Forget everything you know. Valentine’s is not a day about love and romance, it’s about competition! It’s a contest to see who can be the most romantic, plan the biggest surprise or cook the best meal. So my Valentine’s Dinner Date will celebrate that competitive aspect of the holiday as you pit your wits against your partner in a duel to end all duels.
Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
Here’s a fast little abstract game to whet your appetite for the back-biting and deception to follow. Although Hand of the King does play with up to four it works brilliantly as a two player game with a tight back and forth.
Each player is looking to control the 7 great Houses of Westeros by capturing their leaders and bringing the house under your control. Sure that all sounds grandiose but Hand of the King is actually very simple to play and you can still enjoy the game without being at all familiar with the source material.
Plan your moves carefully to avoid setting up your opponent for victory and utilise the special powers of companions, by capturing the last member of a house, to your best advantage. The player with most influence in each house takes that house’s banner token, the player with the most banners at the end of the game wins.
Each play of Hand of the King takes a little over ten minutes and of course if you’re on a double date you can play with up to four or even play the game using the partner variant to destroy your enemies as a couple!
The Main Course
The Rivals For Catan
I’ve been dying to slip this little game onto a list now for some time. Rivals does not get as much love as it should. Replacing the outdated Catan: The Card Game back in 2010 Rivals not only does a fantastic job of replacing the rather lackluster 2 player variant of Catan but it also introduces some cracking scenarios too.
Learning Rivals is simple, each player begins the game with a principality formed of 6 resource cards, two settlements and a road. Every turn you roll the dice and collect resources on the card corresponding to the result rolled. So far so simple. However as the game progresses you can develop your settlements by adding upgrades, maybe you’ll build a ship to allow you to trade goods, or a storehouse to protect your goods from barbarian raids.
As you progress you’ll grow your settlement outwards, building new roads and settlements and discovering new lands which you can farm or mine for resources. You’ll develop your settlements into cities, opening up even more opportunities for upgrades, like the Mint which turns rough gold ore into a wild resource or a University which increases your hand size.
Rivals ships with three different scenarios, which all change the game in a significant way. The Era of Gold makes the gold resource more valuable, The Era of Turmoil pits brother against brother in an arms race for supremacy, whilst the Era of Progress focuses on learning and the university upgrade as the players race for victory.
However the variants don’t stop there as there are also two further expansions which introduce another six scenarios, including a seafaring scenario where you discover islands and face pirate raids. Really, Rivals is a perfect little civilisation game for two players that builds on familiar concepts but really branches out into unique and fun scenarios.
Luchador: The Mexican Wrestling Dice Game
So, you’ve had a taste of politics and intrigue, then you’ve gorged yourself on civilization building and so you’ve finally arrived at the dessert course, you’ve arrived at Luchador (second edition).
In the previous games you went after your opponent indirectly, by subterfuge and manipulation, through resource denial and domination, however in Luchador the competition is simple, direct, you’re looking to grab your opponent by the posing pouch and throw them from the ring!
Luchador can be played as a one on one match or a tag team match with each player controlling two wrestlers or four players working in pairs. The aim is simple, smack down your opponent and keep them there.
Each round the two wrestlers in the ring chuck their dice on the board, any that stay there count, any that fall off are lost for the round. Players compare dice, Misses don't count, hits cause damage, blocks block hits and counters counter hits doing a damage in return. Once a wrestler’s strength drops below 14 they become vulnerable to pins and if you can successfully pin your opponent you win. Alternatively you can win by knockout, simply by reducing your opponent's health to zero.
With the advanced rules each player takes control of a wrestler with a few special abilities and a signature move which they can use to really bring home the damage.
Luchador is a silly game, but it’s simple and it’s fun; sure it’s more fun with a crowd of people to cheer you on, but so are many things in life. So, what are you waiting for, go on, get out there and chair smash your significant other!