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 the can get boring. Luckily, thanks to the recent renaissance in the analog game industry — which was brought about by cult-favorite games like Cards Against Humanity — the competition in this category has finally started heating up.
Whether you're looking for a game for date night or a way to bond with your new roommate, there are 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, will entertain you for years, and although they 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.
1. A Word Game That's Reminiscent Of Scrabble But Way Faster
If you love word games, but hate the complex points system and slow 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 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."
Glowing Review: "This game looks so boring on the outside, but it’s actually really fun and addicting! If you enjoyed Words with Friends, you’ll love this one! Also seems like it would be great for traveling — love the convenient banana bag. Super cute." — The Ozark Poppy
2. A Cult-Favorite Card Game That's One Of The Most-Backed Projects In Kickstarter History
Exploding Kittens Card Game
If over 7,000 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.
Glowing Review: "This has become one of our favorite games! Hilarious and fun to play. We even went ahead and bought the expansion!" — Crystal Shepherd
3. A Word Deduction Game That Makes You Work Together With Your Partner
Czech Games, Codenames: Duet
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: "This is a great two-player game that is not easy to win! My husband and I play this regularly and the replayability is very high with not only the amount of cards, but the different configurations. You can even use card sets from other Codenames games." — Ashley Stephens
4. A Card Game That Can Be Played Six Different Ways (And Counting)
Local No. 12, The Metagame
If you're worried about not getting your money's worth, check out this card game that can be played six different ways (and counting). Metagame includes over 200 illustrated culture cards and 100 thought-provoking cards that can be used in a variety of games, with as few as two players or up to 33 people. Some variations require skill and speed, while other gameplay is crafted to be silly. Just choose the type of game that piques your interest and be sure to keep an eye on their website as Metagame continues to release new ways to play.
Glowing Review: "[...] I also really like the way the deck is presented as a "Game Operating System", with multiple game variants for numbers of players ranging from 2 to 5 to upwards of 30. It's great how the designers encourage people to modify them and create their own variants as well." — shd
5. A Trivia Game That Not Only Tests Your Knowledge But Also Challenges Your Problem-Solving Abilities
Wit's End Board Game
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.
Glowing Review: "Great game. Easy to play and the rules explain themselves. Got this for my gf for Christmas so we can have more stuff to do when we are stuck at home. Just the two of us played the other day and she loved it. Mostly because she won, but also because its just a fun game full of interesting facts and challenging questions. There are soooo many cards and as far as I know its up to date on trivia to at least 2011." — Guillermo
6. A Fast-Paced Strategy Card Game That's Packed With Squirrel Puns
da Vinci's Room, Squirrels!
Winning Squirrels! 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.
Glowing Review: "Lots of fun for 2 players. Have the ability to customize the rules of the game which makes it interesting and fun. Will continue to play!" — Christin520
7. A Creative And Outlandish Game In Which You Build Baby-Eating Monsters
Bears Vs Babies
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.
Glowing Review: "I bought this game because my wife and I were looking for something new to play. This game is great for 2-5 people and is fairly easy to pick up. Like anything Oatmeal related, the illustrations are humorous and well done." — Zach S.
8. A Super-Fast-Paced Card Game That Can Be Played In Under Five Minutes
Asmadi Games, We Didn't Playtest This At All
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 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.
Glowing Review: "This game is SUPER FUN to play with friends and family! As stated on the box, game play is pretty short (each game will only be a couple of minutes) but there is a huge amount of replay-ability designed into the game. So far I've been able to get at least a good 1 hour play session with just 2 players and with a few more people you could definitely play for a couple hours without getting bored." — Mad
9. 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 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.
Glowing Review: "Fun game for two or for a group. Easy to learn and addictive to play." — Judy in Pacific NW
10. A Trading Game Specifically Designed For Two People And Repeat Play
Unlike most of the games on this list, this game is optimized exclusively to be played by only two people. 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 buy, sell, and trade merchandise, with the strategy aspect coming down to knowing when to hoard and when to sell your goods. It's fast-paced but requires forward thinking to win.
Glowing Review: "A fun 2-player with surprisingly deep mechanics. Yes, there is luck involved, but it is intelligently balanced with strategy. [...] I highly recommend this game. It will suit those of you who frequently play the same person at 2 player games." —Shaners
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