Are you looking for some 2 player cooperative board games?
Maybe you and your partner are self-isolating with Covid symptoms, maybe it’s difficult to get all your friends to agree on a games night date and only one friend can make it – Maybe you just like playing cooperative games with your significant other.
Or you might be looking for some games for your two children and are looking for something less competitive than the usual fare.
Well look no further! Here I will be showcasing some of my favorite cooperative board games which are great to play with just two people.
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I love playing cooperative games with my kids as we get to be on the same team which makes for a much better bonding experience than if we are competing against each other. The younger the kids, the more tricky it is to play competitively and I want them to love playing and not feel like they always lose to dad! This is why chess is so hard for kids to learn, the learning curve means that they have to power through a lot of failure and defeats before they get the hang of it and even then it would take them the rest of their life to master! I like to tell my kids that its good to lose as that is when they are learning the most.
But I don’t always want to be pushing my kids through the pain barrier of losing to me, sometimes I want a shared experience in which we can win or lose together – and this applies as much to my partner or my friends as well. Personally I have no problem with losing a game but, for those newer to the hobby, losing can be a turn off, especially if they have had bad experiences in the past. They may have had older siblings who teased them or had other times when people made them feel bad for losing, so cooperative games really solve this problem as everyone is working together for a common goal.
And in these busy times it can be hard to get many at the table so having a few games up your sleeve which work really well as 2 player cooperatives might be just the ticket!
OK, so let’s get into it, I will start by showcasing three of my favorite cooperative games which are great for just 2 players, then I will link to a couple of games that I’ve already done reviews of here and here.
221b Baker Street is a must have for any Sherlock Holmes fan! We went on holiday to Dartmoor last summer and visited the museum housed in the old hotel in which Arthur Conan Doyle penned The Hound of the Baskervilles and ever since then my daughter has been obsessed with Sherlock! So I bought her 221b Baker Street for Christmas.
In 221b Baker Street you take on the role of detective and start by reading the scenario out loud. You must then decide which locations to visit first in order to pick up clues. Although originally designed as a competitive game, it does suggest that you can play it cooperatively and, actually, I prefer it this way. In cooperative mode you work together to solve the clues and it makes for a much more interactive experience as, rather than keeping the clues to yourself and each player trying to work it out on their own, you can discuss it as a team and put your heads together to solve the crime. And not only that, but I think it works best with 2 players, maybe 3, any more than that and you are likely to get one or two people dominating the discussion. With just 2 players you can both feel really involved in the decision-making and puzzle solving.
The game is designed really well and plays almost like a board-game version of a choose-your-own-adventure book. You decide which locations you think are going to be most relevant to the case and head there first. You then look up the location code associated with that case in the ‘clues’ section of the manual to reveal the clue from that location.
There are 14 locations to choose from and you will need to be judicious in your choices as the more clues you need to solve the crime, the lower your ranking will be. You need to be able to identify each aspect of the case, for example, the killer, the weapon and the motive and if you manage to identify them all in 5 clues or less, then you are a ‘Master Detective’! This would be quite a feat, however, as the cases are not simple. If you need all 14 clues to solve the case then you are a ‘Watson’! And there are several ranks in between.
Originally designed in 1975, it has been re-printed in a shiny new box but has kept the oldy-worldy victorian-feel to the art-work which is really sweet and the little Sherlock meeples are a cute touch.
If you like solving mysteries then 221b Baker Street might be the game for you!
Title: 221b Baker Street
No. of players: 2-6
Time: 90 mins
Lord of the Rings is a classic cooperative board game which is awesome with 2 players. Although it can be played with up to 5 players, I think it works better with 2 as it cuts down on the length of debate about what to do next. With just 2 players, the pace of the game is a lot faster and you feel more a part of the action, with less time waiting between your turns.
The Lord of the Rings board game takes you right through the whole trilogy from Bag End all the way to Mordor, visiting all the major locations on the way. You play the part of the hobbits. With 2 players, that would be Frodo and Sam which is true to the book. Each hobbit has their own special ability and the pair must work together to traverse the dangers of the 4 game boards representing Moria, Helms Deep, Shelob’s Lair and finally, if you get that far, the ominous Mordor, where you must throw the One Ring into the flames!
The rules are not laid out in the most user-friendly manner, so it is worth spending a little time reading them ahead of playing and maybe play a few dummy rounds till you have the hang of it. They are not actually so complicated once you can decipher them.
One thing that confuses people when they first encounter the game is that the hobbit meeples don’t actually go on the main game board, they travel along the ‘Master Board’ across the top which maps the overall journey whilst the place markers track the progress along a variety of activity lines through each scenario.
On the Master Board, the hobbits begin at one end with Sauron at the other and various events cause either the hobbits to move towards the darkness or Sauron to move towards the light. If at any point your hobbit meets Sauron, then its game over for that character, although the other players can carry on to see if they can reach their goal before succumbing to the power of the evil sorcerer!
There are a few cool game mechanics that make the game really enjoyable. One character is the ‘Ring Bearer’ and this changes throughout the game, so each player gets a chance. The ring bearer can use the ring to avoid certain events, but there are consequences for trying to harness the dark power which may result in your character moving towards Sauron on the corruption line.
It is also possible to call on Gandalf to help by using one of the special Gandalf cards which can give the active player extra actions, ‘heal’ a character by moving them back towards the light or allow a player to draw more cards.
The game plays as a race against the deck of event tiles and difficult strategic decisions must be made each turn. Will you advance along the main activity line for the scenario or will you advance along the subsidiary lines which will slow you down but will give you useful rewards such as Theoden from Helm’s Deep or Faramir from Shelob’s Lair who will give you a boost on your journey.
I love how the game follows the story and in between the tense scenarios you get some down-time in Rivendell and Lothlorien where you receive bonus cards from the Elves to aid you in your quest.
All-in-all, Lord of the Rings is a really well-designed game which keeps pretty faithfully to the story. The board-art is fab and once you get to grips with the initial set-up rules you will keep wanting to come back for more adventures in Middle Earth!
Title: Lord of the Rings: The Board Game
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
No. of players: 1-5
Time: 60-90 mins
#1: Descent: Journey’s in the Dark 2e – Road to Legend
Descent is an awesome game! I grew up on Hero Quest and Advanced Hero Quest which were my gateway games into role-playing games (RPGs) and board games in general. Descent takes the classic dungeon-crawler concept and brings it into the modern era with reversible tiles which make up a modular game board and plenty of lovely game mechanics to keep you interested, focused and which really bring the game to life.
It is usually played, as in Hero Quest, with most players playing the heroes and one player playing the Overlord, or Games Master (Dungeon Master if your into DnD!), but there is a special version of the game called ‘Road to Legend’ which you can download from Steam which turns it into a truly cooperative game where the computer takes on the role of Overlord.
Descent really captures the half-way point between role-playing game and board game with gorgeous artwork, fantastic miniatures and a great story-telling arc. It takes a long time to play, so make sure you’ve got a clear couple of hours and you won’t be disappointed. The rules are fairly complex but, although it says for ages 14+ on the box, I have played it with my son who’s 8 and he gets on OK, although 10 or 12 years is probably a more appropriate age for most kids. And the beauty of the Road to Legend expansion is that, as we’re working on a team, I am able to help my son with the trickier aspects of the rules.
There are 8 different characters to choose from and each character can choose one of 2 separate ‘classes’ making for a total of 16 different unique character experiences, and as you choose just one or two characters each, there are many combinations you can put together. So once you’ve completed the game with one combo, you can go back through and try again with another combo.
This is one reason why Descent has re-playability appeal for me, not only is the base game big enough to keep any hardy group of explorers busy for a long time, the combinations of different characters make me want to come back for more. And there are different routes to victory, so you can play the whole campaign again and it will feel new as you explore different paths and have different encounters.
The inherent asymmetry of the characters makes for super interesting game play as each character will bring different skills and abilities to the table. And as it is a campaign, you will be gaining special weapons and new skills along the way.
I love the fighting mechanic and it feels like this is the game that the designers of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3e (WFRP3e) were trying to build, but that is a discussion for a whole other blog post!
Suffice to say that characters have different levels of ability in 4 different attributes: Might, Knowledge, Willpower and Awareness as well as separate Speed, Health, Fatigue and Defense scores. They also each have a unique ‘Hero Ability’ at their fingertips and a ‘Hero Feat’ which they can use once per encounter. As well as that they will have cards with their weapons, armour and skills on – so there is a lot to keep track of, but the cooperative nature of the game means that you can help each other to stay on top of tactics.
There is a certain amount of investment in terms of time at the start to get your head around the intricacies of the rules, but if you like dungeon crawlers, then you can’t beat Descent!
Title: Descent: Journeys in the Dark, second edition.
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
No. of players: 2-6
Time: 2 hours
And let me know in the comments below if you have played any of these games and what you think of them, or if you have any other suggestions for 2 player cooperative games.
Thanks for reading!