2020 Valentine’s Gaming

Every year, one of my local game stores (Petries Family Games here in Colorado Springs) does a couples dessert night at the store for Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have made it an annual tradition to go every year since we moved to town. And since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share what we got to play, and some thoughts on each. Since it’s a night that encourages two-player games (though several couples paired up for four players), that’s my experience with all four of these new-to-me titles.

image by BGG user drax

Welcome To… is a flip-and-write game from designer Benoit Turpin and published by Blue Cocker Games where you are building a 50s suburban neighborhood. Each round, you’ll have three choices including one number and one special action (the special action is on the back of the previously face up card). Choose a number, writing it on one of the houses on a street. Numbers go from 1-15, and must be in sequence with no repeats. You can skip around the street, you just have to be careful not to paint yourself into a corner. Special actions include making fence, adding parks, building pools, and generally trying to score the most points.

Our game did not go very well. Well, not for me anyway. I was completely unfocused. A park here! A pool here! Fences over here and here so I can complete projects! Numbers everywhere! In the end, we got a run of high numbers, and I couldn’t place any of them so I ended the game with three refused permits. My wife crushed me, 79-53. Still, I enjoyed it enough to want to play some more.

image by BGG user tshepherd

Djinns of the High Desert is a game designed by  from local game publishers Toresh Games (who also did Serpent Masters, a game I just reviewed in my previous post). It’s a pretty simple card game where you can either play a card, taking its action, or make a wish, which allows you to discard some cards and take a special action. Basically, you’re trying to get as many points in front of you as possible, and all in one color. Because, Coloretto style, only one color will count for you, while the rest are negative. Fortunately, purple is wild, so you can use that as part of your color.

My wife mostly went for getting high cards out in front of her, while I kept playing low ones that allowed me to get more cards in hand. In the end, I lucked out by getting two high cards of the same color that I could play at once, and won 18-17. We liked the game well enough, but we both agreed that it probably plays better with more people. We’re interested in trying it again – there are certainly some interesting ideas there, and I tend to like games with that kind of minimalist design.

image by BGG user Stephanie Hurrican

Nagaraja is a two-player only game from 2019, designed by Bruno Cathala and Théo Rivière, published by Hurrican. It’s a treasure hunt game where you’re trying to reveal the best treasure without finding too many cursed treasures. In each round, there’s a single temple tile available, and you play cards that will allow you to roll fate sticks (basically, four-sided dice with different numbers of pips and squiggly lines called nagas). Nagas are used to activate powers on cards in your hand, and the player with the highest total wins the tile and places it in their dungeon. You’re trying to connect the entrances to different relics, which are revealed. Get your score up to 25 points and win. Reveal all three cursed treasures and lose.

I REALLY liked this game. This goes into the category of games I hope I play again sometime this year so it can be in contention for the Spiel des Jesse at the start of 2021. There’s a significant hand management aspect to the game, and the fate sticks are really cool – there’s three different sizes, and you can roll a lot at a time, depending on how many cards you play. It’s really a bidding game at its core, which irritates me because I like it so much and often talk about how much I dislike auctions. But there it is – you’re choosing which cards to play in order to try to get the best chance to win. It’s a fairly simple game with a lot going on, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Oh, also I won the game 27-12, but that was partly because I did a bad job of explaining the endgame conditions to my wife before we played.

image by BGG user zeldaaa

Hanamikoji was designed by Kota Nakayama, and originally published in 2013 by Emperor S4, with Deep Water Games bringing it to the US in 2018. This is a small card game where players are trying to be the first to 11 points. Each player begins the game with six cards in hand, and four tiles showing the available actions – save a card, discard two cards, offer three cards (from which your opponent will get one), and offer four cards (from which your opponent will get two). Cards are played on your side of seven big cards that represent the cards in the game. Once each player has done their four actions for the round, you score who has the most points on their side of each card. If no one has 11 points, you play more rounds until someone has won.

This is the only game of the night that I had played before, but I’m still counting it as new-to-me as I had never played it in real life, only online at Happy Meeple. Still, it meant I had a grasp on some of the strategies, and won 14-7 in three rounds. My wife liked how pretty it was, and it’s a game that has grown on me through several plays. I enjoy that it’s a nice quick two-player game, and has some tough decisions as each action can only be taken once, and must be taken once. It’s one I may consider picking up in the future.

Anyway, that’s the rundown of my Valentine’s date night. I hope you get to play some games with someone you love today, and if not, I hope you do soon! Thanks for reading!

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