Two-player games are a staple in our house and so it’s been a joy to watch the veritable explosion of dedicated two-player games that seems to have recently hit. We especially enjoy those games that can be played at our local bar accompanied by a good beer and great food; everything on this list has passed that test.
#5 – Jaipur
This game of market traders and camels is one of our most played two-player games looking back over the years. It traveled with us on our honeymoon and on various other trips, and still remains a firm favourite. The game involves collecting sets of goods which get less valuable as more of a particular good get traded in but offers additional bonuses for larger sets leading to tension as players decide whether to cash in a small set of goods for big bucks, or wait and see if they can gather more of them. The art’s great, the tokens are really nice, and the game just doesn’t seem to get stale.
#4 – Holmes: Sherlock & Mycroft
This game appeared out of nowhere at Origins 2016 and was an instant, if hard to get, hit. Players take on the roles of Sherlock & Mycroft Holmes, each vying to prove their side of a case through interviewing various characters and collecting sets of evidence. However, if a character feels their under too much pressure from the brothers, they’ll go into hiding for a round making their special ability unavailable. Set collection with two players can be tough to pull off, and Holmes succeeds through an interesting scoring quirk in which the value of gaining majority in a set is affected by how much of that set is in your opponent’s tableau, making cards valuable even if you can’t take the lead in their suit. If you can get your hands on a copy, this beautifully illustrated game is well worth trying.
#3 – Star Wars Risk
The only thing this re-imagining of The Queen’s Gambit has to do with Risk is in its title so don’t let that scare you. This asymmetric game has the Rebel player attempting to bring down shields to get a chance at destroying the Death Star in order to win, while the Imperial player tries to eliminate the Rebel fleet to achieve victory. Players program their turns each round by placing down cards in order prior to playing out the round, but as each card can correspond to either two or three possible actions, they are still able to respond to their opponent’s actions and change strategies on the fly. I do recommend finding the black box edition with it’s additional minis and overall improved components, but the game is so fun that either available edition is worth getting a hold of.
#2 – Akrotiri
This combination tile-laying & pick up and deliver game has players exploring the Aegean isles and trading goods in order to afford maps depicting lost ancient temples. Using the locations described on the maps in terms of the various landmarks on the tiles, players attempt to be the first to place all of their temple pieces onto the map and earn victory. It’s a gorgeous game with some interesting quirks in how market prices and temple locations are handled, and the satisfaction of placing tiles in just the right way to create a legal temple spot is hard to beat.
#1 – Patchwork
Uwe Rosenberg’s two-player quilting-themed game is a delight. Arranging the tetris-shaped pieces on your personal board to fill any gaps is satisfying, and the economy is surprisingly tight for such a friendly looking game which leads to interesting decisions. The use of a time track allows players to manipulate turn order to their advantage, and adds another layer to decision-making, without providing so many options that gameplay drags. There’s a pretty good virtual implementation available for phones & tablets, but honestly I just love picking up the pieces and flipping them around to figure out the best way make them fit my board.