Built for a group, but great for a pair - Great two player games not specifically made for two players
Steve B
United States
Rochester
New York
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So we all know of great two player games out there, such as Lost Cities, Fjords, and Claustrophobia. These were all designed for only two people going head to head in a battle of strategy, luck, and meta gaming.

But what about games great for two that were designed to handle a few? What about the games that are good for more but great for one-half four?

If you have only one other to play games, you might get caught letting two player games monopolize your collection and closet frames. One should be prepared for when two expands to three or four or even more.

Below I have a modest list of my favorite games built for a group, but great for a two player experience.

Please, add your own so others may learn from your wisdom in the field of two.
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1. Board Game: San Juan [Average Rating:7.28 Overall Rank:230]
Steve B
United States
Rochester
New York
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I love playing this game two player. The fact that one person gets two roles to select adds something fun to the strategy.

It comes down to reading your opponent and thinking what they will choose in order to make the most of your one choice, knowing that next turn you are the one getting two choices to their measly one.
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2. Board Game: Carcassonne [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:137] [Average Rating:7.44 Unranked]
Steve B
United States
Rochester
New York
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Ah yes a classic. While designed for 5 or 6, this is a great two player experience.

You have only one opponent to worry about, so can you snipe their big city from them? What about their road or farm? You just placed and you know they're immediately next.

The lack of more players helps keep your strategy in check as their are less people around to cause chaos and block your moves.

I've found that in 4 or 5 player games, all but one person have a strategy, and that last person likes to block up everyone else just for a laugh. With only two people there is a much lower chance of this, creating a better strategic game.
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3. Board Game: God Dice [Average Rating:6.38 Overall Rank:5759]
Steve B
United States
Rochester
New York
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This one, designed for up to four, is a great game and provides a great way to duel your dice rolling skills against your opponent.

What's great is that some characters require more luck with the dice than others, letting those who roll consistently poor have a chance at winning.

Your lucky friend may have been able to pull off a "Backstab" for 40 damage with their Assassin by rolling lucky, but you can roll crappy and still do 30 damage back with your Hero.
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4. Board Game: Finca [Average Rating:7.06 Overall Rank:544]
Steve B
United States
Rochester
New York
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More meeples on the windmill for you means more decisions! More strategy for moving them!

Having only one opponent makes the game feel more refined and compact. The only change to really make to the game with two is to limit the fruit supply more so there's a better chance of running out.

Three or four people can make this feel more chaotic. It is still good three or four, but I love it two.
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5. Board Game: The Castles of Burgundy [Average Rating:8.12 Overall Rank:12]
Don Kimes

Fort Wayne
Indiana
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not much to add other than it's fun with a group and fantastic 2 player
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6. Board Game: Macao [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:243]
Kathleen Nugent
United States
Tamworth
New Hampshire
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Plays just as well with two as with more.

The best thing about playing any game with just two players, in my estimation, is that the game doesn't take so long to complete. We play Macao in 45 minutes or less.
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7. Board Game: Pastiche [Average Rating:6.86 Overall Rank:1156]
Kathleen Nugent
United States
Tamworth
New Hampshire
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Easier to plan ahead.

In this game, I like the fact that with two players, the game doesn't end until one player reaches 45 points. In contrast to my comment about Macao (see above), I like playing Pastiche for a bit longer than it takes when the end game is triggered with fewer points (more players).
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8. Board Game: Glory to Rome [Average Rating:7.49 Overall Rank:149]
Kathleen Nugent
United States
Tamworth
New Hampshire
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When I want a stone or marble card to finish one of my constructions, I can try to get it by using the Patron or Merchant action, throwing the card into the pool, and hoping my opponent doesn't take it with a Laborer or a Patron before I can grab it on my next turn. I always hold my breath when I do that, but once in a while it works. Not possible to plan ahead that way with more than two players.
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9. Board Game: Saint Petersburg [Average Rating:7.32 Overall Rank:235]
Kathleen Nugent
United States
Tamworth
New Hampshire
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There are enough 16 and 18 value Aristocrat cards for each of us to get one, same for Observatory. So it's a matter of when those cards appear - whose turn it is to go first. The one who gets the Observatory early or is able to lay down a high value Aristocrat gets a great advantage at the beginning of the game. The other player has to work hard to catch up, but I really like the competitive feeling.
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10. Board Game: Louis XIV [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:546]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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Great head-to-head battle with the virtual third player just taking up space and trying to thwart your plans.
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11. Board Game: Age of Industry [Average Rating:7.43 Overall Rank:472]
Joe Pastuzyn
United States
Midland
Michigan
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With the PnP two player map, Age of Industry Expansion: Great Lakes & South Africa, this becomes a very good two player game and very replayable.
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12. Board Game: Trajan [Average Rating:7.79 Overall Rank:71]
David Debien
United States
Round Rock
Texas
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More Feld goodness. Unlike Macao where I like the added competition for city quarters and delivery spots provided by more players, I find the added competition in the military and building sections makes Trajan a little too tight to be able to plan effectively. I prefer Trajan with 2 or 3. While I prefer Castles of Burgundy for 2 or 3 as well, I do so for different reasons. In Trajan, as stated, I think the board is too tight with 4 players, even though it moves along pretty quickly. In CoB it is simply that the game becomes too long with 4.
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13. Board Game: Samurai [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:175]
Manchuwok
Canada
Mission
BC
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This game is great at all player counts. Works really well with 2.
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14. Board Game: Endeavor [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:206]
Maarten D. de Jong
Netherlands
Zaandam
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Officially, out of the box, there are no rules for 2 players. But with the variants suggested here and here, the game shows that it an excellent 2 player-game too.

Note that the second link outlines rules developed by one of the authors, and exceed by far the usually questionable quality of variant rules proposed for player numbers not printed on the box... In fact, to the point where a reprint of this game should simply include them as the very much official way of doing things.
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15. Board Game: Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:1630]
Michael Kandrac
United States
Grand Prairie
TX
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This is a favorite for me and my spousal unit over time. Lately, we've had a lot of fun playing At the Gates of Loyang.

Gg
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16. Board Game: Thurn and Taxis [Average Rating:7.12 Overall Rank:351]
Ben Pinchback
United States
Leonard
Michigan
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I really enjoy this one two player. I probably prefer it over Ticket to Ride as far as route making games go.
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17. Board Game: Le Havre [Average Rating:7.91 Overall Rank:38]
Ben Pinchback
United States
Leonard
Michigan
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I think Le Havre is best with two. For real. It's excellent and efficient with two.
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18. Board Game: 7 Wonders [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:43]
Stephen McHale
United States
Falling Waters
West Virginia
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This plays to 7 but I really enjoy the 2 player game. Once you figure out how to play the dummy city it really has a lot of strategy.
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19. Board Game: Agricola [Average Rating:8.02 Overall Rank:17]
Fernando Robert Yu
Philippines
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With 2 players, Agricola becomes a very tight game, as you do not get the additional action space cards. Fighting over the resources can get very "bloody", in a euro sort of way.
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20. Board Game: Puerto Rico [Average Rating:8.06 Overall Rank:16]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I'm surprised no one has already added this. 2-player is my favorite play count for this. With 2-players, there is no issue with seating order (the biggest complaint for PR) and it is significantly tighter than the 3-player game.
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21. Board Game: Prêt-à-Porter [Average Rating:7.26 Overall Rank:1020]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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This plays excellently with all player counts. 2-player is a very different game because of the different Star to Golden Dollar conversion.
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22. Board Game: Race for the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:49]
Jimmy Okolica
United States
Washington Township
Ohio
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I'll stop at 3 (although I could easily double this). RftG is an amazing game across the player counts but I think 2-player is my favorite. With the expansions, this game becomes a moderate brain burner that still plays in 30 minutes.
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23. Board Game: Troyes [Average Rating:7.77 Overall Rank:67]
Fabrice Dubois
France
La Garenne Colombes
Hauts de Seine
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Very good and solid game for 2 players (5 plays so far).

One of our choice for FTF-with-wife because it is wife-friendly.
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24. Board Game: Android [Average Rating:6.73 Overall Rank:1030]
Martin Larouche
Canada
Longueuil
Quebec
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Android is listed for 3 to 5 players.

There's nothing in the rules that prevents playing with 2 players and it's actually very enjoyable as a 2-players game.

It's even more difficult to hide your guilty and innocent hunches, which makes a better bluffing game IMO.
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25. Board Game: Imperial [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:143]
Tony Chen
Taiwan
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best with 2
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