We’re getting down to it, getting close to the Top 10 games, only a few more of these lists. It’s been a blast as always putting these out and I’m glad that people are enjoying them. I’d be very curious to know what your top …
Probably should have done this list sooner with people needing to shelter in place during Covid-19 pandemic, but better late than never. I’m talking about games that work well with 2 players versus 2 player only games because I’m not sure that I’ve sat down with enough two player only games, but there are certainly some that work really well at two, even though they can play more.
To add in a little more detail about making the list, I’m saying that these games are best with two players, so two player games still do count. But I’m talking about games that could play up to a high number, but for some reason, time between turns, randomness of the game, I think that they work best with two players and would recommend trying them there first or that they’ll be most enjoyable at that player count.
Let’s see the list…
10 – Sword & Sorcery
This dungeon crawl game I’ve only played at two players, but I can’t really see playing it with more. Now, even at two players we’re controlling more characters, two each, but that hasn’t caused the game to bog down. I feel like, with more players, we’d end up spending more time in discussion for this cooperative game and planning to then have fairly random results on the dice. The game needs to be snappier with how you get through it, and with only two people at the table, even though I might not be taking my turn, I can always be the one rolling for monsters, and if there aren’t monsters, turns go incredibly fast. With more people, there’s just be more downtime for players, even if playing with the same number of characters. Sword & Sorcery, though, is a very fun ameritrash style dungeon crawl game where you’re chucking dice and leveling up to get through a fairly generic fantasy story with a few choices in it.
9 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault
I’ve done with solo and two players, and I prefer two players in this game, for the reason that, using the app, you need to do house keeping, and that house keeping can be a bit of a bear, but, if you are splitting the duties between two people it makes it easier. Plus, the minimum number of characters you can play with is two, so even solo you’re controlling two characters. This is the Star Wars dungeon crawl game taking place as Vader is chasing the rebels from their first base eventually leading to Hoth and beyond. You are not playing the main characters, Vader shows up as a side character whom you can’t beat, but that’s fine, the game is a lot of fun, and it feels a bit like a Rogue One type of game, but, for me, more enjoyable.
8 – Five Tribes
Now, I enjoy Five Tribes at all player counts, two through four, but I think it works best at two for one main reason. When determining play order for each round, it is done by bidding. Normally, each person has one play order marker, but in two players, each player has two. That means that you can set it up where you go twice in a row. Five Tribes is really a point salad type of game where everything you do is going to give you points, with an Mancala mechanism thrown in there where you’re moving meeples and then get to keep the matching colors of meeples to do something. So if you can see two really good moves, playing two players, allows you to bid for them and set up two good turns for yourself. Otherwise, you’ll probably only get one of them, which might mess up strategy.
7 – Skulk Hollow
First of the two player only games, Skulk Hollow is a ton of a fun as one player plays the foxen kingdom and the other an old guardian that has awoken on the lands. Each side has their own goal, the foxen trying to take down the guardian, but the guardian might have other things to consider like killing the foxen leader or maybe killing a certain number of the foxen kingdom, placing out a number of tentacles, or something along those lines, it varies as to which guardian you play. This gives the game a lot of replayability, because not only do you have the different guardians, but different leaders for the foxen kingdom. So playing the two sides gives a different game feel and playing the different leaders or guardians against each other can change things up as well. The card play is very slick in the game, and the whole thing just works well and looks really cool on the table.
6 – Hats
This was one of the first games when I thought of the list. Hats is a game that plays more than two, but definitely one that I think works better at two. At four, it’s just more random, and I’m not sure that I’ve played it at the three player count. In this game you have a hand of cards that you are playing down onto a table at the Madd Hatter’s tea party. Where you play a card gets you the previous card that was there, and you’re trying to set it up for getting the most points. At four players, the scoring is just more random. You can card count so potentially set up a scoring to help you, but with that exception of one scoring, you’ll just need luck on your side. But at two players, there’s more strategy to the play. You can go digging for cards and try and set-up what looks like poor scoring for yourself to only swap it at the end of the game to get even better scoring. It becomes much more of a strategic experience at the two player count and is a more interesting game that way.
5 – Star Wars Rebellion
Technically it can be a four player game, but Star Wars Rebellion is really a two player game where one side plays the Empire and the other the Rebels. At four players, you just split the two sides up and it’s still just two people playing the Empire and then two playing the Rebels. Keep the decision making more focused and Star Wars Rebellion is great. It’s a good cat and mouse game as the Empire tries to hunt down the Rebel’s secret base and the Rebels are trying to do missions and survive long enough to turn the tide against the Empire. You can have Darth Vader face off against Obi-Wan as in the movies, but maybe Darth Vader will run across Chewbacca or Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, you never know. There’s good strategic play, but then also a lot of fun space battles and land battles on planets surfaces that you can partake in as well which are good dice chucking.
4 – The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
I’ve played The Dresden Files with, I believe, all of it’s player counts, and I think that I like two players the best. Mainly because it’s a faster back and forth turn taking game instead of waiting for things to get passed around between more people. You do have the interesting thing of playing two characters with their decks shuffled together, which can create some interesting situations, but overall, I feel like it works pretty well. In this game you’re playing through the Dresden Files books, and you’re trying to defeat villains and solve cases. But you have limited resources to do that, so you’re balancing keeping those resources up by discarding cards, but also knowing that you won’t likely draw any or at least many more cards, so what you have in your starting hand you’ll have for the game. The game play is smart, and I like that you’re playing through a book at a time. A very enjoyable game for fans of the series, and an interesting puzzle for those who haven’t read them.
3 – Dice Throne
Dice Throne can technically be played as teams or King of the Hill style where you go after the person who has the most life, but I like it best at two players. There are a couple of reasons for this dice chucking combat game that make it work better at that count. First, there is less downtime. Either it’s my turn and I’m playing cards and rolling dice, or it’s my opponents turn and I’m likely rolling my dice on defense. With higher player counts, it’s going to potentially put you in a situation where you don’t roll anything for a couple of turns. The other thing is that the game is just faster overall. With the higher player counts, again more turns, but to go with that, more health to get through, so you could, theoretically, have someone eliminated and then sit there watching for a bit. But at two players, once you get the other person’s health down to zero, game over and you can reset and play again.
2 – Hanamikoji
Two player only game where you are trying to win the favor of Geisha. It’s a unique theme as you are playing down cards to give them gifts, but what makes it most interesting in the card play in the game. Each player, per round, is given four actions that they can do once in a round, you can play a card secretly or discard two cards secretly, and those a fairly normal sorts of actions. But the other two are very interesting. You can play down three cards face up, your opponent gets to pick one of those gifts and put it on their side to win a Geisha’s favor and you get the other two, and then the last action is that you can put down two sets of two cards in front of you where your opponent again picks which one they want and you get the others. It offers some really brain burning decisions, and often times you need to force your opponent to decide your strategy by the cards you put down when they are choosing from them. Rounds are very fast, and the game is just a lot of fun.
1 – Marvel Champions
Now, I can’t say that I’ve played this at higher player counts than two, but I have played it at one player. From what I’ve heard with four players, the game can be a little bit slow between turns as you’re waiting for everyone else to go. But at one and two players this game is a lot of fun. In two, you can think about strategy more so, and develop interesting combos or strategies that work well together as compared to solo game play. Now, both I enjoy a lot, but teaming Captain America up with Thor taking down the Green Goblin was a blast, or you can do She Hulk and Spider-Man versus Ultron. You have a ton of different options and playing at two players it allows you to do a team up that maybe you wouldn’t normally see in the comics or maybe one that you really love from the comics that you can now play in game. Marvel Champions is just a really good card game that lets you feel like a super hero.
This list, I was worried, was going to be hard, but there are some games that are just two players that I really love and others that I really do think work much better at two players. Maybe later this week or the start of next week I’ll do a six plus player list for when things start to normalize again and we can do board game nights. I know that I have one of the big two player games missing from my list, it’s on my shelf, but I haven’t done 7 Wonders Duel yet. I’ll need to get it to the table, and there are a lot of other games that are enjoyable to very good at two players, but I just prefer them with more.
What are some of your favorite two player games? Are there some games with higher player counts that are just better at two players for you?
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We’ve all seen Simpsons Monopoly and Monopoly for a specific football team or baseball team, national parks, or city. Those are all IP’s put onto Monopoly, intellectual properties. Those aren’t going to make this list, I’m looking at my top 10 favorite games that are …
If you’ve been keeping up with my Top 10 List, you’ll have seen a number of the same games on there over and over again, some of my favorites, and it gives you an idea of how they fall into various categories and mechanics, but I wanted to do one that’s going to hit a number of different games, and that is going to be small(er) box games. Now, I’m not going with Micro Games, so it doesn’t have to fit in a mint tin, pack of gum, or be a regular old deck of cards, but games that are in a box that’s smaller than a Carcassone box.
10 – Second Chance
The first of several roll (flip) and write games on the list. They just work really well for packing a punch in a small box. In Second Chance, you’re trying to fill in as much of a grid as you possibly can with a bunch of Tetris like shapes. The trick is that the next shape you add, from two cards flipped, must touch one of your previous shapes somewhere. Now, smaller shapes would generally be ideal because you can fill it in more solidly, but there are a limited number of one or two square cards in the deck, so you have to hope that they come up at a time that you can use it. If you eventually can’t use either of the two shapes flipped, you then get a second chance, a card that only you can use, however, if you can’t use that, you’re out of the game and you count up the empty squares and that’s your points, the person with the fewest empty squares wins. It works really well because you don’t have down time since everyone is using the same cards, just with a different starting card.
9 – Criss Cross
Smallest game on the list, it’s barely larger than a deck of cards, but it offers a whole ton of fun. In this game, you are rolling dice and placing those dice on a 5×5 grid, trying to get like symbols next to each other to score points in both the rows and columns. The tricky bit is that you need to put those two dice faces for a round next to each other, orthogonally, or like a domino would fit into a grid. Adding to that, the fact that it’s scoring both rows and columns means that you need to think hard about getting points both ways, because while more like symbols in a row gives you more points, being able to score in more directions might be better. Plus, you can put the dice faces anywhere, so you have to worry about not giving yourself two single spaces not next to each other, because that means you can fill in the last roll. A lot of fun and plays fast with no downtime.
8 – Say Bye to the Villains
A really tough game for the list, one that you’ll lose way more often than you win. In Say Bye to the Villains, you are Samurai who are going to be taking on various villains and you have ten days to prepare. That can be done by increasing your stats or by figuring out a villains cards and how tough a villain will be or by giving someone else a card. However, all of these things cost time, and the better ones might cost multiple days, and you only have ten days to prepare. So while the game is cooperative, you always feel like you haven’t prepared your stats well enough or that you haven’t figured out enough for a villain so you just need to try at the the end and hope it works. Thus far in around ten plays, I have yet to win the game, but in the vast majority of them, we’ve been really close, so one of these days it’ll happen. The game can overstay it’s welcome just a tiny bit if someone spends their time really fast they then have to sit around, and in a higher player count, that could be a little bit.
7 – Just One
This party game works perfectly on this list because it packs a punch for a small package. First, it’s a fully cooperative party game, which is pretty rare, but it’s also clever, borrowing some from Scattergories and Taboo and other older party games that maybe don’t hold up as well. One person is “it” and they flip over a card and show it to everyone else and pick a number from 1 to 5, that corresponds with a word, then the other players write down a one word clue for that word. However, then the players have to compare their words, and any duplicate clues aren’t shown to the person who is it. The clues are then revealed and that person needs to guess what word it was, if they get it, you get a point. If not, you lose a card, limiting how many points you can get. Now, it is a party game, so scoring is optional, in my opinion, but the game itself is a really fun time.
6 – The Lost Expedition
This one has shown up on the adventure list, but it’s a small box game that’s a lot of fun. In this game you’re trying to navigate from the start of the trail all the way to the Lost City of Z. However, there are creatures, native tribes, rivers, and more that need to be traversed to be able to get there. So as a group you’re playing down cards that will allow you travel further down the trail, but they’re going to cost resources and you have a limited supply of those, so you have to balance wanting to push ahead as fast as possible with gathering more resources as well. The game does a nice thing as it’s a cooperative game, it helps alleviate a situation where there is an alpha player who wants to tell everyone what to do because when playing down cards for the morning or evening walk, you can’t discuss the cards in your hand, so the biggest decision can’t be alpha gamed.
5 – Sushi Go Party!
I really like this game because of the variability to it. In regular Sushi Go, you have a fixed pool of cards, but in the Party version, you can swap out your appetizers, desserts, and specials, and more so that it is a different combo most of the times. You can make it as challenging or as easy as you want to score points. And the game is just a really good drafting game that doesn’t give you down time. You’re mainly just trying to draft sets, but some of them offer a lot more points if you get a large number of them, whereas, others you can split into smaller sets, or others will give you negative points if you have to many of them. The artwork is very cute in the game as well, which helps it hit the table with a wider variety of players.
4 – Point Salad
So there’s a joke about games where they can be a point salad, meaning that they give you a million different ways to score in the game, like you can put a million toppings onto a salad. In Point Salad, it gives you a million ways to score, but you have to decide which ones you want to take, and which veggies you take to build up your salad. The game is great because it plays fast, it offers interesting decisions and its tongue in cheek naming. Overall, it’s a pretty simple game, but offers good replayability and you can’t have the same strategy every game because the scoring cards you can draft will vary based off of what cards are actually being used and what pile those cards might be in. A fun and fast game.
3 – Welcome To…
The highest roll (flip) and write game on the list, as it’s my favorite that I’ve played thus far. In the game you’re building your perfect Stepford neighborhood, with it’s white picket fences, parks, and pools. Will you be the best at developing your neighborhood. The great thing about this one is that you can play basically an infinite number of people because everyone is using the same three pairs of cards each round, well, picking one of them to use. It’s a challenging game as you’re trying to complete specific neighborhood layouts but also focusing more on one of the things, parks or pools, can net you more points, but you’ll also be missing out on points as well. The game plays fast and everyone is involved in the whole game, so a lot of fun, and one that if people have access to a printer to print the sheet or has the game, works really well online.
2 – Hanamikoji
A great small box card game where you are trying to win the favor of various Geisha. To do that, you need to give them gifts, one might want a comb, while another might want a flute, it depends on the Geisha. To get them those gifts, you and your opponent, it’s only a 2 player game, are going to take turns doing one of four actions. Each person can do each action once per round. It might be that you discard a card face down that won’t be a gift for any of the Geisha. Or you play two face down that you’ll use as gifts later, or there is a play three face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other two, or two groups of two face up, your opponent picks one and you get the other. It offers a lot of strategy, but there’s enough hidden information to keep the game challenging every time you play it.
1 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
When I was thinking of this list, I kind of forgot that this would apply, but it’s probably my favorite “small box” game. I put it in quotes, because the more expansions that you get, the larger a box you’ll need, but if you just get the base game, and that’s all you’d need for a while, it comes in a small box. And it gives you a bigger gaming experience than some as you’re playing through scenarios in a greater story just using cards and a few tokens. The downside to that scenario based story is that once you’ve played it once or twice, you’ll know the story, then you’ll want to get the cheap expansion packs, and eventually it’s not that small a game anymore. Still, you can get a lot from that small box.
I have a lot more small box games that pack a lot of punch that just missed the list. Things like Hats, Letter Jam, Homebrewers, Century: Golem Edition, Not Alone, Onirim and more just missed the list, and I think when boar dame night in person starts up again, some of them will go higher up the list, because a lot of smaller box games play faster and are easier to pick up on.
What are some of your favorite games that come in a small box?
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