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Quarantine has been a really good opportunity to learn how to entertain ourselves. While board games are obviously great for big groups of people, there’s a lot to be said for two-player games as well.
Just because we can’t get together in big groups doesn’t mean we can’t play board games! If you’re staying home with a roommate or significant other, here are some games to add to your repertoire.
As you’ll see from this list, Sean and I are big fans of Z-Man Games. My sister-in-law told us about the Choose Your Own Adventure games back in March or April, and we’ve since played both.
If you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s, you have a pretty good concept of how this game works! It’s actually inspired by one of the Choose Your Own Adventure books.
There are a bunch of cards with storylines on them, and at the end of each card you choose what to do. You work as a team, talking through the pros and cons of each option and deciding what to do.
War with the Evil Power Master is space themed (instant cool points!). You’re working to try to bring peace to the Lacoonian System, which has been threatened by the Evil Power Master. You need to find him and stop his evil plan before he destroys all of the planets in the system!
Of the two the War with the Evil Power Master is my favorite, but that’s probably because we won it the first time we played. We lost House of Danger miserably the first time we played it. Which brings us to…
The other Choose Your Own Adventure game! Also based on an actual Choose Your Own Adventure book, this one takes place in a haunted mansion. You’re a psychic who has had terrible dreams about a house near you, so you decide to investigate. But will you make it out alive?
When we started this game the first time around, I was thinking to myself, “this is super fun, but there can’t be that many ways to play through it. After a while you just know which choices to make, right?”
Then as we got further into it, I realized nope, you would have to play this a hundred times or more to know what you’re supposed to do. It definitely won’t get old quickly.
We’ve only played the Choose Your Own Adventure games once each, but we’re really excited to play them more often! I will say, House of Danger is quite long—there are 5 chapters in the story, and each chapter lasts 45 minutes to an hour. We went through one chapter per night for a week which worked out really well!
When I ordered War with the Evil Power Master, I decided to look up other Z-Man Games to see if there was anything else that sparked my interest. We already had Pandemic and Carcassonne in addition to House of Danger, so I was feeling confident with their game quality.
That’s when I found Mesozooic. Note that it’s a combination of Mesozoic and Zoo. MesoZOOic. It’s a card game where you build a zoo of dinosaurs. SIGN ME UP.
You get 11 cards, each of which has a zoo element in them. There might be monorails, dinosaur enclosures, and/or a gift shop on each card. You then have 60 seconds to move the cards around (moving one at a time and using only one hand!) to line things up for the most points. Imagine those sliding tile games where you could only move the tile into the spot next to it if it was open—but with cards.
Mesozooic goes pretty quickly, thanks to the 60-second time limit per round. You could get through a full game in 10-15 minutes. It’s really fun for adults and I could see kids loving it, too! And when we can have large gatherings again, I bet a tournament would be a blast.
I mean, what game is more perfect for 2020 than Pandemic? My sister-in-law got it for us for Christmas a few years ago, and as soon as we heard that COVID-19 was considered a pandemic, I knew we’d have to play this at least once during lockdown.
Pandemic can be played in groups or with two people. It’s a cooperative game that relies heavily on strategy; I feel like Sean and I are spending more time talking through strategy than we are actually playing the game, which makes it really fun!
Everyone playing gets a role (medic, dispatcher, quarantine specialist, etc.) that has special abilities tied to it. There are four diseases wreaking havoc on the world, and your job is to contain the spread of the diseases, find cures, eradicate them, and save the world. No big, right?
Rounding out my list of Z-Man Games is Carcassonne! It’s a tile-laying game that has you building the board as you play it. (That feels like a great metaphor for 2020: building the board as you play it.)
Everyone gets a set of human-shaped colored pieces that you lay each turn, either in a field (as a farmer), on a road (as a thief), in a castle (as a knight), or in a monastery (as a monk).
At the end of the game, when all the tiles have been played, everyone totals up their points and the player with the most points wins!
I will say, the game takes some getting used to—it’s great for people who are used to playing board games and looking for something more advanced, but would be hard if you haven’t played a board game recently.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Castle Panic, which is really great for someone who wants to get back into board games but hasn’t played in a while! It’s a cooperative game (can you tell I like cooperative games?) where you fight against a hoard of angry monsters to protect your castle.
It’s pretty simple, so after a while it becomes very clear what the best choices are; it might get old after a while but is very fun while it’s still fresh and new!
Rounding out the list with a classic: mancala! I loved this game as a kid, and when I was studying abroad in Ghana I found a hand-carved mancala board that is honestly one of my favorite possessions. I found one on Etsy that’s very similar and was also made in Ghana. It features the gye nyame, which makes my heart so happy!
Mancala involves moving pieces around a mancala board, which has a bunch of bowls or divots in it. Depending on where you land, you either keep going, get to steal pieces from your opponent, or end your turn. The person who ends with all of the pieces wins!
Sean and I haven’t gotten to play as many board games as we’ve wanted to during quarantine because both of our work schedules have increased, but I’m hoping this list serves as inspiration (for us and for you!) to make some more time for fun during this uncertainty. ♥️