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2-Player Games  (sorry, but this is a large file – you may have to wait for it to load)

This page right now is a quick and dirty look at the games I have for 2 players, and whether or not I think they are good or not.   I have a large list here, because up until this year when this gaming group got started, I usually only played games with my wife.  Some have mini-reviews, but most don't.  If you want more info about a game, mail me at yudp@email.uc.edu and I'll get the mini-review up to you (on up here on the page).  For the most part, these games are all recommended by the manufacturer for play by two players in the instructions (or an official variant has been released to allow play for two); but there are a few where we have made some variant house rules to allow play for two.  This is of course not comprehensive - it is just a list of the games that I have and have played for two.

 

Another good place to look is the Luding 2-Player Game repository.  It is likely that you can find a review there if I haven't provided it below.
http://sunsite.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/luding/two_player_list.html

 

For the purposes of this page, each game will be rated for (Gameplay / length of game / replay value).
Gameplay will be rated on a scale of 1-10.  This rating represents ONLY how this game plays as a 2-player game, not an overall rating of the game
Length is included because I know that often times I want to play games that are less than an hour (or that's all I have time for)
Replay value is also on 1-10 with 10 meaning high replay value - not necessarily replay value for two players but rather overall for any number of players
 

Game Title

Manufacturer

Rating

Length

Replay

Comments

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acquire

3M/AH

4

45 min

10

I've played this game where each player plays as 2 different players and then adds up their totals at the end.  It is interesting, and a good way to learn some of the basic strategies and mechanics of the game, but there is definitely something lost in it.

Alpha Blitz

WotC

4

20 min

3

This word building game (Actually 2 games in 1) just never struck me as fun.  In this game, you play off of cards in the center of the table and anagram them into scoring words.  It might just be me, but if I am going to play a word game like this, I'd rather be playing Scrabble

Axis and Allies

MB

8.5

2-3 hr

6

This Gamemaster classic, in my opinion, may be best played with 2 people.  After all, in a 5 player game, whoever gets screwed with Russia is going to be in for a long night.  Lets face it, the Russia player will spend two to four turns throwing all of his poor infantry men up against the German tanks only to eventually lose (as everyone in the game knows).  Then as the first player out, you can go get pizza for the rest of the group or maybe find the Playstation/N64 as you now have a few hours to kill before you can get back in the game.  However, in the two player version, I think the strategies are better (as now each side works together better); this also seems to reduce the Allied edge inherent in the game down to maybe 60:40.  I also think that this game gets a little stagnant after awhile because I tend to use the same strategies now, and this game is more a dice-rolling exercise than strategic game.

Backgammon

traditional

7.5

30 min

6

Traditional game

Battleship

MB

5

20 min

5

Classic game that you played as a child.  OK, probably doesn't fit in with the other games here... but it's good to have some games to play with the kids...  And who doesn't love to hear "Oh! You sunk my Battleship!"?

Before I Kill 
You, Mr Bond

Cheapass

3.5

20 min

6

This game definitely loses something with only two players, although the rules try to convince you it doesn't.  This game, for two, suffers because you really only have one other player to play your cards against, and this lack of choice just sucks all the fun out of the espionage-mocking card game.  (But I highly recommend it for groups of 4 or more!)

Ben Hvrt

Cheapass

6

2-4 hr

7

This game can work for two players if each player takes the role of two separate chariot drivers.  You have to play a series of races (usually we go for five) and score the races as following: 5 points for 1st place, 3 points for 2nd place, 1 point for 3rd, and nada for last place.  At the end of the series, total up the points to find the eventual winner.  The only problem with this is that the bidding is often not as fierce (since there are only two bidders) - we have sometimes found it necessary to double the base values of the cards to make them more expensive to buy.

Bethump'd

Mamopaliere

2

1 hr

1

This is a "Trivial Pursuit" like game except all of the questions revolve around wordpower, English (As in the high school subject) and literature.  The game is pretty fun in larger groups (because hopefully someone will know the answer/have read the book/have been old enough to have read about this obscure word in those funny columns in the large print edition of Reader's Digest), but the difficulty of the cards makes this exceptionally challenging for just two.  And not to toot our horns, but I'd like to think that my wife and I are relatively educated for this game:  I'm in medical school, she's finished law school, and we are both avid readers.  And we still can't get more than 50% of these questions...

Big Boggle

Parker Bros

5

30 min

7

Again, the classic problem of just not enough competition to cancel out your words.  Still fun, but less so.  And in case you're wondering, in my opinion, you should never play regular Boggle.

Bitin' Off Hedz

Cheapass

6.5

1 hour

2

Again, the classic problem of just not enough competition rears its ugly head in a normal 2 player version.  However, try playing that each player gets three dinosaurs on their team (instead of the usual one).  The dinosaurs still have to take their turn in order (A1, B1, A2, B2, A3, B3) but this adds enough dinosaurs on the baord to make dodging the rocks quite challenging.  Winner is the first one to have two dinosaurs make it to the volcano to immolate themselves.  It's fun to play 2 or 3 times, but then you'll never see it again.  But it only costs $3, so who cares?

Bonkers

Parker Bros

3

45 min

5

OK, if you haven't figured it out by now, my collection still has many of these dumb games we played as kids (or at least I played as a kid in the early 80s).  This game isn't as much fun with 2; there's less chance that you will be send back to lose your points before you get back to Start.

Brawl

Cheapass

8

5 min

10

The idea of this game is great - a real time card game with a CCG twist.  I have two of the six decks - Pearl and Morgan - and they seem to be well balanced.  The game is quick (About 45-90 seconds per hand - 2 out of 3 hands wins a game).

Buck Rogers: 
Battle for the 
25th Century

TSR

3

2-4 hr

3

This TSR game was brought out to appear and play like the MB Gamemasters.  Unlike the MB games, this one doesn't have two definite sides playing against each other.  Thus, for a two player game, it isn't quite as good (mainly due to the lack of competition).  Of course, I haven't played this game since high school (about 1992) so my memories of the game could be a little off.

Button Men

Cheapass

10

5 min

10

This is probably my favorite Cheapass game.  The strategies are amazingly complex for a little $3.00 game.  Of course, the game could be free; you'll find all the rules and first set of characters at http://www.cheapass.com.  (But really, if you like the game, send 'em $3 for one pair of buttons so that they'll keep making fun games for low prices).  This game is a strategic battle between two characters, each represented by 4 or 5 dice (ranging from d4 to d20).  At the beginning of the game, each player rolls all their dice, and whoever has the lowest number showing goes first.  You then use the numbers on your dice to "attack" the other player and capture one of his dice.  You can either Power attack by using one of your dice to capture one of your opponents; as long as your die has the higher number showing, or you can Skill attack by totalling up the numbers on 2 or more dice and using all of them to capture one of you opponent's dice that has that number showing on his die.  (i.e. you can use a 5, 4, and 9 to capture your opponent's 18).  You get one attack per turn, and then once you're done, you roll any dice that you used to capture that turn.  Then it's his turn to do the same to you.  The game is played until only one player has dice left on the board.  BUT, the winner is not the player who captured all of his opponent's dice; you still have to score the round - one point for each side of die that you captured plus two points for every side of die you have remaining.  Thus, weaker characters may lose all their dice, but still win because they were able to capture some of their opponent's larger dice.  If you are interested in more strategies, I again point you to the cheapass website where there are more than a few dedicated strategy pages to this small but intriguing game.

By Hook or
Crook
(aka Adel
Verplichtet)

AH

2

90 min

8

This Spiel de Jahres finalist sucks for two players.  Much of the strategy is lost since you are now forced by the rules to either go to the auctionhouse or gallery on alternating turns so that both players are always in the same spot.  Also, the excitement of the hidden bid auctions is somewhat lessened as it is only you and your opponent.  In fact, the only time you should play this for two is if you are trying to understand how the game works to then later explain it to a larger group.  Otherwise, stay away.

Caesar and 
Cleopatra

Kosmos

9.5

30 min

8

This card game is an excellent game for two. The theme is fighting for votes in the Roman political scene.  There are five groups of voters and each player influences these groups by playing cards in front of them denoting how much support that group will give the player.  At the end of each turn, a card is flipped up to determine which of the 5 groups will vote this turn (or perhaps no one will vote at all).  At this vote, whoever wins the vote gets one of the politicians of that group into his scoring pile.  At the end of the game, you total up the number of politicians that you have control over and add in bonuses for controlling a majority (or all) of any voting group.  This is a quick game, about 30 mins in length, and has a very high replay value.

Can’t Stop

Franjos

8

15 min

10

This quick dice-rolling game is a blast for three or four players as they race to complete three columns of numbers by rolling dice.  With two players, there is a loss of competition which takes away from some of the tension of the game, but the spirit remains.  A fun little game that dares you to take just one more turn!

Carat

Queen

9.5

30 min

9

This is a tile laying game where you try to surround jewels of differing point values with tiles of your color so that you can capture the jewel.  In the 2 player variant, each player has to play two colors and then the total points are added up.  This game does not suffer with two players however, since each tile has one side of each color in the game.  Therefore, on each turn, the tile played works for all players and in fact, I feel that this increases the strategy in the game as now you have to maximize the play for both of your colors and also worry about blocking the progress of both of your opponent's colors.

Cardino

MB

7

30 min

6

This 1958 game is a tile laying game where you score points by how many tiles are adjacent to the tile just played.  The board is a map of playing cards, and where you can play cards is dictated by the cards in your hand.  A good vintage game if you can find it.

Careers

Parker Bros

6.5

1 hr

8

This classic game (I have a 1953 version) doesn't really lose much because there is little interaction between the players in the game.  I highly recommend this game for "Family Games Night" - it's lighter than Monopoly and is better for the family in my opinion because there is less direct competition (and chance for mean-ness).  Also, there is more excitement in the endgame because no one is really quite sure what combinaion of money, fame and happiness the others need to win.

Castle Arcana

TSR

8

1 hr

8

This is a set of books that allows you and a friend to play a basic game of D&D using choose your own adventure books and a clever combat system involving either 2d20 or you and your friend calling out numbers at random.  We've found this game is excellent for travelling as you really don't need much else than the books, one piece of paper and a pencil.

Castle Risk

Parker Bros

3

1 hr

4

I have no idea why they brought this game out to try to "improve" Risk.  All it does is add a large element of luck into a sorta-strategic game.  I don't think this game is good for any number of players when compared to Risk.

Challenge 
Football

3M

5

45 min

5

You plan your plays on offense by seeing what basic defense you're up against, drawing the path of the runner/pass on the game sheet with a wax pencil, and then seeing when the defense stops the play (when your pencil path crosses over one of the triangles on the defensive sheet).  It's primitive, but let's face it, the game is over 30 years old, what do you expect?

Channel 
Surfing

MB

5.5

45 min

5

In college, this was a fun "drink beer and kill time" game.  Each player/team gets 12 cards each with a topic/person/place on them (for example: sunglasses, blue shirt, car, Hawaii, moonlight).  Then, the timer is set (about 1 min) and you are given the remote control.  Your job is to flip thru the channels as fast as possible and call out the topics on the cards as you see them.  You get one point for each card you are able to find.  The game is played over 3-5 rounds.  To add more challenge, we usually would force the loser of each round to chug whatever was left of his beer (ok, so it's kind of a downward spiral if you lose the first few rounds)

Checkers

traditional

10

30 min

6

traditional

Chess

traditional

10

30 min

9

traditional

Condotierre

Eurogames

4

45 min

7

This game is based on fighting for control of Italy.  Battles are done using cards - and the winner of each hand will win control of the city.  The object is to have an empire of connected city-states.  There are some special cards which throw an interesting wrench into the strategies.  This game is one of those cameleon games that totally changes in complexion based on the number of players playing.  I know that many people think that the strategy in this card game is increased with two players, but I don't.  However, I highly recommend it for 3 -5 players.

Conquest of 
the Empire

MB

2

3 hr

9

This Gamemaster game pits players against each other as Roman generals fighting for supremacy in the Empire.  Unlike A&A, each player is on his own in this game, so the gameboard ends up too large for only two players.  The amount of interaction between the two players can be quite minimal, thus making for a pretty sorry game. 

Coup 
d'Etat

Parker Bros

4

30 min

6

This vintage game (1954) is just a card game in a box.  I've only played it once and it was not that inspiring.  But it does have nice bits including a scoreboard that uses little metal daggers to keep track of the score

Cribbage

traditional

10

varies

10

 

Crossword:
NY Times
Sunday Puzzle
Game

Herbko

1

45 min

4

This game is just not good.  Each player/team takes turns to answer clues on the crossword or challenge their opponents to answer a clue.  Admittedly, my wife and I generally struggle to finish the Sunday Times puzzle when we put our brains together - but because of this - the game is too challenging for us when each has to try to do it on our own.

Cube It

Northern
Star

3

30 min

3

This is a boxed-version of the game "Dots" that you played in grade school.  You know -  the one where you have a grid of dots on paper and you take turns connecting two dots on each turn.  Then, once you can close in a box on all 4 sides, you put your initial in it and get to go again... It wasn't much fun then.  The only advantage of this game is that you don't have to draw out all the damn dots.

Daytona 500

MB

4

30 min

4

Hmm... the real race has 43 cars; in this game, there are only 2... Not much chance for crash-em-ups...

Devil Bunny
Needs A Ham

Cheapass

8

15 min

8

This game is a race to get your pieces to the top of a building.  The main obstacle is the Devil Bunny that will stomp your players down everytime you roll a '6'.  If your token is too high up the building and no one can catch it after Devil Bunny stomps on it, you die.  Luckily you get 6 players in this crazy game.  This game is best with 2-3 players because with more the board becomes too congested.  Another good Cheapass game for two. (and only $2)

Diceball

Intellijeux

9

45 min

8

This is a quick and simple baseball game that uses dice for everything.  The dice rolls are very simple and no charts are needed.  As far as sports games go, it is low on reality but high on entertainment.

Durch die 
Wuste

Kosmos

8

45 min

10

Durch is one of Knizia's tile-laying trilogy where you place camels down to form caravans and score points by getting to oases and picking up points throughout the desert.  Each player has 5 different caravns to work with and as is usual with Knizia, you want to do more on each turn that you are allowed.  In this game, you can only place two camels per turn thus causing you to agonize over where you should play this turn.  This game isn't as good for two players as more, but the strategy is still quite apparent when playing with two.  In fact, my wife thinks that game is better because you are now more focused in your planning in how to maximize your score while blocking off the opponent.

El Caballero

Hans im
Gluck

4

1 hr

7

This game is sort of a mini-El Grande  Unfortuately, it's just not good for two.  We have found it to be too dry and analytical.  There is not enough suspense in the game with only two to keep it interesting.

Elfenland

Amigo

8

45 min

9

This game becomes more strategic with only two players as the interaction between the players is limited.  With two players, the game is more "How do I plan my route so that I can get all the way around the board" where with more players it is "How will I be able to adapt to the different route markers thrown down where I want to travel".  I prefer the game with more players, but my wife likes it better for two...  Either way, it's a great game, and Spiel de Jahres winner.

Empire Builder

Mayfair

5

2 hr

5

This train game (father of the crayon rail games) is meant usually for at least three players.  There is a variant in the rules to allow play for two, but it just isn’t that much fun.  I’d really only recommend it if you are dying to play a crayon rail game.

Euphrat and 
Tigris

Hans im
Gluck

3

2 hr

8

Another member of Knizia's tile-laying trilogy.  I just don't like it with two; I feel the tension of the game is reduced too much with only two.

Feudal

3M

9

45 min

10

This classic Bookcase game is a Chess Variant.  In this game, you are protecting your castle and nobles from the opponent while you try to capture his castle and or noble .  The board adds the concept of terrain to the game and the pieces have different moving abilities than your regular chess pieces.  I've only played this game a few times, but the strategy seems as complex as chess with the innumerable variations.  If you like chess, I think you should get this one.

Fight City

Cheapass

5

15 min

6

This unbalanced game has a CCG-feel to it, but you play with only 2 fixed decks.  All I can say is that if you are looking at these Cheapass CCG-like games, try Brawl first.

Five Crowns

SET Games

7

20 min

8

This simple card game is a variation on Rummy.  You make melds with your cards to go out and then score whatever your opponent has left unmelded in their hands.  The twist is that there is a 5th suit added to the game as well as some Jokers which affect the scoring of each hand.

Fluxx

Looney
Entertainment

8

20 min

8

This is a card game whose rules change with almost every play of the cards.  You can change the number of cards you draw, number of cards you play, and victory conditions with the cards you play.  Quite fun, and quick.

Formula De

Eurogames

5

30 min

8

This F1 racing game is perhaps the best racing game out there in my opinion.  For two players, we found it fun to play with each player getting 5 cars (so that we could run the race with the full 10 cars in it).  Then run the race (we liked shorter 2-3 lap races) and then score the cards using the F1 scoring system (10 for 1st, 7 for 2nd, 5 for 3rd, 3 for 4th, 2 for 5th and 1 for 6th).  Run a series of races and total up the points for your team.

Fortress
America

MB

8

2-3 hr

7

Although this is my least favorite of the Gamemaster games, it translates well into a two player game as there are two distinct sides in the game.  In fact, it's probably better for two (see Axis and Allies above).

Fossil 

Gold
Sieber

5

45 min

9

This Games "Game of the Year Winner"  is a nice light strategic game for 2-4.  I think this game is better with more than two because of the game mechanics.  The game has 9 fossils that are split up into 9 fragments each.  On your turn, you are able to pick up one fossil piece.  Once a fossil is completely discovered (all 9 pieces are picked up), you score the fossil and award points.  With two players, the game becomes dry and analytical because it is too easy to visualize what the board will look like when it is your turn again.  It's much better with 3-4.

Go

Traditional

10

varies

10

This Japanese/Chinese game of strategy is perhaps the most appealing of all the traditional games.

Guillotine

WotC

7

20 min

8

This card game tries to introduce to CCG concept of following instructions on cards to a regular card game.  The theme is set in the French Revolution and you aim to kill the highest scoring people you can.  The twist is that most cards played have a special ability that adds changes such as the scoring of that card or rearrangement the line leading to the Guillotine.  It works as well with 2 as it does with a larger group.

Hase und
Igel

Ravensburger

7

45 min

6

This strategy game pits your rabbits against those of your opponents.  You need carrots for food for movement and you have to pick up some cabbages along the way to win the game.  The game is admittedly a little dry no matter how many people are playing.  For that reason, I have found it hard to find other players for this game - but I really like it.

Heimlich
and Co.

Ravensburger

2

1 hr

4

Not interesting for 2, 3 or 4.  Run and hide from this game.

History of the

World

Avalon Hill

4

3 hrs

2

This historical game can be played with two if each player takes two (or three) civilizations per epoch.  Keep separate scores (i.e. each player plays as two or three different colors in the game).  Colors of the same player may pass civilizations amongst themselves.  At the end of the game, add together the VP totals among the colors of the same person to see who wins.  However, in conquest, walkovers only occur among forces of the same color.  This variant seems to add some different strategies, such as keeping one of your civs drawing early in order to get first chance at giving one of your colors the civ it needs to do well.  Unfortunately, this variant still doesn’t solve the main problem with this game – namely the game still basically revolves around the Civ distribution in the 7th and final epoch.

Illuminati -
NWO CCG

SJG

7

20 min

7

This is a great 2-player version of Illuminati.  The downside is that it is a CCG and the inherent problems with getting cards and staying competitive.  While I don't own it, I've seen that SJG has released Illuminati NWO - Church of the Sub-Genius which is a boxed set of 2 NWO decks that provide a balanced game.  If you like Illuminati, or wanted to see what it was all about, try this one out.

Intern

Avalon Hill

5

60 min

5

This is a Monopoly clone that is setup in a hospital.  Each player is an intern trying to admit patients, diagnose them correctly, treat them and then discharge them from the hospital.  Instead of money, the interns try to collect hours of sleep (worth more than money in the hospital).  Only interesting if you are in the medical field (As I am).

Kahuna (aka
Akabana - 
Ikibiti )

Kosmos

9.5

30 min

8

This clever 2 player game pits two players over the control of an archipelago of islands.  Control is gained by playing bridges that connect the islands.  Whomever has the most bridges to an island controls it.  You have a hand of cards which dictate where you are allowed to play your bridges.  A very fun game with much strategy involved.  Highly recommended.

Katzenjammer
Blues

Rio Grande

4

30 min

4

This is an auction based rummy variant which says it can be played for two, but lets face it, auctions with two people suck (unless you're bidding on eBay).  For more players, the auction system (which you use the cards in your hand to bid to pick up new cards for your hand) and the different scoring system make for an interesting game.  Replay value seems low though - the game just wasn't that interesting.

Kill Dr.
Lucky

Cheapass

5

60 min

8

This game reverses the "Clue" concept - instead of tryinf to find out whodunit, you instead are tryinf to kill Dr. Lucky.  To do so, you must be in a room with Dr. Lucky and have no witnesses (i.e. no other players have a direct line of sight into the room that you are in.)  Then, when you try to kill him, the other players can try to prevent you from doing so by playing cards against you.  Great game for more than 2 players but with two it is too easy to isolate yourself and the good Doctor and not enough Failure cards to be played against you.  A member of Games Magazine 100 from 1998.

Knightmare
Chess

SJG

10

45 min

10

This adds a CCG feel to traditional Chess.  On each turn, you play a card which may give one of your pieces a special ability for the turn or may change the entire chess environment for the rest of the game.  Highly recommended.  Advanced Knightmare Chess allows you to build a deck out of the 120 cards in the box to maximize your strategies.

Landlord

Abacus

6

30 min

10

This card game is like Mille Bournes but instead of racing, this game is set around building buildings and then getting tenants to live in those buildings.

Linie 1 (aka
Streetcar)

Gold
Sieber

5

1 hr

7

In this tile laying game, you lay railroad tracks down to connect your two stations and destinations along the way.  Once your path is built, you then have  to move your train along that path to win the game.  With 2 players, there isn't as much adaptation needed on your part as you only have one other competitor that is laying tracks on the board; this takes away from the fun, and also makes this game a little too analytical for what it really is.

Lost Cities

Rio Grande

10

30 min

10

This card game has players competing to complete expeditions around the globe.  Typical of Knizia games, the number of choices for each turn far exceeds the number you are allowed to do.  The scoring system is a little convulted (and considered too "mathy" by many), but it helps set this game apart.  One downside is that the cards are too big to be shuffled comfortably and that the board that comes with the game is totally unnecessary.  But a great 2 player game

Magic: the
Gathering

WotC

9

varies

10

The ultimate CCG (IMHO) - I am now out of the game because of the rising costs, but this is still one of the best two player games out there based on variety and complexity of strategy.  Of course now, the only way for me to afford the game is to play in sealed deck tournaments or play from my pool of commons in an all-commons environment (anything up to 5th Ed.)

Manhattan

Mayfair

6

45 min

8

This game, which was made for 4 players, can be played by two if each takes two colors.  However, the problem is that the level of competition is greatly reduced.  Invariably, each of the 6 neighborhoods in the game are occupied by only one of each players colors.  While the game is still enjoyable this way, it just isn't as fun.  P.S. I highly recommend the Godzilla variant.

Medieval 
Merchant

Rio Grande

3

1-2 hr

7

Once again, the lack of competition makes this otherwise challenging and strategic game pretty dull when played with only two players.

Mhing

Suntex

10

20 min

10

This card version of traditional Chinese MahJongg allows two players to play what is traditionally a four-player-only game.  A must have for anyone who plays MahJongg.

Monday Night
Football
Interactive
Card Game

Mattel

8

4 hrs

7

This clever card game has cards which have printed on them varied occurences in a typical MNF broadcast (handoff, pass, 5 yd penalty, 10 yd penalty, Boomer Dan and Dave sighting, coach sighting, missed field goal,etc.)  Each of these cards has a point value associated with its frequency (i.e. handoff is worth 1 point while punt return for TD is worth 10).  It makes some otherwise horrible Monday night matchups more interesting in the 2nd half.

Monopoly

PB

4

1 hr

4

Everyone's played it, and lets face it, not that much fun with 2 (or 3 or 4 or 8)

Mr. President

AH

10

1-2 hr

10

This bookshelf game simulates the race for the presidency.  The Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates vie for votes by campaining in states, debating, raising funds, etc.  A challenging game for two, and with the different candidates in the game, the game can even be handicapped if one player has a consistent edge over the other.

NY Chase

Ravensburger

9

45 min

9

This sequel to Scotland Yard adds some new twists (See the review in the Reviews section of this site) – overall, adding to the game experience.  Highly recommended, but only for two players.  (This game is officially for 3-6, but it kinda sucks for more than two)

Outdoor 
Survival

AH

9

1-2 hr

10

This bookshelf game tries to simulate how one survives in the wilderness.  Your player must always have food and drink (or else he/she weakens) and the game also takes into consideration that when out in the wilderness, you can often get turned around and lose your sense of direction.  For two players, we have found it fun to play the Chase the Fugitive scenario where the Fugitive is trying to escape off the board while the Prison Guard is trying to track him down.

Phase 10

Fundex
Games

6

60 mins

6

This card game is similar to Rummy.  In it, you must make a specific meld of cards to move into the next phase (of which there are 10).  If you cannot get the necessary meld to move up to the next phase, you are doomed to repeat it again (while your opponent has moved on to better and brighter things).  This game is better with four players, but still quite enjoyable with two.

Pirateer

Mendocino

3.5

45 mins

4

A simple little strategy game, better made for children about 8-14. 

Pocket 
Football

AWV
Publishing

7

20 min

8

This set of books allows you to play football against each other.  Using a clever system of page flipping based on what offensive and defensive plays have been called, the result of each play is determined.  This is especially good for travelling as nothing else is needed other than the two books, each of which is about 2.5 inches square

Politika

Red Storm

2

2 hrs

2

This game shows why you can't just put a prominent author's name on a game and expect it to be good.  Anyways, it attempts to be a Gamemaster like game.  Like some of those games, there are not two clear cut sides in this game, thus competition between sides is lessened with only two players, though possible.  But in the end, I don't think I'd recommend this for any number of players.

Power Lunch

Mayfair

3

30 min

2

This game is another storytelling game where you try to connect the celebrities that you receive on cards.  Not that it is much fun in a large group, but it is even less so as a two-player game.  Just as in Bullwinkle and Rocky, if you need a game for storytelling like this, you've got more pressing issues.

Rack-O

MB

5

15 min

6

This card game challenges you to order the 10 cards in your hand (numbered from 1 to 45) in numerical order.  The game is quite challenging for both 2 and four players.  With two players, it is usually better to play a series of games and then total up the points after they are all finished.

Rail Baron

Mayfair

4

2 hrs

9

Using the Honeymoon Rail Baron variant included in the rules provides a good introduction to this prototype of the Crayon Rails series.  However, while the variant is good for learning the rules and mechansims of the game, it just isn't the same.

Raise the
Roof

Henard

7

45 min

7

This game uses the same general design as Mille Bournes, except you are racing to build a house in this game.  There are 15 specific rooms to be built into this house (slightly different than simply racing for 1000 miles) but otherwise the games are very similar.  The individual rooms add the complexity of hazard cards targeted specifically at certain rooms.  A nice variant if I do say so myself.

Risk

Parker Bros

3

1 hr

6

This game can be played with two players if you use the Allies variant where you place the black army on all territories not occupied by either player at the start of the game.  It at least forces you to have to roll to defeat "enemies" as you move across the board.  However, since the allies don't fortify, there are easy opposition by the end of the game.  Overall, there is just too much space on the Risk board for only two players to fight for world domination.;

Rocky and
Bullwinkle

TSR

1

too long

0

This TSR Bookcase game is really just a story-telling, lets-pass-the-time- with-the-sorta- cool-handpuppets-of- Boris-and-Natasha game.  But for two players, there just isn't any  hilarity.  If you need a game to halp facilitate you and a friend tell stories to each other, maybe you really shouldn't be playing games at all...

Safari Jack

Cheapass

6

20 min

7

This is a card laying game where you "build" the jungle that you are exploring as you go.  As you explore this jungle, you look for rare animals to bag and add to your collection.  With more than two players it is an interesting strategic battle.  With only two players, the game is somewhat more linear with each player developing only the portion of the jungle that he/she is going to explore.  Sometimes the game simply comes down to whoever draws the better cards.

Say When

Winning
Moves

6

30 min

6

This is a family-style party game where the object is to try to guess the numerical answer to many different types of questons (i.e. what year certain events happened in, how many sesame seeds on an average Big Mac bun, number of hairs in one square inch of human head).  Most of the time, no one will know the answers to the questions.  In fact, we have just instituted a rule lately that  if you know the answer to any question, you say so, and the question is thrown out.  Fun for any number of people.

Scotland Yard

Ravensburger

10

45 min

10

This may be my favorite 2 player game of all time -- even though it is meant for 3-5 according to the box.  In this game, one player is Mr. X (a fugitive) and the other player plays the 5 detectives that are trying to capture Mr. X.  The game is played on a board which has a stylized map of the London streets, bus paths and underground tracks.  The detectives are somewhat limited in the transportation choices as they have a limited number of tickets for each type of transport.  However, they have strength in numbers as they form a dragnet to catch Mr. X (who has to reveal his position every 5 turns or so).  Mr X, in turn has a few special moves of his own that allow him to slip away when the detectives get too close -- he can take two turns in a row and he has access to special modes of transportation (using the river), and he can occasionally disguise what type of transport he used.  He is not limited to what type of transport he can use, but he does have to disclose what type of transport he did take to the detectives.  This is an excellent game for two players and provides a great strategic matchup for two players.  If the game gets unbalanced, you can cut down on the number of detective to four to make it more challenging.

Scrabble

MB / Selchow
and Righter

8

45 min

8

This is the grand-daddy of all the word games.  With only two players, you can really try to plan a few moves ahead in your word-building making the game even more strategic than its four-player variety. 

Settlers of 
Catan

Mayfair /
Kosmos

4

45 min

10

This game was really meant for 4.  There are a few vairants for two, most notably Intimate Settlers http://www.virtual-cafe.com/~tdewey/diesiedler.html , but it's just not the same.  If you only have two and want to play settlers, may I suggest the Kartenspiel?

Settlers of 
Catan:
Card Game

Mayfair / 
Kosmos

9

45 min

9

This is the long awaited two-player conversion of the Settlers board game into a two-player only card game.  In this game, you still have cities and areas of land that produce commodities based on dice rolls, but it is certainly a different game.  This game is a race to 10 points (1 for twons, 2 for cities, 1 for point cards, 2 for the Knight token and 2 for the Comerce Token).  The Knight token and the Commerce Token take the place of the Knight card and Longest Road card in the boardgame.  The Knights are totally different in this game (both scoring points with the Knight token , but allowing you to draw commodities when the Competitons take place (the analog of the Robber in Settlers).   Overall, this game helps draw people into the atmosphere of Settlers, but yet provides a game that is different enough that it has merits of its own.

Shakespeare

AH

2

30 min

1

This game, at its basic level, is Parchessi.  At its advanced level, it is Shakespeare trivia hell.  In this version, if you can correctly answer a trivia question about Shakespeare or identify from what play a quotation comes from, you get to go again.  Basically, if you play this with an English major, you won't get a chance to play after their first turn.  Just not fun.

Sirocco

TSR

8

45 min

7

This two player wargame simulates a WWII battle in the deserts of Africa.  In many respects, it is just a variant of Chess with different pieces having different moving capabilities. 

Speed Circuit

3M

6

30 min

9

This racing game was built to alllow strategic racing for 2-4 players.  It also has really nice bits including metal cars.  A nice feature of the game allows you to customize the capabilities of your car helping to add to the replay value.

Star Wars 
CCG

Decipher

4

10 min

4

Being a M:tG fan, I just don't get this CCG.  While it is neat because it has Star Wars ties, the rules just seem too convoluted.  I think the system of using your deck as your life points is neat, but I just don't really like the gameplay personally.  I also wasn't a big fan of the deck system where your cards can be be in any one of three places.  I just don't like not being able to get to the cards.

Starbase Jeff

Cheapass

4

30 min

4

This is a tile-laying / trading game for 2-4 players.  It's just not as much fun without enough people to engender good competition.

Stix

Piatnik

8

20 min

8

This neat little game has deck of cards each of which has a figure made by adjacent lines on a grid which is 1X2 in size (think of an '8' on a digital calculator).  The game also provides 5 sticks which you use to form these shapes.  The sticks are placed in an initial setup by forming whatever design is on the top card of the deck.  Each player then is dealt four cards.  On your turn, you are able to move any one stick and move it, as long as it is placed adjacent to at least one other stick.  If you are able to form the design on one of your cards (or the mirror image on one of your cards), you discard that card from your hand.  The first player to discard all of his/her cards wins the game.

Stock Car

Championship

Racing Game

McGartlin

7

45 min

7

This is a card game that simulates a NASCAR stock car race.  It is both realistic and fun.  Check out their site at http://www.coolracinggames.com for a more detailed explanation as well as a downloadable set of rules.

Stock
Market
Game

Whitman

5

45 min

6

This vintage 1970s game provides a somewhat realistic recreation of the stock market.  Using an interesting mechanism of having the stock market fluctuate based on what squares the playing pieces land on, you buy and sell stock trying to parley your initial $5,000 into a cool $100 grand. 

Stocks and 
Bonds

3M

7

45 min

8

This classic bookshelf game provides a more realistic view of the market.  Again the idea is to buy and sell stocks to increase your wealth.  I would recommend using the suggested variant in the rules where you roll separately to determine the fluctuation of each of the 12 stocks in the game.  Also, adding the option of using margin buys adds both to the realism as well as the competitiveness of the game.

Stratego

MB

8

30 min

8

This is the wargame-esque version of capture the flag mixed with a little bit of Memory thrown in for good measure.  I'm sure everyone has played it as a kid.  And I have to admit, there is no better feeling than taking out the other guy's general with your Spy.

Strat-O-
Matic
Baseball

Strat-O-
Matic

10

30 min

10

This is the ultimate in baseball recreations.  It can be as simple or as complex as you want.  And each player's statistics for the previous year are in the game to make it as realistic  as possible.  I highly recommend this game for any baseball fan.  It also plays great as a solitare game.

Ta Yu

Rio Grande

9

30 min

9

This tile laying game challenges two players to try to get water to flow (from the center of the board) to the edges of the board.  Bonus points are scored if you can channel the water into one of three specific harbors.  This is a very challenging game because you never know if you should use your turn to further your own cause or if you should use it to try to stop your opponent's plans.  I think this game is probably better for 2 players than it is for 3 or 4.

Take It Easy

FX Schmid

8

10 min

8

This game has often been called "German Bingo".  You are given a hexagon (think Settlers layout) which you fill out with smaller hexes.  Each hex has three lines running through it.  If you are able to connect two exterior sides with a line of a  single  color, you score points (the point value of the line multiplied by the number of hexes in the length of the line.  For two players, we often give each player 3 boards and have the stipulation that on any given turn, no tile can be placed on the same hex on any of the three boards (thus guuaranteeing thateach player has three distinct boards).

The Big
Cheese

Cheapass

2

20 min

4

Although I am a big fan of the Cheapass line, this one just doesn't do it for me.  It has some neat mechanisms in the game, such as having to wait a number of turns to have your cards mature into coring possibilities, but overall the game is just not good.

The Very 
Clever Pipe
Game

Cheapass

10

20 min

10

This is the first Cheapass game that I ever had, and it still may be the best one.  You and your opponent are in a battle to connect pipes together of your own color.  If you managed to make a completed chain of pipes, you then take those cards off the playing board, scoring one point for each card you remove.  A wonderful strategy game, that also has a CCG feel to it that allows you to build a custom deck of pipe cards based on your strategy.  Furthermore, there are really 4 games included in this one package (although most people, myself definitely included, don't have the visual perceptions / spatial relations to really play them without having a brain meltdown).

Totem

Queen

4

1 hour

8

How many times am I going to say it - not enough players to make competition, thus the game is disinteresting. 

Tribond

BigFun

4

30 min

6

This is a Trivial Pursuit Like game where you try to find the common denominator between three seemingly unrelated words.  It's a good game to play at parties.  With two, it's an acceptable way to pass an evening, but there are plenty of other things I'd rather do.

Trivial Pursuit

Horn Abbot

4

30 min

4

Really only great if you are trying to relive the 80s.  For extra challeng, try playing the Sports edition (try answering a bunch of “who holds the record…” questions even though many of those record have already been broken)

Tutenchamun

Amigo

7.5

30 min

7

This game of picking up tiles that represent treasures is somewhat similar to Fossil in mechanism except that the pieces are in linear order rather than in an array.  This game is a little better for two players because of this linear arrangement; the player is forced to choose what he wants to go for and what ho should leave behind.  Of note, this game is also excellent for PBeM.

Twelve Caesars

Game Works

2

20 min

4

This is a simple card game that is just hiding under the Roman Empire guise.  It’s really not that good. Sorry, it just doesn’t merit any more discussion

Twixt

AH

9

30 min

9

This is an abstract strategy game where you try to connect opposite sides of the board with your pieces before your opponent does.  If your pieces are placed in an L arrangement (think of the typical Knight move in Chess), you are allowed to connect your pieces together and thus prevent your opponent from going between those posts.  An excellent strategy game for two.

UpWords

MB

7

30 min

6

This is another word building game that adds a twist to the Scrabble that you were expecting as you can place tiles on top of other tiles to form new words.  Probably my second favorite word game.

USAC Auto

Racing

AH

2

45 min

5

This simulation of the Indy 500 is OK, but only if you have all 33 cars running.  Admittedly, it’s a bitch trying to keep 16 or 17 cars moving on each turn, but then again, when are you ever going to get a group of 33 friends together to play this game?  It’s not bad if you have a bad bad bad racing fix, but then maybe you should get Formula De

Weapons and

Warriors

Pressman

5

varies

2

This is a remake of the Crossbows and Catapults of the 80s, but with a pirate theme.  It’s fun to just get down and blow the other guy’s ship up, but the fun quickly wanes and you realize you’re playing a kids game.

Wrasslin’

AH

8

45 min

7

This card game takes you into the world of professional wrestling.  You can choose to be either a good or bad wrestler.  Then you take the other guy on in a card battle royale.  You can play offensive cards on your turn, but these can of course be countered by cards from your opponent.  As you weaken, you abilities to perform moves of your own diminishes.  It’s a lot of fun as long as you both like wrestlin (but who doesn’t).  And remember, don’t try this at home because everything you see in wrestling is real.