The older we get, the more predictable we men become. Thus it was that in my quest (once more) for the “something small” spousal Christmas present I turned, just as I did before, to the Wargames shop down in the BNZ Centre.
This time, I came away with a fabulous little two person game called Fjords.
In this game you use place little hexagonal cards turn-by-turn to “explore” an area of fjords. At appropriate spots you place a farmhouse—and which spots are the “appropriate” ones is where the tactical interest comes in.
After all the tiles that can be placed are placed (there are some rules on placement which mean you might not use all of them) the next phase of the game starts. Here, you place your “fields” (some little wooden disks) turn-by-turn on tiles contiguous to your farm houses and your other fields. You have to go around mountains (the dark areas on the tiles) and water; so as you can imagine there is a tactical element here which extents back to the exploration phase earlier.
This makes for a pleasing mix of tactics and map-making bundled into a relatively quick and simple game, and we’ve enjoyed playing this against each other. The girls play this quite well too. Recommended as a quick, fun, relatively cheap and compact game that will travel easily1.
The other weekend was Anniversary Weekend (i.e., there’s a Monday off to “celebrate” the founding of Wellington province, a political division that ceased to exist over 133 years ago) and, as has been typical with this summer, it was wet and cold. I convinced Rebecca that buying a new game was more cost-effective than lunch out and going to the pictures as a family (almost true!) and so, back to the Wargames shop we went, this time coming out with Ticket to Ride Europe.
This game is altogether longer and more complicated—but possibly more satisfying. We have a map of Europe with various coloured routes in it; each player needs to “claim” these routes as they can by collecting cards of the same colour and placing their little plastic trains as appropriate. There are many modifications to this basic play, such as “destination tickets”that specify certain cities that the player must make connected routes between; “tunnels” and “ferries” that require extra completion steps; and bonuses such as one for the longest continuous route.
Rebecca and I have enjoyed this game quite a lot—but as it involves quite a bit more long range thinking than some of the other games we have it’s looking like the girls are getting a bit tired of it. We’re having to experiment with various handicaps to even it up a little so that they have a chance of winning.
It’s also fairly long (the fastest game we had with the kids was 1½ hours) for small people of wandering attention… though possibly they’re just a little tired. Maybe it’s a game that is probably true to the 8+ label on the box.
We’ll have to try playing it some more two-player and see how we go with that.
fn1. Update: If there’s one flaw with the gameplay in Fjords, it’s that too much seems to hang on which player gets to go first in the second phase of play. There are a set of rules around this that try to mitigate this effect, but once the players become more familiar with this game this effect is likely to become an issue. Perhaps using another tileset, but the same number of houses, as a commenter on Board Game Geek suggests, may help. (This is apparently the Mega-Fjords variant.)