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April 17, 2020
If there’s one group of people who visit the café more than families, it’s couples. Board games are a great way to bond with a friend or significant other. You learn a lot about someone by how they react when they thrash you in a game! Unfortunately, many games that have 2-4 written on the side of the box don’t offer the same, great experience at lower player counts. With these recommendations, we aren’t going to be focussing on two-player only games, but rather taking a wider look at games which perform particularly well with two players. This list isn’t strictly in order of my preference either, but rather laid out by complexity, with the early games being light-hearted fun and the later games being heavier experiences for the more invested gamer pairs. Without further ado, here are Amy’s top picks for two-player games.
The Mind is a fascinating game. The rules sound both incredibly simple and ludicrously impossible at the same time. In each level, players will get an increasing number of random cards numbered from 1-100. Working together, all players must play the cards they have in ascending numerical order. For example: if I had a 5, I’d need to play it before you played your 57. The trick is that you aren’t allowed to talk or communicate in any way, Instead you have to build up a ‘psychic’ understanding of when you should play cards. Doing well in The Mind is tricky, but just in case you find it too easy they have released an Extreme version which makes things even harder.
Onitama can be thought of as a modern descendant of Chess. The basic goal is the same: take out your opponent’s leader by moving one of your pieces on top of it. Rather than each piece having its own movement rules, each game of Onitama has five move cards randomly selected from a deck. Both players have access to two of the five moves, which they can use with any piece. Upon using a card, you swap that move with the one in the centre, essentially giving it away to your opponent to use. No two games of Onitama are ever the same, which means you can’t learn winning tactics, but instead have to think on your feet!
Odin’s Ravens is a racing game set in the world of Norse mythology. All you have to do is beat the other player in a race around the world, with one of you going clockwise and the other going counterclockwise. The race map consists of terrain cards and you’ll usually be playing race cards to move along matching terrain, but a more devious raven might also enlist the help of everyone’s favourite trickster god Loki. Loki will twist and change the landscape, creating runs to terrain to speed you along, or placing extra terrain for your opponent to traverse.
If Tetris were a boardgame then it would be called Patchwork. All the joy of arranging those Tetris pieces, without the need for a 1980’s portable games console. But Patchwork is more than simply arranging blocks on a board, only three pieces are available to buy at any one time and each comes with both a cost and a time to ‘stitch onto your quilt’. Clever players can manipulate these two factors to alter what their opponent has access to in order to keep the best parts for themselves.
7 Wonders is a fantastic modern board game and one of the games that we consider to be a ‘Modern Classic’. However, it does work best at higher player counts. Enter 7 Wonders Duel, an extremely faithful reimagining of its bigger brother. The dynamic of drafting cards is replaced with a card pyramid where only the bottommost cards are available at any one time. Taking the best option for you may result in granting your opponent access to new and better cards. You’ll still be managing a civilisation, trying to ensure you have access to raw resources to build ever grander structures. 7 Wonders Duel is a great, approachable civilisation game for two.
Have you ever wanted to be a medieval doctor throwing random ingredients into a cauldron and selling your snake oil as medicine? Welcome to The Quacks of Quedlinburg, a game where you play the part of a medieval doctor throwing random ingredients into a cauldron and hoping it doesn’t explode. Quacks is a bag building, push your luck game. As you play through the game you get to buy new ingredients, each with new effects, to shove into your bag. Each round you’ll be drawing tokens from your bag randomly trying to get as much in the cauldron as possible but stopping before you add too many cherry bombs and make your concoction unstable. Each game gives you new rules for each ingredient giving this game a huge amount of replayability.
Fog of Love puts you in the role of a newly dating couple, going through all of life’s little conflicts. From trips to a local theme-park to meeting the in-laws. Fog of Love is half-way between a board game and a roleplaying game, encouraging players to play in-character as a person with their own ambitions. True to real love, Fog of Love can be a cooperative game, but each player has their own set goals, so it’s perfectly possible for only one player to win, or to win by crushing the dreams of your would-be partner. Can you bring your characters happiness? If nothing else, you can certainly bring them entertaining drama!
Star Realms is a deckbuilding duelling game. You’ll both be using your starting fleet of not-very-good spaceships to buy new additions to your fleet in the form of new cards. These new cards will be added to your deck, making it better and better as time goes by. The trick with Star Realms is finding the right balance between investing into new cards for your deck and striking fast enough to thwart your opponent who is trying to do the same. If you don’t like Sci-fi then check out Hero Realms which is essentially the same game but with orcs instead of battlecruisers.
Everdell is a fantastical game about forest critters building their own towns out of twigs and pebbles. You’ll be placing adorable wooden creature on spots on the board to claim resources that you’ll need to build structures and recruit villagers to your town. The game starts slow, with resources being scarce. As you develop your town it starts working for you, producing resources, enticing villagers to your town for free and other fanciful combinations. Everdell is filled with complex gameplay that keeps you coming back for more, it also has a giant cardboard tree that holds several game components in place for you!
Marvel Champions puts the heroes of Marvel’s Avengers up against some of the most infamous Marvel villains. It’s a heavy card game for 1-4 players, but for that sweet spot of challenge and duration your really want to be playing it with 2-3. Each player chooses a hero to play as and spends time switching between their civilian alter-ego (who can’t stop crime, but can rest and recover health) to their super-hero form (who stops crime, but gets attacked for doing so). Marvel Champions is a Living Card game with new packs being released adding new heroes and villains, as well as new cards that can be used with your existing heroes and villains.
There you have it - 10 great 2-player games to help keep you and one other sane during these trying times! For those of you who don’t have access to a gaming partner right now you can look forward to our single player recommendations coming soon. Until then, stay safe, stay inside, wash your hands and have fun!
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