My wife and I decided to pull out this favorite and warm up the official 2-player rules. We had not tried this version in a while and we couldn't remember how it plays. In the end, we agree that it was a fun investment.
Some of the differences with the 2-player version:
* start with 3 doubloons
* only use the 4-slot and 6-slot ships
* only 65 VP available
* only 40 Colonists in the supply
* remove 2 of each type of Good and three of each type of Plantation, including Quarries
* only use 2 Production buildings of each type and 1 of each Violet building
These changes not only speed up the end game conditions but also force some tough choices about Colonists vs. Goods vs. buildings.
My wife was Governor, so she started with Indigo while I started with Corn--fine by me, in this case. I had already decided that my strategy would depend less on Quarries and Violet buildings this game (often my strategy) and more on production and shipping Goods (how my Dad usually wins). Long-term building goals in this case were the Factory (to give me money every time Goods were produced) and the Wharf (to get around only having 2 ships available). Beyond that, I wanted at least one Market (Large or Small, to get some money from my Corn) and possibly either Warehouse (to prevent "spoilage").
My wife acquired the first Quarry, so I jumped in with Tobacco (my preferred Good all-around) since Tobacco Plantations came out early. Because I wanted to save up for Tobacco Storage, I went with a Small Market as Builder, as it was essentially free. My wife purchased an Indigo Plant, as I thought, to capitalize on her existing Plantation.
In the next couple of rounds, I gained a Quarry, which I needed badly. My wife focused on Indigo and I managed to get another Tobacco Plantation, so all the better! At this point, I managed to get my Tobacco Storage while she purchased the Office. This presented a problem, as I didn't have enough Colonists yet to produce much Tobacco, but she could virtually monopolize the Trading House with Indigo. In retrospect, a smart move here would have been for me to purchase the Large Market, thereby capturing both Markets and preventing her from making too much money from the Office / Trading House combo. This could have been the game-maker. However, I had a rare chance to get the Factory very early which was a specific goal, so I went with the Factory.
Subsequently, I managed a windfall round using the Factory and the Small Market, as I had Indigo in production as well by now. With the proceeds, I was able to purchase the Wharf which, I would find, saved me from utter ruin! This was more than a little disconcerting to my wife, as I had been managing to select Captain at just the right time to regularly block her from at least one ship. While using the Wharf allowed me to delay the purchase of a Warehouse, it didn't solve all my problems, and I did lose 3-4 goods to "spoilage".
A couple rounds later, I had managed to purchase the Harbor as well, setting me up as the shipping powerhouse. However, my wife had switched at that point to the Violet building strategy that I had avoided. She now had the Small Warehouse, Office, Large Market, and University (normally one of my favorites). She was pursuing a Trader / Builder line that allowed her to purchase 3 large buildings by game end (those with bonuses for Colonists, Plantations, and Violet buildings). By game end, I had only managed to purchase the large building that gives a bonus for VP chits. Even so, my Craftsman / Captain strategy paid off large, as I had almost 40 of the 65 VP chits (and some were still on the table). The game ended when my wife purchased her 3rd large building.
Final score: 65 to 65--a tie! First time that has ever happened, and we played this plenty in years past. This being the case, we moved to Doubloons + Goods. Strangely enough, because I shut her out of one ship, she had 2 more Goods than I did, money being equal, so she won by 2 VP!
This was a close game all the way up to the end, and we both enjoyed the limiting factors associated with the 2-player game. I'm sure we'll try this again soon.