I’ve worked remotely for the past four years. First, at BeerMenus, a remote-only company. And now, doing Ruby on Rails and iOS contract work for a variety of companies. Three years ago my wife, Adrienne, and I decided to leave NYC and become digital nomads. In that time we’ve played a lot, and I mean a lot, of board games together.
Board games that are great for two players are hard to come by. A lot of games play best with three, four, or more players and have a tough time scaling down to two.
Social distancing because of Corona virus has left a lot of duos looking for new ways to pass the time. What better way to stimulate your mind, relax, and enjoy with a few hours of board games!
Last updated on March 17, 2020 - Added most recommended games.
Here’s my list of board games that are great for two players. I’m positive you will find something you will like. Even if the last time you played a board game was Monopoly on your parent’s kitchen table.
FYI: These are Amazon affiliate links. But if you can, try and support your local game store if they are still open!
Deck-builders are games that start you off with a small, boring set of cards. As the game progresses you buy more powerful and exciting cards to add to your deck. These games are fun because you have to adapt your strategy based on what cards are available every game.
Start with a meager, boring deck and enhance it with swords, magic spells, orcs, and even dragons. It’s very easy to pick up with only a few simple rules. Most cards have their own “special” ability that keeps the games interesting. All without adding unnecessary complexity.
Hero Realms takes less than 20 minutes to play, making it great for a quick break. Adrienne and I love to go all in on one “faction,” or color. I love how green limits your opponent’s options and she opts for the healing strategy of yellow.
I spent last weekend catching up with my closest friends. We played a few games of Hero Realms and before they made it home three couples had bought it. Just saying.
Another deck builder with a great theme and co-operative. Here, you aren’t playing against your opponent but with them. You either both win… or the game wins.
Harry Potter fans will love this on theme alone but even muggles will enjoy the strategy and depth. It takes you through seven years to represent your time at Hogwarts. Each year you get more powerful and gain special abilities in your quest to fight off the evil of He Who Shall Not Be Named.
The game has the best theme of this list and a great difficulty curve. Each year feels just harder than the last. It took Adrienne and me almost five tried to beat year six!
These games are played with a standard or custom deck of playing cards. Most card games don't work well with two players so I’m especially excited about these two that break that mold!
This variation on Rummy has you racing to score 500 points first. Make matching pairs or straights to score points. Your opponent can then play off of your sets, adding another level of interaction.
As a bonus, this can be played with any regular deck of cards! You already have one lying around your house. We play by these rules.
Adrienne and I love playing hearts with her family. When they taught me I lost my first 20 games. Not just “didn’t win,” but straight up came in last place. I’m happy to say I can now solidly take third. (Hearts is for four players.)
Hearts with two players doesn’t exist but The Fox in the Forest is as close as you can get. You play 13 tricks against your opponent trying to win a specific number. Win too few and you don’t score enough points. But win too many and you “get greedy” and don’t score any points at all!
To keep things interesting half the cards have special abilities. For example, one card swaps out the trump suit and another lets you draw an extra card for your turn.
This category of games might look more advanced or complicated at first glance. The idea here is to place a tile onto the board so the art matches around the edges. Think dominos but with four sides instead of two and beautiful illustrations.
The OG game for Adrienne and me; we’ve been playing this one for over five years!
Draw and place a tile to build out a landscape of cities, roads, cathedrals, rivers, and more. After your turn, place your (adorably named) “meeple" on your tile to claim it and score points.
This game shines in its simplicity. Those are pretty much the only rules but the interactions and strategies go deep. Should I continue building my super-city? Or should I block Adrienne’s road from taking over?
Also, there are 10 expansions available for Carcassonne. If you ever get bored with the base game then pick one up to add a new dimension! We are currently playing with the first three: Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, and The Princess & The Dragon.
This plays like Carcassonne but with more scoring opportunities, more pieces, and more complex turns. Closing landscapes gives you tokens based on how many pieces you have on that area. For example, adding the final piece to a lake might net you four fish tokens.
At the end of the game you exchange these tokens for points at different exchange rates. The exciting part is that your rates are kept hidden from other players. This adds a layer of complexity as you race for different types of tokens.
What two-player board game list would be complete without Scrabble! If you’re into words and letters you can’t go wrong with this classic.
My advice: memorize the two-letter word list as soon as possible. These help you hook off of existing words to grow your score even faster.
What games have you been playing that are great for two players? Did I miss anything? Let me know by responding to this tweet!
Below was added on March 17, 2020.
I've received a ton of feedback on this list! Thank you to everyone that submitted a recommendation.
Here are fifteen games that were recommended the most, in alphabetical order. I haven't played all of them but thought they could be fun to include. Enjoy!