My favorite overlooked games that work for 2 players

My favorite overlooked games that work for 2 players

February always sneaks up on me. Often I haven’t quite recovered from the holiday pandemonium, and, in a blink of an eye, January is over and it’s February — which is littered in ALL THINGS PINK. Don’t get me wrong — I love romance, love and all that wonderful stuff, just not when it’s forced down your throat at every single corner of the world. Plus, aren’t we supposed supposed to show our love and appreciation year-round anyway?

So in honor of Feb. 14 — yes, Arizona Statehood Day! — and whether you’re single or not, here are some great overlooked games that may not come to mind when looking for a 2P game.

Five Tribes

Five Tribes is an excellent as a 2-player game. You’re picking up and dropping meeples in the desert, trying to activate locations and place camels or palm trees on them, and collecting cards for victory points. Since meeples are moving around the board all the time, you can’t really plan out your moves until it’s your turn again, which can sometimes make a 3- or 4-player game slow. With 2 players, other person takes a turn, and then bam! It’s back to you. Very little down time, and still thinky enough to satisfy gamers of all levels.

Above and Below

Above and Below is a darling worker-placement game with storytelling elements. Players are sending their characters to explore caves, build homes, collect resources and recruit more workers. My friend and I randomly played this as a 2-player game, and we had a lot of fun. And now every so often, we close Game Night with this game if everyone else has already left. Lastly, the artwork is too adorable. I’m always amazed when I find characters who look just like me. Or I can be the Lizard Guy. He seems pretty cool.

Glass Road

Glass Road is an excellent shorter game by Uwe Rosenberg, one of my favorite board-game designers. You are collecting resources to construct buildings and make glass. I love the wheel mechanism in this game. It keeps track of your resources, which will create bricks and glass. As you use your resources, brick and glass will produce, even if you don’t want it to! I love the variant for a 2-player game. It’s an interesting twist to an already tight game. In a regular 3- to 4-player game, cards will get drawn out of your hand if another player decides to play it, except for the one you placed face down during the building phase. In a 2-player game, however, players select their card during the building phase, and it will get drawn out if the other player has selected the same card.

Tzolk’in

Tzolk’in is one of my favorite games, and it surprisingly plays pretty well as 2-player as I discovered recently. Tzolk’in is an fantastic worker placement game where you’re merely placing or removing your workers. That’s it. But after each round, a giant wheel turns, moving all the other cogs on the board as well as your workers to the next space. Wherever your workers hop off, you either collect resources or perform an action. In a 2-player, there are dummy pawns that sit on the wheel, which block you and your opponent from placing workers there, making it a game that scales well for 2 players.

Takenoko

Oh, the panda game. How do I love thee? Enough apparently to shell out a bunch of dough for the Collector’s Edition, which is one of my prized games in my collection. This is a great midlevel game where an adorable panda is eating bamboo, which naturally upsets the farmer trying to grow the bamboo. This game scales well with 2 and 3 players, with each player count needing to collect a different total of objective cards. And did I mention pandas?

And then of course I had to add actual 2-player games that I love.

1960: Making the President

1960: Making the President is a card-driven area control game in which you’re trying to gain the most electoral votes for your presidential candidate to win. It’s Nixon vs. JFK back in the 1960s, when some states had a much different sway in the process. This game plays about 90 minutes, and I love the push-pull aspect of the game, its historical background and the decisions you have to make in each round. I happened upon the original Z-Man version of this game when it was a grail game, but now it’s in much wider release with GMT Games.

Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle, which was No. 1 on the BGG rankings for a long time, is still one of my absolute favorites. It’s a card-driven game that plays in about 180 minutes — so it’s not a short game by any measure — but those three hours of play time go by quickly as you become embroiled in the politics and history of the Cold War, trying to prevent nuclear war. This game is one of the oldest games I’ve owned in my collection, and the first GMT title that I owned, and I still would be down to play it any time.

So that’s my list. What are some of your favorite games that aren’t strictly 2P that work well for 2 players?

Lastly, happy February, lovers! As one of my besties recently texted me when asking for game recommendations, “Nothing says I love you like a night locked in competition.” Touche.

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