Two Player Versions Better than the Original

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A successful game often breeds spinoffs. Dice versions, card game versions, and so on. It’s not uncommon to take a multi-player game and shift it into duel mode. These spinoffs are usually not as good as the original, but sometimes, you get something even better.

7 Wonders: Duel

7 Wonders is an amazing title that gives you the feel of civilization building in a brisk, 40-minute package. Part of its charm is that it accommodates up to 7 players and utilizes an interesting drafting mechanism. Neither of those factors would be carried over to a two-player game. And yet, 7 Wonders: Duel transforms this fun title into something even better than the original.

In Duel, instead of drafting the same hand back and forth, the cards are arrayed in a pyramid. Only as bottom cards are removed do top cards become available. You still get that drafting feel without having to pass a hand back and forth. In fact, it creates additional strategy because often the order in which you take cards is important. Forcing your opponent to grab unhelpful cards can be a huge boon to you.

Plus, there are several rule improvements over the original. Military is played in a tug-of-war style; each point of military I get takes one away from you. If either side gets to the end of the tug-of-war board, they win. Similarly, collecting science might result in an automatic victory without having to count up points. Even yellow commercial buildings are made more useful. When discarding for coins, instead of getting a static three, you get two plus the number of yellow buildings you have.

When you put it all together, Duel is actually the superior game. I find myself hoping that the designer creates some alternate rules or perhaps an expansion to take some of the Duel concepts into the original multiplayer title.

Rivals of Catan

Catan is ubiquitous throughout board gaming. One of the pillars upon which it relies is the need and incentive to trade. In fact, the more trades you can be a part of, generally the better the game will go for you. So how do you take this into a two player title? Trades don’t quite have the same incentive in that environment.

The game eliminates trade, yet introduces a host of new concepts that keep the game fresh and interesting. Players get access to a deck of cards that, in addition to building roads, settlements, and cities, now allow them to hire heroes that provide special bonuses or new structures that can assist them.

Additionally, as the players throw the dice each round, it not only decides which crops will grow, but also which event will take place. Some of the events are helpful, like allowing the players to gain a resource of their choice, while others might lead to stolen gold and sheep.

While the game ultimately is won on victory points, it provides several sub-competitions like having the greatest strength or commerce. Acquiring those titles will give you more options on event cards and, hopefully, more success in gaining victory points. Plus, it includes three modules (and more with expansions) that allow for completely different experiences in every play.

Ubongo: Duel

Ubongo is one of the great puzzle games of the board game world. You have several tetris-style pieces. Each player is given a grid of boxes and the players have to figure out how to fit their pieces into those boxes. Once you do, there’s a convoluted scoring system centered around grabbing gems.

Ubongo: Duel takes all of the great things about the original and removes that clunky and uninteresting scoring system. Instead of trying to acquire gems and working your puzzle solving around that, Duel gives each player identical puzzles and just says “go!” Whoever finishes first wins the round and the game is played best of nine.

It even has an effective catch-up mechanism. If one player gets too far ahead, she must start doing two puzzles while her opponent does only one. This is a great way to put the brakes on a runaway leader and allow a trailing opponent to pull even.

What other two-player versions are better than the original?  Tell us about them in the comments.

Image Credits: Asmodee, Mayfair Games, and Z-Man Games.

Featured Image Credit: Mayfair Games

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