Game Day: Two-Player Games

Game Days can be a fickle thing. Almost everyone in our group is middle-aged (or getting close), most of us have kids, and those kids are old enough to have Game Day-smashing activities of their own. As a result, our weekly Sunday game can go from looking like a lock to no one being able to play in 24 hours.

That’s why it’s good to have options. A Game Day with as few as two people is still a Game Day and thankfully there are plenty of two-player or collaborative games out there that are worth playing. The added benefit? Many of these games are ones my wife is also interested in, which makes for a nice alternative to the standard movie night.

Carcassonne – (Amazon) – Carcassonne is one of my family’s favorite games and a frequent date night game. The game involves a set of tiles marked with parts of roads, fields, rivers, and castle walls. Players draw tiles randomly, and then play them, placing down their “meeple” (small wooden figures that represent people working the roads/fields/rivers/etc.) to score points. It’s a fast playing game with a ton of expansions. My wife and I typically play the more focused Hunters and Gatherers variant (Board Game Geek) which was released in 2002 but doesn’t appear to be in print anymore.

Five-Minute Dungeon – (Amazon) – A fast-paced pattern matching game with a dungeon crawl theme, we played the heck out of Five-Minute Dungeon at Scout Camp last year. It’s even better when you have the free timer (iOS, Google Play), which provides a running countdown and color commentary in several different voices and languages. During the game, each player takes on the role of an archetypal character (e.g. wizard, fighter, rogue) who has some sort of game-breaking ability associated with them (for example, the wizard can pause the timer). There is a dungeon deck containing cards with symbols on them; as a team, you need to draw and match cards against those symbols. As the name implies, it’s fast. Maybe a little too fast, since you spend so much time desperately trying to match cards that you don’t get to enjoy the art and flavor text. Still a fun game though, and worth picking up.

Morels – (Amazon) – A leisurely card game built around the concept of collecting and cooking wild mushrooms. During the game’s setup, you lay out a forest path from which you can collect mushrooms. The goal is to gather sets which you can then cook on a skillet (you score bonus points if you use delectable ingredients like butter and apple cider). Definitely not a game to eat while you’re hungry.

Race for the Galaxy – (Amazon) – Race is kind of like group solitaire. Each player tries to build a “tableau” of cards that represents the progress their civilization is making exploring and colonizing the galaxy. The first person to 12 cards ends the game; your score is based on a variety of different factors, including how well it adheres to a theme (e.g. a “mining” build or an “entertainment” build), how good it was at producing resources, and whether you achieved certain milestones. There’s no one true path to victory and part of the fun is figuring out how to win with the cards you draw. We typically play it with 3-4 players, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t play it with two.

Rivals of Catan – (Amazon) -A card-based version of the classic Settlers of Catan board game. Like the original, you build settlements and cities in an attempt to win economic control of an island. I bought this thinking it’d be a good travel game to play in camp, but it takes up a surprising amount of table space. We played the game once in its tutorial mode and I enjoyed it; I’d like to try it again using one of the included “era” expansions provide more advanced building options.

Games I’d like to Try

The Hobbit Card Game – (Amazon) – I played this deck-building game at Nuke(m)Con a few years back and liked it enough to pick up my own copy. I haven’t played it since, but it’s waiting patiently for me.

Roll for the Galaxy – (Amazon) – A dice-based version of Race for the Galaxy, which sounds awesome.

Morels Foray – (Amazon) – An expansion for Morels that adds new options to the game, including allowing for a 3-4 player variant.

Eldritch Horror – (Amazon) – I got this game of cyclopean horror for Christmas in 2017. One-to-two people can play the game, which features randomized cards built around a particular investigation. Setup is a bit daunting (and the text a bit small) but it’s one rainy Saturday away from getting played.

What two-player games are on your list?

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My mid-game card spread in Rivals of Catan in action. Credit: Ken Newquist

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