Games for two, have started to become synonomous with games designed for two, rather than just games that play well with two. They bring to mind 7 Wonders Duel, Tesla vs. Edition Duel, Patchwork, and a plethora of other titles that are made to work with two. This article partially covers those, but it also covers games that just scale well to two players.
We have for the moment attempted to leave off ALL cooperative games (didn’t work), as we think most could be played with as many or few players as the group wants. We have played 4 player cooperative games with as many as 7 people, with everyone discussing each action in excruciating detail. We have still managed to lose…
This list celebrates those games that are made with two players in mind.
Fog of Love – Hush Hush Projects- FOL was released in 2017, as a WalMart exclusive.
This title should easily be at the top of your list, if you are trying to get your “sweetheart” to play games with you. It is easily accessible topic wise, encourages discussion, and allows you to play to further the story, or just be your self.
Fog of Love is a board game for lovers, and not for lovers of board games necessarily. The primary audience is a couple, that wants to play a game together, both be able to win or lose, just like in a relationship.
Potion Explosion – Cool Mini or Not – PE captured my heart when it was first demo’ed at Origins in 2016. It was my first game that I saw a demo of that I initially was skeptical of, only to later fall in love with. This seems to be a pattern with me. The design by Horrible Games just makes sense from a mobile phone connect three sort of vibe. It plays perfectly with two, and scales well with more. The marbles “exploding” just feels potion-y. I met Lorenzo Silva at GenCOn 2017, while he was working with Hjalmar Hach on Dragon Castle, and he was a heck of a guy. Listening to him, he just designs fun. He hit the nail on the head with PE.
Santorini – Roxley/Spin Master – Few places are as picturesque in this world as the seaside town of Santorini in the Aegean. As the game image implies, it is a whitewashed town, located on beautiful bluffs above the Aegean sea, famous for its blue dome architecture.
So many themes in board games draw heavily on the world in which we share. Santorini the board game, is no exception. You play one of two Gods, re-building the isle, after the devastation of the volcano that destroyed what came before. Whomever reaches the third level first, wins. Simple right?
Gods are notorious for having rules attached to them, so movement is not as simple as previously thought. The game balances power, with movement. As such, it creates a charming experience, and should not be missed.
Caverna: Cave Versus Cave – Mayfair Games – Mayfair hit its stride with Patchwork, which grew into BarenPark, and now CvC.
If you like Caverna, and want it boiled down for two person play, that lasts under an hour, this is a fantastic choice, as it is Caverna, boiled down to two person play that lasts under an hour.
I demo’ed it at Origins 2017, and loved it. It plays so well if you are already familiar with its predecessor. This will likely make a top shelf of any couple that regularly plays together.
Abalone – Foxmind (currently) – This title has been published SO many times, by SO many different publishers. The reason is, it just works.
Originally, I found Abalone at a store called Games People Play, that existed in the 90’s. It was a modern mecca of board gaming delights. Little did I know, it would start what I believe will be a lifelong pass time hobby for me. If you don’t have a copy of Abalone, you should have one.
The charm is still there, the game still requires effort to learn, but is simple enough a child can play, and the strategy is as good as ANY abstract I have ever found.
Seikatsu – IDW Games (2017)
Kevin – My first choice for the list is last year’s Seikatsu. Anyone who has followed MeepleGamers over the last 6 months knows I am crazy about this game. Everything from the art to the gameplay to the unique perspective-based scoring is excellent. For those of you who haven’t seen our coverage, a brief overview. Two to three players take turns adding tokens onto to the board, scoring immediate points for growing flocks of matching birds, while trying to build lines of matching flowers for end-game points. The twist being that the “lines” of flowers are dictated by each player’s correlating perspective from their angle of the board. It plays quickly and there are plenty of decisions to be made and it has stayed one of my favorite games for two players.
The Duke – Catalyst Game Labs (2013)
Kevin – The Duke is a quick playing tile placement game where players try to capture and eliminate the opposing player’s Duke. Players can either draw a new tile out of their bag or move one of their existing tiles. The tiles move in chess-style patterns (printed on the tiles) and after each move, the tiles flip, revealing alternate movement patterns. The game requires tactical thinking as players balance whether to expand their force on the board or move into position and the alternating movement patterns require just the right amount of player investment to master.
“Birth of” Series – Academy Games
Kevin – This one is a little bit of a cheat as its a series of games. The Birth of America and new Birth of Europe series from Academy Games are wonderful two to four player games centered around a historic conflict. Players will battle over territories to claim victory points through skillful card play to maneuver their troops. Battles are resolved by rolling dice unique to each troop type to determine various results such as whether a unit hits, misses, flees, or gains command points. Last year, the final game in the Birth of America series, 1754 Conquest – The French and Indian War, received numerous accolades from MeepleGamers and we also favorably reviewed the first in the new Birth of Europe series, 878 Vikings – Invasions of England. My top choice would be 1754, though the theme of 1775 Rebellion is very enjoyable and the Viking horde mechanic in 878 is an interesting change to the formula.
Arkham Horror – Fantasy Flight Games (2005)
Kevin – I am going to cheat again with this one. My wife and I play a lot of cooperative games, each fielding two characters. This way we get the feel of playing with four players but a much faster playtime and we do this with a lot of different games. One of our favorites for this is the robust Cthulhu classic: Arkham Horror. Exploring the town, avoiding and defeating monsters, closing and sealing the monster portals, all while the townsfolk gradually leave town as the horror track increases. If the players aren’t fast enough, the Great Old One will awaken and begin a difficult final battle. Longer than many more recent cooperative games, I love the depth and immersion of this one and it is one my wife and I always enjoy when we play. As I mentioned though, there are lots of cooperative games that work great with this formula of two players and four characters and I would easily also recommend Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Desert, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, Ghost Stories, and many others.
Carcassonne – Z-man Games (2000)
Kevin – The final game on my list is a true classic, still going strong after a decade and a half. Carcassonne is a tile-placement game wherein players will take turns adding tiles to the ever-growing landscape and placing meeples in various positions to earn points, thieves on roads, monks on cloisters, knights in cities, and farmers in the fields. The game requires both tactical thinking for immediate placement options and strategic thinking for choosing how to use your meeples. It plays up to five players, but I think excels with only two. There are myriad options to expand your experience as well, each bringing subtle mechanical changes and additions. It is truly a wonderful game and still holds up.
EDITOR’S NOTE- This game is a perennial favorite at my home also. So much so, that almost ANY list that has games that are not from this year would likely have this game on it for me. For this reason, I will do my best to use this title sparingly, as we love it.