It’s getting harder and harder to get people to the table and play some games. I don’t like that. I do like all three of these games, though, including a two player variant on a classic and an expansion to one of my all time favorites. To me, my board games!
7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel is a two player spin on 7 Wonders that includes a handful of tweaks that make the game excellent for head-to-head play. The game is still separated into three ages of increasingly powerful cards. There are still resources to generate, armies to raise, science to discover, and wonders to build. The most notable change is that rather than passing hands of cards between players on each turn, an age is played out with all available cards laid out like you see above. On your turn, you select a card that is not covered by any other card. That card can be either added to your city if you can pay its cost, used to build one of your four wonders, or sold for coins. Any card that is face down but completely uncovered after your turn is flipped face up for your opponent’s turn. The card formation leads to a lot of decision making — do you take the card best for you or the one your opponent might be able to put to better use? Do you risk uncovering a card that could ruin you or take a weaker card and make them decide?
Almost every other facet of 7 Wonders is modified in some way for 7 Wonders Duel. Buying resources from your opponent costs two gold plus the amount of that resource they generate. If you need to buy two bricks and your opponent creates three, that will cost you two plus three per brick for a total of 10 gold. That cost is paid to the bank, though, not to the player. Selling cards nets you two gold plus however many yellow cards are in your city. Military power is displayed with a sliding combat scale placed above the card formation. Each shield symbol added to your city moves the marker one space towards your enemy. If the marker reaches the end of the scale, military victory is achieved. Scientific symbols can also lead to an automatic win. Each pair of symbols gained by a player nets them one of the five green progress tokens in use for that game that give bonuses like making wonders cost less to build or granting a bonus turn. If a player gathers six of the seven different scientific symbols, the game ends. If neither military or scientific victory is achieved, the player with the most victory points is the winner.
I absolutely love 7 Wonders Duel. My wife and I have played it close to 10 times and each game has been wildly different between the randomly selected wonders, guilds, and progress tokens. It’s important to keep an eye on your opponent’s city and not let them snowball towards science or military. I’ve made both of those mistakes already. I honestly haven’t been able to poke a hole in 7 Wonders Duel yet. It’s quite possibly the best two player game I’ve played. It’s easy to see why BGG has it ranked in the top 10.
Coup: G54 Rebellion Anarchy
Coup and its many flavors are favorites in my coworker board game group. Quick rounds focusing on mind games and bluffing are a great way to spend a lunch break. The first expansion to the latest edition adds six new roles and a new general action to the game, each with an interesting mechanic.
My favorite new role is the titular Anarchist. A player pays three coins and places a bomb in front of a target. The target can claim to be an Anarchist and either defuse (discard) the bomb or pass it to another player who must do the same. The best part is that the original starting player doesn’t have to claim to be an Anarchist to kick the whole thing off. It’s a great way to get a cheap elimination when all Anarchists are showing face up on the table. It’s also just plain fun. The Arms Dealer is a good role to combine with any of the roles that look at the deck. Anyone who claims Arms Dealer names a role and looks at the top two cards in the deck. If either card matches the named role, the Arms Dealer gains four coins. If you want to add a dash of randomness to your game, try the Socialist. If you claim this role, each player must give you one coin or one card. After you receive the cards, you add one from your hand and choose one to keep. You then add the top card from the deck and randomly distribute the cards back to the other players. If you are behind in knowledge, this is the perfect role to even the playing field.
The Anarchy expansion to Coup: G54 Rebellion is a well thought out and fairly priced expansion. As of writing, the game was only $8 on Amazon Prime ($12 normally).
Lords of Xidit
Lords of Xidit combines about a half dozen different mechanics into one fantasy adventure. The game board has about 25 cities connected by red, blue, and black paths. Cities may have a tile on them flipped to either the military or monster side. On the military side, five units ranging from peasants to battle mages are ready to be recruited into your army. Once a city’s military units have all been taken, the tile is removed and a different city’s monster tile is added. Defeating a monster is as simple as reaching the city and spending the required units shown on the monster’s tile. The victor gains two of the three scoring resources of gold, fame, or castles which I’ll get back to.
Taking units and deploying them is simple enough, but Lords of Xidit adds a layer of complexity with action programming. You perform six actions in each round that are all selected before the round begins: move along any of the three paths, take units, attack, or pass. Once everyone has selected their actions in secret, everything is set into motion. You might be trying to take on a monster but if an opponent gets to it before you do, it could all be for nothing. One kink in the hose from either an incorrect move or an unforeseen enemy move can derail your entire turn. The order of military units on a city is important, too. Whatever unit is next up in line on a city’s tile is the one you will take. So even if you reach a city with the single unit you need. someone could get there first and take it leaving you with a unit you don’t need or nothing at all. All of this planning is further augmented by knowing what the next two city and monster tiles to come out will be. The best move can be to sit back and plan for future turns instead of risking it on a race.
Scoring is a tiered process across the three resources. In the round I played. we scored gold then castles then fame. We tallied up the total gold for each player and the bottom two were eliminated. Then, the remaining players were ranked by castles and the bottom player was eliminated. Finally, the last two were ranked by fame and a lone victor was declared. Lords of Xidit involves a lot of resource management and planning that I really enjoyed. Be warned that there are a *ton* of tokens, pieces, and tiles. The game I played lasted about two hours but setup took a solid 30-45 minutes.