Baxter's Top 10 2-Player Games

Heya heya folks! Welcome back to my cosy den for another top 10! Oh, Baxter’s Top 10 Den! That’s what I should have named my blog! Oh well, missed opportunities I guess. I hope you’ve all been looking after yourselves this past week? We’ve been getting some pretty nasty weather around Aotearoa recently, but you’re safe and warm here, so pull up a chair, grab yourself a hot bevvie and let’s take a look at my top 10 2-Player games!

 

10. Codenames Duet

First up is Codenames Duet.  This 2-player variant of the popular Codenames series of games has proven to be a hit amongst gamers.  Players are cooperating to guess the correct words from a field of word cards in a 5x5 grid, players sit opposite one another and between them is a double sided card with each side showing a variant of 9 code words marked in green and three “assassin” words marked in black. What’s fun about Codenames Duet is the puzzle solving nature of the game, both players are trying to complete their side of the card without triggering the assassin. If the assassin is selected, the game ends immediately and the players lose. As if that weren’t challenging enough, both players have one code word and one assassin that crosses over, so one player’s code word will be the player’s assassin. The trick is to provide great clues that will give the other person as many code words as possible to give both sides the best opportunity to complete their grid.  I like the tension and I love the duel-natured game play. You can almost imagine an assassin listening in over the phone line as these two spies swap their secret codes, just waiting to strike when he hears the right word. Oh! I scared myself!



9. Targi

Winston asked me to play this with him a few weeks ago and I loved it! Targi is a 2-player euro worker placement game in which you play a Targi, a male member of the Sahara desert dwelling people known as Tuareg. The game consists of a grid of cards containing resources, such as pepper, silver and salt.  Players take turns to place their four workers on four of the cards that form the border of the grid, gaining the reward shown on those cards while simultaneously denying those rewards to the other player.  They then cross reference those two positions on the board, Battleship-style and take that card.  The cards they collect could be an ongoing reward or tribe cards, which progress the players towards collecting sets to trigger the end game.  What I enjoy most about Targi, is the somewhat non-confrontational theme, sure, you are denying the other person a reward, but it’s done in a largely passive way, that doesn’t evoke feelings of take-that games, which I don’t like because those games seem mean-spirited somehow. In fox culture, take-that is considered a dick move.

 

8. Klask

Klask is a 2-player dexterity game in the style of familiar table top ball games such as foosball and air hockey.  The concept is you have magnetic “players” that you control via magnets beneath the playing field.  You move your player around and try to score points by getting the ball into their recessed goal. Klask may seem simple on the surface but, well, actually, there is no but, not this time.  Klask is about as simple and intuitive as it appears.  Of course there are a couple of extra rules regarding the little white magnetic pieces that can stick to your player if you get too close, or if you become lodged in your own goal, but other than that, it’s a simple 1v1 match, the first to score 6 points wins!  Of course I can’t play it because, as I’ve said before, I don’t have thumbs. :-(

 

7. Imhotep: The Duel

I’ve never been to Egypt, let alone ancient Egypt, but I imagine it looks very much like the cover of Imhotep: The Duel, with stone edifices all about and two pharaoh looking guys looking down on me from on high asking themselves, “Do we even have foxes in Egypt?” The answer is, nope, but that hasn’t stopped New Zealand! The game itself is a two player variation of the original Imhotep, the civilisation building game.  Imhotep: The Duel is a cleaner, simpler version of that game where you are unloading cargo and resources from ships and using them to build structures and collect sets which are used for end of game scoring.  The theme is lighter here and almost inconsequential (thank you spell check!) to the game, but still has enough of the necessary elements to make you feel like you’re contributing to a larger piece of a puzzle.

 

6. Arkham Horror Card Game

This one has appeared on a few lists here and there, and with good reason, The Arkham Horror Card Game is a solid living card game built around the ever popular theme of the Cthulhu mythos.  Arkham Horror finds the players in the roles of investigators attempting to unravel mysteries and keep the evil Great Old Ones from awakening and consuming the world.  The core game supports two players and has enough to keep the average gamer busy and content, as content as one can be investigating eldritch horrors anyway.  Speaking of content, there are a ton of expansions called mythos packs to expand the story, although tracking them all down has historically been an exercise in investigation itself, Fantasy Flight have recently announced a series of modified expansions that offer collections of previous content, so Arkham Horror is set to find a host of new and old gamers returning to the fold.

 

5. 7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel is another game on this list offering a dedicated 2-player variant of the original game upon which it’s based.  Players draft cards, gather resources, and construct wonders, buildings and research new technologies against the backdrop of the ancient civilizations responsible for the 7 Wonders’ construction.  The gameplay in 7 Wonders Duel is more condensed than it’s big brother without taking away the core mechanics that made the original so popular. At its heart, Duel is a worthy game on its own merits and could happily sit on the shelf next to its namesake. The decisions of your opponent matter much more here than they did in the 7 Wonders of old, with military might having a more direct impact on the game, and actually it’s possible for the game to end as a result of the other player marching their army into your city making any further attempts and city building moot. The component quality is on par with other games at this level and the art style is in keeping with the previous works. If you’ve never played the original, then 7 Wonders Duel would make a great introduction to the series.

 

4. Fog of Love

This next game is probably the most unique on the list.  Fog of Love is a game that describes itself as a romantic comedy and that seems to be pretty accurate.  I don’t know much about romance, but I know gaming, and this game encapsulates the highs and lows of building and maintaining a romantic relationship so well that it’s put me off finding a mate for life!  I mean, what a lot of work! Players each create a character with a set of secret traits and both players work together to explore one another's quirks and personalities as the relationship develops, the result is a funny, often heartwarming and sometimes sad exploration of human relationships.  Not only is the theme fresh and exciting, but as a board game Fog of Love nails it! Everything from the production quality, the mechanics to the innovative and refreshingly intuitive tutorial system pushes this game high on the list.  As for this little fox, I think I’ll stick to chatting with all you fine people, after all, who needs a romantic partner, I mean no one.. not even me….. Nope! 

 

3. Patchwork

Patchwork is a wonderful duelling game themed around players making beautiful patchwork quilts using tiles and buttons.  A dedicated 2-player game by famed designer Uwe Rosenburg, known for such titles as Agricola and A Feast for Odin, Patchwork presents a simpler and more approachable style of game. The concept of collecting Tetris shaped tiles purchased with buttons to gradually construct a quilt seems like the sort of idea that on paper would cause a game publisher’s eyes to glaze over, yet on the table everything just feels right about it.  The game is wonderfully well balanced, the components are made of satisfyingly thick and colourful card stock and the game splays in about 20 minutes or so, meaning I get to play this fun little game so much more often! If you haven’t tried this one yet, I urge you to give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

 

2. The Fox in the Forest

I mean come on, you must have seen this one coming! How many fox themed games are even out there right now?  You knew I was going to favour this one.  I couldn’t quite get this to first place, but species bias aside, The Fox in the Forest is simply a wonderful game and, in my opinion, deserves to be number one for a few reasons. The primary reason is, of course, foxes! Beyond that this trick taking game where players are trying to either score a lot of tricks to gain the greedy score or only a very few tricks, though not zero in order to achieve the humble title, and that’s where the manipulation comes in.  The expression ‘quick as a fox’ didn’t come out of thin air, you need to think on your feet and react quickly as the other player will be trying to get you to play cards you desperately need in order to fulfil your strategy. The game also features some beautiful artwork, for which I’m always a sucker; actually I think I saw my cousin on one of those cards...

 

1. Unmatched

Brian and Winston introduced me to Unmatched: Cobble & Fog a few weeks ago and after playing it a few times I can safely say it’s secured its place on this list.  As far as two player games go, none can beat Unmatched when it comes to speed of set up and ease of play. Unmatched is a duelling fighting game involving characters from the public domain, such as Sinbad and Sherlock Holmes and licensed characters like Jurassic Park and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sinbad vs. Dr Jekyl

Each player chooses their character which is represented by a beautifully detailed mini, they select their battleground, which could be any of the character themed boards included in any of the varied sets. Then, using their character’s unique deck of cards, players do battle to determine if Sherlock Holmes could out maneuver Dracula, or if Medusa is any match for the Raptors from Jurassic Park.  On its surface it may sound ridiculous, but trust me, it’s a blast and very addictive!  This is the first time I’ve ever had a case of just-one-more-game syndrome. There are several sets available each focusing on a particular match up, some are two player sets and some are four, there’s even a stand alone Bruce Lee character!  What’s that?  Yeah, okay, Brian I’ll be right there.  I’ll be back in a minute to close the den, I have to see if Alice’s adventures in Wonderland have prepared her to battle Bigfoot, off I go!

 

So, those are my picks for the top 10 2-player games.  What did you think?  Do you have any favourites you would have liked to see here?  If so, let me know in the comments below, I’m always keen to hear from you all.  For now, I’m going to clean up the den, things got a little heated during that last Unmatched game.  See you later!

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