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Help with a Christmas present - two player games

My father in law is getting into boardgames after coming to my boardgame group and wants to buy some games that he can play with my mother in law at home.

She’s not really a gamer at all so I’m looking for two player games that will play well with someone relatively new to games. She has played things like Ticket to Ride, Splendor, Mysterium and Welcome to… and enjoyed them but she wouldn’t want anything too complicated.

I already have Jaipur and Patchwork which I am lending to him but wanted to buy a couple of games for Christmas.

So what are your favourite entry level games that play best at two player? Games that can expand to 4 would also be good so me and my wife can play too, but I’m mainly looking for the 2 player element.

Over to you.

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Carcassonne

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I’m just going to throw out Hive Pocket here, it comes with me on any trip for me and my wife. Superb game and superb value.

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Some from my collection:

Flash Point (I say this a lot but that’s because it’s a game I love) - 2-6
Red 7 (a tricky teach but it makes sense once you know it) - 2-4
NMBR 9 - 2-4
Sagrada - 2-4
Star Realms - basic box 2, Frontiers box 2-4

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  • Something that works well for us as a 2 player is Seasons - includes dice drafting (a single one each round), card drafting (before the game to build your hand) and it just looks beautiful. Should also work with 3 or 4 but we only ever played with two. Caveat: one has to read the text on the cards and get used to the iconography but even my MtG hating partner managed the first and the latter is easy to learn.
  • I am still waiting for an opportunity to smuggle Watergate into a shopping basket but that might be just a bit too heavy, unless the historic theme is of special interest.
  • we like 7 Wonders Duel even though the SU&SD review didn’t recommend the game
  • I love Cottage Garden quite a lot, it’s a descendant of Patchwork
  • Recently played the 2 player Agricola again. That one is much more accessible than the original but still possibly too complicated as a gateway 2 player.
  • Another vote for Flash Point because when starting out cooperative games maybe easier to snare new players :slight_smile:
  • Fog of Love may be a bit on the expensive side for a pure 2 player (and I haven’t played myself – yet)

I can’t recommend Love Letter enough. So short, straightforward and elegant, like dwarf royalty (maybe not elegant).

Great 2 players or several.

On top of that there’s the themes which I’m sure your mother in law will love the Adventure Time one.

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Nagaraja is an outstanding pick in the 2P space. Fast and simple, but with a great competitive streak that’s enhanced with a regular partner. Roll, bid, lay a tile, repeat. This is one of my picks for 2019 GOTY. Maybe too spicy for some? Includes some direct player disruption.

Akrotiri also comes highly recommended. You sail boats around a map that expands as you lay tiles. Landing on islands can net you resources which can be traded at a market in a tiny closed economy. Ultimately though, your goal is to satisfy loose coordinates on map cards that will allow you to reveal (place) temples and push toward victory. This one also really improves with a regular partner. Nice small box!!

Both games are a hard 2P, however.

Aside from that, I won’t miss a chance to push War Chest (my favourite game), which supports 2P and 2v2 team play. It’s an abstract area control game with an exquisite (not being hyperbolic) bagbuilding mechanism driving everything. Abstracts can be a tough sell, but I think it’s worth noting that the central mechanics make for quick turns and big surprises, never the rote, optimal/fatal binary of games like chess. I haven’t played an unexciting game of this yet and I’m well past 50 plays by now.

[EDIT] The games, by chance, go up in weight as you go down. If I had to use BGG’s scale I’d go 1.0, 1.5, 2.0.

+1 for Carcassonne, especially as it’s still fun to play even if you’re not all that invested in the strategy or aggressive competition.

While it’s not amazing at two players, Sushi Go Party! does work for two, and is awfully nice to have handy for groups of various sizes. Also handy for folks who primarily want to play to be social.

You could also check out the wallet games from Button Shy. They’re small and inexpensive, as long as transatlantic shipping doesn’t become a problem. I can recommend both Seasons of Rice (2p) and Wonder Tales (2p), and I’ve heard good things about Sprawlopolis (1-4p), Circle the Wagons (2p), and Tussie Mussie (2p).

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Kingdomino and Azul are my favourite in that category. I think Azul is amazing for its simplicity and the cool feelings you can engineer even at 2 player.

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Well, I came here to mention Jaipur, but I see you already have that. The Mind could be a good one, especially since it does expand to 4 players, but is really good at two.

And someone else mentioned Fog of Love which I’ve only played once, but want to get for my wife and I to play together once we actually have time to play games together again.

Does your mother-in-law have any hobbies or interests that would make some games appeal to her more than others? For example, book-themed games are generally a good bet with my bookworm family.

In my experience, people who are not “boardgamers” tend to not need to find different games to play. I think Splendor would be my go-to gift for somebody who has played and enjoyed Splendor.

Is it the greatest game ever? No. But if they’ve played it and enjoyed it, it’s a great choice for that person.

When my partner and I want to give gifts to people who have played games with us but are not “gamers,” we typically give one of:

  • Ticket to Ride (North America)
  • Splendor
  • Sushi Go
  • Pandemic

The actual decision process depends on the type of person/people we are giving the gift to.

We haven’t tried this particular one yet, but if trick-taking isn’t a foreign concept to them (i.e. prior experience with Bridge, Pitch, Euchre, Spades, Hearts), Fox in the Forest is a good choice.

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Blue Lagoon. Cute as a button, secretly quite tricky.
Kingdomino. Ditto.
Azul. The rules are just a bit fussy about scoring, but other than that, it’s an aesthetically pleasing winner.
Blokus. I know this looks like the cheesiest game in the world, but it’s actually quite the little brain-burner.
Codenames: Duet. This is a PERFECT re-implementation of the core Codenames concept, and as the name implies, it’s a great co-op game for two players.

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I forgot about Lost Cities! Haha

We haven’t played this in ages, but we went through a phase of playing this a lot. Really simple, set collection but the strategy comes from risk/reward.

Card art is nice too.

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I think Lotus is a great game for two people. It has an almost trick taking quality to it, but in a much more unique way. The rules are incredibly simple, and it’s just an overall pleasant experience.