Last week, I talked about a 2-player game that I’ve been playing a lot of lately – The Blood of and Englishman. While it’s true that I don’t often play 2-player games, it made me realize that sometimes I just crave a quiet, chill 1-on-1 game night at home or the local brewery. 2-player games can be quite relaxing… as long as they don’t turn feelings sour because of over-competitiveness! (But that’s the subject of a completely different blog post.)
I put together a list of some of my favorite 2-player games. This is by no means an exhaustive list, or even a “best of” list. It’s just eight of the 2-player games that I truly enjoy.
In no particular order:
1. The Blood of an Englishman
Asymmetrical player actions. Great artwork. Plays quickly, but has a lot of deep strategy. Check out our longer The Robot Plays post here.
Santorini is so dang charming. It’s essentially a heavier 3-D tic-tac-toe, but the God powers make it highly replayable. It’s got some of the best component design that I’ve seen in a game – there’s a reason it’s all over Instagram. You can check out our full The Robot Plays post on it here.
Hive is a sort of Chess/Go hybrid in that (like Go) you’re laying tiles in an effort to claim territory – but in this case, to encircle your opponent’s queen; and that (like Chess) you have pieces that move differently. It’s a quick game with a ton of strategy that can still be picked up by kids. I can’t recommend Hive enough to fans of 2-player games.
4. Android: Netrunner
Android: Netrunner is another great asymmetrical 2-player game – only this one includes an element of bluffing as well. One player takes the role of the Corporation, while another player takes control of the Runners. The Corporation player keeps face-down Agenda cards, and therein lies the core of the bluffing mechanic – are they protecting something worthy of the Runners’ attention, or is it a mere ruse to force the rebellious Runners to spend all their time and resources on? Android: Netrunner has a great cyberpunk theme, too, and that’s always worth bonus points in my book.
If someone told me five years ago (before I’d ever played Jaipur) that a game about trading goods in 18th century India is one of the funnest 2-player games, I’d have laughed at them. The whole ‘trading goods in the marketplace’ thing doesn’t generally scratch my gaming itch. (Unless it’s Sheriff of Nottingham… because, c’mon. Lying.) But Jaipur is my go-to game for those evenings when I have a buddy who’s not afraid to throw down the gauntlet. Not for the faint of heart or easily prone to bitterness over board games, Jaipur has a lot of deep strategy, fast-paced risk, and a tug-of-war feel to it that makes it highly competitive.
Claustrophobia is one of the few strictly 2-player dungeon crawls that actually manages to be successful. It’s an asymmetric game – one player takes the role of the humans while the other player takes the role of the numerous demons. The gameplay is extremely simple, and it all builds to a climactic end. I don’t know why, but it always reminds me of the “indoor” missions in the Warcraft III computer game. Nostalgia’s a funny thing.
7. X-Wing Miniatures Game
The grand-daddy of miniatures games in my life right now. As a kid, I always played the “this is gonna take more time to set up than it’s gonna take to play” Games Workshop games. But now that I’m an adult and have (gasp!) other things to do, I enjoy a dice-chucking fest that doesn’t take an entire day to play. X-Wing combines two elements of my childhood that make up a huge part of my nerdiness: Star Wars, and miniatures games. The gameplay is actually exceptional, and involves much more tactical maneuvering that one might think.
I was debating whether or not I should put Chess or Go on the list, because, well, they’re kinda ancient. Literally. However, I decided to include Go because (like Chess) it’s stood the test of time as a game for over 2,500 years – if that isn’t a testament of its replayability, then I don’t know what is. However, (unlike Chess) Go might not be known to everyone, so that’s why I included it on this list over its more Euro-centric counterpart. Many a night have I spent, rubbing my hands over my face, muttering the words, “why am I not better at this game?” Still, victory is sweet, and I’ve had my fair share.
What about you? If you’ve got a fave 2-player game, let us know!
Until next time, gang! Keep it plucky,