Home alone on a Saturday night, perhaps it’s a quiet night in with your significant other. Nothing interesting on Netflix, it’s cold and unpleasant outside, and you’ve already eaten more than you care to admit. What’s left to do… on your own… house to yourself/selves?
Of course, there’s always board games to play, and while most of the vast array of titles available account for four or more players, there’s still plenty you can play with two or in some cases, even alone. Here are our Top 10 picks for board games for no more than two players.
A classic to get us started, the game of guesswork and strategic placement, elaborate cheating, unnecessary film adaptations, alcoholism and repurposed pizza boxes. You know the rules, apply your tokens to a grid hidden from your opponent, and then the two of you commence taking blind shots at points on their grid until every boat on one side or the other is sunk.
Personally I’m no fan, aside from initial placement and educated guesswork from the first hit, there’s very little thinking involved, just a lot of blindly announcing letters and numbers until things get interesting. Nevertheless, it’s a cultural phenomenon, and the words “You sunk my battleship” (spoilers for the movie by the way) are as common a part of dialect as “checkmate” or “do not pass go”. Some games are just a rite of passage.
Jaipur, as named after a city in Northern India, is a game which sees you and one other in a game of trading unlike any other. You want to be able to go to the Maharaja’s court, but as one of the two best traders in the city, you need to be better than “one of”. You need to be the best trader the city has to offer. So you set off to make your mark on the land, with some camels to help, you set out to get your Seals of Excellence to meet the modern day Maharaja. Ahem.
In Jaipur, you and your opponent must take or sell cards. You may choose to get the camels, helping you with those trades – But you also must act fast! If you gather resources for too long, they’ll not be worth much. If you sell early, you risk not having enough stock to trade. This is a game about finding the right balance and knowing when to take risks. It’s simple, it’s easy – But honestly, it’s a great concept and great for two players.
8) Dungeon Twister
Alright, so I admit we’ve added one to the list that neither one of us have played, but conceptually I have to say I love it. Two opposing adventuring teams starting opposite one another on a dungeon grid, each trying to reach the far side before the other, but it’s no simple race to the finish line.
Each tile of the dungeon has a space from which a character can rotate it and a tile matching it in colour, meaning the labyrinth becomes all the more torturous, allowing each player to grant themselves an advantage and seizing it from their opponent. The character dynamic keeps things interesting, making positioning ever more important as lives are lost in brutal combat, and choice of characters at the start equally critical.
I need to get this one out of the cupboard at some point…
Right, so, if I were to tell you that there is a game out there which blends the right RPG elements with Dungeon Crawl elements… And it was suitable, no, only playable by two people? If I were to tell you that it’s a game of making your team escape a dungeon, or kill members of the opposing team, you’d lose it, right? Because honestly, that just sounds like a near perfect board game. Welcome to Claustrophobia!
Yes, this is quite literally a two-player dungeon crawler. It’s honestly amazing this exists, but I’m so glad it does. Filled with miniatures, this game is set in the same universe as its’ predecessor, Hell Dorado. One side plays as the humans, the other side plays as the demonic horde. Bagsy being the demons!
Well, I somewhat lied about the two people only bit. There is an expansion to allow a third player, but we’ll ignore that conveniently. Besides, the base game is more than enough.
Right, you may be shocked to see us putting Backgammon so highly on this list, but honestly it deserves it. Backgammon is one of those games that in modern day trends just would not be made. Fascinatingly, this is one of the oldest games on this list, sitting up there with titans of board games such as Chess. Furthermore, one of the earliest ever sets may have been made with human bone. Now don’t go killing anyone, or digging up any graves, to get the true Backgammon experience, but as gruesome as it is – That’s kinda cool!
Right, back to reality, Backgammon is a deceptively simple game. With checkers (yeah, no, they’re called that) which move along the triangular shaped stops, your goal is to achieve a Backgammon by removing all of your pieces from the board. To do this, you must go from one side of the board to the other and then finally off. There’s a lot of strategy to Backgammon, often surprisingly so.
Another classic board game now, we just couldn’t say no to all of these classics. Reversi is possibly the title name you’d come to associate with this game most often, but Othello is the other/classic name of the game. There ARE differences between the two, so please don’t point at us and mock us for putting them in the same segment, but really, they sort of are the same game, but if we’re going to get particular, there are minor differences.
For those of you who like to get technical about differences, in Othello, the game starts with 2 black and 2 white pieces in the centre, alternating black, white, black, white if you were to go around a square of 4 to the left or right. In Reversi, there are no pieces begin with. Othello is a copyrighted name, Reversi isn’t. That’s mostly it, as far as I’ve seen, but hey – The game is ludicrously straight forward either way.
Each piece can either be black or white, depending on the side you lay them out. You must flip your opponents pieces, by placing a piece opposite another piece of yours to capture all of the ones between. It’s simple, but it’s hugely rewarding to play.
4) … And Then, We Held Hands
The award for the cutest game on this list goes to …And Then, We Held Hands, which isn’t just me trying to be creepy. …And Then, We Held Hands, or Held Hands as I’m going to refer to it from here on, is a co-operative game. Built for short, meaningful gameplay between people who know each other very well, this is a game that reinforces positive energies. It tries to bring you and your partner closer, whatever your relationship may be.
Naturally Held Hands is an excellent game for couples, but if you’re close to your friend, this game may be good for you. The two of you must understand what you’re intending to do in silence. You may use non-verbal communication skills to talk to one another, but that’s it. You want to go along positive and negative energies to bring you to the centre, to find the balance between you both. It’s cute, it’s charming – All in all it’s an excellent two player game.
Marble sumo! If you’re not already familiar with Abelone I highly recommend giving it a try. Fourteen marbles a side on a hex grid, players move up to three at a time as a group in a single direction in an effort to shove their opponents off the grid, six marbles makes a victory. It’s a game that can change dramatically in a single turn, and every piece taken is a risk/reward manoeuvre.
Holding the centre might seem sensible at first, but it rarely accomplishes anything, and every aggressive stretch to the outside loses valuable defensive positions. Find it on the list of games that are quick to learn but take forever to master, and frankly it’s better than checkers by far.
One of the oldest and most famous games in the world, the classic game of strategy that has, for decades, been one of the benchmarks for artificial intelligence and advances in robotics. Wargaming, strategy, and centuries of miniature design owe vast amounts – if not the entirety of their history – to chess.
It’s so ingrained into human culture that it has become one of the most commonly used subjects of a metaphor on the subjects of strategic thinking, and the term “checkmate” is synonymous with any victory earned through careful thought and cunning. It has been a favourite game of the thinker, that nothing, no nothing could ever beat it in this list!
This feels right to us, for many reasons. Interestingly, one of the biggest reasons we had is because people compare this to chess so often. Sometimes, you’ve got to take a classic and turn it into something completely different, in order to make it better. That’s exactly what has happened with Hive, a game which sees you and an opponent with a Queen Bee, along with other bugs.
In a similar vein to Chess then, in Hive, you are trying to protect a piece (Chess you protect the King, Hive you protect the Queen Bee). You then get other pieces, all of which have their own sets of movement rules. Using these movements, the goal is very simply to try to take the opponent’s Queen Bee down.
And the weirdest, but coolest part of Hive is the board. The pieces are the board. The pieces make up the board the more you play. It’s simple, but a great concept.
Overall, it felt nice to end this list on a game that isn’t anywhere near as well known, but conceptually may be a superior, albeit simpler, version of the classic.
Of course, being as there are thousands of board games and a great many of which have been designed for one or two people, we couldn’t narrow the list down to just ten… that… and we always do two honourable mentions. It’s a habit.
A variation on the team-based game of deduction and intuition, Duet reduces the game from a four-player minimum down to a potential two player game, and makes it entirely cooperative. Your moves are limited, and can vanish faster with incorrect guesses, and there are more assassins to root out.
Duet, like the other versions of Codenames, like Pictures, introduces variations of the incredibly simple gameplay, in this case it’s a series of missions that give different versions of the timer mechanic. It’ll also require a variety of different tactics to approach, starting with the layout of the assassins.
7 Wonders: Duel
Another popular multiplayer game reduced down to two players, in this case the civilisation building draft game. Much like the original 7 Wonders, it’s highly complex and difficult to learn based on the rules alone, with various ways to win and many ways of getting there. It’s trimmed down to science, warfare, and civic points, but once again resource management becomes every bit as essential.
Rather than the standard draft format, cards are layered in rows that each player takes it in turns to select from, moving from age to age, acquiring buildings, resources, guilds, and money. In a move that’s a little more akin to Sid Meier’s Civ games, building ages is a race, and building one prevents your opponent from building the other, making Duel the more cutthroat of the two & Wonders games.
It’s the grudge match to end all grudge matches, and it’s ended. The cards are stacked, the board is folded and our list is done. But before we take up the dice and prepare to roll again we have a decision to make, what game we play next. Which Top 10 do you want to see next week?
What’s your favourite one or two player game? Did we miss, or misplace your favourite? What games do you play when you’re alone? Let us know your thoughts below, or over on Facebook and Twitter, but please keep your answers PG… so many ways that question could be answered.