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Narcos: The Board Game Two Player Review

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All board game reviews and ratings from “A Pair of Meeples” are entirely based on the game at two players. You can learn more about our rating system by clicking below.


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Want to build a drug empire or capture a famous drug lord? Well, you can in Narcos: The Board Game. By the way, dear CIA, DEA, or any other government agencies, we want to reemphasize that we’re not talking about real life here, we’re talking about the asymmetrical hidden movement game Narcos based on the popular Netflix series. We just want to make sure we’re very clear about that!

Narcos Board Game Review

6 out of 10
Narcos The Board Game Two Player Review Block

Is it Good For Two Players? : Narcos is best played with two!

Is Narcos a good game? It really depends. It’s a mess of rules, slightly unbalanced, and more complicated than it needs to be, but there’s still something there. If you’re willing to suffer through learning the game and stick to some house rules or decisions on ambiguity, then it might be worth it for some players. This game really exists right on the cusp of being really good or really terrible. It’s all up to personal preference on which side Narcos lies. Even for my wife and I, it’s on two entirely different ones.

Theme: 9/10
Replayability: 6/10
Components: 8/10
Conflict: 9/10
Fun: 5/10

Husband’s Rating
7 out of 10
Wife’s Rating
5 out of 10

Pros

Popular and well-known theme that ties into every aspect of the game

Asymmetric hidden movement with both sides feeling quite different to play

Pretty good components for the price

Cons

Very difficult to learn, and even once learned, things might still be confusing occasionally

The two sides are unbalanced in terms of how fun they are to play.

Requires a pretty large table

A pretty moderate chance of players making mistakes

Gameplay Experience:

Narcos is a game we ordered very early in our board game exploration, and it was definitely way above our experience at that time in terms of complexity and rules, and it showed. It took hours, no, days for me to make my way through the rules and stumble through a practice game.

Since I didn’t know any better, I thought the problem was me, and I was just not ready for a game of this magnitude, but in reality, the rules are actually quite bad. They make playing this game a constant question of whether you’re doing it right or not, even with the help of a lot of BGG game aids and FAQ forums.

But no matter how much I question almost every single rule in this game or how tedious it is to play, I still have a special place in my heart for Narcos the board game. It was the first overly complicated medium-weight game we ever added to our collection, and one that would have turned other new players away from the more complex side of the hobby, but I suffered through. It showed me how intricate a board game could be and had a theme that wasn’t too nerdy for my tastes and one I was quite excited about.

As Pablo, you will be producing coca, picking up shipments, delivering the goods, taking control of cities, intimidating your opposing factions, and most importantly, raking in that sweet, sweet money! Something about playing as the world-famous Pablo Escobar and commanding his Sicarios makes you wonder if you sampled the product because it feels more fun and cool than it actually is in reality.

Narcos the Board Game

On the other side, players take control of the Patron’s biggest adversaries: the DEA, Policía Nacional de Colombia, Cali Cartel, and the guerrilla extremist group, and try to track down the most notorious drug lord and ensure that he does not succeed. All these actions feel very thematic as players attempt to reduce Patron’s hiding spots, create blockades, and stop his Sicarios from completing their missions.

All of this comes together to create a super thematic game that makes players really feel like they’re a world-famous drug lord controlling the actions of a cartel or the opposing factions hunting him down. If you take the theme away though, Narcos at its core is an asymmetrical hidden movement game with a lot of extra complexity thrown in.

Narcos also has a special place in my wife’s heart, but instead of affinity for the game, it’s akin to almost pure hatred. This pure anger of hers can be summarized by the one rule in the game, “Patron escapes immediately the first time he is captured”.

I do admit, the good guys in Narcos have it rough. Their entire gameplay for these players feels less satisfying and like you’re always one step behind. Even though Patron is more likely to lose, it doesn’t change the fact that the other factions are just not as fun to play with, especially if you tend to not like chaotic conflict-heavy games like my wife.

The player in charge of the different factions can spend an entire round setting up the perfect plan and take move after move only to have Patron play a card that completely obliterates the entire thing. Okay, it might not be that dramatic, but it truly does feel like Patron can counter almost everything you’re doing, and it’s easy to see that could be pretty frustrating.

My wife’s points are very valid; the factions (who she typically plays as) are just not as fun to play as, almost to the point of frustration. On the other hand, though, this super tight battle of give and take is what other players like myself might like about Narcos. Each move matters significantly, and both players will constantly push forward and set each other backward to a point where it does occasionally feel like no progress is being made. It is, though; there are just no dramatic swings in who is in the lead, and who wins truly comes down to the wire in a game of Narcos.

Narcos The Board Game Patron Captured

It is a really cool and super thematic game, which is great if you’re a fan of the theme, but to enjoy it you’re really going to have to go through some suffering in terms of rules and learning how to play, and even then you might just have to accept the fact that you’ll potentially be playing wrong.

Narcos Two Player Rules Summary:

In Narcos, players will either be playing as El Patron, the famous drug lord, or four factions who are trying to hunt him down. In a two-player game, one player will control Patron and his Sicarios, while the other player takes control of all four factions. In a game with more players, the factions would be split between players.

As Patron, your goal is to evade the hunters (factions) until you can complete three objectives or become notorious and gain enough glory. Patron can further his goals by using his Sicarios to support him on the map, delivering coca, creating new drug labs, or taking control of various cities.

As the four different factions, your goal is to find where Patron is hiding. This player has eight different hunters that will be at their disposal each round. These hunters can move around, incapacitating Sicarios, creating blockades to stop Patron from moving around, narrow down where he is hiding, or even capture him.

The game starts by having one player place all their hunters where they wish on the board. Patron then picks a hiding spot on the board and marks it on their player sheet. Patron then will reveal his first objective of the game, which will grant an immediate effect but will be one goal that Patron will have to strive for to win.

After this, the Patron player must play a Sicario by discarding a card, adding it to the board. Each Sicario has a range, meaning it has to be placed within that many spaces of where Patron is hiding. This is the first piece of information that the hunters get about where their target is.

El Patron Player Board

The more valuable Sicarios have to be placed closer to Patron, making them riskier to play, but if they survive the season, they will grant Patron more glory points. After Patron has placed his Sicario, he can take two actions with it and any actions stated on the card he used to play that Sicario. The standard actions are to place a lab or control token or remove a blockade token on an adjacent space.

Narcos The Board Game Standard Actions

Once Patron has played one Sicario, it’s the other player’s turn. The other player will choose one of their factions to activate. They can move up to two spaces and can take any action available to them on their action player board. This player board has different spaces for each action, and the player will have to use 1-4 valued cards to perform them.

Hunters Player board

For example, they could use a 1-value card to ask if Patron is in that hunter’s region or use a 4-value token to destroy four adjacent control tokens. Once an action space is filled, though, it won’t be able to be used again until the next season. This player will use both hunters of that faction, after both have taken their action, it will be Patron’s turn again.

Hunter Factions Narcos Two Player Review

After play has gone back and forth, and all factions have activated, the season ends. Patron will check if he completed objectives, gain glory for surviving Sicarios, and gain money from his drug labs. He will have to reveal his location and pay money to move to a new hiding spot. A new objective will be revealed, and the hunt will begin again.

End of Season Narcos The Board Game

If the hunters capture Patron and discover where he is hiding, the first time he will immediately escape and get to hide again. If they capture him a second time, though, they win the game and have successfully defeated the famous drug lord. Patron can win either by Glory or by completing his objectives, and even though he has two paths to victory, neither is easy.

Narcos the Board Game Glory Track

As we said, this game is actually quite complicated with lots of minor and somewhat confusing rules, but that is a general summary of how a game of “Narcos” is played. Even though we’re very familiar with the game at this point, multiple questions about unique scenarios and other game elements come up every game we play.

Conclusion:

Is Narcos a good game? It really depends. It’s a mess of rules, slightly unbalanced, and more complicated than it needs to be, but there’s still something there. If you’re willing to suffer through learning the game and sticking to some house ruling/decisions on some ambiguity, then it might be worth it for some players.

So, let’s dive into more detail; the rules aren’t overall bad and generally explain the core gameplay quite well. It’s the minor details and unclear wording that bring every action and effect into question. You can spend hours sifting through BGG forums on the rules, but even then, most players will likely still not be entirely sure if they’re playing correctly.

We printed off all the player aids we could find, created a dry erase map to make it easier to keep track of things and reduce the chance for mistakes, all of which helped a little. Even still though the game is a bit much in terms of following the rules and playing it perfectly according to them.

Narcos Board Game Downloadable Map

If even the thought of playing a board game wrong brings you distress, then Narcos probably isn’t for you. You will likely play Narcos wrong, at least in reference to the way its creator intended. But if you and your gaming partner are okay with missing a few minor rules and are able to agree on ambiguous wording, then there might still be hope for this game for you.

Now, onto the theme. It’s great in my opinion; my wife could probably care less. If the theme doesn’t do it for you, then in our opinion, you should probably look elsewhere. There are plenty of other hidden movement games that are more polished than this one and more worth your time if you’re not a fan of the theme.

The battle between Patron and the DEA, rival cartels, guerilla fighter, and policia is really what makes this hidden movement game. Without the theme, you just have some player hiding on a map in a game that you really truly might not know how to play.

Now, if you are okay with the rules and the theme, you still have the possibility that this game might not match your tastes. If you’re not a fan of lots of direct conflict in your games, you should probably pass on Narcos. The high interaction between players can often feel frustrating, especially playing as the factions, and this type of game really isn’t for everyone, as evidenced by my wife’s pure hatred for it.

So, if you can accept all those things, and that’s a big if, Narcos might be the game for you. I know that probably seemed like a very harsh conclusion to this review, but this game really exists right on the cusp of being a really good game or a really terrible game. It’s all up to personal preference on which side Narcos lies on. Even for my wife and me, it’s on two entirely different sides.

Is Narcos The Board Game Good For 2 Players?

There’s no doubt about it; Narcos: The Board Game plays best with two players, for a multitude of reasons.

First, as we said previously, the game is quite rule-heavy and fiddly, so getting two people comfortable with how to play will be much easier than getting 3, 4, or 5 people to play. Not to mention, players need to be somewhat familiar with how the Patron player works and how the factions work even if they only are playing as one of them.

Second, the potential for mistakes and errors is fairly high even with just two players, as a lot is going on. Players can accidentally rule out a hiding space they aren’t supposed to, and if there are more players on the faction side, they could potentially help this issue, but in our opinion, it will likely do the opposite. Each player would be focusing less on actions other than their own, and thus mistakes might pass through, and confusion and errors might actually build up over the course of the game.

Finally, the player downtime will be huge if playing with more than two. Patron’s turns can be quite long because of all the possible options available, which can exaggerate this problem even more. If, for example, you’re playing with five people, Patron would go, and as we said, can run a little long, then the first faction would take their two turns. This first faction would have to wait for the following turns before they go again; Patron, 2nd Faction, Patron, 3rd Faction, Patron, 4th Faction, (Start New Season), Patron.

That’s a lot of player downtime by any standard. You could argue that multiple players could collectively control all the factions, but there is enough analysis paralysis as is in this game, so having to agree upon every move with your teammates would add even more. There is always a chance that playing with more players could work and be fun, but in our opinion, the chance of that is very slim.

So this is definitely a game that plays best with just two players!

Pros:

  • Popular and well-known theme that ties into every aspect of the game (though some might not be comfortable with this particular theme).
  • Asymmetric hidden movement with both sides feeling quite different to play.
  • Pretty good components for the price.

Cons:

  • Very difficult to learn, and even once learned, things might still be confusing occasionally.
  • The two sides are unbalanced in terms of how fun they are to play. Playing as Patron is chaotic, with actions being dramatic and significant, whereas the factions’ actions feel reactive and almost pathetic compared to Patrons.
  • Requires a pretty large table. The board for this game is huge!
  • A pretty moderate chance of players making mistakes, with no way to account for them and adjust the game if one occurs.

Narcos: The Board Game - Experience The Thrilling World of Drug Trade, Action-Packed Game Based on The Hit Netflix TV Series, Ages 18+, 2-5 Players, 75 Minute Playtime, Made by CMON
Narcos: The Board Game - Experience The Thrilling World of Drug Trade, Action-Packed Game Based on The Hit Netflix TV Series, Ages 18+, 2-5 Players, 75 Minute Playtime, Made by CMON
Narcos: The Board Game - Experience The Thrilling World of Drug Trade, Action-Packed Game Based on The Hit Netflix TV Series, Ages 18+, 2-5 Players, 75 Minute Playtime, Made by CMON

We hope this Narcos The Board Game two player review has helped you.

Our reviews are not paid reviews, but some games are given to us, we do not let this affect our opinions in any way. This post may contain affiliate links so we might receive compensation if you sign up for or purchase products linked to. As an Amazon Associate, we can earn from qualifying purchases. This helps cover our site's costs and allows us to continue reviewing games.


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