My last game day, there were three adults, plus a bunch of kids at various ages. For the majority of the day, we played 2 players games. I came away thinking it was a winning concept.
A World of Constant Distraction
Very few kids want to play board games for extended periods of time. So the first thing all of our kids did were book it out into the yard. Where they played well for the most part.
The 2 player idea came about just because that's what we happened to have. Here is what went down.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
I've played Agricola. I've played Caverna. All Creatures Big and Small focuses these classic worker placement games into a laser-tight beam. And the result is awesome. In fact, I had to sit back for a moment and try to figure out exactly what they had taken out. True, the game is only 2 players. But there is also no feeding or maintenance costs. This fits right into my narrative about Enjoying a Debt-free Existence in your Board Games.
Also, and surprisingly important, you are limited to the workers you start out with. There is no way to generate more workers, so you are confined to figuring out how to optimize things with what you have. Because I am constantly undervaluing (or overvaluing when it's too late) the "grow workers" spot in traditional worker placement games I felt actually competitive.
Finally, there are less buildings and upgrades. You still get a few different paths and ways to take your farm in different directions, but its not overwhelming.
Balancing a 2 player worker placement game was the latest deck builder on the block. The more I play Star Realms, the more I am amazed how much game fits into what is essentially a Magic: The Gathering starter deck box. Fast, direct, vicious. With surprising deck-building avenues depending on how the cards in the trade row come out. If you wanted to play a deck builder with me, I would suggest Star Realms every time right now. The only reason I continue to play stuff like the DC Comics Deckbuilder is the desires of other players. And you always need to remain in tune with the wants of the rest of your play group!
Fast and Furious
Playing these 2 games made it so there was very little down time for the odd adult out. Each game would take maybe 20-30 minutes and then opponents could be switched with ease. The odd adult out could handle kid requests, or just supervise the game and make sure people are doing it right.
I love to watch other people game, and 25 minutes is about the right sweet spot before I start to lose interest. Knowing full well the hot seat is coming allows me to think about the coming game and how I would play differently.
The Learning Game
Playing multiples of the same game also threw my slow-paddling game-learning brain into overdrive. I am champing at the bit to play my next Uwe Rosenberg worker placement monolith because of the hard-core resource allocating and farm building I was doing on All Creatures Big and Small. Deck building with Star Realms has me ready to take on my frothing-at-the-mouth workplace game opponent over my next lunch break. He's been coming coming in ahead on far too many games and honing my deck building skills might just be enough to tip the edge.
Overall, instead of 1 giant game possibly interrupted several times by upset children…It was my child, I admit it!…we instead had a lot of fun several times over in quick, easy-to-digest bites. At the end, we even got 2 of the older kids together and introduced them to Star Realms. I can tell you as a parent this is the most wonderful feeling in the world when you can legitimately get your offspring excited about something you yourself are interested in. Rarely, rarely can you ever expect this.