Later this week, either Friday or Saturday I will have my top 40 games that I've played but I wanted to kick off the week with a short description/list of games that have introduced me to different genres of games or feel like that they are essential to learning how to play strategy board games. I've created a couple different lists for all of the games in each list, it will be around $100 based on Amazon's price now. Totally worth it, in my opinion. Oh, well. This first list serves as an introduction to strategy board games for two players.
Two player introduction
Rivals for Catan ($19)
Description: This is probably my favorite set of games to include as "essential" games. Pandemic is a co-operative game where you and your partner try to cure diseases before the outbreaks spread and the world is overridden with diseases. The game is turn-action based meaning that each turn you have a set number of actions you can take and there are only so many actions that you can take. The game introduces you to co-operative games and is a good introduction to themed games.
Dominion is the best deck-building game out there and serves as the best introduction to deck-building games as most deck-building games model themselves after Dominion. Deck-building games follow the same concept with the same type of cards: resource cards, action cards, filler cards, and victory cards. Resource cards allow you to buy other cards. The action cards are the main portion of deck-building games to allow you to take additional actions, buy additional cards, or draw additional cards.
Since everyone who writes about games or talks about strategy games has to mention Settlers of Catan, I put the two-player version on this essential list for everyone to add to their collection. The Catan game ares are famous and part of the reason why board games have gone mainstream. Rivals strikes a good balance between luck and strategy but can be incredibly frustrating if you can't roll what you need for the resources.
Jaipur: A two player game where you collect cards and sell your cards for victory point chips. It's a great introduction to resource management. It's a quick game to learn to play and only takes about 15-20 minutes to complete so it's not the monster marathon games that some people like to play.
Coloretto is one of my favorite games, as you'll see when my rankings come out. It's a nice introduction to include strategy even in simple games as well as the ability to teach games to other people who haven't played before.