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.
The Diamond Climber Awards are in their 4th year, and with each year we’ve grown and changed, sometimes in uncomfortable ways. Because our team has such a wide and diverse taste in games it was tough this year to come to a consensus on a single game that really fit the category. So this year we’re presenting multiple picks for Best Two Player Game, written in the words of each author who loved this category. We feel this will better represent the breadth and diversity of the games on the market, and offer a more genuine selection for our readers.
A delightful run through medieval manuscripts. Not quite sure about endless replay-ability, but it’s novel and interesting enough to warrant many plays.
Radlands / Red Flag Over Paris
I went back and forth on this, between Radlands and Red Flag Over Paris, and I’m still not sure. Radlands is high-octane fun, a tactical back and forth based in a post-apocalyptic world that lasts around 30 minutes. Red Flag Over Paris is low-octane fun, a tactical back and forth based on the Paris Commune of 1871 that lasts around 30 minutes. Radlands is all about aggressive moves—playing defensively slows the game way down, to the point where it can be no fun for all involved (sorry Gavin). Red Flag Over Paris is patient and sensitive, a delicate web of choices and repercussions. Look at it this way: Radlands is a blast, but it can be swingy aside from player intentionality. Red Flag is less of a hoot, but everything happens for a reason. They’re both great. The choices is yours.
Canopy takes one of my absolute favorite mechanics, the Winston draft, and evolves the format with a great theme and some inbuilt combo-building gameplay. The basics are easy to learn, but there’s enough juice in these cards to keep players coming back. Whether you focus on growing the tallest trees or chasing the assorted animals for effects and points, there are plenty of moment-to-moment choices and long-term strategies to explore. Though Canopy technically can be played by up to 4, the default 2-player mode is fun enough that you won’t feel the need to invite anyone else.
Hanamikoji: Geisha’s Road
Hanamikoji is a brilliant game. Hanamikoji: Geisha’s Road is possibly better. A game of wheels within wheels, that has you trying to win the favour of those beautifully illustrated geisha whilst working hard to ensure that they’re actually worth any points. All the while your opponent sits opposite you trying to undermine your every move whilst in your imagination your opponent also sits on your shoulder, taunting your every hesitant decision, making you second and third guess yourself into dizzy knots. A fantastic addition to the series.