Perhaps you’ve read the news lately, but it’s been a really good idea to spend a lot more time at home for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of ways to spend all that extra time in your dwelling, but as weeks turn to months and uncertainty remains, it may be a good idea to switch things up at this point.
Playing board games is a leisure activity that’s inevitably become more popular during life in quarantine. As people spend more time at home and slowly grow bored of activities they normally turn to for entertainment, the board games they may have collecting dust are given another chance to shine. And for those looking to deepen their collection, all this time at home might be a great opportunity to learn some new games.
Buying new board games, however, is an investment. And unless you’ve played a game before, it can be tough to know if it will work well in a variety of situations and with different amounts of players. One of those tough situations might be one you’re in right now: living with another person who may not like games as much as the other. So let’s take a look at some great two-player games to pass some time while social distancing that also play well in the larger groups you hope to host for a game night when all this is over. Maybe you already have a solid board game collection in the house to pick from, or you’re looking to make a purchase or two that fills out your collection. Bonus points awarded here for any game that also happens to play great over Zoom.
Ticket to Ride: Europe
The classic American version of this game works great with two players as well, but there’s something about a trek across Europe in this sequel title to the Alan R. Moon classic that works particularly well in pairs. The routes are a bit more unfamiliar, for one, and the added game element of tunnels and ferries make this one a bit more interesting than the original’s gameplay. The game is easy to learn, plays relatively fast and the variety of routes means there’s a lot of replay value in this one even if it’s just for two, at least for the time being.
— J.M.LeCornu (@JMLeCornu) April 26, 2020
This might be the most popular game on the list, or at least the one it’s most likely you already own, and that’s for good reason. Scrabble is a classic word game almost everyone knows how to play, but they may not have experienced it in heads-up format. That’s how the pros play it, and with all that board to work with it makes the game a fascinating one strategically. Whether you’re someone who turns the game into a territorial slog or just try to make as many fun words as possible, there’s a lot of fun to be had if you have the right opponent. You can also choose to be as strict or lax about the real rules of the game as you’d like, which is always a fun conversation to have.
Side hobby: read the excellent book Word Freak if you really want to up your game and take down the opponent in style.
Zombie Dice is a quick press-your-luck game that’s over in minutes and a great way to waste time among groups large and small. The goal is to roll the dice and harvest “brains” without also rolling three shotgun blasts, which kill the zombie (which is you). The three kinds of dice — green, yellow, and red — have different odds for rolling brains or blasts, and luck can play a big part, which means anyone can win on the first game. It’s not exactly a strategy-packed extravaganza, but not every game needs to be. Sometimes you just wanna be a zombie for a bit. This is also a game, like Ticket To Ride, that you can find at most big box stores if you need something in a hurry.
There’s certainly a bit more strategy to this one than others, but it’s fairly easy to pick up and offers a lot of replay value to hone in on how you want to play. Carcassone is a tile game where players add to a landscape and get points for building cities, farms and surrounding abbeys with land. It may sound abstract, but the goal is to build the play surface and use your colored meeples to collect points in a variety of ways, some only becoming clear after the game is over.
It’s a way to keep everyone invested in the game regardless of how they think they’re doing, and the end result can be surprising to people who feel like they’re not doing enough to win. It’s a game that works well with just two people, and if you have a lot of down time it’s a great game to work on your strategy for future game nights. If not, it’s fun to build roads and try to complete cities before your tile choices run out.
If you need a bit of Lovecraftian horror in your life, this cooperative dice-rolling game is tough to beat. This is a simplified version of a game like Eldritch Horror, but it’s still a formidable test no matter how experienced of a gamer you are. The game consists of cards with specific die rolls you need to get in order to collect tools and objects needed to stop an otherworldly monster from devouring the planet. There’s a lot of replay in the characters you play and rooms you encounter, and smart planning may not be enough to win this one. But it is a fun challenge that’s worth playing in larger groups, too.
Cooperative games are easy and safe to play in quarantine because there’s little chance or sparking a dispute you can’t avoid by leaving the house. Castle Panic is a perfect low stakes survival game in which the goal is to outlast an onslaught of attacking orcs and other monsters hoping to topple a medieval castle. The mechanic is simple to understand — each round moves the baddies forward and introduces new ones on the edge of the forrest ring — and your job is to kill them with corresponding cards before they reach the castle and knock down walls and towers. It takes a bit of teamwork and coordination to get it down, but it’s a quick learn that offers a bit of instant satisfaction for surviving a temporary siege. There are also some fun expansions to switch the experience up if you get a bit too good at defending your castle.
My beautiful winning Tiny Town this is a good game imo pic.twitter.com/iGcJMgM9LP
— andrea margaret (@zagatam) April 16, 2020
There are a lot of options when it comes to city-building games, but Tiny Towns plays great with two players and is as fast as it is cute. Players build 4X4 grid of a town using a pool of shared resources, trying not to waste squares with useless or not valuable buildings. It takes a bit of planning to get it all down and really earn your planning degree, but it’s a fun resource management game worth mastering for nights when you can dominate the six-player version.
A couple of quick games of Tsuro. It has the prettiest board. pic.twitter.com/9cT7XlzHIn
— Hannah (@thebearcametoo) April 21, 2020
This may be the simplest game on the list, but it’s full of endless possibilities and even works well with up to eight players. A blank board is slowly filled with tiles with lines on them, each of them unique. Players are dragons that must follow the path on the tiles, with the goal being to stay on the board for as long as possible without taking a path that leads off the side or into another dragon. It’s fast and full of seemingly random choices until, all at once, it’s a matter of life and death. On normal game nights it’s a great warm up game, but if things get competitive with your gaming partner it can quickly turn into a game you play over and over again.
So let’s say you really want to get into it, and are willing to sit down with a multi-hour, evolving strategy game made for only two players. In that case, the only real argument here is which player wants to be the Soviet Union. Twilight Struggle is behemoth of a game, but if you’re coexisting with a serious gamer it’s an excellent title to lose a few hours in and is worth playing several times over. There’s no denying it’s a complex game, though: It quite literally is a board game version of the cold war, with each side attempting to rewrite history while also staving off nuclear disaster.
The rules of the game evolve with the passage of time, as well as real life historical events from the actual Cold War. But the results can be very different, depending on how you play, and the game is a great duel among history buffs who happen to be quarantining together.