Here’s a little list for those of you with a significant other who isn’t averse to a night of gaming, or those who find themselves with a smaller-than-usual gaming group. You can also use this a jumping-off point for introducing something new to a date – after all, board games are nothing if not sociable.
Reiner Knizia’s tactical wargame, Battle Line, is an intense and highly portable 2 player game. Players are the generals of ancient legions facing off across a battle line of flags. Using cards to build powerful formations, they fight to win enough flags to crush their opponent’s army and win the battle. A tight, fast-playing hand-management game, Battle Line is a favorite around the Starlit Citadel office even after years of newer releases.
Hive is an abstract game that uses hexagonal tiles with images of insects on them. Each insect has a different way of moving, and the playing surface consists of all of the tiles in play linked together. The goal of the game is to surround your opponent’s queen bee, and the board will move and change shape over the course of the game. Its simple rules make it fast to learn and set up, but offer a lot of tactical depth and interest that makes this one of our most popular abstracts.
Twilight Struggle depicts the military and political conflict between the two superpowers during the Cold War. As the USA and USSR, both sides struggle to extend their influence across the entire world by fighting small-scale military engagements and playing major event cards that follow the history of the Cold War. The cards are at the core of the game, and provide action points to spend and, at the same time, trigger events that may benefit either party. With little margin for error and an ebb and flow that mirrors the real conflict it’s based on, Twilight Struggle is a great choice for tactically-minded players and those with a real taste for history.
Dungeon Twister has been described as “chess with fantasy adventuring thrown in”. In it, each player leads an unlucky party of adventurers who must escape a crazed archmage’s dungeon before their opponent -- or die. Players control a number of different characters with unique abilities and powers, and use them to navigate the labyrinthine rooms that can rotate and change around them. A challenging game of spatial reasoning and anticipation with the flavour of a classic dungeon crawl, Dungeon Twister is a truly unique experience.
In Mr. Jack, one player takes on the role of the famed serial killer Jack the Ripper, while the other is the detective hot on his trail. The killer controls 8 characters on the board, one of whom is actually Mr. Jack, and must escape detection or make it off the board entirely before the game ends. The detective must use all of their deductive skills to identify Mr. Jack, as they only get one chance during the game to accuse him correctly. Using an ingenious character card ability system and a simple, light ruleset, Mr. Jack makes for an extremely interesting non-confrontational board game.
Based on the hit board game, Agricola, All Creatures Big & Small is a game of animal husbandry writ small. Players manage small farms and compete to raise as many animals as possible in only 8 rounds, gathering resources and building enclosures and special buildings to house their animals. All Creatures Big & Small keeps much of Agricola’s original flavour, but is a tighter, faster and more focused race designed just for 2 players. It's large complement of adorable animeeples is also a great hook for games susceptible to the cuteness bug.
Battles of Westeros and Memoir ‘44 are quick and easy-to-learn wargames that base their mechanics on the popular Battlelore system. Battles of Westeros is set in George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series, while Memoir ’44 depicts World War II. Each game is scenario-based, and relies on a custom set of dice and unique action cards for both combat resolution and unit activation. At only about 1.5 hours per game and with a solid theme on top of their mechanics, these games are great introductions to wargaming for any player.
Based on the cult CCG of the 90s, Android: Netrunner has been released in Fantasy Flight Games’ Living Card Game format. The base set comes with everything you need to play, and monthly expansion packs provide additional customization. Netrunner is a tense faceoff between a cyberpunk corporation seeking to defend its assets and advance its agenda, and the hacker, or “runner”, fighting their way into the corporation’s database and unmasking their agendas to the public. Its asymmetric gameplay and goals and wealth of customization options make Netrunner a great choice for serious gamers, while the fully-realized theme will really appeal to cyberpunk fans.
The Rivals for Catan is the two player card game version of Settlers of Catan. Using a modified ruleset that has players develop both their land and their settlements using their hand of cards, Rivals for Catan is much more directly confrontational than the original board game. It still feels very much like Settlers, however, with dice rolls and resource management continuing to play an extremely important role in the game. This is a great choice for fans of Settlers of Catan to expand their horizons with a different system, or enjoy the world of the game with a smaller group.
Claustrophobia is a dungeon-crawling adventure set in the dark alternate history of Hell Dorado, where intrepid priests and their convict minions push humanity’s expansion into Hell itself, and the demons that live there push back. The gameplay in Claustrophobia is asymmetric and based on a very clever system of dice allocation: human players use die rolls to determine their abilities each turn, and slowly run out of options as they take damage, while the demon player uses a growing pool of dice and tokens to build up their forces for bigger and bigger attack waves as the game progresses. Its tense atmosphere, wealth of tactical options and variety of 45-minute scenarios means Claustrophobia will give fans of darker fantasy a lot of bang for their buck.