The 15 Best 2-Player Board Games

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By Braelyn Wood and The Commerce Team
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: "Super fun!! My boyfriend and I love this game already. If you’ve played classic Code Names this is very similar in that you are trying to have your partner guess all the words before you are out of turns. Where it differs is that, since there are only two of you, you are playing against the game, rather than against each other, so it’s a very interesting game in that way. It’s a fun bonding game for couples, and the lack of competition makes it a great game for couples who are too competitive against each other - haha ! There is a game mode for more than two players but since it’s just us two in the house we haven’t explored that yet. Overall, great purchase, very fun game!"


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: "In my opinion it is the best game designed for two players. Basic set comes with expansions so the replay value is very high. It is complex but once you get the hang of it you'll be hooked. Even though is a card game, it doesn't feel like it. [...] I cannot believe that such as amazing game is so cheap. This game beats most of the most expensive games out there. This game should be on any serious gamer collection."


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: "Just buy it. A great deckbuilder for 2 players that's light enough to appeal to almost everyone, while having enough strategic depth to engage experienced board game players. With quick playtime and easy to pick up rules, it makes for a great travel game.”


A Cult-Favorite Card Game That Started On Kickstarter

If over 48,000 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: "Really fun game for two or more players. Strategy was easy for him to follow, cards made us laugh. Instructions were quick to learn. Will make a great travel game."


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: "This is an absolutely delightful two-person, trick-taking game. I love other trick-taking games like Pinochle and Spades, but I can never find enough players, but with The Fox in the Forest, I only need one other player. The game looks simple on the surface, but the cards with special powers make it complex and strategic. It took me about ten minutes to learn, yet it will provide hours of enjoyment. I want to buy more copies and give them out as gifts to my friends."


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: “SO MUCH FUN!! I'm always looking fun two player games as my husband and I like to play games a lot. This is a fantastic two player game! We have so much fun, its one of my top favorites now. We recently played with 4 players and it was also very fun; got pretty intense with all the cards going around and the speed picked up but it was a blast. So glad I came across this one!”


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: "I believe board gamers call games like Carcassonne a ‘gateway game’ because it is so much fun that even non-gamers will enjoy it. For me, that's simply the distinction of a really well-designed game — which is what Carcassonne is. The mechanics are super simple but offer a variety of strategic play. Moreover, it's fast-paced so that no one is bored waiting for their turn and the game wraps in roughly 30 minutes. Also, it's worth noting that the game is terrific fun with two player just as much as it is with multiple players. If you're careful about how you spend your board game budget, this is a safe bet.”


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 is a hilarious game [...] It's quick so it's great when you have just a short bit of downtime, but it also has so many variations depending on the card combinations that you can play for hours if you want. In my experience it appeals to both people who prefer non-competitive types of games as well as those with a competitive streak."


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: "Great for two players. Nice balance of luck and skill. The riddles are really fun but vary in difficulty tremendously."


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: "By far our favorite game. There's not a lot of board games and strategy games that we enjoy with just us (two people). [...] Bananagrams offers a fun, quick paced game that we both enjoy and both want to kill eachother over. Not only that, but it's easy enough to teach friends and guests and light hearted enough to play and not have to commit a whole evening."


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: "This is a ton of fun! It is easy to learn, but with enough variety that no two games are alike!"


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: "HIVE is simply one of the best 2-player games that I own. The game usually plays in ~10-15 minutes and it takes about 5 minutes to fully teach it to a friend. The best way I can describe hive is like this: It's like a game of chess where the board is created by your pieces, and some pieces can be placed on top of other pieces. The objective is to completely surround the other player's queen bee, and there are many ways to go about this. Despite the game looking like its made for kids, your strategy can get as complicated as you want it to (like chess). I frequently find myself thinking 5-6 turns in advance. The other thing that's great about this game are the pieces. They are VERY solid, have great detail, and are very easy to clean. This is my go-to game to bring on a picnic or to a beer garden for some light gaming (it also comes with a nice canvas bag). HIGHLY recommend it."


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: "A little complicated the first time you play it, but once you understand the rules, it's simple enough to follow, and challenging enough to be fun. Great game for just two people, we've also had a great time playing it with a group of four. The cards are hilarious, and it's not uncommon to hear giggling after people draw and read what they get. Highly recommend!”


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 4,000 reviews.

Glowing Review: "A great game for almost all ages, easy to learn, doesn't take much space to play, easily transportable (just need the dice), very affordable. Can be played with just two people or more. Great for a relaxing evening.”


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.