I enjoy gaming. My wife enjoys it less so. This series is about her and I playing games together – against each other.

Man vs Wife: Dungeon!

Man vs WifeDungeon!, originally released by TSR, simulates some of the aspects of Dungeons & Dragons. You play a character and roam through a dungeon killing monsters for treasure. It came out in 1975, a year after D&D, and has been revised several times. There is yet another version coming out in October, but the copy I own is the 1989 version called “New Dungeon” because it revamped the classes.

Dungeon! - The Box
It's a little on the nose... Dungeon... Dragon... subtle this is not.

In the basic version we play first, everyone is a warrior. (Wife: I want to be the female.) Fine, I’ll be… uh.. the dwarf, I guess. They both look like dwarves, which is funny because Dwarf is one of the advanced classes. Whatever. Warriors get to move up to 5 spaces each turn. (Wife: We don’t roll?) Not according to the box rules, but there are house rules where you roll to move. (Wife: Then what are the dice for?) I’ll get to that. Back to the moving. You can go up to 5 spaces, but if you enter a room you have to stop and fight and end your turn, even if it’s less than 5 spaces. If you want to go through a secret door, the dashed lines (Wife: I was just about to ask that.), you have to roll a die. Warriors open secret doors on a 1 or a 2. If you fail, your turn ends. If you fail three times, on the fourth you automatically find the secret door and can go through it. (Wife: That’s nice.) Yeah, a reward for just wasting three entire turns doing nothing.

When it comes to combat, monster cards have six numbers on them, and warriors use the red one. You roll both dice and try to get equal to or higher than the number. (Wife: What are the other numbers for?) The other classes and spells. If you beat a monster in a room, you get a treasure of the appropriate level. If you beat a monster in a chamber, you get no treasure. (Wife: Poor chamber monsters.) The board is laid out with rooms of six different levels of difficulty, with the higher levels getting the best treasures.

There are special treasures too. Secret Door cards let you walk through secret doors without rolling. ESP Medallions let you see monsters before you decide to fight them. Crystal Balls let you look at the monster and treasure of any room on the board. And Magic Swords give you a bonus to fighting. (Wife: How much?) There are four +1 swords and one +2 sword. (Wife: Do they stack?) No.

Under the basic rules, warriors need 30,000 gold worth of treasure to win. You have to adventure out, defeat monsters, collect treasures and return to the Main Staircase. First one to do that wins. When you play with more people, you get in each other’s way a lot, which drags out the game. With just two of us, she runs for the level 1 rooms and I head for level 4. (Wife: What?) See, I’ve played this game before (Wife: Cheater!) and I know that while it’s easy to fight level 1 and 2 monsters, many of whom need a 3 or even a 2 – you can’t roll less than 2 on two dice – to defeat, there is a disproportionate jump in difficulty from level 4 to level 5 in that level 5 is much harder than level 4, and level 4 is still statistically favorable to win while earning more valuable treasures. (Wife: Cheater! Cheater!) I know. I take a pretty quick lead, but I forgot two things. First, getting a secret door card is much easier in the lower level rooms, as is a magic sword. Second, if you go down the wrong hall to level 4, you end up having to detour through level 5 or take the long way around. (Wife: You went the wrong way?) I went the wrong way.

So, she racks up a pile of treasure, with Secret Door cards and magic swords, and while I have a pile of money I step into a level 5 room that’s too difficult. According to the rules, when you don’t kill a monster on the first attack, another player rolls for the monster and then you consult the damage table to see what the monster does to you. The results range from the monster missing and nothing happening, to dropping treasure, to being killed. (Wife: Are you dead?) She rolls a 3, so I’m not dead, but I have to drop half of my treasure and return to the Main Staircase. She’s now winning. (Wife: I’m winning!) And basically I’m screwed. My choices are to either go back to where I lost and try to reclaim my treasure and hope the next couple rooms give me enough to win, or take the loss and head for the easier rooms. The problem with the second option is that she’s been clearing out, and will continue to clear out, those rooms, so it’s a long wasted run to finally get something worthwhile. I decide to go get my stuff. (Wife: Revenge!) Revenge!

She wins. (Wife: I win!)

Having played out the basic game rather quickly, I propose we play again. Advanced this time. (Wife: You are just trying to steal my victory.) No, really, we should just play another variant. (Wife: Advanced is too complicated.) You could play a warrior again. (Wife: And you would play what?) A wizard. (Wife: Why?) Just to be different. (Wife: No, really, why?) I like wizards. (Wife: I’m not playing if you don’t tell me.) I put on my robe and hat. (Wife: Just tell me!) Fine! Because with spells you can defeat level 6 monsters really easy. (Wife: Cheater!) Whatever. We’ll both play warriors again, but we’ll clear the dungeon entirely and the winner is the one with the most treasure at the end. (Wife: Better.)

I’m not going to bore you with the details, because it was a very long game, but she won. (Wife: I win!) I avoided my earlier mistakes, but I just lost out on luck. She ended the game with literally all the Magic Swords (Wife: That don’t stack! Lame!) and most of the other special treasure cards. I didn’t get a Secret Door card until we were pushing into level 5. I also want to avoid the details because this game got really ugly. Remember that rule about having another player roll for the monsters? I recommend instead allowing the player to roll for their own damage. It’ll prevent players from being angry at other players and instead be angry at the dice. Nothing makes you hate another player quite as much as them rolling a 2 and you having to drop ALL your treasure and return to the Main Staircase. (Wife: Yeah! Screw that!) Honestly, we could have played the game a little more cutthroat, but tended to let the other get their own treasure back rather than go steal it after it was dropped.

I’m curious if the new version coming out this fall will have better or different rules. No matter what, if we ever play this again (Wife: Never!) it will be after a bunch of research on house rules that help the game be more fun.

Despite my lack of winning, I still like Dungeon! Though I fully admit that part of it is nostalgia. Back in the day (Wife: Here we go…) some of my gaming groups would use the board and modified rules along with real D&D characters. It was easier than drawing out a random dungeon map. We would just toss down the board, pick a chamber to be the entrance and start exploring. In my opinion, the game is worth owning for that alone.


Man, 0. Wife, 7.

(Wife: I…) Just don’t.

Man vs Wife: Sorry!

Man vs WifeSorry! by Parker Brothers, since 1934, is a cross and circle game. Which is another way to say a racing game, whose object is to move your pieces around the board from start to finish before the other players do the same. It’s also billed as “The game of sweet revenge”, which is a poetic way to say “The game of making the other players furious and hate you”.

The game comes with a board, sixteen game pieces in four groups of four, and a stack of cards. Unlike some other racing games, Sorry! uses cards drawn to do movement rather than dice, which ultimately is probably a good thing since throwing dice around in a game that can anger you so much is not the best idea in the world. (Wife: I love playing Sorry!) I’m pretty sure you don’t. (Wife: You’re wrong.) Okay, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The game of sweet reven... you know what?! Eat me!

For our 2 player game, we take up Blue and Green for our colors so that we are opposite each other. (Wife: Picking colors next to each other wouldn’t have been fair.) Because if given the choice I’d choose the color behind you. (Wife: Then I’d pick the color behind you.) And I’d switch colors. (Wife: Me too.) And we’d probably start our first argument before a single card had been drawn. (Wife: Oh, this is that game!) Wait, it’ll get worse.

One of the single most annoying rules of Sorry! is that you have to draw either a 1 or a 2 to move a piece out of your Start circle. (Wife: You can also use a Sorry! card to take the place of an opponent’s piece, bumping their piece back to Start.) Right, but in the beginning, it takes a while. We didn’t use the head start rules that puts a single piece outside Start to start, so we spend a lot of time just trying to get pieces out of Start. (Wife: You are exaggerating. It didn’t take that long.) I disagree. It took too long, that’s not a specific amount of time, it’s just too long.

The movement cards in the game are the following:

  • 1 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward one space.
  • 2 – move a piece out of Start, or move a piece forward two spaces. Draw another card.
  • 3 – move a piece forward three spaces.
  • 4 – move a piece backward four spaces.
  • 5 – move a piece forward five spaces.
  • 7 – move a piece forward seven spaces, or split the seven moves between two pieces. You cannot use this to move a piece from Start and must you all seven moves or none of them.
  • 8 – move a piece forward eight spaces.
  • 10 – move a piece forward ten spaces, or move a piece backward one space. If you cannot move forward ten, you must move backward one.
  • 11 – move a piece forward eleven spaces, or swap places with an opponent’s piece. If you cannot move forward eleven, you are not forced to swap places.
  • 12 – move a piece forward twelves space.
  • Sorry! – move a piece from your Start to a space occupied by an opponent’s piece, bumping them back to their Start.

Any time your move ends your piece on the same spot as an opponent’s piece, you bump them back to Start. The board also has slides on it. If you end a movement on the top of a slide, you move to the bottom of the slide, bumping all pieces in the way back to Start. (Wife: That’s a lot of bumping people back to Start.) Indeed. (Wife: I think perhaps I only LIKED playing Sorry!, not loved it.) See, I was right. (Wife: I guess it has to happen from time to time.) Wait, it’ll get worse.

So, we begin drawing cards, finally getting some pieces out on the board and moving them around. She get’s the first Sorry! card. (Wife: Hah!) I get the first eleven, which I use to swap places. (Wife: Why did you move your piece backwards?) Because it moves your piece past the Safe Zone and you have to go all the way around again. (Wife: What?! You suck!) And then we spend the next hour making each other angry by bumping each other back to Start again and again, using Sorry! cards and slides and screwing each other over. (Wife: I’m pretty sure I don’t like this game at all.) See? (Wife: Don’t be smug.)

One of the best strategies in the game is to get a piece out of Start and then get a 4, move that piece backwards past the entry to the Safe Zone, and then move forward into the Safe Zone. It saves you from having to go around the board. (Wife: I did that.) I know. (Wife: Several times.) I know. You essentially want to get your pieces into the Safe Zone as fast as possible because once there you can’t be bumped back to Start.

With as much anger and spite as the game generates during play, it ends with a whimper. Eventually you end up with both people having only one or two pieces still in play, and because you have to move to the Finish on an exact count, and no one has any pieces in Start, and everyone’s remaining pieces are in the Safe Zone anyway, you wind up drawing cards over and over, doing nothing, waiting for the ones, twos and threes that you need to get to that final space. Or maybe you get lucky, get a seven and are able to split it between two pieces and get one or both in. By the time she wins (Wife: I win!) we’ve calmed down, our emotions mostly spent.

Somehow, I have fond memories of playing this game as a kid. (Wife: Me too.) And I think it’s because my parents let me win and never took revenge on me when they could avoid it. (Wife: Me too.) I think it’s important that people get a proper exposure to Sorry! and that includes hating it. (Wife: We may never play this again.) Until we can secretly gang up on another player. (Wife: Woohoo! High five!) You know it!

My recommendation: Never ever EVER play Sorry! with 2 players. Play with 4, always 4. There is so much revenging on other players in a game of Sorry! that if you are forced to always do so to the same person, it just makes for bad feelings. You need to be able to spread the revenge around a bit.


Man, 0. Wife, 6.

(Wife: I’m not.) Not what? (Wife: I’m not “Sorry!” Mwahahaha! I win!) I have created a monster…

Man vs Wife: Guillotine

Man vs WifeGuillotine was designed by Paul Peterson for Wizards of the Coast. The tag line for the game is “The revolutionary card game where you win by getting a head.” It’s a wonderful play on words for a game about beheading nobles during the French Revolution. The game is for two to five players and claims to take around 30 minutes to play. The game comes with two decks of cards, a guillotine and instructions.

Don't lose your head.

The game plays thusly. The two decks – action cards and noble cards – are shuffled, you deal out five action cards to each player, and then lay out, beginning at the guillotine, a line of twelve nobles. On your turn, you can play an action card if you want, then you behead the first noble in line, and finally you draw an action card. You always draw an action card, even if you didn’t play one, and if you collect the head of a noble that contains special instructions you have to do whatever it says. The real meat of the game is in the first segment of your turn, because action cards contain all sorts of things, like rearranging the line, so you can use them to collect the best head you can or try to prevent your opponents from collecting them. Anyway, once the line is depleted, the day is over. You repeat the cycle for three days of beheading. There are no special rules for two player games.

We begin by shuffling the cards. (Wife: Does this guillotine actually do anything?) Of course. It cuts off heads. (Wife: How?) Oh, you mean does it actually DO anything… no, it doesn’t. It just marks the head of the line. (Wife: So it’s just a prop then.) Yes. I deal out the action cards and she deals out the line of nobles. She always wins (Wife: Hehe!), so she goes first. (Wife: So, I always get a guy from the front of the line?) Yes, unless the action card you play says you don’t.

She takes the early lead by causing King Louis to be discarded and collecting the Cardinal for 5 points. (Wife: I am winning!) I play Mass Confusion – which lets me re-deal the line – and then collect a Palace Guard. (Wife: He’s not worth any points.) Oh, but he is. The Palace Guard is worth as many points as you have Palace Guards. Since I have 1 now he’s only worth 1 point, but if I get a second one, both of them will be worth 2. (Wife: And if you get 3 then all of them will be worth 3.) Exactly! (Wife: You don’t have to be so excited when I understand math stuff.) Yes I do! (Wife: Just play.) It’s your turn. (Wife: Oh.)

So, play goes back and forth like that for day one, the last noble to meet the Guillotine is The Clown, and she fights desperately to not have to take him, until we realize that the action on his card says that if you collect him you get to give him to another player. (Wife: That’s you!) And that’s me. So I get The Clown, worth -2 points. (Wife: That’s MINUS two points.) And we deal out another 12 nobles for day two.

I said there weren’t special rules for two player games (Wife: Did you forget to tell me all the rules again?) and there aren’t, however a number of the action cards target an opponent which if you are playing with more than two players means something, but in two player it just means (Wife: You.) the other player.

I spend days two and three trying out various strategies (Wife: Strategy. Haha!) but she out plays me and when we total up the score she has 45 points to my 27. (Wife: I win!) Not so fast! Since the game only took about 25 minutes to play, we decide (Wife: You decide.) to play best two out of three. (Wife: You just want to steal my victory.) No, these are the rules. We play best of three for short games. (Wife: Whatever.)

For the second game, I give up on strategy. (Wife: You are learning, young Skywalker.) Did you just make a Star Wars joke? (Wife: Yes.) I’m so proud! (Wife: You have taught me well.) Okay, now you are just showing off. (Wife: Punch it, Chewy!) What? (Wife: I am your father.) Just stop. So, without strategy I do much better and score 42 points. She performs about the same (Wife: Because I never use strategy.) and gets 44 points. (Wife: I win!) Let the wookie win. (Wife: Did you just call me a wookie?!) No, I… it was a Star Wars joke. (Wife: Sure it was.) Seriously. (Wife: Whatever.)

From my brief experience with the game, I’ve determined that playing a long game is useless. This is definitely a game of instant gratification. Stick to playing cards that help you right now, or hurt your opponent right now. Trying to lay in wait and bide your time just results in you losing by a large margin. And once we get more familiar with the cards, the game will go much faster. (Wife: I like this game.) Because you won? (Wife: No, because it’s fun.) Good.


Man, 0. Wife, 5.

(Wife: I win! Five! In your face!)

Man vs Wife: Uno

Man vs WifeUno was developed in 1971 in Reading, Ohio by Merle Robbins to settle an argument with his son about the rules of Crazy Eights. They made the original decks on their dinning room table before selling the game to International Games in 1981. Since 1992 it has been produced by Mattel.

The game consists of a deck of 108 cards. 0 through 9 and six special cards appear in each of 4 colors. The special cards in each color are two Draw Twos, two Reverses and two Skips. There are also 4 Wild cards and 4 Wild Draw Four cards. Play is pretty simple. You shuffle, deal out hands of 7 cards to each player and then turn over the top card. On your turn you have to play a card if you have a card to play, and to play a card it must be either the same color or the same value as the top card of the discard pile, or a Wild. When you play a Wild, you get to pick one of the four colors – blue, green, red, yellow – to switch to for the next player. If a special card is played, the action happens to the next player – i.e. that player has to draw two cards from the draw pile, that player is skipped, or play changes directions and a different player goes next. If you don’t have a playable card, you draw one from the draw pile – if it’s playable, you play it; if not, your turn is over. And while you can play a Wild at any time, in order to play a Wild Draw Four – where you get to pick the color AND the next player has to draw four cards – it must be the only playable card in your hand.

UNO - The Box
One of the many different variations of "Original" UNO

(Wife: So, how do I win?) Don’t you mean, “How does a player win?” (Wife: Sure, if it helps you sleep at night.) A player wins by getting rid of all the cards in their hand. When you only have one card left, you have to say “Uno”. (Wife: Why?) Because it’s Spanish for One. (Wife: I know that. Duh. Why do you have to say it?) Because it’s a rule. (Wife: Why?) Because if you don’t and another player catches you, you have to draw two cards. (Wife: Got it.) Anyway, once you go out, you get points based on the cards the other players are still holding. 50 points for wilds, 20 points for special cards, and face value for number cards. The first player to 500 points (Wife: Me.) wins.

Being that there were only two of us, we played the Two Player variant. The only important difference is that a Reverse card acts like a Skip, so if you play one it’s your turn again. (Wife: So, if I play a Skip, you get skipped. And if I play a Reverse you get skipped?) Yes. And with two players, playing a Draw Two or Wild Draw Four essentially skips the other player, since they have to draw cards instead of playing a card.

We shuffle and deal and play. (Wife: This is a big deck.) Yeah, shuffling is a bit of a pain. Just over twice the size of a normal deck, I remember having to shuffle it in pieces as a kid. Now I can do it all together, but still occasionally lose control of it. Game play can actually get kind of mean-spirited, especially in two person play. (Wife: Making me draw cards repeatedly sucks.) What about making me draw cards repeatedly? Does that suck too? (Wife: No, that’s a lot of fun!) Hrmph. One thing you can do in two player that you can’t do with three or more people is stack up your cards. If you had a hand that was a green Skip, a red Skip, a red Reverse, a red Draw Two, a blue Draw Two, a blue Skip and a Wild, and the play to you is something green, you’ve won the game because if you lay down the cards in the right order you are always skipping the other player or making them draw and you can always play.

During our play, she won a hand where she only got 4 points (Wife: Lame!) because I only had three cards, two 2’s and a 0. But there was also a hand where she got 180 points (Wife: Woohoo!) when she ended with a Wild Draw Four (Wife: Suck it!) and in the four cards I picked up I got two wild cards to add to the one I already had. I took the lead pretty early (Wife: Boo!) and was up 431 to 216, but after that I only won one more hand for 9 points and she racked up five wins for 302 total points. (Wife: I win!) She wins, 518 to 440.

We were going to do two out of three again (Wife: Because you wanted to cheat me out of my win.) but it took well over an hour to play the first round. With all the drawing that happens, both because of cards played and because of not having a card to play, some hands can drag out. You can get down to “Uno” and then find yourself unable to play a card on your next five or six turns. (Wife: And you can come back from having a bunch of cards in your hand when someone else says “Uno” to winning.) Indeed. (Wife: Especially when someone keeps forgetting to say “Uno” and I make them draw two cards.) I thought we weren’t going to bring that up? (Wife: I agreed to nothing!) Well, yeah, sometimes I forgot to say it and I got caught. (Wife: Ha ha!) Shut it!

The basic strategy in the game is to get rid of all the cards that are worth big points, unless you seriously feel like you can chain cards together later to dump them. (Wife: You and your strategy.) The biggest point gains were usually done by making the other player draw cards with your last few plays. More than one hand ended with a Wild Draw Four. (Wife: Mostly mine.) Of course, with a game as simple as Uno, you can spice things up with all sorts of house rules. A typical one being that if you can’t play a card you have to draw cards until you get a playable one. And there are lots more.


Man, 0. Wife, 4.

(Wife: Uno! Times four, because I’ve won four times.)

Man vs Wife: Cthulhu Dice

Man vs WifeCthulhu Dice is another Steve Jackson Games original. Designed for 2 to 6 players, each player takes on the roll of a cultist in service to Cthulhu trying to drive the other cultists mad. The last sane cultist wins!

The game comes with a large 12 sided die, 18 glass stones, a ziplock bag and instructions. Yes, even a game about going insane has instructions, not a lot of instructions, but still enough to be very confusing if you don’t pay attention. (Wife: Great!)

Cthulhu Dice
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

In normal play, each player is given three sanity tokens. The owner of the game decides who goes first, with subsequent games starting with the winner of the previous. On your turn, you pick a target player and roll the die to attack their sanity. A Yellow Sign means they lose 1 sanity. A Tentacle means the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim – unless the Caster is insane, then the sanity goes to Cthulhu in the middle of the table. Elder Sign gains you 1 sanity from Cthulhu (unless he doesn’t have any). Cthulhu showing his face means everyone loses 1 sanity to the center of the table. And rolling the Eye means you get to pick which result happens. Once that is done, the Victim gets to respond to his attacker with a roll of the die. No one can pass when it’s their turn to play, they must roll the die. Once you are out of sanity stones, you are insane. You can still attack other players on your turn, but no one can attack you on their turns, and any sanity you steal (Tentacle) goes to Cthulhu. The only way to regain sanity is for you to roll Elder Sign. The game ends when there is only one sane player left at the end of a completed turn. If no one is sane Cthulhu wins! (Wife: This is confusing.) No. It’s insane! Mwa-ha-ha! (Wife: I can’t believe I married you.)

We decided to play with the two player variant Rival Cults. Each of us gets 3 cultists, but we still alternate turns back and forth between us. The twist here is that since you are playing 3 cultists, sometimes you may want to attack your own side. (Wife: What?) I know! (Wife: Why are you excited?) Because it’s Cthulhu! (Wife: I am placing my face in my palm and sighing heavily.)

We decided (Wife: I decided.) to only play one round instead of a best of three this time. (Wife: I don’t know if I could handle playing this more than once.) Then Cthulhu has already won. (Wife: Don’t make me facepalm again.)

Unlike with Zombie Dice, I’m not going to put in a play-by-play. (Wife: Good.) It really didn’t make much sense anyway, which is kind of the point. (Wife: Seriously?) But I do want to throw in a few things as they happen.

It is important to know that during a turn, for both the attack and the response, the initial attacker is the Caster and the other person is the Victim for both rolls. This is important because Tentacle specifies that the Caster takes 1 sanity from the Victim, so if the responder/Victim rolls Tentacle the attacker/Caster is the one who steals the sanity. (Wife: I guess that makes sense… Maybe.) That happened a few times during play, so it’s not uncommon at all.

I rolled a Cthulhu during the game. (Wife: Is that good?) Everyone lost a sanity stone, and I had my first insane cultist… which I used to attack on subsequent rounds. (Wife: What? Shouldn’t being insane mean he’s out?) Nope. Insane people continue to fight. (Wife: Just like real life!) Exactly! Though, post game I admit it was a mistake. (Wife: Just like playing this game.) I didn’t get to keep any sanity that I stole. If we played again, I’d do it differently. (Wife: But we aren’t playing again.) Well, if I play with someone else then.

She plays very well and all my cultists go insane. (Wife: I win!) Not yet. (Wife: Huh?) We play until there is only one sane cultist. (Wife: But only I have sane people.) Right. (Wife: And I can’t attack insane people.) Correct. (Wife: So, who do I attack?) Your own people. (Wife: Insanity!) Exactly! (Wife: What?) Just roll.

Essentially at this point, I’m attacking her people because I have to and praying to get an Elder Sign to regain a sanity from Cthulhu. (Wife: And I’m attacking myself, watching all my sanity slowly trickle to the middle of the table. Goodbye sanity!) It takes a few rounds, but eventually, she defeats herself. (Wife: I… win?) Yes. (Wife: I win!) Again. (Wife: Always!)

Despite the confusion, I like the game. It plays quickly once you know the rules, and would be much clearer if we had more people and weren’t playing the variant rules. (Wife: Really?) Probably. (Wife: Well, maybe we could play again, with more people.) Really? (Wife: I said maybe. Don’t push it.) Dragon*Con? (Wife: Perhaps.)

As with any dice game, there is math. (Wife: I don’t care what Danica McKellar says, math sucks.) Math is your Cthulhu. (Wife: What? … I don’t … oh. I think I finally understand.) You don’t. (Wife: Are you sure?) No. (Wife: Stop it.) Stop what? (Wife: Stop this insanity!) I can’t! You took all mine. Anyway, back to the math…

The die has 12 sides, 5 of which are Yellow Sign, so on any given roll you’ve got a 42% chance of rolling it. And there are 4 Tentacles, so 33% chance of that. That makes of 75% of the possibilities, so the bulk of any game is going to be a player losing a sanity to Cthulhu or a player stealing a sanity from another player. The remaining sides – Cthulhu, Elder Sign, Eye – each have only an 8 and 1/3 percent chance of showing up, so don’t count on them. In our play, only 1 Cthulhu was rolled, and no Elder Signs or Eyes. It’s only post game that I truly understand the flaw of my attacking with an insane cultist. I shouldn’t have done that. (Wife: It probably wouldn’t have mattered.) Probably not.


Man, 0. Wife, 3.

(Wife: I win! Forever and ever!)

Man vs Wife: Zombie Dice

Man vs WifeZombie Dice is the award-winning dice game from Steve Jackson Games. In it, you play a zombie and try to collect (eat) the most brains. The game comes with a cup (cardboard with two plastic lids for each end) and thirteen dice (and instructions – because selling games without instructions would be very silly – that said, if anyone put out a game with no instructions, it would probably be Steve Jackson Games).

The game is played as follows. The winner of the previous game, or the person who can most convincingly moan “BRAAAAAAAINS!”, goes first, they shake the 13 dice in the cup, then (without looking) they select and roll 3 of those dice. Dice that show brains or shotgun blasts stay on the board, while dice that show footprints go back in the cup. The player can stop at any time to end their turn and collect their points (brains), but if they get a total of 3 shotgun blasts their turn ends with zero points collected for the round. Put all the dice in the cup and pass it to the next player. When a player reaches thirteen (or more) brains at the end of their turn, finish the round and whoever has the most brains wins. If there is a tie for first, then those players play one more tiebreaker round.

Zombie Dice

In our play, being only two players, we decided that simply the first player to 13 won, that way we wouldn’t have to keep track of which one of us went first so we’d know if the other person got another turn. Also, I totally forgot that rule when we played. (Wife: Cheater!) I didn’t cheat. (Wife: But we played without you telling me all the rules!) And? (Wife: Just sayin’…)

Anyway, we settled on playing a best-of-three series. We used the results of playing Life last time to determine who went first. (Wife: And I won at Life.) She went first. (Wife: Yay me!) On her first turn, she rolled three dice five times, ending her round after getting a second shotgun blast and scoring 4 points. I then rolled twice, getting 2 brains the first time and then two blasts on the second and quitting. Her second turn netted 2 more brains in four rolls, quitting when she got her second shotgun blast. For my second turn, I got 1 brain, one shotgun blast and one footprints on the first roll; on the second roll I got 3 brains (Wife: You suck!); on the third roll I got 3 brains again (Wife: You really suck!) and then I quit, scoring seven points for the round – more on why I quit despite only having one shotgun blast later. 2 brains and two blasts on her third turn. 2 brains and two blasts on my third turn as well. On her fourth turn she rolled twice, 2 brains on the first and 3 brains on the second, bringing her total to 13. (Wife: I win!) Only if you stop. You can keep going. (Wife: Nope. I like winning.) I know.

Round two… Despite her winning the last game, she let me go first (Wife: It’s because I’m awesome.) just so that I could see what it’s like to go first (Wife: And because I’m awesome.) and to shake things up. (Wife: Because if I went first, I’d just win.) That too. For my first turn, I got myself two brains and one blast on the first roll, then one brain and two feet on the second, and finally one brain and two blasts on the third. (Wife: Score for the human race!) I exit the round with no points. (Wife: Ha ha!) Laugh it up. (Wife: I will!) For her first turn, she rolls three shotgun blasts, and stops laughing. (Wife: I hate the humans.) Not so funny now, huh? (Wife: Just take your turn.) My second turn is looking good, I’ve got five brains and one shotgun blast, I’m about to stop when I decide to chance it, and get two more blasts. (Wife: The human race strikes again! Ha ha!) So, it’s only funny when it happens to me? (Wife: Yes.) Noted. She racks up 4 brains and stops when she gets two blasts. (Wife: 4 to nothing! I am winning!) Then on my turn I get 6 brains before stopping with two blasts. (Wife: I am not winning.) She gets 2 brains, then I get 2 brains. She gets 1 brain, then I get 3. She gets 2 more brains, and so do I, but my 2 brains happen to be the two I need to get 13 and win the round. (Wife: Come on, humans, kill that zombie!)

Round 3… You see, in a best-of-three series it’s always nice when the first two rounds are split because then you get to play the third round. (Wife: Duh.) Well, it’s better than someone winning the first two rounds and just trouncing the other person into the dirt. (Wife: Unless I win, in which case it is awesome.) And when you lose? (Wife: I don’t, because I win.) Round three goes like this: 2 brains for her, 1 brain for me, 3 for her, 4 for me, 2 for her, 4 for me, 3 for her, 1 for me, and then 3 for her. (Wife: I win!) She wins. (Wife: I win two out of three!) The match goes to her. (Wife: And I rub it in your face!) And I glare at you. (Wife: And I smile.) And I cave. (Wife: And I do a victory dance!)

I love the simplicity of this game. The rules are uncomplicated, and scoring is easy. You can pass the cup around while still having conversations. In that way, it is a very social game. I plan to take this with us to Dragon*Con this year to have available for random games. I also might pick up the expansion, Zombie Dice 2, and a Zombie Dice Bag.

Another reason I like this game is that as simple as it is, there is also deep strategy if you pay attention. (Wife: You paid attention?) Yes. (Wife: But you lost.) Yes. (Wife: I’m going to go grab a nap while you get into boring math stuff. See ya!) As I was saying, there is a little more to the game than just rolling dice. Back up there in round one, I had a turn where I got 7 brains, 6 of which came from rolling 3 brains two separate times, and then I stopped. Here’s why. The game has 13 dice, each of them with brains, blasts and footprints on their sides, but they are also colored green, yellow and red. The green dice, of which there are 6, have three brains, two footprints and one shotgun blast, so a 50% chance of rolling a brain and a total 83% chance of not rolling a blast. The yellow, of which there are 4, have two brains, two feet and two blasts, so 33% brains and 66% not-blast. And the red, of which there are 3, have one brain, two feet and three blasts, so a 17% chance of a brain and a 50% not-blast. That means a red die also has a 50% chance to roll a shotgun blast. On my 7 brain turn, I had 8 dice on the table, 7 brains and 1 blast, and none of them red. That left 5 dice in the cup, 3 red and 2 yellow. I stopped because I felt that as awesome as it was to roll three brains twice in a row, there was a pretty high chance I might roll two more shotgun blasts and lose all those points.

Of course, knowing probabilities doesn’t always help that much. Smart people will sit at a craps table in Vegas losing all day long, or slowly winning small amounts, but then someone will come along who doesn’t know any of the math and will take the house for thousands. A case could be made that I lost round one because I thought myself out of taking the chance and getting more than 7 brains on that particular round.


Man, 0. Wife, 2.

(Wife: I’m back now. I win again! Victory dance!)

Man vs Wife: The Game of Life

Man vs WifeThe Game of Life, or sometimes just called LIFE, was originally created in 1860 by Milton Bradley and it looked absolutely nothing like the game we know today. It was a modified checker board and included a six-sided teetotem instead of dice. You tried to land on “good” space and collect a total of 100 points, you could earn 50 by reaching the final “Happy Old Age” square. But in 1960, on the 100th anniversary of the game, it was redesigned and re-released in the form that we know it today. The teetotem was replaced with a spinner wheel for movement and a winding track that included three-dimensional elements: bridges, mountains and buildings. And the points system for scoring was replaced with money. Players are given start-up money, a car and a peg, representing them, to drive the car. And away they go.

The Game Of Life
Isn't it pretty?

There are many versions of The Game of Life available. For our game, we played the Target exclusive Vintage Game Classics edition. We bought it, and others in this series, because of the look of the box. It makes for a better display than a traditional cardboard board game box. Of course, the trade-off of the nifty and compact design is that it takes longer to set up. Other versions you just unfold the board and are done. This one you have to unfold the board (eight sections instead of two) and then put all the buildings, mountains and bridges on it, and the spinner. The design is nice, but it makes for a spinner that is less stable – it works, just don’t get crazy with it. Since it was the first time we’d opened this box, we also had to unwrap all the money and bank notes, as well as separate the little plastic people, which in the old days were just straight pegs but now have little arms down the side. My wife decided to be female and chose a pink peg. I decided to be male and chose a pink peg.

We read the rules. Neither of us had played the game in years and we felt certain that there had been some house rules in play, so we decided to stick to the printed rules for our game. I switched my pink peg for a blue one, because the rules state that males are blue and females are pink. It seems The Game of Life is pretty set into its gender roles, although it really doesn’t matter because they’re just pegs on a game board and not a judgement of the players. They could be green pegs and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. But I digress…

So we spin the wheel and I get the lowest roll, I’m the banker. I control ALL THE MONEY! (Wife: Just like real life.) Hey, do you want to do the math? (Wife: Do you want me to do the math?) No. I set up the bank and give each of us $10,000 to start. We put our cars on the board and spin to see who goes first. (Wife: I win!)

I explain the rules of the board. Yellow squares you do only if you land on them, same as Gold squares. Red squares you have to do as you pass, no choice. And White squares you CAN do if you want as you pass.

Immediately I recall the house rules of youth as we take our early turns. She gets her career, a physician, and heads out. (Wife: I also caught an escaped lion!) I get my career, a journalist, and land on the tornado square that makes me go back to the start. In the old days we tried to hit this spot because we let that person get two jobs! But that’s actually against the rules.

We both bought auto insurance at the start, and we bought life insurance as we pass it. And they work in-game just like in real life, sort of. You buy them and then if nothing ever happens to you it seems like a waste of cash, but if you don’t have them and land on one of those squares it can be very expensive. Unlike real life though, you don’t have to keep paying for it. Oh, and I also captured an escaped lion. (Wife: I think they need to hire better zookeepers.)

You have to get married. You cannot play, nor win, at Life unless you get married. The game takes no position on gay marriage, however specifically states that if you get sent back past the marriage spot you cannot get married again. (Wife: No Big Love or Sister Wives.) No divorce either. The Game of Life is very optimistic in some respects.

(Wife: Lucky Day!) In one of the strange rules of the game, landing on a Lucky Day spot you get $20,000 from the bank, which you can keep or spend on two numbers and spin for a chance to win $300,000. (Wife: I bet the money every time.) And you lost every time. (Wife: I know.) Which is why I’m in charge of the money. (Wife: Shut up.)

We both buy stock. There are some rules about playing the market, she does it twice and I never do. (Wife: Playing the market sucks.) Just like real life! The only reason I bought stock is because of squares that state “If you own stock…” and then you collect a bunch of money. Completely not like real life.

At various places in the game you can get kids, either by having them or adopting them. At one point I have to choose between having a daughter or collecting $480,000. I choose the daughter. I am an idiot. Because I’m obsessed with science fiction, I keep track of my “other path” the rest of the game. Alternate Reality me is rich, handsome and a world traveler. I have 4 kids, took a vacation on a polluted lake and had a millionaire take revenge on me. (Wife: hehe!) A pox on the 1%! Occupy the Game of Life! (Wife: I have a gold mine!) Shut up. I discovered Atlantis! (Wife: I won the Nobel Peace Prize!) I went fishing. (Wife: I went to the Arctic!) We digress…

She crosses the bridge first, which means that when I eventually catch up I’ll have to pay the toll. She also lands of the Day of Reckoning first, obviously. (Wife: I win!) Not yet. She gets $96,000 for her 2 kids. She spins and crosses into Millionaire. (Wife: I win!) Nope. She spins one more time for her lucky number, which for the rest of the game I have to pay her if I spin it. (Wife: Why didn’t I win?) Because I’m not dead yet, and it’s the person with the most money when they die that wins. (Wife: Really?) No. But also, yes.

I finally drag myself across the finish line. I earn $192,000 for my 4 kids. We both get $120,000 for owning stock, $8,000 for having life insurance, and we count up the money. (Wife: I win!) She wins. (Wife: I win!) You said that already. (Wife: I know … I win!)

Final tally:
Me – $1,117,000
Her – $1,825,000

The primary problem with The Game of Life is that if the first person across the finish line doesn’t go for Millionaire Tycoon and win, then it just sort of drags out. Eventually everyone crosses the finish and we go into accounting, and only after the mathematics is done do we know who won. Kind of a wimpy end for the game.

The second problem with this game is that it is extremely linear with almost no choices for the player. There are only 3 places where you can choose between two paths, and the final Tycoon choice. The game has rules where you can spend money of wheel spins. It gives you the opportunity to lose lots of money, but playing straight through it’s pretty much just luck of the spin.

The game plays better with more players. Being linear and having a rule that two players can’t be on the same space matters more when the chance of it happening is higher. I’d recommend at least 4 players, and the game comes with 6 cars.


Man, 0. Wife, 1.

(Wife: I win!)

Playing Games – Man vs Wife

I had an idea. What if I convinced my wife, who doesn’t generally like games, to play games with me, or rather against me, and I documented each one in a blog series? So I posed the idea to her, and she was lukewarm on it, but over time as I mentioned it now and then she began to like it more.

But what would we call it?

Man vs WifeOh, she didn’t like the name much. But it had actually been the jumping off point for the whole idea for me. I’d seen those shows, Man vs Food and Man vs Wild and the rest, and I thought to myself, “What happens when you take a man who loves gaming and he marries a woman could take it or leave it? Man vs Wife!” And it works for me, as both a play on those reality TV shows and as a play on the ends of wedding vows when the officiant pronounces the couple “man and wife”.

And so it begins. We’ve played one game already and I’m working on writing it up (we actually video tape the session so I don’t have to take notes), and we have a pile of board games and video games. Hopefully I’ll have the first one up within a week. After that I make no promise as to a schedule.

Anyway, that’s it. Just a minor announcement of future content.