The 15 Best 2-Player Board Games

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by Braelyn Wood and BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 

Whether you're looking for a game for date night or a way to pass the time with your roommate during an evening at home, the best two-player board games are truly rewarding to play as a pair and fun for repeat play. Look for a game with lots of variation to keep things fresh, whether it comes in the form of a vast number of cards, expansions, different victory conditions, or layers of strategy. Some games may be designed for two or more players, which might be nice if you'd like the option to sometimes play with a group.

There's a lot of variety when it comes to two-player board games, with options that involve cards, dice, boards, and tiles. Most are competitive games that pit you against your partner, but there are cooperative board games available if you'd prefer to work together. Make sure you look for the types of play you'll actually enjoy — these run the gambit from word games, to strategy games, to trivia, to fast-paced games of chance — as well as ones with themes that pique your interest. Themes include sci-fi, ancient civilizations, secret agents, and wildlife, so look for topics and premises that appeal, and decide whether you want something serious or hilarious. Best of all, most games on this list are cheaper than two movie tickets, and rather than the one night at the movies, this purchase will entertain you for years. 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’s Super Cooperative

Instead of competing against your fellow player, try working together in this word deduction game. To win the game, you must identify 15 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. With the addition of mission maps for longer gameplay, plus 11 timer tokens to ramp up the pressure, you can reach for this game over and over, since each round will play out a little differently. Plus, with over 200 word cards, Amazon reviewers say you won't have to worry about this game becoming repetitive. And if you ever tire of playing with just two people, the game also includes rules you can use when adding additional players.

Glowing Review: "Took it camping with my husband. We both enjoy playing the original Codenames with our family, but we wanted a version that we could play with just the two of us, and this was great! The heart of the game is the same as the original, but you cooperate to find all the "agents" instead of dividing into teams. We found it was a blast to play as a couple because we could leverage all of our inside jokes."


A 2-Player Version Of A Classic Game

If you’ve ever wanted to play a the classic Catan only to find yourself short on players, Rivals For Catan is a great alternative that’s optimized exclusively to be played by only two people. In fact, it’s 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, you control one of two factions as you work to develop the land of Catan. 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: "I almost hate to admit it, but we like Rivals even more than Settlers! This game is a blast. A little more challenging to learn, but after a couple of rounds you will develop multiple strategies for competition. Highly recommended!"


A Space-Themed Deckbuilding Game That’s An Editor Favorite

Whether you’re into the theme of spaceship combat or you’re simply bored and want an entertaining game you can play with a partner, Star Realms is exactly what you need. During gameplay, you’ll obtain ships and bases with the goal of blasting away your enemy’s fleet before they can destroy your own. Different cards can increase one another’s effects, so there’s lots of opportunity for strategy. Bustle Associate Commerce Editor Kori Perten owns and adores this game, which she suggests is “incredibly fun, has excellent replay value (you’ll want to test out different strategies), and is super convenient to take on trips because it packs up compactly.” The game is designed for two players, but can be played with up to six if you purchase additional decks.

Glowing Review: "Simple, fun game. Artwork is superb. If you want a fast game with a 30 second set up, this game is for you. The whole idea is to attack your opponent with an array of ships and bases. Some cards have fighting ships, others have merchant ships with purchasing ability - so that you can buy bigger, better fighting ships. Bases offer some protection and resources. A few cards allow you to restore damage so that you can last longer. Four factions with four different styles of ships that are more powerful when combined. Games are quick - 15 minutes or so. Great game for the money.”


A Cult-Favorite Card Game That Started On Kickstarter

If over 54,000 reviews on Amazon doesn’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 will do the trick. The sole object of the game is to not draw an exploding kitten card from a 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. Play with just two people, or include up to five.

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."


An Aesthetically-Pleasing Trick-Taking Card Game

The 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. And since it’s designed for two players only, you can rest easy with the knowledge that you’re playing the best — and only — version of the game.

Glowing Review: "A fantastic two-player game that has just enough strategy for those of us who enjoy heavier games, while also being approachable and easy to learn for more casual players. The art is beautiful, the box and cards are of highly quality, and the game is a lot of fun. You can’t ask for more in such an inexpensive little package!"


An Editor-Approved Game That’s Super Fast-Paced

There’s a reason this two-to-four-player card game is a favorite among multiple Bustle editors, including Associate Commerce Editor Carina Finn, who explains that it’s become an obsession in her two-person home. “We've played it for hours on end, every day, for weeks at a time,” she reports. “The two-player format can be even faster and more competitive than the multiplayer version.” During the game, each player attempts to get rid of a 10-card pile using a few different methods, primarily by stacking the numbered cards in the center of the table in ascending order. Players earn points by having more cards in the center of the table and lose points for any cards they still have in their pile. The game ends up being a race to the finish line, with each player rushing to empty their pile first and place their cards down before their opponent can do the same.

Glowing Review: “Great card game! My wife introduced me to Dutch blitz when we got a set for our wedding. Fun, fast paced game that anyone can learn relatively easily. Great for 2 players or even groups of up to 8. We've brought this to many family gathering and it's been a big hit. We also play just the two of us and love it. The deck ships quickly and it safely packaged so it arrived in mint condition. Good quality. Worth adding to anyone game closet.”


A Game In Which You Build The Board As You Go

Create a medieval landscape with the participation of two to five players in Carcassone. Players draw and place tiles during each turn, in order to create features like roads, cities, and monasteries. There are a number of ways to score points by building features, while simultaneously being strategic about blocking your rival’s attempts to score. The game is simple enough for beginners, but more experienced players will enjoy leaning into the strategy to keep things feeling fresh.

Glowing Review: "This is such a fun board game! I gave it to my boyfriend as a Christmas present and he loved it! there are many great YouTube videos to teach you how to play. I only needed one which was pretty awesome. I absolutely loved playing it with my boyfriend. We played only two players and it was so much fun and such a great game for only two players. Sometimes I find when games can have a larger amount of players it's difficult when there's only two but this one was perfect. So happy that I bought it!”


A Completely Ridiculous Card Game That’s Quick To Play

If you dread a lengthy game of Monopoly, then We Didn't Playtest This At All was made for you. The ridiculous card game has no official rulebook; instead you just follow the truly silly directions on the cards. Each card offers a new rule that one or more players must follow, changing the direction of the game and providing even more ways to lose. According to Bustle Associate Commerce Editor Kori Perten, who personally owns this game, “This game is super low commitment because each round can end almost instantly or go on for about five minutes, but it’s so goofy you’ll probably want to keep playing over and over just to see what will happen next.” You can play the game with one partner, or bring it to a party and include up to ten 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 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: "My husband and I played this, just the two of us, and it was fantastic! Lots of laughs, we learned a lot, and it will be a hit with friends! It's a must-buy!”


A Word Game That's Reminiscent Of Scrabble But Way Faster

If you love word games, but hate the complex point system and slower pace of Scrabble, Bananagrams 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 game works with 1 to 8 participants). The action starts when a player calls "split" and each player competes to create their own personal crossword grid. Players yell "peel" when they run out of letters, at which point every player has 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. Plus, according to Bustle Commerce Editor Jen Fiegel, "Since everyone plays off their own 'boards,' it's super fast-paced so you don't get bored waiting for the other person to make a move."

Glowing Review: "It's like speed-Scrabble. Great for when your dad plays scrabble and it takes three hours for a game. Easy to play and understand but so much fun. Great for two or more people. Travels anywhere. SO MUCH FUN!!! Not many rules to learn, just create words in a crossword puzzle and use all tiles. Can rearrange puzzle as many times as you want to fit in remaining pieces. Most games take 20 or 30 min. We often wind up playing best 2 out of 3 because the excitement is so much after the first game. You won't be disappointed. We've also found that non-game people are often interested because it's quick and fun, so there's no two hour commitment.”


A Strategy Card Game That's Packed With Squirrel Puns

Winning Squirrels! might seem easy at a glance — you just have to collect five nut cards of the same color. But in reality, it’s not so 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 two 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: "My wife and I played this for the first time yesterday. It was a lot of fun and easy to learn. I'm looking forward to playing with more [people], but even with just two it was a good time. The graphics and text [are] funny and the cards are high quality."


A Nature-Inspired Game That’s Similar To Chess

Hive is, at its heart, a strategy game inspired by insects. In some ways it's very similar to chess, but reviewers report that it's much more laid back. The game's objective is to surround your opponent's queen bee entirely. Each creature-bedecked hexagonal tile, showing either soldier ants or grasshoppers, has a different way of moving, which keeps things strategic. A winner of multiple awards that’s 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: "This is a great strategy game for two players. The pieces are solid and beautifully made; we should have it many years from now. The premise is easy enough to learn, but for total beginners, it would be nice to have a small card for each player, mentioning rules on one side and how the pieces move on the other side. Hive is small enough to travel easily, but might be a bit weighty for this; there seems to be a dedicated travel version available. It's nice not to need a board; any flat surface with suffice. Great value for money, IMHO, and after some practice using the basic set, I'd love to buy some of the expansion sets.It's difficult to find new games that are good for two adults to play, and this makes a great change-up from cards, cribbage, chess, and backgammon!."


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, highly strategic, and designed for two to five players. Use the cards to build eccentric “monsters,” like a salmon in business attire who’s armed with burritos. Give your creation anything from arms to armor to prepare them for an infant onslaught. Your goal is to craft a monster who will eat more babies than your opponent’s. For a quick, but quirky game, look no further.

Glowing Review: "We love that this game can be played by two people. Build your monster army better than your opponent to defeat and collect baby points. As you play, subtle strategies emerge. This is fun and quirky.”


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, which is meant for two or more players. 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 4.8-star rating on Amazon from more than 5,000 reviews.

Glowing Review: "What a fun game! Everytime we get together with friends, we play. We take it with us on trips as it is small and easy to pack. [...] Two or more can play. Doesn't matter how many, only how long it might take with the more playing. It is fun, it is basically a no brainer so easy to play in the evening if you're tired, but want to do something fun. We've enjoyed many hours with this game and, YES, I would recommend it to anyone.”


A Civilization-Building Strategy Game

Create the more successful civilization in 7 Wonders Duel, the stellar two-player version of the popular 7 Wonders. The resource management-style game challenges each player to shape their city over the course of three rounds. Choose whether to focus on military, science, or prestige, and win by invading the other player’s capitol, monopolizing scientific progress, or creating a city that’s simply worth a lot of points. While highly strategic, the game only takes about 30 minutes, giving you a lot of payoff for relatively short gameplay.

Glowing Review: "I got this game as a Christmas gift for my boyfriend, and we couldn't stop playing once we started! Once you learn the rules, it plays fairly quickly and becomes intuitive. That said, there is a ton of replay ability since the game ‘board’ changes each time you play based on how the cards are shuffled, which cards were removed, which wonders each player selected initially (based on what was available), etc. Would highly recommends this to anyone looking for a game they can play one-on-one with someone (seems like so many games these days require at least 3+ or even 4+ players).”

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