Update on finding the right game for my wife (aka Catan vs. Top Games)


Yesterday, I made a post asking for recommendations on games I could play with my wife. Here's a bit of an update on that.

First, let me give you a bit of background and some clarifications. Anna got introduced to modern board games through me this year. Before Thanksgiving, her experience with games included Love Letter, Azul, Santorini, Skull, Just One, Welcome To, and a few other games.

Then Thanksgiving came around and she had her first experience of Catan (mine as well)--and she loved it! Since then, I've been asking her a lot of questions (probably too many or too often) to find out more about her preferences. And I learned that Anna heavily favors games with player interactions.

Now, just so that you don't misunderstand, Anna clarified that she still likes games like Welcome To because it's a great game for a relaxing downtime--after all, who would be constantly in the mood for a brain-melting, cut-throaty, or whatever type of game? (I'm probably asking the wrong crowd here). But in general, she is way more interested in games with interaction in various forms (e.g. Just One, Skull, Catan), where there's the exchanging/trading/taking away of cards, decision-making that affects other players, observing how different people make choices, etc.

And since Catan, Anna has been introduced to two more games that helped me grasp to what degree she wants her games to have player interaction:

Test #1 - Quacks of Quedlinburg (basically zero interaction)

  • I tried this out thinking maybe some games could be potentially too good that she wouldn't mind not having any player interaction at all--I was wrong. She didn't find it as enjoyable that all she had to do was to focus on her own board/pot and that there's basically zero need to be aware of what the other person is doing.
  • On a side note, we took a long time to finish the game because we had to stretch it out into three different sessions throughout the day. If we were to play again and took around 45 min, maybe she might enjoy it as much as she enjoys Welcome To? Maybe, maybe not, but definitely not as fun as Catan was to her.

Test #2 - Wingspan (has limited player interaction)

  • Anna got her first game of Wingspan in tonight, and I could immediately tell how she felt about the game afterwards--good, but still doesn't scratch that itch from the kind of enjoyment she got from Catan. She also mentioned that she liked Wingspan more than Quacks because it seemed like a deeper game with more dimensions. I'm pretty sure she'll like Wingspan even more after giving it a second play because she was starting to understand what it means to build an engine (Anna won by the way haha).

Future Test #3 - Viticulture (another step up in player interaction)

  • I'm going to try to get it out this week.
  • Elements of player action include choosing the wake-up time, blocking your opponent's workers from taking certain action spaces, and visitor cards that could affect the other players)
  • It'd be great if she likes Viticulture because it's one of my favorite games.
  • I have a feeling that Anna would like it especially when played with more than two players.

Again, this doesn't mean Anna thought any of these games were bad. They just didn't have that same type of fun she liked in Catan. For now, I think I should avoid games that (1) only have individual player boards since that often suggests limited player interactions like in Quacks and Wingspan, and (2) look for games with a modular board, route/network building, and maybe even tile placement mechanics.

Based on previous recommendations, I am thinking about Carcassonne and also trying out Forbidden Island with her to see if co-ops could be our thing, but if you can think of any good two player games similar to Catan, let me know!

Lastly, this gives me high hopes for being able to play Root with her some day! :)

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Supporter16 months ago

Don’t forget about Pandemic!

Supporter16 months ago

Pandemic could be a solid attempt, plenty of themes to choose from if that is important as well. 

I would also suggest Alhambra and to a lesser extent, Small World.

That would be great if you could bring Root to the table at home. Sounds like you are on the right path.

16 months ago

Pandemic is by the same game designer as Forbidden Island and has a very similar feel, but is more for adults.  

Alhambra is my favorite game, but isn't as fun with 2P because you have to play with an imaginary friend - Dirk, the game designer!  It is better at 3P and 4P.

Owner16 months ago

That's good to know, I think I'll definitely try out Forbidden Island with her first before tackling Viticulture. It'll be a nice change of pace.

It also started to click for me after last night that instead of all these games with individual player boards, that I should try and go for games with modular boards or at least one big board played on by everyone. I think the "private" feeling of only looking at your own player board is the big factor that made Anna feel the way she did about some of these games. So again, Forbidden Island seems like a good start/test :D

16 months ago

Maybe try Takenoko too. Another fave of mine where you're building the board between yourselves.

Supporter16 months ago

That would be true. I got caught up in thinking up games that Anna would probably like and forgot about thinking of good two player games she would possibly like.

Owner16 months ago

Pandemic would be the plan (maybe even legacy) if Forbidden Island goes well! I'll look into Alhambra and Small World.

It'd be amazing if she ends up liking Root some day. As much as I love the game, it's so hard to get to the table for our regular group.

Supporter16 months ago

Borrow Skulk Hollow from Trent. See if she likes player combat....

Owner16 months ago

I'm curious about that as well, I can see it going either way. I'd like to try this and 7 Wonders Duel with her

16 months ago

7 Wonders Duel is one of my wife's favorites. She has to be in the right mood, but she has a blast each time. 

16 months ago

What did you end up getting?  I'd love to see an update and let us know how it went!

Premium User16 months ago

If she's a fan of Disney, Disney Villainous is a lot of fun and has a good amount of player interaction. I've only played it at 4p, but my guess is it's a bit better at more than 2 players, but still fun at 2. It's not a super thinky or heavy on strategy, but it's fun and feels very thematic, so if you guys are interested in the theme, it might be a good option.

Owner16 months ago

Oooooh good call, this one might work really well. Helps a lot that she has lots of fond memories of Disney movies (who doesn't? haha)

Premium User16 months ago

Nice! Yeah then this is probably worth a shot. It's a very good-looking game as well! I think the base game gives you 6 villains, and each expansion adds 3. You also can play an expansion without owning the base game, if you prefer the villains in one expansion or something.

Premium User16 months ago

Some options:

  • Colt Express. Fun, light, take that, some strategy, short.
  • Power Grid. Awesome Euro with bidding and resource management.
  • Monster City Planners. Small low print run game. has a lot more there than what it looks like. Destroy each others secret plans. 
  • Las Vegas: DIe rolling, light territory control. Prone to creating 'whoot' and 'Nooooo' exclamations
  • 7 Wonders Dual: Great two player. Some take that mechanisms
  • Ad Astra: Sort of like Settlers in space. Player interaction varies

Owner16 months ago

I'm going to take my time going through each of these tonight, thanks! And... Ad Astra...... $200??? not sure if that's an error or not but wow haha

Premium User16 months ago

Another vote for 7 Wonders Duel. It's a great game that has some player interaction. It's small and affordable, yet offers a lot of opportunity for tactics and strategy. I haven't played the expansion, but from what I understand, it gives the game a little more variability.

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