Top Ten Two-Player Games - Spring 2013

Sometimes you only have one friend.  (Hey, it's better than not having any, right?)  Regardless of whether you are looking to play a game with your significant other, your best friend, or some person that you just met, there is a time and a place where you need a good two-player game.  So, here's my list of current favorites.

Here are the rules: it's a two-player game.  Not 2-4, not 2-6, not 1-2.  Two player.  That's it.  With that said, let's get to my...

Top Ten Two-Player Games


10. Jab

Jab: Real Time Boxing is number 10 on the top ten two player games
Real Time Boxing
Not every game has to be deep and strategic in order to be a lot of fun. And, Jab is a great little real-time game when you're looking for something quick but engaging. It can be a bit of a problem when you and your opponent aren't evenly matched, so it might be best to pick one person that you play Jab with and reserve it for them.

9. Arimaa

For some reason, abstract strategy games tend to be two-player. I could have easily made a list of two-player games simply consisting of them (but, if you want that, you should really check out my top ten abstract strategy games). Regardless, Arimaa is a great game in it's own right, and I would be remiss to not include it.

8. 1960: The Making of the President

Well, in the United States, we currently have a two-party political system. And, we've had it since well before the 1960's. And so, it's only natural that there should be games made about this very important aspect of our country. Whether you find actual politics fascinating, or are somewhat apathetic about them, you still might find 1960 to be a fun game.

7. Game of Thrones: The Living Card Game

So, at this point you may be throwing a flag and pointing out that Game of Thrones: The (Living) Card Game states that it is 2-4 player. Yes, you would be right, and so this game technically breaks my criteria. Yet, in my opinion this game was designed as a two player game with rules for additional players tacked on later (like with Magic, Star Trek: CCG, and many others). Regardless of that, Game of Thrones is a fabulous game where you are constantly struggling back and forth with your opponent in a number of different "challenges". Since I first tried this game, I became hooked and just wish that I played it more.

6. Hive

Sixth best two player game is Hive
Hive has beautiful Bakelite pieces
Returning to the abstract strategy genre, Hive makes an appearance on the list. This could honestly be considered a low position for Hive, as it could easily have beaten out most of the games above it, depending on when I put this list together. When I think about two-player games, Hive is one of the first that comes to mind, and is one that I enjoy sharing with others.

5. Jaipur

Jaipur can be considered the "significant other specialty." (Yes, I just made that term up.) Of all the games on this list, I think that this is the best one for playing with a "non-gamer" spouse. Sure, some of you may be married to people that love to play games just as much as you do. However, the more common scenario seems to be marriages in which one person loves to play games drastically more than the other. For these situations, I think that Jaipur may be an ideal game to play with your special someone.

4. Dvonn

The #1 game on my abstract strategy list only manages to make #4 on this one. This one was hard for me to rank, as abstract games feel so different than "traditional" strategy games. In fact, when I first thought about this list, I completely neglected all of my abstract strategies - then remembered them and had way too many games. So, as a happy medium, I've added the three you see - with Dvonn being the top representative of the genre once again.

3. Star Wars: Customizable Card Game

The game that truly shows that each of these lists is based on my own opinion and not any indisputable facts is definitely Star Wars: CCG.  This game has been one of my favorites for an incredibly long time. Though the game hasn't been in print for years, and I dislike the collectible format of the game, I still find the game itself to be amazing, and I get excited when I find new people that I can play the game with. (Don't worry - I have plenty of cards. You can make a deck with my collection, and then we can play!)

2. Summoner Wars

One of the best two player games to come out in the last few years is Summoner Wars. Though I don't play it as much as I'd like (isn't that the story of this entire list?), I have continued buying every expansion as they come out because I know... some day.... I will play it more! And at that point I will have dozens of factions that I can use.

1. Twilight Struggle

Really, did this surprise anybody? I'm guessing no. As I said in my review, Twilight Struggle is enough fun to tempt me to give up this site so that I can dedicate more time to playing it instead of to learning new games. Though not flawless, it is an immaculate tug of war that epitomizes what a two player game can be!
Best two player board game
The winner!!

Honorable Mention:

This top ten list really had a lot of titles that I was sad to whittle away. I could have easily justified including Star Wars: The (Living) Card Game or Android: Netrunner, but I didn't want to list too many Living/Customizable Card Games. I was also shocked when I didn't have enough room for Jambo. A few others that just barely missed the cut were Dungeon Command, Mage Wars, and Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation. Finally, Crokinole, which would have been my lone dexterity entry, only missed the cut because of the technicality that it can be played by two or four players.

Well, I hope you enjoyed the list - feel free to add comments about what you think I missed, where you agree, or some games that I should try out! And, if you like top ten lists, you should also check out my Top Ten Cooperative or Solo Games, Top Ten Lunch Games, and My Top Ten Most Played Games


  1. I think Axis and Allies Battle of the Bulge is a great two player game. I have had a great deal of fun with it.

  2. Interesting. I've played some of the other Axis and Allies offshoots, but not that one. Thanks for the tip!

  3. You don't even list Lost Cities or Balloon Cup? I'm not saying they are the best in the world, though I do love them, and I am not saying Jab is a bad game. However. Both of them are not even in the Honorable Mention list.


    Just kidding. I need to play more from your list. I enjoy playing board games with my wife and I'm always on the hunt for new titles to try.

  4. So, I didn't really care for Lost Cities all that much. It's not "bad", but it wasn't for me (or, more specifically, my wife hated it).

    I haven't tried Balloon Cup, but I hear good things about it, so I may need to change that in the near future.

  5. Major agreement on Jaipur and Summoner Wars.

    As a recommendation for a light 2-player pick-up-and-deliver game, my wife and I enjoy Perry Rhodan (even if the movement rules were written by someone with no grasp of orbital mechanics).

    1. Interesting. I saw Perry Rhodan sitting around ay my FLGS in Joplin for months, but the game never looked interesting enough to try. Maybe I missed the boat on that one.

    2. I agree it's not anything particularly great, but for some reason its mediocrity resonates with us...

  6. Out of curiosity what didn't you like from Lost Cities.

    Sure, the theme is negligible, and it is very mathy, but I LOVE messing with the draw options to affect the speed of the game.

    1. My wife didn't like the constant mathy-ness. Overall, I just didn't engage much with the game. It's been a couple of years since I've played it, so it's hard to remember exactly what didn't click.

  7. Great list Josh. Looks like I need to pick up some more 2-player games. Balloon Cup is currently out of print, but I believe that Rio Grande is planning a reprint with a new title, Pinata, I believe.