Each day is the same for me and my boyfriend, Harry. We live together, we work together, and we do pretty much everything else together in the pandemic. The situation is fine, but the lines between our worlds have blurred. Once our computers shut, we transition from coworkers back into our relationship with the workday's stress lingering. The question of "now what?" hangs in the air.
Spending meaningful non-working time together feels impossible now because everything is boring. Cooking together is fun but also a chore. Long walks are taxing in the dark winter. And settling for watching television until it's time for bed makes me feel itchy with inactivity like there's something else I should be doing even when I know there's not anything I can be doing outside our four walls.
So, I went looking for two-player games we could play together.
The two card games I've found have given us some life again. If you and whoever you're spending the pandemic with need something new, I suggest buying Love Letter and The Fox in the Forest. Here's how you play.
Okay, this game is very fun and you can play with 2-6 players. Harry and I have only had the game for two months and our cards are already worn.
The goal of the game is to deliver your love letter to the princess. It consists of 21 cards and is played in a series of rounds. The winner of each round receives a token, which is cute. Each round ends either when the cards run out and the person with the highest value card wins, or when only one person is left in the game.
The cards are all the people in the castle—like a guard, a handmaid, a baron, a prince, etc. Each has a different point value and a different quantity in the deck.
For instance, the princess is the highest value card and the hardest to hold onto. That's because every card has a unique power. Like, the guard allows you to guess the card another player has—and if you guess correctly, you knock that person out of the round. With the priest, you can peek at another person's card, and the king lets you swap cards with another person. If you play the princess or someone makes you discard the princess (this is the prince's power), you're knocked out of the round.
The idea is that the card you have is who has custody of your love letter, which is the extent of the love letter theme. The more you play, the more you figure out which cards work well together and the different strategies you can use to win.
Harry and I have also added an extra layer to the game by sexualizing the princess. Whenever one of us wins a round, we joke about the night we're going to spend with her now that she's received our love letter. (She's kind of a freak, in my opinion.) You don't have to do this, but if you do, I suggest pairing your raunchy jokes with a terrible Love Island-inspired British accent.
The Fox in the Forest
The Fox in the Forest is a two-player fairytale-inspired trick-taking game. I'm told this game is a lot like Hearts, but I've never played Hearts. Don't judge me for that. However, Fox has some unique twists that make the game different each time you play.
The deck is 33 cards and each player is dealt 13 cards. There are three suits (Bells, Keys, Moons) with values up to 11. The card on the top of the remaining deck becomes the trump suit. If someone plays a card in that suit, they automatically win the trick. One player goes first and the other player must match the suit of the played card. The highest value wins. So, if I played a 10 of Bells, you'd have to play a Bell card, too. If you don't have any Bells left, you could choose to play whatever the trump card is to come out on top.
Seems pretty simple, right? Fox throws a wrench in this. You lose the game if you win more than 9 tricks, aka if you play a "greedy" game. You can only win if you win 0-3 tricks (a "humble" game) or if you win 7-9 tricks ("victorious"). So, you either try to play a winning game or a losing game, but you never know what game your opponent is playing and the strategy you use depends on the cards you get. If you have a bunch of lower value cards, you'll probably try to stay humble. But, if you have lots of high-value cards, how will you win without being greedy?
Harry walloped me the first few times we played, but now I'm coming into my own. Because of all the layers to this little game, the outcome depends on you. If you biff it in the beginning and hoard your high cards, you'll feel like a chump when you lose. But I feel deliciously smug—like a little fox—every time I win. It's nice to be able to control a bit of your destiny in this game, especially when the rest of the world outside the forest is in constant chaos.