The 23 Best Board Games for Two People
Whether you prefer to work as a team or compete with your partner, there's a perfect board game for you.
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The best games for two people
The holidays are over, the mornings are chilly, and we’re all still working from home—if we’re lucky. Maybe you’ve even watched everything on Netflix! Well, we have a solution. You may be used to thinking of board games as forced family fun, but there’s been a lot of innovation in this industry since you and your siblings last fought over Monopoly. Even if you’re already a board game aficionado, our list of the best board games for two people is sure to have some unknown gems or old favorites that need revisiting. Speaking of old favorites, do you already have these classic board games on your bookshelf? Some of these games are designed specifically for two players, and some can accommodate more, but they all work really well for twosomes looking for indoor entertainment. We’ve ranked the list from games anyone can play to intermediate and advanced games for a more in-depth gaming experience. And now, board games for two that won’t end up in your discard pile.
Games for two people that anyone can play:
Patchwork is a game of competitive quilting. Yes, you read that right, quilting. As your tokens advance around the quilt board, you purchase different shaped patches using buttons from your button bank. The patches go toward forming your own quilt. Buttons count toward points, and the player with the most points wins; it’s a balance between button wealth and quilt beauty, as any empty spaces remaining on your quilt board at the end of the game lose you points. Patchwork is the ultimate in competitive two-player games, plus it’s so much fun you’ll find yourself playing it again and again. Patchwork is all about quilt real estate, but if you’re also interested in Park Place, you should check out this game-changing Monopoly rule you probably never knew.
PARKS is probably the most beautiful game ever made. It’s a celebration of one of the best features of the United States: National Parks. You and your opponent play as two hikers, trekking different trails across the four seasons. Hikers take actions, photographs, and collect memories while on the trail, represented by resource tokens such as mountains, forests, and wildlife. Sets of memories can be traded in to visit (and gain) one of 45 National Parks cards at the end of each hike. This game should come with a warning: may cause immediate road trip. Some of the National Parks are the big hitters, some may be lesser known to you, all will make you want to visit them immediately, and that’s why this gorgeous game made our list of the best board games for two people. There’s also a PARKS: Nightfall expansion coming this year, which adds 17 new parks, as well as adding to the trail and scoring gameplay. For more inspiration, check out the least-crowded National Parks that are worth a visit.
This classic word-forming game may be the most portable game on the list, but it’s also one of the most fun games for two people around. Each player uses their allotted letters to complete a “crossword” of words as fast as possible, and then “peels” new letters from the “bunch” to add to their lexicon. Each time your opponent peels, you must peel as well, meaning that the game can quickly become challenging as each player hustles to spell faster than the other. The aim of the game is to complete a word grid using all the tiles. Bananagrams is truly one of the most brain-busting and fun word games and comes in many different versions such as the Party Edition, My First Bananagrams for younger players, and languages including French, Spanish, and Hebrew. Peel! For more word game fun, memorize this list of winning Scrabble words.
Santorini is a deceptively challenging game of abstract strategy. Although suitable for up to four players, it works extremely well with two. Players play as different Greek gods, each with different abilities that alter gameplay. Each player has two villagers with limited moves; the object of the game is to complete a three-level white building by placing a blue dome on top (the colors give it that Mediterranean look!) while the opposing player tries to stop you. Santorini is fast-paced and tons of fun, with endless variation and combinations due to the different god powers available. In Greece, Easter traditions include roast lamb and dyed red eggs. Around here, ours include these super fun Easter games.
Ticket to Ride
This is another absolute classic, and owning it makes for hours of geographically informative fun. It has long been one of the best board games for two people, and it’s definitely one of the best board games ever made: beautiful, simple, strategic, and entertaining. Players select a train color and collect train cards to build trains across the North American continent, trying to fulfill the instructions on their route cards. The game is really replayable and competitive, with different scoring methods including longest train, and types of routes completed. Building a train from New York to Boston, say, will earn you fewer points than one from Seattle to Miami. There are also several variations on the original Ticket to Ride game, including Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket to Ride Rails and Sails, Ticket to Ride Asia, and many, many more. They are all great! It’s definitely a solid addition to your board game collection. Speaking of games with a million variations, do you know what the original Monopoly game looked like?
Mycophobics need not apply, because Morels is one of the best board games for two people who love mushrooms. It’s best to eat before playing this game, because not only will you be foraging for and collecting ten different types of mushrooms, you will also be sautéing them in butter over a crackling fire, with a delicious cup of cider on the side. The point of the game is to forage, sell, and cook mushrooms for points, while avoiding poisonous toadstools, dealing with card limitations, and searching always for the elusive and expensive morel mushroom. Morels asks the player to balance their short-term and long-term decisions, but you’ll also learn something about mushroom varieties, and have a lot of fun. Still can’t tell your cremini from your shiitake? Better brush up on the differences between different types of mushrooms.
This is another game where you should either eat beforehand or make it a rule that the loser buys the sushi! In this super-fast game, you and your opponent are eating at a revolving sushi bar and you’re each trying to grab the best combination of sushi as they fly by. Earn points in Sushi Go! by completing a sashimi set, collecting the most rolls, or dipping your nigiri in point-tripling wasabi. But be careful you don’t pass on a dish that will make your opponent’s stomach grumble! You’ll also have to remember to store up pudding cards because this is a multi-course meal. (We told you to eat before you played). While you’re at the real sushi restaurant after the game, make sure you remember these rules for eating Japanese food.
This is a classic for a reason! It can be played with up to 12 players, but it’s perfect for two as well. The board features the 52 cards in a regular card deck, non-consecutively laid out twice (excepting Jacks) for a total of 88 spaces. The object is to form a sequence of five chips either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally across the board. The chips correspond to cards in the player’s hand. Jacks are either one- or two-eyed, and can be used as wild cards, or to remove any of your opponent’s chips from the board. With a combination of strategy and luck, Sequence is one of the best board games for two people around. If you hate to lose at any game, better find out how to always win at games of chance.
Kahuna is an intense game of strategy, which makes it one of the best board games for two people—two competitive people especially. The board depicts 12 islands, and players use cards to build bridges between islands or remove their opponent’s bridges. An island becomes yours (marked with a token) when you have the majority of bridges on it—but when you take over an island your opponent loses any bridges they have on it, which may lose them their majority on an adjoining island. The game is played in only three rounds (with multiple actions per round), and the person with the most island markers wins. Tactical thinkers will absolutely love this battle of wits, and less tactical thinkers will be grateful that it’s a fast play-through! There’s always these brain-boosting games you can try, too.
Jaipur is set in the city of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan, India. You and your opponent are two of the biggest merchants in the city, but you both desperately want to attain two seals of excellence which will earn you an invite to the court of the Maharaja. This fast-paced card game is a mix of risk, strategy, and luck. On your turn, you take cards to amass goods of varying worth or sell your wares to try and fetch the highest available price. Or should you focus on building up your camel herd for extra points? Better keep an eye on what cards your competitor is picking up! This game is a best-of-three, and each round is a quick play-through. It’s a lot of fun and definitely deserves to be included in the best board games for two people.
Forbidden Island / Forbidden Desert / Forbidden Sky
These three games all follow a similar format, but with slightly different rules. However, although they all stand brilliantly on their own, put together they tell a narrative story: the first object is to get off the island, only to find yourselves crash-landed in the desert; surviving and leaving the desert takes you to the sky platform, which leads to assembling a real electrical circuit (in the middle of a storm, no less) and leaving in a rocket! (Note that the electrical circuit is extremely safe; the circuit is connected only by plastic-insulated metal and presents no danger to children, except a practical application of scientific knowledge). All three Forbidden games are cooperative, meaning that the players must communicate and work together to win the game instead of competing. If any one player fails, the game is lost. Each game has multiple levels of difficulty, and six playable characters, each one with different abilities. The games are really well-crafted and incredibly re-playable; each game varies enough from the others that it represents new and interesting challenges, so that strategies for winning one game may not work in the next. The Forbidden games support up to four players, but they’re perfect for two players, particularly those who want to flex their communication skills! We bet these game show contestants wished they could have phoned a friend when they gave these hilarious wrong answers.
Intermediate games for two people:
Francophiles will enjoy this board game for two people, where the board is built by the players out of tiles. Each tile contains one or two features of the Southern French landscape (a city, road, grassland, or cloister) which must be placed adjacent to existing tiles of the same type, like in the game Dominoes. Each player must then decide where to place their “meeples,” or game pieces: should they become a knight (city), robber (road), monk (cloister), or farmer (grassland)? Meeples score points when the area is completed, which means that you may have the chance to prevent your opponent’s meeples from scoring with some nifty tile placement. Carcassonne is a fast-moving game of both strategy and opportunity that will appeal to fans of games like Civilization, or other city-building and organization games.
This game is so good it can even be played solo, but we think it’s one of the best board games for two people. Like in Scrabble, players select from six randomly chosen hexagonal tiles on their own rack. The object is to create lines of hexes of the same color, but there’s a twist: instead of your score being equal to your highest-scoring color, it’s equal to your worst-scoring color. This forces players to focus on all six colors at once, rather than dominating in only one or two. A player scoring 18 with any color may be declared “Ingenious.” The noteworthy victory condition of “highest lowest score wins” makes the game more fun and challenging, and players must apply strategy and planning to be triumphant. Think you’re Ingenious? Bet you don’t know these fun facts about Trivial Pursuit!
Exit: The Game—The Abandoned Cabin / The Pharaoh’s Tomb / The Secret Lab
Love logic, deduction, and solving puzzles? If you’re a pair of escape room fans, this is one of the best board games for two players that mimics that experience. This game is much cheaper and more convenient than an escape room, however, and possibly even more fun. Each game starts with the players trapped—in a locked cabin, a stone pyramid, or a secret lab. All you have to go in is a spinning dial and a mysterious book, and you have to figure out how to get out before you become cabin fodder / a mummy / a lab experiment. These games are fast-paced, tremendous fun; your team must work together using their creativity, smarts, and communication skills to solve the riddles, collect objects, and decipher codes to earn their freedom. There are a total of 15 different versions of Exit: The Game, which should be nearly enough escape rooms to see you through to the real thing being opened again.
Note that each of the games can only be played once, as you are required to mark up and tear the game materials, but the games have a low price point which makes that condition more palatable.
We may not be able to travel right now, but you can get a taste of Barcelona’s magnificent Basilica de la Sagrada Familia with this artistic dice-based game. Players are artists competing to build the most impressive stained-glass window in the basilica. Each player has a board on which they build up a grid of colored dice, trying to achieve various patterns and colors. Skill tokens are available, which enables you to use special tools to break the rules and form a more beautiful window worthy of Gaudí’s great achievement. This is a great game for strategists and aesthetes alike, or for anyone who loves creating beautiful patterns. We recommend that whoever loses must order in the victory tapas! If you like the patterns in Sagrada, you’ll love these other colorful wonders of the world.
Grand Austria Hotel
This is another game designed specifically for two players, but it’s the innovative design and fun world-building that put it on our list of the best board games for two people. It’s the turn of the twentieth century in Vienna, elegant cafés abound in the Austrian capital, and yours is one of the finest. Intellectuals, artists, politicians, and tourists from all over the globe are enriching the daily life of the city, and they need somewhere to stay. Coincidentally, you have dreams of your little café becoming a world-famous hotel! This is a really fun resource-management and building game. The objective is to grow your business by hiring staff, fulfilling the dining and accommodation needs of your guests, and eventually earning the Emperor’s favor to become the Grand Austria Hotel. Each game provides a different setup due to the combinations of cards and guests available, so the game has immense replay value. Plus, playing this game means you get to eat strudel. You know, for research.
This game is similar to Carcassonne, in that the players are working with meeples, but instead of choosing where to place them, the game begins with the meeples already in place! This creates an exciting new challenge, as players must figure out how to maneuver them over the village, market, oasis, and sacred place tiles that make up the Sultanate of Naqala, in the Land of 1001 Nights. The old sultan has just died, and control over the city-state is attainable. To achieve influence over Naqala and gain the Sultanate, you must navigate the Five Tribes (Assassins, Elders, Builders, Merchants, and Viziers) over the tiles to victory. This is another really fun, strategic storytelling game. If you love 1001 Nights and other fairytales, you’ll want to know the most popular fairytale stories of all time.
Castles of Burgundy
This game has both a basic and an advanced version of the rules, and both are among the best board games for two people. Play is set in 11th century Burgundy, France, where each player is an aristocrat in charge of their own princedom. Players develop their lands with tiles for settlement and goods, build castles, make trade agreements, mine silver, and use travelers to gain information. Castles of Burgundy is both beautiful and satisfying, and the variety of tiles and options (the six-player boards have different estate layouts on the reverse side) makes this a game you never play the same way twice.
Fans of Disney and mischief-makers alike will love this game combining Disney knowledge and villainy. Both players control one of six Disney villains, each with their own villain and fate card decks, player boards, and 3D figure. Your goal is to give your Disney villain their non-canonical “happy ending;” for instance, Captain Hook’s goal is to defeat Peter Pan without losing his hand to the Tick Tock crocodile. You and your opponents can take an action to draw from the other’s fate deck, containing evil-thwarting characters from your villain’s movie, which can seriously upset your wicked plans. Villainous gives you the option to play as Prince John (Robin Hood), Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Jafar (Aladdin), the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), or Captain Hook (Peter Pan), this game provides plenty of replay options, which helped it earn a spot on our list of the best board games for two people. Test your Disney trivia knowledge with this challenging quiz.
Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
The original version of this game, Agricola, can be played by two to four players, but this edition is designed only for two people. “Agricola” is Latin for “farmer”. Unlike the original, All Creatures Big and Small removes the agricultural aspects of the game to focus solely on animal husbandry: you’re an animal breeder with a herd of horses, cows, sheep, and pigs to manage, and your job is to expand your herd while giving them enough pasture to be happy. Victory is achieved by building the most fence-enclosed pastures and amassing the largest variety and biggest number of animals. You can also construct buildings for extra points. We especially love this game because of the ridiculously cute animal figures, which would make it good for kids, or anyone susceptible to cow eyes.
In the future, the overpopulation of Earth has led to you and your opponent being nominated to build the best underwater city possible. This exciting game is an exercise in both world-building and resource-management. Each player has a personal gameboard on which to place workers, build cities with tunnels and domes, and create production buildings such as laboratories, desalination plants, and farms to support their nations. It’s the combination of strategy and luck in card drawing that makes Underwater Cities one of the best board games for two people. There are nearly 220 cards, which makes for a lot of possible combinations. This game is more of a commitment than some on this list; the makers estimate 30-45 minutes per player, but the beautiful graphics and immersive gameplay will make the time fly, especially if you’re playing while staying at one of these breathtaking underwater hotels.
Advanced games for two people:
War of the Ring
If you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, and you’re lucky enough to have a family member, friend, or partner who either feels the same (or just really likes you) then this is a game you need. Elves aside, War of the Ring is one of the best board games for two people ever devised. You play either as the Shadow (commanding the dark hordes of Mordor, including the Ringwraiths and Nazgul, and the wizard Saruman) or the Free Peoples (Elves, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Men). The game can be won in two ways: either by a military victory, if the Shadow or the Free Peoples player holds enough of the other’s cities or strongholds, or by the Ringbearers (Frodo and Sam) either completing or being defeated in their quest to destroy the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. The game has a large and beautifully designed board and many representative figures, and both players will need to think several moves ahead to defend and attack strongholds as they deploy their various groups and armies across the board. There is also an element of chance, as players’ moves are determined by rolling a certain number of Action Dice which correspond to certain actions. War of the Ring is an enthralling and immersive experience; it can run long, though, so save it for a rainy weekend, or play over several days. Even Lord of the Rings fans might not have seen these hidden messages in the trilogy.
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
This is a standalone game that serves as a prequel to the huge, immersive, and multi-award-winning game Gloomhaven. However, as a more accessible and much cheaper version of its big sibling, Jaws of the Lion is also one of the best board games for two people. This is a campaign game, with 25 separate scenarios (of varying lengths) where the heroes solve the case of several mysterious disappearances within the city. You’ll play as one of four characters, each with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and their own card deck; you’ll play this character all the way through, and it’s fun to spend time thinking of names and personalities for them because you can include role-playing elements in the game as you play. In each scenario, you’ll draw setup cards and then play the scenario through on a board in the gamebook itself. Each scenario has different objectives but generally involves defeating monsters, opening doors, and looting treasure, as well as obtaining information and gathering further clues to the mystery. This is a great game to play through over an extended period of time (like a seemingly endless winter), one scenario at a time. The characters grow and evolve as the game continues, and the mystery is compelling. Now that you know the best board games for two people, find out the best road trip games to play.