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Boardgames Looking for solo & 2-player tabletop recommendations

Hey all ... looking for some recommendations for solo and two-player tabletop games. Yeah, there's BoardGame Geek, and I go there for reviews, but there's just so much to slog through to arrive at something to focus on...

So, here's what I'm looking for:

(1) Solo game. Something I can play when I can't get to the FLGS, and don't feel like a video game or Chess or Go against the computer. Looking for something with an interesting theme and mechanics, preferably something that isn't too fiddly but has complex enough interactions to make it replayable, and is more choice-based than random. My tastes run to RPG, wargame, and adventure games, but I like all kinds of things.

(2) Two-player. Looking for something I can play with the Shiverspouse. She's not much of a gamer -- she'll try some gamer-games but tends not to get into them. She's typically been more into "traditional" roll-and-move boardgames, which I hate. Scrabble she likes but is tired of me beating her; Monopoly has been more her style (blech); wargames haven't been a success (Risk, or even X-wing minis, though at least the minis ); fun beer-and-pretzels games that I like (Wiz-War) have been too complex. Shorter games (under an hour), less complicated is what is needed, but with a good theme and visuals. I've considered card games like Magic but those appear to have too complex mechanics. Cooperative might be a better approach than competitive -- but I looked at a well-regarded thematic solo/coop game (LotR LCG) and it still seemed to have too complex mechanics.

Any suggestions?
 

Jhaelen

Villager
Star Realms is a pretty good deckbuilding game for two players. It plays a lot more quickly than most deckbuilders (think: Dominion) and isn't hard to learn.

For solo play I still prefer Arkham Horror, but it may be too fiddly for your tastes. Also, games can take a very long time (up to 5-6 hours). There's also Eldritch Horror, which is a more streamlined version of the game, but I don't enjoy it quite as much. Both games are very thematic.

And then there's Race for the Galaxy which plays well with any number of players. With the first (or was it the second?) expansion it can also be played solo. It will take two or three games to get the hang of the iconography used on the cards, but then it's really an awesome tableau-building game with enormous replayability that also plays quickly due to the simultaneous action selection it uses.
 

Atilary

Villager
For solo play I can't recommed The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game enough.

My wife and I play board games together and she isn't a gamer. She liked...

Jaipur, Carcassonne, and takenoko the best.
 
Yeah, so I broke down and bought LotR The Card Game. It's pretty fun so far, if devilishly difficult. It took me about ten tries to finish the second core quest with a deck I designed, but I'm sure I'll learn more and from what I read online it should get easier with either multiple decks or future expansions. That seems to check the solo box pretty well for quite a while.

I don't know if my wife will go for it, though I think coop should be attractive for her. I did buy LotR: Confrontation (kind of thematic Stratego) based on a Couple vs Cardboard recommendation and that's got good potential ... she picked it up quickly and beat me, though I don't know if she enjoyed it enough to play regularly. It's a cleverly designed game that's quick with a lot of replay potential, so I'm hoping she'll be game for more.
 

Cody C. Lewis

Villager
Pandemic: The Cure

This is a dice based version of Pandemic. Absolutely fun.

Pros:
Soloable (I just run two characters)
CO-OP - Wow I can NOT understate this. I am hyper competitive and my wife is rarely interested in anything gaming. CO-OPs are the only board games I will ever play with just my wife again. Period.
Highly replayable
Challenging
Game Length - 35 minutes ish. Perfect.
Also I want to mention, that if you play this with your spouse it can be engaging for him/her because they have to roll diseases every turn. My wife wasn't terribly excited when we sat down to play the first time, so I had her roll the 12 dice to start, and got her busy 'helping me set up the game'.

Cons:
Very addictive
Dice will roll off the table from time to time
 

SuperZero

Villager
I love Pandemic. Haven't tried The Cure, yet.

The In the Lab expansion for original Pandemic adds a solo mode... I haven't tried it, yet either. Really, with a co-op game that doesn't include secret information, you can make it a solo game just by playing two characters yourself.

Mice & Mystics is a co-op rpg-ish adventure game supposedly for one to four players, but each chapter of the game dictates how many characters to play (and states that if you have more characters than players, some will just have to run an extra one or three). Therefore, I think I like it best as a solo game. A bit more to keep track of, but you don't have the "proper" number of players fluctuating by chapter if one person plays all three/four/six (yes, despite being "one to four players," there are three-character chapters) heroes.

I've only ever played Arkham Horror solo, but I think I'd like it better as co-op... possibly including a solo player playing multiple characters. I think Elder Sign works a bit better, perhaps (same Lovecraftian horror theme and style, but they're not that similar in terms of gameplay).


Legendary Encounters is a solo or co-op deckbuilding game (the original Legendary is less co-op but does include solo rules). I haven't played the newer Predator (I think?) version, but I like the Aliens version (and I've actually never seen any of those movies, so I have no attachment to the setting or characters). It has some quirks as a solo game, but it works okay.
Actually, it has player elimination in a long-ish game when playing co-op, and I think that's kinda a flaw there.
 

Nytmare

Villager
Having found myself in your situation once or thrice myself, I'll offer my suggestions for possible two player games, along with the possible pitfalls of each.

Hive - A 2 player, tile laying, strategy game; somewhat akin to chess. The fact that it's competitive, and has no chance element might be a downfall if you're significantly better at it than she is. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2655/hive

Splendor - A (surprisingly satisfying) engine building game where you're collecting gems to gather ways to get more gems so that you can get even more gems. Wheee! I haven't found anyone yet who has played it and doesn't like it. The decision points are pretty straight forward, even if you don't grok the far reaching strategies. That might end up being too frustrating though. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/148228/splendor

Machi Koro - Another engine builder. You're slowly building a town, and rolling a set of dice each turn to see what ways your town generates money. The game is pretty straight forward, though I think you need at least the first expansion thrown in to make it so there's more than one viable strategy. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/143884/machi-koro

King of Tokyo - You're a bunch of gargantuan, mega monsters laying waste to Tokyo and each other. It's a silly, Yahtzee-esque slugfest. As long as the theme doesn't make her roll her eyes too much, this should be a safe one. Avoid King of NY; though it's probably a better game, it's also more complicated and has way more decision points. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/70323/king-tokyo

D-Day Dice - Another Yahtzee clone. This is a cooperative "storming the beaches of Normandy" game. As long as the theme doesn't bother or bore her, it's pretty solid. It has the added bonus of playing out pretty well a solitaire game. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/101785/d-day-dice

Tsuro and Metro - Two different games that are similar enough that I felt safe describing them together. They're both tile laying "building a path" games. Tsuro is a abstract, Asian-themed, building-a-path-to-enlightenment game. Metro is the same exact thing, except that it's a rail line between two Parisian subway stops. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/16992/tsuro https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/559/metro

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert - More than one person up-thread have mentioned Pandemic and The Cure as good co-op possibilities, and even though I think they're great games, I'd say that their level of complexity is probably going to be way too high. Thankfully the creator has also made two different kid-friendly versions in the same vein that are both really good. In Forbidden Island, you're a team of intrepid explorers trying to gather a bunch of MacGuffins before the forbidden island sinks. In Forbidden Desert, you're a team of intrepid adventurers trying to gather a bunch of MacGuffins before the forbidden desert gets buried in sand. All that being said, they're different enough that I enjoy playing both (as well as all versions where you're a bunch of CDC employees trying to gather a bunch of plague cures before the planet is buried in corpses.) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/65244/forbidden-island https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/136063/forbidden-desert

What type of games do you think might be the best fit for your wife, Olgar? I'm asking about both theme, and mechanics wise.
 
Splendor sounds interesting.

What type of games do you think might be the best fit for your wife, Olgar? I'm asking about both theme, and mechanics wise.
Well, that's the challenge.

Themes: Dogs (the dog agility card game I'm designing has potential, but at the moment the mechanics are a bit of a mess -- they don't work quite right and I'm blocked on ideas to fix them). Popular fantasy/sci fi themes OK (Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Firefly, Wheel of Time, Harry Potter, etc). Huge Anne McCaffrey fan. Finds war themes boring.

Mechanics: Bored by chess. Doesn't like "hard" strategy and I don't think she'd like resource allocation games. Has tried RPGs (last attempt was D&D 3.5) but found them too much work to keep track of, though Dungeon! was OK -- does like those fantasy universes, though. Not much into wargames. Sorta OK with your typical Hasbro-style roll-and-move boardgame, which unfortunately I dislike. Purely competitive seems to be a dislike (because I tend to be better at those). Trivia games OK. Like traditional 52-card card games and related games (Uno, etc).

Video game preferences: Casual (Bejeweled, Tetris), some traditional arcade (Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga), humorous adventure and puzzle games (played every Leisure Suit Larry game).
 
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fba827

Villager
If and only if you can find it on the cheap, try Drako. One player is a dragon, the other player is a trio of dwarves. A nice board and minis. You draw cards (simple cards of move attack block) as you try and take the other side out. Plays about 30 min. It's pretty simple to understand. And has some light strategy aspect involved so not just mindless card playing. On the flip side, it is light strategy only and therefore it's charm will wear off... Which is why I specifically say if you can find it cheap. ( it's out of print and a euro product so 'on the cheap' can be hard)

I do enjoy sentinels of the multiverse ( coop card game, superhero themed, can be played solo if you don't mind doing several heroes yourself). As for complexity, different heroes have different levels of complexity... But it can lean towards 'too much complexity' if your other half has a low threshold

Some others I was going to suggest ( like forbidden island) have already been said
 

Nytmare

Villager
A couple of new ones that crept up on me over Christmas:

Mysterium/Tajemnicze Domostwo - I've only played the Polish version, and I'm not sure what's changed with the new English release, but it's spectacular even as a two player game. It's essentially co-op version of Dixit meets Clue. Players play the part of a team of investigators solving a murder aided only by the murdered victim's ghost, and who can only communicate with the investigators through dreams and visions via a random handful of awesome dream cards.

Robinson Crusoe - I'm just about to sit down to my first solitaire game, and the read through of the rules has me excited. Playable as solitaire or co-op, you play the part of a cast of shipwreck survivors struggling through a series of challenges and scenarios. Looks to be a really solid hexcrawl/rpg/boardgame.
 

Jhaelen

Villager
Yep, Robinson Crusoe is brilliant! I especially like how the designer managed to merge Euro-style game mechanics with such a strong focus on story, theme, and random events.

My most-played board-game at the moment is Neuroshima Hex, though. It's from the same company as Robinson Crusoe and also represents a rather unique mix of game styles: It's basically a strongly themed abstract game: Players alternate by drawing 3 hex tiles from a bag, discarding one and placing the other two on a hex-grid. These tiles might be either army units (with different attack modes in one or more directions), modules (which enhance army units in some way) and actions (e.g. to start a battle). When the hex grid is filled or a battle action is played, combat is resolved in initiatove order, typically destroying several units from all players. The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy players' bases which are placed on the hex-grid at the start of the game.
The game plays quickly, supports any number of players (though it plays best with two players), and is very replayable due to the many different armies that are available. The base game comes with four (or five, depending on the edition) armies, and (depending on the edition!) some 'puzzles' for solo players.
 

Nytmare

Villager
My most-played board-game at the moment is Neuroshima Hex, though. It's from the same company as Robinson Crusoe and also represents a rather unique mix of game styles: It's basically a strongly themed abstract game: Players alternate by drawing 3 hex tiles from a bag, discarding one and placing the other two on a hex-grid. These tiles might be either army units (with different attack modes in one or more directions), modules (which enhance army units in some way) and actions (e.g. to start a battle). When the hex grid is filled or a battle action is played, combat is resolved in initiatove order, typically destroying several units from all players. The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy players' bases which are placed on the hex-grid at the start of the game.
The game plays quickly, supports any number of players (though it plays best with two players), and is very replayable due to the many different armies that are available. The base game comes with four (or five, depending on the edition) armies, and (depending on the edition!) some 'puzzles' for solo players.
Do you know offhand if the current edition can be played with the current stuff?
 

Jhaelen

Villager
Absolutely! All editions are compatible, the main difference being the graphical design of the tiles. Here's a nice comparison with images.
 
I'll second Star Realms as an excellent 2-player game. It's very quick to play and easy to learn, with enough variety to allow for a good lot of strategies without causing analysis paralysis.

Smallworld is a game that I love playing with any number of people, and it's simplicity makes it very easy for anyone to play. It's about a tiny world chock-full of fantasy races fighting for territory, and you'll be constantly changing between them as the game progresses. Empires are created by randomly pairing a Race and a Descriptor, so you'll end up with stuff like Flying Dwarfs, Hill Merfolk, and Merchant Zombies.
 

Saul Goode

Villager
Hey all ... looking for some recommendations for solo and two-player tabletop games. Yeah, there's BoardGame Geek, and I go there for reviews, but there's just so much to slog through to arrive at something to focus on...

So, here's what I'm looking for:

(1) Solo game. Something I can play when I can't get to the FLGS, and don't feel like a video game or Chess or Go against the computer. Looking for something with an interesting theme and mechanics, preferably something that isn't too fiddly but has complex enough interactions to make it replayable, and is more choice-based than random. My tastes run to RPG, wargame, and adventure games, but I like all kinds of things.

(2) Two-player. Looking for something I can play with the Shiverspouse. She's not much of a gamer -- she'll try some gamer-games but tends not to get into them. She's typically been more into "traditional" roll-and-move boardgames, which I hate. Scrabble she likes but is tired of me beating her; Monopoly has been more her style (blech); wargames haven't been a success (Risk, or even X-wing minis, though at least the minis ); fun beer-and-pretzels games that I like (Wiz-War) have been too complex. Shorter games (under an hour), less complicated is what is needed, but with a good theme and visuals. I've considered card games like Magic but those appear to have too complex mechanics. Cooperative might be a better approach than competitive -- but I looked at a well-regarded thematic solo/coop game (LotR LCG) and it still seemed to have too complex mechanics.

Any suggestions?
1) There are a few small solo games offered by Decision Games. In the Commando! mini game system are Congo Merc and Border War.
In the Cold War Blitz mini game system are Khe Sanh '68 and Suez '56.


2) Run, Fight or Die is a good, easy, quick game with dice rolling and zombies!
 

Herschel

Villager
Eldritch Horror is fun solo, with two, or however many.

Robinson Crusoe, Claustrophobia and Fury of Dracula are my favorites for two players, and Fury of Dracula is great to add in other players who show up later, also.
 

SunGold

Villager
Some co-op recs:

Arkham Horror - I know it's been mentioned a few times upthread, and yeah, it's complex. But it's so fun and thematic, a non-gamer might get into it anyway. When the SO and I play, we make a night of it by loading up a playlist of 20s music from the Library of Congress' National Jukebox and making era-appropriate cocktails.

Defenders of the Realm - Much easier than AH, still super fun. You play heroes who have to defeat encroaching enemy generals while keeping the board from getting too clogged up with their minions. There's also a funny user-made Monty Python and the Holy Grail variant that makes for a good time while watching the movie.

Castle Panic - Cute, quick, easy. A "light strategy" game where you defend your castle from randomized waves of enemies who move closer each round.

I'll also throw in another vote for Pandemic and Forbidden Island.
 

amadaun

Villager
Let me second the King of Tokyo & Pandemic recs!

Other games to consider:
Duke (small, strategy based game with a distant resemblance to chess)
Tokaido (a deeply aesthetically pleasing journey/experience game with lovely art)
 

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