Category Archives: 2 Player Only

A listing of all the two player only games we have reviewed, with the link to the review and the rating.

Quarto Mini Review

Quarto Mini is a 2 player abstract strategy game designed by Blaise Muller and published by Gigamic Games. Quarto Mini is a smaller version of Quarto which is the same game. Quarto has 16 high quality wooden pieces each which have 4 different characteristics: light or dark, round or square, tall or short, and solid or hollow. The goal of the game is to create a line of four pieces all which share one common characteristic.

Quarto photo 1

Players start the game by setting out the 16 pieces and game board. Determine a first player. On your turn, you select a piece that the opponent must place anywhere on the board. Then, the 2nd player chooses a piece for their opponent to place anywhere on the board. Play continues until a player calls Quarto, indicating they have made a line of 4 pieces with at least one common characteristic. That player wins the game!  You do not have to place every piece in order to make a Quarto. In that sense, no piece is owned by any one player.

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Quarto is a simple game to learn, but full of strategy. You must be careful which pieces you give your opponent for them to place. Ideally, you want to get a set of three set up so that your opponent has no choice but you give you winning piece. I love the minimalistic style of Quarto, including the box art. It is very clean and high quality. The pieces and board are gorgeous. While this game has no theme, it doesn’t need it with its fun gameplay and strategy.

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I enjoy Quarto Mini because I can easily take it on trips.  The small board size makes it possible to play almost anywhere. It’s a very solid 2 player game, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves logic style strategy games.

*I was provided a review copy*

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Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse Review

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is a frantic, dice chucking survival microgame for 2 players by David Miller, on Kickstarter.  Players take on the role of Meepletown citizens trying to survive an impending Apocalypse. One must get their citizens in the Fallout Shelter before their opponent does, or before the Monster attacks and eats everyone.

Game in play.  Game mat is available in the deluxe version.
Game in play. Game mat is available in the deluxe version.

The game is played simultaneously with every meeple placed facedown.  Players roll both their dice, as fast as they can.  If they roll a 7, they can do one of many different actions. The player can stand up a meeple, knock down an opponent’s meeple, get one meeple into the Fallout Shelter, etc. If a player rolls doubles on what the current monster die is, the monster die goes down by 1.  Once the monster die reaches one and a player rolls snake eyes, all players lose the game!

sample play 2

Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse is exciting and very fun.  The simultaneous play allows for players to get in many games in a short span, and even though it’s a dice game, there’s enough you can do that you don’t feel the randomness ebbing in. Because you activate actions on 7s, you never feel like there’s nothing to do.  You’re either rolling dice frantically or using your actions.  To make the game even more exciting, David included a soundtrack to the game, with 7 tracks that can be downloaded into MP3 files.  The soundtrack definitely adds to the game and provides an an awesome ambience.

All the components fit just right.
All the components fit just right.

Like the previous Mint Tin games by David Miller, the game comes in a mint tin, this time mini size!  Every component is manufactured in the USA, and put together in David’s home.  This not only helps out small businesses, but also allows David to get the games out sooner to backers.  No having to wait for the games on a ship!

Comparing another mint tin to show how small it is.
Comparing another mint tin to show how small it is.

Each Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse game comes with the Manhole Expansion, which adds strategy and depth to the game.  The deluxe version of Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse comes with the game mat shown in the photos, as well as a journal and extra manhole cover.  Every copy comes with instructions on Revlar paper, which coincides well with the theme, as it’s tear resistant and water resistant paper.

The game mat has fantastic art, definitely a good addition to the game.  Game mat available with the deluxe version.
The game mat has fantastic art, definitely a good addition to the game. Game mat available with the deluxe version.

If you love microgames, pick up a copy (or several) of Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse.  These will not be going retail after the Kickstarter, so this is your only opportunity to get your hands on this incredibly small, amazing game.

I was provided a review copy.

 

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Jaipur Review

Jaipur is a 2 player only set collection card game by Sèbastien Pauchon set in a desert merchant theme.  The goal of Jaipur is to become the richest trader (most rupees=points) at the end of each week (round).  In order to earn rupees, you collect goods and sell those goods at the market.  Camel cards are used as a great way to exchange cards and get extra rupees at the end of the week.Jaipur 1

Each turn, players have a choice of taking cards or selling cards.  Players can take cards in a few different ways.  One option is to take exchange goods using cards in your hand or by using the camel cards.  A second way is to just take one single good.  The third option is to take all the camels in the market.  It can be advantageous to keep a good stock of camels as they can be used for exchanges and do not take up space in your hand.

Selling cards is ultimately how you get rich in the game.  You can always sell just one good unless it’s one of the 3 expensive goods (gold, diamonds, silver), in which you have to sell at least two.  For selling goods, you take as many tokens as you sold.  These tokens are your points in the game, and the tokens do go down in value as they are sold.  Only silvers maintain their value (5).  If you sell at least 3 goods, you can take  a bonus token which gives extra rupees at the end of the round.

I started the game with 3 diamonds.  Awesome!
I started the game with 3 diamonds. Awesome!

The round continues until 3 types of goods tokens are depleted, or there are no cards left in the draw pile when filling the market.  Players add up their rupees and total score.  Whoever is the richest gets the seal of excellence.  Play another round if a player does not have two seals of excellence. At the end of a round, if a player has two seals of excellent, that player wins the game.

Jaipur fills that niche of a light to medium weight two player only game.  I love set collecting games, so Jaipur gives me that experience without being too long or overstaying its welcome.  The camels are a very interesting part of the game, as they add quite a bit of strategy.  Do you take the camels and possibly reveal goods that your opponent needs?  Or do you exchange the camels to gain a set of goods to be sold later?  I love the decisions in this game, and thankfully they don’t cause any sort of analysis paralysis.

Notice the camels in the background.  Camels in games are the best!
Notice the camels in the background. Camels in games are the best!

The art and components of Jaipur are high quality and well done.  The goods tokens are made of thick cardboard and feel nice in the hand.  The cards shuffle well and are playing card quality.  The rulebook of Jaipur was easy to read and understand.  The custom insert fits everything in the box well.

Overall, Jaipur is a very solid set collecting game.  While the light weight of it may deter some gamers, it’s balance and ability to play multiple rounds wins out the weight.  When wanting to play a 2 player game in under an hour, Jaipur is an excellent choice.  I can see gamers bringing this to vacations or playing it at lunch hour.  Highly recommended for those that like shorter 2 player only games.

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Syeknom: Battle for the Island Review

Syeknom: Battle for the Island is a two player combat game from Syeknom Games.  Each player has 10 combat units, 5 of which are placed on the board at the beginning of the game.  The other 5 units are placed on the carrier pad.  These combat units have different ranges in which they can shoot an opponent.  The tanks have a range of 4, jeeps have a range of 3, and soldiers have a range of 2.  Note that the range has to be exact.  A solider cannot shoot an opponent that is 1 away, and a tank can’t shoot an opponent that is 3 away.  The combat unit must also be facing forward toward the opponent’s unit.  There are also 10 land mines set out on the board at the beginning of the game, facedown.  Some of these land mines are duds, and will not do any damage.

Syeknom 1The gameplay itself is simple.  A player rolls a 6 sided die (0 to 5), which determines the movement.  Players have to move in a straight line, and can use the last unit of movement to turn right or left.  If a player rolls a 0, they do have 3 options.  One option is to move a combat unit off the carrier pad.  Another is to turn a unit right or left.  Lastly, you can move the carrier pad along your side of the board.  After you decide which option to take, you roll again to determine how much movement your action takes.

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At the beginning of your turn, you can choose to shoot, or wait until after movement.  You have to be in exact range and direction to shoot a land mine or opponent.  You cannot move through any units or land mines, so you have to be careful to not make your unit stuck.  Once you are in range to shoot an opponent unit, they are immediately removed from the board.  Your own unit is also removed from the board if you cannot make any valid movements with your roll.  This does speed up the game, otherwise it would go into a stalemate.

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Syeknom is a simple combat game that is made for people who enjoy games like Aggravation and Stratego.  While you can use strategy to block opponents from moving or to shoot them, you are also at the mercy of the die rolls.  You may have a hard time getting in exact range for the units or have a hard time rolling zeroes which give you more movement options. This may frustrate players who dislike randomness that they cannot control in games.  You must also be wary of the land mines as you move your units along the board, as a player may be able to trigger one, which explodes the 8 tiles around it, as well as the tile it is on.

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The component quality is decent, but the combat units have stickers on them and not all of them are straight.  The board itself is thinner than standard boards.  The rulebook we were provided was riddled with errors, but the 2nd edition of the game should have updated rules.  The artwork is also very simple, and not colorblind friendly.  The blue and red soldiers look particularly similar to colorblind players.

If you are looking for a war game that has the randomness and strategy balance of Backgammon, this may be a game for you.

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Capo dei Capi Review

Capo dei Capi is a 2 player area control dice game by Steve Finn at Doctor Finn’s Games, based in Prohibition Era New York.  You take on the role of a mobster Boss, trying to gain influence to bribe politicians, befriend corrupt police officers, secretly brew booze, and run casinos.  Capo dei Capi photo 1

Players start the game by setting out 6 area cards in a line, each with either a black or white die showing 1-3 pips.  The Mayor card also gets set out in the line, with two value cubes on it.  Value cubes count as victory points at the end of the game, as well as any area cards in which you have the most influence.  Players also set up influence tokens ranging from 1-3, bribe tokens ranging from 1-3 but facedown, value cubes, and mayor chips on the edges of the area card line.  Goal of the game is to win most influence and get the most victory points at the end.  Ultimately, you want to have the most influence and bribes for each area card, as those are worth 1 point as well as any value cubes on cards.

Capo dei Capi photo 2

The first important thing to learn about Capo dei Capi is the dice rolls.  Combinations of the dice have different effects, and the black and white die matter in terms in placing tokens by area cards.  Thankfully, there is a reference sheet included for each player, which is extremely helpful in learning the dice rolls and their effects.

Capo dei Capi photo 3

Depending on what you roll, you can place influence tokens next to specific area cards, raise extortion level, put bribe tokens down, or put value cubes in an area or mayor card.  Once you memorize the reference sheet, gameplay goes quick, with saying “I rolled a black 3 and white 2, this means I get to place an influence token on either black 3 or white 2 area card.”  Rolling doubles gets a specific effect for each number.  In most games, rolling doubles is a positive thing, but in Capo dei Capi, you have take the hit man token.  If you roll doubles again on your turn, you bust!

Capo dei Capi photo 4

There are other ways to bust instead of rolling doubles twice in one turn.  You can bust by having to place another token where one was already placed, or by raising the extortion level past 6.  When you bust, you lose all you placed that turn, including influence tokens, bribe tokens, and mayor chips.  However, if you do end your turn without busting, you get to place all the tokens you gained on the area cards they were next to and gain any value cubes or mayor chips you rolled as well.

Capo dei Capi photo 5

Capo dei Capi has a great push your luck aspect that isn’t seen with many 2 player games.  Do you keep rolling in order to get more influence or value cubes?  Or do you end your turn, in hopes your opponent will bust on their turn?  There are ways to help mitigate busting, by using the mayor chips.  Starting player gets 4 mayor chips and second player gets 5 mayor chips.  These can be used to negate rolls, pay off hit man, move a token one space, or even take a token and placing it on the area card before you even end your turn.  The mayor chips are extremely important in the game, and you don’t want to use all yours at once, because it’s not guaranteed you will gain more on your next turn.

Capo dei Capi photo 6

Capo dei Capi may have become my favorite light 2 player only game.  I love how quick it plays and how interactive each turn is.  Even when it’s not your turn, you can thwart your opponent by making them negate a good roll using the backstab action with a mayor chip.  Even with the randomness of dice rolls, the short gameplay makes it so if there’s a runaway leader, the game would be over quickly regardless.  For the most part though, you always feel like you can catch up if you are behind, because one turn could yield quite a few points if you roll well.

For gamers looking for a short yet satisfying 2 player game, Capo dei Capi is highly recommended.  The artwork goes well with the theme, although for the most part I’m not thinking when I roll a 3 and a 2, “oh yay I get to influence the bootleg liquor company.”  That could just be how I play though, breaking everything into numbers instead of story or actions that me as a Mob Boss is taking.  The real question becomes “Do you have what it takes?”

>We were provided a review copy<

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Star Realms

Overview: Star Realms is a quick deck builder card game set in space.  Players have a starting deck of 8 scouts (1 coin each) and 2 vipers (1 attack each) and start with 50 authority (health, not capped at 50, players can go above). Goal of the game is to knock out your opponent by getting their authority to zero. Not unlike Ascension, players have a pool of 5 cards to buy each turn, which can either be bases and ships.  Explorers (2 coins) can always be purchased.  When players buy cards, these cards are put immediately in their discard pile unless otherwise stated.  Ships are cards that have attack, authority, and coin.  They are played freely (no cost to play a card) and then discarded after a turn.  Bases, on the other hand have authority and stay out in a players play area until destroyed by their opponent.  Some bases, called outposts, have to be targeted and destroyed first before attacking the target player.  Play continues until one player has zero authority, the other player then wins.star realms box

Star Realms is a two player deck builder (can support 4+ w/more decks) that is heavy on the combat mechanics.  Instead of some deck builders whose victory conditions require points, Star Realms simply requires that you destroy your opponent.  Gameplay is very quick and most games finish in 15 minutes or less.  Because of this, players should agree to play best 2 out of 3 or more, because some games can be over almost too quickly.  Players can play any card in their hand as there is no cost to a card after it’s purchased.  Players resolve ship abilities as played, but base abilities can be activated at any time in the game. It’s this simplicity which makes Star Realms so popular, because it can be taught and played within a half hour.  Another shining point of Star Realms is the small box, which can be put in a coat pocket or purse.  This makes for a great game to play during lunch hour or to bring on a trip.

Special note: Star Realms can be played with more players if two or more decks are purchased.  For the sake of this review, we only had one deck and therefore are categorizing this as a 2 player only game. 

One interesting thing to note about the ships and bases is that they each come from one of four factions.  These ships and bases may have ally abilities which can be activated if another card of that faction is played that turn.  Ally abilities can be activated at any time during a turn.  This encourages players to focus on one or two factions, if possible, as the combos can be quite powerful.  The four factions: Blob, Trade Federation, Star Empire, and Machine Cult all have different focuses and abilities.  For example, the Trade Federation ships and bases tend to have a “gain authority” ability and usually coin or some attack.  Blob Faction tends to be a heavy hitter with mostly attack abilities.  Machine Cult focuses on attack and the “scrap” ability which means remove from the game. This can help lighten your deck in order to draw more powerful cards rather than the starting deck such as scouts and vipers. Lastly, the Star Empire focuses on drawing cards and making your opponent discard a card as well as have high attack.  The knowledge of how these four factions work can be made to your extreme advantage in the game.  

star realms gameplay

Being aware of what you have bought in your deck, as well as your opponent’s deck is essential.  Star Realms is a game that requires constant adaptation, and what worked one game may not work in another game. Every game can be very different in Star Realms, because of the sheer amount of cards in the base deck.  Players only tend to see about 25% of the deck because each game is so quick.  This gives Star Realms great replay value, because each game has a lot of variation.  Also, besides Outpost bases, players have no way to block or defend against an attack.  This differs from many 2 player combat games, in which players get a chance to block or play cards which help in their defense.  Sometimes, a player can feel helpless as their opponent rails on them with powerful faction combos.  This can be a negative of the game, however, some players may enjoy this type of intense combat in such a light and quick game. Star Realms is a deep game for being so fast and easy to learn, because of the different possibilities each game can hold.  With great replay value, deep strategy, and a heavy combat mechanic makes Star Realms an excellent game for players who enjoy 2 player combat.

 

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Convert

Overview: Convert is a 2 player abstract strategy game where you take turns playing pieces on top of each other’s pieces on a wood board. When you play a piece, there must be no gaps below the played piece. Player’s score when they convert squares so that 4 squares in a row are their color in a row or column as viewed from above. At the end of the game, players also score 1 point for every square viewed from above that is their color (called squaring).

pic1610756_mdWhat make this game so great is that it is so simple, but has so much depth. At first when you start playing the game it seems there is only one strategy, to cover your opponent while scoring points. As you start playing more, you realize that there is much more strategy than this, you can block your opponents pieces, you can go for squaring at the end game, you can avoid playing on top of their pieces so they can score rows again or a combination of all the above.

With the wooden pieces and board, the game immediately reminds me of Chess, and it has a similar feel, but it is so much easier to learn, yet has much of the strategy of Chess. Looking ahead at what your moves will enable for yourself and your opponent in the future is important to success.

This game of convert ended in a castle shape.
This game of convert ended in a castle shape.

Because of the simplicity of this game, it can be played by all ages, kids may not score as well, but they can still play without the complexity of learning lots of rules like other abstract strategy games.

Games typically only take 10 to 15 minutes depending on how much players think between moves. This means you can get in a couple games in the time it would take to play other strategy games.

With a fast play time, simple to learn rules, and high strategic depth, Convert ends up being one of my favorite two player strategy games.

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Pixel Tactics

pixel tactics boxOverview: Pixel Tactics is a tactical two player battling card game. Each player chooses a leader from their first four cards which is set in the center of their 3×3 battling grid.  The leader has high hit points and a special power which can grant its heroes advantages.  Each deck consists of 25 unique cards and each player has the same deck.  The cards (heroes) themselves yield different powers depending on where they are placed on the 3×3 grid, each row representing a different wave (vanguard, flank, rear).  Cards can only be placed on the current row wave unless otherwise stated.  Players choose two out of six different actions per wave, which can be recruit a hero, drawing cards, playing orders, attacking with hero/leader, restructure heroes, and clearing a corpse. Battle takes place after the first round of three waves, and there is no counter attacking.  Cards may also be played as orders, which are immediately discarded after use.  Play continues until one leader is defeated.  Winner is who defeats their opponent’s leader.

Pixel Tactics is a battling card game set in the theme of a strategy role playing video game.  The artwork on each card harkens back to that awesome gaming era of 16-bit pixels. New players may be overwhelmed by the sheer text on each card, since every unit has a different affect on each wave, plus an order power. However, after a few games, players become more comfortable with the text. Pixel Tactics plays very similar to a turned based tactical RPG as players put their units in a grid, surrounding and protecting their leader. Because there are 25 different leaders (as each card can be flipped around to show the leader), the replay value is enormous.  There are tons of different combinations and strategies that players may try depending on what they draw. Pixel Tactics gameplay

The gameplay itself starts pretty basic.  Players work on protecting their leader by placing hero units that can intercept ranged attacks, heal heroes/leader, or giving all units a ranged or melee attack.  A player may go for a short term strategy by putting all their strong melee cards out first.  Another player might try a longer term strategy, by slowly beefing up defense while keeping powerful orders for the opportune time to reek major havoc upon their opponent.  As the game progresses, the strategy becomes more complicated as players must clear corpses to place more hero units or desperately heal their leader. Pixel Tactics is a highly strategic game where one wave can produce enormous damage upon the opponent, and sometimes it can be hard to make a comeback.  This can be frustrating to some players as it may be a few turns before the loss is assured.  However, if one can keep their cool and keep the gameplay light and fun, Pixel Tactics is enjoyable for any player that loves the retro theme.  Pixel Tactics is perfect for players who want a cutthroat two player game set in a rich theme.

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Star Wars: The Card Game

Overview: Star Wars: The Card Game is a two player, Living Card Game from Fantasy Flight.  Unlike CCG or TCG, there is no such thing as a “rare” card.  All expansions form the same cards so there is no “collecting” or “trading” that needs to occur.  Star Wars Box

Players take the role of either the Light Side or Dark Side, and choose their decks according to the 10 objectives they choose.  Each objective has a specific set of cards they must put into the deck, which differs from Netrunner.  The Dark Side has a more defensive overall victory condition, as it must get to Death Star rank of 12.  This can happen more quickly if the Dark Side player destroys Light Side’s objectives or wins the Force by the beginning of their next turn.  This causes the Dark Side to try and play a defensive, longer game, as the Light Side’s victory condition is simply to destroy 3 Dark Side Objectives.  However, although Light Side’s victory may seem assured, it can be much more difficult, as the Light Side must take a very quick, offensive approach to ensure victory before the Death Star reaches 12.  Star Wars gameplay

Basic strategy aside, Star Wars: The Card Game is incredibly fun.  It’s quite hilarious to take out Red Five with Force Lightning or for Admiral Ackbar to “exhaust” Emperor Palpatine.  Players must have enough resources to play these powerful cards, however, given by objectives, units, and your chosen faction card.  Do you build your deck as the Imperial Navy or the Sith?  Are you a Jedi or a member of the Rebel Alliance?  Choosing your faction can determine which other objectives you use in your deck, since at least one resource from that faction must be used to build the respective unit.

The base game does give quite a bit of cards and objectives to build decks, but Star Wars: The Card Game works best with a couple of expansions.  This allows for players to build a couple different decks that they may want to try depending on their opponent.  Star Wars: The Card Game can be as hardcore or casual as you like, whether you want to join tournaments or just play with friends.  Star Wars: The Card Game is perfect for fans of Star Wars who enjoy deck building without having to commit to the cost of booster packs.

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