Our thoughts on two player games: yet another couple speaks out
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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The opinions we have given for most of the games are after 2-5 plays. So, this will give you an idea what your first opinion of the game might be, if we have similar taste that is. To make it more clear which games are our long term favorites, I have added a meeple to these entries. I hope this will help you find the real gems that also have a huge replayability.
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So, I decided to put down me and my wife's opinions on our two player games in a geeklist. I know it has been done many times before, but I still decided it would be worth doing with the following reasoning.

1. Always good to have more opinions out there. There are many geeklists like this, but WE haven't done one, so this is bound to be different just because of that.
2. The best two player geeklists are not updated any more. I hope to continue to add new games all the time.

Anyway, some basic info abour our tastes in gaming:

I have a loooong experience in gaming, but mostly RPG's and Warhammer FB. Sure, I played a boardgame or two back in the 80's, but RPGs are what filled my mind back then. Aaaaah, good times. I got into boardgaming (and the geek) with a bang two years ago and spend far too much time here. Waaaay too much... I prefer heavily themed games with some luck in them. I love dice! You will never hear me say I like a game because it is "elegant" or "balanced". Sure, I like balance, but not at the expense of theme or fun.

My wife has always played games as well, but more of the monopoly family games kind. She is willing to play anything I suggest but does not analyze the games as much as I do. She will know if she likes a game or not, but not always WHY. Having played a lot of games with me she now enjoys much more complicated and long games than she used to. She loves engine building and economy based games and is not particlarly intersted in combat games, but enjoys a few such titles as well.

I use the following rating system:
Good game, we like it!
Ok game I guess. Both of us will play if asked, but not suggest it.
Nah... No fun, or boring, or too complicated or something...

On to the games!

Update 3 May 2012: Woot! Added 30 games to get the list up to 100 entries!
I will now let this list rest, as our feelings about many of the games in this list has changed over the years, and instead start a new list when time allows. I hope that the list still can be of use for many of you, in particular if you are looking for first impressions.

Update 8 Feb 2011: Added Macao
Update 14 Dec 2010: Added Oregon
Update 15 Sep 2010: Added Carcassonne: The Castle and The Castle for all Seasons
Update 10 Sep 2010: Added Roll Through the Ages, Claustrophobia, and Finito!
Update 16 May 2010: Added Micro Mutants: Evolution and Caylus Magna Carta
Earlier Updates removed...

Current favorite short two player game: San Juan, Roll Through the Ages
Current favorite longer (1-2 hours) two player game: Burgen von Burgund, Le Havre
Current favorite looong game: Through the Ages
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1. Board Game: 1960: The Making of the President [Average Rating:7.56 Overall Rank:113]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I bought this game in an effort to branch out from the type of games I usually buy. My wife had expressed no interest in the game, but as always, was willing to try. We did not get through a whole game.

The reason she did not enjoy it was the amount of cards. The game is card driven, with both simple actions and historical events happening by the playing of cards. With a random card draw and quite a few rounds before the endgame she thought that she had too little control and that what you did early in the game had little effect on who won. I do agree with her there, when you compare the board early with what it looks like when you finish, you might have a completely different picture.

Some time later I played it with a gamer fiend, and we had a blast! The lack of control did not bother us, we just liked the very strong theme and the tension in the card play. The thing is that in this game, some cards are good for one candidate, some are good for the other, but since they are dealt out randomly you might be sitting with cards that are only good for your opponent. You will of course not activate these events, but your opponent can! So you always have to think about how to play your cards so that you opponent cannot activate events to his benefit. Nerve-wracking.

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2. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.87 Overall Rank:19]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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First impressions of this game are VERY good, but it also obvious this is game better suited for more players. We love engine building, and this game has it in spades. Due to the drafting mechanic I can only recommend it with more than two players though.

With two players the game gets:

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3. Board Game: Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:80]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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It took forever before I at last got my wife to try this. Now that we did, we of course enjoy it very much both of us. We both usually enjoy worker placement games, and this game is a good one in that category. We also both enjoy the rather prominent interaction of this game. You are not only competing for places to put your workers on, but there is also an area majority part of the game and it is even possible to shoot the other player's workers! I think it is especially this part that clicks with my wife, she enjoys direct confrontation. We do feel that the game feels a little bit unpolished in some way, but the mechanisms and overall game play is more than good enough to outweigh the small negatives. Works really well two player, just as good as with more.

Me:
Mrs.

Edit:
Have to downgrade our ratings for this one. We own plenty of worker placement games now, and we just enjoy the others more. There is something with this game that makes us not playing it. For me I think it might be the slightly unpolished feel of the game, but I can't really put my finger on what it is that causes that feeling. I will probably still kepp the game around for when we have more players though.

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4. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:6]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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We jumped on the bandwagon about a year after everyone else. I am always a bit suspicious about the most hyped games. But, the rankings don't lie in this case, it is quite good. I wouldn't say it is the best game ever, or that it is the best two player game out there, but I will say that it is very much worth your money if you are looking for a fairly complex two player game with loads of replayability.

The rules are pretty bad I think, and make the game sound more difficult than it is. It certainly is a complex game with many many possibilities, but it also feels pretty intuitive once you have played a few rounds. I like the game since I love games that focus on tactics (short term planning), and I think this game does that. It is very hard to plan long term since you really don't know which resources you will get hold of, or which actions you will be able to take. I also enjoy all the cards that make every game different. My wife just likes the amount of choices available, and the fact that there are many roads to victory. There is never only bad choices available, but you might have to rethink your plan quite a lot.

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5. Board Game: Airlines Europe [Average Rating:7.41 Overall Rank:209]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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My favorite game of 2011, but also a game that is better with more players. This is about buying stock and managing the value of this stock by placing airplanes on different routes on the board. My wife simply does not see the fun in this game, even with more players. I would rather play it with more.

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6. Board Game: Airships [Average Rating:6.44 Overall Rank:1213]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A rather recent game by the author of Puerto Rico. The players use dice to capture cards that will either give them victory points or extra "powers" that aid in the acquisition of new cards. A very family friendly and pretty game, but did not really do it for us as a two player game. My wife could see no point in playing it, myself I like it but think it would be much better with more players. Haven't played with four players yet.

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7. Board Game: Alhambra [Average Rating:7.05 Overall Rank:311]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I wonder why we haven't played this game since we got it? We both enjoyed it then, although I liked it better than my wife. It is a simple game of tile placement, and for me personifies the "pleasant" game. Not that competitive and has some nice think to it. We probably do not play this more since we prefer the slightly heavier titles, but if you prefer light games this is strongly recoemmended.

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8. Board Game: Animalia [Average Rating:6.24 Overall Rank:2571]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A very light card game, but a very good one. We have the travel edition which does not include the medallions of the deluxe edition, but this does not detract from the game play in any way. In fact, I would recommend the travel edition over the deluxe one since it is so transportable and really is the same game. The game is about collecting series of animals cards by sending around cards between the players, and using some simple abilities of the cards. The cards are beautiful, and there is no text which makes the game langauge independent and good for those of poor eye sight. All cards are placed on the table, so the game should be good for those of poor motoric skill as well. It works well for two players, and kids from the age of 7 can play and enjoy it. For two players, the game is perhaps a bit more random compared to with more players, but that does not bother me one bit since it is such a short game. A nice, short, and cheap two player game.

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9. Board Game: Aquarius [Average Rating:5.96 Overall Rank:2877]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Too simple. A childrens game really. I guess it is ok if you want some brainless entertainment for a few minutes, but we saw little reason to play this game again. There is a domino aspect to the game, so I guess it could be good for the domino lovers out there.

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10. Board Game: Arkadia [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:480]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A game that despite its very pretty bits and pretense at theme, plays very much like an abstract. This should bother me as I put theme as one of the most important factors of a game for me, but it does not. I just enjoy this game! The players place tetris-shaped buildings and workers on the board, trying to surround the buildings and by that collecting seals of four different colors. The seals are worth victory points, and the exact amount of points is determined by some very pretty plastic castle pieces that the players get to build in the middle of the board. On top of each castle piece there is a seal, and the value of the players' collected seals are determined by how many seals of a certain color is visible on the castle pieces. The players can decide when to score their seals, and this adds a nice push-your-luck element that I greatly enjoy. Should I wait one more turn and try to increase the value of the seals or score now? By waiting there is of course the danger of the other player decreasing the value instead.

We enjoy this game for the same reasons, me and my wife, and we strongly recommend it as a great one hour game for two players.

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11. Board Game: Attika [Average Rating:7.04 Overall Rank:395]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A unique game, I think. Tiles are placed on a modular board and the idea is to connect the two temple tiles with your own tiles in an uninterrupted line, or to get all your tiles onto the board. Plays under an hour with two players, and works really well as a two player game, but both of us find this game a bit too dry. I can really see that this might be a great game for some, but we prefer more theme.

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12. Board Game: Babel [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:781]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A card game, and a very evil one to be sure. This is all about messing with your opponent by stealing cards and whatnot. This aspect should really have appealed to us, especially my wife who really likes aggressive games, but we did not like the game much. Sure, it was fun one or two plays, but then I traded it. For a card game to impress us it has to have a lot of cards or be very simple and over before you get bored. This game fell between those two categories.

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13. Board Game: Blue Moon [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:616]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I must admit we did not give this game a fair chance. We played it once and then I traded it a few weeks later. The thing is, that this game probably needs a number of plays to really shine. You have to learn how to use the decks to best effect, and be familiar with the cards, but we never felt the need to get there. Ah well, there are more games out there.

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14. Board Game: Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers [Average Rating:7.16 Overall Rank:283]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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meeple!

One of our first purchases, and is still played quite a lot. We have never tried regular Carcassonne, but have tried the City, and prefer this one. Simple rules and great game play. Not simplistic, not too complex. And I just love tiles. We recently tried the variant here where each player always can choose between three tiles instead of just one, and we liked it. It made the game slightly better, but didn't chnage the game that much.

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15. Board Game: Carcassonne: The Castle [Average Rating:7.08 Overall Rank:377]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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We really enjoy Carc: Hunters and Gatherers, and wanted more of the same, but different. So we got Carc: The Castle, and have not been dissapointed. Well, the gameplay is very good at least. Graphically, the game is not as interesting as H&G or vanilla Carc, as quite a lot of the features on the tiles do not have to line up. Only trails need to do that.

The added mechanisms of getting bonus tiles, and restricted playing area work very well, and I can recommend it as a Carcassonne variant. It is just that the graphics turn me off a bit and I think I still prefer Hunters and Gatherers.

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16. Board Game: A Castle for All Seasons [Average Rating:6.78 Overall Rank:753]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I am adding this game after one play only, but I already know the destiny of this game: It is fun, but we will not be playing it in the long term.

So, this game looks pretty much exactly like Stone Age, and I think this is the reason why it is not more loved here. There is nothing graphically to distinguish this game from Stone Age or many of the other more recent eurogames. This has made people think that the games play the same, but this is simply not true. There is a unique feeling to this game.

The thing is, that the back of the board depicts a winter version of the game, and I can't help but think that they should only have included that picture and not the summer one. A winter game would have been able to stick out much better.

This is a role selection and resource management game with a lot of interaction. You have to choose your roles carefully, but also try to foresee what your opponent will choose. It plays very fast, around an hour for two players, but is far from a simple filler. This is a clever game that will have you thinking pretty hard.

We enjoyed our first play a lot and this will be played several more times before we tire of it. But we will tire of it. Not like San Juan, Through the Ages or Carcassonne: H&G that we keep coming back to. I think that there is not enough variability to keep the game fresh in the long run.

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17. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.08 Overall Rank:9]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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meeple

This one is a real winner. It is a medium heavy euro where the roll of dice determines which tiles you can take and where you can place these tiles in your own little kingdom. The randomness is never frustrating, it just makes to game more tactical than strategic, and I like that. All tiles placef have a certain effect, and there are probably around 50 of them in total and this makes the game somewhat hard to explain, although I find the game fairly intuitive in practice. It works wonderfully as a two player game, nothing is missed with two players.

Easily

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18. Board Game: 6 nimmt! [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:462]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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This game is a great little filler (short game) that plays up to 10 people, and is probably better with more. I have played it with 6 players and think it is the best card game with simple rules I have tried for that number of players. But it is not that fun with two. We have played it a few times, and tried some variants, and it is ok but not great. You should really try it with more though!

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19. Board Game: Cave Troll [Average Rating:6.41 Overall Rank:1266]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A good game, but had no lasting appeal for us. I think it works fine as a two player game contrary to what many other people say, but it just didn't click with us. In a way the game felt pretty shallow, but still took around 45 mins to play, which might be part of the reason we stopped playing it. Games with a bad enjoyment/time ratio has no place in our house.

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20. Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:444]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I bought this because I found it cheap, and we had enjoyed Caylus (but with more players). The quick verdict is that we both enjoy it, and it plays quickly so it will stay in our collection, but it will never be a favorite.

This is a worker placement and resource management game boiled down to its essence. There are enough buildings to make the game varied, but they are few enough to memorize rather quickly. Resources and money is very limited, and tough choices abound. But the game doesn't grab me. I think the lack of theme and the graphical design has some part in this.

Most Ystari games give me a similiar feeling. They are well crafted, everything works, but the connection with theme is weak and they feel a bit too much like work and not play. I think they have changed their graphical design a bit in their latest games, and this is a good thing. This game, Mykerinos, Caylus, and Yspahan just look too clean and frankly just boring to me.

My wife likes outthinking me, and perhaps because of that likes the more thinky games. So she rates it better than I do.

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21. Board Game: Citadels [Average Rating:7.19 Overall Rank:214]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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We tried this once as a two player game, and we felt it took too long. It kind of outstayed its welcome to put it another way. The thing is, that I have felt the same way when playing it with 6 players. I wonder if 4 or 5 players might be the sweetspot for this one. We still own the game and I think it might be time to try it again as a two-player game, but just now (based on one play) it gets a:

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22. Board Game: Clans [Average Rating:6.57 Overall Rank:880]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Too abstract. I sort of enjoyed it, but my wife tried it once and told me she never wanted to play it again. I like games with "hidden" colors, i.e., games where the other players do not know which color you play, but I much prefer Quicksand if I want that type of game.

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23. Board Game: Clash of the Gladiators [Average Rating:5.89 Overall Rank:3438]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A euro version of a gladiator fight. This game lets me roll a few dice and has a pretty strong theme, but it is too simple for me. I want more details in my fighting games, for example as in Duel of Ages. It works fine as a two player game, but feels lacking in many respects. There is not enough "game" there for me. My wife felt the same. Could be ok for kids I guess.

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24. Board Game: Claustrophobia [Average Rating:7.68 Overall Rank:98]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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A quick playing "dungeon crawl" of a game. This game really has a lot going for it. It has prepainted minis, some clever dice based mechanics, direct conflict, extremely pretty graphics, and easily plays in an hour. There are very very few games of this type that plays that quickly and still gives a satisfying game experience.

Still, this game did not really "click" with us. Me, I felt that there was something lacking. In the effort to make a quick and streamlined game, too many things went missing. I felt myself longing for Descent or D&D:4th ed to get that tactical richness I wanted.

My wife liked it, but not enough for it to become a favorite. The simple reason is that I think she enjoys other genres more, like worker placement and resource management games.

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25. Board Game: Cuba [Average Rating:7.22 Overall Rank:270]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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Yet another hit. This game is fairly complex and also rather long, but we were looking for a meaty resource management game, and this filled those shoes nicely. There are similarities to San Juan (and I am sure Puerto Rico, although I haven't played that one) in that you choose roles every turn, but there is also a spatial component (where to build buildings), and there is also a vote for laws. It is one of those games where you have try to build a VP producing engine by using your resources in the best way, finding a good combination of buildings, and always being alert of the best ways of scoring each turn. There is a lot of things going on, and I had some problems seeing the best strategy. My wife is better at that, and she liked it even better than I did, but I still consider it a solid game. Both of us think it works really well with two players, I would not hestiate to buy it just for two players.

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