Top 20 Two-player Games for being stuck inside


While we’re all stuck indoors, there’s a good chance you’ll need a little extra entertainment. Following on from our Top 10 Solo Games, here’s 20 of the best two-player games.

We know that the ever-expanding array of games on offer can be a little hard to navigate at times. With every passing year games become ever more ambitious in scope and scale – sometimes involving a large numbers of players that isn’t always possible. So what about those times when there are just two of you? The trouble is, not all games that allow for a higher number of players work so well when played with only two, in fact it can be quite a challenge of game design to create something that works equally well as player numbers vary. Never fear! Here we have another handy guide to set you on the right track. Whether you want an all-day, in-depth, epic or something quick and casual, or a co-operative for two, we’ve something for all tastes and levels of experience.

 

Want ten more? Here’s our hot guide to the Top 10 games to play for Valentines day, which may be appropriate, depending on who you're with. Hanging out by yourself? Try our ten best solo games.

 

Twilight Struggle

1. Twilight Struggle

Everything about the game is epic, from the subject matter to the size of the board and the complexity of the rules. Designed specifically for two players, it charts the entire course of the cold war, as the USA and USSR vie for control of the political landscape from 1945 to 1989. Rather than moving and battling with military units, you play historical event cards and place influence tokens in a particular region, thereby hoping to tip the balance in your favour while avoiding the total annihilation of nuclear war.

 

2. Warchest

Much like a really smart version of chess, where you draft in your pieces instead of using the same as your opponent, Warchest offers fast and tactical play that will probably outlast the pandemic (IRL, not the board game). The game uses a smart action system that means you need to draw and discard matching tokens to make moves and activate powers with those pieces on the board, which can mean your plans aren’t always going to fall out exactly how you expected, but new ones may appear. Played a lot like a tug of war, this is an ideal game to return to repeatedly throughout a lockdown.

 

3. Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Intense competition is not always the most interesting way to play games. It can strain relationships or, heaven forbid, turn the losing player off gaming altogether! In Pandemic, the goal is to work together to try and keep four diseases from getting out of hand. It is extremely well balanced, highly interactive and almost always builds to a tense final few rounds. While it can be played with as many as five players, it works just as well with two, and the Legacy element of this version adds an engaging narrative that will keep you coming back for more.

 

4. Anhk'or

A game that supports four players, but is really best at two. Frank Crittin, Grégoire Largey, Sébastien Pauchon all join up to create an extremely tight market game. The trick at the centreof Ankh’or is the market board that folds out has the materials popped into it, meaning their costs, or combinations of costs for tiles, is different every game. This sounds simple, and we suppose it is, but it’s also extremely elegant and almost endlessly replayable. The market lets you buy tiles that you arrange in a kind of ‘bejewelled’ fashion, even laying some on top to create new matches of colour or type. It’s a fun build up to point scoring that a number of smaller Euro-style market games lack.

 

5. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Including 10 highly challenging cases worthy of the great detective himself, this is the perfect game to play lounging around on a rainy Sunday afternoon. By reading the passages aloud, making notes and deliberating at length, you must work together to solve the mystery. A few nice props like a map of Victorian London, an imitation of a newspaper from the period and a telephone directory allow you to hunt for clues along the way. For armchair sleuths, it’s a real pleasure to sit back and take your time over.

 

6. Ishtar: Gardens of Babylon

Make the desert bloom in this gem-collecint tile-laying, tree-growing game. Anotehr corker from Cathala that comes with some of the tightest scoring we have ever seen in a two-player game. Literally every two-player game of Ishtar that we have played came down to a single point of difference. There’s five or six ways to gain points, whether that’s collecting spaces on the board, or buying trees, or hoarding gems. It’s a tile-layer at heart, but one that stands up really well to a variety of play options – and you’ll want to play out your next strategy immediately after winning (or losing) a game. Also, aside from anything else, when it comes to pretty games with plants, this is top-tier in the potting shed.

 

7. Timeline

Timeline is perfect for two players of any ability or interests who have a just few minutes to kill, but you can also mix together multiple sets to tailor-make larger, longer lasting games. Taking it in turns to put inventions, discoveries and events in relative chronological order is a lot more pleasing, interesting and addictive than it might sound. It also packs away into a tiny tin box, making it a perfect game to take away – from the train to the restaurant, even to the beach.

 

 

8. Escape the Dark Castle

Want to get out? It’s probably not the time. However, you can attempt to escape this castle instead. A dice based, randomised choose your own adventure with the chance to do a tiny bit of theatrics in the turning of the cards. As it’s a co-op game, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to fight while cooped up inside. It’s a challenging game of resource management – knowing whether to use that item now, or save it until later is key. Which might hit home for some round about now.

 

9. Magic: The Gathering

This is more than just a game - it’s a whole new hobby. With high production values, deeply engaging gameplay and endless expansions, Magic is the king of collectable card games. Collect the cards, build a customised deck and then duel with another player. But be warned, the MTG business model is the industry equivalent to the supply of crack cocaine: You’ll be hooked with a cheap, mind-blowing taster and before you know it you’ll be spending every last penny on ‘one last packet’.

10. Blitzkrieg!

World War II in 20 minutes. Do we need to say more? This is a game with a maximum of two players, allowing for solo play too, so a valuable addition to any household. This is a game where the choices you are forced to make feel meaningful, despite the very quick play time. Players are faced with constantly fluctuating resources because of the random draw from the bag, and the bonuses you get from the territory you have taken can give you an edge. Again, a really tight game that does what it says on the tin.

 

11. X-Wing

X-Wing features without doubt the best pre-painted starship models in gaming. They are a delight to behold and the game itself provides just the kind of fast-paced cinematic fun you’d expect from the franchise. After customising your ships with upgrades and a choice of pilots, you choose your manoeuvres, line up the enemy and blast away with a handful of dice. The core set recreates a dogfight between a single X-Wing and two TIE Fighters. There are dozens more ships available to buy separately; so think of the core set as an introduction to a game with massive scope and a vibrant player community.

 

12. Wingspan

Do we need to say this one? You should already own it. It’s the prettiest and best game of 2019. A tableau/engine-builder of birds where activating each in a habitat activates all down the row, meaning you can chain combos into powerful effects to further build your habitat. The art itself is a joy, as is the production quality, and you will almost certainly learn something new about birds. The over the board interactions are gentle and fuzzy, even if you’re annoyed that someone else took food from the feeder that you wanted. A perfect addition to a gaming shelf of any size, but for two, an absorbing and relaxing way to spend your time.

 

 

13. Battlelore (second edition)

Battlelore effortlessly provides a ‘rank and flank’ style battle game without all the hassle of collecting, building and painting armies you get with traditional tabletop wargames. With a unique and highly variable mechanic for scenario building, tons of great miniatures and simple, intuitive rules that have been refined to perfection over several iterations, second edition is a must for any pair of players seeking a fast playing, no-nonsense tactical fantasy battle experience. There are expansions available, but even just the core box provides everything you need for countless, thrilling confrontations.

 

14. Starcrossed

It’s jenga, but if the tower falls it means you’ve given in to your desires. Starcrossed is a roleplaying game that uses a powerful prop as a metaphor for love that cannot be. With the caveat that this is probably for those who can manage in-character flirting, this game is perfect for couples stuck inside. You play two starcrossed lovers who cannot be together, whether that’s for the constraints of class the time period you decide, or, as we have heard reported, even as two dogs that are going to be separated by a divorce. Even if you can’t get the box with the official not-jenga-tower, you can grab the PDF online and play with an off-brand Starcrossed tower.

 


15. Carcassonne

Having rightly earned worldwide status as a classic gateway game, Carcassonne has been a two-player favourite since its original release in 2000. While it may be starting to look a little dated, it retains a certain charm that wins you over. The simple, elegant, engaging mechanic of laying one tile at a time to steadily build the city never fails to engross– be it with five players or just two. It is a calm, gentle game for those who want a nice relaxing affair to while away a quiet hour or two.

 

16. Dead Man's Cabal

Got no one to play with? Why not raise someone from the dead. Dead Man’s Cabal is a Euro-ish game about raising the dead (for victory points, of course). With an interesting action mechanic using skulls (obvs) to manipulate a supply so that you are taking the actions you want to take on your turn, it’s a delicate back and forth with other players, without wanting to give your game away. Also, it has been noted, that the skulls are really nice to hold. What say you Horatio?

 

Read our review Dead Man's Cabal here

 

 

 

17. Agricola

Agricola is one of those games that takes you by surprise. You’d never imagine a simulation of a family running a farm would be so delightful, challenging or competitive! Carefully lay out your fields and fences, fill them with crops and livestock and plan carefully for a good harvest. Oh, and don’t forget to reproduce – you can always use an extra pair of hands to help around the farm! There is no escaping the fact that this is a complex game and it will take a few hours, but it’s worth the investment and you’ll be left wanting more. 

 

 

18. Dungeon Degenerates: Hand of Doom

Not all two-player games have to be quick. Sometimes they can be a campaign you can leave out forever, nibbling at like a gaming buffet. We could mention Gloomhaven here, but you already know you want it. Instead, can we treat you to the lurid neon-punk world of Dungeon Degenerates? Play out a huge branching campaign of this crunchy and complex adventure game. It’s got a lot to learn at the start, but will reward whoever you’re embarking on the adventure with. With a variety of funny characters that give nods to cultural icons, and so much eye-bleedingly good art, this is one to savour with a friend.

 

19. Jaipur

Another game designed specifically for two that has been a consistent favourite in the head-to-head category for years. You play as elite market traders of Rajasthan, competing to buy and sell your way into the exclusive Maharaja's court. This will take tactics, risk and a little luck as you keep a careful eye on the fluctuating value of goods, and of course the all-important camels! Since it takes 30 mins or so, it’s the kind of game you end up playing over and over again with the same opponent.

 

Read our Have You Played... Jaipur?

 

20. The Mind

After spending so much time together you’re going to feel pretty psychic. The best way to test and measure how in tune you are with your other half (or cell mate) is to play a game of the mind. A game so simple it’s deceptive, but once you get it, reading one another’s body language, intention and so on becomes the game. Complete three times in a row to officially consider yourselves mind-melded.

 

Read our review of The Mind

 

 

Want ten more? Here’s our hot guide to the Top 10 games to play for Valentines day, which may be appropriate, depending on who you're with. Hanging out by yourself? Try our ten best solo games.

 

Original article by Rob Burman, original list chosen by Thomas Pike, additional words Christopher John Eggett

 

 

 

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