Board games are a wonderful way to spend an evening, and sometimes it is nice just to play something with two. Screens away and do something together. Finding the right game can be a challenge, there are lots of two player games, and not all of them are for everyone. For some people this will be a game of chess, and for others we want something more relaxed. We always try to break our games down across 3 things, complexity, interactivity, and theme.
Along with those three things finding the right two player game for you and your player 2 is about finding an experience or puzzle you both enjoy, and taking the time to enjoy it. Here are some great games we would recommend if you think they would work for you.
Schotten Totten is an delightful small box. It is a simple game that has been published under a few names (Battle Line, East-West) but personally I find Schotten Totten by IELLO to just be charming.
You lay out a line, and you and your opponent take turns playing a card on your side of the line, trying to form sets of 3 to take control of a stone. This tug of war, with a bit of bluff, draws on rummy and poker as you commit only what you need to keep your options open.
This simple loop of a slowly tightening game of tug of war is what makes the game fun. Drawing from the deck to try and find your third 7 to beat your opponent's three 4s, but knowing if you play the last 7 from your hand you risk breaking the 5,6,7 run you were trying for on the last stone… maybe you can draw a blue 4 instead?
This tension and interaction is based on the risks you decided to take and make this game addictive, over in 20 minutes, and so easy to just deal again. It has just the right balance of strategy and luck that gives it beautiful moments where you plans come together... or fall apart because you gambled too much.
When I first played Patchwork it was such a pleasant and refreshing surprise. Here was this game with cute patches and was about making a quilt. Patchwork is an elegant and simple puzzle. On your turn, choose one of the next three pieces and place it on your board. Each of these pieces presents different possibilities and they call cost buttons (the game uses buttons as currency!!!). Do you get the cheaper piece that fits perfectly? A larger, more awkward piece, that gives you more buttons? Or the small piece that will let you sneak in a second turn?
In Patchwork everything is laid out at the start of the game, so there is no luck. Every piece costs two things; time and buttons. Buttons you have to earn, and time represents how long you have to finish your quilt. Your choices will open you (and your opponent) up to different options on their next turn. It is hard to describe how satisfying the game is as you finish your quilt, and leave as few gaps as possible, always so close to perfect - but never quite there.
Strictly speaking Quoridor is a 2 or 4 player game, and it plays wonderfully at both counts. 2 feels more like a head to head battle of wits and walls, while 4 feels so much more chaotic as the board can almost totally change from one turn to the next
Land vs Sea
I know, it has hexes, but this great game in a little box is about making a map. You have 2 hexes in your hand, and each has 2 sides and you just have to decide which to play. The beauty of it is that even if you are playing as land and finish a body of sea, the sea player scores the sea (although you still get any bonus points) and this simple little scoring twist truly makes Land vs Sea.
Land vs Sea presents a new puzzle every turn, and each game feels exciting as you explore the map together. There are different ways to score with a number of optional rules to keep the game feeling fresh, and rules to play with 3 (Land vs. Sea vs. Cartography) and 4 players (Two vs Two in teams) as well as two as we are describing here.
Paris: La Cité de la Lumière
City of Light
Codenames as a game took everyone a bit by surprise when it landed and everyone loved it. I am finding it hard to believe it only came out in 2015 since it feels like it has been around forever. It is a game that fits so well into any crowd. This is its two player cooperative cousin.
Cooperative games are great. Solving a puzzle together is such a satisfying feeling and Codenames Duet delivers the same great moments that its Team vs Team big box does but in a way that makes it nice to play in the morning with a cup of tea, or in the evening before sitting down with a good book.
What really shines for me with Duet is that you can get very personal with the clues, and lean into the experiences you have shared with the other player for clues that would never work with the larger game. These little intimacies make it a great game to play with your partner.
The Crew: Missions Deep Sea
The Crew is another cooperative game, and it is a game that plays perfectly with its advertised player counts (3-5). The game is a brilliant twist on trick taking (Hearts, 500, Bridge to name a few other well known trick taking games). The box also includes a special version of the game for 2 players that is often overlooked. We blazed through The Quest for Planet Nine (the first game in the Crew series) playing games daily until we ran out of the 50 included missions, we then printed out the extra missions because we could not get enough.
Playing with 3-5 people, The Crew is a tense game with limited communication, and has a special kind of magic. But at two players it is a very different game. One player controls a third hand with only ½ of its cards revealed and most of the rest is very similar. It still has that tension, but had a much more puzzler feel with hidden cards.
Thank you for reading, as you have seen this is not a normal “Top 5 2-Player Games” as we think the idea of such a list is a little absurd since everyone is different. We enjoy different experiences, we want different things, we like different genres and themes, and we want to play different games.
We hope this helped you find better games and gave perspective on what games might be right for you when looking for great games in the future.
Feel free to jump into the comments and let us know if there is a two player game you love or if you have a question about anything. If you want to explore more two player games check out our collection below.