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Board games for 2 players are usually quick and marked by a neat theme and solid gameplay. For a game to actually promote itself as a 2-player title and make it, a designer needs to know what they are doing from the start. Yet, just because you may have fewer players involved, this doesn’t mean there is a shortage of themes or overall gameplay variety.
In fact, the titles we have today on our list for you are some of the best 2-player board games that you can complete in a 30-minute session and enjoy an excellent variety of genres, mechanics, and settings. We bring you a list of the best 25 board games for two to try yourself this year.
List of Best Board Games for 2 Players
- 7 Wonders Duel
- The Castles of Burgundy
- Spirit Island
- Summoner Wars (Second Edition)
- Race for the Galaxy
- Ark Nova
- Schotten Totten
- Twilight Struggle
- Star Wars Rebellion
- Star Realms
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game
- Dice Throne
- Splendor Duel
1. 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel is a reimagined 2-player board game variant of the original game. Published in 2015, the game changed the dynamic of the gameplay by letting players draft cards from a face-up and face-down market. But as any great civilization board game would have it, you still need to bid your time carefully and not rush after any reward.
You can scoop up some additional cards if you time your plays well, and just like in the original – players amass military and scientific advancements as they work on their wonders and attempt to outscore the opponent. It’s a gripping version of the multi-player game that feels and plays rewardingly and makes you believe a much larger game.
Besides, 7 Wonders Duel has introduced a number of meaningful expansions that have added to the base gameplay over the years.
Feel like knitting? Not really? Well, wait until you get your hands, or needles, into Patchwork! This game is one of the snuggest 2-player board games experience you will get to enjoy. Played over 15-30 minutes and appropriate for players aged 8+, this is as cut-throat as building a patchwork quilt gets.
The game plays across a nine-by-nine grid board and puts players in a head-to-head conflict over buying the best buttons and the most strategic spot on the patch.
The game wants you to build the tightest quilt pattern, too, as bad craftsmanship is not really tolerated here. You can always try to get an advantage against your opponent by trying to get your time marker on top of theirs for an additional turn. Overall Patchwork is a brilliant, brilliant board game for two that we strongly recommend.
Designed by Elizabeth Hargrave and not necessarily a 2-player board game by default, Wingspan plays and feels excellent with just two people. The theme is no less captivating with players attempting to attract the most diverse and beautiful selection of bird species to live on a wildlife preserve.
Celebrating nature’s celebrity, players will set out as collectors, bird watchers, ornithologists, and researchers, attempting to help protect various species and bring them to habitats that you have prepared.
Highly competitive, this card-driven and engine-building board game by Stonemaier Games are very much reminiscent of other successful titles such as Gizmos and Terraforming Mars, but with a nice underpinning gameplay of its own.
4. The Castles of Burgundy
Once again, The Castles of Burgundy is not necessarily defaulted to 2 players, but the game feels subliminal at this headcount. Each player will plan, trade and further develop their Burgundian estate, attempting to accumulate more wealth and better social status than their opponent.
The game plays over 30-90 minutes and is suitable for 12+ and feels just a bit heavier than Patchwork, but it offers many rewards in exchange for that few extra rules. Each of the five rounds in the game comes with five phases that see you adjust resources, build settlements, and increase your wealth.
Players want to ensure that they optimize their resource management, but any leftover workers, goods, and money is actually calculated as bonus points as well, leaving some room for error and keeping players in the game. A brilliant game from start to finish, The Castles of Burgundy plays as one of the best two-player games there are.
Azul is a beautiful tile-laying game that will whisk you back to the rule of Manuel I of Portugal who was smitten with the beauty of the azuleijos, a beautiful pattern of ceramic tiles used to decorate castle walls in Southern Spain. The game takes concept and masters it in the core gameplay where you draft colored tiles from a supply board and try to score points based on where you place these tiles on your own board.
Like similar games, you may score points for completing a row or look to score a more challenging but also more rewarding pattern as well. The game plays quickly in 30-45 minutes and is suitable for players aged 8+.
Azul is a simple but timeless entry into the 2-player board game category and a good choice even when played at the maximum player count of 4.
6. Spirit Island
Spirit Island is a fantastic game of clear strategic depth, inexhaustible variety, and very white plastic representing the Great Powers colonists. This minor designer hiccup aside, Spirit Island is one of the best board games for 2 people. It uses a core mechanic similar to Pandemic where territories are overrun with hostile non-player characters who try to uproot the locals and destroy their way of life and nature.
But in seizing land greedily from the indigenous people, the colonists awake the island’s spirits, powerful demi-gods who roll their sleeves and start sending the colonists packing by bringing natural disasters on them or instilling fear in their heat. This beautiful co-op game is a great experience for two players, and it allows you to assume the roles of different characters that have unique playstyles.
Spirit Island plays for 90-120 minutes and is suitable for players aged 13+. The game offers many customizable scenarios, and if your friend isn’t around, you can even play it on your own.
7. Summoner Wars (Second Edition)
Summoner Wars is one of the best dueling card games you will find. The game comes in a box along with preconstructed decks, unique fractions, and plenty of strategic choices. So far as board games for 2 players go, this is one of our favorites. Summoner Wars plays like chess where the pawns have a nasty trick up their sleeve that the knight had no idea was coming.
The game rotates around two powerful summoners who call on their allies, cast spells and manoeuvre the battlefield as the intense battle unfolds and players try to use clever positioning and good mana management to bring the enemy’s summoner down.
Summoner Wars can play quietly and strategically, but there are powerful combos that players need to anticipate in order to win this gripping two-player strategy board game.
Two entrepreneurial merchants locked in a 30-minute game of the oldest game in the world – getting richer. Jaipur pits two of the most influential traders in the namesake city of Jaipur who seek to amass wealth by trading and selling goods and raise in the Maharaja’s esteem.
Whoever wins will also be allowed to visit the royal court but to earn the privilege, you will have to prove yourself the better merchant first. Jaipur expects you two put your nous for business and makes sure you sell at the best prices but continue to stay ahead of your competitor.
The neck-and-neck race will have you unload camels and sell countless goods as the bazaar is agog with mercantile activity.
9. Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is an engrossing journey through the stars with players trying to colonize, develop and conquer new worlds as they go along. The title has long been touted as one of the best 2-player board games to try and deservedly so.
The entire gameplay is represented through cards which stand for technical and social developments, or brand new worlds that the players have explored. There are bonuses to be had by colonizing new planets and keeping your opponent at bay.
There is a lot of cat and mouse in the game as one’s player choice may actually benefit the other, and this is where Race for the Galaxy proves such a delightful and subtle game of galactic contention.
While you may not control how cards are played, you may try to make attempts that benefit you more than they do your opponent. A great choice of a game for two players, Race for the Galaxy plays in 30-60 minutes.
In Cascadia players dive into the wildlife habitats of the Pacific Northwest, seeking to create the best opportunities for animals to live and co-exist. Players will use a tile-laying and token-drafting mechanic to build the best hexagonal habitats and attract animal species that help them score end-game points.
Just like nature would have it, you can only predict and account for so much, as the common pool of tiles will be presented randomly, and players will have to make do with what they have as they go through the tiles and build their map. Players try to build the biggest habitats that fit the rules and secure extra points on the way, and each animal is specific.
Bears love to live in pairs, and foxes don’t mind the company of other animals, not least because they can steal away with food. A very pleasant game for two or more people, Cascadia is one of our favorites on this list.
11. Ark Nova
Ark Nova is one of the most ambitious zoological projects which will have two players compete over 90-150 minutes. The game is a bit on the heavy side in terms of rule specificity and mechanics, but it’s a well-thought-through design that will prove a perfect board game for two if you are a bit more competitive mind or simply love the theme.
The game is about building a scientifically managed zoo and winning by building the best zoological establishment. Players will vie to build enclosures, make sure the animals are cared for and happy, and support conservation projects all across the world to guarantee biodiversity, preserve species, or even bring animals from the brink of extinction.
Ark Nova is a beautifully designed board game and one of the highest-ranked games of all time, not unlike all of our titles on this list!
12. Schotten Totten 2
There is something fowl in the heart of Scotland as the country has suddenly turned into running maniacs. Plus, there are the bloody chickens running around, well… bloodies in a seemingly disordered fashion. This 2-player board game is not about restoring order to the collapse of civilization, though.
It has to do with you lining up your own team and trying to keep your opponent from breaking through the line of demarcation. Players will defend and attack each other, trying to strengthen their positions with the peculiarly-looking cards and their humorous art.
Designed by Reiner Knizia, and illustrated by Jean-Baptiste Reynaud and Piotr Sokołowski, this is definitely one of the best board games for two we have on this list. Schotten Totten is a delightful little mayhem of a game that has a delightful ending and quick but competitive gameplay to keep you sharp and on your toes!
13. Twilight Struggle
Twilight Struggle for the history buffs among you looking to relive and perhaps rewrite the Cold War. This is one heavy game for two, though, and while the rules are actually simpler than say the much lighter-themed Ark Nova, Twilight Struggle will take a long while to complete, and this is a delight!
The battle between the USSR and the United States was never meant to be a pushover but, on this occasion, it will take about 120-180 minutes to end the conflict – or win it. Twilight Struggle is akin to other classics, such as We the People and Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage where card-driven gameplay dictates your turns with a fair degree of planning.
Twilight Struggle is also peppered with historic context and happenings brought on by the event cards all the while the two superpowers deploy their forces and a nuclear disaster loom.
Everdell is one of the best-known games featuring fantastic art, a very interesting central piece, and a relaxed but sufficiently competitive environment. It’s one of the most highly appreciated games of all time, owing to a mix of great mechanics and theme. In Everdell, you race to build a harmonious village for the critters of various ecosystems which come together seeking to expand their peaceful way of life.
Players will place workers to collect resources and prepare for the changing of the seasons with each bringing its own unique opportunities, sets of cards, and strategic choices to be made. A beautifully-themed game with solid gameplay, it’s easy to fall in love with Everdell as one of the best 2-player board games hands down and the art, oh the art!
Hive is a highly-asymmetric board game that actually comes without any boards. Instead, you get two sets of blocks that represent a colorful bunch of insects colour-coded against a white and black background. From that point on, it’s survival of the fittest as the two players attempt to surround the enemy’s queen.
The rules are easy to grasp and allow you to adapt quickly to almost any strategy that your opponent may be trying to pull off against you. Hive is played in bursts of 20 minutes and is suitable for players aged 9+, although it will definitely help to have someone explain the rules.
16. Star Wars Rebellion
If it’s Star Wars, then it takes two to… space tango. Star Wars Rebellion is a game built for conflict and one of the best two-player experiences you will have. One of you will play as the Rebels who plot to destroy the Empire, which has spread its evil across the galaxy.
Even though the Rebellion is outsized, they have a powerful secret, as they get closer to finding a way to destroy the Empire’s Death Star project and inspire them to fight against the oppressors, but then again – the Empire is well-funded and present in every corner of the galaxy, making for an interstellar of cat and mouse as forces move and battles erupt.
The game comes with a very tactile feeling to it as there are 150 high-quality plastic miniatures that will have you convinced that you are in the midst of the biggest galactic battle of all time. Great way to enjoy the Star Wars franchise and play one of the top board games for 2 players on our list.
17. Star Realms
Star Realms is about more space! One of the fastest deckbuilding board games for two there is, this game can be played in a versus and cooperative mode, where you best your friend or the automa. Star Realms puts you as fleet commander of a constantly-expanding space battle force with your ships inflicting damage on your opponents, taking their bases down or generally patching up any damage that has been inflicted against you.
The game is a classic deckbuilder where you try to amass powerful combos and try constantly cutting your deck, so it offers much more powerful combos. Even though it can be played in 20 minutes, this is a game of great balance, a somewhat straightforward decision-making process, and a lot of variety. It’s definitely one of the top options for two players we can recommend to you.
18. Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a gripping story about ancient out-of-this-world horrors. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s eldritch horrors and storytelling, myths and legends about the Necronomicon, the game is a vivid imagining of this world.
Players though will not go head-to-head for this one, as they will bandy together and set out to tackle a fresh horror through the campaign. Each character will be unique and the challenges you face – are new.
Whether you face off with cultists or monsters, Arkham Horror: The Card Game will make you believe that you are part of Lovecraft’s macabre world. The game focuses on the Cthulhu Mythos and provides a card-driven narrative that is believable, captivating and let’s face it – a little frightening. Huddle together and step into the unknown.
Targi is a blast from the past – well, from the relative past as 2012 is definitely not too old for a 2-player board game. In fact, the game is designed by Andreas Steiger and is more or less his breakthrough game. Targi is solid when it comes to gameplay, theme, and core mechanic.
In the game, you will vie as one of two nomadic tribes and try to establish a thriving community. You will play one card after another trying to make your piece of the desert better and bring prosperity to the tribe as members of it venture across trade routes to secure and bring back goods. To get more cards, tribes will move meeples into border position, representing their tribes and trying to add to their end-game scoring potential.
The game’s art is beautiful, and the player board is highly evocative, with some real thought put into the game, making for an evocative journey across the Arabic world.
Carcassonne is a game that scales well with multiple players and is a fun tile-laying experience, but when played with two people, this Medieval-themed game quickly turns into a game of weighed strategy and a complete lack of diplomacy. Farmers hog fields and builder meeples walk into castles trying to secure the cathedral for themselves.
Abbots are lying about idly, and every player is generally having to rely on their luck of drawing a tile after a tile. Yet, Carcassonne plays excellent for 2 players precisely because despite its nonchalance, it’s actually a pretty strategic game and paying attention, maximizing your meeples, and anticipating tiles makes for a depth of the experience that is rewarding in a fun and relaxed way.
21. Dice Throne
Dice Throne – never has rolling dice been so intense. With three seasons now out, a very Christmassy box of Santa vs. Krampus, Dice Throne is one of the best-known dice rolling games out there. It’s no doubt one of the best 2 player board games. Each of the characters is inspired by original mechanics and plays out differently and is rewarding. Not only that, but the characters are unique.
There is an entire season themed after Marvel and you may say “duh!” but actually the season is a huge success in terms of design. Anyhow, in Dice Throne, you roll your dice and try to construct powerful abilities that you then throw at your opponent who has tricks up their sleeve as well! The action is fast, dynamic, and gripping and will have you on your toes as the characters are balanced out incredibly well!
Oh, boy – the tense delight of Undaunted! Whether you are playing Undaunted: Stalingrad or any of the other titles fit for 2 players, you can rest assured the series is exceptional in execution and delivery. Undaunted is a highly-strategic game for two where you assume the side of one of two warring factions.
Like other war games that are based on history, Undaunted will have you play out based on historically-accurate events. As you go on fighting your opponents, you will draw cards that are also seeped in history and give you some specific advantage that is tactical and powerful.
But guess what? Your opponent also has some unplaced cards up their sleeve. This is what Undaunted is all about. The simulated tension and deep strategic decisions that go into war – the satisfaction of triumphing on the battlefield and reeling from a defeat. Undaunted: Stalingrad (and the series in general) is hands down one of the very best board games for 2 people we have seen.
It’s Mad Max times, and water is precious little. Two warring bands of punks are fighting for the last known scraps of water as they try to destroy their rival tribe’s camp. This 20-40 minute delight by Roxley is one of the best strategy card games you will find on the market.
The art is exquisite and so are the game’s core mechanics and design. It’s a perfect 2-player board game that lets you dive into a highly thematic experience that feels deeply rewarding and satisfying with both players trying to conserve resources as they raid the opponent’s camp and seek to implement the most harm.
Radlands is an evocative delight that will have you believe that you are one of those post-apocalyptic factions trying to settle score and well, survive.
You may have heard about the biggest political scandal of the 20th century, but you are now about to cover it up – or expose it. It all depends on which side of events you decided to play in Watergate, one of the best board games for two players. It’s all familiar tug-of-war with bipartisan opposition running deep and media anchors trying to spin the story one way or another.
Nixon may not be a crook – but this will be down to you and your opponent to settle over the course of 30-60 minutes of playtime. It’s a classic game of whether the pen is mightier than the sword and this is the case – it just might be, provided it’s a very sharp pen and a very dull sword. But you know what? In Watergate the Board Game you get to write history yourself.
25. Splendor Duel
Splendor Duel is a fairly new addition to the Splendor family. Duel is, as the name suggests, optimized for two-player counts and it actually delivers, courtesy of designers Marc André and Bruno Cathala. Once again, Venetian merchants will seek to amass wealth and impress the nobility, but in a slightly altered setting that offers new strategic opportunities and twists.
The game does feel a little tenser, with each round weighing with important decisions, new card powers included, and overall, more competitive and complex gameplay that is how any head-to-head board game for 2 players should play in the first place. Players will be caught in a dynamic setting that lets them access various new gems.
Disclaimer: The list was compiled with the help of and combines the mixed experience of Meeples Herald’s editorial team, BoardGameGeek ranking, and online search volumes.
Splendor Duel is not available on Amazon US. You may buy Splendor instead.