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Super Fillers for 2
Tom Rosen
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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su·per ('sü-p&r) adjective - exhibiting the characteristics of its type to an extreme or excessive degree

fill·er ('fi-l&r) noun - a piece used to cover or fill in a space between two parts of a structure; material used to fill extra space

Super Filler - Coined and defined by Mike Siggins in the Gamer's Notebook on October 25, 2006:

Mike Siggins - Gamer's Notebook - October 25, 2006 wrote:
The Super Filler is really a subtype of game that I used to call The Middleweight. It is more than a 20 or 30 minute starter, but it does not amount to a main course in weight or play length. The game is 'straight in,' has plenty of decisions, a fair amount of depth, but importantly it is very quick to play. Almost always under an hour, and leaving you feeling as if you have played for longer. In many ways it is an important species of German Game because it can avoid many of the traps – too light, too random, too boring – and appeals to most types of player. And those that don’t like it can see that it won’t last that long. A typical Super Filler is Mykerinos. I would put Yspahan, Taluva and Gheos in the same group.


I am on a quest to find an elusive subtype of this subtype of game, specifically Super Fillers that are best suited for 2 players. I want to find Super Fillers that are great for 2 players, not games that simply work for 2 players. This quest began after trying the "typical Super Filler" Mykerinos and finding that even though it is a good game, the two-player version did not appeal to me due to the "artificial third player" rule (also seen in Alhambra, Acquire, and Louis XIV). Consequently, I want to find other typical Super Fillers, but only those that shine as two-player games. As Mike explained, these should be games that take around 45 minutes to play, and certainly no more than 60 minutes.

In order to provide a little more guidance and help find games that do qualify, I will elaborate on what games do not qualify.

First, the ideal Super Filler for 2 players should be heavier (i.e., longer and more complex) than all of the following great light games for 2 players: Lost Cities, Balloon Cup, Odin's Ravens, StreetSoccer, Fjords, Can't Stop, Travel Blokus, Pingvinas (also known as Hey That's My Fish), and even Lord of the Rings: Confrontation (although I think that last one almost qualifies as a Super Filler if you each play both sides).

Second, the ideal Super Filler for 2 players should be lighter (i.e., shorter and less complex) than all of the following great heavy games for 2 players: Caylus, Goa, Tigris & Euphrates, Java, Puerto Rico, and even Louis XIV (although I think that last one almost qualifies as a Super Filler if you play quick enough).

Thus, Lord of the Rings: Confrontation and Louis XIV exemplify the outer limits of the Super Filler genre at the light and heavy ends of the spectrum respectively.

Third, examples of good Super Fillers that require (or are better with) more than 2 players include: China, Mykerinos, Clans, and possibly Kreta (if experienced players can get it under 60 minutes). I think I'd also add Yspahan to this list even though the two-player variant works decently well because I think that the two-player rule requiring players to use an action to build weakens building too much, taking away one of the viable paths to victory, resulting in decision-making becoming less interesting.

Fourth, I will arbitrarily and capriciously add a criteria in that eliminates pure abstracts from qualifying for this list. Although the GIPF games and Ingenious would otherwise fit well here, I have an irrational fear of pure abstract games, so I'll acknowledge that Project GIPF includes some wonderful two-player Super Fillers (assuming you don't spend too long deciding what move to make), but they won't belong on this list.

Finally, a few games that I considered adding to this list, but I didn't for various reasons are (although you should feel free to add them to the list and justify why they belong):
-Gheos: It's certainly a Super Filler, and one that greatly appealed to me from reading the rules, but after playing it 13 times, I feel like there's something not quite right with this game. I'm not sure what it is, but I think it has something to do with the % of tiles that are used to replace previous tiles rather than expand the landscape, with the ratio being approximately 50:50 in my games. It's an interesting game, but not quite a great Super Filler for 2 players in my book... a good one though.
-San Juan: I don't know what it is I can't stand about this game, but after playing it 4 times, I hope to never play it again. I can see why this might be the perfect Super Filler for 2 players according to others (so feel free to add it to this list and explain why you love it), but it's just not for me.
-Alhambra: This is a curious one because after playing it 7 times I can see that it's long enough to be a Super Filler, but it still feels too light to be a Super Filler since there doesn't seem to be enough control.

Lastly, I'm a fan of Knizia and all, but the Knizia to non-Knizia ratio of this list is nonetheless a bit out of whack, help rectify that with your own additions please
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26. Board Game: Canal Grande [Average Rating:6.42 Overall Rank:2174]
Huzonfirst
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Manassas
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Another game I think qualifies weight-wise and one I think makes a great two-player game. I see you're a San Marco fan, so perhaps you've eliminated this for some reason, but it's relatively quick and gives you a good workout without being too heavy. The components are absolutely awful, but that isn't enough to keep me from enjoying this every time I play it.
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27. Board Game: Hacienda [Average Rating:7.00 Overall Rank:463]
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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This one might qualify. I've enjoyed my two-player games of this and it seems to fit in terms of weight and duration. Replayable because of the variety injected with the order the cards appear, and you can always use the additionally designed boards, of course. It goes without saying that Variant #1 in the rules is the way to play.
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28. Board Game: Kahuna [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:732]
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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This is one of the heavier two-player games I play, so it might fit your requirements. Very good, but also a bit of a mental workout, so it doesn't get as much play as some others. But it deserves consideration for the list.
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29. Board Game: Katzenjammer Blues [Average Rating:5.90 Overall Rank:3705]
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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Ah, another Knizia and one you probably weren't expecting to see. But trust me, with two (and three), this is a very demanding and intense game of valuation and judgement. It also has a reasonably steep learning curve as you figure out the true value of things. Definitely worth checking out for those who want something meaty in a two-player game.
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30. Board Game: Babel [Average Rating:6.72 Overall Rank:775]
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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We're getting a bit lighter, but this still might meet your requirements. Excellent two-player game for those who like to think outside the box. Just realize that board position is more important than the number of VPs you happen to have and any concerns about the game's alledged chaos should be quelled.
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31. Board Game: Jambo [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:321] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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Too light? It might be on the border. Still, a great two-player game.
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32. Board Game: Caylus Magna Carta [Average Rating:7.01 Overall Rank:433]
 
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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I haven't tried this with two yet, but it seems as if it would play well with that number and the rest of the game qualifies quite well.
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33. Board Game: Ticket to Ride: Switzerland [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.52 Unranked]
 
Huzonfirst
United States
Manassas
Virginia
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Curry, Iguodala, and Co. are just too much for the valiant Cavs (and the amazing LeBron) and give Golden State their first NBA title in 40 years!
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When this finally comes out, you might want to include this on your list. Definitely more intense and contentious than original Ticket to Ride. And the boardplay is designed to work very well with two or three players.
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34. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.82 Overall Rank:494]
'Bernard Wingrave'
United States
Wyoming
Ohio
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I realize that you don't like this one, but I'm adding it for those other people who are interested in the superfiller concept. I think it fits.

Edit: This fits your five numbered criteria, but maybe not the "shines with two" mentioned in one of the preceding paragraphs. YMMV.
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35. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.31 Overall Rank:159]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I am sorry Tom, but this game needs to be on this list.

I am really not that much of a eurogamer, but this game really appeals to me. There are a lot o different cards which makes every game different and also accomodates a number of different strategies. I get bored of games very quickly, but this game is still as fun for me as it was the first time I played it.

I recommend it strongly for anyone looking for a good, solid two player game with a lot of replayability. Great stuff!
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36. Board Game: Memoir '44 [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:87] [Average Rating:7.53 Unranked]
Henrik Lantz
Sweden
Uppsala
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I am bit hesitant to add this game, since it with setup time could stretch over an hour. Still, 45 mins or even less is certainly possible if both players know the game well. Anyhow, I know of few games that pack as much game into a short playing time. It has great bits, tense tactical decisions, and is just a lot of fun without being too complicated. My wife loves it as well.
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37. Board Game: Blue Moon City [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:358]
Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
Costa Rica
Asunción de Belén
Heredia
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A card game, a race game and a majority game mixed together in this very good Knizia's. Certainly one of his best designs.

Players colaborate to rebuild the city, in a competitive way. So it has a good dose of playing interaction, nevertheless it is non confrontational, which makes the game a nice pick for couples.

Besides, its artwork is also one of the best around.
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38. Board Game: Gloria Mundi [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:2278]
Lo Ma
United States
California
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Gloria Mundi is a fun race game with hand/resource management, and a fun theme: The Barbarians are coming, the Barbarians are coming - appease 'em while you run to Carthage as fast as you can, oh decadent Romans...

Also, you need to answer the question: to appease or not to appease the Barbarian... or in other words, when will it hurt my opponent more than me to let the Barbarian go down his path of destruction!

It's a twisty sort of race game that plays fast with 2 players. A lot of tactics with some overall strategy elements. Has a good level of complexity and interesting decision points for a race game, so has a high replay value in our household. Very cool... zombie
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39. Board Game: Goa [Average Rating:7.70 Overall Rank:52]
Michael James
United States
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GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAA! This game is perfect for this list. One of the best 2 player games and has so much going on yet plays quick and smoothly.
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40. Board Game: Oltre Mare [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:816]
Senor EvilMonkey
United Kingdom
Canterbury
Kent
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This is a popular game in our household for both 2 players and more. When introducing the game to newcomers they are generally overwhelmed by the rules for about 30 seconds, then realise that the mechanics are actually pretty simple. The occasional agonising decision makes this game rather enjoyable without lapsing into AP, and the rather simplistic looking board makes this a good choice for introducing non-gamers to the concept that 'appearances aren't everything'.
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41. Board Game: Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde [Average Rating:6.64 Overall Rank:1281]
Chris
United States
Altoona
Wisconsin
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Personally, I think this is the best rummy variant that I have played. I think it fits the criteria because,

1. its 2-player
2. its a rummy variant so it is not too heavy
3. it is thematic in that you can only play Jekyll melds when Jekyll is face up, and Hyde melds when Hyde is face up, allowing for some interesting strategies
4. you can try to shut out your opponent and make them score 0!
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42. Board Game: The Aztec Market [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:4518]
Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
Costa Rica
Asunción de Belén
Heredia
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Very nice themed abstract and brain burner game. Players are traders that try to do bussiness in a crowded market. Nevertheless, people conglomerations, Gobernors, loaders and even the Emperor himself get in their way to reach the most valuable stands, and some of them want a part of the booty. But players have and ace under their sleeves and can move some influences to modify the market distribution a bit, so nobody gets in the middle, but in the rivals' way. Of course, to do so they'll have to pay or bring some goods to the market or the Emperor. The game is very analytical and it has many options and easy rules; the perfect combination for a great experience.
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43. Board Game: Castle [Average Rating:6.12 Overall Rank:2099]
Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
Costa Rica
Asunción de Belén
Heredia
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The object of the game is to get rid of your cards playing them in different castle areas, such as courtyard, ramparts, towers and the open field. Every card has a special location requirement and a special power; the main one is to retrieve cards to opponents' hands, but there are others. Nevertheless it isn't a brain burner, it can become very strategic, specially with two players. It seldom takes more than an hour to play...
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44. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.14 Overall Rank:253]
Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
Costa Rica
Asunción de Belén
Heredia
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Thurn and Taxis has a similar look and mechanics than Elfenland, but upgraded. It can also be compared with Ticket to Ride because of the "pick up cards" mechanic. Players try to build a postal network in Bayern and its surroundings with the help of postal officers.

It works very good with two players...
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45. Board Game: Cronberg [Average Rating:6.00 Overall Rank:3533]
Luis Paulino Mora Lizano
Costa Rica
Asunción de Belén
Heredia
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A math version of Carcassonne, from Kronberger Spiele. It has been published as a free print 'n play game, and as commercial game as "Cronberg" and as "Bonobo Beach". Maybe to quick and light for the list, but sure deep enough to be seen as a Super Filler...
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46. Board Game: The Downfall of Pompeii [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:318]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Reading your recent posts has been like dipping my bottom over and over into a bath of the silkiest oils and creams.
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Tom,

Thank you for creating this list. I love superfillers (if that's the term we're using). For me, the ideal game plays in 30-60 minutes, scales well from 2, 3 and 4 players, and has interesting decisions but not overly complex. Playing well with 2 is a definite strong point for me, and I actively seek out games in that player- and time-range that play particularly well with two players.

You've already mentioned some of the ones already in my mind (Hansa, Through The Desert, Samurai) and others have pointed out some more as well (Attika, Taluva).

To me, The Downfall of Pompeii epitomises this genre. It matches the qualities of my ideal game, and so has become not only my favourite superfiller, but in fact my favourite game, period.
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47. Board Game: Hare & Tortoise [Average Rating:6.67 Overall Rank:806]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Reading your recent posts has been like dipping my bottom over and over into a bath of the silkiest oils and creams.
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This is a game my group has played recently and enjoyed. It fits all qualities, though perhaps it is pushing close to the hour mark. I have not personally tried it with two players but the special rules (first player to cross the finish line with both hares) should, in my mind, make it nearly as enjoyable with two as with more.
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48. Board Game: Richelieu [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:1386]
Darryl Boone
Canada
Coquitlam
British Columbia
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Reading your recent posts has been like dipping my bottom over and over into a bath of the silkiest oils and creams.
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Finally, I will add this two-player Michael Schacht game. A little short at ~30 minutes, but you have to make plenty of agonising decisions. You can play it very light, but take a moment to consider your moves and their ramifications, and you have a very nice, thoughtful game.
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49. Board Game: Arkadia [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:469]
Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
California
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This is another we've found to be great at each player level (2-4), I think it's best at 2 or 3 though, just for the added control. The mix of mechanics is brilliant and a joy to play through. It plays under and hour. I don't think it broaches the Goa weight-limit? Plus it's got little plastic dolls to play with...it's always good to call them little plastic dolls just to irk the serious gamer devil
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50. Board Game: Santa Fe Rails [Average Rating:6.85 Overall Rank:1219]
Guy Riessen
United States
Sebastopol
California
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Ah, the gamers' version of Ticket to Ride! This one is brilliant, at least from 2 to 4 players (haven't played with 5--maybe adds too much chaos). Most games clock in under an hour, but it's close either way. The weight here is EXACTLY what you're looking for. If playing with 2 you can either play the rules as-is (start player doesn't alternate), or use the variant here to alternate the start player whenever the 2X card is played. To honest after more than 30 2-player games, we've found it to work fine either way, but it "feels" more fair if you alternate (better to use with a new opponent).
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