Two player games have to pull significantly more weight than their multiplayer fellows. They must create an intimate, strategic, and engaging set of conditions for both players to have a compelling experience. When mechanics and strategy come together well, the resulting game and time spent together can be a wonderful thing. The following games manage to hit the right notes and bring the best kind of two player experience to the table.
Unmatched: Cobble & Fog
Part of the Unmatched series, Cobble & Fog adds four new heroes from Victorian Literature for players to test against the heroes of the rest of the Unmatched stable of historical, fantastical, and pop culture heroes. A lightweight tactical skirmish game mixing miniatures and cards, Unmatched is an excellent game for two players looking for a light battle amongst legends. Cobble & Fog introduces The Invisible Man, Sherlock and Watson, Dracula, and Jekyll & Hyde to round out Unmatched’s other heroes. If you ever wanted to play a tactical game that has Bruce Lee roundhouse kicking a raptor while Sherlock Holmes wails on Medusa, Unmatched has got you covered.
Shores of Tripoli
The Shores of Tripoli is not a typical wargame. Representing the First Barbary War 1801-1805 during which the US Navy clashed with Tripoli and their allies over pirate raids in the Mediterranean, The Shores of Tripoli manages to pack a lot of strategy into a relatively simple package. Each turn players play a single card whose event can have a significant impact on the state of the board and both sides’ forces. The beautiful artwork on the cards and board help sell the theme, and the tense game of quick card plays creates a fascinating back and forth of political and military maneuver. Quick playing, The Shores of Tripoli should be a must play for even non-wargaming 2 player game fans.
A heavier game of strategic planning and decisive action, Imperial Struggle iterates on the classic formula of one of BoardgameGeek’s top rated wargames, Twilight Struggle, to create a unique and thoroughly thematic experience. Imperial Struggle tasks players with taking control of Britain or France as they compete on the global stage throughout the 18th century. Each turn players take from a central pool of action tokens that give certain military, political, or economic actions. Since the pool is open for both players to see, long term planning must be coupled with adaptability. As the game also includes military elements and hands of event cards, the global game of politicking will often leave both players with less solutions than problems, leading to a fascinating game of political maneuver across a wonderfully constructed board.
A humorous cooperative roguelike roleplaying game, Far Away offers a unique mash up of mechanics to provide interesting games of interstellar exploration. Members of a seriously underfunded expedition, both players must work together to explore a planet and complete objectives. As they take their actions the world expands with freshly laid tiles, resources and key locations are discovered, and wandering monsters shuffle in and out of view. With a gameplay experience that feels like a traditional roleplaying game mixed with the sturdy mechanics of a board game, Far Away offers a lot in a relatively small package. The cooperative elements go quite far, with success dependent on mutual cooperation, and proper planning, as when separated on the board the rules state players cannot communicate across the table. An intimate and enjoyable experience.
One player tries to make groups of sea creatures while their opponent is tasked with creating groups of matching coloured tiles, both using the same tiles on the same board. An abstract tile drafting game, Aqualin is simple but deep. The opposing players must try to grow their own groups while remaining conscious of how their moves will affect their opponent’s turn. The fact that there are two different actions available each turn, to place a new tile or move a tile already on the board (as long as it has space to move) makes Aqualin a true exercise in brainpower. The competition between movement and placement actions can leave players pondering their next several moves as they try to guess exactly how their opponent can benefit from each of their plays. The complete package is simple, with a small footprint and pretty designs, making Aqualin a nice addition to the two player competitive shelf.
Twin Princes: Reborn Edition
A tiny game of area control using a split/choose mechanic to create hands of cards. Each player is attempting to gain control of different regions in their prince’s magical kingdom to settle who will inherit the throne without bloodshed. It’s a cute premise helped along by pretty art and thematic additions like a Genie, a Roc, and the liberal application of magic carpets. The strategy of when and where to play cards, and how to move both princes across the kingdom is quick to grasp but also interesting because it relies on how your opponent splits the deck. There are always difficult decisions to make in Twin Princes, making it a great addition to any stable of light competitive strategy games.