Two-player board games (often referred to as duo games or couples games) are a booming genre at the moment. The two-player format allows developers to flex their creativity in new and exciting ways with original mechanics and unique themes.
From in-depth strategy games to fast-paced party experiences, you are overwhelmed with choices right now. But if you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of two-player games, here are ten of the very best.
10. Twilight Struggle
This multi-award-winning game puts players in charge of the United States or the USSR between 1945 and 1989. The game recreates many of the Cold Wars’ most pivotal and intense moments as both sides fight for ideology and power across the globe, frequently clashing in the process.
Much like the real world, coming out on top will require planning and long-term strategy as you try to outmaneuver your foe through politics and secret activity in this detailed wargame. While the game is amazingly well done, be warned that it is a long game and very complicated, so it isn’t a good first board game for someone new to the medium.
9. Fog of Love
Romance is an underused genre within board games, making Fog Of Love stand out amongst the crowd. This cooperative board game casts you as a traditional rom-com couple as you play out their first meeting, dates, and all of the ups and downs of romance. This includes moments of comedy and moments of compromise as both players try to meet their needs without undermining the relationship.
This game is an excellent introduction to board games because it builds on a super popular but underrepresented genre. On top of this, the cooperative storytelling nature offers a fun experience for players who are put off by the competitive nature of traditional strategy games.
8. Tacocat Spelled Backwards
Made by the people behind the popular webcomic The Oatmeal (who previously made the excellent Exploding Kittens,) Tacocat Spelled Backwards is a unique tug-of-war game where players attempt to move the titular Tacocat towards the goal.
Every round, the players draw a hand of cards. These cards are used in a strategic numerical attack and defense system. When the players have one card left, they reveal it, and the player with the lowest card gets to move Tacocat one space towards their goal. Simple to learn and delightfully chaotic, Tacocat Spelled Backwards is excellent for players of all ages and skill levels.
7. Moon Base
Moon Base is a very unique game about warring corporations attempting to build a moon base. Each round, the players have to place rings to slowly build up the moon base. However, you’ll have to think carefully, as you need to control territory while making sure that your rings end up on top of the pile.
This unique mechanic leads to a tense game packed full of fun counterplay, and the final few turns are always exciting as players jockey for position in the hope of getting the points they need to guarantee victory.
6. Imhotep: The Duel
Set in ancient Egypt, Imhotep: The Duel casts players as Nefertiti and Akhenaten. To find out who is the better builder, you have to strategically empty six barges and use their building materials to create exquisite monuments. But, placement and order are crucial as you’ll have to think ahead if you want to snag the most victory points.
Imhotep: The Duel strikes the perfect balance between ease of access and strategic depth. It is a quick game and easy to learn, making it the best entry game for newer players. However, it has enough depth to engage long-time strategy players and more than enough to support many replays.
In the capital city of Rajasthan, Jaipur, a feud is brewing between the two most powerful merchants. Both want to earn an invite to the Maharaja’s court, but only one will be invited, forcing the two to compete for the honor. Taking the role of these two traders, the players have to use cards to buy and trade goods and camels.
Jaipur is an excellent strategy game that has a lot of depth while being easy to learn. The game has a slight luck element which helps give every player a chance and forces players to think on their feet and adapt to changing situations, meaning that Jaipur has a lot of replayability.
A game about humans and velociraptors that is sure to appeal to everyone. Raptor follows a group of humans who want to capture the last velociraptors and use them to repopulate the species. Alas, the velociraptors are not fans of that plan and aim to dispose of the annoying humans.
One player controls the velociraptors, and the other plays the humans as each tries to complete a series of goals. This game uses a fun card-based action system where the player who plays the lowest rank card gets to use an action, and the other player gets action points based on the rank difference between the cards played. So, if you want to win, you’ll have to predict the other player’s moves and plan your strategy carefully. However, it is the theme that makes this game stand out. Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to play as a velociraptor?
This abstract game looks and plays a lot like a smaller version of chess crossed with cards. Each player starts the game with four small pawns and a large pawn. Each player also has two cards that show various moves on them, and each turn, the player will play the card and move their piece accordingly.
The aim is to either capture your opponent’s biggest pawn or move into their starting space. However, the limited number of cards means that you have to think carefully, as your opponent will get a chance to use the move you just used in a few turns. This leads to a very simple to learn strategy game that is also very quick to play, making it perfect for pairs who want to fit a fast experience into a busy schedule.
2. Codenames Duet
Codenames has been a smash hit party game ever since its release in 2015. The game of deduction and teamwork is quick to learn and always a load of fun.
Codenames Duet takes the core gameplay of Codenames and tweaks it slightly to make it work with two players. Now, rather than teams, both players are working together. Your aim is to find the spies and avoid the assassins in a grid by giving each other one-word clues. If you enjoy Codenames, you’ll love Codenames Duet as it takes all of the fast, frantic fun and makes it work perfectly as a 2-player game.
Hive is a tile-based placement and strategy game based around bugs. Playing as a swarm, you have to avoid getting your Queen Bee surrounded while attempting to corner your opponent’s Queen. Each bug tile has a different ability, from the Beetle’s ability to move over the top of other tiles or the ant that can move as far as it wants, provided it moves around the outside of the hive.
Hive is simple to learn but has plenty of strategies, meaning that it doesn’t get dull, and it has fantastic replay value as you can experiment with many different approaches and tactics as you attempt to be king of the bugs.