Let’s face it: If you’re a board game fan, then you’ve probably already exhausted your library of favourite board games during the first several lockdowns of COVID. Scrabble is a classic, of course, but there’s only so many times someone can come up with fake words before you start slinging tiles across the table. Play Connect 4 too many times and you’ll start seeing the pieces in your dreams, and Monopoly can be a relationship ender at worst.
So, it might be time to expand your palette with some new board games, and for that, Funny Bones has you covered. With over 1000 games to choose from, the choice can be a little daunting, but it’s really a testament to how much humans really love play and finding new ways to amuse each other, even through the worst of times (like how Clue was made during World War II!) Below you’ll find five games suited for just two players that are beloved by both our staff and customers, and work for both competitive and cooperative couples. They’re all relatively easy to pick up and involve some great meta and strategy that makes for high replayability. Luckily, you can rent all of them for up to five days from our online store, just in case game night needs an extension.
There’s nothing like a well-made game tile in the palm of your hand. Enthusiasts of original game pieces will love Azul for this reason, since its sturdy and beautiful tiles are the heart of the game itself. Azul came out in 2017 and took the board game world by storm, having released four new editions of the game since then (e.g. Stained Glass of Sintra and Summer Pavilion). Its name means blue in Portuguese, referencing azulejos which were white and blue ceramic tiles beloved by Portuguese king Manuel I in the 16th century. The premise of the game has 2-4 players acting as tile-layers for the king, creating a gorgeous mosaic for the walls of the Royal Palace of Évora (real and still standing today in Portugal!)
The game has players picking and choosing tiles from the wheels in the middle of the table to place on their boards. There are five different tile patterns and players can only choose one type at a time, as well as take all of that amount when choosing. You’ll want to fill up your mosaic area in order to earn as many points as possible. The key to doing this is to have as many connecting tiles as possible, as placing a tile will gain you a point for every tile it’s connected to. Bonuses are gained from having vertical columns and 5 of a kind on your mosaic. The game ends once a player has completed a single horizontal row of tiles, meaning gameplay can range from rather short to almost an hour. It’s best to strategize in order to make sure the game doesn’t end with you behind in points! Once you get the hang of the technical aspects, Azul quickly becomes addicting, hence the many different editions.
A perfect choice for murder mystery fanatics, Mr. Jack is a cat-and-mouse game where one player plays as Mr. Jack (aka Jack the Ripper), who tries to hide their identity and escape London, and the other plays the Detective, trying to figure out which of the eight characters on the board is actually Mr. Jack. The game consists of eight turns, with the end of each turn having the Detective ask if Mr. Jack is “in the light,” referring to the lit street-lamps across London. Mr. Jack must truthfully answer, which helps the Detective eliminate which characters are not Mr Jack. Characters also count as being “in the light” if they are within sight of another character, as they are witnessed and have an alibi.
During turns, players shuffle the character cards and move any of the characters around the board, often using their unique abilities to do so. Characters include Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, and other classic figures, including ones unique to the game itself. Mr. Jack will be trying to escape the city and protect as many characters as possible from being eliminated, while the Detective will do exactly the opposite, narrowing down suspects until Mr. Jack’s identity is known. The Detective will have to catch Mr. Jack physically to accuse them, allowing the murderer another chance at winning even if their identity is revealed. The catch? Mr. Jack can only escape on a turn when they are out of the light, vanishing into the shadows of London. Beyond the particular setup and slight learning curve, Mr. Jack is a great choice for players who love strategy and mystery and has great replay value because of its two distinct roles in the game.
Had your fill of Chess? Grandmasters might disagree, but you might enjoy Onitama as a similar game with fun twists. The game was designed by Shimpei Sato in 2014 and roughly translates to “a demon.” Two players compete on a 5x5 board to capture their opponent’s Sensei or move their own Sensei into the opponent’s temple. Each player has five pawns and one Sensei, but what makes Onitama unique is that all movement is dictated by the cards drawn for that game. Five cards are chosen randomly for each game, two starting with each player and one inaccessible card in the middle. When a player moves a piece using the movement on a card, they then swap that card with the one in the middle. This ensures movement is never guaranteed and players can’t strategize too many steps ahead.
Some example movement cards are the “Tiger”, which allows movement either one space back or two spaces forward. The “Horse” allows movement forwards, backwards, and left, but not to the right. The various patterns available ensure a different game every time, making it a refreshing change of pace from the concrete rules of Chess. The rules of capturing pawns and pieces still applies, however, making it quite easy to pick up and play.
I know. I know. Hear me out. If you don’t mind a game that has your irony alarm going off the entire time, Pandemic is actually a really fun time for up to four players and works great with just two people. Created back in 2008, when words like Omicron and Delta were just part of the Greek Alphabet, Pandemic has players scrambling to treat dangerous outbreaks and cure multiple viral diseases across the globe before time runs out for planet Earth. Players can take on unique roles within their team that grant them special abilities, such as the Scientist’s ability to cure a disease with four disease cards instead of five.
The game has a good level of complexity without being too overwhelming that new players can’t pick it up after one or two rounds. This sweet spot of “challenging but not confusing” has aided it in becoming one of the more popular board games out there, with several spin-offs and new editions released since 2008. Big with fans is Pandemic Legacy, which is a cooperative campaign that follows sessions and a story-arc guaranteed to keep players engaged until the very end. Others might like Pandemic: Rapid Response, where speed is the name of the game (a single session will take about 20 minutes, compared to regular Pandemic’s 45.)
Codenames is already well-known by board game geeks, especially since it caters to so many different people. There’s versions for Marvel, Disney, and even an 18+ version called Codenames: Undercover. You might not have known about the cooperative version however, which has both players working together to find all 15 agents hidden across the table. Players lay 25 word tiles on the table in a 5x5 square, and then choose a key card which will indicate which of these 25 words are the secret agents and which are assassins to be avoided (agents are green, assassins are black). The key card is double-sided and each side has different agents and assassins, meaning both players are trying to get their partner to guess potentially different words on the board.
How you get players to find agents is to give a one word clue, followed by how many word tiles it applies to. For example, if your words are “seashell” and “leaf”, you might say “Nature: 2.” The goal is to have clues apply to as many words as possible without confusing your partner into choosing the wrong word by mistake, or worst, an assassin. Players will alternate giving clues and try to guess them all before time runs out. This is a great challenge for those who enjoy puzzles and making connections between words and concepts.
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