Thinking Persons List of Two Person Board Games

What makes a two person board game different?  It is just the scale and scope?  Yes, the scale of the game is smaller and the scope usually is smaller as well but there is something else.  A two person game has only two minds playing it, so it really is a meeting (battle?) of the minds.

Like I said before – Board games come in many shapes and sizes but all have one thing in common; it brings people out of their element and transports them into a friendly realm of competition. Sometimes however there is not the plethora of players to play a full large scale game – and a two player game is brought out to enjoy instead.

The games in this list are not the common games one may find at a toy store (although some fantastic games are now being sold there) therefore games like Chess, Checkers, Go (even though it is pictured above) and other great classic games like them will not be on this list.  Some of these games can be played with more and some just two – the two person variations have unique characteristics to place them into the two-player category.

Now in no certain order, these are my list of the best thinking persons two person board games (at this specific point in time – they are prone to change in the future):

1. Cathedral

In Cathedral, each player has a set of pieces of a different color but each player has the same pieces. Players alternate placing one of their buildings onto the board until neither player can place another building after first placing a neutral piece. Players capture territory by surrounding areas that are occupied by at most one opponent or neutral building. A captured piece is removed and captured territory becomes off-limits to the opponent. The player with the fewest ‘square units’ of buildings that can’t be placed wins. This is an area capture game that is different every time played due to the neutral piece.

2. Pentago

An abstract strategy game with four smaller grids arranged into a larger grid. Players alternate placing marbles on the board, one player has white marbles and the other has black marbles. The first player to get five in a row on the larger grid wins, but there is a new twist: Every time you place a marble you also turn any one of the game’s four boards (one of the smaller ones) one rotation in either direction. This mind-twisting (yes, pun intended) row game makes the payers think at every turn (pun intended again).

3. Quarto

Each piece has four differing attributes: color, height, shape and consistency. So each piece is either black or white, tall or short, square or round, and hollow or solid. The object is to place the fourth piece in a row where all four pieces have at least one attribute in common. The twist is your opponent gets to choose the piece you place on the board every turn.  The game thus is more than just a get-four-in-a-row, but choosing the best piece to give to the other player so that you can win.

4. Citadels

The only non-specific two player game on this list but has a very interesting two-player variation. In this game the players seek to build a collection of districts worth from one to eight points. Once someone has built eight districts, the game is over after that round ends and the player with the highest total value wins. However to facilitate the process (and make the game interesting), players sequentially choose a character from a rapidly dwindling pool of eight each turn. The characters give players special abilities for the turn.  In the two player variation each player has two characters but both characters share the district cards – each player has two turns in each round.  Here is a video (thanks to the Gameshelf) that gives an overview and review of the larger player game – but it should give you an adequate flow of play.

5. Lost Cities

A two-player card game.  There are five suits (colors) each with a number from 2 to 10 on them, there are also 3 handshakes of each color.  Players take turns playing or discarding cards then drawing a card into their hand. Each color that is played costs – for example if I play down a red card then when all of my red cards are added up (the numerical value) I have to subtract 20 from that – the handshakes add a multiplier to the dividend.  This is a mathematical game that is very cleverly done. Hard to give the game justice so here are two different reviews/ summaries from great board game sites: The Dice Tower and Board Games with Scott.

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What are your favorite two-person board games?  Feel free to add them and a reason why in the comments.

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6 comments

  1. Lost Cities sounds really interesting but my hubby isn’t very good at math. lol. I’ll have to go read the other two reviews and see just how mathematical it is.

    Love the idea of the opponent selecting your pieces in Quarto.

    Backgammon or Chinese Checkers are probably my favorite two-person games. My husband likes Stratego. It’s not technically a two-player game, but Ticket to Ride is the game we play most often when it’s just the two of us. Oh, Mastermind and Othello are good too.

  2. I forgot those classics, I will have to find my copies of Othello and Mastermind.

    Lost cities was made by Reiner Knizia so like most to all of his games there is a mathematical basis. But to remedy this I just added a scratch pad in the game box.

    Games, no matter who it is for, are meant to have fun. So if playing a game causes enjoyment between people it is a good game. When I play a game with young kids (like Quarto or Othello – love that game too) it takes a different point of view. A balance between playing hard but still keeping the fun for them. This video helped me find the balance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZXF92xSNKY&feature=player_profilepage

    If only I could get more time to play Ticket to Ride.

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