Board games are a great way to spend time with friends and family, but it can often be difficult to round up a group to play board games. Or perhaps you just have a good friend or significant other and it’s much more convenient to play with two, so you just want something you can grab off the shelf and play easily.
While there are plenty of great games available, many gamers don’t have anything that works well for two players in their collection and find that most of their games say they are good for 2-4 players but really work best with 4 people.
Luckily there are lots of great games available that are specifically made for 2 players, from lighter card games to games that give the full strategic gaming experience. We’ve rounded up our 10 favourite board games for two players that cover a broad spectrum of gaming, so you’re sure to find something that suits you.
This list is primarily aimed at games for adults, but we will point out when a game is particularly suitable as a family board game as well.
Best Board Games for 2 Players – Quick Comparison
|#1 7 Wonders Duel||30 mins||Medium||Best civilisation style game|
|#2 Patchwork||15 – 30 mins||Easy||Cute Tetris style building game|
|#3 Codenames Duet||15 – 30 mins||Easy||Cooperative lateral thinking|
1. Best Civilisation Style Game – 7 Wonders Duel
This is the two-player version of the very popular game 7 Wonders, and they’ve done a fantastic job making this suitable for 2 players, it’s maybe even better than the original.
In this game you compete against each other, taking on the role of architects building civilisations from scratch, and need to build an engine that focuses on balancing a combination of developing your resources, science, and military while also building the 7 wonders.
In the original game, you pass cards to each other to pick out what you are keeping and playing, but with two people that mechanic doesn’t really work. Instead, there is a deck of cards in the middle of the table, some face up and some face down, that you pick from.
This is a wonderful, fast-paced game that only takes 30 minutes yet still manages to be a full strategic experience, and is really the perfect game if you are looking for a great game for two.
- Strategic with lots of variability in the strategy you can take
- Quick to play
- Easy to learn
- Highly replayable
- Long set up time for a light game
- The rule book can make the game seem a lot more complicated than it is
2. Cutest – Patchwork
This is a board game by the famous board game designer Uwe Rosenburg, and it’s a beautiful looking game that is a very satisfying experience.
In this game, players compete against each other to build the best patchwork quilt. They do this by picking Tetris like shapes from the centre and placing them on their square patchwork board trying to fill it up. The currency for this game is buttons, and the different patches on your board make you earn different amounts of buttons, so there is a bit of engine building in this game too.
Patchwork has very easy rules but there is still quite a bit of strategy in the decisions – you get decisions like “do I take the tile that fills up my board, the tile that gives me more buttons, or the tile I know my opponent wants”?
You can play this game as a more cutthroat game (taking the pieces your opponents need) or as a more relaxing experience (just working on building the best quilt you can with what’s available). Regardless of strategy, it’s always a great experience and you always finish with the satisfaction of having built a quilt that looks good.
- Easy to learn
- Good mechanics – both Tetris like tile placement and engine building
- Pretty looking game
- Can get competitive if the other player is cutthroat
- Relies on spatial reasoning
- After many plays can end up feeling quite the same
3. Best Cooperative Game – Codenames Duet
This is a spin-off of the popular game Codename made especially for two players, and like a few others on this list, I think this one works just as well, or even perhaps slightly better than the original game.
Codenames Duet is a cooperative board game where there are a bunch of cards with different words on them, that you layout in a grid on the table. Some of these cards are agents that you need to uncover, and some of them are assassins that you can’t pick or you lose. You take turns giving each other clues related to the cards, trying to beat the clock to uncover all the agents without getting assassinated.
It’s a lot of fun and gets you thinking laterally as you want to give clues that make the other player pick multiple agents so you can finish quickly, but you need to make sure your clue doesn’t lead to them picking any of the assassin word cards, which can be really hard to think of the appropriate clues.
This one is also good to play with kids who can read, as it isn’t too complicated and can help improve their vocabulary.
- Accessible for non-board gamers
- Lots of interaction between players
- Is a cooperative game so no “winning”
- Gets you thinking laterally
- Sucks when both players are not on the same wavelength
- No competition
- Not your usual “maths like” strategic thinking
4. Best Strategic Game – Targi
Targi is a very strategic euro game that takes about an hour to play, and is in a pretty small box and plays fantastically with 2 players. The theme is that you are a tribal leader, and you want to trade goods to get gold and increase the size of your tribe.
As with most Eurogames, to win you need to score the most victory points, which you get by playing tribal cards (which also give you an advantage during gameplay). The cards are set out in a 5 x 5 grid, and you place your meeples on the edge cards. You then get to play the action of any card that is in the grid where the row and columns of your meeples intersect.
Like most Euros, there are multiple paths to victory (do you pick cards with more victory points, cards of the same type that get you victory point bonuses, cards that help you grow). This is very much a euro game (dry thematically, deeply strategic, multiple paths to victory, lots of resource management), and if that’s your thing it’s fantastic for two players.
- Great euro strategic game where decisions matter
- Longer and deeper game than most 2 player games
- Unique interesting gameplay
- Not a gateway game
- The theme does not have a lot to do with the game
- Unforgiving of bad decisions
5. Abstract Perfection – Santorini
Santorini is an abstract strategy game where you are builders that are building a city, and you win by getting to the top of one of the buildings (so standing on the 3rd floor). The buildings can go up to 3 floors, and then can have a dome placed on them which means a player can’t stand on that building anymore.
On your turn you do two things: move a space sideways or up or down a step, and build a building block on a space next to your builder.
You can play with just the base game as explained above, but it also comes with a deck of cards that give the players asymmetrical powers (for example a hero may be able to move 2 places or remove a building block), which gives you different strategies to try and makes the game very replayable.
This game is easy to teach and hard to master. It’s easy enough that a child could easily learn to play, but there is so much deep strategic thinking into what your next move should be.
- Requires spatial awareness
- Deep strategic thinking
- Very easy rules and approachable game
- Hero cards add variability and make the game very replayable
- You have to think hard
- Competitive screw the other player gameplay (this may be a pro if that’s what you want)
- The type of game some people are just naturally good at
6. Thematic Adventure – Lost Cities
Lost Cities is one of the more popular two-player games. It’s a light card game that has a 15 minute playing time, where you are two adventurers uncovering lost cities.
In this game, there is a board with 5 colored cities on it, and each player is playing cards from their hand on their side of the board in order to uncover that city and get the most points. Each city you start exploring costs you 20 points, so you want to make sure you are scoring enough points to make it worth your while.
You score points according to the numbered cards that match the color of the city you are exploring. The catch is you have to play the cards in ascending order on the correct colored city (so you can’t put a lower card on top of a higher card).
The tricky part comes when you discard cards as you can’t have more than 8 in your hand, as you want to make sure you aren’t discarding something that helps your opponent, while also not keeping your hand too full of cards you can’t use.
This game is a lot of fun for two people, it’s competitive and has a “take that” component while still having an aspect of needing to build things yourself, so doesn’t get too mean.
- Looks great and is thematic
- Creates a fun competition
- Light game suitable for new gamers
- Lots of replay value
- The scoring system is a bit weird
- Has an unnecessary board that makes the game less portable
7. A Great Chess Alternative – Hive
Hive (or Hive Pocket which is the same game in a smaller package) is an abstract game that is a little like chess. Each player plays a colour of bugs, and you have different bugs that move in different ways.
It’s much more accessible than chess in that the rules are easier and the games tend to be a lot more balanced, as it doesn’t require years of gameplay experience to start being decent at the game.
The game components are one of the best things about this game, they are on chunky melamine tiles that feel great and can be thrown in a bag and played anywhere (and I mean anywhere, on the sand at a beach, at a park, and even underwater).
This is also a good game to play with both adults and children, as kids can pick up the rules easily, it only takes around 20 minutes to play, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of reading.
- Strategic (though this may be a con if you don’t want to think)
- Great looking components
- Very competitive
8. Beautiful Artwork – Jaipur
Jaipur is a trading game, where you are two of the most powerful merchants in the city of Jaipur, and you want to be a better trader than your competitor, but you also need to keep your camels in check.
The game takes about 30 minutes and is predominantly a card game though there are a bunch of chips included as well. In Jaipur, you can take cards, either all the camels, one card from the market, or swap 2-5 cards from the market. If you sell you can only take one type of good, and get chips for the number of that good. But the value of those chips goes down as the game progresses, but you also get bonuses for selling more of the same good so you have to find a balance.
Usually, trading games don’t work well for two players, but this one works extremely well. The rules aren’t complicated, but it’s hard to balance the right choices which makes it very interesting to play.
- Wonderful looking artwork
- Quick and light rules makes it a great gateway game
- Good balance of strategic thinking and risk-taking
- Some luck is associated with what comes out in the market
- Not the choice for serious gamers
9. Best Sci-fi Fighting – Star Realms
This is a two-player game that is a bit like sci-fi Magic the Gathering in a box. For those of you who don’t know what Magic the Gathering is, it’s a competitive deck-building game where you build up a hand of cards that you draw from and then fight each other.
If you don’t know what a deck builder is, well you buy cards from a market that each let you do different things (such as earn more or attack better) that make up your “deck”, which is what you’ll be drawing the cards that you play from. There is an element of luck in what you draw from your deck, but the skill comes from building a good deck that works well so you draw the right cards to be able to buy more good cards and attack your opponent.
This is a very cheap game, it’s transportable as it’s only a deck of cards, it only takes 15-20 minutes to get through a game, and the rules are quick to understand yet still provides quite a bit of tactical thinking to beat your opponent.
I really like the theme, as I love sci-fi, but if you prefer something more fantasy-themed then Hero Realms is an extremely similar game. There are also a few expansions to this, with Frontiers being a stand-alone expansion (meaning you don’t need the base game) that also has a cooperative mode so may be a better first purchase if being able to also play cooperatively appeals to you.
- Quick gameplay
- Approachable Rule
- Tense competition
- Great sci-fi theme and artwork
- Element of luck with card drawing – someone with no strategy can sometimes win
- Too competitive for some
10. Farming Fun – Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small is the two-player version of the famous game Agricola, which was the top-rated game on bgg for many years (though it’s still in the top 100, it’s since been superseded by some much newer games).
This game takes about half an hour, and you are farmers creating a farm, fencing it up, building buildings, and keeping and breeding animals. The two-player version is a bit easier than the full game, as it takes away the need to feed your animals and people and keep them all alive. I like this version better as it’s still strategic while not requiring you to think too hard.
This is a game where you get to concentrate on your own thing, there’s really not much “take that” or player interaction, which is nice if you just want to do your own thing. It’s a fun game, and whether you win or lose it’s a lot of fun creating a farm and keeping animals.
- Quick game
- Has animeeples! (the tiny wooden animal pieces)
- Lots of pieces to set up
- Not much player interaction
- Race for the Galaxy – I love this game, it’s a sci-fi themed, quick, and very strategic engine building game. However it has a lot of iconography which gives it a steep learning curve, and that means unless I’m playing with one of the few people I know who already knows how to play, it doesn’t make its way to the table.
- Twilight Struggle – This is a heavy game that takes 2-3 hours, and pits the US against the USSR by moving units and exerting influence in order to control the world. It was #1 on bgg for a long time, but I didn’t include it on this list as it is a heavy game that requires dedication, and really never makes it to my table because of this.
- Android: Netrunner – A card game for two players set in a cyberpunk world that pits a mega corporation against lone runners, which are kind of like the underground. It’s a great game, but you’ll really have to play quite a few times to get the hang of the strategy and have a gaming partner willing to do that too.
- Schotten Totten – This is another quick filler card game by Reiner Knizia that is a very popular 2 player game, it has a bit of a push your luck poker element to it. It’s also a great game but with a couple of other card games already on this list that I prefer, it just didn’t make it onto the list.
There are so many great two-player board games out there, it’s really hard to pick just 10 for a list! We’ve focused on games that are accessible for newer players, yet still have a deeper strategy for those who enjoy gaming, and have lots of replay value as well.
If you want something strategic that is like playing a full game, you really can’t go wrong picking up 7 Wonders Dual or Targi, which both have the feel of big-box games in smaller, quicker 2 player games.
If you’re looking for something to replace chess, Hive or Santorini both have a lot of abstract thinking elements to them. Or if you are looking to just whoop your opponent then Star Realms is a great sci-fi setting to do this in.
One of my favourite things in board games is the feeling of satisfaction you get from building something, and Patchwork or Agricola are both great two-player adaptions of this type of game.
And if you want to work together Codenames Duet provides a cooperative experience, where you’ll be thinking and interacting with the other player to try and figure out how they think!