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What games do you play when you are better at games than your opponent, and want a challenge?


I am trying to get my wife into board gaming, but she does not have much experience with board games and is very competitive. I want to get her engaged, but if I keep winning all the time she will lose interest, and throwing games is not very interesting for me long term.

I am wondering, what board games are out there that have a built in handicap for one player? Ideally one that is somewhat hidden, and not just me giving my wife more resources/cards/turns.

Or multiplayer games that are easier or harder for one player?


Have you considered trying a game that’s brand new to you? I’m hard pressed to think of anything that otherwise fits your criteria.


Have you considered coop games?

I’m thinking more consulting detective than pandemic.


Seconded. Use coop games to draw her into board gaming more and then branch out into other direct competition games.


My wife was already a quasi-gamer when we met though nothing at all like she is today. Your mileage will vary for certain, as I understand that everybody is unique (or so says the rumors at least).

My wife and I have found a number of different games that we can play together and, mostly, it’s because there are games that I am naturally good at and that she really enjoys as well as (the more common case) where she’s naturally good at a game and I really enjoy the challenge. I tend to avoid games where I’ve mentally “solved” the puzzle; whereas my wife enjoys when she’s already solved the puzzle and she just needs to execute the plan. It’s these games that I think are the best experience for both of us. The primary example I would offer, for specifically us, is Jaipur. I have never won a game and she’s actually grown tired of it since it’s never a challenge for her.

As far as handicapping… It’s hard to say; it’s not something you see often in modern game designs and, likely, because it’s hard to establish one’s handicap value.

Coop games may work for you. They don’t really do anything for me anymore so I’ve been avoiding them.

If you offer some suggestions for games you’d like to try with your wife, perhaps we could pitch in trying to come up with handicap mechanisms for those games?


A few that come to mind:

Flamme Rouge
I’ve handicapped this in the past by adding some exhaustion to my deck before the game begins, has seemed to work OK.

Junk Art
Any dexterity game really. Dexterity games are a great leveller when it comes to experienced players vs newcomers. Unless you have specific relevant experience in the game in question, you aren’t going to enjoy any particular advantage.

Galaxy Trucker
I’ve handicapped this in the past by giving less experienced players more time to build their ship, alongside always starting furthest back in the player order once the second phase begins. Generally i’ll give the others one extra turn of the sand timer before I begin building.

Whitehall Mystery
The asymmetry of this lends itself well to groups with uneven experience. The experienced player can take control of Jack, with the other player or players the hunters. Worth noting that the theme isn’t for everyone with this game.


Galaxy Trucker is the one I was going to mention, until I saw the two-player requirement.

I just apply 4 Rough Road cards to myself, and allow the other players to choose any number of those from 0 and 4.

It’s just a game that is so fun to lose. Preferably catastrophically.


You know, it’d be easy to recommend Fog of Love in this scenario except for the competitive streak. You can definitely game the game, try to “get good” and perform, but I don’t suspect really anyone would want to play it like that.

What it has got, however, is a very subtle mix of mechanics and deduction elements, with light roleplay*, that all flows like hot butter. The game has a tutorial from heaven, and it’s a game that should click with a wide range of personalities. You “compete” independently, but with an eye on your shared destiny as a semi-cooperative endgame.

Again, the biggest disadvantage is that it would likely be unpleasant if things are taken too competitively, but it’s got a ton of things going for it as a gateway game. Second disadvantage would be shelf-life, I suppose, but I share a differing opinion on that to most and it’s not something to get into here. Anyway, worth a look online to see what it’s all about.

*Roleplay in this case can be as clinical as making choices that suit the goals on your card (there are synergies galore in this game BTW), all the way out to let’s-LARP-this-badboy.


From my experience it just takes a shedload of money and expecting failed experiments. Obviously stuff that is new to you both will initially be tentative but but whatever suits you respectively will quickly show through anyway.

What you should do is play things that you will both like and that will likely mean not necessarily playing every game that bgg or this place tempts us with. To do this you’ll just have to play a lot of things initially and get a sense of what works, and really think about the commonalities of games you both like beyond stuff like theme…does it contain iconography, are they basically solo games, are cards with a lot of text really the basis of interesting games, are three or four steps in advance good, are dexterity games fun, dice rolling? Stuff like this. Constantly talk and get a sense these are things you are both enjoying and see if you can see what you can bring to inform your next purchase (and be honest -it’s crucial - don’t be too keen to take gambles as a “next step”).

I’d also provide warning that co-ops are a not a panacea because they do heavily encourage our internal alpha gamers (as we are intrinsically involved in their victories). Also as a wider point letting the other person play and saying nothing is really hard but really importsnt to do regardless of the type of game.


Go has a fairly standardized system of handicaps.


I keep on thinking of creative games that take more than two players, like Dixit, Love Letter (yes, it can be 2 player but it’s only fun with 4), Funemployed, Codenames, etc.

As @skeletor has said above, dex games, like Junk Art, Jungle Speed, Tok Tok Woodsman/Click Clack Lumberjack, Catacombs, even Loopin’ Louie, or a Carrom or Crokinole set. I’m also very much on board with Galaxy Trucker.

I’m still a big fan of Coin Age, which is cheap-as-free and a competitive 2-player abstract area control game you play with spare change and can keep in a wallet.


I’ve played Love Letter as a very light distraction with 2 and enjoyed it. Probably wouldn’t recommend buying it unless you’re going to have opportunities to play with more players but I think it’s still fun with 2.

Dexterity games sound like a good idea! Something like Catacombs has an asymmetrical set up which allows for one person to take the stronger side. I’ve never played but the overseer is apparently a lot stronger.

There are other options like playing more luck-based games where, even if a player will win more with skill, the odds are evened up a bit by a lucky card draw or dice roll. I’m struggling to think of any that are good for 2 players though…


The Game of 49 is both luck and skill (it’s a bidding game that’s based on luck of the draw of cards, bluffing your opponent(s), and scoring a connect-four on the board). 2-5 players.

(Also, it’s not expensive right now, and a good game for older kids as well as adults).


Codenames: Duet would be an excellent intro. It’s cooperative, and often quite challenging, but you can very easily adjust the difficulty to suit your combined skill level.


Thanks, these are some excellent suggestions. The dexterity games may be the way to start, but quite a few of these sound intriguing.


Yes, I agree with MinuteWalt on this I checked it on (https://financepolice.com). It is a quite good game for adults and teenagers if you are good with bluffing skills.


Wow am I late, but holy cow YES Catacombs is potentially ideal. Yes, in general the Overseer has the upper hand, however, I think a few points are worth noting:

  • The Overseer is a competitor, but also takes a Game Master role. This comes with a few benefits:
  1. Provided you’ve sussed out the rules, you can get playing with just the briefest of explanations. Most rules are based on character and monster abilities, and you can simply explain those as you lay out each new floor.
  2. Winning as the Overseer is the penultimate goal; Running a fun game, the ultimate. If there’s a major skill imbalance, you have options to adjust as you see fit. Critically, you can avoid being ham-fisted about that so the other player doesn’t feel like you’re just lobbing softballs.
  3. After a few games I’d wager a player could swap to the Overseer role without even reading the manual (with friendly assistance from you).
  • The dungeon you make is loosely structured but otherwise it’s a random affair (you draw from stacks of shuffled, increasingly difficult decks). But nothing keeps you from preconstructing it and making it as nice or nasty as you like.

Basically it’s a game that really lets you play WITH it to have it all come together as you see fit for the folks at the table. And it’s hugely granular in this regard, so as skills develop and (hopefully) equalize, it remains fun for everyone.

Of course this all hinges on whether or not you like flicking discs…

[Editing to Add:] The Cavern of Soloth is an essential, high-value expansion if you end up trying this one and find it’s a hit. Simple “more stuff” expansion at a good price.


A lot of what @VictorViper has said can also be applied to other 1 vs many games like Imperial Assault and Descent. If you play as the Overlord and treat the experience more like acting as a DM you can handicap yourself to achieve the goal of a great adventure.


Is there a theme or style she likes? And or skills she has that could transfers to game skills.
For example one of the games @COMaestro got that lead me to gaming more is Lords of Waterdeep, and I am a budgeting couponer, and i found I could apply those skills to that game, and I like the theme.

Other then that games where there is a stronger chance factor helps even the playing field. Like Azul, its very planet friendly, and very luck of the draw. Maybe Sushi Go, Batman love letter.


Absolutely, if you’re gonna get the heavy box that is Catacombs, go full Monty, go all the way. Easy to learn and to teach, and one of the best great dex/RPG hybrids out there. One of my gaming group members, all he wanted to do for his birthday the other evening is play Catacombs. (I was the Overseer, and I lost miserably, and it was fantastic).
(Yes, my son and he and me also played mini-golf and I bought us dinner at a great Thai place. It was his birthday! Besides, mini-golf is basically a dex game).

Also quite good, Scribbs has yet to let me down. Listen to Scribbs. This member has good ideas.
Both easy to pick up and with a lot of depth.

I’m digging @COMaestro’s idea of Lords of Waterdeep, it’s something you can get more deeply into once you get into gaming more. But the Batman themed version of Love Letter…good lord, how could you just not enjoy that? Just as a general recommendation, not even for this topic, I have to back you on this.