]


Blue vs Gray  QED Games  1998

>Couple of quick questions as I decide whether to buy it.
>1). How long does the game play?
Two to three hours once you are familiar with the system. And now and then a twenty minute Confederate Diplomatic Victory.
>2). Can the CSA win or can they "win" only by extending the war
>past the historic ending?
Absolutely. Take Washington - very difficult but a possibility, earn a Diplomatic Victory by (usually) capturing Harper's Ferry and Harrisburg before the Union has a full blockade in place or any geographical VP, keep the Union below 4 net VP at the 1864 election, or hold out to the very end.
>3). What is the complexity rating? We play a good bit of Up Front,
>how does this game compare to it in terms of difficulty?
It's an extremely clean and elegant design. One of the most elegant that I have seen in forty years of gaming. Easy to learn, tough to master as they say. Very high repeat playability due to the varied order of appearance of units, leaders, events, and terrain (four map section start in play around Washington and Richmond - others are played as they appear so that the wider theaters of war may build up slowly). Some people have criticized the clarity of the rules which are somewhat squashed onto cards for packaging purposes. There is very good web site support at www.qedgames.com with rules clarifications, examples, and several scenarios. There is also a lot of useful discussion on consimworld (www.consimworld.com). Evan Jones, the designer, will normally answer any questions within 24 hours, unless I beat him to the punch. At a very modest price, the game is a wonderful investment.

[Tom Kassel, '99]


Brainwaves  MB  1977

Yeah, I doubt BRAINWAVES would turn up on many lists, but I do adore it. I think its obscurity is unjustifiable and inexplicable. It was an MB two-player abstract game from the early '80s, and is fairly simple in concept, but brilliant. Basically, it's a grid, and you've got 3 pieces on your side, and the other guy's got three pieces on his side. To win, you have to move two of your pieces onto the other side. But that isn't easy. Your pieces are all the same shape, in red, yellow, and green. You roll a die, and then get to move one of your pieces that number. The gimmick is this: before moving your piece, you choose which one you want to move, and then turn a hidden dial to that color. Your opponent then turns his hidden dial to the color he THINKS you're going to choose (or the color he wants to stop you from choosing). After both players have set their dials, a button is pressed, and the colors light up, revealing the choices. If he guessed right, you don't get to move. There's more to it, of course, such as the fact that there are passages that can be blocked strategically, and you can't pass another token but if you land on it exactly, you send it back home. So, it might seem obvious that my red piece is the one that has a great 4 move, and so that'd be my obvious choice. But you might not want to let me do that, so you'd pick red. But... you might think that I'd think you'd do that, and so you might pick a different color. There's a lot of double- and triple- thinking ("he thinks I'm going to do that, but instead I'll do this. But what if he realizes that I know he thinks I'm going to do this...") to it, which is great fun. It also has a wonderful built-in balancing mechanism, which is that when one player has gotten one piece in, he then only has two to choose from, which increases the chance of his opponent stopping him. A wonderful two-player game that can be played casually or seriously, and which always has a lot of fun table talk with it, much like CAN'T STOP in that way. Well worth hunting for.

[Bob Claster, '01]


Caesar & Cleopatra  Rio Grande Games  1999
Caesar & Cleopatra  Kosmos  1997

I think this is a terrific two-player game. At first, we were playing it incorrectly. Later, we thought we had the right rule but, turns out we were playing it incorrectly in a *different* way! The kicker: it was still a good solid game no matter which way we played it. We did find a variant (on the Westbank Gamers website, I believe) early on, though, that makes it a much better game - in fact, we only play it with this variant now: If you do *not* play an action card on your turn, you may lay your two influence cards *face down*. If you do choose to play an action card, then you revert to the original rule of either one influence face down or two face up.

[Dave Arnott, '99]

One of my favorites of the Kosmos games, feels more like a board game than a card game. I've replaced the entire vote of confidence deck with counters that we draw from a cup. My counters either say "no vote" or the name of the patrician group where the vote happens. A simple way to avoid the orgy controversy, since I usually play with kids. Rating: 7 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

A really good strategic cardgame -- perhaps the best of all [of Kosmos 2-player games]. It's themed about the dispute between Caesar and Cleopatra and you have to influence the roman senate. Both strategy and chance are present as the players decide the order of one of their card piles and the other one is shuffled.

[Matthias Knelangen, '00]

Players use identical decks of action cards and scoring cards to get a scoring majority in groups of Roman senators by the time those senators vote. My favorite of the Kosmos line. Highly recommended.

[Will Beckley, '00]

Caesar & Cleopatra is wonderfully competitive, dependant on interaction, and one of my favorite two-player games.

[Bob Scherer-Hoock, '99]

My wife and I bought Caesar and Cleopatra this past summer and have enjoyed it quite a bit.

[Superfly, '03]

For those of us looking for 2-player games, C & C is a welcome addition to the gaming world. In fact, my wife loves it, and it's the rare game that *really* captures her attention. I would highly recommend it -- it's simple, yet elegant.

[Frank Wimmer, '98]

I can say that Caesar & Cleopatra is an excellent two player game.

[Cafe Jay, '98]

Caesar and Cleopatra is largely worth the money, though I played it only once. There's a little strategy, a bit of luck, and a lot of bluff. Very high replay value.

[Bruno Faidutti, '98]

Caesar & Cleopatra is a *really* great 2-player game,.

[Mik Svellov, '98]

Caesar & Cleopatra gets pulled out every now and then... I'm turned off by the vote deck, in that timing is critical (and lucky), and a single card flip at the end will often determine a close match. Great concept and look, tho. I give it a six out of ten.

[David B Eggleston, '99]

Caesar & Cleopatra (from Kosmos) also has German cards, but since there's only a few such cards, it's not much of a problem. [The English version is supposed to come out Fall/Winter of '99 - Dave] The game has some luck elements and a lot of subtle strategy - basically, it's a game of bluffing and out-guessing your opponent.

[Mary Susan, '97]


Cathedral  IQ Products  1984
Kathedrale  Holzinsel  1981

Games are fairly quick (a few minutes each), and can be very entertaining. But unbalanced; play games in pairs and keep running scores.

[Michael Urban, '97]


Conquest  eg-Spiele  1994
Conquest  Hexagames / TST-Enterprises  1987

Imagine chess with 1/2 the rules, a larger board, and more pieces and combinations of moves. Very simple mechanics, yet very good and challenging. About 25 years old, so it has shown itself to be a good 2-player game.

[Joseph Oberlander, '95]


Carcassonne - The Castle  Rio Grande Games  2003
Carcassonne - Die Burg  Hans im Glück Verlag  2003

When I heard that Reiner Knizia was making a two-player version of this classic, I was ecstatic. When I played the game, I found that it actually exceeded my expectations. It quickly went from a good Carcassonne variant to become one of my favorite two player games ever! Carcassonne: The Castle is similar to other Carcassonne games, but varies enough to make it probably the best version available. We had a lot of fun playing the game, as there was quite a bit of interaction between the players, and we were constantly racing to see who would get the next wall tile. The game is strategic, sure, but is VERY fun. I recommend this game highly. It's certainly one of the best games of 2003, and without a doubt one of the best two-player games you can buy. It bears repeated playings and can be played casually or very competitively. I will now only play regular Carcassonne as a multiplayer game, since this version is vastly superior for two.

[Tom Vassel, '03]

A satisfying 2-player alternative Carcassonne, I feel the addition of "power ups" is the best twist in this game for those who have played standard version. "Power up" (from the video games genre) is the term I like to use for the special scoring tiles you can win as you move your score marker. The temptation to grab these with carefully executed tiny scorings must be considered versus sacrificing potentially larger scoring features. A rather cruel mechanic because one feels compelled to race the opponent for the tiles lest he gain the advantage over you.

[Devon Tuck, '04]

This is an interesting variant on the original. In some ways it is less
restrictive - for the most part you just have to match up roads and walls (and not the towers and the houses). But the walls of the castle add another level of restriction. The aspect of having the special tiles on the corners of the scoring track adds another element to the game; players can choose to make a fewer point score to get one of the special tiles. It's certainly a fine game, but I'm not sure whether I like it as much as the original. Sometimes it doesn't feel as if there is enough choice even with the building types that don't have to match up. It makes for nice variety but for the most part I'd prefer to play the original or Hunters and Gatherers with or without the expansions, even if I'm playing with only two players.

[Anye Sellers, '04]

Carcassonne: The Castle is a very good game. For two players, my favorite in the Carcassonne series is Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, but Carcassonne: The Castle is a close second. For plain old Carcassonne, I'd rather have three or four players. My early impression is that most combinations of the Carcassonne expansions are good when there are more than two players. (I haven't tried all the combinations yet.)

[Jim Bolland, '04]

I don't own this game, but have played it a few times, and it was okay, but it felt like it had some balance problems. The "random special abilities" picked up by landing on spaces in the scoring track seemed like a "rich gets richer" mechanism. (Unless I misremember and/or misunderstood the rule. If on my turn I cause you to score points that land your score on a special space, which of us gets the special marker? I think it's you?)

[Don Woods, '04]


Pyramiden des Jaguar,Die  Kosmos  2002
Pacal  Klee Spiele GmbH  1999

I've played Pacal and enjoy it, but haven't played this new version just yet. My copy is in on the way, so I should get the chance soon. The game has a puzzle-like feel and proper hand management and timing is crucial.

[Greg Schloesser, '02]

I've only played this once; the primary gameplay is unchanged from the previously published Pacal, but a secondary game has been added. I didn't care for Pacal, and Jaguar didn't really change enough for me to care for it any more. If you enjoy Pacal, however, I'd recommend Jaguar.

[Joe Huber, '02]

This is new entry in the Kosmos 2-player line from Günther Burkhard is apparently is a retooling of an earlier game of his. I enjoyed it. It was quick, it looks nice I felt like I had some control over the proceedings but there was enough uncertainty to keep me a tad nervous. I intend to buy it.

[Tejmo, '02]

The game is cool. It offers interesting decision making and fairly tense play, all in a game that can be played in under 10 minutes. I would rank Pacal right up there with Lost Cities as far as being a captivating 2 player cardgame goes.

[Richard Hutnik, '00]

Pacal is a two-player card game that feels somewhat familiar. I found the strategic choices in the early play are somewhat interesting, but the game quickly degenerates into obvious tactical plays. I'm not smart/ambitious enough to determine how "deep" and "random" the game is. It feels like a middle-of-the-road card game, and certainly it could have been produced for less money. I suppose this game is targeted for the same crowd as Lost Cities, but it is certainly too straightforward for most of the r.g.b. crowd. Personal Rating: 5. (OTOH, the housemate is hooked on the game, and it has received several plays due to this.)

[David B. Eggleston, '99]

Pacal. I knew I'd like this, and I thought my girlfriend would find it dry and irksome but she loved it, too. Simple rules and rewards thought. I've been frustrated by this lately, though, and have been on a small losing streak. It "feels" like it's a game of skill rather than luck, primarily, but sometimes you lose and don't know what you could have done. The basic gaming problem is elegant and simple, even though there's nothing elaborate about it. The type of problem that you want to keep trying at.

[R St Loup, '01]


Druidenwalzer  Kosmos  1999

Quite charming. After the first game, you'll probably experience an "AHA!" There's actually several variables to consider here, although you'll have a relatively small number of moves to choose from. Has received many plays in the past month. I give it a seven out of ten.

[David B Eggleston, '99]

I like it. Then I found I was playing it wrong for a few games. Now that I have it correct, I like it even better. My last game came down to both of us tied at hit points... the next to strike would win... it was great.

[Ted Cheatham, '00]

A real head scratcher the first couple of times I played it, but now it makes sense and plays fast...under 30 minutes last time. Fabulous at putting you in the position of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Better the more you play it. The rules translations online are hard to figure out, I recommend downloading both (all?) and struggling with it a bit. I keep saying I'm going to create a rules paraphrase to clarify what I think are the correct rules, but haven't done it yet. I really need to get to that soon... Rating: 7 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

Interesting mental challenge. Very cerebral game; I've enjoyed it enough to keep it to this point, but I haven't played it all that often.

[Joe Huber, '02]

I have played this three times now and find it pretty enjoyable. Although it seems at first like it will take forever to work out possibilities for each move, it tends not to work that way in practice (although it may with some gamers). Two more plus points: Firstly, it is very aesthetically pleasing to play - the cards trees and druids are all very attractive and pleasant to use. Secondly, it is easy to handicap one of the players to counter greater ability or age by starting them off with one or more suns/moons on their trees. This has proved very useful when playing against my eight year old and allows us both to play as well as we can and still get a close result. Note: the fact that an eight year old is playing it successfully should be enough to convince you that it is not to hard to work out moves.

[Trev Clarke, '99]

Druiden Walzer is a bit on the strange side, though it's hard to explain really why. It's a different game and fairly cerebral. I found it interesting but not that much fun.

[Rick Thornquist, '02]

A very weird game. It feels like a mancala variant, though there's no sowing and the pieces (cards, in this game) that move can either move clockwise or counter-clockwise, and . . . well, it's not a lot like mancala after all. I've enjoyed this game every time I've played it, but it's very rare that my wife and I say "Hey, let's play Druidenwalzer!"

[Bob Rossney, '00]

Strange ... very strange. It was for me a brain-burner, with lots of information to track and lots of "what ifs" to visualize. I found the game too much work and simply didn't enjoy it.

[Greg Schloesser, '02]

I'll say that I love this game. I'll also say that about half that play it don't. Very odd, and similar to mancala. Must be played to fully understand it, but its roundabout strategy and strange tactics are unlike anything else. Player interaction is high, and, like E&T, its strategy is fresh and different from any other game. The originality goes far in my book.

[Will Beckley, '99]


Dungeonquest  Games Workshop  1987

Neat, unpredictable fantasy boardgame. Most games last less than 45 minutes and it plays great with two players.

[Kevin Gonzalez, '97]

Yeah, I forgot about this one, though it is mostly a multi-player solitaire game.

[David Kuznick, '97]


Elchfest  Kosmos  1999

Flick disks to advance your elk across an icy river (well - it's just the table). After the first game, I figured the game had almost no replay value. After the 8th game (a short hour later) I figured there may be something here! It's almost totally mindless and extremely quick playing (10 minutes or so) and probably those are it's most endearing features. I don't know if I'll be playing it a week from now, but it has provided some quick fun and is probably worth the short money for the game.

[Dave Bernazzani, '00]

Elchfest is probably the most simple game of the Kosmos two-player series. It consists solely of ten pieces and can be played on any countertop or table. The strategies are few, and the game is short. It's a fun little dexterity game, but you can take it or leave it. If you like flicking games, such as Carabande, there is a good chance that this one will be up your alley, as well. If you don't, there's nothing that this one will do to change your mind. For a mindless exercise in flicking skill, this game is quick, easy to set up, and plays in a very short time. It's a neat thing to carry around with you when you only have a few minutes to both explain and play a game. Other than that, however, there's not much here. Elchfest is a fun game, but the fun lasts a short time and can be repetitive after a game or so. I think of it as a novelty item, a game that catches the eye but grows old after a couple playings. Is it worth buying? - I'm not sure. I would get it if I saw it on sale but not worry about it otherwise. If I want a great flicking experience, I want to play Carabande or Crokinole. This is like the poor man's version of those fantastic games.

[Tom Vassel, '04]

I like flicking games, and this one is neat because it's so portable. But I don't quite understand the appeal I guess, because it seems to drag so much as we struggle to put disks where they need to be. Too many turns happen with nothing happening. Rating: 5.5 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

Dexterity game that involves flicking stones in front of moose so that they may cross a river. Recommended only if you like dexterity games.

[Will Beckley, '00]

Elchfest is a completely stupid game, but really fun.

[Bruno Faidutti, '99]

When I was in Germany, I saw Elchfest everywhere. The game was a 'flick the token' game, ala Carabande. Since I am not fond of Carabande, I passed. A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to play Elchfest. It was cute, mindless fun. I do think it is a bit overpriced at $14.95, though. After all, it consists of six wooden disks, two wooden moose(s) (or is it meese?!) and two small platforms. I'm content to play it whenever it happens to be around at a convention or get-together. I may end up purchasing one if my wife or daughter takes a liking to it.

[Greg J. Schloesser, '00]

People have dismissed this one as a child's game. Personally, I think it is an incredibly hilarious and fun game. Two players are trying to move their wooden elks across the table by flicking small stones in front of their pieces, allowing them to place their hooves on the stones and keeping them from hitting the playing surface. While primarily a skill game, there are points where you must decide whether to go for an aggressive move or sit back and play defensively. I can see great opportunities for expanding on this game, adding sets to allow a 4-player criss-cross and adding obstacles to get in the way of the elks' paths. I am quite glad that I picked up this game. If finger-flicking games aren't your cup of tea, then I'd say move on, otherwise, don't knock it 'till you try it..

[Anthony Rubbo, '99]


Duell  Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH  2004
En Garde  Abacus Spiele  1993

En Garde is not a hugely deep game, but it's an excellent two-player card game that manages, despite being extremely abstract, to convey some of the flavor of actual on-piste fencing. Players draw five-card hands from a sparse deck of 25 cards (5 each of values 1 through 5), and play cards to advance their fencer towards their opponent's. Once they have closed sufficiently, they can play cards to attempt to get a touch. Thrusts can be parried, and there are usually some very fast interchanges that end with one player being exhausted of usable cards and the other having just one last card that will let him make an unparriable thrust.

[Bob Rossney, '00]

There was just a post about this one [he's referring to the one above], so I won't say more. Highly Recommended.

[Will Beckley, '00]

A really simple game that has more depth to it than its simple nature should afford. A tribute to Knizia's genius, I guess. This is a very fun little game that feels almost like a linear version of Tabula Rasa. I'm a fencer, and this game does in fact capture some of the territorial control that a fencer needs to keep in mind. The cards and little fencer guys on dice are really neat, but the box is typical Abacus garbage. Toss it and buy a plastic CCG deck box to hold this game. Rating: 7 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

En Garde is a very neat wee game. It's one of those where you're amazed at what Knizia can come up with just a few cards with numbers on, but even more amazing is the way it actually seems to fit the fencing theme. Some skill, some luck, plays for a few minutes and repeats as often as you like. Might be a problem finding a copy though :-(

[Peter Clinch, '03]

En Garde is the best 2 player game, and usually only takes about 15 minutes per game.

[Peter Wotruba, '96]

I must recommend En Garde as well.

[Brian Bankler, '96]


Finale  Kosmos  1998

GOOOOOOAAALLLLL!!! How many games result in such exalted exclamations? Subtle game of resource management. German "flavor" on strategy cards - text has zero impact on game play. I recommend playing with a variant that decreases the odds of the flags and injuries appearing: Roll two dice instead of one for each check. Both rolls must match the condition in order for it to take effect. I actually don't use this variant, but I recommend that others do. However, note that this throws off the balance in deck selection, as the rarer occurrences of these mishaps make certain players worth more. I give it an eight out of ten.

[David B Eggleston, '99]

I like the theme and I'm desperate for at least a moderately good soccer game. This is at least close to moderately good, and not terribly long.

[Bob Scherer-Hoock, '99]

I really, really want to like this game but... all I do is feel like a monkey performing some sort of agility test. Pick a card, lay down some chits, toss the dice, check for penalties (which happen WAY to frequently even in my limited gameplay, rotate a card, lay more chits, toss more dice, rotate more cards. I have never been into a game and felt more at loss for ANY type of strategy. We put that away and tried Kahuna for the first time and three plays into each we both agreed "Okay, at least we can get a sense that there's a strategy here to learn"

[Nick Danger(!), '99]

I felt almost exactly the same about this game [as Nick does]. I'm still looking for a good football/soccer game.

[Ronald Hoekstra, '99]

Dreary, random, ugly, unfun soccer game. I haven't played a game I dislike this much since Waldesfrust.

[Bob Rossney, '00]


Flower Power  Kosmos  2001

Ask Mark Jackson about how luck-driven this one isn't. He brags about winning something like 80-90% or more of his games of this beauty. It's really a gorgeous game, the game play is nice, and even when you play "mean" it's fun. I played it 3 times in 2002, each time against my 6 year old daughter. Theresa stopped playing it with me because I kept beating her. My 71 year old parents complained when they didn't get a copy for Christmas (we had gotten it for everyone else). So they got a copy for their anniversary instead! Rating: 7 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

Interesting two player abstract. Has gained a reputation of being particularly popular with women, which is not a reputation I remember hearing about many games previously. Mechanically the game is in the dominoes family; a bit dry, but not bad.

[Joe Huber, '02]

Very simple, very light with a dominoes feel. I enjoy it, but primarily as a light pastime. There are some decisions involved, but it certainly falls on the shallow side of the pool in regards to strategy.

[Greg Schloesser, '02]

I must politely disagree here. Flower power has a quite a lot of depth. Tile placement is critical. You are always trying to maximize your potential placements and wanting to keep your options open. This could be one for the tile (card) counters if you want to play it competitively.

[Matt Ellis, '02]


Gipf  Don & Co  2004
Yinsh  Don & Co  2003
ZÈRTZ  Don & Co  2001
Gipf Set 2  Don & Co  2001
Dvonn  Don & Co  2001
Gipf Set 1  Schmidt Spiel + Freizeit  1999
Tamsk  Schmidt Spiel + Freizeit  1999

GIPF is, in my opinion, the best abstract strategy game of the last 5 years. Very simple to learn (and there are even 3 levels of rules to get everybody started, however I would skip the basic rules and start with the standard rules), yet incredibly rich to play. And addictive. The game that re-awakened my interest in boardgames. Everyone I showed it to (all non-gamers, male and female) really LOVED it. I believe it's available in the states via rio grande games. The official site is, predictably, www.gipf.com. Finally, it's from Belgium, country of the best beers and best corrupt politicians.

[Tom Alaerts, '99 & '01]

If you don't mind abstracts then look at the GIPF games. All but the first (GIPF itself) are self time limiting designs that necessarily proceed to a reasonably quick close. Plus they're fun too, and DVONN and ZERTZ are quite deep. TAMSK isn't so deep IMHO, but is unique and the use of timers as playing pieces keeps it rattling along at a good speed and everyone I've played it with has enjoyed it.

[Peter Clinch, '03]

DVONN is a really nice game. It's an interesting towers abstract game. I really think that there are no simple tactics. It's not only about stacking your piece, but you have to use the connection rule with a DVONN piece (red one), as well.

[Christophe Berg, '02]

I am not a huge abstract game player or fan but I admire DVONN and YINSH. You can play both at BSW where I tried them.

[Lorna, '03]

ZERTZ is one of my favorite two-player abstracts; the forced jump mechanic from Checkers, only with more options because of the three colors of pieces and the hex-shaped board... but it's the way the board shrinks as the game is played, and the feeling of the walls closing in as your available options become fewer and fewer that really makes the game for me. GIPF is great, but in my opinion ZERTZ is better (well, more fun for me, anyway), and easier to learn. The strategies are easier to grasp, and everyone I've shown it to has loved it..

[Dave Boyd, '00 & '01]

I had a chance to play the latest game in the GIPF series, DVONN, and it is excellent. There apparently is a lot of depth in this game. I found the gameplay interesting and full of reversals.

[Richard Hutnik, '01 & '02]

I like YINSH far better than Othello, which it superficially resembles in the flipping over pieces side. People I have played it with have commented that the removing of the rings overbalances it against the player who's ahead, and believe that may count against the game when players reach significant skill levels. I'm not sure that I personally see this as a problem, though.

[Sebastian Bleasdale, '03]

I've just tried both TAMSK and ZERTZ. Here's my take after three plays of each. TAMSK is a two-player abstract game where the
playing pieces are egg timers. This adds a level of pressure to ensure that players have to consider not only what moves they want to make, but what moves they _must_ make to keep their pieces alive. In essence it's about dominating territory, trying to force the opponent's pieces into positions where they run out of movement options, whilst struggling to position your pieces so that they can make as many moves as possible. In practice the game works well enough, but it feels too dry for my taste (yes, I know it's an abstract and therefore bound to be dry, but to me it's less "fun" than others, such as GIPF). My vote - a 6/10.
ZERTZ on the other hand scores highly - 8/10 (losing 2 points on an entirely arbitrary basis simply because I'm not a huge fan of two-player abstract games). The board evolves during the game so no two games should be alike, there are 4 different ways to win, and after 3 plays, although I can see the idea of the game, I'm still no nearer to playing remotely well. Slightly chaotic and a lot of fun, this is one I'd recommend.

[Richard Dewsbery, '00]

I am surprised no one has mentioned ZERTZ yet. It took a few games for this one to click with me. The rules say that ZERTZ is a game of "sacrifice." This is all too true. Since neither player has pieces of their own, players must set-up a series of captures which favors them. ZERTZ is a surprisingly deep game which plays in 10-30 minutes. The other games in the GIPF series, TAMSK, GIPF, and DVONN are also quite good, but I'd say ZERTZ is the most accessible. Next, I'd say DVONN is probably the most accessible game for someone who isn't specifically a fan of abstract games.

[Mickel Knight. '02]

ZERTZ is fast, stylish, original; a must-have! This is a deep and dangerous game - the strategy tends to revolve around the fact that your opponent is forced to capture. It's possible to sacrifice several stones in order to isolate and capture one or more pieces, or to arrange for an advantageous multiple capture. Note that you can give your opponent 1 white, 3 gray, and 4 black pieces safely, if you can get 3 white for yourself in the process. Beginners tend to fill up the board until there are no safe spaces, and mayhem breaks loose. Experienced players will seldom have more than three pieces on the board at a time. Production quality is superb, and the game plays in about 15 minutes. Buy it!

[Stephen Tavener, '00]

Played GIPF for the first time tonight and think it has a lot of potential. Have yet to see what it'll be like once the basic tactics are well absorbed, but I expect the learning curve will be fun.... unless it bogs down into long extended thinking once we CAN see two or three or four moves ahead.

[Stven Carlberg, '99]

To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with GIPF. It's not a bad abstract game, but it is very much in the same vein as other abstract games. It's cheap, and it has the appeal that everybody is just learning it, so you are not hampered by widely divergent skill levels as is the case in Go or Chess - and it does have significant depth of both strategy and tactics, much more so than your more usual "lighter" abstract games - which makes it a good game to me. However, you can always handicap the classic abstract games so I'm not absolutely sure where the value is in GIPF over, say, Go - other than as a base for the "system" of games.
TAMSK, though, is a different story. I found this game to be amazing. It's a wonderfully clever abstract game, playable in 15 minutes or so, and unlike anything you've ever played before. While it is an abstract game with timers, it is neither heavily based on look-ahead, nor on moving fast. It has several dimensions, and rewards thinking about several different variables that are unusual for abstract games, balancing your "concrete" board position with the much fuzzier value of the time available in all the currently active timers; this interesting combination of the concrete with the amorphous makes the analysis much more interesting to me.

[Chris Farrell, '99]


Hannibal  Eurogames / Descartes Deutschland  1998
Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage  Avalon Hill Game Company  1996

I can't recommend Hannibal highly enough. It is a great 2 player game with a huge amount of variety, skill and luck in a great mix. The more you play it, the better you realize it is. Hannibal takes about 2.5 hours if you play it to the end but sometimes one player wins really early or the other player surrenders. I have seen a game over in under 30 minutes. If you play Hannibal, make sure to get all the errata from Web Grognards (probably also at AH's web site). The most important item is that the game does not end when Hannibal dies - instead he is just killed, never to return, and Carthage loses an extra 5 PC markers.

[Aaron D. Fuegi, 97]

I played two games of AH Hannibal last Saturday against a friend. Hannibal is one of my favorites when it comes to two player games (Victory in the Pacific and A House Divided are others). We have quite different playing styles which made things even more interesting. I like to play aggressively whilst my friend is more cautious.

[Anders Dessmark, '98]


Hera and Zeus  Rio Grande Games  2000

This game is pure gold. There are six ways to win or lose this game and if you play a dozen games, you'll experience all of them. Can't think of any other game where that's true. A game can last 30 seconds or 30 minutes. Every card in the deck has value. The system rewards both aggressive and conservative playing styles. It is the best example ever of how to incorporate a 'bluff' element into a game. I could go on and on. I don't want to turn non-collectible card gamers off, but the game has a lot of MAGIC in it; all the best parts. If I ever design a game this good, I'll retire.

[Alan Moon, '00]

I haven't read Alan Moon's review on the Funagain site, but let me say, I wholeheartedly agree. I played Battle Cry ~20 times in a few weeks. I love Battle Cry (also by Richard Borg). I played Hera and Zeus 10 times *last night*. I've played roughly 33 times. Granted, it is a short game (I think experienced players will average a game in ~15-20 minutes, with a few games taking 5 and a few games taking 40) which helps a lot, but there are not many games, even fast ones, that I can recall just playing and playing and playing and not feeling any dampening.

[Brian Bankler, '00]

I highly recommend Hera & Zeus. It takes a while to learn, but is excellent when you both know what you're doing. Fun, because it's a different game every time. I've played with my wife about 30 times since buying the game 3 months ago.

[Joe Czapski, '01]

Sort of like Stratego on steroids - my wife picked this one out because she likes the theme - one player plays Hera and the other Zeus - certainly fitting for a husband and wife. We always enjoy playing it.

[Robert Martin, '01]

I couldn't agree more. I think this game has game of the year written all over it. I actually taught this game to my mother, who never plays games like this, and she even liked it. Although we only played 3 times together so she had not grasped the more subtle strategies. The best attribute of the game is certainly the many ways of winning (and losing). Aggressive and defensive play are rewarded, but your strategy must evolve along with how your opponent is playing. Borg has taken many of the positive play mechanics of Magic the Gathering (card combat, multiple special powers, deck recycling) and left out all the JUNK. I'm already looking forward to more mythological cards and different creature's/gods to switch out with the current deck. I think the game is eminently expandable/tweakable, and there is no annoying CCG nonsense.

[Brian Jones, 00]

I got the game a few weeks ago, and my wife and I have been playing it frequently. Very exciting game, with many ways to win (or lose). The first few games were a bit confusing, as we became aware of subtle strategies. It has a bit of the feel of Caesar and Cleopatra, in that you play numbered cards to the table, and also have mythology cards, which alter game play in ways similar to the action cards of C & C. I like it better, due to the variable ways to win. I've lost a couple games I thought I was definitely going to win. There are a few games which leave my palms damp and heart pounding as I play them. This is one of them. The tension level of this game is up there.

[Jeff Binning, '00]


Hive  Gen Four Two  2001

Hive is a tremendous game. One of my top three, 2-player games. This is the only game I've played that I think about when I'm not playing. I can't wait to try out different opening combinations. This game is one of wonder. Superbly crafted and designed. Little lights go on in my head each time I learn a new wrinkle or play combination that will push the game a little in my favor. This game has that one more time quality to it. If I just did things a little bit different I would have won. Let's play again.

[Richard Glanzer, '02]

I happened to spot Hive which one of you recommended, and it's wonderful. We played 2 games of it this evening and loved it. Yes, it is quite an expensive game, but I foresee many hours ahead with this one.

[John Brownsill, '03]

Hive does not have terribly many rules, but they generate puzzles of nightmarish complexity. The game seems to centered around restricting movement, and creating control of arbitrary spaces. I also suspect it takes about 2-3 games to learn about various formations to control areas. And all of my games so far have been very different in flavor. At the least a very good game, possibly a great one.

[Frank Branham, '02]

The components are attractive-- thick balsa wood with snazzy silver-leaf stickers on them. The game has no luck, it is a pure abstract strategy game. I have pretty much the same difficulty with 2-player abstract strategy games as several other regular posters on this forum-- namely, if I'm in the mood to play one, I'd always rather choose Go than anything else. So it's hard for me to give a fair review to a game like this. That being said, I think the mechanics are quite clever. It's not derivative of any other game that I know of. Playing time seems pretty quick (perhaps it gets longer as both players get better); the games I played were taking about 20 minutes or so. The game is highly portable; you just need an open space of maybe one foot by one foot to play. You might be able to squeeze a game in on the airline food tray that folds down from the seat in front of you. If you like abstract strategy games like Zertz or Go, I would recommend Hive.

[Andrew B. Gross. '02]


How Ruck  Kosmos  2002

I think it's a wonderful game. It's worth noting that I learned, and prefer, the wrong rules; I'd try the rules as published first, but you might also want to try the game limiting play to your own side of the rope. It stresses hand management aspects more, *feels* more thematic to me, and overall I enjoy it more than the published rules.

[Joe Huber, '02]

I really, really enjoy this one. Lots of fun and 'back & forth' ... kinda like a real tug 'o war game. Joe Huber mentioned he preferred playing with the 'incorrect' rules wherein you were forced to play just on your side of the board. I played it this way with Joe and although it isn't bad that way, I found it limited your choices too much. I prefer the rules as written, but it is certainly playable both ways.

[Greg Schloesser, '02]

The split the card mechanic is interesting and different but it makes no sense in the context of the theme. This one did absolutely nothing for me. Theresa learned it at the same time at a different table, and when we compared notes later we were surprised that we both had the exact same negative reaction to it. Rating: 4 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

There are some better two-player games in the Kosmos Line – Hera and Zeus, Balloon Cup, Odin's Ravens, and Lost Cities. But Heave Ho! is a quick, very fun fast game with minimal strategy, a good bit of luck, and a lot of theme. When you're feeling tired, and don't want to use your brain too much, try it out, and have a bit of fun!

[Tom Vasel, '03]

The new two-player game from Richard Borg - it's a silly tug-of-war game that was great fun to play. WARNING: the game contains a speed element in determining your hands & it affords you the opportunity to yell "How Ruck!" a lot. (Which, I'm told, doesn't really mean anything... kind of like "Heave, Ho!") The production is very nice (as usual in the Kosmos 2-player games) and I had fun with it.

[Mark Jackson, '02]

I quite like it. It's easy and fun with a little bit of strategy thrown in.

[Rick Thornquist, '02]


Arabana-Ikibiti  Funagain Games  1998
Arabana-Ikibiti  Bambus Spieleverlag  1997

Kahuna is a new game for two players, formerly known as "Arabana-Ikibiti." By playing cards you place wooden bridges on a map with little islands. When you have most bridges on an island you own it. Who owns most islands will win. But, during the game you take islands from your opponent or lose some of yours to him. Great little game with wonderful artwork. Available in the US from Rio Grande Games.

[Wolfgang Leudtke, '98]

This is almost a wargame. Almost. It's simple enough that you can play it with a younger child, like 8 or 9. But there's enough going on that it's engaging. I like the "domino" effect as control of an island shifts, and I like the game enough to *want* to play it every now and then. Rating 6 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

My wife likes many of the games listed, but one that she loves is Arabana-Ikibiti. A-I is a game of placement: by playing cards, players build and remove bridges between islands in an archipelago. Control of the majority of bridges on an island allows a player to take control of that island, removing opponents bridges connecting to that island. When we first started playing this I beat my wife consistently (yikes, don't take that out of context), but the tide has since turned and now she beats me (what's new). We play 2 or 3 games a week and have played A-I about 20 times since the beginning of the year, way more than any other game.

[Matt S., '98]

One of the best 2-player games of the last year (after Caesar & Cleopatra) is Arabana-Ikibiti which has been republished in the USA by Rio Grande Games as Kahuna.

[Mik Svellov, '98]

My current favorite 2-player German game is Arabana-Ikibiti. Wonderful game, where you struggle over control of 12 or so islands. The game is fast, tense, and dramatic, with enough of a luck element to keep it interesting, but not so much as to drown out the strategy...

[Chuck Messenger, '98]

"Dry" abstract game despite the presence of color and cards. Not my favorite in the genre, but not sure why. Might be won over some day... (BTW, I have the original (A-I) and have tried both sets of rules.) I give it a five out of ten.

[David B Eggleston, '99]

I found this game to be interesting for a while, but I hardly ever pull it off the shelf anymore. There are many other two-player games that I put ahead of this one. To it's credit, in it's Kahuna form, it's really nice-looking.

[Dave Arnott, '99]


Kontor  Goldsieber  1999

Played three games of this - two with the basic rules (not so good, learning exercise only) and one with the advanced rules. It's the advanced rules that make the game, with the customs ship, special water cards and larger playing area. I thoroughly enjoyed my one game with the advanced rules and look forwards to trying it again.

[Doug Adams, '99]

Full agreement here. This one was also learned by someone relaying to the rules to us, and I know now there were a couple things wrong having since read a good translation of the rules. Still the advanced game was a very fine, competitive experience, with lots of instances of wanting to play several cards but only being able to play one. Neat mechanisms for turn order and taxation that force you to take several things into consideration on the play of each card. I was glad to see this one nominated for Spiel des Jahres, even if a two-player game isn't likely to win (or even make the final list as it turned out).

[Bob Scherer-Hoock, '99]


Kupferkessel Co.  Goldsieber  2001

Simple game that uses the point value of cards you collect as movement points on your next turn. Your score is based on how much of each set you collect. The kicker is that you can only ever see the top card you've collected, and you are penalized for not taking sets. Planning your movement by what you can get on your next turn while seeing and trying to predict what your opponent will take gives this game a lot of depth. Component quality is obscenely good, those huge wizard pawns scream "GOLDSIEBER!" Very worthy of its SdJ nomination. Rating: 9 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

I think this is a very nice two-player game...not too deep but interesting enough to keep playing (and plays very quickly). Everybody I have shown it to seems to like it. And the variants (advanced rules?) provided make it even more strategic for those that want that.

[Tejmo, '02]

Excellent game, will gladly play again.

[Stven Carlberg, '03]


Lord of the Rings,The: The Confrontation  Fantasy Flight Games  2002
Herr der Ringe, Der - Die Entscheidung  Kosmos  2002

I wasn't sold on it right away, but it's grown on me quite a bit. I now consider it one of my favorite 2-player games. I think this is a game of surprising depth, and one play, perhaps even ten plays, won't reveal it. That said, I did have some balance issues with the game at first, as Light was winning much of the time, but more experience has led me to believe the game is actually very finely balanced. A few games here and there will end in a rout, but the vast majority have been tense and interesting right down to the end. I think it's loaded with difficult decisions, and it has a substantial analysis appeal as well. Every piece is crucial. Coupled with the card mechanisms, you get a fairly wicked puzzle by the mid-game.

[Jon Waddington, '03]

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation seems to work incredibly well for every couple, me and my girlfriend included! Greeeat game.

[Marco Ferrandi, '03]

It has surprising depth, and is very well themed. For my dollar (GIPF series games aside), LOTR: the Confrontation and Battleline are my two favorite 2-player Euros.

[Mickel Knight, '03]

I enjoy the game quite a lot, though the people I game with most frequently do not enjoy it all that much so it doesn't hit the table very often.

[Mike Felts, '03]

I read many glowing reviews of this game. It was a gift to me; I've played it once, and I see absolutely nothing appealing about it.. I find Stratego tediously boring but a good step up from checkers or chess to introduce someone to a wider world of boardgames. Being that LOTR:TC is just Stratego with some extras, I'm sure that colors my opinion.

[Blackberry, '03]


Lost Cities  Rio Grande Games  1999
Lost Cities  Kosmos  1999

Lost Cities is the first game I own that I think I'm actually going to have to replace because we've played it so much. Why is that? Is it because it's my favorite game? No, but rather so many people (my wife high on the list) are willing to play it with me. (And, there's the small fact that when I lose to my wife, I tend to throw the cards across the room.) Is Lost Cities worth getting? The simple truth is that if you don't currently own Lost Cities, or have it on order, then you need to get it RIGHT NOW. I like Odin's Ravens and Hera and Zeus better, but Lost Cities is the best choice for a two-player game you can get – not because it's the ultimate game, but because everyone likes it! It's inexpensive, high quality, and fun! And it's a game my wife ASKS to play! How can it go wrong?

[Tom Vasel, '03]

Negative: after repeated plays the chance element of drawing good cards tends to weigh more and more, the final phase of the game tends to 'play itself' as players simply lay their best cards/journeys before time runs out on them, and the element of player-interaction is there, but somewhat limited. Positive: there is a certain addictive 'let's play one more time' feel to the game - it's fun to play - and I feel there are some rather good links between theme and game concept: having to discard before picking up is like a voyage into the unknown, one has to make certain decisions about which paths (suits) to pursue - a voyage of discovery - and once committed to a route, one has to go on- there is no turning back.

[Keith Wright, '00]

I like this game a lot. More so now than a year ago. It's growing on me more and more. It fits a need wonderfully, that of a filler game that works with just about anyone. The depth of the game becomes more and more evident as time goes by. I wish the quality of the cards were a little better, my set is starting to look shabby. Rating: 7 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

In spite of what my friend Steffan O'Sullivan says, I find Lost Cities to be a wonderful 2 player game. Sure, the rules are simple and leave you asking, "Is that it?" But during play, the decisions on which card to play or discard each round can be gut-wrenching. I (and everyone I've played with so far) find the game thoroughly enjoyable and exciting. I think it is a gem ... and it plays in about 20-30 minutes.

[Greg Schloesser, '99]

I find Lost Cities to be a very poor game, and am amazed at the large number of people posting to this newsgroup who love this game. I just don't get it. It's pure boredom to me - about the lamest game from Germany I've ever seen. I'd rather play Racko.

[Steffan O'Sullivan, '99]

Well, I broke down and bought it despite Steffan's warning. I must say I REALLY enjoyed the game. It's the first time I've ever been able to "Chess clock" with a game. You know when you watch chess pros and they move and slam the clock back and forth really quickly? My dad and I did that, too, with the draw deck. Definitely cool. Anyhow, we played a 2 rounder. My first round was an agonizing battle between too many good moves. My second round was an agonizing struggle to see what would hurt me less. I did find that drawing a lot of high cards and having no low / investment cards can pay off quite a bit. Very light, but very fun.

[Will Beckley, '99]

Lost Cities is a clever, quick card game of resource management. Your interaction with your opponent revolves around the information or misinfo you provide (and vice versa) with your plays and discards, and also the discards that are picked up. Near the end you can speed or slow the final conclusion by choosing to pick a discard or from the pack and again impact upon your opponent. An underrated game in some circles, I feel.

[Steve Owen, '99]

Very light game, minimal rules, but fun. Hardly any interaction between players, can be played in about 10 minutes per game (3 rounds) and is ideal as a quick filler.

[Stefanie Kethers, '99]

I love Lost Cities, but the more I play it, the more I'm thinking that the game is just total chance. That's not to say that there's not some skill in the playing. But, generally speaking, if both players are reasonably competent, then the only thing that separates the winner from the loser is who's able to nail the bigger cards (the investments help, but the true power is in the ability to nail down a majority of the 8's, 9's, and 10's, if for no other reason than to deny the cards to your opponent). I should say that I still love the game, and will continue playing it for some time to come. It's a great way to spend some time, but it's still just a bunch of randomness.

[Derk Solko, '99]

Simple, but not simplistic. Accessible to kids and non-gamers alike. Best 2-player game I've seen in quite a while.

[Steve Carey, '99]

It's clever. It works. I almost always win. But I really don't understand what's all this fuss about this game. Just one more good little abstract two player game.

[Bruno Faidutti, '99]

I agree with Bruno here. I don't mind playing Lost Cities, but the fact is you *have* to play it in many rounds to balance out the fluky card distribution that - regardless of how well you play - will often clearly favor one player over the other, sometimes to the tune of triple the other player's score, sometimes even more than that! These are not fun, these blow-out rounds. Despite this flaw, the game is still interesting. Plus it's fast and quite attractive, especially those oversized cards.

[Dave Arnott, '99]

By far the best 2 player game released this year, IMO. There are plenty of reviews elsewhere; but, if you like a quick, fun game with depth, this game is for you. I rate it as the highest of the 2 player Kosmo games, and I really like Kahuna and Settlers card game.

[Larry Welborn, '99]

I can recommend this one as an addictive 2 player game. It's so simple, yet when you have your hand balanced the decision of what to play becomes quite tough. No play interaction? Perhaps, however I'm watching my opponent very carefully and playing/discarding accordingly - to me that's a form of interaction. Luck of the draw is a factor, but who cares with a game this quick? Fast, fun, with a really nice sense of timing and tension. A worthy addition to the Kosmos 2 player range.

[Doug Adams, '99]

Once I had a chance to sit down and read the rules I was a bit dismayed. In fact, after I spent the two seconds explaining the rules to Elizabeth, she scrunched her nose and said, "that's it?" When I saw Knizia's name on the box, it all made sense. It's a mathematically constructed game system that had a theme pasted onto it. Despite this, I still find it to be an entertaining and short little game. With only two sessions under my belt I'm not ready to claim this as a classic, but Elizabeth and I have found the game to be entertaining to the point of us playing an extra hour at a time because it induces that "one more round" effect. I don't think anyone is going to be blown away by this game but so far it's been fun and addictive once you get into the game. The simple rules hide some rather tough decision making and the more you play the more subtleties you'll find.

[EChoota, '99]

My wife was doubtful about the exploration theme of "Lost Cities" but after two games she really liked it. She liked the depth of the strategy despite the simplicity. Since we have a one month old child, we both liked the brevity of the game. Games in which only two can compete without destroying each other (i.e. Magic or other CCGs) are rare and appreciated. The components are very nice and the box has a nice feel. However, the game could easily have been packaged in a playing card size box. Regardless, the Game is fantastic and I'll recommend it to a few friends looking for games to play w/ their spouses.

[Fez, '99]


Memoir '44  Days of Wonder 

Memoir '44 is the pinnacle - the absolute best of light war games. With the tried-and-true system Richard Borg invented in Battle Cry perfected - Memoir '44 plays smoothly, quickly, and provides a pile of fun! The game can be taught in less than 10 minutes, has definite strategies, but with enough luck to make each game varied. It is the best game I've played in 2004, and one that is quickly replacing Axis and Allies as my favorite light war game about World War II. Dice and cards do play a large role in the game's outcome, to be sure, but skillful card management and clever movement of the forces will hand the game more often to the better player. The game is very tactical, and while it won't simulate a World War battle to appease a hard-core war gamer, it will satisfy the majority of players. The components are absolutely fabulous - they are of a soft plastic, and are fairly large models, with differences between the German and Allied units. The board is fantastic - with beautifully painted terrain pieces. Because of the modular feel of the terrain hexes (which are thick and double-sided), thousands of different scenarios can be set up. The hexes even run all the way up to the edge of the board, so that two boards can be connected together, to play large-scale games, with scenarios designed for more than 2 players. This is by far the most fun way to play Memoir '44. I rank Memoir a "10", as it is one of the best games I've ever played, but in the Overlord multiplayer scenario, I'd rank it as an "11". The huge battles I've been a part of have been deliriously fun, and go remarkably quickly, considering how many are involved. The Fun Factor of this game is huge - as it plays almost always under an hour - yet produces a great and satisfying experience. Almost everyone that I've introduced the game to has immediately wanted to play the game again, whether they've won or lost. It's a great game, and one that will interest many people - even if they normally don't like war games. It is by far Richard Borg's best game yet, and Days of Wonder's crowning achievement, even topping Ticket to Ride!

[Tom Vasel, '04]

This game is one of my favorites. Quick to teach. Fun to play. Looks great when set up! Can be played in an hour or less. Potential negatives for some: 1) it is a war game, 2) it takes a few minutes to set up (10 -15 minutes depending on the scenario). The first negative is actually a positive for me as I enjoy war games. The second negative, however, sometimes keeps me from playing Memoir - not that I don't enjoy it - but that my opponent and I can more easily jump into a game requiring little or no set-up.

[Frank Hamrick, '04]

I like this game. Pros: Easy to learn and plays quickly. There are interesting challenges and a range of strategies that can be used. The cards add a random element that will make replies of the same scenario different giving the game a higher replay value. The components are of good quality and look great. There is a lot of potential for additional scenarios and rules to keep the game interesting for a long time. There is a scenario, and more are possible, for up to 8 players. Even with 8 players the game still does not take longer than an hour and a half. Cons: This is a simple game and therefore lacks much detail and some realism. The cards introduce a randomness that some may not like. It is very possible to have a poor run of cards that makes the changes of winning a scenario nearly impossible. Due to the components included the cost of the game is $50. While games are becoming more expensive these days, that is still a lot to pay for a game. Even so, I ordered a second copy so that I can play the multiplayer scenario. I'm looking forward to expansions to this game, and unofficial rules and scenarios. I'm also considering buying the other game using this rule system, Battle Cry by Hasbro. The game is fun.

[Tom Granvold, '04]

This game has Axis & Allies *and* Risk beat because it is *much* shorter (and more fun and exciting, in my opinion). HOWEVER there is a great deal of randomness in Memoir '44: there is both luck of the draw and luck of the dice. Strategy is definitely important, but luck often wins you the game. I hardly ever play war games anymore (and my wife NEVER plays them), but we both greatly enjoy Memoir (and Battle Cry). Because of the large price, however, I highly recommend attempting to try the game before you buy it.

[Justin Green, '04]

Memoir '44 takes all the things that are good about Battle Cry (multiple scenarios, great miniatures, quick gameplay, the fog of war effect of the card order system) and takes it up a notch. The rules are cleaner, the cards tweaked so that none of them are entirely worthless... in short, it's just about perfect. If you enjoy dice/lite wargaming, I'm not sure there is a better game out there.

[Mark Jackson, '04]

I feel the "luck factor" in Memoir '44 is so high (between combat die rolls and drawing "good" cards) that there isn't much you can do tactically to offset it (especially since the boards are so small you usually do not have many opportunities to fall back and regroup). I still very much enjoy the game despite this, but I like dice-fests (in general). I can see how it would not appeal to anyone looking for a more strategic or balanced game.

[Chris Brua, '04]


Odin's Ravens  Rio Grande Games  2002
Odins Raben  Kosmos  2002

Lost Cities is my wife’s favorite, and it’s a good, good game. But my favorite of the Kosmos two-player series is Odin’s Ravens. Odin’s Ravens is, without a doubt, one of the best two-player games I’ve ever played. There is a lot of random factors in the game: what cards you draw into your hands, what cards are laid out on the table, and what card is showing in the magic way. And there are rounds where you will get completely smashed by your opponent. However, since the game is played to 12 points, the luck balances out, and strategy comes into play. There are a lot of decisions to make each turn: How many cards should you put into the auxiliary pile, and which ones? Should you concentrate on the Magic Way, or winning the race? Should you hinder your opponent, or help yourself? The amount of choices is good, but not mind-boggling, and that helps make the game fun. I highly recommend this one. It’s fun, has great replayability, is inexpensive, is easy to store and carry, and can be played with many different kinds of people. There aren’t many better two-player games than this one, and it is my current favorite of non-war type two-player games.

[Tom Vasel, '03]

I haven't decided, as some people have, that this is a big favorite, but still I enjoy doing it.

[Stven Carlberg, '03]

Odin's Ravens can seem to get too random & uncontrolled, but at least if you've no chance of winning the race you can try to achieve the secondary objective of winning the Magic Way card. I feel it's much more strategic in scope than either Balloon Cup or Lost Cities.

[Caleb Diffell, '03]

Eh. I enjoyed it enough while playing it, but completely forgot about it afterwards. I suppose it doesn't help that no one in my regular group (me included) owns this one, but even if someone did, I feel like there'd always be some other game I'd rather play over this, if it got suggested... again, not because it's bad, but rather because it's average, a perfectly acceptable average.

[Dave Arnott, '04]


Ogre  Metagaming  1977

I was just turned on to Ogre by a friend of mine, and it is a nice, bloody, quick game.

[Michael Dinsmore, '98]

Yes! I have fond memories of that game. A friend of mine described it as the perfect game for two people to play when their idiot cousin Lothar came to visit. Give Lothar a single unit (the Ogre) and you take the ton of small units. Even still, Lothar wins about half the time. :-) It's not discussed much these days due to the game being fairly old.

[Allan Goodall, '98]


Rosenkönig  Kosmos  1999

Territorial battle governed by cards that are in a face up hand. No hidden information. I found it to be great and believe it to have a lot of opportunity for analysis. Some found all of the decisions to be obvious ones.

[Will Beckley, '00]

What I enjoy about the game is that it requires careful planning, while still moving fairly quickly as you usually only have a few options per move. You are allowed to see both your own and the oppponent's cards, which allows for further strategy in anticipating the other player's moves. Excellent game.

[Anthony Rubbo, '99]

Well, I've played Rosenkönig 5 times now and find it very, very predictable and mechanical. It is SO easy to see what the best move is on each turn that it is practically automatic. Playing with a reasonably competent opponent, this one really comes down to who draws the best cards. I was sorely disappointed in it

[Greg Schloesser, '00]

Oddly enough, that [Greg's review above] could be, word for word, my critique of Lost Cities. But this is not my experience of Rosenkönig. Granted, it's dry, but perhaps we look further into the future on each move and so skip what may have, at first glance, seemed like an obvious choice. In the Kosmos Two-player series, I truly prefer Rosenkönig to Kahuna, Elchfest, Finale, Siedlers Kartenspiel (Settlers Card Game), Lost Cities [in that order].

[Steffan O'Sullivan, '00]


Russian Campaign,The  Avalon Hill Game Company  1976

One of my favorites is the old AH game Russian Campaign. Allows both players to be on the offensive at some time or another, and has lots of re-playability (I'm still learning new strategies). Plus, it's a natural for PBM - the attacker specifies all the retreats, so there's only one mailing per turn (assuming no errors...).

[Tom Leete, '95]


Schotten-Totten  Spielkartenfabrik Altenburg GmbH  1999

Okay, I ADORE this game - nothing but delicious tension packed into a small card deck and a 15-20 minute playing time. Just enough luck for you to press (or should you?), but not so much that clever play isn't rewarded. Elegant, simple, much better than the unnecessarily-chrome-laden Battle Line (though you can strip out cards and play Shotten-Totten with a Battle Line deck). Highly recommended.

[Dave Arnott, '04]

Similar to Lost Cities, but cheaper and better according to about 75% who have played both.

[Ben Baldanza, '00]

I haven't played Battle Line - GMT's variation of this masterpiece. Schotten Totten is part of Knizia's supposed "Lost Cities Trilogy." If that's the case, it's the E&T of the trilogy, the real gamer's game of the group. I love this game, and wish I could play it more often. It's far more than filler, however, so Lost Cities gets played more. Rating: 10 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

Poker meets Lost Cities. I like it more than Lost Cities. Highly Recommended.

[Will Beckley, '00]

I prefer Schotten-Totten to Lost Cities for several reasons. First, the former game is based on head-to-head contests, while your score in each expedition in Lost Cities is completely independent of how your opponent is doing, which makes it feel a little like two-player solitaire. Second, the last several plays of Lost Cities are often obvious and automatic, while in Schotten-Totten, the difficult decisions usually continue right up to the end. Finally, while both games definitely have a luck factor, luck seems to play a greater role in Lost Cities; in that game, if you don't get the cards, you're pretty much screwed, while in Schotten-Totten, the more varied winning conditions mean there's a greater chance of playing your way through a bad run of cards. Schotten-Totten is full of such nice touches, which gradually emerge after repeated plays. Each play is important and demands consideration, but not brainbusting analysis. The gameplay itself is quite unique; although there's nothing particularly revolutionary about the design, I don't think I've ever played a game quite like it. The end result is quite satisfying, particularly for those who want a game to be involving without being consuming. Of course, Lost Cities has better components, a much better theme, and superior exposure. One can only wonder that if Schotten-Totten had these advantages, then perhaps *it* would be the Knizia two-player game everyone is talking about.

[Larry Levy, '00]

As in Lost Cities, the game is fraught with tough, agonizing decisions throughout. I'm sure the game does have more control and strategy than Lost Cities, but somehow it just doesn't seem as much fun. Maybe it's because I've played Lost Cities dozens of times, while I've only played Schotten Totten a handful of times. It's fun and I'll readily play it, but Lost Cities is still more fun to play.

[Greg Schloesser, '00]


Settlers of Catan Card Game,The  Mayfair Games, Inc.  1998
Siedler von Catan,Die - Das Kartenspiel  Kosmos  1996

My wife and I really enjoy this game. It consistently gets pulled out when newer games fall by the wayside. The more you play, the more interaction you'll get, because you'll have more time and brainpower to worry about what the other player is doing. The knight and windmill competition becomes more important. For example, when we first started playing this game, losing due to the "conflict" card was considered bad luck...now we plan on the card coming up.

[Justin B. Green '00]

I like it, but... The first "but" is the length of the game. The second "but" is the "mutual solitaire" feeling (not that that's all bad, mind you). The third "but" is the difficulty understanding the game. Of course if I can figure out Druidenwalzer, this one is a snap. Still, there's a fiddly-ness to this one. Finally (one more "but"), the game is a bit long. On the plus side, it's a lot of fun to build and develop your little empire. It lacks the interaction of trading from the Settlers game, but it's got enough meat there to make it quite engaging after all despite the "but"s. Rating: 6 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]

The Settlers Card Game has received the most play of all my German games. Great for couples interested in something slightly non-fluff. I give it a nine out of ten.

[David B Eggleston, '99]

Last year I said this: "As I have a few friends who like this a bit more than I do, it gets played once or so a month around here, and I must say, I still like playing it." Well since then the game comes down off the shelf, well... never. I haven't played this one for a year now. Partly because it's long, partly because it's not new anymore, but I think mostly because I just got tired of it. After the novelty wore off, it just wasn't fun anymore. Not that it's a bad game, it's just, well... really dry. And though my friends still play it now and then (without me, of course), even they have cut way back on this one.

[Dave Arnott, '99 and '00]

This is a very intriguing game that really grows on you once you "get it." Unlike almost every other German game in existence, the Settlers CG is much more strategic than tactical. Your strategy may change in mid-game, but you will tend to try to fulfill strategic goals rather than trying to "play the game better." Playing the game well also requires being somewhat familiar with the card set and the options available, so you know what to gun for and can formulate basic strategy. I like it a lot, and the new Theme-Sets make the game even more interesting, although you have to deal with German. I have met people for whom this game does nothing at all, however, I think much of the criticisms leveled at it (prone to blowouts, too random, once you get ahead you stay ahead, lack of different viable strategies) are unfounded. It can be all these things, but usually this is due to uninspired play on one side or the other, not due to an inherent failing in the game itself. About all I can say is that it's not as interactive as I generally like; although in this case it doesn't bug me. A lot of the new Theme-Sets also add a nice interactive element, so write Mayfair and tell them to do the Theme-Sets in English :)

[Chris Farrell, '99]

I find the game to be intriguing on paper but that it lacks something in actual play. I haven't played very often but in the few that I have it was quite obvious who was going to win long before it happened. The game is quite fun for that person as there's lots to do but just dreadful for the other player.

[Greg Aleknevicus, '00]

Settlers Kartenspiel is fun and involving (like the boardgame in tone but quite unique in play).

[Mary Susan, '97]


Starship Catan  Mayfair Games, Inc.  2001
Sternenschiff Catan  Kosmos  2001

This really is an excellent game. I have my problems with some of the Settlers franchise, but I really like this one.

[Bob Rossney, '01]

If you like the Settlers milieu, particularly Starfarers, and have room for a 60-90 minute two-player game, it's well worth looking at. In my opinion, it's a better two-player game than the Settlers Card Game, and probably a better game overall than Starfarers - you certainly feel like you have much more tactical control of the game than Starfarers gives you - and I like it quite a lot. But I won't give it a */10, or "recommendation", as I have only played it twice, and it just might be a case of Emperor's New Clothes.

[Richard Dewsbery, '01]

Overall, I enjoy the game. It's never going to be a hit of Settlers of Catan proportions, but with experience the game moves along well, offers sufficient variety to withstand repeated play, and offers sufficient tension to keep both players involved. The price ($30 retail) is a bit high for the components (cards and cardboard, plus a couple of dice), but not out of line for two player games of comparable complexity

[Joe Huber, '02]


Clash of the Lightsabers  Hasbro  1999

Clash of the Lightsabers is one of my favorite 2 player games. It definitely has a German game feel to it. It's surprisingly good.

[Lordoran, '00]

I've been playing this game ever since its arrival on the scene and have been enjoying it as a quick little two-player game. However, one recurring theme keeps playing out: the one-sided whooping that takes place whenever one player can play multiple 'use the force' cards in tandem with a 'retreat' card(s). It's not a big problem as the game itself is such a quick little beer and pretzel type of game but that didn't stop me from tinkering. After trying a few different variations we've settled on one that really seems to have re-ignited the fun we used to have with the game.

These few changes seem to really emphasize your hand management skills. Shear hand size cannot win the war for you anymore. It may win a battle or two but no more. Plus, you now have to think about what cards you might want to carry over and what ones you'd like to get out from your hand before replenishing time. The extra card, plus the extra points required for a win just about guarantee you will be going through the entire deck, solving the problem of one player hitting that "sweet spot" in their deck and the other player not having enough time to counter. All our games played under these rules have been pretty tough and closely fought affairs. In fact the biggest margin of victory so far has been a 6-4 score. If, like me, you really like this game but it has started to become a bit stale for you, try this variation. It might just have you bringing it to the two-player table a bit more often.
[Nick Danger, '02]

Sounds cool. We just play that Retreat only affects number cards, though, and it works just as well. We play to five points (from off to 5), but going to six points sounds better!

[Steffan O'Sullivan, '02]

This is exactly how we play it --- we realized pretty early on that the retreat card was just way too powerful. We tried a number of different variations but eventually settled on the "numbers only" rule. This game surprised us quite a bit. Didn't expect it to be so much fun --- we played it for several hours after opening it. It has that "just one more game" feel to it.

[Lee Freeman, '02]


Star Wars: The Queen's Gambit  Avalon Hill Game Company  2000

I really like the game. It's fun, full of theme, and should appeal to both Star Wars fans and light war gamers alike. The amount of luck produced by the many die rolls may turn off some, but I found that it made for a light, easy game. Star Wars, Queen's Gambit is an excellent game and is worthy of your consideration. If you're not a huge fan of luck, however, you might want to go somewhere else.

[Tom Vasel, '03]

A great two-player game that manages to capture the feel of the final 30 minutes of Episode 1 (Star Wars). Warning: it's a "three hour tour" - though the game only takes 2-2.5 hours to play, there's 30-45 minutes of set up & tear down involved. It's also dice-heavy, if that's a problem for you.

[Mark Jackson, '04]


StreetSoccer  Cwali  2002

One of my "most played" 2 player games after August, when I picked up my copy. This one has tons of luck in it, but I don't mind that in the least. In addition to the luck, it's dripping with theme, and the luck element is consistent with the theme, so there. You've got two players trying to get through a fast pick-up game of soccer on a small field. Ball control and positioning are everything in this game. The ability to bend a pass around opponents and take advantage of lucky breaks adds to its replayability. Excellent game! Rating: 7 out of 10.
Addendum: According to a note I received from the game designer (I'm on his mailing list) he has won something like 25 straight games of this. I seriously doubt that in a game where you roll the dice for every move that this can happen if the game is highly luck dependent. I have to say that the skill factor in this game is higher than it appears. I'm starting to "get" it.

[Dave Vander Ark, '02 & '03]

A "Must Buy" great 2-player game, fast and fun. Even the wife liked this one though she's only beaten me once. She hates it when I always yell GOOOAAAALLLL! whenever I score. Easy to learn and easy to play. Good combination of luck and strategy. If you like the soccer theme or have ever played some street soccer, you'll probably like this game.

[Walter Mulder, '02]

After only one play, I'm not terribly impressed as there seems to be a big potential for bad dice rolls to really destroy the game. I scored a goal and my opponent couldn't roll anything higher than a '2' for 4 consecutive turns. Thus, he couldn't get the ball out of his side of field. I scored 4 consecutive goals and won going away. This may have been a fluke, but I'm always skeptical when the first time I play a game something such as this occurs.

[Greg J. Schloesser, '02]

Greg, I really enjoyed it and you know much I dislike a high luck factor in games. I can certainly see where a big variance in die rolling could sway the game. But faced with a poor roll, you can play cautiously and defensively. Despite its simple rules, StreetSoccer truly has the feel of the parent game. If you have the chance to try it again, I think you ought to give it another shot.

[Lary Levy, '02]


Tocce  Fillip & Carrom 

The name Tocce is short for table top Bocce. This is a finger flicking game of position using crokinole-like disks. It scores sort of like Bocce. You can mail order it from Glenn Kuntz for around $5, and if you enjoy any finger flicking games, I'd recommend picking it up. Portable (like Elchfest) but easier to understand what you're supposed to be doing and therefore more satisfying. Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]


Toscana  Piatnik & Söhne  2001

I learned this one the same day I learned Flowerpower, and the games seem linked in my head because of this. It's a similar tile-laying game, and I liked it enough to buy a copy. You are laying tiles showing buildings to a gridded board, trying to build the largest connections of either roofs or patios. Each time you lay a tile down it the roof or patio areas of the tile must connect to a similar feature on the board. Or something like this. A little hard to see for somebody who has trouble with visual puzzle-like games, but nice. Rating: 6 out of 10.

[Dave Vander Ark, '03]


Twixt  Kosmos  1998
Twixt  Klee Spiele GmbH  1990
Twixt  Schmidt Spiel + Freizeit  1979
Twixt  3M  1962

Abstract bridge building game. My favorite abstract game of all time. Highly Recommended.

[Will Beckley, '00]

If you'd like something so old it's new again, try Twixt, invented by Alex Randolph, formerly marketed in the USA by 3M and then Avalon Hill, but now out of print in the States. The newsgroup rec.games.board.marketplace has been known to feature auctions or sales which include an old set. I refer you to the website http://www.gamerz.net/pbmserv for the CORRECT rules to Twixt (the rules in those old AH/3M sets are incomplete), as well as lots of other games, one of which you might actually like!

[David Bush, '97]


Union vs. Central  Winsome Games  1999

Yes, it's a train game (my first actually), but plays somewhat similar to the Settlers Card Game. You have six resources (Steel, Coal, Food, Lumber, Water, and Workers) that you produce and transport to create buildings (Depot, Gold Mine, etc.) and rail. Your opponent can play a large variety of cards (Derailment, Bandits, etc.) to hamper you. Lots of decision making and strategy here. Most of my impressions (both good and bad) were borne out when my opponent echoed many of the same sentiments.
1) Tremendous 'Feel': No thin veneer of a theme here. One gets a strong sense of the joy and frustration that goes along with trying to build a railroad across hostile lands. The large variety of period-effect cards really help to evoke the proper atmosphere.
2) Strategy and Decision Making: Do I use a card to benefit myself or to screw my opponent? With both sides trying to manage six types of goods, lots of tough choices will come up. And you can perform ONE function each turn, choosing between getting new cards, Production (of goods), Transport goods via trains, or Implement a card from your hand. Every turn is a decision.
3) Tense, Yet Fun: When playing U vs C, you have to be resilient! With both sides slinging one disaster after another at each other, the constant reaction is to think that you're doomed. But as the game progresses, and you get a foothold going, things really start to get on track (pun intended). I was way behind in rails built by mid-game, but actually later surged into the lead.
1) Game Length: The box says 3 to 8 hours, and that is right on. However, if you're like me and sometimes crave a long game like History of the World or Advanced Civilization, then this should be no problem.
2) Production Values: At best, U vs C is merely one step up from a Cheapass game, but multiplied in price. No frills or fancy artwork here.
3) Screw Thy Enemy: While this is certainly fun, it is way too easy to knock your opponent down. Trains especially will be filling up the wrecking yard in short order; then the game tends to drag a bit. Easy to fix by removing a couple of the disaster cards.
I've played it twice so far, and the game is simply superb. Spartan components and long play time (3 hours+), but it is rich and rewarding. U vs C has the potential to be a hidden gem; a pure resource management and strategy game. The rules are only 5 pages long, and are fairly easy to digest (there are a few minor typos and contradictions). While I still prefer to get a group together, when there's only 2 of us (and time allows), U vs C will be my first choice. I bought this game on a whim, and am very glad I did!

[Steve Carey, '99]

I found U v C to more than slightly reminiscent of die Siedler Kartenspiel. I only played it once, and it seemed ok, but not great. Because I already have dSK, I didn't see much point in getting U v C. If I'm going to play a long rail game, I prefer an 18xx game. In truth, if the game had better components, I'd probably have walked away with a better impression. As it was, it is two decks printed on card stock, with a bunch of tiddly-winks. Cheapass would sell this for $10, maybe $15, and Winsome wants $30 for it! By comparison, Lancashire Rails is only $20. As to the game, I did find there to be a good balance between "help me, hurt my opponent" in the cards; it seemed to happen quite often that I wanted to use the same card to do both. I took my cue from my opponent, and we played a very friendly game, only hitting each other one time. Other than that, we generally just had a building race. I think that the game is almost certainly more interesting with more "messin'" going on.

[Steve Chapin, '99]

I think Union v. Central by Dieter Danziger is a particularly good 2-player game. Long, but it does capture the flavor of building rails across the US West, I think.

[Michael Tsuk, '00]

Union vs. Central is a fun and involving game designed for two players. The only drawback is that it is quite a long game (2-6 hours depending on how many tracks are to be built).

[Robert Cannon, '00]


Up Front  Avalon Hill Game Company  1983

If you like a more sophisticated military game, try Up Front by Avalon Hill. It is a card game based loosely on their Squad Leader series. It is the one game I would like to have if stranded on a deserted island.;-) Up Front is 10 out of 10 in my book!!!

[Roger Eriksen, '97]


Venice Connection  Drei Magier Spiele GmbH  1995

Abstract canal building game. Bears a strong similarity to Nim, but has a few twists. Probably solvable by anyone willing to do so. I just think its a fun little game. Recommended.

[Will Beckley, 00]


Very Clever Pipe Game,The  Cheapass Games  1996

One of the best two-player games, period -- Cheapass or otherwise - is the aptly-titled "The Very Clever Pipe Game". According to the Cheapass website (http://www.cheapass.com) it's now out-of-print, but I can't imagine it would be too hard to find a copy.

[Matthew Baldwin, '00]

Although this one is a bit older, it still is a favorite down here in the bayou. This is a superb match of wits for 2 players, with lots of options during each turn. There are rules to play with four, but it gets exceedingly difficult as two players must play the background color shades on the cards. Plays in 20 - 30 minutes.

[Greg Schloesser, '99]

Primarily a 2 player abstract, but it's a good one, and CAN involve "deck-building" if you wish. Some luck element (end-caps, which can be used to shut down pipe lines), but still a good fun 2 player game.

[Tim Isakson, '99]

I've only played two-player games of this, about which I cannot rave enough. A most excellent game. Random draw from the deck, and then pure strategy.

[Claudia, '99]

This is very easy to learn, yet quite absorbing game with tiles that have black and white unconnected pipe paths. Your objective is to complete pipe circuits (with no openings), while playing complex pipes onto your opponent's pipe paths, preventing her from completing a circuit. The game then has three more circuit-completing variants, and (gasp) even has a variant that allow you to build 20-tile decks from the original 120-card set! Around $5. Contact www.cheapass.com if you can't find these games at your local game store.

[Cedric, '97]


Victory in the Pacific  Avalon Hill Game Company  1977

Victory in the Pacific is another good two player game. This is a fairly abstract simulation of the Naval War in the Pacific. The number of units on each side is relatively small (normally 40 or less). The game is fairly balanced. The Japanese have a slight edge, but you can bid for a POC handicap to even things out. Once you have some idea of what you are doing, the full game can be played in 6 hours. Often the game is decided before the end and you can skip playing the rest, cutting the game to around 4 hours. Very experienced players can cut more. The game uses a separate counter for each major ship (BB, CA, CV, CVL) and for naval landing forces and land based air wings. Before each round of combat a roll is made (with some modifiers) to see whether combat is fought at night or during the day. At night only the surface ships fire and during the day, only air units (including carriers fire). The map is area based. Inside or at the boundary between areas are major or minor ports. Players receive points (POCs) for controlling areas. At the start of the game Japan starts with the larger force and must score what it can and set up a defensive perimeter for when the Allied reinforcements show up. At which time the allies have to quickly regain POC before the game ends. The game is currently out of print, but I was able to find a copy in a store last summer, so it's still around. AH is thinking about reprinting the game.

[Bruno Wolff III, '98]


We the People  Avalon Hill Game Company  1994

We the People is also a good game but a much simpler one than Hannibal with not nearly as many hard/interesting decisions to make. We the People takes 1-1.5 hours or so.

[Aaron D. Fuegi, '97]

I just wanted to post an apology to all of those We The People players that I told that this game was not more than average, at best... I just played it yesterday, and this time we really got the hang of it. The strategic use of the PC markers added with (hopefully) cunning movement of the generals and combat units, really made for an excellent game. One of my two-player favorites!

[KI Thorgerson, Norway, '98]

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Last modified: 16 Jan 2005