When you’re lucky enough to gather up a group of friends for a game day finding a game to play isn’t difficult. There are many great fun games out there meant to be played in a group setting. In fact, oftentimes you’ll have the problem of too many games too choose from and not enough time to play them all! But when it’s just you and a friend or your significant other your choices are a lot more limited. I’d like to list some of the best 2 player games I know and what makes them fun to come back to again and again.
Cribbage – Probably the best 2 player card game out there. I’ve played so much of it over the years that I’m a little burned out on it, but I still enjoy it a couple games at a time. Honestly, I’ve never really thought about what makes Cribbage appealing. I guess one thing is that you’re always “doing something”. You have lots of choices to make on every deal, and they definitely matter. It’s a race to 121 points, so every play can be critical; even a 1 or 2 point swing can turn a victory into a loss or vice versa.
It’s actually a pretty easy game to play, but a lot of people are scared of it, especially mathaphobes (I made that word up!). You do have to add often, but never above 31. Unless you’re totally clueless with numbers it’s not a problem. The other reason people get scared off by Cribbage is that it’s kind of a unique game and it’s hard to explain it one bit at a time. You sort of have to dump all the rules on a new player at once and some people get confused and never do come back. I have all kinds of stories about traumatized would-be Cribbage players. But if you don’t know how to play you should take the time to learn. It’s a great game played by a ton of people. It also plays well as 3 player cutthroat or 4 player partners.
Backgammon – One of my very favorite games. It offers strategy, tactics, probability, excitement, “I can’t believe it” moments, and a whole lot more. It has the trait that is probably the number one indicator of a great game: it’s easy to learn but very hard to master. You can learn the rules in a few minutes, but it’s taken me years and lots of practice to get even semi-good at it. One tip: learn the game from someone who at least has a clue what they’re doing. It will save you a lot of heartache later.
Cassino – We played this game a fair amount as a family when I was a kid, then I forgot about it for years, but now in recent years I’ve been playing it a lot. Like Cribbage, it’s a perfect 2 player game but works great for 3 player cutthroat or 4 player partners. The math in Cassino is a lot lighter than in Cribbage, and it’s a game you can play a bit mindlessly if you just want to relax. But there are a lot of little tricks to watch for and constant decisions to make, so you’ll be a lot more successful if you pay attention, and counting key cards such as Aces and Tens is a big advantage. Some of the rules are a bit tricky, so make sure you thoroughly understand them, or have someone who knows the game show you. Or if you’re interested in a computer version, here’s a great one that can be played against the computer or against a friend on another computer: Cassino It was $10 when I bought it but it’s $20 now. Well worth it though.
Tic – This is a game that is really more suited for a group but can be easily played by 2 players and still be a lot of fun. It’s basically Gin Rummy with wild cards. First hand everyone gets three cards and Threes are wild (along with jokers, which are always wild). Next hand four cards and Fours are wild, all the way up to 13 cards with Kings wild. Each hand you try to make runs of three or more or groups of three or more as in rummy. There’s a lot of luck involved, but it’s pretty fun.
Golf – No, not the game where you hit balls in the woods and curse the day you were born. This is a fun card game that, like Tic, is made for groups but can be played by 2 players no problem. Like a lot of card games, this one is played slightly differently by different people. Here are the rules we usually play by. I also proposed a house rule that we now play: if you can get 6 of the same card it’s an automatic win. It’s a game that features a lot of luck, but there is some strategy, and you do get to make choices that affect the outcome. You can also learn a lot about someone’s personality by watching them play this game 🙂
Quiddler – Think of it as Gin Rummy with letters instead of numbers, or Scrabble meets Gin Rummy. Like Tic, it also has that escalating thing going on, where you start with three cards on the first round, then four, and end with 10. It’s a propritery game, so you’ll need to pick up a copy of it at a gaming store or online. Well worth it though, and possibly more agreeable for those mathaphobes 😉
10,000 – Also known as Zilch and by other names, this is a fun, quick little game that uses 5 dice for scoring. Another game with lots of varieties, the basics are you roll the dice trying to come up with various scoring combos. You can keep going as long as you want, but if you ever roll and don’t score you lose whatever you’ve racked up that turn. Keep a running total, and the first to 10,000 wins. We added a house rule that says if you roll five 1s at the same time it’s an automatic win. It’s only happened a couple times but they were both pretty epic! Works good for 2 people but can accommodate a lot more. And as long as you’ve got 5 dice and some paper, you might as well play…
Yahtzee – I played so much of this as a kid that the scorecard is burned into my brain and I can reproduce it on demand 🙂 In other words, you don’t need their fancy box, just 5 dice, some paper and pens, and a copy of the scorecard that I’m sure can be easily found online. I like Triple Yahtzee where you play three games at once, with one column being worth the normal points, one column worth double, and one column worth triple. My best friend plays a version where you fill up an entire scorecard, six games worth, at once and add them all up. Lots of luck (and frustration) involved, but it’s still fun and figuring out what to do with all those terrible rolls is always fun.
Those are some of my favorite 2 player games. There are lots of others out there of course. Some I didn’t talk about include Checkers (never really cared for it), Chess (way too involved), Gin Rummy (good game, but I like Tic better), and a host of others. But the ones above are all a lot of fun, and if you don’t know how to play any of them, come on by and I’ll give you a lesson 🙂