Even though I have regular game nights at my house, my primary gaming partner is still my wife. And I’m exceedingly grateful for her willingness to try just about any game I toss onto the table (especially if I need to play it for a review). So I definitely appreciate when publishers come out with new 2 player games. Sure, there are plenty of games that play fine with 2, but many times those games really shine with more players.
So with that in mind, today I’m going to talk about my Top 10 Two Player Board Games. And to clear things up, this list will only be for two player games, so no games that play with more than 2 players. However, I am making an exception for a few games that have clearly shoehorned in extra player counts, but are really 2 player only games (War of the Ring, I’m looking at you). So with that out of the way, on to the list!
Top 10 2 Player Board Games
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit (review)
I really enjoy Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit. Based on the eminently forgettable Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, this game was probably the best thing to come out of those movies. It would be higher up on the list, but it’s long since been out of print and fetches a stupidly high price on the secondary market. That being said, if you ever have a chance to play this dice chucking battle royale, do it. It’s tons of fun.
10. Tides of Madness (review)
Portal Games answer to fans looking for a card drafting game that played well with only 2 players. Enter Tides of Madness, their sequel to Tides of Time. In Tides of Madness, players are trying to acquire sets of cards over the three rounds of the game. The reason I like Tides of Madness better than its predecessor is the new madness mechanic. If a player collects too many madness tokens, they go insane and immediately lose. This opened up a new avenue of strategic options.
9. 7 Wonder Duel (review)
This one actually grew on me since my first play. I originally wasn’t a fan of 7 Wonders: Duel, but subsequent plays have caused me to warm up to it. And with the Pantheon expansion, this game gets even better. More cutthroat than the original 7 Wonders, Duel has players drafting cards from a pyramid on the center of the table. There are actually 3 ways to win in 7 Wonders: Duel, which really helping this game to stand out from its older brother.
8. Twilight Struggle
Last year, Twilight Struggle was dethroned as the highest ranked game on Board Game Geek (after an impressive number of years in the top spot). A highly strategic card game set during the cold war, Twilight Struggle has everything gamers love. Minimal luck, multi-use cards, and loads of strategy. Despite its high-ranking, it’s a fairly heavy game and might not be for everyone. Thankfully there is a tablet app if you want to check it out first.
Part of designer Uwe Rosenberg’s 2 player only series, Patchwork has players drafting Tetris-like shapes as they try to make a quilt on their personal boards. The game is easy to learn and yet has a surprising amount of depth. Plus, I really appreciate how he branched off with the theme on this one. I don’t own very many games about quilting, but this one is definitely worth owning.
6. Memoir ’44 (review)
Depending on if you prefer a historical World War II theme or a fantasy one, you could easily substitute Memoir ’44 with BattleLore. The two games are very similar and built upon the same engine. Using Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system, Memoir ’44 is designed to be easy to learn and quick to play. Yet while the game is simple to pick up, winning still requires strategic card play, tactics, and maybe some luck from the dice.
5. War of the Ring
Another game that lists itself as 2-4 players, but really is a 2 player only game. When you play with 4, it simply carves up each side in half, shoehorning in the extra players. Anyway, War of the Ring is an epic game set in the Lord of the Rings universe. It takes players from the start of the books on a quest to destroy the one ring in Mordor. This is THE thematic game for Lord of the Rings fan. However, if you are looking for a game that’s a bit lighter and easier to get to the table, The Battle of 5 Armies could be a good substitute.
4. Star Wars: Armada
When it comes to ship based Miniatures games, Star Wars: Armada is my clear favorite. While you could easily slide Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures in here if you prefer a more tactical game, I love the strategic nature of Star Wars: Armada. That, and controlling capital ships is way cooler than dog fighting in x-wings and tie fighters. Plus, I much prefer the end game in Star Wars: Armada as it wraps up a lot smoother than in X-wing. But both are really excellent options.
3. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Another solid game from Uwe Rosenberg, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small distills his hit game Agricola down to a quick playing, 2 player only game that has players raising animals on their pre-industrial farm. While it shares a name and look with Agricola, it really does stand on its own and is about as solid a euro game as they come.
2. Star Wars Rebellion
Much like War of the Ring above, Star Wars: Rebellion is billed as 2-4 players, but is truly a 2 player game. This epic game, which clocks in with a play time of about 3-4 hours, has players fighting for supremacy in the Star Wars universe. One side takes control of the mighty empire, hunting for the secret rebel base with their limitless resources. However, they must find the base before the rebels can use their hit and run tactics to delay the empire long enough to generate sympathy (and destroying the death star helps as well).
1. Android: Netrunner (review)
Honestly, Android: Netrunner has everything I want in a 2 player only game. Exciting asymmetrical game play, a great theme, tons of options, and addictive game play. In Android: Netrunner, one player takes on the role of a major corporation (possibly evil in some viewpoints), trying to advance their agendas. The other player is a lone hacker, trying to expose the corporation’s evil doings. The mechanics in Netrunner are fantastic and really engaging once you get into constructing your own decks. This is also one game where I would love to see it turned into a tablet app so I could play it constantly!