Lissa was not feeling well yesterday but we were able to continue out quest for good two player games. Up this time were Masons, Stratego, and Carcassonne with the Inns & Cathederals and River II expansions.
First up was Masons. Masons is a nice abstract game where you build walls and towers and place buildings on either side of the walls. We started off by watching the excellent Boardgames with Scott episode on Masons. This helped a lot and allowed us to play the game with only minimal reference to the rules.
Basically, each turn you place a wall, roll three special dice what tell you what colors of houses and what color one of the towers you will place will be, place the items and if you complete a city you then have the option to remove a wall if by doing so you can merge your city with an existing one. Guiding your actions are a selection of scoring cards in your hand that will allow you to score points based on various conditions (usually particular colored towers or houses either within the city just completed or outside of all cities). When a city is completed, both players have the opportunity to score points by playing one or two cards from their hands. All in all, this is a simple abstract game with great components and tactical goals that differ slightly between players. Good for two players and likely to be interesting with more.
Next up was Stratego. This game needs little introduction as it is an American classic. As a kid I only had the opportunity to play Stratego a couple of times though I always wanted to play more often. Luckily, at Charcon 2010 I was able to pick up a nice 1970s era copy with vaguely Crimean War themed imagery from my friend Charlie for the princely sum of $2.
Lissa was pretty skeptical of the game after having gotten used to so many great Eurogames recently. Basically the game involves the secret placement of forty pieces on each side of a square grid board. The pieces range from the Marshal to the lowly scouts and miners who all defeat opposing pieces of lower rank than themselves. The scouts can move in a way similar to a rook in chess but give their identity away when they do so. Miners are the only pieces that can disarm one of the six bombs that you can deploy. The spy is a special piece and the only one that can defeat the Marshal other than of course a bomb. The spy needs to be the attacking piece in order to defeat a Marshal and is defeated by all other pieces. The final piece is the flag which is the object of the game.
The hidden identity of the pieces in play is the primary mechanic of interest in the game. Players use their scouts to identify opposing pieces (by striking, or attacking pieces orthogonally). The scouts are usually killed as they rank above only the spy but by doing so the identity of the opposing piece is revealed. The game ends when one player strikes the opponents flag. I like the game quite a bit, largely due perhaps to my own nostalgia but I think Lissa was pleasantly surprised by the game.
Finally, we played a game of Carcassonne adding the River II and Inns & Cathedrals expansions. The River II expansion is similar to the original river but adds a fork as well as two ending lakes, one at a volcano that is used primarily with the Dragon expansion and the other at a city wall. Inns & Cathedrals adds inns along roadways that double the score for a completed road but score zero if the road is not completed and Cathedrals that increase city scoring by one in a similar fashion. The expansions add some additional scoring opportunities and the all or nothing aspect of the Inn & Cathedrals expansion adds an interesting wrinkle to an already great game.