2-person board games
December 3, 2004 10:36 AM   Subscribe

FollowUpFilter: This question about board games elicited some great answers. I really need a good game for two players, however. My wife is a big backgammon and scrabble fan, and I'm looking for something else that we can play together. Any ideas are welcome.
posted by selfnoise to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
kensington. or pente
posted by crush-onastick at 10:41 AM on December 3, 2004

A short list:

Trivial Pursuit
Chinese Chess
posted by icey at 10:44 AM on December 3, 2004

i'm obsessed with cribbage.
posted by katie at 10:45 AM on December 3, 2004

I used to like Abalone, sort of a Chinese checkers meets Sumo strategy game. Also found a good page here

or WizWar if she's geeky enough.
posted by milovoo at 10:47 AM on December 3, 2004

Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Kind of a mix between Stratego and Chess)
Carcassonne: The Castle
posted by emptybowl at 10:49 AM on December 3, 2004

The saddest thing about the thread (mine) that was linked to is that I ended up buying Cranium. Then, when we arrived at the cottage, there was a brand-new copy already up there that my sister-in-law's family had brought.

And we never got around to playing it.

I would suggest chess but not everybody likes it and it's no fun if the players are of different abilities.
posted by bondcliff at 10:54 AM on December 3, 2004

Am I the only one that thinks Cranium blows? It's like a mixture of 4 watered-down versions of good games, and it does none of them well.
posted by emptybowl at 11:03 AM on December 3, 2004

Robo Rally.
posted by drezdn at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2004

the good thing about chess is that if you keep playing regularly with someone who is better than you are, you will eventually be able to start winning.

also, chess teaches you a hell of a lot about life if you really get into it and pay attention.

I love most of the german-style games, but it's true that they are generally for 3 or more players. even transamerica gets a little dull with only two people.
posted by dorian at 11:09 AM on December 3, 2004

There's an Egyptian game we called "Oware" -- we pronounced "Oh Wa Ri" -- that I now learn is also called "Mancala" and many other things. It's very old, with very simple rules, and very difficult to master.

Growing up we had this set, which seems to have been inspired by this movie. If you search eBay for "mancala" you will find a great many quality sets available for very little money.
posted by coelecanth at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2004

also, chess teaches you a hell of a lot about life if you really get into it and pay attention.

Everything is Black or White and you have to sacrifice the little people to win the game. : )

Also, a lot of reviews here - I was trying to find the official site for Games Magazine, do they still exist, they had great reviews.
posted by milovoo at 11:19 AM on December 3, 2004

Hoopla (from the makers of Cranium) is much better than the original Cranium game. If you're not strictly limited to board games, Time's Up! (as suggested in the previous thread) and Palabra are great fun and often require quick thinking.
posted by Danelope at 11:19 AM on December 3, 2004

Stratego, baby! Fun, strategy, intrigue, lying, and little pieces that go flying everywhere when you lose and knock the board over.
posted by stovenator at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2004

posted by Ufez Jones at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2004

Stovenator, if only you knew. My SO almost ended our relationship over a game of Stratego.
posted by still at 11:26 AM on December 3, 2004

My wife and I play Othello all the time.
posted by Quartermass at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2004

Triple Yahtzee (or even plain old Yahtzee)
Cosmic Wimpout

My parents and I used to play 2- and 3-player games after dinner every night for years.
posted by briank at 11:30 AM on December 3, 2004

Here's a few I really like. Quarto, Quoridor, Quixo and Pylos specifically. Simple rules, clever play, and aesthetically pleasing.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:50 AM on December 3, 2004

posted by knave at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2004

King's Cribbage is such a favourite for my mother and I, that's it's simply referred to as 'the game'. If you like scrabble, and know how to play crib, you'd probably enjoy it.

Other games we play as a pair:

Honeymoon Whist (a trick taking card game)
Hand and Foot (a canasta like card game)
Tile Rummy (this is actually much improved with 3 or more, but still fun with 2)

We also play a dice game a fair bit, that I don't know the name of so can't find rules for on the web, but here they are:

It uses 6 dice.

A player rolls the dice, and counts the points they take from that roll, based on the point system described below. Any dice that are counted for points in that roll are set aside, and the dice that were not counted are rolled again. If the player is able to set aside all 6 dice, they get to pick up all 6 dice and continue rolling, and adding to their score.

A player's turn continues until either:

a) they decide to stop, and add the points they've accumulated thus far in the turn to their score.
b) they roll their remaining dice and score no additional points, in which case, they do not get to add any of the points from that turn to their score.
c) they exceed the number of points that they need to reach the 20K point mark that ends the game, 'going over', and losing their turn. In this last case, all "optional" points must be included in the count. So, if you have 18,850 pts, and need 150 to win, but roll 100 mandatory points and 100 optional points, you can't put back the 100 optional points and try again for the 50. You've already gone over.


Individual die:
1s are worth 100. You must take them.
5s are worth 50. They are optional.
No other individual numbers have value.

Sets, which are always optional:
Any set of 3 of the same number is worth that number * 100, except for 1s. Three 1s is worth 1000.
Any set of 4 of the same number is worth twice what a set of 3 is worth, including the 1s, which are worth 2000.
Sets of 5 and 6 have no value of their own, though a set of 6 falls under the '3 pair scoring rule'.

6 dice combos, which are mandatory, and which *must* be followed by another roll (you can not exercise option a) immediately after rolling one of these combos):
123456 - 3000 points.
3 pairs - 2000 points. They can be 3 different pairs, or 4 and 2 or 6 of a kind. We always think that 6 of a kind ought to be worth 5000 points, but we haven't managed to quite convince ourselves of that yet. You, of course, are bound by no such tradition.

Players start with 0 points, and must first meld 1000 points in order to start scoring (they can't exercise option A until they reach 1000 points for their first count only). After the first meld, they can choose to count any number of points. The game ends when one player reaches exactly 20,000 points. This can often let a player who is behind catch up, while the player who is ahead tries very hard to get exactly the small number of points that they need to win.

A typical turn might go like this:

1 2 2 3 5 6 - take the 1, opt not to take the 5, and roll five dice. 100 points.
3 3 3 4 6 - take the three 3s, and re-roll two dice. 400 points.
2 6 - nothing in this roll counts. Turn over all dice to the other player, lose the 400 points.


1 2 2 3 5 6 - take the 1, opt not to take the 5 and re-roll five dice. 100 points.
1 2 2 2 4 - take the three 2s, and the 1, and re-roll one die. 400 points.
5 - 50 points, uses all 6 dice, so get to pick up all 6. 450 points. You do not get to count these points at this time, points accumulate and are only counted when you exercise option A) and give up your turn voluntarily.
1 2 3 4 5 6 - Count as a combo, mandatory re-roll. 3450 points.
2 3 3 4 5 6 - Count the 5 as 50, exercise option A so you don't have to risk your excellent score, and count your points. 3500 points added to your score.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:01 PM on December 3, 2004

Lost Cities is my favorite two-player game. My game partner likes Hera and Zeus and Balloon Cup.
posted by rajbot at 12:03 PM on December 3, 2004

The game jacquilynne describes is another one we played often, as it is very similar to "Cosmic Wimpout"
posted by briank at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2004

I like dominoes but only if trash talking and table slamming are the focus of the affair. You also might try Set out.
posted by fatllama at 12:39 PM on December 3, 2004

I second (third, fourth, whatever) the mentions of Go, chess, Quarto and Set. And Tekken (though I'd prefer Soul Calibur, Super Puzzle Fighter, Mario Golf... okay, sorry). I might be the first to mention Upwords, Super Scrabble and Boggle.

Am I the only one that thinks Cranium blows?

posted by box at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2004

Quits, Quoridor or Cathedral are great games of strategy that are dead-simple to learn. The makers of these games are quite simply geniuses.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2004

Settlers of Catan, the card game
Balloon Cup

All are great. Any game store should have them, though Balloon Cup may be a bit harder to find.
posted by mkultra at 1:28 PM on December 3, 2004

Am I the only one that thinks Cranium blows?

Speaking as an incurable introvert, I would rather have major dental work done than play Cranium ever again.
posted by makonan at 1:48 PM on December 3, 2004

I found a great game last week called Fluxx. it is for 2-6 players for 2-45 minutes. the rules keep changing as you play so the conditions of victory, or even how the game is played change as you go.
posted by Megafly at 1:53 PM on December 3, 2004

posted by ?! at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2004

Das verruckte Labyrinth
posted by copperbleu at 2:08 PM on December 3, 2004

Knightmare Chess hooked me for a while. It's played with a standard chess board/pieces, and a specialised deck of cards. Each card you play alters the rules of the game in some manner.

Then I found Tile Chess, which uses chess pieces but no board. The board is created during play, using tiles. I've never played anything quite like it.
posted by Ritchie at 2:50 PM on December 3, 2004

Mancala is a GREAT game...It is simple to learn and very clever.
posted by yodelingisfun at 3:30 PM on December 3, 2004

Love the dice game! Two more suggestions: Probe (no physical probing involved...) and darts.
posted by fish tick at 4:43 PM on December 3, 2004

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone, it was an enormous help. I'm going to try out Mancala and Carcassonne: the Castle I think. And hey, if she hates those I can always come back here and try, try again!

We do have a Gamecube and various games, btw. She likes Soul Calibur 2 but I think buying a video game for HER would be kind of like Homer buying a bowling ball for Marge.
posted by selfnoise at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2004

Definitely try Boggle. I played when I was growing up and wasn't very good. Now, it's a lot more fun.
posted by achmorrison at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2004

Mancala and Quarto 1, 2.
posted by Feisty at 6:29 PM on December 6, 2004

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