“What are the best board games for 2 players?”
My father-in-law just texted me that very question last week. Why I didn’t already have this blog post written – who knows? My immediate response was “for who?” Is the game for your parents who have only ever played Uno? Is it for your friend who loves 3-hour long strategy board games? Let’s way oversimplify this and categorize the games into two groups.
1 – Light Games. These games are typically shorter, easier to learn, with simpler decision making. These games are really for anyone.
2 – Medium Games. These games are typically for your friend who is a bit more into board games and won’t mind having to read through a rulebook, and who wants “meatier” decision making.
THE online place for board games is Board Game Geek. There you can find a scale of “weight” or complexity. The scale is ranges from 1-5. Now, it isn’t scientific, but it is helpful to know generally how complex a game is. As a reference Uno is ranked 1.1 and Risk comes in at 2.0. We’ll include the BGG (Board Game Geek) weight as a helpful reference.
Top 10 Best Board Games for 2 Players (in no particular order):
2 Players // 30 minutes // 1.5 BGG
A fast-paced card game with a blend of risk and luck. In Jaipur you are collecting and selling goods, deciding how long to hold onto cards before selling them to earn points. This 30 minute game is played over 3 rounds, and there is nothing that says you can’t just play one round, for an even shorter 10 minute game. This may be my number 1 recommendation for a two player game – see our video review for more details.
2-4 Players // 15 minutes // 1.1 BGG
This is more of a stocking stuffing, filler type of game. In the world of gaming this is far from a full meal, more of a very light snack. The Mind is a deck of numbered cards from 1-100. Players each have a hand of cards. The goal is for each player to lay their cards in ascending order…but there is no talking. So, you are just left to guess at what point you should lay your next card. It sounds silly, and it is. But this silly, fun game is sure to bring some laughs. It plays well with 2, and even plays up to 4 players.
2 Players // 15 minutes // 1.7 BGG
Hanamikoji (also published as Jixia Academy) is deceptively simple game of I cut, you choose. It’s much like when you cut some slices of steaming hot pizza and secretly pray that nobody takes the slice with the biggest, juiciest toppings. Because both players are working with incomplete information as to where each card lies, there are plenty of opportunities for crafty plays.
1-100 Players // 25 minutes // 1.8 BGG
It seems weird that a game can play 1-100 players, but Welcome To… is a phenomenal game in part because it works for a lot of different group sizes, including 2 players. This game is a lot of fun in that each player has the same set of cards available to them, so by the end of the game there are no complaints of “I just didn’t get good cards.” Each player has a piece of paper where they will build houses along with parks, pools, and more.
2 Players // 20 minutes // 1.9 BGG
Mandala claimed a spot in our top 5 board games of 2019 with its crisp design and engaging fun. The game contains only 6 different types of cards represented by their color. On your turn, you may either play a single card to the middle and draw 1-3 more, or play any number of cards of the same color to your side. Things get wild as both players strive to cut off their opponent from high scoring cards.
2 Players // 30 minutes // 1.7 BGG
A game about quilting may seem like it wouldn’t work in the market, which is all the more impressive that hobby gamers rate this high enough to land it in the top 100 games of all time. Patchwork offers such an interestingly unknowable dichotomy of incentives between time, buttons, and shapes. This puzzly polyomino game will keep you coming back to patch a quilt together again and again.
7 Wonders Duel
2 Players // 40 minutes // 2.2 BGG
The 2-player version of the classic 7 Wonders. The unique method of collecting cards in this game provides opportunities for meaningful decision making. Cards are laid out in a pyramid, where players are only allowed to take uncovered cards – this lets you really strategize as you take cards and uncover cards for your opponent. Themed around constructing different wonders of the world, this game with beautiful art and meaningful decisions comes in as one of the best board games for 2 players.
2-4 Players // 30 minutes // 2.4 BGG
Dominion is the tried and true classic deck building game. There is a “market” of cards available for each player to purchase. Players place these purchased cards into their own deck, which grows throughout the game and will be re-shuffled over and over. This game is beloved by many for a very good reason. There are certainly meatier games in this same category, but Dominion is an easy go-to recommendation from me, especially for someone just getting into the board game hobby.
2-4 Players // 45 minutes // 1.8 BGG
Azul is undoubtedly one of the best board games for 2 players. Players take turns drafting colored tiles to their player board. Later in the round, players score points based on how they’ve placed their tiles to decorate the palace walls. Extra points are scored for specific patterns and completing sets. There are a lot of great decisions to be made in this game, and it is absolutely wonderful at 2, 3, or 4 players. See our video review for a more in-depth discussion.
2-4 Players // 40-80 minutes // 2.9 BGG
I have fond memories of playing the age-old Mancala in elementary school… mostly of getting crushed by another girl in my class. Yet, I have even fonder memories of playing Five Tribes. This colorful game takes the simple action of Mancala, picking up a bundle of bits from one section and distributing them into other sections, and morphs it into a full blown board game.
When distributing a single bundle of meeples in Five Tribes, the rule is that you have to drop the final meeple onto a tile that already contains its color; then you earn all the meeples of that color from that tile (including the one you just dropped there). You must choose your color bonus wisely, as each meeple color rewards you in a unique way.