It’s not often I come across interesting games for two players that don’t quickly lose their appeal. Most games are for three or more players, meaning board game-loving couples have limited games to play at, say, 2 am. Happily, you can now add Serpent Stones to the list of fun two player games.
Created by Dangermoose Entertainment as a successful Kickstarter, Serpent Stones is a game in which you face off against an opponent over a battle mat. The goal is to take over the other player’s temple by chaining your warriors across the mat in the shape of a serpent, as the Aztecs used to do in their drills. They would form two rows of warriors and create a chain, with the goal being to break the chain of the other warriors. Here you are trying to reach the temple on the other side, but while doing that, you can also punch holes in the “serpent” of the other warriors.
There are four different kinds of cards – warriors (Eagles and Jaguars), Nahualli cards, and Teotl cards. The warrior cards are used to build your “serpent” across the mat. The Nahualli cards are special attack cards that can be used to either strike or capture the other team. Strike cards are red and allow you to remove warriors from the field of battle, while capture cards are green and let you convert the other team to your side. These are tricky to use but create a great sense of strategy in what seems like a simple game.
But the trickiest part are the Teotl cards. Some allow you to force your opponent to discard, while others let you draw an extra card (this is crucial, as running out of cards is another way to lose the game.) The real key to this game, though, is in the sacrifice cards.
In a regular turn, you draw one card, then play one card – be it a Warrior or one of the action cards. With a sacrifice, you still begin to play your turn normally – first you draw a card, then you play the sacrifice card, and then you place whatever card you want to play first the next turn – face down – in a special spot marked “Sacrifice Stone 1.” Your turn is then over. On your next turn, you play the card that has been sacrificed, and then take your entire turn, allowing you to play two cards in one turn.
This mechanic takes the game, which is simplistic and easy, and turns it into a challenge with strategy and tension. It’s such a small thing, but it changes the entire feel of the game. The game is also very easy to carry around with you – it’s basically just a mat and a deck of cards – so it has become one of my favorite games to have on hand as well as to play with others. Easy to learn, hard to master, and very convenient: these are all good qualities for a game to have.
Tl; dr: Serpent Stones is an awesome game for two people under any circumstances, be it waiting for food at a restaurant to having insomnia at 2 am. Add it to your collection if you are in need of more quality two-player games.