Sarah and I recently celebrated two years together – which also happened to be two years since Sarah was introduced to our wonderful hobby (go figure…). So I thought hey, why not see what her favourites are? The fact this happens to be posted in Valentine’s week is purely coincidental!
The big caveat is, of course, these are all games in my collection – so Sarah has a pretty small pool from which to pick. But these are all games she’ll ask to play, has played many times (with the exception of Azul, which was an insta-hit recently), and is a genuine fan of. And yes, they’re all games she’ll often kick my ass at.
She definitely has a few ‘types’. Route-building is a big plus, while if a game is fiddly it better have a big board and lots of stuff to make the fiddliness feel worthwhile. Otherwise its games with very quick decisions but where they’re all important and have clear consequences. And while a bit of luck is fine, a lot is a turn off (she has very little interest in playing a game for a laugh, or to switch off: that’s what EastEnders is for).
Only one was in my own last Top 10, although five more were in my Top 20. They’re not in order, but all 10 picked themselves. I’ve batched them into groups, with a little quote from Sarah for each one – and links, as always, go to full reviews where I’ve done them.
Sarah definitely loves a game that looks great on the table (and/or is tactile), has short and simple turns, but that mixes skill, strategy and emerging complexity:
- Adios Calavera: A quick game with simple rules, but I love the different movement styles of the pieces and how you can mix them up each game for a different challenge.
- Azul: Beautiful tiles, with a simple but interesting way to get them. It may not seem like it at first, but every decision is important – as choices you make now can really come back and bite you later.
- Ingenious: Quite straightforward rules, but really tricky to play. You start out just trying to match colours to score the most points, but have to keep a close eye on the weakest colours of you and your opponents.
- Uptown: This version of the game has a lovely style (also known as Blockers) and it offers a good, simple challenge. Really tricky with two as you control two colours – meaning you can cut yourself off!
The other genre she’s warmed most to is route building games. Her initial joy for Ticket to Ride hasn’t subsided, and a few others now sit beside it on her favourites list:
- Africana: Can be very satisfying to be efficient in a turn (start a route, pick up another card, maybe finish another route with that card etc). But probably the most likely to drop off the list next time.
- Oracle of Delphi: A bit more complicated, but I understand it. A good test of efficiency with plenty to do, plus an interesting ‘race’ feel that tends to make the end of the game feel more exciting than most.
- Ticket to Ride: Very tried and tested. I know exactly what I’m doing (mostly!) and win my fair share of games; but a small mistake can be super costly. The different maps add nice variety, keeping the base game fresh.
- Thurn and Taxis: Despite being quite a simple game rules-wise, there are several different ways to explore and experiment with to get points – but with just the right amount of randomness to keep it tactical too.
Sarah has probably played more than half the games in my collection now (she’s a trooper!) and while I definitely now angle new purchases/picks towards the styles above, other games sometimes emerge as favourites too:
- Kingdomino: The game has lovely artwork and nice tiles, while it’s satisfying to create good scoring areas. I should worry more about others are doing, but I’m too busy enjoying my own little puzzle.
- Codenames Duet: This is really quite tricky, but it’s nice to stretch my word brain and to play as a team. It’s very different from other games we play and while it’s co-operative you still very much have your own personal challenge.
I’ll be interested to see what has changed on the list by next year, so will try and keep this annual – while I’d also love to have your suggestions for other games you think she might like. Not that I need any more games, but hey!