Cooperative games are becoming more popular and are actually pretty common now a days. What is hard to find is a great two-player cooperative game. Even harder to find is a cooperative game that is two-player only.
Ryan Peach writes:
“Looking for a good 2 player co-op. Specifically 2 player only. As a blind meeple asking this question I’d mentally discounted [many games] I play with sighted assistance. A game where the second player does something different but still interesting and where both parties can talk to each other would do.”
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The Short Answer:
There are extremely few two-player only cooperative games.
I have had this question from Ryan sitting in our question queue for a very long time. Every time I consider answering it, I do some thinking and google searching and don’t really come up with a good answer. That’s because there are so few two-player only cooperative games out there.
The first game I always think of is And Then We Held Hands… a very unique relationship themed game that uses two-sided cards. Players play cards from their hand or their partner’s hand, in order to move markers on a board that’s reminiscent to Nine Men Morris. If the players can get their markers to meet they win. While a very solid game, it’s not vision-impaired accessible at all.
Another more recent two-player cooperative game is Codenames Duet. In this two-player version of Codenames, players give each other clues trying to guess the right words from the card tableau in front of them. Again we run into accessibility issues with this game, as it requires both players to be able to see the word cards. For more information on Codenames Duet check out my full review.
Then there is my most recent two-player only cooperative game discovery The Fox in the Forest Duet from Renegade Game Studios. This is a fairy tale themed trick taking card game for two players where players are trying to collect gems in the forest while trying to avoid getting lost or running out of time. It’s an excellent re-implementation of the two player trick taking system initially introduced in The Fox in the Forest, one of my favourite two player games for date night with my wife.
Consentacle is a two-player cooperative game about a consensual sexual encounter between a curious human and a tentacled alien. I think this may be the perfect game to fit Ryan’s accessibility restrictions, I’m just not sure if he’s interested in that theme.
The Long Answer:
Once you broaden the criteria, there are a ton of cooperative games that play great with two players.
What I would like to do next is broaden the criteria from Ryan’s original question. Let’s take a look at some good cooperative games, for any player count, that are actually really good with two players.
Now there’s a bit of a caveat here, some of the games I’m going to mention below I haven’t personally played. The reason for this is that the person I’m most likely to play a two-player game with is my wife, Deanna, and Deanna is not a cooperative game fan, so I don’t get a lot of chances to actually play two-player cooperative games. Just know that the following list is a mix of my personal experience, a common consensus found through bloggers and podcasters, and BGG ratings.
Here are some of the best cooperative games for two players:
Gloomhaven – While it’s quite the investment (I suggest splitting the cost with your partner), Gloomhaven is not only one of the best cooperative games ever released, it’s one of the best board games ever published. It currently sits at the #1 spot on Board Game Geek and has been there for quite some time now. While Gloomhaven is best with three players, it actually plays better with two than it does with four. I’ve personally played a few random dungeons with two players and I really liked how quick the game plays with only two characters.
Spirit Island – Every single two-player cooperative game list out there, every blog post, every Podcast that has covered this topic — they all mention Spirit Island, and usually as a top choice. This would seem to be the number one two-player cooperative game, according to fans. What I personally dig about this game is the way it takes the theme of colonization that is so common in board games and twists it around having you play the Spirits defending the island from the colonizers.
The 7th Continent – The internet seems to be split on whether this game is best as a solo experience or when playing as a pair. That’s got to mean it’s good with two. This choose-your-own-adventure style game may just be perfect for a blind-meeple like Ryan, as one player can do all of the reading while the other player would still be able to take part in the discussion and problem solving.
Arkham Horror the Card Game – This is one of the newest Living Card Games (LCGs) to come out from Fantasy Flight. Many places indicate that this game is actually best with only two investigators. I hear this game is fantastic but also extremely difficult. My main reason for not getting into this one myself is the LCG format. The game is difficult, so it encourages you to buy more cards through expansion packs, and I just can’t personally keep up with the rate Fantasy Flight puts those out. Fans of the games eat them up though.
Mage Knight – This is a big fantasy exploration game. Start off on one tile and explore outward, levelling up and improving your character while working towards a pre-chosen scenario goal. While considered by many to be the best solo game ever made, Mage Knight can also be played cooperatively. The one warning I have about this game is just how epic it is. You are looking at a minimum of four hours to play through a scenario. This is the kind of game you leave set up and come back to multiple times over a weekend.
Robinson Crusoe Adventures on the Cursed Island – This is another adventure style game similar to 7th Continent but definitely easier to get a hold of. Here we have another case where I think the game could work well for a person with vision problems with a partner who could do all of the reading for them. Decisions will still get made together and you can both patiently wait to see if that spider bite that you got early in the game will come back to haunt you later.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – In this game, the two of you get to match wits with Holmes himself. Try to solve the mystery expeditiously as possible. There are many games in this series, released by a wide variety of publishers. From what I understand they are all good. I’ve seen this one recommended by more than one person with vision issues so it should be a good fit for Ryan and visually-impaired gamers like him.
The Lord of the Rings: Journey’s in Middle Earth – I was actually surprised to see BGG users listing this game as best with two players. I would have assumed that, like many dungeon crawling games, you want as many players as possible. With an integrated app taking the place of many of the card decks you find in other dungeon crawlers this may be one of the most accessible adventure games out there. I went out and bought a copy of this one myself and really look forward to diving into it.
EXIT: The Game Series – While the recommended player count for these escape room in a box games does vary, the most common sweet spot is two players. This is one cooperative game that I have played with just Deanna and I. Check out my review of The Secret Lab for my full thoughts on this game. I will say here that we had a good time and I’ve since gone out and gotten three more EXIT Games to try. Before you buy, check BGG for suggestions as to which games in the series play best at two.
Horrified Universal Monsters: Okay, yes, this game is significantly better the more people you have playing it, but I have played Horrified with only two players and it works fine. This is one of those games where every time a player goes, the bad guys get to go too, so changing player count doesn’t overly affect the game. Though I will admit saving villagers is harder when you only have two heroes on the map. For more information about this game check out my full Horrified review.
For more excellent two-player games check out these other articles:
There you have my two-player cooperative board game suggestions. Well mine with some help from other board game media and the members of Board Game Geek. What is your favourite cooperative game to play with two players? Let us know in the comments.