I’m part of a large gaming group, and I have a wife who doesn’t particularly enjoy board games, sooooooo...I don’t find many opportunities to play games with only one other person. But I’ve played my share of them, and here are my 10 favorites—in no particular order. (I apologize that some of these are practically impossible to find now; invent a time machine.) Battle Line—It might be the best pure 2-player game I’ve ever played. I couldn’t believe how good it was the first time I played it. Check out our review here.
Memoir ‘44—This is a very light WWII wargame. It comes with plastic miniatures, and cardboard terrain you put on a plain map to create specific places. There are lots of real-life scenarios to play through—one side as the Axis and one as the Allies. My oldest loves this game. Any shortcomings it might have just disappear when he’s fully engaged with this, peppering me with questions about WWII.
Blood Bowl—This game gives new meaning to fantasy football. You have a team of Orcs or Skaven (rats) or Undead, or any of the many other choices—filled with players with unique skills and abilities—and you square off against an opponent. There’s chaos, dice, injuries, deaths, and thrilling, last-second heroics as your tiny rat receiver slips through the defense, runs down the sideline, and rolls the exact number he has to to catch the ball in the endzone. If you can get some other players and a full league going, it’s some of the best board gaming ever.
Heroscape—A few years ago Hasbro had an insane idea for a turn-based squad game where people and creatures from all over time and space came together to fight for supremacy. You might have dragons, samurai, robots, orcs, and a cowboy all on your squad. It also came with interlocking hexagonal terrain that allowed you to build amazing and epic and creative maps. AND IT WAS AWESOME. I’ve played this many times with my 8-year-old, and it’s created some great stories. "Dad, remember that time my cyborg gorilla killed your giant robot? That was awesome..." I’m looking forward to my youngest being old enough for us have some epic 3-player games.
Jambo—This card game is part of the Kosmos line of 2-player-only games. You’re a merchant in Africa, and you’re trying to make more money over the course of the game than your opponent. You have special items, people, and animals to help you.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game—Jeremiah talked about this one yesterday. It has gorgeous artwork, it’s expandable, and it’s just lots of fun. Yes, sometimes the draw of the cards means you just auto-lose, but that feels okay when you’re playing with someone against the game itself. I’ll continue to buy this game as long as they print it…
Fjords—I feel bad talking about this one because it’s long out of print. It has tile-laying similar to Carcassonne, with some area control thrown in for scoring. Plus it’s small, portable, and plays really quickly!
Lost Cities—You can read our review here. At least part of my love for this one stems from the fact that it’s the first game my wife played with me—and one she’ll still play on occasion.
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation—Here’s another one that's out of print—though it’s possible they’ll reprint it with the new Hobbit movie coming out this winter… Anyway, it’s kinda like Stratego, in that you have pieces that only face you, so your opponent's not sure who’s who. Each piece is a character, and each character has special abilities. The good guys are trying to get Frodo across the board to Mordor, and the bad guys are trying to kill Frodo. Superb game.
Mr. Jack—Who would have thought a 2-player game of deduction would ever work? Well I’m glad designer Bruno Faidutti did… One player is Jack the Ripper—who’s trying to remain undetected and escape, and one is Scotland Yard—who’s trying to figure out which character is Jack. I can’t explain the mechanics in such a short space, but it works, and it’s fast, and it’s fun.
Well, those are our lists. What are some of your favorite games to play with two people? Leave a comment below, and thanks for reading!