I spent a pleasant evening in The Fox in South Farnham yesterday, playing games with the ever-genial Les. Three enjoyable new experiences:
1) Tribute ale from St Austell's in Cornwall.
2) Einfach Genial, the little two-player version. This is Reiner in typical "torture the players" mode - lots of difficult decisions, hard-thinking required. One of those abstract games that is so symmetrical and graceful it almost looks discovered rather than designed. Les beat me, but by the slimmest margin.
3) Um Krone und Kragen, on its first outing since I bought it in a kitchenware shop in Austria. Gorgeous to look at, fast-playing and involving, we enjoyed this a lot. Les got to the King first, and in the final round my 9 6's were beaten by his 10 3's.
There is certainly a category of games I own that I think of as "pub games". To qualify a game must be:
a) For two players. For a relaxing evening with a pint and a friend.
b) Portable. You don't want to be humping a holdall full of big-box games into the bar. The 2-player Kosmos games are ideal. Dvonn and Yinsh, though superb in other ways, are a little too big for this purpose.
c) Compact on the table. You don't want to make yourself a nuisance to other drinkers by spreading out too much. Um Krone und Kragen is almost too spreadout - we were lucky and had a largeish table to ourselves yesterday. BattleLine is just about OK. Blue Moon is ideal.
d) Reasonably short play-time, or at least episodic like Blue Moon so that you have natural breaks for visiting the bar.
e) Not too stretching mentally. You're relaxing with a beer after all. ASL Starter Kit probably disqualifies itself here.
Looking at this list, it strikes me that Magic the Gathering would fit the bill exactly. I have a few decks at home, never used. Must try them out with Les some time.