Three can sometimes be an awkward number with board games. Sure, lots of titles accommodate three players, but sometimes they do so only with special rules. Or the game is meant for more, but remains playable at three – giving you a subpar experience. But that isn’t always the case. Some games shine brightest with three. And here are a few.
At the Gates of Loyang
In Loyang, the players stock their vegetable carts, acquire helpers, and try to satisfy both regular and short term customers. And each turn, you can increase your standing on the victory point track with money. The interesting element is that you can always move up one space for a single coin each turn. But if you want to move up more, you have to pay the number you’re landing on. So if you want to move again, this time from space six to seven, it costs seven coins. The result is a fantastic tension between getting points when they are cheap, or waiting until you (hopefully) have a little extra cash and can afford them.
Even just reading through the rules, it becomes clear that Loyang was designed for three. It has special rules for two players, and for four. But if you want to play the game as intended, with nothing special added, then three it is.
You have just the right level of interaction as the initial draft of cards is tight enough that you can often manipulate what your opponents get, but not so tight that you are essentially relying on luck of the draw. The game also moves at a great pace with three, avoiding a lot of downtime and ensuring that everyone is constantly engaged.
Perfect Alibi is a whodunit type game. It’s clear that one of four people is the murderer and you just have to figure out who doesn’t have an alibi at the various times the killing could have occurred. Mechanically, each alibi is represented in a deck of cards and one is removed. The remainder are dealt out to the players. Then, they take turns asking questions to try to see which alibi is absent.
Perfect Alibi is most perfect with three competitors around the table. With three, all of the cards get dealt out, so you don’t have middle, face-up cards. Further, with only three players, everyone gets more cards. This means that when questioned, you’re more likely to get answers greater than one. And this is important because several of the special abilities only trigger in that instance. With five players, you get a lot of zeroes and ones – making many of the special abilities far less attractive.
The game is certainly playable with four and five. And it isn’t terrible at either player count, but it definitely gives the best experience with three players. So if you’re looking for deduction, but find yourself lacking a large group, this is it.
In Specter Ops, one player takes on the role of the Agent – a hidden operative trying to infiltrate the evil Raxxon corporation. The others become the Hunters – genetically modified security guards looking to straight up kill any trespassers. This hidden movement game is fun and exciting. Not only does it take place in an interesting world, but it makes use of a ton of special abilities and equipment that really ramps up the gameplay and excitement. And it works best with three.
With three, you’ll have one Agent and two Hunters. And you can tell that’s a great number because even if you only have two players, the rules instruct one of them to play two Hunter characters. With three, you avoid that nonsense and everyone feels like they are contributing their own unique character.
Plus, the game feels right with two Hunters. Two-on-one feels like an exciting chase where either side is about equally matched. As the player count increases, changes need to be made. With four, there is an additional Hunter and the Agent gets more hit points to compensate. With five, Specter Ops introduces a traitor mechanic. Which isn’t to say these options are bad. Just that the three player experience far outstrips the other player counts. It’s not common for hidden movement games to work so well with three, but this one definitely does.
What games do you enjoy when playing with three? Tell us about it in the comments.
Image Credits: H@ll Games, Loutapelit.fi, and Plaid Hat Games
Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Dr Jacek Filek