Up until I met G, I thought board games were either Monopoly-style or Dungeon & Dragons. Or maybe a hint of Cards Against Humanity. Now I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of games out there. It’s no secret that my family have been playing a lot of board games during the pandemic. It’s such a nice break from staring at our screens. I thought I’d share some of my 2 player favorite board games — geared towards people that are looking for a step up from Monopoly but aren’t committing to Role Playing fantasy games.
P.S. I’ve been really hard to support local independent small businesses during the pandemic. All the links are to different game stores across the US.
Grown-Up Family Games:
Honestly, what better game to play during an actual pandemic. G and I have played this a lot before, but it was my first game grab as we packed up our suitcases to go to my parent’s house. At first it felt a little glib, but it’s a great metaphor for what to do in an actual crisis. Players have to work together, communicate, and put egos aside to prevent the spread of a deadly virus. Sound familiar? Matt Leacock, the Pandemic, wrote a great NYT op-ed, explaining the history of the game and why it’s so relevant in today’s climate. I highly recommend reading it, and then try to get the game.
Play When: There is a pandemic outside, and you want to feel good slash work together.
This is my family’s favorite board game.
Seriously. It just requires time and patience. The object of the game is to supply the most cities with power. You start by purchasing power plants (coal, oil, nuclear, trash, wind), resources, and then build on a map of Germany or the US. I highly recommend watching an instructional video, because the rule book super confusing.
Play when: you can commit to a whole day learning, and then have time to play multiple games. It is 100% worth it.
This is one of the most unusual games I’ve ever played. The concept is you are working together to launch a spectacular firework display. Each player holds their cards so that only the other players can see them. They must give each other vital information about the other players cards, and remember all the information received. Then use the information to choose which cards to play. Helping each other play the right cards at the right time is the key to creating an unforgettable show and avoid being booed by the audience.
Video instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ8iwNjBW_s
Play when: You need a good cerebral game to play with your family, or close group of friends.
This is such a pretty game. You basically have to compete to collect tiles and build pretty patterns. The physical game is as beautiful as the mental game.
Video Instruction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4ACFtchsg8
Play When: You need slightly more advanced but still super easy game.
Easy Party Games
Playing Time: 30+ Minutes
This is my all-time favorite party game, and has replaced Pictionary at our family gatherings Two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin card.
Pro Tip: Combine CodeNames with CodePictures for some extra fun.
Play when: Pictionary has become too much, and you need a new challenge or competition.
Playing Time: As Long As You Want
This is a great party game. There are controversial topic cards, like “cats are jerks” or “the 90s were better than the 80s.” You get to cast your opinion and vote like the Supreme Court. You can play the proper game, or toss the voting cards, and debate the cards. It’s fun and mindless.
Play when: you don’t really want to play a “game” but you want to have some good/funny/hilarious conversations.
Mindless Travel Games:
Playing Time: 20 Minutes
This might just be the simplest game you’ll ever play. On each turn, you’ve only got one decision to make: I want to avoid taking points – should I take the points on this card or play a chip on it and push the decision to the next player? It’s “engaging,” a “must-buy,” and “fiendishly addictive,” and maddening when you you’re out of chips and forced to take the points.
Play when: you want lightweight beating
Playing Time: 15-30 Minutes
This and No Thanks! are my two favorite mindless and simple games. In this fast-playing card game, the goal is to grab the best combination of sushi dishes as they whiz by (or passed from one player to another). Each card has a different Japanese dish – sushi, sashimi, wasabi etc, each with a different point value. Gather the most points and lord it over your fellow players.
Play when: you’ve run out of things to talk about at your daily happy hour, but still want to spend time with other humans.