Playing board games with a lot of people is fun, but sometimes you will need a good two-player board game. Maybe you are bored and want to play a game with your roommate or spend some quality time board gaming with your significant other. Some of the best board games either can’t be played with just two players or aren't as fun with only two players. Don’t worry; there are some excellent 2-player board games, and this article is here to help you find them.
Competitive games for 2 players
Lots of us like to compete with our friends and partners. Board games are a good way to show off our skills and compete in a friendly way. Competitive 2-player board games come in all genres imaginable, so you will easily find a game that fits your taste. For this article, I selected a few games that I believe most people would enjoy. If you already played all games on this list, browse the other games in our board game store. There are many similar games to the one on the list.
Unmatched is a series of asymmetrical miniature fighting games. Players use miniatures of heroes from various universes to fight each other in a 20-40 min game. Depending on the set you buy, you will play with King Arthur, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Robin Hood, Bigfoot, and many other heroes and mythical creatures.
Each hero comes with a unique deck of cards that determines the fighting style of the hero. Combat relies on tactical skills instead of luck, making every victory feel deserved. When you get used to certain matchups, you can mix and match heroes from any set to keep the game fresh.
If you are interested in the series but you don’t know which set to get first, Unmatched: Battle of Legends, Volume One is an excellent choice. This set features four heroes. King Arthur, the man blessed by the Lady of the Lake, focuses on high melee attack power. His survival is boosted by the long-range magical support of his trusted ally, wizard Merlin. The second contender in this matchup is monstrous Medusa. Her playstyle simulates her ability to turn those who gaze into her eyes into stone - it is all about careful positioning and ranged attacks. From the middle east, we have Simbad the Sailor. His seafaring adventures are well represented through Voyage cards that make him grow more powerful as the game progresses. The most versatile character in this set is Alice. It seems that Alice was hardened by her adventures in Wonderland because she is more than ready to face mythical monsters and heroes. Her playstyle is unpredictable; it will depend on your starting hand which reflects the erratic nature of Wonderland.
Unmatched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer features four heroes from the popular TV show. Buffy’s flexible movement and strong melee techniques reflect her unnatural strength, incredible speed, and reflexes from the TV show. For strategic players, there is Buffy’s lover and former enemy, the romantic poet Spike. He has a shadow token mechanic that gives additional benefits to many cards in his deck. Powerful witch Willow manipulates the deck and fights using magic. When Willow is dealt damage, she turns into Dark Willow, which is a nice homage to her dabbling with the dark forces in the TV show. Once a brutal murderer, Angel excels in brawl tactics on his path to redemption. He is lacking in defense cards, but that is offset by his card draw ability.
Unmatched: Robin Hood vs. Bigfoot is a set that features only 2 characters, so it is best to get it as an expansion set. Robin Hood, true to his legendary endeavors from folklore, is a positioning and stealth character. He has low health and ranged attacks, so the best strategy for playing him is the hit and run strategy. It looks like Robin Hood has found what many have been looking for; in this unusual matchup, he faces the mystical beast - Bigfoot. Bigfoot is mighty yet elusive. Bigfoot’s highlights in this game are his ability to move through enemy fighters and cards that cancel the opponent’s card effects.
Jaipur is an excellent choice for those who enjoy economic board games with the element of luck. In Jaipur, two players take the roles of the two most powerful traders in the city. The game is played in three rounds. It takes around 30 minutes to finish the game. The goal of the round is to have the most rupees at the end of the round, which earns the player a Seal of Excellence. The player who wins two out of three rounds wins the game.
Patchwork is a tile-placement abstract strategy board game great for couples. Playing Patchwork feels like playing competitive 3D Tetris. Patchwork is ranked as the 5th best abstract game on Board Game Geek, so players who like abstract games will love this one.
The game is played on a 9x9 board where players place tiles representing cloth and compete in making the biggest quilt. At the beginning of the game, tiles are randomly placed around the board. On each turn, a player can buy one of three tiles closest to their pawn. Purchasing tiles costs time and buttons. The game ends when both players reach the end on the pawn board. This usually takes 15-30 minutes. The player that scored the most points wins the game.
If you enjoyed Patchwork and you are looking for a similar game, you should check out Azul: Stained Glass of Sintra. It is also an excellent tile placement abstract strategy board game.
7 Wonders Duel
Original 7 Wonders is a great game, but it doesn’t shine in a 2-player game. Luckily the designers of the gamer recognized that problem and released 7 Wonders Duel in 2015. 7 Wonders Duel has a lot in common with the original title. Both games are brilliant strategy board games where players develop their civilizations and build wonders.
7 Wonders Duel is a card drafting resource management game. There are three ways in which players can win the game. One is by military victory. Every time a player acquires a military card, they move the military marker closer to the opponent’s capital. When one player reaches the capital, they win the game. Another option is to focus on science. A player that acquires any six of seven different scientific symbols wins the game. The third option happens if neither player manages to secure scientific or military victory by the end of the game. In that situation, the player with the most points wins the game.
7 Wonders Duel: Agora expansion adds the Senate board to the game. A victory through the Senate is a new victory condition introduced in this expansion. Players obtain Senate chambers by taking senator cards. Players win the game if they control the majority of the chambers.
Cooperative 2 Player Board Games
Not everyone enjoys competing with their friends. Some of us prefer board games where we have to work together with friends to win the game. A Cooperative board can be just as tense as competitive games; the only difference is that in cooperative games, players are on the same side playing against the game.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective game series
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is an old classic originally published in 1981. The game was reprinted several times over the years. The latest set was released in 2020. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a deduction board game where players try to solve various mysterious cases.
Players start by reading the introduction to a case. Once the introduction is over, they have to decide where to look for clues and check the booklet to see what clues they found on the location. When players feel they have solved the case, they answer the questions from the quiz book. The game contains ten cases of varying difficulty, and each of the cases should take around 90 minutes to solve.
Arkham Horror is an adventure board game set in H. P. Lovecraft’s horror setting. This is a cooperative game where players take the roles of investigators who explore occult mysteries in Arkham city and fight eldritch horrors. This is a great board game for longer sessions as it takes 2-3 hours for one playthrough. Arkham Horror is a good choice for people who often play 2-player games but want to have an option to occasionally play the game with more players.
Each investigator has unique abilities and a special set of items. Combining different investigators or playing the same ones in different ways makes the game enjoyable even after you have played it over 20 times. Another cool element in the game is randomness. If you get unlucky on the dice, things can quickly spiral out of control. The good thing is that there is no situation that you can’t overcome by efficient planning and cooperation between the players.
Aeons End is a cooperative fantasy deck builder where players protect the underground city of Gravehold from The Nameless. There are four different Nameless who ironically have names written on the card. They all come with a specialized deck of cards. The cards in the deck determine their actions during their turn. Each player plays a unique champion that comes with his specialized deck of cards, abilities, and starting hand.
The variable turn order helps keep this game tense at all moments. Players and The Nameless take turns based on the cards drawn from the top of the turn order deck. This means that sometimes The Nameless can act multiple times in a row before players get a chance to respond. In its essence, the game is a race against time. Both The Nameless and the city have hit points. The goal of the players is to reduce The Nameless to 0 hit points before The Nameless reduces the city to 0 hit points.
The game can be expanded with expansions. Expansions feature new breach mages, nemeses, and new gems, relics, minions, and spells. Good starting expansions for the game are Aeon’s End: The Nameless and Aeon’s End: Shattered Dreams.
Another way to have a quality 2-player experience with games is by playing card games. Most of those are designed as two-player games, so I have to mention them in this article. There are two types of card games I recommend for the best 2-player game night experience; Trading Card Games and Living Card Games.
Trading Card Games are card games where you collect your cards from randomized boosters and build decks you will play with. The notable difference between TCGs and Living Card Games is that LCGs don’t come in randomized packs. They are released in sets, and every pack in a set has the same cards as other packs.
Magic the Gathering
Magic: the Gathering is by far the most popular TCG ever created. It was released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast and continues to grow in popularity. MTG is a game where creativity in building a deck and proficiency in playing the game have equal parts in winning the game. After years of playing Magic: The Gathering, I have a feeling that I learn more about a person if I play a few games of Magic with them instead of just talking with them.
Over time, various MTG formats evolved. Each MTG format has different rules or restrictions for deckbuilding. Modern and Pauper are the best competitive formats. EDH is the most popular casual format and a great choice for everyone considering a 4-player Magic: The Gathering game. If you are a beginner, you shouldn't concern yourself with the format. The best way to get into the game is to purchase MtG Arena Start Kit. The kit comes with two prebuilt decks designed to be played against each other. Once you get the feeling of the game and see what parts of the game you enjoy the most, you can learn more about formats and focus on the one you find the most interesting.
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is the first cooperative LCG designed and is still one of the most popular LCGs. This is an excellent game for everyone, but the fans of LOTR will enjoy it because the game feels true to the LOTR theme. This game is great for couples because you can have fun while playing the game and while constructing decks together.
Each player has three heroes from the LOTR lore at their disposal. The heroes have two purposes in the game; they generate resources required to play cards, and they go on quests. Players win the game by completing all the quests. Each failed quest increases the threat number. If the threat number ever reaches 50, you lose the game. This game is easy to learn but hard to master, so if you are looking for an experience that is easy to get into, this game is for you.
If you already played The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game and you are looking for another great 2-player cooperative LCG, you should check out Arkham Horror: The Card Game. Arkham Horror is a campaign LCG set in H. P. Lovecraft’s horror setting. Like the LOTR LCG, it is also a very thematic game with great mechanics.
Author - Ante Radoš