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Just Us Two, A Couple Close Gamers Weigh In... Our experiences with 2-player games (couples: husband versus wife)
Diane Close
United States
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Much of the gaming that my husband, Paul, and I do is just the two of us. I come from a checkers and Euchre background, while he played D&D and a lot of computer games in high school and college. I’m a fan of strategy, which I define as planning ahead one or more paths to success, whereas my husband likes tactical, which he defines as responding to the current situation. We prefer to play games that reward strategy (though not too much), yet are still interesting on a turn by turn level, and we’re not adverse to a bit of luck either. If you can wrap all that in a great theme, or nice bits, then it’ll be a runaway best seller with us! We play to have fun, not necessarily to win.

Here's a bunch of games we've played as a couple and how they fared for us... Our comments on these games reflect 2-player gameplay only. We’ll rate our preferences separately: him, her and if the game works well for couples.

Rating legend:
= like it on occasion
laugh = love it
yuk = don’t like it
= neutral

Feb. 8, 2009, edit: This is a snapshot of our gaming days from 2004 to 2006. A lot of these games are still available, so I’ll leave this list open for reading but close it to comments. Thanks, all, for suggesting games like Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, Race for the Galaxy, and Zooloretto. We definitely do play those now, but they weren’t available back then. I have no plans to update this list with newer games at this time.
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51. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:53]
Diane Close
United States
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Goa plays very well with two players, and it has one of the few auction systems that works as well with two as it does with more! There is lots of resource management and lots of decision-making. You can't get too specialized in one area lest you lose out in others, but at the same time you can't afford to spread yourself too thin. We find this one a nail-biter to the end, and very engaging. It's all about shopping well!

Him- laugh
Her- laugh
Couples- laugh
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52. Board Game: Grave Robbers From Outer Space [Average Rating:5.76 Overall Rank:5016]
Diane Close
United States
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This game didn’t work for us at all. Many of the cards were either too powerful or far too weak, and there was a serious rich-get-richer problem. Because of all the problems we couldn’t get into the nicely humorous story-telling aspect of this game at all. We were told the sequel might “fix” most of our complaints, but we don’t feel the need to throw more money into what we think is a bad game for us.

Him- yuk
Her- yuk
Couples- yuk
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53. Board Game: The Great Chili Cookoff [Average Rating:5.91 Overall Rank:6052]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a neat trick-taking card game where you're trying to take seven ingredients in seven turns to assemble secret, unique chili recipes. No person has the same recipe as another, so you're each seeking different sets of ingredients. This plays better with more players, but we like it with just two as well. With fewer players you have to be more open to the randomness of the initial recipe draw and deck building, but we find it's fun and evens out if you play a few rounds in a row.

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54. Board Game: Guillotine [Average Rating:6.54 Overall Rank:812]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a nicely simple, humorous game that makes light of chopping off the heads of aristocrats of the French revolution. Every time I play it I imagine I’m Mme Defarge and I get the urge to knit something. Now that the classic 1935 “Tale of Two Cities” is out on dvd, I have the perfect movie to put on in the background while playing this game! We like this game with two players and also with more.

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55. Board Game: Hansa [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:486]
Diane Close
United States
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This is the race game that I thought Around the World in 80 Days would be. This plays very well with two players, has a variety of strategic and tactical options, and a nice balance of luck too. You always seem to be a dollar short for what you want to accomplish, making for a nice tension. There is an element of "take that" with the ship's movement, as you try to maximize your move advantage while minimizing future moves for your opponent.

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56. Board Game: Heave Ho! [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:2195]
Diane Close
United States
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There’s not a lot of strategy to this game, but there is a lot of fun, chaotic times and it really does feel like a tug-o-war. We don’t bother with the card sorting step, and we play for a jigger of single malt scotch (instead of the barrel pawn), which I think helps! It’s a fun, light evening closer.

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57. Board Game: Hera and Zeus [Average Rating:6.55 Overall Rank:1017]
Diane Close
United States
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We really enjoyed this strategic, bluffing card game! We thought it had a good balance of strategy and luck, giving both of us an even chance at winning. Once you know the cards, their interactions become easy to remember. We like the fact that there are multiple paths to victory.

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58. Board Game: Hey, That's My Fish! [Average Rating:6.83 Overall Rank:469]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a fun and fast abstract! You can easily whip off a game in under ten minutes, and we find it plays as well with 2 as with more. We'll go for the best two out of three and still want another rematch.

I made my own board for easier and faster setup:

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59. Board Game: Ingenious [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:221]
Diane Close
United States
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We love Ingenious and its smaller sibling, Ingenious: Travel Edition. This is a fantastic, quick 2-player game, and the rules only take a few minutes to learn. The gameplay is far less stressful than for other abstract strategy games, and you can play quickly or more thoughtfully, depending on your own preferences.

While we prefer the Travel Edition, we'll pull out this larger one from time to time as it has a larger distribution of tiles. This allows more opportunities for blocking and wider swings in scores.

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60. Board Game: Ingenious: Travel Edition [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:534]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a fantastic, quick 2-player game. The rules only take a few minutes to learn. The gameplay is far less stressful than for other abstract strategy games, so my husband really likes this one too. You can play quickly or more thoughtfully, depending on your own preferences. I greatly prefer this to the larger version. This one is nicely tactile and the scores are closer with the smaller distribution of tiles. We play mostly two-player games, so having a nice compact version like this is great! This game makes a nice counterpoint to Flowerpower.

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61. Board Game: Jambo [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:324] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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We need to play this one some more as there’s a lot of text on the cards and they interact in different ways. Based on a first couple plays my husband found it a bit complicated, repetitive, and he just isn’t into optimization games as much as me. The way to win this game is to use the fewest actions to make the most money.

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62. Board Game: James Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game [Average Rating:5.36 Overall Rank:10673]
Diane Close
United States
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This one is more fun that its low rating would suggest. While it claims 3-6 players are needed, we play it as is, with just two using a variant that says your lair must be of a specific size or larger before it can be attacked. We often play with another house rule that allows damage to lairs rather than total destruction. This game is fun for Bond/Austin Powers fans with the proper attitude. Our version is the color "Totally Renamed" version.

Him-
Her-
Couples- yuk ; with tweaks, possibly or
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63. Board Game: Kahuna [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:736]
Diane Close
United States
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I really liked this area placement game, and my husband was neutral on it, despite him winning. It is a purer abstract, and he’s not really into that, so that might explain his lack of love for the game. If you aren’t evenly matched, or the card draw is against you, this game can be quite lopsided. It can also be quite deep and brain-burning, so watch out for analysis paralysis!

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64. Board Game: Leonardo da Vinci [Average Rating:6.84 Overall Rank:638]
Diane Close
United States
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We've played this several times and with two players it's mostly just a race for most projects completed. Also, I was a bit disappointed that you didn't do more with your inventions. As with Louis XIV, I was under the impression, from the description, that this was a different game than how it actually played. It's really just an elaborate set collection game with some strategic elements. That said, it does play very well along those lines.

The game has a rather elaborate and detailed set-up, with each player beginning with different equipment and resources. It takes awhile to divide everything, and you need to study the illustrations carefully as this is not really laid out fully in the text. As well, the game almost ends too soon, with the last two turns devoted to simply finishing inventions currently underway with the remaining resources in your hand. It almost seems a waste of time, though these two turns do pass very quickly.

This game is a lot more strategic and enjoyable with more players. The larger crowd makes for scarcer resources and tougher placement decisions and a much tighter game.

Him-
Her-
Couples- to depending on your desire for board tension
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65. Board Game: Life on the Farm Board Game [Average Rating:4.29 Overall Rank:10299]
Diane Close
United States
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This is another locally-made game. It’s one of the few kids’ roll-and-move games that we will play on occasion. It’s all about dairy farming, and plays a bit like Monopoly, so I’m not sure what we find attractive... except where else can you yell, “Get your !@#^&!! cows out of my yard!” when your opponent lands on that spot? When we’re in the mood for a roll-and-move this is one often gets pulled out.

Him-
Her-
Couples- or depending on how you feel about roll-and-move games.
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66. Board Game: Loot [Average Rating:6.32 Overall Rank:1307]
Diane Close
United States
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This game works for 2-players but is better with more. Still, we enjoy our plundering time on the high seas! Lots of player interaction, a bit of strategy, more luck of the draw, and gives you the chance to be pirate-y for a short while.

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67. Board Game: Lord of the Fries [Average Rating:5.97 Overall Rank:2739]
Diane Close
United States
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I think if I haul this game out for my game group again, they'll lynch me! They found it way too random and pointless. As a two player game it doesn't improve much, though I enjoyed it in a Rummy sort of way. There's lots of cheese here but little strategy... What can I say? I have a soft spot for Zombies.

Him- yuk
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68. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:497]
Diane Close
United States
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This game is tense, engaging and the cooperative aspect really works. While I’m totally sick of all things Lord of the Rings, this game is evocative enough to keep me coming back for more. We bought the expansions (Lord of the Rings: Friends & Foes and Lord of the Rings: Sauron) but haven’t played with them yet. We’re still trying to master the base set!

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69. Board Game: Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation [Average Rating:7.24 Overall Rank:270]
Diane Close
United States
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A failure with both of us was Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. I did like the chess-like aspects, but am REALLY sick of the LOTR theme (I’m also sick of Star Wars), and I didn’t like the fact that this game took longer to set up than it did to play. My husband was lukewarm on the theme, and didn’t like the quick “flip-flip” aspect to the battle. To him, there was often little he could react to, just sit there and “take that”. He likes games where there are a number of quick decisions to be made, not just HA! Battle’s over! Next!

Him- yuk
Her- yuk
Couples- laugh ; it works well for couples, we just don’t like it ourselves.
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70. Board Game: Lost Cities [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:261]
Diane Close
United States
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This is my husband’s favorite light game, and he loves the artwork. I really like this one too. The rules are simple but the play can be deep. It’s not a glorified Rummy, and that makes us both happy.

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71. Board Game: Louis XIV [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:339]
Diane Close
United States
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I didn't like this game on my first play as I was expecting something different. It's a very pretty game, with a lot of little fiddly elements, from the small-sized cards to the tiny, detailed tokens. I thought, after reading the description, that it would play like a dry, mathematical, abstract area of influence game. Instead, there's a lot of randomness to the play, from a card draw determining how much income you'll get each round to what's been termed a "shield lottery" at the end, to random draws of rewards to aim for throughout the game. There's as much tactical play here as strategic and that took some getting used to! It's more of a challenging puzzle and the better you know how to play and what the rewards mean, the more you'll get out of replaying it.

When you play with 2 players you use a neutral third character, whose choices are determined randomly, to influence the play on the board. It's okay played this way, but not stellar. This game shines with more players, but that said I'd still play this again with 2 every once in a while.

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72. Board Game: Mamma Mia! [Average Rating:6.50 Overall Rank:969] [Average Rating:6.50 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a really neat little filler with a memory aspect to it, and some good strategic play too. When we want a little less memory and more strategy, we pull out its sibling, Sole Mio!.

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73. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:88] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Diane Close
United States
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This is a very well made, easy to play, card-driven war/battle game. You use cards to maneuver little toy soldiers and their equipment around a board, trying to achieve certain objectives in order to win. It can be fiddly to set up, but I enjoy laying out the scenarios so I find that’s half the fun. Although you do have a hand of cards to choose from, which helps provide strategy, you’re still at the mercy of the card draw for being able to do what you want. If you have a right flank you need to move, but keep drawing left flank cards, then too bad, consider it part of the vagaries of war – your communication lines are down or your troops are pinned and there’s nothing you can do right now. This forces you to manage your hand to make sure you can follow up on bold maneuvers rather than just slapping down cards.

The variety of card play means that scenarios never play the same way twice, leaving you wanting to try again to see what happens this time around. The games play quick enough you can do a couple back to back. Instead of the typical chits and counters wargame, Memoir distills into a fast, simple and dynamic mode of play that’s pure fun!

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74. Board Game: Metro [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:1190]
Diane Close
United States
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This one is easy to learn and plays great with two! The rules are simple but it has great, fast game play and some strategy, with good variants too, to keep it interesting. We like this one better with just two!

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75. Board Game: Monkeys on the Moon [Average Rating:6.26 Overall Rank:2232]
Diane Close
United States
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This game really surprised us! We really had a good time playing it and enjoyed it as a light strategy filler. There is a lot of luck with the capacity of the rockets, but that can be overcome by increasing the size of the pool.

I can't comment on how it plays with more, but I can say this plays very well with just two!

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