Chess, checkers, and Scrabble have long dominated the board game industry as not only the
best two-player board games, but also as pretty much the only board games that can be played by two people. And although these classic games are timeless for a reason, after decades of gameplay they can get pretty boring. Luckily, thanks to the recent renaissance in the analog game industry — which was brought about, largely, by cult-favorite games like Cards Against Humanity — the competition in this category has finally started to heat up.
Whether you're looking for a
game for date night or a way to pass the time your roommate while your stuck inside, below you'll find a plethora of card, dice, and board games that will pit you against your partner — as well as a few that even make you work together — for hours of fun. From word games to strategy games to fast-paced games of chance, these games run the gamut of hilarious to highly competitive. And maybe best of all, every game on this list is cheaper than two movie tickets, and rather than the one night at the movies, this purchase will entertain you for years. Although many of my picks are great games for couples, many of the games on the list also work with larger groups, too.
So break out a bottle of white wine (or a six-pack of La Croix), turn on your favorite tunes, and prepare to keep yourself entertained with the
best two-player board games.
A Word Deduction Game That Makes You Work Together With Your Partner
Instead of competing against your loved ones, try working together in this
word deduction game. To win the game, you must identify fifteen designated codewords within nine turns. To add to the fun, each player's key card is also packed with assassins, bystanders, and agents that can either detract from your mission or provide additional clues. The addition of mission maps, for longer gameplay, and 11 timer tokens, to up the pressure, make each game a little different from the last. And with over 200 word cards, reviewers say you won't have to worry about this game becoming repetitive. Glowing Review: "I was looking for something for my boyfriend and I to do when it's just the two of us. This fit the bill! The games are quick so you it's not a huge time investment. The rules are clear and pretty easy to learn."
A Cult-Favorite Card Game That Started On Kickstarter
If over 10,000 reviews on Amazon couldn't convince you that
Exploding Kittens is a blast, maybe knowing that this was one of the most-backed projects in all of Kickstarter history can. The sole object of the game is to not draw an exploding kitten card from the deck of 56 cards. While avoiding the explosion is partially luck, the deck is also stacked with playing cards that help you avoid, mitigate, and diffuse an exploding kitten. As the manufacturer calls it, this "kitty-powered version of Russian roulette" is sure to liven up any game night. Glowing Review: "This game is great. I've only played the two-player version, so I can't comment on it as a family game, but the cards are funny, the texture is nice, and the game is hilarious. Think of it as a strange version of UNO."
A Super-Fast-Paced Card Game That Can Be Played In Under Five Minutes
If you dread how long it takes your family to play Monopoly, then
We Didn't Playtest This At All was made for you. The ridiculous card game, with over 1,000 reviews, has no official rules, instead you just follow the directions on the cards. Each card offers a new rule, changing the direction of the game and providing even more ways to lose. If you're looking for a game with low-commitment but endless fun, each round of this game will never take longer than five minutes and can even be over in a matter of 60 seconds. Plus, this pick can be great for parties since it can accommodate as many as 15 players. Glowing Review: "This game is AWESOME. Typically we play games that require us to watch game plays online first so this was a great change of pace. It doesn't get old and it's fun with even just two players."
A Frontier Game Specifically Designed For Two People And Repeat Play
Unlike most of the games on this list,
Rivals For Catan is optimized exclusively to be played by only two people; and for those who are fans of classic Catan, but don't always have enough players this game is especially for you. In fact, it was even designed to reward repeat play by the same two players — so you won't have to worry about getting bored, or feeling like you aren't playing the game to its full potential.
In this game, the objective is to become
Prince of Catan using the card hand you're dealt and a little luck with the dice. Throughout the game, you work to develop Catan, a newly settled land, by acquiring resources, creating principalities, and discovering new lands. With cards and a bit of luck thanks to the roll of the dice, players will work to build cities, buildings, ships, and roads to fully explore the undeveloped territories of Catan. It's fast-paced but requires forward thinking and a bit of strategy to win. Glowing Review: "Great game for two players who like a strategy games with multiple ways of [winning]. I like the variety of cards and the randomized dice. Both make every game different so your always trying new strategies."
A Trivia Game That Challenges Your Problem-Solving Abilities
Unlike classic trivia games,
Wit's End challenges players with a diverse mix of not only traditional trivia questions but also brain teasers and riddles in a range of categories. The objective of the game is to answer each question correctly to move your piece to the summit of the board. This set includes 1,600 questions that cover pop culture, geography, arts, history, and science, and it can be played by two to six players — or up to 18 if played with teams. Just note that this game is intended for players for 16 years and older. Glowing Review: "We love this game! It offers a nice twist to the traditional Trivia Pursuit game. Even if you don't know the answers you still have a chance of guessing it. The questions don't make you feel like a fool for not knowing the answers. Also, it doesn't take all day to play. I gave this one as a gift but I might get one for my house."
A Word Game That's Reminiscent Of Scrabble But Way Faster
If you love word games, but hate the complex points system and slower pace of Scrabble,
Bananagrams "the anagram game that will drive you bananas" is the game for you. To start, dump out 144 tiles and let each player draw 21 tiles (or fewer tiles with more players). The action starts when a player calls "split" and each player competes to create their own personal crossword grid. Then, players yell "peel" when they run out of letters, forcing every player to add another tile to their pile. The game ends when a player uses all of their tiles and there are not enough tiles left for another "peel." This game gets your brain working in high gear and, in my experience, can sometimes get much more physical than you might expect for a word game. Glowing Review: "We love Bananagrams in our house. With five younger kids, it's also a fun way to teach them letters, how to spell and inspire creativity. Mom still rules at this game, but the rest of the house still loves taking her on."
An Aesthetically-Pleasing Trick-Taking Card Game
Fox in the Forest is a two-player trick-taking card game that is full of fantasy. It's simple to learn but demands enough strategic thinking that it's still able to drum-up a competitive spirit between players. The artwork on this game is particularly beautiful and the aesthetic adds to its whimsical gameplay. Glowing Review: "My husband and I have been searching for a good, fun, aesthetically pleasing game and we hit the jackpot with this one. It’s a super simple game play concept - but complex enough to be competitive and fun. There are tons of different types of variation with gameplay which makes it exciting."
A Fast-Paced Strategy Card Game That's Packed With Squirrel Puns
Squirrels!, the nutty game from da Vinci's room, seems pretty easy: You just have to collect five nut cards of the same color. Of course, it wouldn't have almost five stars on Amazon if it was that simple. The game incorporates black attack cards, white defend cards, neutralizing tan cards, and purple wild cards with quirky rules that make the 10 to 20 minutes of gameplay way more fun. Each game has four nut colors, for up to four players, and leaves plenty of room to throw in a few house rules. One reviewer likens it to UNO, only cuter. Glowing Review: "We love playing games and have been on a bit of a card game kick for the past couple of years. My younger children (5 and 7) LOVE this game and request it all the time."
A Nature-Inspired Game Where You Build The Board As You Play
Hive is, at its heart, a strategy game inspired by insects. In some ways it's very similar to chess, but reviewers say it's much more laid back that chess if that intimidates you. The game's objective is to surround your opponent's queen entirely. Each creature-bedecked hexagonal tile, either soldier ants or grasshoppers, has a different way of moving. A winner of multiple awards and even honored by Mensa Select, this game can be played anywhere as long as there's a flat surface. Plus, it comes backed by a 4.8-star rating. Glowing Review: "Everyone loves it! My 7 year old caught on quickly and likes it better than chess. It is easy to play and game time is less than 20 minutes, often less than 15. So it is not a big commitment but is large on rewards."
A Strategy-Heavy Game You Can Play For Hours
If you are looking for a game you can really sink you teeth into,
Twilight Struggle promises three solid hours of gameplay. This cult-favorite cold war game is a two-player, strategy-heavy game that simulates the 45-year war. If you love Risk, you'll love this game, too. Glowing Review: "Bought this game about two months ago and have gotten to play it a few times now. As someone who usually just plays with one other person it makes such a difference to have one that is made to be played that way. It is a long duel (usually it stays set up overnight) but it is addicting."
A Creative And Outlandish Game In Which You Build Baby-Eating Monsters
Bears Vs Babies is another game from the creators of Exploding Kittens, and like its predecessor, it's gaining quite a following. This fun-for-all-ages game is hilarious and highly strategic. Use the cards to build eccentric characters like a salmon in business attire that's armed with burritos. Give your creation anything from arms to armor to prepare them for the infant onslaught. To win, out-build your partner and eat the most babies. For a quick, but quirky game, look no further. Glowing Review: "Super fun! It took some effort to learn but was so worth it. There's strategy involved so it's not all just the luck of the draw.It's also playable for two or three players. Sometimes with games it'll stay it's possible to play with two or three people but then turns out lame to play with that little of people. This one is just as fun no matter how many people."
A Dice Games That Encourages You To Risk It All For the Win
Yahtzee lovers seeking a little more thrill will find their perfect game companion in
Playmonster's Farkle. To play, each person rolls six dice for points, with the ultimate goal to have the highest score over 10,000 points. But only certain numbers and combos earn you points. After each roll, you can choose to either bank your points or risk them to roll again. If your roll earns zero points, it's called a Farkle. Get three Farkles in a row, you lose 1,000 points— and likely your chance at winning the game. This game is great fun for all ages and can accommodate any number of players (within reason). Plus, it has a 4.7-star rating on Amazon. Glowing Review: "No pressure, no artistic ability required, no knowledge of world events or trivia, and a relatively quick game for the children with short attention spans - the perfect game for our family! It's easy enough for the younger kids to learn and it keeps the older kids and parents entertained, too."