The theme for AtB#4 was two-player games. These are a great solution to the common gaming enthusiast's conundrum of having a brilliant game but not enough players, and there are excellent ones out there for every taste. This month the selection of games on offer was bigger than usual, so I'll be as brief as possible in my descriptions!

  • Patchwork is a game of competitive quilt-making! Players use buttons to purchase Tetris-esque tiles to add to their personal player board, in order to assemble the most beautiful (well, high-scoring) quilt. Lovely to look at with a surprising amount of strategy, and short enough to be a bit addictive!
  • Hive can most concisely be described as 'insect chess'. A pure strategy game involving extraordinarily pleasing, chunky Bakelite pieces, this is a classic 'quick to learn, hard to master' game with huge depth and replayability... quite possibly my personal pick of this list.
  • In Jaipur, players are merchants in an Arabian market, vying to make the biggest profit in order to win the Maharaja's favour! This is a colourful, appealing card-based game involving a delicate balance of chance and strategy and a large number of camels. Of all the games we played at AtB#4, this definitely generated the most enthusiasm - probably the hit of the evening.
  • Seven Wonders Duel is a two player spin-off from the modern classic Seven Wonders, in which players compete to develop cities in the ancient world. This is a little more complex than the other games in this list, with a more involved set-up and structure, but is a great choice for those with an established gaming habit who want something a bit meatier and don't mind a thick-ish rule book, especially people who are fans of the orginal Seven Wonders.
  • Fungi has such an endearing theme that I would forgive it many things: players are foraging for mushrooms in a gloomy forest, with the aim of collecting enough of a given type to cook them up over a campfire with lashing of butter and cider. Happily there isn't much to forgive, as the game mechanics work nicely and the artwork is gorgeous, and you even get to learn the Latin names of some fungi into the bargain!
  • Cartography is a recent release that was explicitly designed as a cross between Go and Carcassonne, so if you happen to be a fan of both of those then this is definitely for you! The result of this marriage is a fairly abstract, area control-based strategy game with a lot of depth. One word of caution: if you manage to lay your hands on a copy of this, do not try to teach yourself using the rulebook provided as it's peculiarly unhelpful! Instead, go to the game's website and check out the 'how to play' video, and all will become clear :-)
  • Any description of The Duke begins by sounding a lot like chess: you move pieces around a simple, grid-like board, with the aim of capturing your opponent's Duke. The first twist is that rather than beginning the game with all the pieces on the board, you start with a minimal set-up of a Duke and two footman each, and draw additional pieces randomly from a supply bag as the game progresses. The second twist is that each piece is represented by a tile with a picture outlining its abilities, and every time a piece is moved or activated, its tile is flipped over to reveal a slightly different skill-set. The result is a real brain-burner, but the element of chance keeps things fresh and makes winning as much about opportunism as strategic finesse.
  • Bridget and Pucket are both handmade wooden affairs produced by Et Games, who can sometimes be found at craft fairs and music festivals (and also online). Bridget is a neat little strategy game that involves placing wooden blocks of various shapes and sizes to create an unbroken path in your colour across a small board. Although the concept is simple, the game offers a satisfyingly knotty little puzzle, and the spatial aspect makes it engaging to watch, too... Pucket, however, is a spectator sport on a different level. The game couldn't be simpler: use a tensioned bit of elastic to flick wooden pucks through a hole from your side the board to your opponent's, until all the pucks are on their side. There are no turns - once you've initiated proceedings with a double high-five, it's a total free-for-all. This game is very effective at bringing out everyone's most competitive side, so swearing and sometimes even violence are commonplace during matches.
  • Twilight Squabble and Agent Hunter are both small-box card games produced by AEG that are easily small enough to fit in your pocket and cost under a tenner. Twilight Squabble rather ambitiously tries to recreate the entire cold war in fifteen minutes, with players representing the USA and USSR respectively. The rules take a little mastering so I won't attempt to explain them here, but the game play involves an amount of bravado and second-guessing (as you might expect), and the cards feature historic events of the era in a way that's both funny and educational. In Agent Hunter, each player has a team of secret agents which they need to both protect and deploy against their opponent's safe houses in order to win. This is an entertaining guessing game with a sprinkling of strategy, albeit with some VERY silly illustrations (think Archer without the humour!).
  • Ponte del Diavolo is the only game on this list that isn't readily available to buy at the moment, but it's so good that we couldn't resist including it. The game is set in an abstracted version of Venice, with players placing a combination of wooden tiles (representing islands and sand banks) and adjoining bridges on each turn, with the aim of creating unbroken chains of linked islands. Again, this is a simple game with a surprising amount of depth, but the main word that springs to mind to describe it is 'elegant'. If you ever happen to stumble across a copy we highly recommend you snap it up.