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Looking for the best 2 player board games to play with your significant other or a friend? We’ve got you covered with the list below, containing the best games for just two players.
Whether you’re looking for nerdy gifts to get your special someone or just want an excuse to stay in and spend some quality time together, a board game is a great idea.
We tried to mix together some cooperative board games and competitive games, so make sure to pick something that would best suit your relationship.
So here’s a list of the top 21 best board games for couples:
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
Who to play it with: The One Who Is Constantly Reading
Play Time: 2 Hours for early cases, longer for later cases due to the increased volume of clues.
No game will make you feel more like a real detective than Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. In this game you solve crimes alongside Mr. Holmes himself, searching for clues and gathering leads. You do so by reading stories and visiting locations on a gorgeously rendered map of London.
There’s even a series of newspapers for you to hunt through for more hints! The goal is to solve the mystery either faster or more completely than Sherlock does. As you might expect, that’s no easy task.
There are 10 cases in total, and once you’ve played through them there’s no real replay value — but at such a low price, this game is more than worth it. You probably won’t ever beat Holmes, but even losing to him is a joy.
This game can be played cooperatively or competitively, but we’ve found that working together is the most rewarding — at least you can both feel annoyed by Holmes together. Couples who love to read and solve mysteries should settle in with a cup of tea and join the crew at 221B Baker Street.
NOTE: In some editions of this game, Case 3 provides conflicting information due to a publisher error, and can prove impossible to solve if you follow a misleading clue. While it’s not outright impossible, it can be very discouraging, and many people choose to skip it entirely. To avoid this problem, you can download corrected versions of the affected hint book online, or ensure that you’re purchasing the most recent (2016) version of the game.
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Who to play it with: The Master Strategist
Play Time: 30 minutes
Chess is revered as a “perfect” board game because it’s relatively simple, but has a deep strategy component. So when we say that Hive is often compared to Chess, it’s the highest compliment.
Hive is played without a board, so all you need to play are the pieces and a flat surface. Players are distributed a selection of tiles. Each tile has one of five types of bug on it, and each bug has its own movement rules. The most important piece is the queen bee, which must be placed in the first few turns. Your goal is to prevent your queen from being blocked in by other pieces under any circumstances.
Every hardcore Hive fan has their own strategy, and there’s no one right way to play. This is a great pick for a couple who love competing and learning how to adjust their play. Once you know the game well, rounds can be played in a matter of 15 minutes, which is just one of the reasons we consider it one of the best board games for couples.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Who to play it with: The Reliable Teammate
Play Time: 1.5 hours
However, Pandemic Legacy takes what Pandemic and its expansions set up and turns it into an outstanding long-form campaign. Your goal is still to manage and cure the diseases ravaging the world’s population, but it’s now tied into an ongoing narrative, with new game mechanics being introduced with each story segment.
The game’s story takes place over the course of a year, and every month brings new challenges. Starting a month is always exciting because the game instructs you to open new secret compartments in the box, add rules to the rulebook, and sometimes introduces you to a new playable character. You then play the game under the new rules, only hoping that you can keep the contagion under control. Much like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, this game only provides a single playthrough of the campaign, which works out to roughly 20 or 30 hours of game time, and has limited replay value. It is unquestionably still worth purchasing. The memories you’ll build playing a campaign of Pandemic Legacy are the kind that will last a lifetime.
This is a very intensely cooperative 2 player board game. While each character controls the actions of their own pawn, it is vitally important that players work together in order to cure the world’s diseases and win the game each month. If you aren’t coordinated, the world will fall into chaos, and subsequent months will become even harder to beat.
It might be a little overwhelming to jump into without playing the original Pandemic, but it isn’t impossible. It just means that you’ll have to take a bit of extra time to discuss your strategy — and promoting good communication and teamwork is absolutely why this is one of the best 2 player board games.
NOTE: There is NO difference between the Red and Blue versions of the game other than their cover art. There’s no Magmar vs. Electabuzz situation here. Buy the cover art you prefer.
Who to play it with: The Planning Expert (or The Harvest Moon Fan)
Play Time: 2 hours
Z-Man Games’ Agricola is a classic worker placement game where the goal is to build the most efficient, well-balanced farm. Players spend each turn deciding what chores they’re going to complete in order to build up the stockpiles they need to feed their families and build their farm. Only one person can do a chore at a time, which means that you need to plan carefully and adapt if you find yourself blocked by another player.
Despite being a competitive game, Agricola doesn’t feature attack actions, which means that even though other players can inconvenience you, they can’t actively harm your farm. This makes this game a safe space to compete without causing any hard feelings, which is good for those of us with significant others who are a little sensitive.
It’s worth noting that there is a 2-player version of this game called Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, which is an excellent game by itself, takes up less table space, and is better suited to gamers on a budget, with a price of just $40. We just prefer the original version, which is still extremely fun for two and has the benefit of being able to scale up when you have more friends over.
Escape: The Curse of the Temple
Who to play it with: The Adrenaline Junkie
Play Time: 10 Minutes
Board games often give you the chance to slow down, think things through, and have a nice long chat with the people you’re playing with. This is not one of those games. This is Escape: The Curse of the Temple, a high-speed frantic dice-rolling rush to explore an ancient temple and get out before the time’s up.
The rules are relatively simple. The temple is explored through individual tiles that are laid out on the board as they unlock. Each player rolls 5 dice which will hopefully allow you to explore the temple and open the exit. If you’re really unlucky, you could find several of your dice locked with the dreaded cursed mask symbol, which prevents you from rolling them again until you unlock them.
Through the entire game, you roll the dice repeatedly in order to accomplish your goals, working together as a team. All dice results are shared between players on the same tile, so there’s safety in numbers. Teamwork will make your escape much easier, and building up your ability to communicate under pressure is key.
Making it even more tense is Escape’s soundtrack. Yes, this game comes with a CD (you can find the sound files online, if you don’t have a disc drive or CD player) which serves as a timer for the game. When the music picks up, you must seek shelter in the center tile, or you’ll permanently lose the use of a die. If you fail to escape before the music comes to an end the temple collapses with you inside it and you lose!
The game is heavy on luck and low on strategy, which means you’ve got a decent chance of losing Escape for reasons beyond your control. That won’t appeal to the most hardcore of gamers, but is great for a casual playthrough. With its strict timer, it’s a great game to play if you’re short on time or don’t want things to run too late.
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Who to play it with: The Friendly Rival
Play Time: 1 hour
Claustrophobia is exclusively for two players, and it takes advantage of its limited player count in the best way possible. It is a perfectly balanced competitive game where each player plays either as the team of humans or the team of demons. The game provides you with campaigns pitting the humans and the demons against each other.
It uses a similar exploration and board style to Escape, where tiles are placed down as players explore the caves. (It’s worth noting that the tiles in Claustrophobia are HUGE, so you will require a lot of table space to play.) Tiles often provide different status effects which may either benefit the humans or the demons. The humans roll dice in order to unlock different statistic sets for their explorers, and the demons roll dice in order to determine what actions or combat buffs they can make use of that turn.
As the humans, you want to end the game as soon as possible, because the more time the demons have to do damage to you, the more powerful they’ll become. With the great balance this game carries, the triumphant team usually wins the game in dramatic fashion, snatching victory from the other team at the last moment.
This game is a competitive game where you take direct, aggressive action against the other player, so make sure your partner is comfortable with that. If they are, Claustrophobia promises to be a great, varied experience every time.
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Who to play it with: The Aspiring S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent
Play Time: 1 hour
Any Marvel fan who DOESN’T own this game is seriously missing out. After all, why wouldn’t you want to make a mashup team of your favourite characters from the Marvel Universe and battle its most infamous villains?
Legendary is a pretty standard deck-building game. You draw 6 cards from your hands and use the powers they provide to either battle villains and their henchmen or to recruit new heroes, strengthening your deck. The reason that Legendary might hold more appeal than other deck builders is purely its Marvel theme. It’s much more fun to draw a hand with Iron Man, Colossus, and Rocket Raccoon in it than some generic fantasy thieves and heavies.
Players all team up to defeat the mastermind behind the evil plot. Both the mastermind and the plot are selected by the players at the start of the game in order to determine the difficulty level. (Pro tip: Want to lose? Choose Apocalypse as your mastermind!) At the end of the game, if the players are victorious, you have the option to add up all the points earned from the henchmen you defeated, blows you delivered to the mastermind, and bystanders you rescued. These points determine the ultimate winner. Alternately – forget those points, because you just saved the world, who cares who punched the most guys?
The style of play will depend heavily on which heroes you pick. Some are more compatible than others and allow you to create deadly combos. Not all Marvel heroes/villains are available in the main set, so you may be drawn to pick up expansions (around $35 each) that feature your favorites, but the base game itself provides more than enough replay value. The more you play, the more likely you are to come up with a killer team of heroes.
Rather than spend your days counting down to the next superhero movie with your Marvel-obsessed other half, pick this one up, and play out your own story.
Run Fight or Die
Who to play it with: The Zombie Aficionado
Play Time: 10 minutes to 1 hour
Run Fight or Die is a dice-based zombie fighting game which pretty much explains its premise right in its name.
Each player picks a survivor to play out the zombie apocalypse with. The survivors have slightly different stats and abilities which will help decide your strategy in the game, but your fate is decided by the dice. The dice allow you to either run, fight, or die (take a wound), and your strategy must adjust according to the results. You have the opportunity to reroll dice that don’t work in your favor a limited number of times in hopes of changing your fate.
Your goal is either to survive longer than the other player or to gather the most valuable followers from the deck of townspeople and escape the city. It is also possible to summon a mutant zombie boss whose players attack together. If the mutant boss is defeated, everyone wins, because the mutant boss is some sort of the equivalent of a head vampire and the zombie curse is lifted.
Let’s be honest, most of the time one player is going to win because the other player dies horribly. We’ve seen The Walking Dead, we know what happens here.
This game is quick, fun, and dramatic, and includes some great art and figs just to add a cherry on top. This is one of the best board games for couples who spend their time discussing their zombie apocalypse survival strategy — if you are, give this one a chance.
Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game
Who to play it with: The Brave Adventurer
Play Time: 2 hours
This is a tabletop adventure game that features a premise that is shockingly reminiscent to a certain movie starring Harrison Ford. No, we don’t mean Blade Runner. In Fortune and Glory you are a brave adventurer, finding ancient artifacts and treasure while fighting off Nazis.
Sounds a little familiar, right? It’s also 100% as cool as you’re thinking.
Players explore the world, traveling from continent to continent hoping to find treasures and survive the deadly traps that lay in their way. You have the option of playing by cooperative rules (both of you versus the Nazis or mobsters) or competitive rules (player versus player). We find that the cooperative rules are just slightly more fun, but that’s a big compliment because this game is pure entertainment. Having a zeppelin stalking you around the board as you’re trying to find The Hammer of the Gods is pure joy.
The rules are a bit complicated to look at but feel simple once you’ve learned them. Most of the game revolves around exploring areas where a treasure can be found and rolling dice to determine your success in avoiding the obstacles along the way. If you fail on an obstacle, a cliffhanger will trigger, forcing you to halt all movement until you fight your way out of a situation or die trying. Don’t worry — dying just kicks your character back to their home city.
Fortune and Glory may be the most expensive game on this list, but it’s also the longest and has one of the best replay values — perfect if you and your honey want to go on a thrillseeking adventure without leaving your home.
Who to play it with: The Dungeon Crawler
Play Time: 30 mins
When you open the Boss Monster box for the first time, your first reaction will be squealing with excitement over the adorable pixel art on the cards. Your second reaction will be dancing with excitement over all the awesome nerd references on the cards. Then you’ll get distracted from all of that by how damn great this game is.
You are the boss fight at the end of a dungeon in Boss Monster, but at the start of the game, you have only a single room in your dungeon. Not nearly enough to take out any self-respecting hero. Your task is to build up your dungeon so that it’s the RPG equivalent of a hotel in a horror movie — you can check in, but you won’t check out! The player who attracts (and kills) the most valuable adventurers wins — but if too many adventurers make it past your traps and into the boss chamber of your dungeon, you’ll be wiped out, and all your dungeon-building will be for naught.
The fun of building up your dungeon is enhanced by running into adventurers like “Johnny of the Evening Watch” or a room full of monsters that you could only describe as metroids. We’ll be honest, there are a lot of great two-player card games out there, but Boss Monster won our hearts for being just as good as the others while having serious nerd appeal.
After all, that’s what we here at Nerd Much? are all about.
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7 Wonders Duel
Who to play it with: The Civilization Fanatic
Play Time: 45 minutes
Like Claustrophobia, 7 Wonders Duel is exclusively for two players. It is a scaled-down and rebalanced version of 7 Wonders, an excellent game in its own right, which demands a larger player count. Duel takes all the theming of the original 7 Wonders and makes it into a magnificent two-player experience.
In Duel, two players take turns selecting cards that are laid out on the table and try to make the most powerful combination of cards possible. There are many ways to win; a player could perform the most advanced scientific research, destroy their enemy with a mighty army, or simply earn the most victory points. This game requires players to keep a constant eye on their opponent’s side of the table, selecting cards to counter their opponent’s strategy and help their own along.
There is an element of luck to the game, as cards are laid out randomly and are equally likely to dismantle your plans as they are to help them. This alleviates some frustration between players, but if you think your partner is a person who will flip a table if you take that one card they had their eye on — you may want to give this one a pass. For those of us who can let it slide, 7 Wonders Duel is the perfect two-player card drafting game.
Who to play it with: The Territorial Mastermind
Play Time: 45 minutes
The Android series has spawned a number of outstanding board games, each with their own unique play style. Mainframe is the most simple of these, as it takes only 10 minutes to teach. Despite being a quick game, Mainframe is second only to Hive in the depth of its strategy, ensuring that this is a game you’ll come back to again and again.
The goal of Mainframe is to control territory on the board. You do so by placing ‘access points’ (tokens featuring your character) on the board, and then partitioning the board off until only your character’s access points remain within a space. A deck of cards determines how the partitions can be laid down on each turn, limiting the player’s options and making each turn challenging in its own right.
Each character also has their own unique powers, leaving an element of unpredictability to the game — although little randomness is involved. You almost certainly win Mainframe because you’re cunning, or because your opponent made a mistake. It could be described as the sci-fi equivalent of Go.
Mainframe plays up to 4 players, and while it scales extremely well, there’s something about a two-player game that is especially appealing. It means that you get to respond to your opponent’s moves immediately, and there’s no risk of a player who can clearly no longer win acting as an agent of chaos. It’s a perfect game for a pair of hardcore strategy fans.
Who to play it with: The Sci-Fi Obsessive
Play Time: 3 to 6 hours
When this game was released in 2015, it was subject to some controversy. As one of the more expensive board games out there, it was considered to have disappointingly little value. Like Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, and Pandemic Legacy, T.I.M.E. Stories features only a single story, and can only be played once. Yet in comparison to these other single-play games, T.I.M.E. Stories is incredibly short. If players are successful on their first play-through, it could take them as little as 3 hours to complete.
Given its $85 price tag, and the fact that subsequent stories which were released as expansions are between $25 and $40 apiece, it’s understandable that many gamers chose to give this a pass. However, we would argue that the experience that T.I.M.E. Stories provides is more than worth the price, as it is a completely singular game, and unlike anything we’ve played before.
T.I.M.E. Stories plays like the baby of a tabletop RPG and a point-and-click adventure game. It follows four psychic detectives who time-travel to the scene of a horrible crime, try and determine what went wrong and set it to rights. As the detectives, you must try to investigate and solve the crime in as few turns as possible — and you get three tries to get it right. The results from your previous game are carried forward to future games, thus rewarding you for a good score — or punishing you for a negative one.
While this game is clearly intended for a team of four players (the two-player variant requires each player to control two characters), we found playing it in pairs to be a delightful bonding experience. It requires such intense cooperation and problem solving to solve the riddles and follow the right clues that you end up deeply emotionally invested in the story — and in working together. Whether you’re rolling dice in combat or trying to decipher alien symbols, the only thing that will get you through is teamwork.
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Who to play it with: The Seafaring Explorer
Play Time: 45 minutes
Akrotiri is another two-player exclusive game, and one of the easiest to set up and play. It’s a beautifully designed game, featuring colorful tiles and wooden pieces that are extremely high-quality. It’s so popular that it’s currently completely sold out — but fear not, the game’s designer recently confirmed that a reprint is coming! Keep an eye out in the coming months for a copy of this fantastic game.
Its concept is simple: you slowly build an ocean map filled with islands featuring a variety of resources. You play as a boat captain, fetching and selling those resources to make money, and using that money to build temples, which in turn gives you more opportunities to make money. In the meantime, you have secret objectives to accomplish, making the placement of your temples vitally important.
Though this is a competitive game, it rarely gets too intense. For the most part, players are left to their own devices, pursuing resources and placing tiles to improve their own lot. There may be the rare time where your secret missions send you running for the same island, but for the most part, this is a low-key, light game you can enjoy together. It comes with our highest recommendation.
Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia
Who to play it with: The Military Tactician
Play Time: 2 hours
Bioshock fans unite! Bioshock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia is a fun little war game designed for two players (or two teams of two; keep that in mind for your double dates) — and a beautiful tribute to the game that inspired it, as well.
Rather than play as Booker and Elizabeth, the video game’s protagonists, the board game focuses on the battle between the Vox Populi and Comstock’s forces. The various pieces that each side controls, as well as the locations you occupy, will be familiar to anybody who played the original game. Each side tries to take over as much territory as possible, with the goal of earning 10 victory points. You draft cards in order to make a strong hand and summon your soldiers to the appropriate areas. You just have to protect your territory from your opponent… and from Booker and Elizabeth.
Yes, that’s right — while you had a grand old time zipping around and smashing heads when you were Booker and Elizabeth, now the shoe is on the other foot. You build up your forces as best you can, you ready yourself for battle, and then Booker comes in and kills everyone. There’s no way of telling who he’ll attack and when. You can only hope you have enough strength to stop him before he does too much damage.
As you can imagine, this makes for a somewhat uneven experience. Most times you’ll have a very competitive game, but sometimes Booker Dewitt will have a bone to pick with you and wipe you out at every turn.
As a result, this game may not be for everyone, but when it’s at its best, it’s outstanding. Its pieces are charming, its theming is wonderful, and it’s extremely affordable. Gamers with some patience for the occasional run of bad luck, and particularly those who are big fans of Bioshock Infinite should pick up a copy of The Siege of Columbia and enjoy riding the sky-rails together.
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Who to play it with: The Craft-loving Creator
Play Time: 45 mins
Patchwork is a game of spatial awareness and resource management that seems deceptively straightforward when you first lay it out but quickly reveals itself to be a challenging and intense experience.
Each player is given a flat template with squares in an 8×8 pattern, with the goal of filling that pattern as much as possible with the provided quilt pieces. The catch? Most of the pieces are shaped as inconveniently as humanly possible, and those that aren’t are horribly expensive. In order to be able to afford the conveniently-shaped pieces (pretty much every piece from Tetris), you must first fill your quilt as much as you can with the terrible pieces that make everything difficult. Once a piece is placed, it cannot be moved.
Players take turns selecting the pieces they want. Yet again, this game is perfectly balanced as a result of its two-player exclusivity. While you’ll spend your first few moves cursing yourself for taking such terrible pieces, the pure variety of shapes available means that you’ll find shapes that fit easily until very late into the game. Fortunately, this is when the most convenient pieces become affordable.
If you or your partner are the type of person who loves putting together an abstract puzzle, this is the perfect fit.
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And Then We Held Hands
Who to play it with: The Great Communicator
Play Time: 30 minutes
It might seem strange to describe a board game as “cute”, but And Then We Held Hands is one of the cutest games out there. While it may not have many rules, it can’t be described as easy. This is a game that will test your communication skills to the limit because this cooperative game is non-verbal. You cannot discuss the game while you’re playing it.
Each player in And Then We Held Hands starts with their own hand of cards. Players can use cards from either their own hand or their partner’s hand to navigate back and forth along a color-coded track. All the while, you must retain your ‘emotional balance’, as some colors affect you positively, and some negatively – and you cannot travel through too many positives or negatives in one go. If you’re careless, you can get stuck and end the game in failure. However, if you correctly intuit your partner’s intentions and make sure not to use too many cards, you’ll make it down the path and win.
If you can find a game that is a better metaphor for a relationship than trying to work together without discussing things fully, guessing at your partner’s intentions, and not using up too many of their resources while maintaining an emotional balance, we’d certainly like to see it.
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Who to play it with: The Know-it-all
Play Time: 1 hour
Timeline is a series of trivia games that require players to identify what years specific events took place, and put them into an ever-increasing timeline. While the original Timeline series, which comes in packs featuring topics like historical events, science and discoveries, and music and cinema , is a great deal of fun and a good option for two players, it simply feels too thin to get a real recommendation.
When Timeline Challenge was released, it was clear that this was the way to keep Timeline a fun, fresh experience. Rather than create a simple timeline of cards, Timeline Challenge is a set of mini-games. Depending on the round, you may have to put the cards in order, guess which era the event took place in, or guess the exact year the event took place in. It adds a layer of difficulty to the game which gives it longevity and increased difficulty, which is exactly what the original needed.
Challenge also allows the previous Timeline card packs to be integrated into the game, which means expansions for this game are not only affordable (around $10 each) but can be played on their own. Which is good, because as much as Challenge is clearly the superior version, Timeline makes an excellent travel game. If you’re a history buff, or just want to brush up on your trivia knowledge, this is the perfect game for two (or more).
Who to play it with: The Urban Planner
Play Time: 1.5 hours
If you were a big fan of Sim City and don’t find EA’s recent entries to the series to be particularly inspiring, perhaps it’s time you looked to the board game world for your city planning fix. While Quadropolis isn’t the most robust and elaborate of these games (that award goes to Suburbia), it is a very entertaining, lighthearted game that scales extremely well to two people. It also offers two levels of difficulty, for the moments where you want a more intense experience.
Quadropolis almost acts as a civil service Sudoku. Tiles with useful buildings and resources are placed on a grid and must be collected using tiles bearing the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each player has their own grid with rows and columns labeled with each number, and the tiles collected using that number must be placed in the according row or column.
There are various ways to score points, depending on the types of buildings you have collected, so there’s more than one way to win. Clever players can block their opponent’s best moves through their choices, although most of the time players keep to their own devices, similar to the experience in Agricola.
If you want to enjoy an evening of building the perfect urban paradise, Quadrapolis is an excellent choice. It’s just a shame it doesn’t come with a “disaster” menu option for when you’re all done playing. (Just follow it up with a game of Terror in Meeple City).
Who to play it with: The Aspiring Hacker
Play Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour
We recommend Netrunner, another entry in the Android series, with the knowledge that we may as well be recommending an addictive substance. This game is for the most hardcore of hardcore gamers, and if you end up loving it, you could end up with hundreds of dollars’ worth of expansions. Netrunner is not a suggestion we make lightly. However, if the hundreds of folks who end up at tournaments all around the country are any testament, Netrunner is the ultimate in two-player gaming. You have been warned.
In the game, one player takes on the role of a major corporation in the Android The other plays a hacker trying to steal valuable information from their portfolio. If the corporation successfully uses pieces of valuable information before the hacker gets their hand on them, they win. If the hacker gets to the information first, the hacker wins.
As a complicated deck-building card game, Netrunner has a very deep set of rules. While the basics are easy to learn, it will take hundreds of hours to fully master the game. We advise that you and your partner go into this game together with the idea of developing your skills at roughly the same pace. An expert will destroy a newbie every time, so having a wide gap between your skills won’t feel very fun unless the expert is a very patient teacher and the newbie is very patient with losing.
If you’re a pair of serious gamers looking for a challenging game that you can play together over the long-term, you will find nothing better than Netrunner.
Crusaders: Thy Will be Done
Who to play it with: The competitive significant other
Play Time: 40 minutes to 1 hour
Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done uses a combination of rondel and mancala mechanisms. Each player has their own rondel, which they can upgrade over the course of the game, that controls their action choices during the game. Your faction gives you a special power to control your rondel, and the buildings you erect will help you form a strategy.
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