With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought it would be a good time to revisit two-player games. The last time I did this, I did two different lists (see parts one and two by following the links). But it’s been two and a half years since then, and I’ve gotten to play more games since then. So let’s take a look at some more two-player games that you should try.
First up, BattleCON. This 2010 design by D. Brad Talton and Level 99 Games has taken on quite a life since its initial release, spawning several sets and a planned online version. It’s a fighting game intended to simulate 2D fighting video games. Each player has a set deck based on a character, and will simultaneously choose two cards, a base and a style. These will combine to form an attack, and the player with the higher priority will go first. As you use crds, they will cycle out of your hand and cards you used previously will cycle back in. The object of the game is to reduce your opponent’s health to zero – the first one to do that will win.
This game has no internal luck, with your hand only changing based on the choices you make throughout the game. The main thing in the game is trying to outwit your opponent, and to do that effectively, it really helps to be familiar with all of the characters. This game definitely rewards repeated plays, and an experienced player will most assuredly wipe the floor with a novice. But it’s a great game to explore, one with a lot of variety and fun.
Castellan is a 2013 game from designer Beau Beckett that was published by Steve Jackson Games. In a significant departure from the Munchkin that SJG is known for, this is an abstract game where players are building walls to enclose areas, much as in the paper-and-pencil game Dots and Boxes. Each turn, you can play cards to allow you to collect wall pieces that then must be placed. If you completely enclose an area, you can claim it, and will score for each tower surrounding that area. At the end of the game, the player who has the most points is the winner.
This is a really simple game with some really awesome wall pieces. It’s a city-building experience where you’re working on the same city, but you aren’t really working together. It’s a very good game. You can get two sets in order to play with up to four players, and honestly, I’ve only ever played with three or four players. But I can still see how it would make a really good tactical two-player game.
This next one is one I’m surprised I didn’t include on either of my last lists. Epigo is a 2011 game from designers Chris Gosselin and Chris Kreuter, published by Masquerade Games. It’s kind of like an abstract RoboRally. Players have a set of number tiles, 1-7. These are placed on the board, and in each round, you will secretly select three numbers to activate. These are placed in an order, and you’ll resolve each in turn, always with the higher number going first. The object is to push three of your opponents’ pieces off the board. If you do this, you win.
Epigo is just a great game. It’s got that programmed action thing that I love so much going for it, as well as lots of variety – the game comes with a whole bunch of variants to explore. The art is kind of bland, but it’s an abstract game. It’s a great game that I think is still in print – it’s not too difficult to find a copy, at least.
Equinox is a game by designer Jason Boomer that was published by Asmadi Games in 2014. This one is a tile laying game where one player is light and the other is dark. On your turn, you may place two tiles. Tiles can be placed with either side face up, and this may trigger some actions. Some tiles allow you to flip other tiles. Some tiles have continuous effects, such as being shielded from being flipped. Some tiles may give bonus tokens. Some tiles may allow you to swap positions with another tile. And so on. Once all tiles have been placed, players get one point per tile that they have on their side, plus one point per token collected, and the player with the most points wins.
Equinox has a ton of different combos to explore. Every tile in the game is different and has different in-game effects. There are a lot of tactical decisions to be made, especially as you’re trying to protect points you may earn and take points away from your opponent. The board is constantly changing, and you really have to look a few steps ahead in order to be successful. It’s a brilliant game, and I really recommend it.
Jaipur is a 2009 set collection/economic game from designer Sébastien Pauchon, published by GameWorks (Asmodee distributes in the US). You are a trader in Rajasthan (India), and are competing to earn Seals of Excellence. Each turn, you’ll either take or sell cards. If you take cards, you’ll either take a single card from the market (replacing it with one from the deck), or you’ll take multiple cards (replacing them with cards from your hand or camels), or you’ll take all available camels. If you sell, you’ll turn in any number of one type of good, taking the highest available points chips for each one. If you sell 3, 4, or 5, you’ll get a bonus. At the end of each round, the player with the highest point total gets a Seal of Excellence. Win two, and you win the game.
Jaipur is not a complex game in terms of rules, but has a lot of complex decisions as you try to decide what cards you need, when to sell, and how much of a potential boost you’re willing to give your opponent. This is one I’ve only played online, at Yucata.de and BoardGameArena, but I like it a lot, and it’s in the top 100 at BGG for a reason.
NOIR is another card game from D. Brad Talton and Level 99 Games. Originally published in 2012 as part of the Minigame Library (along with Pixel Tactics), this deduction game is all about trying to seek out your opponent. There are a number of variants, but in the basic one, one player is the Killer and one is the Inspector. The Killer is trying to kill as many of the characters in a 5×5 grid as he can, while the Inspector is trying to catch him. Players can only attack or investigate cards immediately adjacent to their character, so this gives information to the other player. In the end, the player who is first to accomplish their objective is the winner.
This has become my favorite of the games from the Minigame Library. While not as complex as Pixel Tactics or as chaotic as Master Plan, this one has a simple set of mechanisms that work together really well. The best part of the game is that it really works as a two player game, but there are also a number of multiplayer variants that you can use in larger group settings. I highly recommend this one.
oddball Aeronauts is a game by Nigel Pyne that was published by maverick muse. It’s a kind of steampunky dogfight game where two factions face off in a game that does not require a table. Each round, players will look the top three cards of their deck and decide which skill they should use to attack. You’ll then choose one, two, or three of those top three cards, and add together the skill numbers in order to determine the winner. Whatever cards you use, you lose to the back of your deck. If you won, you may be able to recover some cards or cause your opponent to lose more (or both). If you run out of cards, you lose.
This is an interesting, more complex version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. It can be a little confusing to get through the rules, particularly because the top cards have tricks that can be used. But it’s a cute game that is played entirely in your hand, making it a very portable option for gaming.
Patchwork is Uwe Rosenberg’s 2014 two-player game about making a quilt. On your turn, you either buy a patch, using buttons and time, or you pass and advance on the time track. It is always of the turn of the player whose piece is behind on the time track, and by passing, you move directly in front of your opponent, collecting one button per space moved. Every so often, you cross a button income space and collect more buttons based on how many are on your quilt. You could also collect some special one-square patches, useful for plugging little holes. Once both players have reached the end of the time track, add up your total buttons and subtract the number of empty spaces on your quilt board to get your final score. The player with the most points wins.
This is very much an abstract game with a very cool market mechanism (patches are arranged in a ring and you can only purchase one of the first three in front of a large pawn), as well as a good use of the time track mechanism. Playing this game is a lot like Tetris as you try to shoehorn pieces into tight spaces. It’s a fantastic game, and what I would call vintage Rosenberg, hearkening back to his pre-Agricola days. Definite thumbs up from me.
Star Realms was designed by Robert Dougherty and Darwin Kastle, and was published by White Wizard Games in 2014. This is a sci-fi deckbuilder where players are trying to reduce their opponents to zero authority (life). On your turn, you play cards out of your hand, then buy cards from the center row and attack your opponent, if able. It’s very simple, but the strategy comes from collecting different factions. In general, red tends to help thin your deck, yellow provides more cards, green generates combat, and blue is used for money and increasing authority (hit points). There are ships that come into play and are discarded the same turn, and there are bases that remain in play until destroyed by your opponent. If you can successfully reduce your opponent to zero authority, you win.
This game features amazingly powerful combos that can hit your opponent super hard, and there are several cards that are just so powerful that there’s no stopping them. But the factions come with the ability to combo with each other, and if you collect properly, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with. The game is really fast, and provides a remarkable amount of variety. You can play with up to six if you get three sets, but the two-player game is great the way it is.
Targi is a 2012 game in the KOSMOS two-player line that was designed by Andreas Steiger (Z-Man publishes it domestically). In the game, you are playing on a 5×5 grid of cards, with 16 fixed cards on the edges and 9 that are dealt randomly. Players take turns placing their meeples on an edge space (each has three). After this, each player may take advantage of the cards they placed on, as well as the intersections created in the center. When the robber makes it all the way around the edge (stealing resources from you at the corners), the player who has scored the most points is the winner.
Targi is an interesting worker placement style game. It’s kind of cool how the intersections are created and the players are able to try to get the best cards. There’s a lot to explore in the game, and while I haven’t gotten that deep into it, I can see its potential. It’s a good one.
Finally, Tides of Time is a 2015 game from Kristian Čurla and Portal Games. It’s a two player drafting game where players are building a civilization over time. At the beginning of each round, players get a hand of five cards and choose one to play. They then pass the others, choose one, and pass. This continues until you have played five cards, which you then score. Some of these have to do with having the majority in certain symbols, while others have other scoring conditions. At the end of the round, you choose one to keep in play for the rest of the game as a Relic, and one to discard from the game entirely. You then are dealt two more cards, and the game continues. After three rounds, the player with the most points is the winner.
This is an extremely simple game to learn with a surprising amount of depth. There are only 18 cards, but there are critical decisions to be made as you attempt to set up a strategy. The process of choosing a Relic each round can be very difficult, as can the choosing of a discard. There’s a lot of game packed into this little package, and it’s one you should check out.
So that’s the list. Hope you found something new to try out if you’re interested in two-player games. Thanks for reading!