Game Spotlights

Published: February 5, 2024

Adam Knight

Two-Player Cooperative Adventures

Modern co-ops (Two-Player) like Arkham Horror, Sleeping Gods, and Gloomhaven offer giant adventures to run through with friends and family, and those giants started a trend. While most of these games let you play with four or more, tackling the quest with a committed partner can be the most rewarding way to play.

If you’re looking for a new two-player game to play with a partner, take this list of recent cooperative campaign games and get to adventuring.

A Tactical Game for Parents and New Players

If you’re the one leading the charge into two-player campaign board gaming, choosing the right title from the existing plethora is hard enough. You might want to crack that Frosthaven box, or dive into the dark Camelot world of Tainted Grail, but if your playing partner is newer to games, take a trip to the lighter side with Adventure Tactics.

Flush with bright art and driven by an addictive leveling system reminiscent of the Final Fantasy Tactics video game, Adventure Tactics gives you a branching campaign without all the overhead of more complicated games. Your playing partner might choose to start as a rogue and progress to an assassin or a monk, or mingle with wizarding ways to add spells to their deck. The goodies rain down so frequently you won’t feel like you’re grinding along with the same abilities mission to mission.

The treats bring the two-players back to the table.

Adventure Tactics isn’t super light – this is still a, well, tactical game and making poor decisions or getting caught with unlucky rolls puts an emphasis on team composition and strategy. The card play and battle system, though, isn’t esoteric, chock full of random keywords, elements, or tables to parse. You won’t spendtwo-player hours listening to narrative either, keeping the action on the board and not in paragraphs.

With only two-players, you can take your first shot controlling a single character each, then launch into a replay, maybe with an expansion or two, with a couple heroes apiece, going for different class combos every time. And if two-players eventually becomes three (or more), Adventure Tactics has a story perfectly suited for a younger audience.

One last note: it’s all too common these days for adventure games to come drenched in gray plastic miniatures. That’s lovely if you have time to paint, but Adventure Tactics caters to the busy lifestyle with beautiful standees, perfect for folks who don’t plan on breaking out the brush.

Roll Player with a Story

Thunderworks Games hit on the peanut-butter and chocolate moment of RPGs with its Roll Player game and expansions, which built their dice-placement play around character creation. Roll Player Adventures builds on those games with a standalone narrative. Less a tactical dungeon crawl than a narrative adventure, you’ll be making more story choices and tossing skill checks than in something like Gloomhaven or Massive Darkness. The tests here aren’t just single random rolls either:cge00059.jpg (900×795) much like Roll Player, you’ll need to match dice colors, spend stamina, and plan how to use ability cards to give you the best chance of success.

If you’re used to grid-based battles and attack rolls, you might find Roll Player Adventures (and similar titles like Sleeping Gods) a refreshing change. The game is the story and the choices you make, with every minute progressing the adventure rather than burning time bashing goblins and hapless bandits. And there’s no grinding to the end of a long encounter only to whiff a critical hit and find yourself forced to repeat the whole thing.

Of course, if you’re going to focus on the story, then that story had better be good. Roll Player Adventures nails the fantasy tropes you know and love while tossing in enough swerves and surprises to keep things interesting. Session length helps here too, with breaks between battles, climactic moments, and story beats coming every couple of hours, making it easy to match your play to the time you have, a major advantage compared to more open-ended games that might sprawl well past bedtime.

Like Adventure Tactics, Roll Player Adventures works well to introduce a new player to campaign board gaming. The rules are light and the low penalty for failure makes it easy to establish momentum, ensuring your marauding barbarian and her endearing rogue pal can keep on questing.

A Sci-Fi, Cooperative Deck-builder for Two-Players

Adventure Tactics gives you a grid for your custom hero deck to dominate. Astro Knights ditches the hexes and gives you more cards in the manner of a pure deck builder. If you’ve ever played Aeon’s End, then Astro Knights will look familiar (both are published by Indie Board and Cards), though the differences amount to more than just a sci-fi re-theme.

In Astro Knights, you’ll start with a Nemesis to defeat, a personal hero deck, and a big market stack filled with possibilities. Turns come with the usual deck-builder flavor: you’ll buy new cards while using others to trash the Nemesis, trigger effects, or clear out musty old cards. So far, so fine.

What kicks Astro Knights up the rankings is its refinement of what Aeon’s End already does so well. First and foremost, the game setup is simplified. You’re no longer stacking a Nemesis deck in the proper order to ensure a balanced encounter: enemies just get stronger as their draw deck runs out and gets reshuffled. TheTwo-player kitchen-sink market adds variety while eliminating the need to scour your whole collection for a few specific cards. There’s even an option to ‘super-charge’ a market card, turning it into a one-time use big effect that might save your game.

Astro Knights also carries forward Aeon’s End’s unique features, like simply flipping over your discard deck rather than reshuffling. This little tweak makes the order in which you toss your hand and buy cards important, leaving less to random luck and letting you set up those satisfying two-player combos. You’ll also keep the difficulty modes, letting you go back to favorite Nemeses and tune the fights to their most compelling level for two-players.

Astro Knights isn’t a traditional campaign. Instead, the adventure comes in battling and defeating the Nemeses with two-players. You won’t gain levels or listen to one lore dump after another, but you’ll learn how to cooperate with each other, grabbing the right cards to complement your partner’s play to save your home world. Mastering this makes a game like Astro Knights feel like a perfect dance, every play leading your partner and theirs doing the same for you, until the enemy lies in ruin. 

For anyone who enjoys pure deck builders like Ascension, Dominion, or deck-building adjacent games like Dune: Imperium or Lost Ruins of Arnak, Astro Knights and its fantasy sister Aeon’s End deliver a two-player take on the mechanism. Astro Knights is also a great next step if you and your partner or gaming group have wand-ibcak1.jpg (502×601)waved your way through Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. That game’s gentle introduction lays a great foundation for Astro Knight’s more in-depth play, one you’ll be ready for after casting Voldemort into the Great Beyond.

Build a lifelong board game Foundation

Two-player campaign games are everywhere, a blessing and a curse for anyone trying to pick the next game night adventure. Some promise a hundred hours or more of story or combat so tooth-and-nails tough as to make precise play a necessity to succeed in a two-player game. If you’re just starting down this road, look to games like the ones above for a fun, more welcoming onboarding.

What matters when you start down this road is finding a partner willing to come with you on countless quests. Make your first steps the right ones, and you’ll never lack for adventure.