As the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified, more and more of us are subject to furloughs and stay-at-home orders. Many of us have the fortune to be at home with a loved one or roommate. Having someone else to spend time can make things a lot more tolerable.
However, those with a regular card game night may have some trouble adjusting to life with just two players. After all, poker gets pretty boring when it’s nothing but heads-up play. Partnership games like Canasta or Contract Bridge are obviously a no-go. If you want to pass time with a game of cards with a friend, but need guidance on what to play, try these five games. (If you happen to be isolated at home by yourself, check out last week’s recommendations for solitaire games.)
- Gin Rummy: Any discussion of two-player card games has to start with Gin—it’s a classic for a reason. It takes the traditional draw-meld-discard format of Rummy, but adds the simple twist of having the players keep the melds in their hands. Since you can’t see your opponent’s melds, you need a good memory and abductive reasoning skills to know what is and isn’t a safe discard. The result is a game that’s simple to pick up, but challenging to master. Our Gin Rummy strategy guide might help, though.
- Turnover Bridge: Actually a Whist game despite the name, Turnover Bridge is strategic for the exact opposite reasons that Gin is. In Turnover Bridge, all but two of each player’s cards will be exposed to their opponent. That means that each player has enough information to devise a strategy to outplay their opponents, barring some surprises.
- Mate: Mate takes the idea of the perfect-strategy game even further. The goal is forcing your opponent into a situation where they can’t play a card matching the card led in suit or rank. However, you want as many turns to pass as possible before that happens. After the hand ends, you swap cards with your opponent. Then you see if you could have done any better with their hand!
- Cassino: Cassino is a fairly straightforward game of capturing cards by matching them in value. You do that either by matching in pairs, or by putting together two cards and using a third that matches their total value. Cassino is the only member of its family of games that’s popular in the English-speaking world. If you like it, give some of the other games of the fishing family a try.
- Pishe Pasha: This game plays a lot like a solitaire game, because there’s four foundation piles in the center of the table that you’re building up in order by suit. However, instead of a tableau, the only other place you can put cards is on your opponent’s discard pile. The goal is to run out of cards first, though, so that’s not a move your opponent will be particularly happy about.
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The threat of COVID-19 is forcing more and more of us to stay home due to quarantine or social distancing. As a result, we’re also often ending up with a surplus of free time. Throughout human history, people have found themselves in similar situations: lots of free time and no way to spend it with anyone. One traditional way to pass the time, in days before modern technology, was using a deck of cards to play a game by yourself.
Modern solitaire players are likely only familiar with the solitaire (or patience) games in software that comes pre-installed on their computer, such as Klondike (what people usually think of as just “Solitaire”), FreeCell, and Spider. However, with a physical deck of cards, the possibilities are limitless; there’s hundreds of solitaire games to keep things fresh. Here are five solitaire games to check out when you can’t play with a real opponent.
- Black Hole: Games expert David Parlett invented this game that, like Golf, centers around discarding cards of consecutive rank. However, unlike Golf, Black Hole is much easier to win; it boasts an estimated win rate of 86%.
- Bridge Solitaire: Stephen Rogers contributes this substitute for Contract Bridge that’s excellent for when players can’t get together to play. It’s designed to provide a challenge to experienced Bridge players to keep their skills sharp in lieu of a partner.
- Forty Thieves (Napoleon at St. Helena): Legend has it this two-deck solitaire game was a favorite of Napoleon in exile. That’s probably not true, but if you want to pretend you’re an exiled former emperor while playing this game instead of someone who’s hiding out from a virus, well, who are we to say you can’t?
- The Clock: A game that’s 100% luck-based, meaning it’s a great way to occupy your mind when you don’t feel like thinking too hard. Its striking tableau definitely makes it unique.
- Pyramid (Tut’s Tomb): These days, this game is probably best known from its inclusion in Windows in the early 1990s. It features a large triangular tableau, which the player seeks to eliminate by discarding pairs of cards that total thirteen.
The pandemic has forced everyone to focus on hygiene much more than usual in recent days, for good reason. Even when you’re playing by yourself, consider upgrading to a deck of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards. Because they’re non-porous and waterproof, unlike paper cards, they’re easy to keep clean and sanitary.