–by Mark MacDonald–
Most people have played classic two-player board games like Chess, Checkers, Backgammon and perhaps even Stratego, but over the years designers have developed new titles with a lot to offer. Here are some of the best new board games designed specifically for two people.
Patchwork is a delightful game designed by Klemens Franz that is rapidly growing in popularity. Each player has their own 9×9 quilt upon which they place a variety of shapes of fabric. Opponents have a choice of three different pieces to ‘purchase’ from the bank on their turn using blue buttons (the game’s currency) while also moving their player token further along the circuit, closer to the end of the game. The piece is then fit onto their quilt as the player sees fit, giving them the chance to earn additional buttons as the game progresses. Once ‘stitched’ onto a players quilt, the fabric piece remains in place, forming a colorful mosaic. At the end of the game, players must subtract empty tiles (not covered by fabric pieces) from their total score of buttons, creating the incentive to create a uniform quilt.
Patchwork’s light strategy blends well with the Tetris-like mechanics of creating your own quilt, and is all in all one of the best two-player board games you’ll find.
In addition to being fun to play, Jaipur is wonderfully colorful. The card game is inspired by the historical city in India, a major trade hub along the famous Silk Road. Players compete in a best-of-three series for the favor of the Maharajah by earing the most gold with their trading skills. On their turn, opponents decide whether to sell the goods in their hand or trade with the ‘market’ (five cards available to both players similar to Texas Hold-em Poker). The first to sell any type of good (such as silk, leather, and gems) will earn more gold than any consecutive sale of the same good, providing an incentive to sell goods when you have them. However, if you can sell three, four, or five of a kind on one turn, you earn additional gold bonuses.
The balance between accumulating more of one kind of good versus trading quickly, along with the variety of possibilities available on your turn, makes Jaipur a stimulating experience-plus all the cards look great!
Quarto is an award-winning game invented by Swiss mathematician Blaise Müller that is played out on a board made up of 16 circles (4×4) with 16 unique wooden pieces. The pieces are either tall or short, light or dark, square or circular or hollow-top/solid-top. On their turn, each player selects a piece their opponent must place on the board, with the intent to create a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row of four pieces that all share one common attribute (all are circular, all are short, etc.)
The game’s simple rules make Quarto an easy game to learn, but the surprising amount of strategy involved makes it an instant classic. For fans of chess and checkers, Quarto is surely to be one of your new favorite games.
Set in the Whitechapel district of London, England circa 1888, Mr. Jack pits Jack the Ripper against the police in a cat-and-mouse chase around the shadowy alleys of the gaslight age. One player plays as Jack the Ripper, who is trying to escape before dawn (end of 8 turns) or leave the district by using darkness to his advantage, while the other player tries to identify which of the characters (investigators) Jack the Ripper is impersonating in order to evade capture. On each turn of the game, both the player playing Jack the Ripper and his/her opponent will use two characters to move around the board or else use special abilities. Every turn, Jack the Ripper will either be ‘seen’ or ‘unseen’ (depending on his position in relation to other characters and gas lanterns) giving the police a chance to deduce which of the investigators is truly Jack the Ripper.
At first, with the rules, special abilities, game mechanics, and the like Mr. Jack seems complicated but once you’ve got the basics of the game down it is reasonably simple and quite entertaining. Plus who doesn’t love a little Sherlock Holmes v.s. Jack the Ripper every once and a while?
Star Realms started out as a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and is now an award winning card-based deck building game. Set in a futuristic sci-fi world with rival factions The Star Empire, The Trade Federation, The Machine Cult and The Blobs vying for galactic power, players attempt to destroy their opponent’s ‘authority’ by using cards for either combat or trade. Cards are both given to the players at the start of the game and available for each player to purchase on subsequent turns. The cards are then used by each player to either trade or attack their opponent’s ships and bases in an attempt to reduce their opponent’s ‘authority’ to zero and thus win the game.
Star Realms is easy to learn and brimming with imagination. Each turn is filled with strategic decisions like whether to attack an opponent’s authority or base, or whether to focus on trade rather than combat, making the game exciting and new each time. It’s no wonder Star Realms won the 2014 Golden Geek Award for Best Two-player Game as well as SXSW’s Table Top Game of the Year award, a lot of fun to play!
With new titles released all the time, the selection of quality two-person board games is steadily increasing, offering a great variety to choose from no matter what your preference. Let the duels begin!
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