We're board, need games
January 14, 2009 10:40 AM   Subscribe

What's your favorite two-person game?

We're currently buried in snow, and my SO and I are getting sick of playing Trivial Pursuit. What are your favorite two-person games? These can be:

-Video games
-Card games
-Board games

If it mixes well with beer, all the better! Preferably nothing too stereotypically gender specific (e.g. Sex and the City board game; Doom 3)
posted by c:\awesome to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (63 answers total) 139 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (and yes, I saw this thread. But it's old!)
posted by c:\awesome at 10:46 AM on January 14, 2009

Mario Kart
The Lego (Starwars, Indiana Jones) games
posted by mattdini at 10:48 AM on January 14, 2009

Backgammon! And Mancala, actually, can get stunningly competitive. And Scrabble, of course.

Cards have been addressed here, previously, but it's a good thread to revisit -- so many games, so many links!
posted by janet lynn at 10:49 AM on January 14, 2009


(there's also other things two people can do when they're snowed in...just in case you hadn't thought of that yet...)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2009

posted by Perplexity at 10:51 AM on January 14, 2009

My boyfriend and I love Carcasonne. It's a tile game where you create cities and roads, and it works just as well with two people as with a group.

It is a strategy game but because you only deal with one option at a time it never gets bogged down or overwhelming. There are a lot of expansion packs for the game, but ignore them for now - all you need to play is the basic box. (In fact, I don't like many of the expansions and like to play just the basic game nearly all the time anyway.)

Here's the game on Amazon. Have a good time!
posted by warble at 10:53 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Race for the Galaxy has gotten great reviews on BoardGameGeek.com

Also, no possibility you two can find something to do outside? Skating, skiing, snow-shoeing? Build a fort or a snowman?
posted by Vindaloo at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2009

Egyptian Ratscrew.
posted by lunit at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2009

Co-op Tetris, best done with a vintage NES.
posted by hellojed at 11:00 AM on January 14, 2009

posted by equalpants at 11:04 AM on January 14, 2009

Uno and Sorry for board games. Especially with Uno, you can make up a lot of little rule changes.

As for video games, here's the current list for a puzzle game tournament thing my girlfriend and I are going to go through. Let me know if you need to know more about any of these games.

* Tetris
* Tetris Plus (Get a guy to the bottom of the screen while playing Tetris)
* Tetris Attack (Another Tetris variant)
* D. Mario
* Bang Bang Ball
* Dr. Mario/Tetris Combo (From the SNES game that had both. Switching the though process required can be a giant pain)
* Bomberman
* Dig Dug
* Door Door
* Bastis
* Same Gnome
* Pegs
* Frogger
* Bust a Move
posted by theichibun at 11:05 AM on January 14, 2009

Currently, I'm enjoying a two-deck two-person card game called Spite and Malice. My inamorata taught me to play, and for about a month I lost steadily to her while I learned strategy and so forth... now I am winning about half the time. It's a demanding game. I'd never heard of it. She says her family played it obsessively while she was growing up.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:08 AM on January 14, 2009

Hive! It's like chess, in that your pieces have specialized moves, but seems much more whimsical and fun to me (but I'm crap at chess, so YRMV).
posted by eralclare at 11:09 AM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Board-game publishing isn't a massively fast-moving area - a lot of the games in that other thread are still readily available. I'd particularly recommend, from the games named there:

2-player only games:
Carcassonne: the City - better for two players than the original Carcassonne, but similar enough in feel that it may not be worth having both, if you do have Carcassonne
Magic: the Gathering as played for free using Apprentice - if one of you has played Magic previously; it's a bit madly overcomplicated and it might be difficult to enjoy if you both have to figure out how to play it entirely from scratch
Lost Cities is okay, though as someone says in the other thread it's quite like two-player solitaire. It's part of a Kosmos 2-player series that is mostly pretty good, and they all come in matching little square boxes, which is satisfying when you line them all up.

Games that work for 2 players, but can also take more than that:
Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers: like all the Carcassonnes, fun low-stress tile-laying
Ticket to Ride: building rail networks across Europe; there's relatively little interaction between players, so not much room to get annoyed at each other, but you are competing for a limited amount of rail space. Thurn and Taxis is quite similar in feel, but with even less confrontation and direct competition for resources.
Alhambra: tile-laying to build a garden. A nice balance of building-style fitting-things-together and resource-management deciding-what-garden-components-to-buy. Becomes less tactical the more players you have.
Set: pattern-matching; simultaneous play rather than turn-based so it can be frustrating if one player is much better than the other. If you do like simultaneous play, Ricochet Robots is also good, with path-finding rather than pattern-matching.

Games published since that thread, and therefore not mentioned in it (I think, I haven't checked publication dates)
Caylus: Magna Carta: charming card-based version of Caylus. Caylus is also a fun game but has a gazillion tiny wooden pieces; I prefer this version for that reason alone. A little less strategic than normal Caylus but still more so than most of the other games I've mentioned.
Pandemic: co-operative disease-fighting - this is great, and I'd definitely recommend it if you're interested in co-operative games; I can't think of another that would work with two players.

And seconding Hive, if you're up for abstract slightly-chess-like games without any random element.
posted by severalbees at 11:11 AM on January 14, 2009 [4 favorites]

I came to suggest Carcassonne, but warble beat me to it. My friend just got it for me. The box lid image makes it look like one of...those games, but it's really fun and not at all difficult to play.
posted by phunniemee at 11:12 AM on January 14, 2009

Go and chess are the best two-player games, of course. :-)
posted by callmejay at 11:17 AM on January 14, 2009

You might find some good ideas in Matthew Baldwin's (aka defective yeti) 2008 good gift game guide. In particular, I've heard good things about Pandemic, and I'm looking forward to trying it out.
posted by KatlaDragon at 11:23 AM on January 14, 2009

Backgammon is a surprisingly complex game that will take minutes to pick up and the rest of your life to master. For two-person card games, I also love Gin Rummy.
posted by Gilbert at 11:27 AM on January 14, 2009

Yeah, chime another one for Carcassonne. My wife and I play the version off of Xbox Live Arcade (It also has Rivers, Rivers II, and King & Baron expansions) and it's pretty fun. Playing the video game version means no arguments about scoring and 'well I think that tile fits there' to boot, thus allowing more time for in-jokes ("KingshhiiiiiighwaaAAAaayy!") to develop.

We also play a bit of Castle Crashers and Rock Band on the 360.

As for card games, Gloom, Citadels, and Fluxx come to mind. Lunch Money is better with more people, but can be played one on one.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2009

Scorched Earth, the mother of all games.

Also, Worms.
posted by Roach at 11:30 AM on January 14, 2009

Milles Bornes. Mais, oui!
posted by trip and a half at 11:31 AM on January 14, 2009

Scrabble, gin, Soul Calibur.
posted by box at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2009

check out the offerings from cheapass games.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:38 AM on January 14, 2009

I'm a big fan of Race for the Galaxy. Its two player version is very playable. With the various extensions you can even play it solo.

However since you're buried in snow I'm not sure you'd be able to get out to get it; same goes for many other games listed here. What's wrong with some good old gin rummy?
posted by nat at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2009

Goldeneye on Nintendo64.

I came in to suggest exactly this.

Currently, our game of choice is ping-pong. Definitely worth buying a table if you have somewhere to put it.
posted by mikepop at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2009

Video games:
Mario Kart: Double Dash
The Timesplitters series, specifically TS2
These games don't really have co-op but Katamari / Shadow of the Colossus / any GTA game are a blast to play with another person.
Any Super Mario Bros game. See how fast you can beat the crap out of SMB3.....no warping allowed! Or challenge yourself to find all the exits in Super Mario World.

Board games:
Zombies!!! is fun after a few drinks. Very fast paced.

Also, look into checking out TV shows that you may have missed. My girlfriend and I just watched all of Dexter in a two week span.
posted by Diskeater at 12:07 PM on January 14, 2009

This thread may also yield some fruit.
posted by tkolar at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2009

Speed is my favorite 2-person card game. Fast, intense, loud and you can teach it to someone new in 1 minute.
posted by ElmerFishpaw at 12:14 PM on January 14, 2009

If you like JRPGs, Tales of the Abyss, Tales of Symphonia and a few others in the Tales series are cooperative in battles, and it's good to have someone around to help you make fun of the dialogue. Rock Band is also pretty amazing.

I'm a big fan of Othello/Reversi, and there's always chess. Risk is a classic as well.

Also, if you're going to be doing anything in the cold and drinking, I strongly recommend hot chocolate with a bit of Baileys Irish Cream in it-- it'll warm you right up :)
posted by NoraReed at 12:17 PM on January 14, 2009

We've been playing Dominion around our house lately.
posted by cabingirl at 12:20 PM on January 14, 2009

Scrabble and Bananagrams.
posted by cmm at 12:20 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've never been that fond of Carcassonne, but it does play well with 2 people.

I enjoy Phase 10, but the levels are far too easy: the game plays better if you make your own sets, especially if they all require 9-10 cards. The reviews are terrible, but that's because the levels are so easy. More than 2 people can play this game. If you make proper levels, the game is fairly lengthy.
Lost Cities is a nice, short 2 person game. This, like Phase 10, is a rummy-style game, and is quite light. It has nice, high quality cards though, and a different enough scoring system that it's worthwhile playing. The game is short, though, and I get bored after a few rounds.
Dominion is fun with 2 people, and a game is quite short. Because you choose which cards to add, the game can be very different each time. More than 2 people can also play this.
San Juan, the card game version of Puerto Rico, is lots of fun and quite light. It plays well with 2 people (and, before I lost it, was my go-to 2 person game) but also can be played with more than 2. It's not a bad intro to people who are willing to play somewhat more complex games.
I like Tigris & Euphrates with 2 people, but that's a serious strategy game.
Pandemic is amazingly fun with 2 people. It can be played solo or with up to 4 people. At the beginning it feels too easy: it isn't.
posted by jeather at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2009

posted by pompomtom at 12:27 PM on January 14, 2009

Boardgamegeek.com is a fabulous reference for games. In particular, I think this list might be helpful. There of lots of other lists, too.

Personally, my favorite 2-player games are Scrabble, Boggle, Cartagena, Carcassonne, Carcassonne: The City, and this weird Mormon version of Settlers of Catan that's a little better set up for 2-player play: Settlers of Zarahemla.
Search for them on boardgamegeek for info and reviews.

Also-also, I have been happy with all my board game orders placed through Cardhaus.com.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:38 PM on January 14, 2009

For video games, my boyfriend and I play a lot of Warcraft together (two computers, same room). And even though I don't really like shooters, I do love that nazi zombie level in Call of Duty: World at War. Also: Rock Band. Lots and lots of Rock Band.

And this might be weird and not work for you, but I like watching him play horror games, lights off, getting spooked out without the stress.

And for card games, I love Quiddler -- it's like a card game version of Scrabble, and it's made by the same company that does Set.
posted by faunafrailty at 12:40 PM on January 14, 2009

Paper and pencil Battleship
posted by droplet at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2009

Oh, and anything with a Pop-O-Matic!
posted by droplet at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2009

Scrabble, Go Fish, Monopoly, Blackjack, BS, almost any two-person fighting game, Mario Kart

Strip poker... (goes well with beer!)
posted by curagea at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2009

For mindless silly fun that you can add more players to if some, say, get stranded on your street and you offer them shelter or something: Zombie Flux!

For less silly, but still pretty light fun, two players only: Carcassonne, the Castle
posted by carmen at 1:08 PM on January 14, 2009

Set. It's awesome.
posted by robinpME at 1:29 PM on January 14, 2009

Seconding Bomberman. I think it's available, in some form or other, on every video game system ever. It's simple to start playing, but there's enough variety that you can play for a long time before you ever really feel like you're repeating yourself.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:06 PM on January 14, 2009

Oh yeah. And Set.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:08 PM on January 14, 2009

I used to take a 20 hour train ride home after every semester with a college friend from my hometown. To pass the time, we headed down to the cafe car and played gin rummy. for hours and hours and hours. and drank a lot of beer. It made the trip a lot more enjoyable.

I also like speed, scrabble, checkers, and chess.
posted by emd3737 at 2:20 PM on January 14, 2009

Last winter we took up canasta. Fun to play while drinking fruity cocktails. Also seconding recs for Scrabble, Boggle and Bananagrams.
posted by sugarfish at 3:15 PM on January 14, 2009

My boyfriend and I love to play Civilization 4 together (either him versus me versus computer or as a team versus the computer).

There's also Skip-bo.
posted by Nolechick11 at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2009

An old DOS favorite of mine, playable these days in a DOS emulator, is Liero.
posted by Rinku at 3:39 PM on January 14, 2009

posted by wherever, whatever at 4:08 PM on January 14, 2009

Cribbage is good, but quite difficult to understand at first. I prefer piquet and casino.

Backgammon is probably my all-time favourite game. Wikipedia's instructions are as good as any, but I improved a lot after playing GNU Backgammon with tutor mode enabled. You can play human vs. human on GNU Backgammon.
posted by mattn at 4:09 PM on January 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

wii sports!
posted by muscat at 4:27 PM on January 14, 2009

2nding Magic: The Gathering. Don't roll your eyes! :-)

It's surprisingly fun and deep. It can be you and your SO's little secret -- nobody has to know!
posted by losvedir at 4:39 PM on January 14, 2009

Oops, I forgot to add that you can usually get cards at Best Buy near the checkout, believe it or not. They have little premade decks with rules and everything.
posted by losvedir at 4:41 PM on January 14, 2009

My wife isn't much of a gamer at all (had never really even played video games before meeting me)

In the video game category these are games we've had fun playing:

On the Wii:
Ghost Squad
House of Dead 2 + 3
Mario Kart
The two Agatha Christie mystery games (Evil Under the Sun and Then There Were None)

On the XBOX:
The Myst series available on the Xbox

I haven't had a chance to introduce her to many more that, we're pretty busy. The Agatha Christie games and the Myst games aren't two player, but we enjoy playing them as a team to solve the mysteries.

As far as board games go our favorite board game so far is:

Settlers of Catan. It's an enormously enjoyable (and award winning!) game. Definitely check it out.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 5:01 PM on January 14, 2009

My wife and I have a modest collection of excellent two-player board games. We've gotten the most use out of these ones:

Roborally (especially after beer!)
Knightmare Chess
Yinsh (really, really good strategy game)
Caesar and Cleopatra

If you're comfortable with something more time-consuming and complicated, Arkham Horror and its expansions work well once you get familiar with the rules.

For light and fast games, we actually get a kick out of playing Trouble. I also have a few brief two-player card and dice games on my website: Games for Couples.
posted by Paragon at 5:12 PM on January 14, 2009

My wife and I picked up a dart board for our New Year's Eve party. We've played a couple of times since and it's pretty fun. We have an electronic board (purchased here) that automatically keeps score and has like 30 different games you can play (although 301/501 and Cricket are the best). Highly recommended.

Also the board game Sequence is fun.
posted by explosivo2k2 at 7:03 PM on January 14, 2009

Nthing the Lego games (Indiana Jones and Star Wars). I'm currently halfway through Indy, playing independently and also a shared game with my partner.

I enjoyed the Star Wars version a bit more, for reasons I won't go into here, but both have provided us with hours upon hours of gaming fun. They're made with plenty of puzzles, funny little details that make you laugh out loud, and affection for the films they're based on. Great stuff.

Also: backgammon and dominoes for board-gaming goodness. Yes.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:14 PM on January 14, 2009

Gin is great, my wife and I play it when we travel. We play for penny a point/yen a point/local currency a point. Loser usually ends up owing enough for a meal at the fast food place at the airport on the way home.

Little Big Planet is silly, silly fun. The best part was when I realized that not only can my sackboy hold onto things in the game, it can also hold onto other players! I dragged my wife's sackboy around the screen for a long time. Maybe too long. She kind of hit me.

Carcasonne is also good.

You guys could always study a foreign language together, too. Flashcards and stuff, quiz each other. Could be fun (or deadly boring, depends)
posted by Ghidorah at 7:49 PM on January 14, 2009

Left 4 Dead
posted by slimepuppy at 3:36 AM on January 15, 2009

Second Ticket To Ride. A really good game, and it plays just fine with two people.
posted by chill at 5:37 AM on January 15, 2009

If you have a scrabble set and Trivial Pursuit cards, you can play Letter Line-up. I got this at Christmas for my husband's stocking and we've been playing every weekend since then. The game set consists of a timer, six alphabet cubes (which you could easily substitute with a blind grab at six scrabble tiles) and cards. The cards were too few and too easy (it is really meant for kids) so we started using Trivial Pursuit cards instead.

The game is simple. You get your 6 letters, draw 2 or even 3 Trivial Pursuit cards-- depending on how long your timer is-- and then set the timer. Using only words that begin with the letters you have in front of you, you describe a person, place, or thing, from the answer side of the cards. Your partner guesses. You try again with another-- the object being how many you can complete before the timer runs out.

For example: I have letters E, R, M, G, K, S. The card says: London, Ethel, 1968, Depression, Joe DiMaggio, Romeo & Juliet.

I begin with an easy one, Romeo & Juliet. I offer, "It's a thing. Shakespeare." "Romance." "Montague."
Hopefully my husband will have guessed by now because I can't use Play, Balcony, or Tybalt.

So next I try to get him to guess Joe DiMaggio with "It's a Person. Marilyn Monroe."

We allow for rolling the dice twice per turn, so that you can re-visit unsolved items. If I re-rolled and got a "B" next time and he had not yet guessed DiMaggio, I would say "Back to Marilyn Monroe Person. Baseball."

The original cards only listed one thing and there were only 50 cards, so we found that too easy. They also had other categories beside Person, Place or Thing. The other categories were Movie, Television, Event, Band, and Character.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:16 PM on January 15, 2009 [5 favorites]

Board game-wise, my girlfriend and I have had periods of obsession with Carcasonne, Race for the galaxy and recently Agricola, which is surprisingly good as a two player game even if it does often lead to her hogging all the wood, and preventing me from getting any fences built so I have to renovate to clay early on and end up with no cattle..... I'll have my revenge tonight...just wait...
posted by primer_dimer at 5:54 AM on January 16, 2009

I think the best 2-player board game is Twilight Struggle.
posted by hartsell at 12:20 AM on January 17, 2009

I'm a little late, but, I have to nth mancala!
posted by firei at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2009

I also love Bananagrams. Besides being low-key and fun, I love that it takes up next to no space in our game cabinet. Because of its easy portability, I have recently brought it along to two parties where it was also favorably received.
posted by iscatter at 10:24 AM on January 19, 2009

« Older You'll Have to Go Sideways   |   How not to be a pain when invited to dinner Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.