Interesting games for two
December 9, 2016 5:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to gift my husband with a game (board, online, whatever) that we can play together an hour or so after work each weekday. Recommendations?

He loves all board games, including One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Settlers of Catan. He plays a few online and video games..I'm not sure what they are. I personally am not a huge fan of anything too competitive and only recently started playing board games. It'd be fun to do something we can play for a little bit after work to unwind and then can stop and go back to continue the next day.
posted by inevitability to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (36 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
For two-player specific board games (which are often more satisfying at 2 players than a 2-4 player game), I would recommend any of the following:

Jaipur - 2-player-only competitive set collection, relatively light and not a ton of direct interaction but some good options for strategy.

Morels (re-released as Fungi) - also 2-player-only competitive set collection, but with very different mechanics. Interesting timing mechanics where you have to really think through when to take a card (if at all), when to turn in sets, etc.

Rivals for Catan - a 2-player-only game with some elements of the full Catan, but optimized for faster play and only the 2 players. Each player has their own play space that they're building up territories that are triggered by dice rolls (similar to Catan).

Ticket to Ride (specifically the Switzerland variant map, which is in the India / Switzerland map pack expansion but also requires the base game) - TTR is a great game in and of itself, and the Switzerland map is really good for lower player counts (it's 2-3 players only, so it's designed with that number of players in mind).
posted by tocts at 6:05 AM on December 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

Race for the Galaxy: has a challenging learning curve, but once you know it you can whip through a game in 20-30 minutes with only 2 players. Several expansions for when you get bored with the base set.

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries has all the good mechanics (ferries, tunnels) from the T2R series, and has a compact board intended for smaller number of players. It's good for two. This is a complete game and doesn't require the base game.

Ascension (the app): A good implementation of the card game, saves you shuffling and sorting, seamlessly supports synchronous and asynchronous play. The AIs are a bit dull, though.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: has a pretty good app, with a 2-P co-op mode where you each play multiple heroes (which I suppose you could do with the physical card game as well, but might be a bit awkward).
posted by BrashTech at 6:20 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, how could I forget Splendor? Reasonably quick, good with 2, and there is also an app.
posted by BrashTech at 6:22 AM on December 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

I like Carcassonne for two player under an hour gaming.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:24 AM on December 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

We like Carcassonne for something quick to play after work. It works really well for two players.

Twilight Struggle is much more of an investment of time but is designed for exactly two players. You might want to try this one before you buy, because though I like the game in theory, I find I'm not always willing to put in the investment required to play an entire game, even if spread out over several days.

I also found this book: Games People Play - a good source for casual two player games to while away an evening or a car ride.
posted by peacheater at 6:25 AM on December 9, 2016

Patchwork - A two player game a bit like Tetris where you are making choices from a queue of quilt pieces to add them to your own creation. The player with the quilt that has the least gaps wins. I bought this for a not-super-into board games couple and they loved it. The central mechanic is fun win or lose, so even if it's competitive it's still enjoyable. Plays in about 45 minutes.

It sseems like cooperative games might be what you want, though. There are a number of good choices on the market right now, but Pandemic is sort of the go-to reccomendation, I've found. You play as epidemiologists who are trying to stop a disease from decimating the world's population. Working together, players make strategic choices to research cures and treat global population centers. It's best with four, but since it's cooperative you and your husband could both take two characters. A game takes about an hour. If you want a continuing challenge, then you could get Pandemic: Legacy. The same base game, but with things like stickers on the board, and secret surprise cards that show up later, which make permanent changes to the rules, and are meant to be played in sequence to represent several years of gameplay. I would start with regular Pandemic, see if you like it, and keep legacy in mind for later.
posted by codacorolla at 6:27 AM on December 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you want a quicker co-op experience there's also the Forbidden (desert and island) series. You play a group of explorers trying to acquire a set of treasures before the island sinks. You move around the board, playing cards, and making choices against a time limit. I'm not a huge fan of the gameplay, but it's a cooperative game that plays under an hour. Pretty cheap to, if you're looking to try it out.
posted by codacorolla at 6:31 AM on December 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

My friend's parents have been playing a regular after-dinner game of Carcassonne for years now. They've gradually accumulated expansion packs to increase the complexity of the game as their skill increased.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 6:35 AM on December 9, 2016

These are great, thanks everyone! Maybe I'm just not familiar enough with games (and l'll look more into your suggestions) but is there anything that you can slowly work through a long continuous and fun adventure or "build" over time? I was thinking something we can look forward to continuing after a work day.

Also wanting to add we enjoy playing Munchkins together and he also occasionally plays Magic.
posted by inevitability at 6:38 AM on December 9, 2016

For a continuous game of that nature... Perhaps look into buying the Civilization computer game for both of you? It really plays like a strategy board game (in my limited experience).

OH! Pandemic Legacy is best with four players, but can be done with two. It's cooperative and the game changes the further you go. It's really cool, especially in the way your actions affect future games. There is definitely enough there to keep you busy and engaged for a long time.
posted by daikaisho at 6:45 AM on December 9, 2016

We play cribbage and keep score of wins and losses over a year. Loser buys dinner at the end of the year.
posted by Ftsqg at 7:21 AM on December 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

OH! Pandemic Legacy is best with four players, but can be done with two.

There's also a Risk Legacy game, but it's not great for two. Other two-player legacy suggestions are Mice and Mystics

Seconding the recommendation for the Ascension app. It's the best port of a card game I've played. You could start with the core set and add the many expansions one at a time.

Also, there's a good series of Arkham Horror games.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:40 AM on December 9, 2016

Onirim is a very nice two player cooperative game that I think plays better than two person Pandemic. It comes with a bunch of expansions that you can mix and match rules with so you can change it up so it's not the same thing again and again.

Lost Cities and Balloon Cup are two of my favorite light, competitive two player games.
posted by Candleman at 7:48 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I personally find Ascension to be pretty terrible, and if you don't like competitive games, then Ascension has a lot of "fuck you" moments that you probably won't enjoy.

By the same token, Carcassonne can get cut throat. The general tile selection and placement mechanic is fairly relaxing, though. I think it's a good suggestion for a 45 minute 2P game, but you probably know how much the competitive aspect matters to your taste.

If you're looking for a continuing project, then Pandemic: Legacy is a good bet, although I wouldn't jump into it without trying vanilla Pandemic first. Do you have any board game cafes near you? Or board game stores? Both would be a potential opportunity to test drive the game first if you don't want to commit to buying it. Pandemic is also pretty cheap at this point (25 bucks), so that might fall in range of being worth a try.

A few board games offer a campaign mode (meaning it's a continuing project across time), although I'm struggling to come up with a good suggestion for your criteria. A lot of them tend to be fairly complex, review poorly, or have a player taking on an antagonist role (which won't work for two).

One possibility is Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. You take on the role of a Baker Street detective, trying to solve some of Holmes' case files more efficiently than he did. There are ten mysteries, which ask the player to use their deductive skills to piece together clues. There's cooperative and competitive modes (in competitive you don't share information, in cooperative you do), and apparently the cases build on one another, so there is a sense of progression. A single session takes over an hour, however, so that breaks your time limit. Another negative is that the game is out of print, and will likely be very pricey.
posted by codacorolla at 8:00 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some games that work for us:

San Juan

Suburbia (takes longer, but never gets old)



Arboretum (recent favorite)
posted by monologish at 8:07 AM on December 9, 2016

I also hesitate to suggest it because it would be jumping into the deep end head first, but Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition is apparently very good. It's cooperative Lovecraftian horror, which places players in the roles of paranormal investigators. The previous edition had an antagonist role, who ran the game. The second edition moves that over to an app, which handles all of the grunt work, and reportedly vastly improves the game. It's not a campaign, per se, but it all takes place in the same universe, and you could play through the scenarios back to back for a feeling of progression. Downsides: fairly complicated, very expensive (150 bucks!), lots of components.
posted by codacorolla at 8:14 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

The utterly stupidly named The Game is a quick and simple 2+ player cooperative game that has a good amount of tension and attempts to avoid one of the usual problems of coop games (that a dominant person will just tell the person what to do most of the time). It can also be played with any deck of cards that goes from 1-99.

Hanabi is a good cooperative game that goes from 2-5 players and also works to solve the bossy player problem.
posted by Candleman at 8:29 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pandemic Legacy would be great if you're looking for an ongoing "project" type game. I wouldn't worry too much about trying the regular game first. Legacy has explicit rules for playing practice games before starting the main campaign, which (except for minor changes to the roles and the board) is identical to the base game. You can actually choose to play with either two or four players. Since the game is cooperative, there's nothing preventing you from each playing two different players. Generally, playing with four will give you more opportunities to play around with different roles and strategies, but playing with two will be generally easier (particularly when it comes to the disease curing mechanic).

The downside of the Legacy format is that it's by design a time-limited experience. If you're actually playing for an hour a night consistently, you'll probably burn through the entire campaign in a month or two (each game takes 45min to an hour and a half, depending on how much time you spend mulling your options, and there are about 18 games in a campaign), and the replayability after that point is limited.
posted by firechicago at 8:31 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend Battle Cry, Memoir 44, BattleLore 2nd ed., Battles of Westeros, or Command and Colors: Ancients or Napoleonics more or less in that order as a terrific light 2-player campaign game you can look forward to taking up every evening. They are all essentially the same system. They are head-to-head combat games, so they don't usually make the list of games couples play, but they are really light and have several randomizing factors that make it not serious. And they're a pretty solid fit for campaign play with interesting historical/thematic details. Otherwise I suggest the usual: Lost Cities, Battle Line, Carcassonne, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:55 AM on December 9, 2016

Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is a very fun, light two-player game. It is an adaptation of Agricola, which is more complex and meant for more than two.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 8:55 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cooperative games for two players that continue/build over time:

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Other cooperative games for two players (replayable, but don't continue/build):

Agents of Smersh is a storytelling game that will be different every time.

Onirim. Comes with 7 expansions. Play the base game until you can consistently beat it, then add an expansion, repeat as you work through all the expansions.

Head-to-Head, easy to get into, but not heavily competitive games for two players:

Lost Cities
Roll for the Galaxy (more accessible than Race for the Galaxy)
Sushi Go Party
posted by Boxenmacher at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

For quick crazy fun there's any or all of the Fluxx variants. I'm a fan of Star Fluxx and Zombie Fluxx personally.

I'll nth Carcasonne, it works great with just two people. If you like Magic, you may also enjoy Android: Netrunner but that's a rabbit hole you may not want to jump down...

There's a Settlers of Cattan Card Game for two players which is pretty fun.

And I'll also add a vote for the various co-operative games mentioned. Pandemic, Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are all great, as is Mice and Mystics! Eldritch Horror takes a bit longer to play but can also be played with 2 and you can ramp up the difficulty by playing more characters. So set up the game for a 4 player game and play two characters each.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 10:09 AM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

My wife and I play a lot of 2+ player board games - ones we really love lately:
Archaeology: The New Expedition

I play 2p games at work at lunchtime with a buddy who's more into strategic stuff, we like to play:
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

If you're looking for a really special gift, I'd recommend considering a Crokinole board. The Hilinskis make incredibly beautiful boards that double as wall-hangable art (they come pre-fitted to hang). It's a fantastic, fun, quick game, too.
posted by soplerfo at 11:12 AM on December 9, 2016

If you take good enough notes to be able to remember what is going on from one session to the next, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective might fit the bill.
posted by juv3nal at 12:10 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Backgammon. It's easy to learn, really fun, and the boards are really cool. My partner and I play almost every night!
posted by TheCoug at 4:18 PM on December 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you like trivia or history, then Timeline might be fun. It comes with cards in decks by genre so you can make it more difficult. There are also expansions (I think they're up to five). Lots of fun and can be very challenging.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:41 PM on December 9, 2016

I forgot to mention that Timeline: the Board Game just came out last year and it's fun as well, while providing a slightly less trivia-oriented experience and slightly more board-game-style experience.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:44 PM on December 9, 2016

So many games I want to buy now! I just bought Pandemic Legacy since so many people recommended it, and it looks awesome *and* I'm in health policy.

Also eyeing some other games for the future (mansion of maddness looks so fun)!!
posted by inevitability at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2016

I want to gift my husband with a game (board, online, whatever) that we can play together an hour or so after work each weekday. Recommendations?

I recommend you buy something you will play. Many a thread on BGG or /r/boardgames lament spouses who don't have the gaming bug. So while one of the new and highly rated games is 7 Wonders: Duel ( which adopts the mechanics of a great game designed for 7 players down to 2 players), it's still a game with only one winner, and some of the game involves taking things you don't want because they'd be too good for your opponent. Pandemic is a great coop, but the open information design leads to the more experienced player telling the other what to do. If you feel the games are getting too bossy from one side or the other, there's a few games that hide information from you as part of the core mechanic. Hanabi comes to mind. If you like word games more than say farming or directing warfare, Paperback is a decent game.

On the video game side, one that comes to mind is Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is well regarded. Portal 2 is also an option.
posted by pwnguin at 8:47 PM on December 9, 2016

Consider Set for short bursts.
posted by maryr at 8:36 AM on December 10, 2016

Cribbage and/or gin rummy with a deck of cards.

10,000 with a set of five (normal) dice.
posted by talldean at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2016

I came across another game that might work, but that I haven't played: The Big Book of Madness. You play as students of a wizards' college who have opened a forbidden tome and must fight the horrors within it. It's really well reviewed, apparently works at 2P, and seems like it would be appealing to a person who plays Magic. It's not a campaign though.
posted by codacorolla at 9:47 AM on December 11, 2016

There are a ton of good BoardGameGeek threads about this. Here's one: Best Two-Player Husband/Wife Games. I agree with the first three, Yinsh isn't great, I haven't played 2 de Mayo, and the next three are good as well.

I would strongly recommend against Twilight Struggle. Pandemic Legacy was a good pick. Suburbia is one my partner and I enjoy, especially if you are a Sim City fan. Agricola: All Creatures... is also excellent. Probably the best two player game I have on my shelf is The Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation.

If you want a project, it may be worth looking into a Limited Card Game (LCG) of some description: Lord of the Rings (my favourite) or Arkham Horror for cooperative, or Game of Thrones or Netrunner for competitive. They have pretty enormous card pools though, so can be expensive. Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn and Mage Wars Academy are both very similar to the aforementioned, but have smaller pools/less expansions. Academy is enormous fun, don't know about Ashes.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:44 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Netrunner for competitive. They have pretty enormous card pools though, so can be expensive.

If you want to start small, the core set is fine, and Netrunner is receiving an experimental Legacy style "narrative campaign" expansion designed for two players. It's MSRP of 40 bucks is more than the normal deluxe expansion though, still not cheap (and not available till Feb).
posted by pwnguin at 9:48 PM on December 11, 2016

I recommend Ingress. You don't have to "get" it for him, but it's definitely "continuous" and "build over time", and even will get you out of the house!
posted by Metro Gnome at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2016

I like 221B Baker Street. It plays a little like Clue, but you're solving a different mystery every time, with actual clues and puzzles to solves. Each game session you use a different mystery card, so it's a little different every time you play.
posted by darchildre at 2:50 PM on December 14, 2016

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