When Tom and I went out to teach English in Taiwan, we knew we weren’t going to be able to bring any bulky board games with us! Fortunately, a quick Google search showed us that there were a few board game cafés nearby.
We couldn’t wait to try them out, but I was concerned knowing we would have no hope of deciphering Mandarin-only instructions… Fortunately, our favourite spot, called Joy and Gathering had a decent collection of English games. It was the perfect spot to wile away a warm, rainy day.
When we couldn’t coax our friends to come along with us, we had to settle for some boyfriend-girlfriend rivalry! Here are our favourite games for two…
This modern classic card-trading game delivers a wonderful blend of tactics, risk and reward. Playing the roles of two merchants in India, you and another player head to the “market” to trade in silk, spices, camels, silver, gold and rubies. The game is played in three rounds and can be finished in less than thirty minutes, with the richest player winning. It’s a simple concept with plenty of depth. We loved the artwork on the cards as well, the pace of the game and the quest for camels!
Half card-game, half …thought-experiment? Whatever it is, it’s a great example of easy to learn but hard to master! In the deck you’ll find 100 cards numbered 1 to 100. After a handful of these are dealt out to you and another player. Without any communication, you take turns placing your cards down in ascending order. Sounds easy right? It’s not. As you progress through the levels, you’re both given more cards, and the difficulty ramps up forcing you to burn through lives and ‘ninja stars’ which let you both discard your lowest number. We love this little game and think it’s best played in a pair rather than in a group. Great for a short blast of fun to round-off or begin your gaming session with.
7 Wonders Duel
Across three rounds (or ‘eras’), players build up their civilisation and battle it out head-to-head in this intense two-player version of the classic ‘7 Wonders’. There are twelve unique and powerful wonders in total, with seven up for grabs in each game. The game expertly combines chance and strategy elements through the well-illustrated card deck that forms a ‘tree’ as you play – with half the cards left face-down. It takes about thirty minutes to play- perhaps forty on your first play-through. This does mean that you can push for a ‘best of three’ if you’re a sore loser (looking at you, Tommo). Games can certainly take a bit longer if you’re less impulsive, so it’s worth setting a timer for each turn so you’re not pondering whether to focus on military, scientific, economic or cultural advancement for too long. All in all, it’s a great little game and well-worth learning.
Is a popular spy-themed ‘cryptic clues’ game. With a set of twenty-five words in front of you, you provide your teammate with clues which help them safely complete their mission, through selecting the right words. One careless word and you could land your agent in deep trouble! Code Names is great in a group setting, also fun in pairs as you work a fine-tooth comb through your vocabulary.
This game turns the family classic Monopoly on its head, and is worlds away from the slow, soul-destroying experience that is losing a game of monopoly! Right now, it’s our go-to travel game because it requires very little in the way of space or setup time. This small-scale version is simple, portable and very addictive. It is better in groups of three but still very playable with two players, and definitely pairs well with an alcoholic beverage or two. There are always twists and turns throughout a game and despite luck often being the deciding factor in who eventually wins, it’s quick and fun enough that none of it matters! It’s not perfect or particularly well-balanced but we still play it enough that it has to be on this list!