Two Player Gaming

Mage Wars with Jacob Brooks.

I’ve enjoyed a flurry and wide range of two player gaming since the start of the year. Here is a brief rundown.

Mage Wars

I first played a demo of this at BGG.CON and my family was nice enough to oblige me with a copy for Christmas. Jacob and I dove in while he was home over winter break and we both got hooked. I had to leave town on some emergency travel but that didn’t stop Jacob from introducing the game to one of his friends. He even spent some time deck building while I was away.

Mage Wars is a two player tactical arena combat game that has elements of both Summoner Wars and Magic: the Gathering. There are different schools of magic so the different mages can have vastly different strategies (and may in fact be unbalanced, but I’m too new to the game to make that call). The big difference from most games of this sort is that each player has pre-built spellbook from which to choose cards to cast each turn as opposed to randomly drawing cards. This alleviates on big complaint from card games of the CCG/LCG ilk and gives the players much more control.

The duels can turn into a sprawling, complex mess and can last up to three hours — and still we love this game. Matthew and I played over 5 duels in the span of two weeks and are eager to keep playing. I sold off Summoner Wars after getting this game.

Playing Bonaparte at Marengo with Ken Rude.

Bonaparte at Marengo

Ken and I are committed to exploring the three Bowen Simmons block games. These are known for their beauty and simplicity. So far we’ve played three games of Marengo and are not quite ready to move on to Napoleon’s Triumph yet. Ken has handed my you-know-what to me in each game so far and we both feel like we wan to have a balanced, tense game before moving on. This is a game of maneuver and it is easy to make very small tactical errors that can have devastating effects. I’m hoping to play this again within the next week.

Pathfinder: Adventure Card Game

Along with Mage Wars, Matthew and I have been progressing through the Pathfinder adventure card game. It scratches our role playing game itch in short bursts of about one hour per scenario. There isn’t a significant amount of player interaction or cooperation in the game which is my main complaint — Matthew and I tend to go our own ways to different locations and fight our way through trying to find the main bad guy. We interact more after the scenario as we share loot.

Still, the game is interesting and challenging and we’ve had several very tense scenarios where we were on the brink of disaster before pulling out the win. Character progression is slow which which makes even small improvements exciting to obtain. The game is comparable to Castle Ravenloft in complexity but has no spatial / tactical elements but brings more emphasis on long-term character development and progressing through increasingly challenging scenarios.


Julie made some sort of resolution to play more games this year and I am the willing and gracious benefactor. I don’t know how Jaipur never entered my radar when it was released, but I heard a few mentions of it on The Dice Tower and started checking local stores to see if I could find it. We scored a copy at Powell’s and have greatly enjoyed it. Interestingly, Jaipur has a lot in common with the next two games. All three are set collection and trading games that involve hand limits and competition for scarce resources. Each one approaches it differently, with Jaipur being the simplest and quickest of the three.


Jambo has been in my collection for a long time but hasn’t seen much play since it first came out. I’ve avoided selling or trading it because I had such fond memories playing it and I’m glad I kept it. Jambo is more involved than Jaipur or Morels but is also a buy and sell game with basic commodities. What makes Jambo deeper are the special cards that can lead to interesting combos and side effects.


This was a Valentine’s day gift from Julie and it looks to be a fantastic game. The theme is harvesting and cooking wild mushrooms. We even enhanced our game with a couple miniature dollhouse frying pans! Morels uses a a card drafting mechanism where the cards at the front of the line (mushrooms “at your feet”) are cheaper than those further away. There are multiple options on what to do in your turn to keep things interesting but not overwhelm, and the game plays very quickly (20 minutes on average I suspect). Really looking forward to playing this one some more.

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 6 – Folegandros

En route to Folegandros

This is part 6 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 5 here.

Are you following along on a map? Might be worth your while as the place names can run together. We are now hanging out in the lower part of the Cyclades islands, with Santorini positioned at the bottom of the circle of islands. We are sailing yacht pros by now, still underway without wind, but enjoying ourselves nonetheless. Next stop is Folegandros.

Waiting for the bus to Folegandros Chora

While there was a harbor in Folegandros we found no available slip so we had to anchor in the bay. I think we pissed off a French skipper who thought we anchored too close to him. Though this made my day, there’s a legitimate risk of fouling our anchor lines.

Eager for another beautiful Greek sunset we boarded a bus for the town on the hill.

In Folegandros Chora near sunset

All the boys but moi hung out in the town while I escorted the ladies to a church on the hill above the town on the hill.

Watching the Folegandros sunset from the roof of a church

We were rewarded with another spectacular sunset, made even more dramatic by our perch on the church roof. The chora center was even nicer than Milos. A maze of hotels and tavernas with sidewalk seating and pretty lights in the trees. It feels more upscale than the other islands. We gander at six cute Greek girls aged 10-12 riding their bicycles through the packed tiny sidewalks.

Vassilis treats us to a delicious dinner on the boat - in Folegandros

We returned via bus to the port then paddle back to our boat for a wonderful Greek dinner prepared by our master chef and skipper. These are the moments we cherish – a prepared meal with local wine and engaging conversation.

Leaving Folegandros

Our next stop will be the island where I partied with SoCal folks and Aussies while watching the World Cup back in 1990.

Sailing Charter in Greece – Part 5 – Serifos to Milos

Vassilis with another skipper

This is part 5 of my sailing in Greece series. You can find part 4 here.

Our day started early in Serifos with Julie and I strolling into town for coffee and to catch some early morning sites and photos. The harbor was already vibrant, with fisherman just returning with their morning catches. Cats hung around waiting for scraps and we saw one rewarded with a whole fish.

Fishermen on Serifos working on the morning catch

I mentioned before how clear and nutrient-free the water seems to be, and I get the sense that life as a commercial fisherman on these islands must be rough. We would see them spending an hour or more pulling what looks to be bait fish from their gill nets.

Mooring at Adamas port on Milos

We had a longer than usual sailing day ahead of us so we made a point of departing early for Milos. Mooring at Adamas port we find a big supermarket and multiple tavernas and gift shops.

Taking a dip near Milos harbour

Our first stop was a short dinghy ride or walk across the harbor for some nice swimming and beer drinking. We mostly mingle with locals when hitting these swimming holes.

Bow down before him...

The main town on the hill (chora) is a long walk so we opt for 2 taxis to haul us up the hill for a sunset view and dinner (8 € each way). Unlike the harbor which is setup for vehicle traffic and the usual flow of boats in and out, Plaka has narrow sheltered streets hugging the cliffs perched above the western side of the island.

Church in Milos Plaka near sunset

We climbed another hill above the town to see the ancient castle (castro) then settled back into the main Plaka and roamed the streets looking for a spot to watch the sunset. We landed at a taverna and ordered a bottle of red wine and enjoyed a red sunset over the Med.

Boats in Milos Harbor

Julie and I awoke at 7am the next morning to a perfectly lit golden harbor. Our plan: catch a taxi to go visit the catacombs on the slope between Plaka and our harbor. They were supposed to be free and open at 8am; alas they would be 3€ and open at 8:30. One must be ready to adapt and go with the flow.

What to do but hike up to another church? Along the way we find a breathtaking panorama looking west, an ancient theater, and the original location where they found the Venus de Milos.

Learning about the Catacombs on Milos

The tour is more than worth the cost and it looks like they are investing the revenue into a strong guide program. The catacombs consist of arches within arches and there appears to be much speculation about how they were used and decorated.

Snorkeling on Milos

We set sail by 10am and cruised to a swimming spot on the south side of the island. The panga motor is still not functioning so we swim out about 400 yards to a rock formation and caves. Jacob and Matthew enjoy climbing the cliffs and jumping feet first. While snorkeling I spot a few flounder (or maybe sole?) and we also find a mountain goat colony with over 20 goats. The swim back to the boat was torturous for me — I don’t do well with long swims in choppy water and I’m seasick by the time I make it to the boat. Nothing that a long nap boat side in the shade wouldn’t fix.

Next we go to Folegandros!