If you want a great tabletop gaming experience for a duo, then two-player board games are easily your best option. There are plenty of board games out there that can support two players, but they’re not necessarily optimised for that scenario. Lots of games will just about work for two, but they will sometimes feel like something’s missing that’s clearly meant for a higher player count. Whereas two-player board games are entirely complete, with gameplay mechanics and systems built to take advantage of having a smaller player count.
Rather than simply removing elements to make a game function for two people, the best board games for two players provide the kind of tabletop experiences that you can’t get anywhere else. Board games played between two people have a unique intimacy that certain designs can make the most of, with a level of competitiveness that naturally sparks from a duo challenging one another. There is also lots of potential for asymmetric gameplay – meaning that each playable role offers different abilities and/or objectives – in two-player board games, with opponents clashing using their own unique approaches.
Best two-player board games
- 7 Wonders Duel
- Lost Cities
- Undaunted: North Africa
- Skulk Hollow
- Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
- Lawyer Up
- Summoner Wars: Second Edition
This list has a wide variety of tabletop titles that are ideal for a duo, whether you’re looking for a simple card game or a more complicated strategic experience. There is also a large array of themes featured here, from quaint quilt sewing to the wonders of the ancient world, with there being something for whatever mood the players might be in. Don’t settle for second-best, here are the best board games for two-players.
A fast-moving card game about trading and camels
There are plenty of two-player card games out there, but Jaipur stands out as one of the greatest. A game about trading, Jaipur encourages its players to indulge in their more competitive sides, stealing victory from right under their opponent’s nose. As rival merchants working for the maharaja, the players are attempting to impress by pulling off some of the sweetest deals they can. Each round has players purchasing various goods from the market, before selling them off in bulk afterwards. The more they’re able to sell at once, the more points they’ll earn. However, players will need to move quickly if they want to stay ahead of their opponent.
On their turn, a player can choose to take a single card from the market or exchange any number of cards from their hand for the same number of cards from the market. The cards they take must be of the same type, which certainly helps when players are trying to collect as many matching cards as possible. Once players have at least three cards of the same type, they can sell them to acquire the same amount of matching point tokens. The higher value point tokens of each type are kept at the top of the stack, meaning that players who sell earlier gain more points.
On the other hand, holding out for more cards to sell at once grants players a bonus token that will be worth a random amount of points, with the more valuable tokens going to the larger sales. There are only a set number of each type of card, with rarer cards providing more valuable tokens, meaning that players can end up fighting over certain types and it can get nasty. Nothing is more devastating than seeing a card of the type you’re collecting being taken by your opponent. Luckily enough, Jaipur is fast moving game that will fire you up enough to want you to play again right away.
An incredibly wholesome and fun little game about quilting
When it’s raining outside and all you want to do is curl up inside, all cozy-like, there’s nothing better than an intimate board gaming session. Days like this call for Patchwork, a board game for two players that’s about as charming as a corgi wearing a very small hat. Using the various trimmings you’ve acquired over the years, you must piece together a quilt – making sure to utilise as much space as possible and, obviously, scoring as many points as you can.
Each player gets their very own board, with the various quilt pieces being laid out in a circle, with each piece needing to be placed next to each other in a direct line so that they form an orderly queue. This is your selection of fabrics, with the pieces greatly varying in size and shape. Covering as much of your board as possible is important, as you’ll be punished for every empty square at the end of the game. On their turn, a player can obtain a quilt piece. If players do not have any buttons to buy a quilt piece or don’t want to buy anything, then they can choose to move their player token along the turn track to gain buttons equal to the number of spaces they move.
Another way of gaining buttons in Patchwork is to place quilt pieces displaying buttons onto your player board. Anytime a player token passes or lands on one of these button spaces both players gain as many buttons as they have currently on their player board. You’ll eventually get into the rhythm of choosing and placing quilt pieces on your board, maximising the amount of space they cover and being sure to pick some with buttons on. For a challenging and yet undeniably relaxing two-player board game, why not get wrapped up in a little Patchwork?
3. 7 Wonders Duel
The beloved civ-building card game for two players
The original 7 Wonders is considered by many one of the best board games of all time. Taking the epic theme of leading a civilisation through the ages but playing out in well under an hour, 7 Wonders found the perfect balance between the deep strategy of developing your technology, culture, science and more, and the simplicity of only having to pick a single card and do what it says each turn.
7 Wonders Duel takes 7 Wonders and pares it down even further, making it a board game for two players only. (7 Wonders technically has rules for two players, but they’re not the best way to play if there’s just two of you.)
Rather than passing cards around the table, in 7 Wonders Duel the two players pick from the middle of the table, having to choose from cards that have been uncovered in earlier turns. As they gather precious resources, the players can even build wonders – yes, like those Wonders – that help their civ grow further.
The thrust of the two-player board game remains largely the same, as the players race to develop their civilisation faster than their opponent – looking to claim victory through scientific breakthroughs, military might or overall advancement. 7 Wonders Duel plays just as fast – if not faster – than its bigger sibling, making it the perfect two-player game to break out with a friend or partner.
7 Wonders was a brilliant board game, and 7 Wonders Duel easily lives up to its legacy as one of the best board games for two people. It’s a whirlwind trip through history in a small, quick card game that’s easy to learn and fun time after time to play. One of the wonders of the board game world? Maybe...
4. Lost Cities
Explore ancient ruins in the hopes of uncovering amazing discoveries
Lost Cities is considered an absolute classic and one of legendary designer Reiner Knizia’s best. As rival archeologists, both players in Lost Cities plan and embark on expeditions at the same time, substantially increasing the stakes. The reputations, and potentially even careers, of each archaeologist are on the line, with the goal of successful exploration in their sights. These expeditions are represented by columns of numbered cards which players will need to lay down in numerical order. However, players don’t necessarily need to play cards consecutively, just higher-numbered cards on top of lower-numbered ones. But the more cards played onto an expedition the better, as they’ll gain players a greater number of points at the end of the game.
Choosing to begin an expedition is not a decision to be made lightly, as you’ll be scored on all your columns, regardless of how many cards you’ve placed there. Travelling around the world with an entire team costs a lot of money, which is why the score for every expedition you start begins at minus-20 points. This means that players need to place cards of a total value of at least 20 in order to not score minus points. What’s more is that playing special handshake cards onto an expedition will multiply its score total, which also applies to minus totals. This means you’ll have to be sure you’re going to be able to lay down enough cards on an expedition to avoid that minus point penalty.
This is what makes Lost Cities so exciting and intense. Players share the same deck of cards, meaning that they both draw from the same pile. You’ll spend most of the game praying that you’ll draw the cards you need to pass that minus-20 total, otherwise you’ll quickly regret your past decisions as you watch your expeditions drain your points. For a game of high risk and high reward, crack open a copy of Lost Cities.
5. Undaunted: North Africa
Historical wargaming meets the deckbuilding of Dominion
The Undaunted series represents the meeting of two very different kinds of game. One is the strategic skirmish wargame – the kind of classic two-player board game played with toy soldiers moving across polystyrene hills and trenches with a ruler. The other is the deckbuilder, the modern card game genre pioneered by Dominion in which players slowly build up their deck from a small handful of cards to a healthy stack of actions, abilities and victory points. It’s a mixture that might seem strange on paper, but on the tabletop it’s an ingenious combination.
Undaunted: North Africa is the second standalone entry in the series, following its France-set predecessor Undaunted: Normandy. Both games use a similar set of rules, which see players controlling the opposing forces of World War II across a number of skirmish scenarios using a unique deck of cards. The objectives can vary from driving off the enemy or capturing strategic points, but the basics of moving your troops around each map, taking shots at enemy units by rolling dice and reinforcing your squads by playing cards remains similar.
Undaunted’s approachable gameplay is much simpler than the often complex simulation of traditional wargames, while still managing to offer plenty of tactical edge to chew on. The two-player board game is a tense affair as each player pushes for their own victory conditions, using the differing nature of their sides – the British Army’s Long Range Desert Group and Italian Axis forces – to apply the pressure to their opponent through ground troops, vehicles and even aerial support.
The asymmetrical gameplay of Undaunted: North Africa means that it isn’t just the same board game for two players – it can be a different experience depending on which side of the table you sit. The gameplay additions and setting make it the best Undaunted game yet in our opinion, but if you’re looking for another fantastic board game for two players, the original Undaunted: Normandy is well worth your time too.
6. Skulk Hollow
Choose to play as either an imposing giant or a band of plucky fighters
The legendary PlayStation 2 video game Shadow of the Colossus is a piece of art that has had its tendrils in game developers and critics alike since its release and refuses to loosen its grip. Luckily for tabletop fans, a two-player board game inspired by Shadow of the Colossus does exist. Skulk Hollow from Pencil First Games pits two players against each other in a fight for survival as a legendary guardian of epic proportions faces off against some fox folk warriors. With two boards representing both the battlefield and the creature itself, the players will have to use their limited actions strategically to slide around the board and dish out some damage to their opponent.
The player controlling the Foxen clan will be managing multiple warrior meeples that, whilst weak on their own, can combine their forces to try and stand toe-to-toe with the behemoth on the other side of the board. Different warriors provide various special effects and tactics you can exploit, and chaining them together is essential if you don’t want them all to get squished. The goal is simple: bring down the beast. Destroy every target location on their board and you’ll win the game. To get there though, you’ll have to dust off your colossus-climbing skills as your meeples physically move up and down the body of the guardian.
The game for the guardian is a little different each time depending on the creature they choose to play. There are four different guardians, each with their own abilities, custom decks and, most importantly, goals. Whilst the giant bear would like to murder as many of the foxes as possible to grab the win, the giant squid is attempting to spread its roots all over the kingdom. With different guardians also comes brand new bodies to climb on, each with their own safe climbing paths you’ll need to navigate. Combine that with the fact that the foxes can also pick between four different leaders to play as, and there’s already a tone of replayability in the box. The artwork is clean and colourful and the box itself has a really lovely layout that makes it a breeze to set up the game. It’s a fantastic game and there’s even a sequel – Maul Peak - on the horizon at the time of writing, too.
7. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
A two-player version of the classic farming board game
Agricola is one of those enormous board games that takes a good long while to play and requires quite a number of players. Which is why it’s so good to see a two-player board game version that cuts out a lot of the fat and chooses to focus on the most important aspect of Agricola: the animals. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small – a title that’s easy to confuse with the 1970s British television series, All Creatures Great and Small – is a tabletop title about gathering a menagerie of various farm animals, such as cows and sheep, and doing your best to find enough space for them all.
Both players start the game with a three-by-two board in which to keep their animals. This might not seem like a lot of space to begin with, and it’s not, but players will eventually be able to expand their available land as they progress. Expansion first requires victory points, which are earned by players having their newly acquired animals breed with one another to – you guessed it – create yet more livestock. It’s not just about quantity, as players will be rewarded by collecting a wider variety of farm animals as well. Ultimately, players want to be able to enclose their livestock within enclosures using their available fencing, making for a much more organised farm than one where the animals are all just roaming around and doing whatever they want.
Victory points can also be gained by acquiring certain special buildings – which require space to be built, meaning that players will have to sacrifice space that could otherwise be used to house more livestock – some of which will provide players with certain unique abilities. Not only is the theme of Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small undeniably charming, it’s an example of a fantastic two-player translation of another title - one that understands that less isn’t necessarily worse.
Air hockey plus magnets equals this fast-paced two-player game
Created by Danish carpenter Mikkel Bertelsen one hungover morning, Klask is fittingly the perfect two-player game to enjoy over a couple of cold ones with friends.
The modern offspring of pub fixtures such as air hockey and table football, but with the addition of magnets, Klask – a Danish word for “smack!” - is a crowdpleasing head-to-head competition that plays out in a self-contained miniature wooden pitch.
Each player controls an air hockey-like pusher to knock a ball around the pitch – except, rather than moving the plastic pieces directly with their hands, they control them from underneath the board using a strong magnet.
This magnet amps up the tension of getting one over on your opponent, as players must stop the ball from going in their goal – a circular pit in the board – but also avoid getting their own magnetic piece stuck in the hole, often accompanied by the game’s signature “SMACK!”
Further obstacles come in the form of small white magnets that lie along the pitch’s halfway line, which will stick to a player’s magnet if it wanders too close – or can even be propelled towards your rival with a careful shot. Falling into your own hole or getting two of the magnets stuck to you also concedes a point, so it’s not all about shooting for goal.
Klask’s simple rules and intense, lightning-fast gameplay make it an outstanding two-player board game, but it’s the kind of game that naturally gathers a crowd and makes for fun mini-tournaments – so keeping it to just two players may be a difficult task! The original game for two players has since expanded into a four-player version, but we’d argue that the original two-player is still the best way to experience this utterly unique gem.
9. Lawyer Up
Play out a courtroom encounter as the prosecution or defence
We’ve all seen at least one courtroom scene – whether from Miracle on 34th Street or Legally Blonde – and wondered what it would be like to take part in one. The drama, the tension, the release - all of these aspects are part of what makes a quintessential court scene so entertaining, but they’re also not replicable unless you happen to be filming one yourself or you’ve done something very naughty. Luckily enough, Lawyer Up, a two-player board game that pits a defence and prosecution attorney against one another, facilitates this without all the potential criminal activity and sentencing.
Lawyer Up comes from the tabletop studio behind Watergate – another excellent two-player board game about the historic US scandal – and the company’s preference for asymmetric gameplay continues to show here. For those who may not know, asymmetric refers to a game that has players attempting to achieve unique objectives or having access to unique gameplay mechanics. In Lawyer Up’s case, the asymmetry here is represented by the differing goals and tactics of the defence and prosecution. As the defence, players will be trying to gather as much evidence as they can to prove that their client did not commit the murder they’re accused of. In contrast, the prosecution will be attempting to dispute the evidence put forward by the defence, offering any damming evidence they might have that proves the defence is guilty.
The gameplay of Lawyer Up largely revolves around drafting and playing cards, with the aim of playing cards featuring matching symbols. Each symbol on the card relates to a different tactic the attorney might be taking – such as evidence or emotional pressure – to sway the opinions of the jury. The more symbols players manage to match, the more convincing their argument becomes, eventually leading to the jury voting their way on the case and that player winning. Though Lawyer Up is unlikely to be quite as dramatic as an actual courtroom trial, it’s a creatively-themed asymmetric game that builds and releases tension very well.
10. Summoner Wars: Second Edition
Go head-to-head with a friend in this mix of Magic: The Gathering and XCOM
The original Summoner Wars helped catapult board game publisher Plaid Hat to fame back in 2009, so it seems only right that its full-blown second edition has helped the studio relaunch as a newly re-independent creator over a decade later following its separation from Asmodee in 2020.
For the unfamiliar, Summoner Wars is an expandable card game that plays like a mixture of classic two-player card games such as Magic: The Gathering and the tactical strategy of video games like Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics and XCOM.
Like Magic, players spent mana points to summon creatures from their unique deck onto the battlefield, looking to whittle down the health of their opponent’s rival summoner to zero.
What makes Summoner Wars different to your typical card-battler is the introduction of a gridded board, onto which the cards are placed and moved around like units in a turn-based strategy game. As well as creatures, players can build new structures – including summoning gates and defences – to increase the range and power of their creatures’ attacks or block their opponent’s abilities.
Each of Summoner Wars’ factions has a unique play style, with new factions introduced to the six found in its starter set through fixed expansions – meaning no need to buy randomised booster packs. Although the decks can be played as-is, players can also customise their loadout for a new strategy and play style from game to game.
Summoner Wars is a fantastic two-player board game for fans of classic competitive card games and tactical video games, and its second edition improves on the original’s already excellent gameplay with a number of quality of life additions that streamline and tighten up rules rather than making sweeping changes. The new edition also saw the introduction of a full digital version of Summoner Wars, letting newcomers and existing fans play online for a fairly small monthly subscription. You can even try out the game for free, so there’s no excuse to let this terrific two-player board game pass you by.