Top 15 2-Player games for the Average Cafe Patron

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Don’t get me wrong, the top 2-player games on BGG  (Boardgamegeek, the #1 online source of all things board game)  are all amazing. However, many are not appropriate for the average Board Game Cafe patron. Most of our peeps want a game with reasonably easy to learn rules, a decent amount of strategy and a time frame of 15-60 minutes. We often get customers pop in who have read a list on the interweb or had a game recommended by a friend and we need to check that Twilight Struggle is actually the game they want. Here is a list

Top rated 2 Player games on Boardgamegeek:

1. Twilight Struggle – 3 hours, heavy rule set, unforgiving for new players, very stressful.
2. Star Wars Rebellion – 4 hours, a lot of rules, helps if you like Star Wars, $$$
3. 7 Wonders Duel – APPROVED
4. The Castles of Burgundy – APPROVED
5. War of the Ring – 4 hours, no really, A LOT of rules. Do you like Lord of the Rings? $$$
6. Android Netrunner – Living Card Game, requires deck building, confusing as all heck for the first few plays…many, many expansions.
7. Patchwork – APPROVED
8. Star Wars X-Wing – Base game doesn’t have enough to play properly, more Star Wars, big table required.
9. Fields of Arle – 2 hours, pretty heavy game, just too complex for most.
10. Command & Colours Ancients – War game, not a very ‘coupley’ theme, a lot of initial rules checking.
11. Star Realms – APPROVED
12. Paths of Glory – See Command and Colours multiplied by 50.
13. Santorini – APPROVED
14. Go – You will lose to a better player ALWAYS
15. Jaipur – APPROVED

The following is our Top 15 2-player games using the following criteria:

Ease of learning
Depth of strategy
Replayability
Tension
Good ol’ fun
Competitivess (not too much or too little)

Note; I’ve left out co-op games, as that’s a whole other ball park.

15. Qwirkle

A dominoes style game where you are looking to add your tiles to the board to make the longest lines possible. When adding you have to always maintain colour or shape in the lines, but never have the same shape and colour in one line. A relaxing and very attractive game bursting with colour. It can suffer from a runaway leader problem if you have open scoring though.

14. Kingdom Builder

A great game, Game of the Year in fact, but it has a learning curve. In your first couple of games, a single mistake can cause you to lose. It’s a quick game though, only 30 minutes. Once you pick it up, the modular board has over 1000 set ups. Combine that with almost 100 different end game scoring condition and 50 special ability combinations you have a crazy amount of variability. The rules are pretty straight forward and it packs a really nice amount of clever play and thinking.

13. Star Realms

You like Magic the Gathering, your other half doesn’t? Want lots of strategies but some pretty straightforward rules. Then this little deck-builder is the one for you. It has lots of little expansions to keep beefing up the card pool and is small and portable. This kind of card game certainly appeals to a certain type of player, namely one who enjoys lots of cards, but its easy enough to not be scary to newbies.

12. Kahuna

The ‘Big Kahuna’ of aggressive, simple 30 minute, screw your opponent games. This is a game you lose. There is no niceness here as you vie to control islands by placing bridges around them, trying to collapse your opponents. It is cut-throat, which some people love, but many not so much. If you like to crush the person opposite like a worm, then come play in the South Seas…everyone else, stay away 🙂

11. Kulami

The simplest game of all to learn and a Cafe staple for years now. A variable board mixes things up, as well as some alternate extra scoring you can add. Ultimately it’s add a marble to a tile and then follow the straightforward placement rules until the marbles run out or no legal moves are left. Whoever gets most marbles in each tiles score the points for the tile. Excellent, quick and tactile game. Maybe just a bit too simple for some tastes, but it does that ‘easy game’ thing really well.

10. Hive

Chess with bugs is how we usually describe it. Another abstract game. Add a bug to the hive or move one currently in it. Those are your choices. First to completely surround your opponents Queen Bee wins. Simple, portable and very thinky. Its a bit too chess-ish for some people, with a good player winning more often than not. But if you like the idea of chess, but would prefer something a bit less heavy…bug it up.

9. Santorini

The new kid on the block. Ask me to do this list in a year and it may be a lot higher. Very simple rules beautiful components are the obvious selling points. A single game is quick as well, usually around 15 minutes. However, it is the addition of God powers that brings this to life. Each player takes one, which gives them an ability and as a result the feel of the game completely changes depending on the match-up. There are 30 in total creating endless replayability. So far we’ve found that some people just ‘like it’ though, but those who love it, absolutely LOVE it.

8. Targi

This one is a bit of a sleeper game. It’s one we bring out when people want a game with a bit more depth and don’t mind the hour long time frame. Its a classic, place worker to get stuff, to turn that stuff into things with points and abilities game. However, the blocking and x/y axis placement to take the central actions is what makes this one shine. It’s a little thinkier/rulesier than most of these, but if you want a little more, play this.

7. Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries

The best TTR board in my opinion. Ticket to Ride is great, but a bit too open to provide any tension with two. This 2 or 3 player only board solves that by providing fewer routes and choke points that can devastate you if someone gets them before you. Plus you get to say the names of Norwegian towns you really can’t pronounce.

6. Splendor

A great little puzzle game where you try to build an efficient engine of cards to allow you to get cards cheaper and cheaper and in the end win the race to 15 points. It provides you with that ‘if I’d just had one more turn I’d have won’ feeling and an immediate desire to play again. It’s pretty thinky and will cause you to sit in silence for 30 minutes riffling plastic chips uttering the occasional curse when someone takes the card you were saving up for.

5. Jaipur

A 2-player trading game! It works by making you trade with a communal market instead of each other. Collect sets of cards and trade them in for points. Nice, pastel artwork and a competitive game that doesn’t really allow you to deliberately screw over your opponent, but you still feel in a battle for those last few precious goods (also look for the secret Panda on one of the cards).

4. Lost Cities

Play a card and pick up a card…and hope it’s that card you really need! Lay down cards in one of 5 ascending piles by colour. The twist, once you lay down a card you have to get at least a total of 20 or you lose points. Very addictive and can be a cruel mistress when you don’t get the cards you need. The scoring is also a bit convoluted, but all of these faults can only slightly diminish a deceptively strategic and tense game.

3. Carcassonne

You start with a single tile and by the end you have created a beautiful landscape filled with castles and rolling fields. It plays up to 5, but is best with just two. It’s the best non-competitive but still competitive game out there. On your turn you just grab a tile, place it somewhere and add or don’t add the infamous Meeple. Stop at expansion #2 though…

2. 7 Wonders Duel

Huge replayability, a lot of tension and multiple ways to win (points, culture or WAAAR) are just a few highlights of this game. It drops just below Patchwork because it is just a bit too complex for some people, but if you want a big punch from a small game this is a beauty.

1. Patchwork

The perfect game? Nope, but it comes pretty close. An original theme, tense gameplay that is so different depending on the layout of the patches. It offers a nice brain crunch in a great 30 minute time frame and just a few pages of rules. It may be a little dry for some people, but its been recieved overwhelmingly well be our cafe people.

Honorable Mentions to:

Jambo, Cacao, Thurn and Taxis, Mr Jack, Summoner Wars, Onitama, Castles of Burgundy, Blue Moon Legends, Scotten Totten.

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