I don't know about you, but a fun fact I discovered at the beginning of the pandemic is that not too many contemporary games are built for two-person play. Most popular games that I know (Cards Against Humanity, Anomia, etc.) are specifically designed to be played in a group, just like so many of the social traditions embedded in our fabric: karaoke, bowling, double date nights, you name it.
(*Preface: All of the following games can be played with large groups; they just have a cool two person vibe, too.*)
Before we knew what we could do safely, before we knew what we knew about the virus, we all shut ourselves inside and had panic attacks on grocery store days. (Just me? Really?) John and I burned out on Netflix shows and daily long (6+ mile) walks. On top of that, we were doing creative work for the better part of most days and needed something fun to do, so we brainstormed.
I proposed Gin Rummy, since I used to play it with both my mom and my grandma. We played it til the cards' corners were rubbed raw, but that occupied a few months of healthy competition (and a lot of friendly cussing). One day, John looked at me and said, "I'm so bored with this game." Someone had to say it. So we moved on.
John produced his great-grandfather's cribbage set. We watched some YouTube videos on how to play it and over wine-soaked late nights, slowly got the hang of it. (As I drank more wine, John got better. How does that work?) Cribbage is a beautifully interesting game because it has layers; you have to pay attention, count cards, do math, and hope for a little strategy via good luck. Soon that lost some of its luster as well, so we bounced on.
We circled back to Gin for awhile before we decided it was time for a new game.
Enter Shut-The-Box, a lovely Christmas present from John's grandma. It's an old English pub game, apparently, and it involves (again) some luck and some strategy to create combinations of numbers to score lower than your opponent. It moves quickly, too, so that creates opportunities for a heightened heart rate. Today, we found out that there are variations in how it's played from one of my dearest friends who'd recently discovered the game. So add variations on Shut-The-Box to my to-do list!
Our neighborhood has an awesome secondhand store named Family Tree. (If you're ever in Lincoln Square, go! It has delightful treasures at ridiculously low prices and every time you shop or donate, some of the store's wares go to charities in need.) We found an unopened box of Trivial Pursuit from 1981 for a few dollars. I remembered playing that with my parents every New Years Eve and threw it in our shopping basket. We've been playing an ongoing game for the last 3 days and I think this will remain a tradition until we need a break from that, too. (Disclaimer here -- there are a few not-PC cards. I do not endorse that shit. I do endorse remembering who wrote Wuthering Heights and where the Ambassador Bridge is located.)
The cool thing about these old games is that they do provide a lot of engaging fun and they create space for conversation. No doubt that's because they were all designed well before the internet (or even decent television, honestly) was widely accessible. Long nights could be spent with your friends or family playing them because you simply had the time. I kind of like that better than the fast paced party game (for now...there's a time and a place and an open bar for those). As technology-avoidant people when it's not necessary, they've been a great way to burn some time and have a few laughs (or threats - haha).
Do you have any favorite 2-person or older games? I want to acquire them all!
Until tomorrow, play on, playettes. (I had to say something hip-ish in this blog post...geez.)