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Favourite 2-player games by Mark Dryden

So maybe you like me find yourself fortunate enough to have a regular gaming partner who enjoys playing games, which is great! And what better then, than to have your game shelf or cupboard stocked with excellent 2 player titles to cater for every mood and situation!

When considering a 2 player game you need to have something that can engage and entertain 2 players with mechanics and plenty to think about. Theme tends to come second in 2 player games as above all else the game needs to be tight and strategic as only 2 players are involved. In this regard I find that games specifically designed for 2 players TEND to play better than games that play more but which are adapted to 'scale down' to 2 players (with perhaps a few notable exceptions) So with this said, here are my favourite 2 player games that I have in my collection, and of course this list is entirely subjective. There are many other fantastic 2 player games out there but I either haven't played them or it didn't suit my other half!

  First though, a few honourable mentions starting with a notable exception to my aforementioned 'rule' - Splendor. This game is an honourable mention as it is not solely a 2 player game as it plays up to 4, but (whisper it quietly) I believe it plays best as a 2 player game! This simple but strategic set-collection, card drafting game thoroughly engages and delights as a 2 player game. The emphasis is on making the right decisions and concentrating on being as efficient as possible, to the end of building the best engine to complete the 15 point 'end game condition'. The 2 players will have less chaos and 'plan-changing' to deal with than in a 3 or 4 player game and the emphasis will be on which player can execute their strategy to win to perfection! |n many ways this is a perfect 2 player game and is certainly one of our favourites - definitely one to add to your collection.

Second worthy of mention is my favourite super short 2 player 'filler' game and that is Tides of Time a tight 2 player drafting game, which is something of an anomaly really. There are but 18 cards in the box (beautifully illustrated by the way) and you and your partner draft a small handful of the cards with the aim of building the highest scoring tableau. Each of the cards has a scoring effect indicated on it, and there are 4 'suits' if you like which will encourage set collection. But there are also a few cards which will reward you for drafting with diversity in mind, or not include certain suits... which can make for some interesting scoring rounds! I find this game tight and interesting with a lot of second guessing my opponent, who usually destroys me anyway. Lots of fun and the 3 rounds play out in only 15 minutes or so, so the game certainly doesn't overstay it's welcome.

My final honourable mention is a game which we have taken into our hearts, mainly due to the lovely art on the cards and the simple gameplay is Fungi (or Morels as it is known in some markets). This clever little game sees players collecting sets of mushrooms/toadstools and frying sets up for points. Butter or Cider can be added to add extra points to a set, but you have to make sure that you are able to draft the cards you need and have space in your hand size to accommodate all the plans you want to achieve! Sometimes you are able to get that set or the Cider you so desperately want, other times you have to cut your losses and go for something else, and maybe sell a lesser set for walking sticks, which basically extend the choice of cards you can draft from in the 'forest'. The game is cheap at a tenner, and the artwork is fantastic, making for a really pleasant spectacle when laid out on the table.

Here is my choice should you feel in the mood for some mean and nasty tactics - it has to be 7 Wonders: The Duel a fairly recent 2 player drafting game based on the classic 7 Wonders but redesigned to suit 2 players and with more paths to victory than just amassing a large points total. Here is a really tight game where you don't want to give ANYTHING away to your opponent, so there will be plenty of 'hate-drafting' (taking or burning a card you know your opponent really wants!) and some of the bonus/special actions on some of the Wonders are really quite mean and nasty, such as destroying one of your opponents resource cards, or taking their money! Players will really feel like it is a duel! Strategy is heavy here - do you go for an immediate victory by building military, or perhaps go after the Progress tokens for a win? Or perhaps you prefer to try and balance the game out so it goes to points? Either way, you are in for a cracking game, if you can stand the meanness!

From a new game to a classic - Lost Cities from Dr Reiner Knizia. This is a stable in our collection which still sees regular table time. Why? Because it is a simple game with a classic feel - play a card and then draw a card! This game is all about hand management as you try and keep certain cards in your hand away from your opponent but also collect and play the sets that you are trying to build in the play area, for maximum points. There's no real theme here, but the play is simple and smooth yet very tense! The scoring can become a little 'mathy' for some as you score your tableau, but don't let that put you off, what many (including myself) feel is one of the best 2 player games around, proved by the fact that it has recently been reprinted.

Finally, here is my choice if you are feel like a nice sedate more puzzly game, with perhaps less interaction and more careful thought. This is also currently our top pick of 2 player games... Patchwork. Uwe Rosenberg is the designer, and this game is one of our absolute favourites, as it is tight and full of great decisions as players try to build the best 'patchwork', which basically means covering up as much of their board as possible. The patches are drafted and purchased, so there is a good element of economics and resource management, but there is also a 'time track' which is yet another resource in the game to be managed and thought about. Finally there is arguably the most important factor in the game which is the puzzle aspect - fitting all those patches onto your board! A very satisfying 'thinky' game, which offers great re-playability as every game will be different.

These are the games that we favour at the moment specifically for 2 players, and there are soooo many that we haven't played yet! There are also many more coming out showing that there is still a demand and growing market for 2 player only games, and I can't wait to see what else might come out this year.


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