282 – Room to Grow: 2-Player Battles – The Family Gamers Podcast

Episode 282

Room to Grow: 2-Player Battles

In the Room to Grow series, our goal is to help you bring your kids through a series of games with the same main mechanic, increasing in complexity and building on each other. All of these games are suitable for a family context – and this week, it’s one of Andrew & Anitra’s favorite styles: two player fighting games!

Fact! The Code of Hammurabi is a collection of 282 rules. (They Might Be Giants song The Mesopotamians features Hammurabi as well.)

What We’ve Been Playing

Berried Treasure (Sid Sackson / Restoration Games)

Fantastic Factories

Three Sisters (Ben Pinchback, Matt Riddle / 25th Century Games)

Summer Camp (Phil Walker-Harding / Buffalo Games)

Riftforce (our review)

Maul Peak (coming soon to Kickstarter)

Kingdomino Origins (our review)

Zoom in Barcelona (Núria Casellas, Eloi Pujadas, Joaquim Vilalta / Blue Orange Games)

Welcome to the Community!

Just two new members this week, but we’re happy to have you. Stop by and say hi!

Room to Grow: 2-Player Battles

Our goal with Room to Grow is to bring your kids through a series of games that grow in complexity. We do our best to start with a game that shows a mechanic or play style very simply, and then move up to a game that is a little more complex, and then one even more complex.

Battling games for two players tend to be relatively quick and direct. There’s a natural focus (defeating the other player) and these games make it very clear when one player has lost and the other player has won. No rounds, not a point-based game, not even a race.

Even though we like abstract games, putting a theme onto a battle can make it a little bit more direct and easier to understand. And it doesn’t hurt quite so much to lose when it’s direct combat – and a safe place to fight!

For Beginners: Food Fighters

Food Fighters

This wonderful game from Kids Table Board Gaming pits meat against vegetables in a battle that’s cute but fierce. (We reviewed it in 2020.)

What we like for beginners: the element of chance (dice rolling for bean currency and for hits), and it’s extremely visual. There’s very little reading (only the faction special powers, which also have evocative pictures). The grid layout and visual style allow emergent learning; kids can play without knowing what everything does, learning more as they go.

A Little More Advanced: Tiny Ninjas

Tiny Ninjas: Panda attacks, Single defends 1 damage

Tiny Ninjas (our review) is a card-based combat game that also uses dice. Play cards from your hand to attack (or defend) – most attacks require die rolling to determine how powerful the attack is.

This is a one-on-one battle that requires keeping a hand secret. There is more reading required (around half the cards have special powers). Both the attacker and defender draw from the same deck, which leads to another emergent strategy – how many cards to attack with, and how many to keep in reserve for defense?

Unmatched: Sherlock and Bigfoot

Ready for Battle: Unmatched

Our go-to family-weight two player skirmish game is Unmatched. There are so many character options that you can find something for just about anyone (younger characters probably don’t want Bloody Mary or Dracula). Cobble & Fog is our favorite set, but is pretty challenging to play well. But the characters from Battle of Legends, Volume 1 (or Bigfoot & Robin Hood) give a pretty straightforward place to start.

This is a more challenging game to play – both in strategy, and in the mechanics: lots of reading, hand management, and (usually) multiple characters to move around the map. We’d argue this also makes it more interesting.

Unlike our other recommendations, Unmatched can be played with more than two players (free for all or team play). It’s still best suited for two players, though.

Other Advanced (but Family-Friendly) Choices

Skulk Hollow is another favorite. It’s a little simpler than Unmatched, with significantly less reading. It’s also more obviously asymmetric (hulking Guardian vs. many small Foxen).

For something a little more complex, try Summoner Wars is a card-based battle game from Plaid Hat Games. Choose from one of many factions, and play cards out onto a grid. They can be moved around and perform many different attacks.

What’s your favorite two player battle game?

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