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October 4, 2012 12:50 PM   Subscribe

How can I best introduce her to nerdy-ness, and nerdy games in particular?

I had a date the other night, and during said date we got talking about the interesting differences in the ways we grew up and the subcultures we are familiar with. One of these is nerd/gamer culture, which I am into but which she knows absolutely nothing about. She is, however, very interested in all of it, and we have another date planned where I said I would bring a game for us to play, and afterward we'd head out to a bar for a bit.

So now I'm trying to figure out what we should be playing. We won't be getting together until probably 9:30-10:00pm to begin with, and I don't want to play a game that will take too long (she gave me a wide-eyed look when I said I knew of a short game that only lasted 90 minutes or so).

I have only one game at my house that would work; it's a card game called Gloom. 2-4 players, about 45 minutes of play time (ish), and has no similarity to traditional card games.

I need recommendations for more games like this. Two players, relatively short play time (2 hours tops, I think), and the simpler the rules the better. Also, something gamer-y. I know about games like Bananagrams and whatnot, but I'm not looking something like that. Also, the more cooperative the better, though I understand that this may be a tall order. I always loved that Arkham Horror was all about defeating the game rather than each other, and enjoy Betrayal at the House on the Hill for similar reasons (and even the betrayal in that game is fun).

A note: I'm not asking for video games. Please respond with board/card games, or other games that don't require any electronics to play. I'm also open to interesting dice games, like Greed, especially if they can be played with non-d6 dice.
posted by Urban Winter to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Carcassonne? Easy to learn and relatively quick to play, but definitely not your typical "roll the dice, move your token, draw a card" type of game.
posted by usonian at 12:54 PM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Forbidden Island would be my first choice, as it's a co-op game - you're working together to save the island, which seems like an awesome thing for a second date. It's simple enough that I taught my six-year-old daughter to play it with me.

(On the topic of co-op games, there's a group of hundreds of them at Board Game Geek. Many of them are far more complex than what you're looking for, but many are not. Scroll down to "Linked items" in this link.)

Lost Cities is also really fun, simple and surprisingly deep. Fluxx would also be fun.
posted by jbickers at 12:56 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can play Dominion with 2 people. My experience is that as long as you're not taking it too seriously, games last ~30 minutes.

It's also nice for beginners because each game is different, so "experienced" gamers don't have the huge advantage that they would have in a game like Catan. But, it might be a little difficult to explain if she's never played anything similar -- I'd recommend reading the rules beforehand so that you can explain it well.
posted by tinymegalo at 1:02 PM on October 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Lost Cities is meant for 2 people it works well and has a very simple ruleset. Fluxx I think would work better with 4 people. Another game that would work better with 4 people, but is awesome is Gloom. Have a great date!
posted by Brent Parker at 1:08 PM on October 4, 2012

Pandemic, if played 2 player with the 4 epidemics, is a fairly short game and often a cooperative game is a good way of getting people into board games.

Otherwise: Lost Cities, Mr Jack Pocket, Fjords, maybe Stone Age.
posted by jeather at 1:13 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had fun playing San Juan, St Petersburg, Egizia, and Vikings with my much-more-into-gaming boyfriend. San Juan is probably the simplest but I like St Pete the most. Puerto Rico (of which San Juan is an offshoot), Settlers, and Speicherstadt, and Year of the Dragon are good if you can rustle up a group.

Thanks for making me realize I know more about board games than I thought. I'm such a nerd. :P
posted by mlle valentine at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2012

I consider myself a non-board gamer and I really like both Dominion and Carcassonne.

There are a few solitaire variants to Carcassonne that might translate into collaborative play (the iPhone app has a good one, plus there are a few mentioned in the BoardGameGeek forums). Nothing more awesomely nerdy than inventing your own rules for a board game.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:30 PM on October 4, 2012

For Co-Op games, I really like Sentinels of the Multiverse, a super-hero themed game that makes it real hard to play for another player, and is tons of fun. The heroes and villains all play quite differently, so there is a bunch of re-playability there.

I'm also real into Shadowrift right now, a co-op deckbuilding game that works real well with two players

In the competitive category Shazamm is a good game for two players, real simple, pretty fun.

Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt. Skullzfyre is pretty silly, light fun. I enjoy it with two, but it's also great with more people.
posted by Garm at 1:33 PM on October 4, 2012

My bf is a much more hardcore boardgamer than I am, but he's gradually converted me (says the girl who has been obsessively playing Ticket to Ride on her phone). I really liked TransAmerica and it seems to go pretty quickly. Dominion is fun too though it can take longer when you don't know what the cards do.
posted by brilliantine at 1:34 PM on October 4, 2012

You can always grab a couple of pre made magic decks, but warning: I literally made a non-nerd GF cry trying to explain how to play Magic to her once.
posted by empath at 1:36 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, don't sleep on iPad based board games. I think for a lot of non-nerd people, the ipad is significantly less intimidating. Ticket To Ride got a friend of mine completely hooked recently, and she never would have played the board game version of it, I don't think.
posted by empath at 1:38 PM on October 4, 2012

I really like the Carcassonne spin-off Hunters & Gatherers, which is a standalone game (not an expansion for the original game). That game and the original Carcassonne are pretty intuitive for non-gamers because most of the gameplay is a lot like building a jigsaw puzzle. The rules and scoring are pretty simple, and it doesn't take very long (under an hour?) to play. Maybe it's just because I played Hunters & Gatherers first, but I like it more than the original Carcassonne.

(The link says it's for 3-5 players, but I've definitely played it with two, though the gameplay and strategy are very different for a two-person game than they are for 3+.)
posted by jessypie at 1:40 PM on October 4, 2012

If you're playing Pandemic (and, to a lesser extent, Forbidden Island, which is almost the same game) you should each take on two roles, at least until you get the hang of it. Nothing keeps a person away from gaming like constantly losing.
posted by griphus at 1:56 PM on October 4, 2012

The fewer players in Pandemic, the easier it is to win. But you should choose your roles, not leave it up to the luck of the draw.
posted by jeather at 2:02 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not to read too much into this, but if this still a new relationship and this person has little nerdgaming experience then I would say that 2 hours is probably way way too long for this first adventure. There is a high chance of boring her to tears with a 2 hour game. Carcassone is awesome, well loved by gamers and non gamers, and it is blissfully short with high re playability. I would go with that.
posted by Think_Long at 2:11 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I vote for Lost Cities as well - I *was* this girl. I had played monopoly and battleship and card games when I was a kid, and that was it. My husband is an avid board gamer, and we started out on Lost Cities - quick, easy to play, built for two, and fun!

Forbidden Island could also be fun. iPad games are great - I definitely recommend Carcassone that way, so you don't have to worry about piece placement. however, I wouldn't recommend starting with that one - I think Lost Cities is easier.

If she likes it, you can play it again, and if not, it won't stretch into forever. I still think of games that are 2+ hours as very long (even though they aren't, really, in the board game world), so I would be afraid you might scare her off with something long-ish.
posted by needlegrrl at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2012

Another vote for Ticket to Ride, as it's pretty straightforward and it's easy for the more experienced player to subtly throw the game if desired. I like Carcassonne but it can get annoying trying to figure out what the hell the farmers are for.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:48 PM on October 4, 2012

Chrononauts! It's a card game, really quick and easy to learn. Bonus: explain in detail how you reverse various historical events (how exactly did you prevent Lincoln's assassination?). Even my mom likes Chrononauts.

We also love Lost Cities (definitely more than Carcassone). Ticket to Ride is great but man, most of my games take way more than 45 minutes...
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:55 PM on October 4, 2012


Okay, technically it is a three + player game, but we've certainly adapted it to being a two player game. But I also like Carcassonne and would highly recommend it.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:55 PM on October 4, 2012

I'm really into nerdy boardgames, my boyfriend is...not. We both really enjoyed Castle Panic. It's a cooperative game where you work together to defend your castle from impending hordes of monsters. The rules aren't terribly complicated, and if you read through them first, then she'll be able to jump right in. I'd say the game takes, total, about 60 minutes? Maybe more or less.

I totally recommend it!
posted by itsamermaid at 4:37 PM on October 4, 2012

I'd vote against Munchkin. The game can drag on, requires ruining the chances of people you play with and many of the jokes would only be funny to people who already have nerdy knowledge.

I'd suggest Mondo. It's a quick tile-laying/ dexterity/pattern-making game. I love it. It's easy to learn, but a little harder to master. Light enough for a casual gamer, but there's a little meat for a more hardcore gamer.
posted by shesbookish at 6:52 PM on October 4, 2012

It's not really a hardcore nerdy game or anything but depending on your tolerance for offensive humour, Cards Against Humanity?
posted by juv3nal at 8:14 PM on October 4, 2012

I recently played Tsuro for the first time and loved it. It's ridiculously simple. Anyone can learn the rules in 5 minutes, and it takes a max of 15 minutes to play, yet it's very engaging.

Set is also a great beginner's game and equally short, though it can be frustrating for people who aren't good at pattern matching.
posted by Sibrax at 10:19 PM on October 4, 2012

Pandemic is indeed a good co-op game, I'd give it a try. It probably works best with more players, though.

Although a lot of people are recommending Carcassonne, I am not so sure. The scoring is a bit complicated for new gamers, it makes it really hard to keep track of who is ahead. Last time I played with a group including new folks, a number of them stopped trying halfway through because they couldn't figure out how well they were doing. (Ironically, one of them won anyhow.)
posted by vasi at 5:26 AM on October 5, 2012

Okay, on a different tack, Anomia? You do play against each other, but it's kind of more silly than anything else. Not very traditionally nerdy, I guess. You could always shorten the game by playing with fewer cards or declaring a time limit, and it might get her used to different kinds of card games than the old standards.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:54 AM on October 5, 2012

Yeah as a data point, I love board games, as does my BF. We both have Carcassonne on our phones and neither of us has quite figured out exactly what's going on and how exactly I got those points. Makes for an exciting endgame though as you're never quite sure if you're going to have enough points...

I love Pandemic, but it can be super frustrating if things start spiraling out of control. I do think cooperative is the way to go, especially until you figure out exactly how competitive she is (and how relatively competitive you are.) Nothing ruins a date more than two people arguing over a rule in a dumb board game.

On the competitive side Ticket to Ride is super easy to learn and set up (especially if you have a phone capable of playing it). My BF and I literally jumped into a game after the 30 second tutorial and felt like we had a good handle on what was going on. Simple rules with a lot of depth beneath them and not TOO many fiddly parts (especially compared to Arkham Horror.)
posted by This Guy at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2012

You want Carcassonne. It's a simple game to learn but there's a decent amount of strategy involved. It also doesn't look intimidating. It's just a bunch of tiles and little people.

Scoring can be tricky (especially farms) but take it nice and slow and she'll be fine. There's a Carcassonne Scorer app for Android (and probably iOS too) that is invaluable.

Fluxx is great card game. It's better with more people but it's totally playable with just two. Very simple to learn but it can quickly get complicated in a fun way. I've introduced Fluxx to a few people and they're fairly confused until it "clicks" and then they fall in love.

Best of all, both of those games can be played in a short amount of time. Carcassonne will take you about 45 minutes if it's the first game and you're explaining everything and Fluxx will never take you more than half an hour.

Dominion is another solid game but that's a tough sell to newbies. I've had luck introducing it to people that are already familiar with Magic: The Gathering or CCGs in general but not so much luck introducing it to non-nerds. It can also look intimidating since there are 15 or so piles of cards and it's not the easiest game to bring to a bar. The instructions are also atrocious so avoid completely if it's new to you too.

I havven't played Ticket To Ride or Forbidden Island but I've heard that they're both great two person games.
posted by Diskeater at 11:19 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 6th or 7th for Lost Cities! Truly engrossing and fun, and as short or long as you want.

If you get a double date going, Bang! is worth it, if you don't mind pretending to shoot each other.
posted by eyesontheroad at 11:09 PM on October 5, 2012 is going to be your friend on future questions like this. There are probably 45,921 "geeklists" of games that are good for a geeky person to play with a non-geeky significant other.

Every single one* of those lists says that Lost Cities is your first choice. Lost Cities is pretty simple, a little mathy, and you play a best-of-three or best-of-five series to get to 30 or 45 minutes. I'd add Battle Line here as another good 2-player card game that is not too complex but interesting enough.

Carcasonne is like putting together a puzzle in which any piece will fit with any other one. This could be a good choice as many folks LOVE it. (It bores me to tears.)

Ticket to Ride is a good gateway game. It's easy to learn and it's pretty short, but it has interesting enough decisions.

Dominion is a great game, not THAT complicated, but maybe more that you want to attempt for a first-time gamer.

Pandemic, while fun, is not what you want in your case. Pandemic IS a cooperative game, which you say is high on your list. The bad part is that it is high on the complexity scale, at least when talking about a virgin gamer. Also, it's too easy for a non-gamer to "hide" and just let the experienced person tell them what to do.

As for other cooperative games, I don't know any good ones for 2-players. In looking at the geek, it seems like Forbidden Island might work.

If it were me, I would probably forget about going cooperative, and just look for shorter, easier games.

*Well, okay, maybe not every single one...
posted by claytonius maximus at 12:26 PM on October 6, 2012

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