Monday, April 23, 2012

Top 7 games to play with 3 players

3 is perhaps the most awkward number in gaming and life in general.  Two people can usually agree on something, but once a third is in the mix, things get clouded.  Plus the major problem with most 3 player games is that person A goes after person B. Then person B retaliates to person A, leaving person C in a better position.

This is not a comprehensive list, as other good games work well with 3 aren't here.  Some that I know are Small World, Quarriors, Citadels, and Acquire.  

#7 Tiki Topple
Yes, I am going here. Tiki Topple is best as a 3 in my opinion.  Everyone gets to use their toast cards, and the round can't end until everyone has done so.  Unlike a 4 player game where 1 player could use neither of their toast cards and have the round end.  2 is ok for Tiki, but there are too many leftovers and not enough dynamics.  3 is a good balance of control and making the best of what happens.

#6 Pandemic
2 player Pandemic can be a little too easy sometimes since cards are more concentrated. 4 can be a little hard since everything is spread out. But 3 is a good balance of the two.  Pandemic is a good challenge at any player level, but a 3 player game gives you the right mix of voices to contribute but not too many cooks in the kitchen.

#5 Settlers of Catan
Now, I learned Catan with 5 and 6, played a lot of games at school with 4, and all of those were good, but there's a nice elegance to 3 player Catan.  Trading is straightforward, you have a pretty good idea of what your opponents can and will do, and the biggest advantage, you get your turn frequently.  Now, 3 player Catan does lose some of the dynamics, I'm thinking of resource variety, special building with 5 and 6,,, but the map is fairly open, and everyone will have good places.

#4 Pizza Theory
Here's a new game to me, I just got it in mid March, but the first time I broke it out, I played it 7 times.  The game is specifically designed for 3 players, and it does a great job at giving players strategies to pursue that depend on others, but there are no means of direct retaliation.  For kicks, it's also a game all about pizza, which is an unusual theme.

#3 Ticket to Ride (Ideally Nordic or Switzerland)
Ticket to Ride is a classic game with any player count really.  It works well as a 3, since blocking isn't too horrible, but to eliminate blocking as a huge play, go for a map where 3 is an extended route set, like Nordic or Switzerland, rather than one where 2 and 3 have the same options like US, Europe, Marklin.
3 players keeps the game moving, there's very little down time, and a lot easier to go where you want than in a 5 player game.

#2 Eminent Domain
Em-Do doesn't suffer from the A v B so C wins, which moves it up the list.  The 3 player game feels long enough to be fun without being so long.  The 4 player game feels short, and the 2 feels long, so 3 with either one or two piles works well.  I personally like 2 piles just to get tech moving a little bit, but one less player taking cards does prolong the game.  I suppose it depends on the strategies at play, since running out the victory tokens seems to happen more often than two piles in my extended 3 player games.

#1 Dominion
3 player Dominion has a few advantages over 2 player Dominion.  There are 12 of each victory card instead of 8, yet still 4 per player.  Some attack cards become more useful, Pirate Ship, Thief.  Other cards become more intriguing.  The choices are a little deeper, and the strategies aren't as straight forward as 2 player, specifically in the endgame.  Best of all, Dominion has very little of the A v B so C wins dynamic.

The main point of this list, don't be afraid of games with 3.  Sure, not everything works, but some games can be fun, or even their best at 3 players.  If you have a group of 3, try pulling these games out, and see where they get you.  

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