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Games that scale well

Hey all.

Any thoughts on games that play well with 2 players, but also with more for when the need arises?

My usual gaming is with my girlfriend, but we enjoy having people round to play on occasions too. So which games are best for these criteria?

Our current favourites are Carcassonne, Castles of Burgundy, Sushi Go! Party, Small World, Star Realms, Citadels and Star Realms.

Any suggestions would be warmly welcomed :slight_smile:

A few I’d be interested to hear thoughts on are Viticulture, Concordia, Cyclades, Clank! A Deckbuilding Adventure, Whitehall Mystery and Keyflower…

First time poster, so sorry if this isn’t the done thing!


(“You said Star Realms twice.” “I like Star Realms.”)

I’ve not played Keyflower with 2, but with 3 it certainly works well - not my usual sort of thing but I still enjoy it.

Splendor would definitely be on my list, and Red7 is a hidden gem (it’s the game that lives in my jacket pocket even when I’m going out to see non-gamers). Both of them are good at 2, 3 or 4.

Looking at my collection, I spot the following scale-well games:

  • Lords of Vegas
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  • Splendor
  • Archipelago

Though I like all of them best with 3 I guess :slight_smile:

I play games primarily with my wife, while having a weekly game night with some friends, so I also look for games that scale well.

Some of our personal favorites are Roll for the Galaxy, Pandemic Legacy, Castles of Burgundy, Terra Mystica, Concordia, Tzolk’in, Ra and Whitehall Mystery. I can recommend any of these as being games that scale well, with the caveat that Terra Mystica and Tzolk’in are more complex than the ones you have listed as favorites.

Obviously, two of the games you were looking at are Concordia and Whitehall Mystery.

Concordia is a Shut up and Sit Down favorite, and it plays well at all player counts. A lot of people pretty strongly feel that it works best with two players on the Corsica map. However, we have enjoyed it with just the smaller map in the base game. Our friends have really enjoyed it too.

Whitehall Mystery has been a great find for us too. We’ve only had the chance to play this one with two players, but it immediately became a favorite (even though we played the rules incorrectly the first few times…The rulebook could be much, much clearer). We enjoy it so much and it’s so simple once you know it, that we are planning to give it to her non-gamer brother and his wife for Christmas.


We might need to try Lords of Vegas with two again. We loved it with four, but tried it with two and it just seemed to get really out of control, with massive blocks of casinos almost entirely to ourselves.

Inis. Inis is fantastic at any player count.

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I only got to play it at SHUX but I think NMBR9 would scale exceedingly easy, with only one caveat. The game is for 1 to 4 players normally and includes enough tiles so each of the maximum 4 players can draw each number tile twice. So in order to scale up to 8 players you’d need a second copy of the game. But other than that I think it would work well.

+1 to Splendor.

I have Viticulture but only played it either 5 or 6, which was too long. I think it would work well with 2-4 though.

Abyss scales really well and plays nicely with 2, 3 or 4. I know SU&SD didn’t like it, but I think they got a rule wrong because their play time was way too long.


Thanks everyone for the help so far!

We already really enjoy Castles of Burgundy and received Abyss in a board game crate a few months back. We tried Splendor a few weeks back, but felt it reached its conclusion a little too quickly…?

I think I’d quite like to try a fairly meaty euro, so narrowed it down to Concordia, Viticulture or Keyflower. Any particular stand outs and, if so, why?

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

My husband and I face a similar challenge of finding great two player games that also work well when we have friends over.

If you like Star Realms you could try Boss Monster.

We love Lords of Waterdeep with any number of players. It’s a game that was incredibly well play-tested, so the math works no matter how many folks are playing. It’s also a great way to introduce friends to euro style games.

Another 2 or more game we enjoy is Innovation. The newest edition was just released this month. It’s a civilization building card game that is really enjoyable.

You should take a look at Orléans as well. It reminded me of Castles of Burgundy when I played it recently.

Codenames is also great, you don’t need the duet one, the party version works with two players too.

My last suggestion if you want something deeper is Dead of Winter. When we first got it we played it two player every night for a week! It has also become a favourite of many of our friends. We’d recommend buying the new “The Long Night” version as it is a full base set plus extra variants.


Not heard of Innovation. Will check that out.

How would you recommend playing Codenames with just two? Intrigued…

Roll through the Ages also works about as well at any player count

I was actually just thinking of Innovation as a game that does not scale well.

In my experience, it’s really best as a two player endeavor…as a game. As a wacky experience where skillful play may or (more likely) may not win the game, it’s okay with three and still chaotic with four.

Granted, this is with the iello pretty edition that only includes the Echoes expansion. The new full deluxe full monty from Asmadi might somehow be better with more… I’m doubtful, but have no data.

In my experience of playing Innovation for many years now, the base game of Innovation works very well with 4. The 2 vs 2 team variant can work better for some groups.

When @Shanneranner and I play by ourselves, most often the game is over by Age 6. Which is before the most interesting Age 7-10 Quantum cards. It’s much easier to get into the higher ages when there are more people playing.

While there are cards in Age 10 that introduce what can seem like random winning conditions (most leaves, lowest score, etc.), I feel it’s a valid strategy to churn through the decks looking for these cards.

The expansions do introduce some randomness that seems to be best with only two players. Playing with both Echoes of the Past and Figures in the Sand can lead to very long and complicated turns that can make the pace far too slow for multiple players.

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My first thought before finishing reading the intro to the thread was that Cyclades is the first game that jumps to mind when thinking of games that scale well. Its well balanced to be fun at any number from 2-5 (strictly speaking of the base game). I play a lot of games with my fiancée that I then also play with a full group, so I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts, but after I saw that you wanted to hear about Cyclades I couldn’t wait to jump in.


I would recommend playing Codenames with 2 by playing Codenames Duet.


I think I like Duet more than regular Codenames!

I haven’t played Normal codenames but I think duet is really sensitive to disparities in knowledge and interests (an example all of my sci fi stuff is useless on my partner, and all of her art knowledge is useless on me) which is tricky in what feels like a game about expressiveness. Anyway this made the game a bit frustrating for us.

I might try it with the pictures because I’ve heard this cancels some of the knowledge stuff.

My belief is that because normal codenames has two sets of pairs, it doesn’t matter so much because each team is trying to beat the other and generally all of the in sync’d ness cancels out.

Good to know–I think Innovation is a great game, so I’m glad to hear good experiences are possible with more than two!

You are right about the decks running out–good players will rarely get to the age 10 decks. (though finishing in age 6 is pretty darned good in my book!)

But still, because of the nature of the game–a whole bunch of cards that break game rules and generally allow you to mess with other players–things just get inherently messy at higher player counts. I know others (including Tom Vasel, one of the game’s champions) has claimed the same thing.

Now, having a great game that turns from strategic to rather more tactical by increasing the player count isn’t necessarily a bad thing–in fact, to quote the jackass usurping prince from Frozen, I love crazy! (…I have kids.)

But generally speaking, that can be a detriment in many people’s eyes, and it’s worth pointing out here.

Actually (and hopefully, constructively), that raises a good question: can games that change their nature/playstyle at different player counts be considered games that “scale well”?

Many examples of my favorite type of game (tactical skirmishes/crawls) play from 2 to 5–but the experience of playing changes notably with different numbers of people at the table.

The scenarios in Imperial Assault, for example, take a whole different difficulty as a two hero game, and tactics change considerably. Personally, I like the game at any player count, but I have a hard time saying it scales well–there are some notable bumps.

Massive Darkness, on the other hand, shifts player counts like a bicycle whose chain pops off every time you go below 3, and that nearly seizes up when you go above 4–so definitely not a game that scales well.

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This is a mistake one of my friends always makes in Codenames; he spends 95% of his effort finding the perfect clue to link as many words as possible and only 5% thinking about whether his team would understand the clue. :stuck_out_tongue:

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