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Two-Player Games and Me

For the longest time I have been someone who says, I do not like or like to play two-player games. I would always claim that I play games to be social with my game night family. When I look at a game to consider playing it, or buying it, the first thing of course is the theme and art. Next, I look at mechanics, then I check the play time estimates. Finally, I evaluate player count. Is this a game I will want to be playing on game nights with multiple people? Is this a game that I will be playing with my wife? Is this a game that fits into my party/BBQ game list? Each of these categories factor into whether or not it can get to the table with two people, four to five people, or a group of people. I used to think that two-player games would seldom if ever be something that I would consider playing. But after introducing my wife to Shifting Stones on Board Game Arena, the amount of two-player games I have played compared to the year before has increased by leaps and bounds. Back in 2018 only 21% of my 544 games played that year were two-player games. In 2019 that count jumped up to 31% of 747 games played that year were two-player games. Then covid hit and remote play became a factor in gaming, increasing that number to 36% of my 669 games. Jump to 2022, I played 1266 games and 60% of those games were with two people, and 685 of those games were with my wife. I am writing this blog on February 1, 2023, and at this point, I have already played 274 games, 76% of those being two-player games, and 220 of those plays are with my wife.

For me this is a dream come true. I would still never call or consider my wife a gamer, but the two of us are loving playing a wide variety of games with simply the two of us. Her favorite is Patchwork, a two-player game designed by Uwe Rosenberg, who has designed several games that I have enjoyed. Players compete to add patches to their quilt. The player with the fewest holes in his or her quilt will most likely be the winner. However, the economic resource in this game is buttons. Buttons are used to purchase patches, and buttons are what count as victory points. Where the game is won and lost is after that final button income. Each player must lose two points for each hole they have in their quilt. This is where I lose. My wife is much better at managing spatial games than I am and that shows in my 22% win ratio to her 78% win ratio.

Strategy games are where I am able to gain some advantage against her. By some I mean a very slight edge. She is a very smart woman and my edge may only be from experience from playing more games, because the more she plays a game her win percentage increases much faster than mine. One game that I seem to have an advantage on is Hive. Hive is a hexagon tile placing game where the goal is to entrap the other player’s queen bee. Each tile is represented by a different type of bug, and those bugs move in different ways depending on the type of bug it is. With this game the base game is pretty bland in my opinion. The first player has an advantage similar to chess. However this game changes drastically with the introduction of three small expansions. The Mosquito allows players to mimic the power of any bug next to it. The Ladybug allows the player to move three spaces, two of which must be on top of the hive. And finally the most important new piece in my opinion is the Pillbug, which allows a player to pick up any adjacent piece and move it to any other open side adjacent to the pillbug. This allows a player to pull their queen bee out of a sticky situation, or it can move a piece to fill that last void around an opponent's queen bee. Either option is a game changer and all three of these bugs bring in a whole new level of strategy that the base game was very much lacking.

Now, these two games are designed for two players, but there is a large list of many multiplayer games that still play very well with two people. Some of our favorites include: Potion Explosion, Nova Luna, Gizmos, Shifting Stones, Azul, and Draftosaurus. All of these games fit higher player counts but we enjoy them as two-player games and we play them a lot.

Do you play many two-player games? If so, what are some of your favorites?

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