If you were to peruse the inventory in Barnes & Noble or other media stores, you wouldn’t be able to go a few feet without seeing some seriously creative-looking board games. It is easy to get caught up in the glow of video gaming, but it is always refreshing when you spend time playing a board game with a friend.
If you are a person who thrives on multiplayer cooperation, competition, and more, board games can be a great past time to pick up. I’ll help you out by listing the best 2 player board games – from easy and casual to difficult and hardcore.
This is a board game staple these days. Pandemic has you and your friends pitted against a deadly disease threatening the human race. If you are geared towards more cooperative games like Left 4 Dead and Payday, this is the board game for you.
You band together with your friends and try to stop the spread of a particularly tenacious disease. It can get frantic, as the disease can evolve and spread insanely quick. It could take up to an hour or so to play, but that hour will fly by as you try to save the world.
Expansions for the game have been released, including one where the world fell to a virus, and now you have to survive the wasteland.
This one is a real treat and will cater to RPG fans. You take on the role of a lone adventurer, a drifter who inhabits this ever-changing world with companions.
Some things you will partake in are clearing dungeons, fighting enemies and more. No playthrough is the same, so you can replay this game over and over, even solo. It takes about one to two hours to play, so it’s a moderate investment of time.
This is the perfect game for a group of friends, or just two, to sit down and enjoy. It was the 2018 SXSW Tabletop Game of the Year Winner, no small feat! Many board game players have this consistently at the top of their lists.
3. 7 Wonders: Duel
Fans of games like Civilization will be drawn to this historical battle game.
Your goal is to duel against your opponent through eclipsing their civilization. This can be done in several ways. You need to build wonders throughout your game session, which should last around a half hour or so. Victory conditions can be met through science, culture, and military to name a few.
I love any game that emulates the addictive gameplay of Sid Meier’s Civilization, and 7 Wonders: Duel is one of those games.
4. Ticket to Ride
No, it isn’t the Beatles song.
Ticket to Ride is a competitive game in which your goal is to build railroad tracks across the country. You need to score points by building through cities and other areas. It will take about a half-hour, so it is an easy game to pick up and play again and again.
It’s really fun to see who can build the longest track, or at least the one who scores enough points. I’ve had some heated games were tempers flared and competitive spirits soared, all over trains!
My stepmother became so addicted to this game, that she had to physically stop herself from playing!
5. Codenames: Duet
Codenames Duet is tailored for two players working using word association. It’s based on the original board game, Codenames, which has become very popular.
You and another player need to give each other clues in the form of one word to advance the game forward until you can guess the names of targets or their ‘code names’ with as few guesses as possible.
This is a great game for bonding with another, as you’ll be working with them and their thought processes.
This game, right off the bat, is a very serious and stark portrayal of war-torn Europe following World War I.
Players portray different Eastern European teams that have their traits, motives, and resources. Each nation has to build up its arsenal and make their way in a grim landscape.
This game will have you scheming and building, often at the same time. It takes around an hour and a half to two hours and is extremely detailed. You can even build a huge mech!
This is a card game that mixes and matches players’ wits with a murder mystery. The artwork is great, and contrary to what you might think, it only requires 2 players to get a game up and running.
Your goal is to hire a crew for a heist, thieving your way across Europe. The art style is unique and beautiful, leading to a feeling of whimsical mischief. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a lot of fun.
8. Twilight Struggle: The Cold War, 1945-1989
BE WARNED: this isn’t a casual game! It can take 3+ hours to complete.
That being said, this is a game for strategy and history fans. It isn’t light and airy like most party games. It simulates the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Considered a hardcore classic, Twilight Struggle has the two players facing off by way of competing spheres of influence through actual historical events. You’ll plan coups, covert military actions, and advance the Space Race.
This is a great choice for those board gamers looking for a heavy strategy game or investment of time.
9. The Fox in the Forest
This artistically brilliant trick-taking game has you dealing with foxes and other fairytale creatures in a fantastical setting. You need to win more tricks than your opponent to defeat them.
In the 30-minute playing time, one player starts by putting a card from their hand, followed by the second player then playing one of theirs. Whoever has the highest card wins the ‘trick’. Pretty simple, right? However, if you win 10+ tricks, you become ‘Greedy’, bringing you back to 0.
The aim is to get a cool 7-9 tricks under your belt to be victorious. The subtle strategy and beautiful art make this an easy recommendation.
10. Tiny Towns
Tiny Towns is a sweet little resource management game, (who doesn’t love those?), where 2-6 players get together and build their towns.
The story is that you, (woodland creatures), are building a town away from predators in the woods. Resources are very rare, so you have to play things smart.
The playtime is 45-60 minutes usually and will have you scoring victory points by actions like building buildings. The game ends when no one has any more pieces to use.
This is a game all about mushrooms. Yep, you read that right.
Foraging for morels is your goal in this quaint little card game where you are tasked with finding mushrooms, cooking them, and more to get the best of your opponent. Who thought that competitively gathering mushrooms could be this fun?
For 30 minutes, you and an opponent will use strategy to get the most points for the most strategic plays. Just watch out for the poison mushrooms lurking in the deck!
12. The Game of Life
I am obligated to include this classic board game on this list.
The Game of Life has you and others, (anywhere from 2-6 players), start out graduating from college, (or not), and starting your ‘life’ in the game. This includes buying insurance for your house, having kids, and choosing an occupation.
It is a great mash-up of simple and strategic gameplay aspects, allowing casual players and competitive players to join in on the fun. If you haven’t played ‘Life’, you owe it to yourself to give it a go.
13. Terraforming Mars
I love a good story setup for a game, and Terraforming Mars has exactly that. It takes place almost 400 years in the future, and man has started to terraform Mars to make it more habitable.
Playing as different large corporations, players acquire cards that allow them to build cities, industries, and more if there are adequate oxygen and water. This is a good blend of city-building as well as resource management that I love to see in PC games, so I’m delighted it transferred so well to board games.
Players increase their terraforming rating, and by the end of the game, the player with the highest rating wins.
14. Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Fans of H.P. Lovecraft and ghoulish ghosts will feel right at home with this terrifying card game.
In Arkham, players take on the role of the residents of Arkham, a town situated in New England. Each character has pros and cons, adding an interesting role-playing aspect to the game.
This game will be a true test in endurance, as you and others will come up against some seriously scary encounters. You and another player go through the deck and use your skills to overcome the terrors that await you.
Each game lasts about an hour or two, so this will be a good little time investment. For fans of horror, this is your game.
15. Kingdom Death: Monster
Another entry for those of us who have a masochistic streak in their souls.
Kingdom Death, along with being one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for a board game, is a punishingly difficult and time-intensive game. Playing time can easily rack up to 60 hours and combines multiple genres like role-playing and survival horror.
This is no ‘pick up and play’ like some of the games on the list, but if you’re a hardcore board gamer and have some cash to spare, this might be what you’re looking for.
The game works in three phases: Settlement, Hunt, and Showdown. The settlement phase has the players using resources to build their settlements and prepare themselves for battle with new tech. The hunting phase is where the story aspects kick in and you’re treated to event cards. Finally comes the showdown where the players will fight the monster.
If you’re lucky enough to win, you’ll reap some serious benefits and be able to invest in your town to take down the next baddie.
One of my personal favorites, Carcassonne is a tile-based game where you need to connect rivers, paths, and buildings. The player has control of ‘meeples’, or game pieces and must decide what best place to set them is. If placed strategically, a player can score major points. It scratches the itch of city building, organization, and more.
The game moves lightning-fast and lasts about 30 minutes. This is a great game for 2 players or more; a perfect choice for any small gathering of friends or family.
Dominion is a card game where you find yourself as a monarch facing off against other monarchs for control of the land. Players achieve their victory points through building the most ideal deck by acquiring different cards to their initial hand at the beginning of the game.
All the mainstays of resource management are here: building castles, hiring goons, and getting money. I love the look and feel of this game; it draws heavily from medieval history.
Games are pretty quick, with games typically lasting about a half-hour.
Agricola is a game originally released in the Netherlands and portrays the life of a simple farmer. However, you’ll soon see that farm life is anything but simple.
It’s a turn-based game where players engage with action cards that are activated. Players have the option of engaging with Occupation or Minor Improvement cards. This builds and builds and eventually culminates in the Harvest at the end.
How bountiful will yours be?
19. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Fellow fans of The Lord of the Rings rejoice! This card game is a great coop option for those more non-competitive gamers. You join up with a friend and venture into the rich world of Middle-Earth.
Players will, along with a deck of allied characters, fight monsters and deal with different scenarios where they’ll be forced to strategically play their hands to mitigate losses and complete quests. You’ll have to be careful, so you and your team aren’t spread ‘…thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread’, as Bilbo Baggins once said.
20. The Oregon Trail
Fans of the classic computer game will recall these iconic images now in card form. Players can join up together in a wagon party to traverse the unforgiving American Midwest, hopefully reaching Oregon and winning.
This game is tough and unforgiving. You and your wagon train will experience snake bites, broken arms, dirty water, starvation, and of course, dysentery. Players are given resource cards like extra clothing and oxen as well as drawing event cards, slowly but surely making their way west.
Things can go bad quickly, and you need to work together to even have a chance at surviving. In the 45-minute-long games, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat, expecting the worst and hoping for the best.
There’s no feeling like being able to rest at a fort, mosey on into town, and reaching the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Safe travels!