If you’re like me, it can be difficult to find two-player board games. Unless you’re deep into the board game scene, showing up to your local Target or Walmart to find a new option for game night is probably your first choice. Maybe you’ll pick up a few games that look fun, only to flip it over and discover it’s made for 3-4 players. Where are all the two-player games?
I think two-player games are a great way to connect with your partner or have a fun night with a friend. In today’s media-centric world, it’s hard to find an activity that doesn’t require a TV, phone, or lots of money. Board games are the perfect solution- they can be played time and time again, requiring little investment and no screen!
Today we’re going to dive into what makes a good two-player game, how to find one, and what my top picks are. By the end of this article, you’ll be a pro at finding two-player games and have enough options to last you the next year.
Overall Best Up Front
There are a lot of great two-player games out there, but my all-time favorite is 7 Wonder Duel. It’s the perfect blend of strategy with a massive amount of replayability, which makes it my top pick. Two honorable mentions include Hive for those who like to travel and want a quick game and Villainous for those who want to be able to add more players if necessary!
Criteria for a Good Two-Player Board Game
First, let’s ask ourselves what characteristics a two-player board game might have that a group game wouldn’t. What makes them different?
Made Specifically for Two Players
In my opinion, the best two-player board games are the ones that are specifically made for two players. If you pick up a game and it says 2-6 players, chances are the game is a lot more fun with more people, but it can be played with two players. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fun with two players. There are exceptions to this rule, but in general, find a game that’s made for two players!
Requires Strategy, Doesn’t Contain Party Elements
The best two-player board games are also ones that usually require a bit of strategy. I’d recommend looking away from “party games,” because these are usually suited for larger crowds. Games such as Cards Against Humanity, charades, or any type of truth/dare spin-off are best played with more people. Look for games that have a more specific ruleset, and a physical game board and pieces.
One final recommendation is to look for games that aren’t based on films or tv shows. For the most part, these types of games are blatant cash grabs attempting to capitalize on the success of the show. Again, there are a few notable acceptions to this rule, such as Disney’s Villainous, but for the most part, this rule holds.
Now let’s dive into how to find the best two-player board games!
How to Find the Best Two-Player Board Games
Now that you have an idea about what makes the best two-player board games, let’s look at how to physically find one!
My first choice is always to go online and order one. It’s simply the most convenient, and I can look at reviews to see which games hold up the best. I can also compare and contrast games in multiple tabs, and be able to take my time with a decision. Although convenient, the only catch is that I might have to wait a few days to play the game! Thus I like to order on weekdays, so it’ll be in by the weekend.
My next choice is to go to my local board game store. Almost every city has one, and they’re usually either tucked away in a small, out-of-the-way strip mall or the actual mall. These stores are packed with every board game you can imagine, including niche games you only hear about online. To top it off, the sales clerks usually are board game geeks themselves and can give you great advice.
The catch with these stores is that the price is usually higher than online because it’s a small mom-and-pop business, and their hours are often a little wacky. I like to call and make sure they’re open, and perhaps get a few product recommendations to compare before heading in. However, these places are a great way to make friends, as they usually host board game nights where you can meet fellow geeks!
If I’m in a rush to pick up a game, perhaps for a special occasion or date, my last choice will be to go to a retail store to pick one up. Stores such as Walmart, Target, or KMart usually have a fairly large selection of games. If the game is fairly popular, there’s a much higher chance they’ll have it than any niche selections.
The catch is that these stores usually have games that are geared towards groups, which means you’ll have to look extra hard for a two-player game. My best advice is to look for games that are medium/smaller size, as these are usually geared for fewer players. The convenience factor is key in these places!
The Best Two-Player Board Games
Now that you understand what makes a good two-player game and how to find one, let’s dive into my top recommendations for two-player games!
Now obviously there are hundreds (if not thousands) of two-player games out there, so this list is by no means exhaustive. But after playing dozens and dozens of games over the years with my partner, this list features the games we come back to play the most.
The first game I’d like to showcase is one of my favorites. It’s extremely easy to learn, but difficult to master. The point of the game is to surround your opponent’s “queen bee” piece with your pieces, which are all different bugs. The catch is that each bug piece can move in its way, so you have to learn how to use different bugs for different moves. The result ends up being a highly addictive game that requires a decent amount of strategy to win.
One bonus for me is that the pieces are also very small, which means it makes for a great travel game. Hive also features a few expansion packs, where you can incorporate more bugs with new moves into your game.
7 Wonders: Duel
The second game I’d like to discuss is 7 Wonders: Duel. This is one of those games that’s fairly complex to learn, but once you know it, you’ll be coming back time and time again. The point of the game is to evolve your civilization faster than your opponents, and then take them down through one of three ways.
Each pathway to victory is completely different and requires entirely different strategies to win- however they all utilize the 7 wonders of the world in beautifully illustrated cards. Each game takes about 30 minutes to play, so you can easily do the best two out of three sessions if you want quick revenge!
I’d recommend setting aside about an hour to learn how to play this game, as the instruction booklet is fairly large and complex. Trust me when I say it is highly worth it though, you’ll love the depth that goes into this game!
Are you an avid outdoors person, looking for a way to translate your love for the National Parks into a board game? Then perhaps Parks is the game for you! Featuring some of the best hand-made art I’ve ever seen in a board game, Parks features all the National Parks, interpreted by over 35 different artists.
Parks is a light strategy game that involves going on a hike and collecting “memories” in a race against your opponent. As you travel through the different seasons, surprises await you around every corner.
My favorite part is that by purchasing the game, you’re also supporting the National Park System as a portion of the proceeds is donated!
Villainous is a game that shouldn’t be as entertaining as it is. Being made by Disney AND being built for multiple players, you’re probably wondering why I’m suggesting it. However, the catch with this game is that it’s better with fewer players because it takes so ridiculously long if you have multiple people playing.
The point of the game is to pick a Disney villain, then use them to take down your opponent’s villain. Each villain has a very specific path to winning, which involves steps from the film they were featured in! The base game set has six different villains, and playing with each one feels like an entirely different game. My goal since I got the game has been to win with all 6 different villains, and I’m currently stuck on the last one.
With two people, the games take about an hour to play through. However, if you feel inclined to add more players, it can easily get into the two-hour-long territory which can be a major turn-off for some players. The great thing about this game is that it currently features multiple add ons, so you can try to win with new characters if you get bored!
Remember how I said earlier that party games don’t usually make great two-player games? Well, think again. Codenames: Duet is the exception to this rule, as this party game was specifically designed for two players. The point of the game is to contact 15 agents while avoiding your enemy’s assassins, through the use of word associations. I love this game because it forces you to be witty!
The game is also extremely cheap, and usually available at mainstream retailers. If you’re looking for a quick and fun game to kill 15-20 minutes, this is your choice!
I couldn’t complete this guide without stating one of the most classic board games of all time- chess. There’s a reason this game has stood the test of time, and if you haven’t taken the time to get into it, what better time than now?
If the game feels a bit “stuffy” at first glance, you can always keep it fun by getting a specific board game set. Perhaps one that’s relevant to your favorite film/tv show, or one that fits your aesthetic. From there I’d recommend learning by playing with the basic rules first, to simply getting a feel for the game. Play with someone who’s at the same level as you, and is interested in learning just like you.
Then you can slowly incorporate new strategies into your gameplay and level up your skill with that person! From there I’d branch out to play new players, once you feel that you have a base level of skill.
The fun thing about chess is that there’s always someone better than you, so you can keep learning and level up!
Since we’re on the topic of classic board games, I want to share another option that’s slightly different for you. It’s called Monopoly Deal, and it’s an edited version of the traditional board game, Monopoly.
The difference is that this game only features cards, and is much quicker than the full game. Some rounds even last less than 15 minutes! If you know how to play Monopoly, you’ll find that this game is easy to pick up and fairly similar in strategy- the object is to bankrupt your player and win by collecting three full property sets!
This is another game that can be adapted to play with more people, and it’s easy to deal someone into a new round if you have friends coming and going! I also enjoy this game for airplanes, because it’s simply a deck of cards that requires little space.
If you’re looking for a strategy game that also requires a little bit of luck, look no further than Jaipur! This is a great game if you’re looking for something that’s got an interesting theme. The point of the game is to become Maharaja’s personal trader by picking up more rupees than their opponent!
I like the middle eastern theme of this game, and the artwork is thoughtful and drawn out. The game lasts about 30 minutes, so it’s a nice game you can play 2-3 rounds in before switching it up. My favorite thing about this game is that the instructions are extremely easy to understand, so you’ll be up and playing before no time!
I’ve always grown up playing Tetris, so the moment I found out about Patchwork I picked it up right away. The point of the game is to compete against your opponent in knitting a giant quilt on the board, in a race against time.
The game forces you to think fast and dimensionally, whole at the same time involving puzzle-solving skills. Check it out if you’re looking for something unique- it’s easy to learn but difficult to master!
I had to include at least one more classic game in this lineup, or I wouldn’t be doing my job correctly. Scrabble is an instant classic that makes you smarter the longer you play it. Players compete to build out new, interconnecting words while trying to rack up the highest point score.
Every time I play Scrabble I learn new words to use and inadvertently learn their definition as I challenge my opponents in their word choices. It’s a great game to play if you’re a reader or an aspiring writer, as you’ll probably take advantage!
This game comes in all sorts of variations, including a travel pack, which is my favorite for airplanes or road trips. This travel version ensures all the pieces “lock” into place, to ensure your game stays connected!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Are there board games made for two players?
Answer: Yes! There’s an entire category of games in the board game world that are specifically built for two players. They usually involve certain strategies and pieces that are geared towards just two people, and are incredibly fun! They also usually fall into a niche category though, and are easier found online or inboard game stores!
Question: What are examples of classic two-player board games?
Answer: Some classic two-player board games include chess, checkers, scrabble, mancala, and battleship. There’s a reason these games are a classic, as they have a high replay value and are generally easy to learn!
Question: Are two-player board games less expensive?
Answer: In general, yes. Two-player board games usually cost less because they have fewer parts and pieces. However, some two-players games can be fairly extensive and can cost even more than multiple-player games!
Question: Who should I play a two-player game with?
Answer: Anyone that you know, or even don’t know! If you don’t have anyone to play a two-player board game with, I suggest going to your local board game store and seeing if they host board game nights. It can be a great way to meet other like-minded players! Two-player board games also make a great date night, or can be a fun night with a friend!
Overall Best Two-Player Board Game
After sifting through all these games, you’re probably wondering by now what my top pick is. Although that’s a difficult question, the game I keep coming back to is 7 Wonders: Duel. Each game feels like an entirely different experience, and I can’t help but smile as I plan my attack out on my opponent.
The cards are illustrated beautifully, the gameplay is diverse enough that I never get bored, and my partner and I have a blast playing it every time! If you’re looking for an investment game that will keep you entertained for countless nights ahead, I couldn’t recommend 7 Wonders: Duel more!
Looking for more interesting readings: