The number of players required to play a tabletop game determines when it can be played. Case in point: I’ve got a game at home that requires a minimum of six players to play that I’ve played a grand total of zero times because most of the time my gaming group maxes out at 5, and when more than that are gathered we’re probably playing Dungeons and Dragons.
A friend of mine recently hosted a game night with her family of 5 and asked me to hook her up with some games from my collection. I was able to give her half a dozen or so, explaining that the vast majority of my games are for 3-4 players.
But that’s not to say there aren’t great solo or 2 player games out there! But many solo games can be gameplay variants, so let’s run down a few 1v1 tabletop games designed from the ground up to let two folks duke it out to determine a winner!
This massive hit from Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic: The Gathering, pits two players and their respective archons against one another. Unlike MtG, combat isn’t necessarily the name of the game – though it does usually play a part. Instead, players race to amass enough æmber to forge three keys before their opponent.
This card game just recently crested a total of 1 million decks sold worldwide! The procedural generation of the decks makes this game highly collectible and highly competitive, but the best part is that there is absolutely no deck building in Keyforge. You buy a $10 sealed deck and you play it as is for the life of the game.
Keyforge just recently released its second set: Age of Ascension. Our resident Keyforge players and enthusiasts, Adkins and Alex, have written several articles covering both AoA and Call of the Archons for those wondering what the game is, how it is played, how each House works, and more! Keyforge is definitely a winner in the 1v1 arena.
Nerds on Earth writer Clave introduced me to Dice Throne at TantrumCon and it was love at first play. What is there not to love about a simple PvP game in which I get to roll lots of dice over and over again?!
The concept is simple and the execution is grand: You pick a character with unique abilities, roll some dice, upgrade abilities, and kick your opponent’s a#$.
The game currently has two seasons featuring a over a dozen different characters with varying mechanics – but all with that oh-so-satisfying Yahtzee-style dice throwing that we all know and love.
Dice Throne can be played on teams and in a Battle Royale setup, but its heartbeat is in the 1v1 style in my opinion. Get yourself a 1v1 box.
Onitama is sorta like Chess, but with a finite pool of moves available to both players that rotate as the game is played. Each player has a Master (think a King from Chess) and four students (pawns), and will use the movement cards to either eliminate the opposing Master or place their own Master in the Shrine space of their opponent.
Each player has two movement options available to all of their pieces (students and Master alike) on each of their turns. Once they perform a move using one of the cards in front of them, they remove that card from their move pool and exchange it with a card next to the board. Their opponent will then do the same, thus cycling the move cards between the two players.
Onitama can be taught in 60 seconds and a game typically lasts 10-15 minutes tops!
It’s fantastic; get yourself a copy.
Star Realms is about as a simple as a deck builder can be, making it an outstanding first foray into the mechanic for the uninitiated. You’ve got your starting deck which grants you both Trade points (the game’s currency; used to buy cards to build your deck) and Combat points (used to attack your opponent’s Authority Points (think HP).
A turn is comprised of drawing a hand of cards and resolving their effects by either buying cards or attacking. Those cards are then placed into a discard pile and the opponent takes their turn.
First person to reduce their opponent to 0 wins! Simple, simple, simple. But that is the secret to its appeal! Get a deck here.
Master of Wills
Master of Wills was a sneak hit with my gaming group. It does have a 2v2 mode, but it feels tacked on. 1v1 is definitely where Master of Wills shines.
While it markets itself as a deck builder, the rules also provide Quick Start options to bypass that fiddly-ness and get right into a fairly unique gameplay. You play as one of two factions and try to turn people in the Community into increasingly loyal followers of your cause. If you manage to shift them into the Ally spot on the board, they are beyond your opponent’s reach! But until then, your opponent’s own efforts might steal them away.
Every decision you make moves people on the board either closer to you…or closer to your opponent. The ebb and flow of the game is what makes it so darned neat; especially considering that game end scoring does not rely wholly upon those you’ve “banked” as Allies, but as any who are leaning more to your side than your opponent’s.
The base game comes stocked with a variety of game modes and play variants, plus there are several Faction expansions that further open up the gameplay. I’ve written a full review of the game here, so check it out!
Marvel Dice Masters
It comes as quite the shock to Clave that I’d never even heard of this game until spitballing this post with some of the Nerds in Slack. And upon further investigation, it is definitely up my alley and on my to-buy list!
Marvel Dice Masters is sort of like Dice Throne, only with a bit more complexity and featuring Marvel comics characters. Given our gushing love for Dice Throne, this one is sure to please.
Roll dice and use them to activate abilities, add dice and characters to your pool, attack, or defend against your opponent’s attacks. Each character has an HP value as does each player. The first player to be reduced from 20HP to 0 loses.
And this game is hugely customizable. You can buy starter sets for less than $10 on Amazon, blind boosters for less $1 a piece, Team Packs like X-Force or The Defenders, and even Campaign boxes – all of which come with character cards and dice. On top of that, all of them are compatible with the others, so you can mix and match teams to your heart’s content!
Wildlands is a fast-paced miniatures tactics game in which opponents race to be the first to 5 points by either collecting gems or knocking out opposing minis.
The game comes with four unique factions; each of which plays differently than the rest. Players use actions on their cards to move, fight, and collect gems. The low winning score of 5 means that games can clip along at a fairly quick pace – typing clocking in at around 30 minutes or so.
Gameplay features a fair degree of strategy, a dash of luck of the draw, and the ability to deny other players certain actions and interrupt their turns – the last of which means that even when it’s not your turn, you stay engaged. Always a plus.
The iconography of this game is well done and makes learning and playing an absolute breeze and blast. Clave has already reviewed it in greater detail for NoE, so I’ll point you there…but just know that he (and his nephews!) suggest you give it a look!
Next time only one of your buddies can make it to your regularly scheduled game night: Don’t call it off! Just grab one of these 1v1 tabletop games and have a blast! For these games only take two, and two is enough for a good ‘ole tabletop gaming time.
A couple of other solid 1v1 games we’ve reviewed at NoE: