The beauty with two-player board games is that they mitigate most of the concerns associated with playing board games with a group. There are no issues around plotting or balancing, as most of the time, both players start their game on the same foot. It probably represents the purest form of board gaming, where similar to chess – there is you, your opponent and the board.
Just like solo games, board games for two players have recently picked up in popularity. They have become more accessible and streamlined appealing to wider audiences. Alternatively, if you are a skilled player, there are also amazingly deep and more complex board games avaliable.
In our review, we assess board game complexity, style, themes and much more in our quest for finding the best two player board games of 2018 in each category.
With dozens of new board games coming out every month, you will find that the vast majority of them support a two-player mode. But you don’t want the board games that would just work with two players, do you? You want to know the best 2 player board games that have either been specifically designed for two players or tailored for two player games.
Best 2 Player Board Games – Quick Comparison
The below table summarizes the main differences between board games we have reviewed. It provides a quick snapshot of the essential things to consider choosing the best two player board game for you and your gaming partner or a spouse.
|Star Wars: Rebellion||Star Wars||14+||Hard||2-4||180-240 Min|
|7 Wonders Duel||Civilization||10+||Easy||2||30 Min|
|Twilight Struggle||Cold War||13+||Hard||2||120-180 Min|
The Card Game
|Patchwork||Production||8+||Very Easy||2||15-30 Min|
|Codenames Duet||Secret Agents||11+||Very Easy||2||15-30 Min|
|Android: Netrunner||Cyberpunk||14+||Medium||2||45 Min|
|Memoir ’44||2nd World War||8+||Easy||2-8||30-60 Min|
Unlike many other war games where you control a brave hero, Star Wars: Rebellion puts you in charge of the whole war. You need to pick the side as your arsenal, strategy and win conditions are asymmetrical.
If you decide to side with the Galactic Empire, you get to control Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, TIE fighters, and even the Death Star itself!
The win the game you need to find the Rebel base and destroy it.
Since the rebels are drastically outnumbered and outpowered by the Empire, the strategy is to avoid confrontation. Instead, you need to rally planets and build alliances with others. Moreover, you need to try and sabotage the Empire every time there is a chance.
To win the game, it is imperative for rebels to get support from other galaxy citizens. Eventually, you need to gain enough critical mass to conclude a full-scale galaxy revolt.
As you would have expected, the game is exceptionally thematic. Depending on which side you play for, the emotions experienced are very different, in fact, asymmetrical again. Playing for the Empire feels epic since you have the mighty galactic army at your disposal. Conversely, playing for Rebels feels impossible to win. However, by rallying planets and putting your negotiation skills to the test – it always gives you a sense of hope, even when the lookout is pretty grim.
Star Wars: Rebellion is genuinely grandiose, in all regards. You get to feel it first by holding a massive and heavy box in your hands. It comes with 150 miniatures, two game boards, decks of cards and two rulebooks (download here and here). The core rules are not complex, but the number of fine-print rules forces you to refer to the rulebooks frequently. It was only the third time around when we felt comfortable enough to play the game without checking the rules for special conditions. It is not a filler game either, as some games took us up to 4 hours to finish.
Despite the length, Star Wars: Rebellion nails the theme and offers an amazingly tactical and heroic experience. It puts it among the best
|The game is a must buy for any Star Wars fan who is ready to commit to longer playing sessions and does not mind the above-average complexity that comes with the game. If that is you, the Star Wars: Rebellion will reward you with immersive, intense, thematic and profound experience that would leave you thinking and talking about it for days after.|
|Intense, immersive and highly thematic two player experience|
|Over 150 miniatures!|
|Great component quality|
|Over 10 board gaming awards and nominations|
|Can take up to 4 hours to play|
|Not for casual gamers|
Amongst the crazy hype and accolades, the original game has also received a fair share of criticism for not being two-player friendly. Five years down the track – voila, 7 Wonders Duel came out.
Similar to the original game the players lead a civilization by constructing buildings and wonders.
You get to draft the cards that represent either economic, scientific, military or cultural advancement.
The notable and very welcome change compared to the original game is three ways to win the game:
- Scientific – as soon as the player manages to collect six different scientific symbols
- Military – as soon as the conflict pawn on the board enters the opponent’s capital
- Civilian – by accumulating the most victory points when the game ends
The game goes for three ages where each age starts with 20 age-specific cards setup in a pyramid-like fashion. Cards are drafted in a round robin fashion. The novelty with the drafting process is that you can only pick the cards that have no other cards on top of them.
On their turns, players can choose to erect a building by buying the card from the pyramid, build a wonder or discard cards to get money. Once the 20 cards from the pyramid have been played or discarded, the age ends, and the new age starts.
Overall, the 7 Wonders Duel feels more balanced and streamlined than its older brother. The game plays fast with almost no downtime between the player turns.
|7 Wonders Duel is a balanced, fast-paced and relatively tense game that lives up to the stellar reputation of the original game. Additional ways to win the game using military or scientific advancement add variety, tension and make the game less predictable. The gameplay feels exceptionally dynamic, fun and competitive, making it one of the best board games for two people, especially if that second person is your spouse!|
|Instant win conditions build tension|
|Easy and quick to play|
|Extremely fun and competitive|
|Frequent players may require expansions|
This achievement on its own says everything as no other board game has ever held the crown for so long.
The game was designed exclusively as a two-player Cold War competition based on historical facts and events that represent an ideological deathmatch between the USA and the Soviet Union.
Each player takes on a role of the respective superpower leader fighting for the political influence and domination of the world.
Looking at the board may not spark your interest at first as it has a functional but not overly flashy design.
In essence, the board represents a map of the world with countries and their ‘stability’ ratings. The number stands for the difficulty of influencing the country’s allegiance to the USA or the USSR. All of which, makes Twilight Struggle an area control game at heart.
The objective of the game is to have more political influence over more countries than the opposing player before the cold war ends.
To spread the influence, superpower leaders must play event cards. Each card represents a real historical event that has happened between years of 1945 and 1989. The trick is that some events benefit one side and are detrimental to the other. Picking right events and understanding when to activate them is the essence of the game.
Players start the game with the hand of event cards which they will get more of as the game progresses. The catch is that the cards in players hands might favor the other side, so picking when to play the cards is crucial to winning the game. To give you an idea of the events, you have Moon Landing, the Marshall Plan, Cuba Missile Crisis and much more.
Overall, the game is all about keeping the right balance and doing it better than your opponent. The game continually poses dilemmas about expanding your influence. At the same time, you also need to contain your opponent’s influence, minimize the damage done by adverse events, and work out the right mix of the immediate tactical play and long-term strategy.
The balance, tight game mechanics and real historical theme create a truly immersive gaming experience that only the best
|Twilight Struggle is an absolute masterpiece, there is no other way to put it. It held the best board game in the world crown for over five years, and there is a good reason for it. The game captures the feeling of the cold war in a spectacular and thematically deep manner. If approached with enthusiasm and historical interest, the game will immerse you and trick you into thinking of being a superpower leader, which genuinely feels epic!|
|Ex No.1 game of all times|
|Deep and immersive gameplay|
|Some may find it too long|
|Components look plain|
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is based on the horror fiction universe created by H.P. Lovecraft.
Unlike most games in our review, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a cooperative adventure where both players are playing together as a team to beat the game itself.
To start the game, the player needs to choose their investigators and the scenario they would like to play.
The investigators have different abilities and stats, so it is essential to keep the balance between investigators that both players choose.
Each player gets a deck of cards that represent their character, consisting of items, skills, weapons, and allies that help you fight the evil.
The game makes an emphasis on the theme and storytelling by linking the scenarios together and forming campaigns. The choices you make playing one scenario determine the branching narrative and twists in the storyline. Throughout the game, the players earn experience points, which can be used in subsequent scenarios to buy new or upgraded cards.
If you happen to fail the scenario, you don’t get to replay it. Instead, it affects the ending of the game and there are many ways it can end.
There are two decks of cards that drive the game – the act deck and the agenda deck. The objective of the game is to get through the act deck as quickly as possible while containing the agenda deck advances as they trigger or sorts of adverse effects. This makes timing and critical decision making necessary.
The game has the light RPG feel as it does a brilliant job at creating an atmosphere of going out on quests, fighting monsters and completing missions. What makes it even better is the innovative narrative mechanic that is exceptionally thematic and carries across from one game to another. The ability for characters to gain skills, level up and suffer from the ongoing madness of the cosmic horror adds the unique twist not seen in the Living Card Game (i.e., LCG) before.
If you have played The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, then you will find a lot of shared concepts and game mechanics here. At the same time, Arkham Horror: The Card Game takes the gaming experience to the next level, as it has inherited the best from its older brother and made the gameplay more streamlined and a lot more storytelling.
|Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a remarkable two-player experience. The game introduces some innovative concepts that take storytelling to a whole new level. Making decisions have a long-term effect on the storyline and following scenarios you will play. The character development throughout the game adds another twist and completes a fantastic thematic experience. The game broadens and deepens as you play, creating an addictive, rich an immersive gameplay. A must have for any horror or Lovecraft fan and a light, yet a brilliant way to introduce newcomers to the genre.|
|Character progression and level up throughout scenarios|
|Amazing storytelling for a card game|
|Eventually would need expansions|
|Only 3 scenarios in the base game|
The story goes back to the 15th century where King Manual I has fallen in love with ceramic tiles and has ordered to have his Royal Palace of Evora interior embellished with them.
Although the setting is historical, it does not carry the theme through the game as it feels quite abstract yet at the same time gorgeously beautiful.
There is nothing wrong with abstract games and Azul happens to be one of the best two player games in that genre.
Throughout the game, players take turns drafting colored, beautiful and chunky tiles and placing them on their player boards according to the rules. Once everyone had their turn, the players are ready to score their points for the round by moving the tiles from the left to the right section of the board.
You get to score points for completing rows in the same color or placing the tiles adjacent to other tiles already in place. Bonus points are scored for completing sets or distinctive patterns. Any tiles the player took but was not able to play result in a negative point penalty.
The game ends when the first player completes at least one row in the right side of their board. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Azul is not a straightforward game in the beginning as it takes a little bit of time to wrap your head around it. The rules and mechanics are simple, but getting used to the scoring combinations took a little bit of practice.
It is a game that keeps your brain active all the time. It is not a brain burner, but you definitely won’t find it to be a walk in the park. You can play the game both casually or strategically, and the experience would hugely vary. Just make sure that your partner shares the same approach as you since the gap in scores could be quite significant otherwise.
Overall, the game is quite innovative and unique as there is nothing like it on the market. It has an excellent interaction between the players as you always need to pay attention to the tiles picked up by your opponent and potentially alter your strategy on the go. The experience it offers reminds me of chess, the rules are simple and elegant, but the gameplay can be deep and strategic. The game seems to have all the elements to become the ‘next classic’ and I would not be surprised.
|Azul is a perfect gateway board game as it is fun, easy to teach, quick to play and simply stunning to look at. The game surprises with its simplicity and depth at the same time. It can be amazingly fun to play or it could be extremely tense in all the right ways. If you do not yet have an abstract game in your collectoin, this is the one to get.|
|Elegant, beautiful, well-made game|
|Endless replay value|
|Best abstract game experience for two players|
|Takes a game or two to get used to|
Patchwork is a two player only, competitive game that is a lot deeper and engaging that it may appear at first.
The objective of the game is to build the most aesthetically appealing quilt, which is an amazing challenge.
The players start with a 9x9 blank canvas and five buttons which represent money and victory points.
There are thirty-three patches to choose from, and each one has a different price, color, and shape.
You will soon realize that making your first quilt is quite an undertaking and your first attempt at it won’t be all that pretty!
On a typical Patchwork turn, the players have an option of buying available patches from the market or pass. To purchase a patch, the player needs to pay the amount equal to the number of buttons printed on the patch. Once purchased, the player adds the patch to his game board and moves the time token by the time value written on the patch. Thematically, the time value represents the time it takes for the patch to weave onto your quilt.
Placing the patch on the game board is the essence of the game. It is both simple and complex yet incredibly fun. For anyone who played Tetris before, you get to face the same dilemmas when placing a patch on your game board.
The idea is to place patches tight to each other so that there are no gaps between them. You can flip and rotate as you see fit, as long as the patches do not overlap. Sounds probably simple, but not always possible in practice.
To fix small holes in the layout, the game comes with five single-tile patches. They can be collected from the time track by whoever passes 1x1 patches first.
If your time token is behind the token of the other player, you get to have an extra turn, which is an excellent way to keep the competitive spirit alive and timeboxing the game.
As soon as both players pass the last space on the time track, the game ends. Next, each player needs to count the number of buttons they have and subtract two points for every hole they left out in the quilt and the player with the most points win!
|Patchwork has managed to strike a perfect balance between simplicity and depth. The game is smart, quick to play, easy to learn but hard to master. There was a lot of hype when this game came and it truly deserves all the attention it has had. In fact, this is probably one of the best two player board games around, a holy grail of partner gaming.|
|Great game to introduce non-gamers to|
|Addictive and intuitive in nature|
|Short, simple but surprisingly deep|
|Requires both players to play at a similar pace|
|Some may find the theme uninspiringu|
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures sets the scene in the 19th century in the old part of London, Victorian England.
You and your partner become a team known as “Baker Street Irregulars” that works for and learns from Sherlock Holmes himself! The game starts with Mr. Holmes handing you and your partner a case to solve.
Each case has a dedicated booklet that contains the case description, scripts for London locations, a questionnaire and a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ solution to compare at the end of the game. Besides, you also get the London city directory, daily newspapers and the map on London – are you ready to go?
The game starts with one of the players reading the case description aloud. Typically, you will find the first clue in the case to kick-start your investigation.
Players can consult newspapers, the map and directory at any time to find additional clues. Once you have studied the information available, it is time to make the first trip to other parts of London to investigate a witness, visit an ally or something else.
For example, you have decided to visit Steven’s Books which, according to the directory, is located at 63 WC. You move to the location and search the casebook to find any mention of it. If you have discovered another clue or any helpful information – great, write it down in your notepad. If you have not, don’t worry, it is a part of the experience. Consider all available information again and make another move. Keep following the leads and collecting information until you get a better picture of the mystery.
If you and your gaming partner feel that you have solved the puzzle and can crack the case, go to the end of the casebook and refer to questions. The question section consists of two parts – questions about the main case and questions about ancillary matters.
If you know the answers, you can check the answers and score the points, if you don’t – feel free to visit any other places in London to find the missing bits. This time, however, you may get penalized for excessive location visits.
Once you have answered the questions and have scored points, you can compare the way you have solved the mystery with the way Sherlock Holmes would have solved it. So who is the better investigator now?
Although the game supports up to 8 players, it truly shines with two. Mystery solving becomes intimate, engaging and rewarding when you need to challenge and bounce the ideas off each other. You will also have a lot to discuss, once the answers to the puzzle and the Sherlock Holmes solution is revealed.
|Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures is a fantastic investigation and mystery solving experience for two. The game is quick to set up and simple to learn, making it an excellent option for both experienced players and newcomers. It generates tension and teamwork at the same time leaving you so many things to discuss after finishing the scenario. If you are looking for the best two-player board game to solve mysteries and investigate murders – this game is our top pick.|
|Clever, well thought out mysteries|
|Easy to set up, learn and play|
|Great component quality|
|Interactive and thematic storytelling|
|Some may find too much reading to do|
|Requires more time if you want to solve the entire case|
Codenames Duet is the two-player version of a highly acclaimed game Codenames that has also won the game of the year award.
The game has also become cooperative, which means that both players win or lose the game together.
The objective is to find all 15 friendly agents in nine turns in total. The game gives one-word and one number clues to help you identify your agents amongst others.
To set up the board game, you need to place twenty-five-word cards in a 5 x 5 grid. Then, the key card should be put right between the two players. This way, each side of the key card is only visible to one player.
The key card represents the 25 agents on the board. It also marks some agents with green color (your agents) or black color (assassins), others are bystanders.
To win the game, you must collectively find your 15 agents (green color) amongst the 25 on the board by giving each other clues.
Clues are given by saying a word and a number. The other player must figure out which words on the board relate to your clue and point to them. If correctly identified, the friendly agent card goes on top, and another guess is made. If the bystander is identified, the turn ends. However, if you have revealed an assassin, the game ends, and you both lose.
The rules are extremely simple and do work for 10-year-old kids and older. The game comes with 400-word cards and 100 key cards, which offers an enormous replay value, yet if you ever feel that you need more, there are multiple expansion available.
The game rules are extremely simple, yet it takes effort and creative thinking to win the game. The time pressure gives a touch of urgency to the game which can make the gameplay quite emotional. Guessing the cards wrong gets the tension to a whole new level which is fun to watch and even more so to experience. Overall, the game has an amazing and unique way to challenge both of players at the same time in a very engaging and cooperative way.
|Codenames Duet is a straightforward game that is full of tension and mental gymnastics. It manages to foster creativity and deductive reasoning in a very fun way. With the enormous amount of replay value, hilarious fun and challenging scenarios, it is a perfect game for all ages, preferences and experience levels. Codenames Duet is one of the best filler two-player board games to date that should belong in any board gamer’s collection.|
|Ridiculously fun, yet challenging|
|Easy to learn and play|
|Amazing player interaction|
|Plain campaign mode|
Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game set in the cyberpunk Android universe.
Although it was released in 2012, it is still one of the most captivating two-player card games to date.
The game has been exclusively designed for two-player asymmetrical gameplay. One of the player takes on the role of the mega-corporation whereas the other player takes on the role of a Netrunner or simply a hacker.
The premise is that corporations seek to score agendas by advancing them and have enormous resources. On the other hand, the Netrunner has limited capacity and needs to hack corporation’s servers to steal valuable data.
Throughout the game, the corporation player installs agenda and other cards on the corporate servers. Those agenda cards are protected with ICE (defense firewall) cards which make it harder for the Netrunner to penetrate the defenses and hack the server. For the corporation to win, the player is required to advance seven points worth of agendas, which the Netrunner is continuously trying to steal.
At the same time, the Netrunner player installs computer hardware and programs that help him get into the corporate servers, break the firewalls and steal agenda cards by making hacking attempts. The Netrunner wins if the player manages to steal seven points worth of agenda cards the corporation has installed on their servers.
Android: Netrunner is a relatively short game that only takes around 30-45 minutes to play. In that time, the players don’t get to take too many actions making each one extremely important. In fact, any wrong decision can easily make or break the game.
Although the game is very strategic, it is also a game of phycology which at times reminds me of poker. The players can decide to be either blunt or deceptive or even both. Tricking other players adds that extra bit of suspense and tension to the game that is already full of paranoia.
For example, as a corporation player, you need to install agenda cards on the main and remote servers. The biggest dilemma is to decide which servers to protect and to what extent. With a limited number of ICE (defense) cards, there are two choices to consider. The first option is to protect agenda cards and install defenses on those servers. Alternatively, you can try to trick the Runner by upgrading the servers that have no agenda cards behind them. This mechanism alone is sufficient to recommend this game even to non-cyberpunk theme lovers.
Overall, Android: Netrunner is a brilliant game. If you are casual gamer, looking at playing the game from time to time, the core set is sufficient. At the same time, if you feel that the game become slightly repetitive and you would like to have more action option on hands, I wholeheartedly recommend a getting the deluxe expansion packs. For hardcore gamers, there are always new data packs released if you need that extra edge.
|Android: Netrunner is a relatively short adventure that manages to pack an enormous amount of action, tension and frustration. It creates an environment that is evocative, dynamic and feels real. The element of psychology and deception adds a poker-like twist on the already engaging and full-on gaming experience.|
|Beautiful and thematic artwork|
|Asymmetric gaming experience|
|Immersive cyberpunk universe|
|Bluffing works great|
|Some may find the game language not easy to understand|
|Not exactly begginer-friendly|
Memoir ’44 is a historical board game that pits two players on opposing sides in a war battle.
The game comes with 16 thematic scenarios featuring some of the most notable World War 2 battles.
Scenarios represent historical events in great details. The type of terrain, troop and tank placements, as well as scenario objectives, were considered to recreate true historical events on your tabletop.
The board features a double-sided design where one side represents a map for beach landing conflicts. The other side, however, is designed for terrain encounters.
Miniature lovers will be delighted as you get 180 of them in the box! You get troops, artillery, tanks, sandbags, hedgehogs (tank stoppers) and barbed wire. The miniatures are made of good quality plastic and are reasonably detailed.
The game starts by picking a scenario and reading a historical description which explains the basics of the battle, army placement, mission objectives for both sides and special rules (if any). Once the board is set up, players take their Command cards, and the game begins.
Cards are picked randomly and may all represent options that are sub-optimal. This behavior is intentional as it simulates the limitations of control and command in real life combat scenario.
The turn rules are pretty simple. Players play one of their Command cards that allow to order, move or engage units. Making the best use of cards on hands is key to winning battles and ultimately the game. Moreover, making terrain specificities and the opponent’s army placement work for you can give an important tactical advantage in battles.
Memoir ’44 is a relatively short, neat and simple wargame that many will enjoy. The Command cards add an element of luck and surprise to what otherwise is a reasonably strategic gameplay. The game tends to grow on you as scenarios become more interesting, challenging and engaging as you progress.
Although there are other, more strategic war games out there, Memoir ’44 is the first game that made war board games accessible to almost anyone.
The game was published more than ten years ago and has sold more copies than any other war game in the history of board gaming. After all, the designers have done a fantastic job at making a war game accessible to broad audiences.
Besides, I have never thought I could play a war game with my wife until we have stumbled upon Memoir ’44. We were both surprised how easy, streamlined and enjoyable the board game is.
Memoir ’44 is a great war game that will appeal to all types of gamers. It is simple enough for beginners, yet sufficiently deep for experienced players to enjoy. Each scenario delivers a unique and thematic experience as it represents a real historical event.
Overall, if you are looking for the best 2 player war game that is quick and easy to play, Memoir ’44 should be at the top of your list.
|Easy to learn, quick to play|
|16 unique and historical scenarios|
|Appeals to a very wide audience|
|The first scenario is not the best|
|Sometimes options feel limited|