You don’t have to invite a group over to play board games. There are plenty of two-player games that can be perfect for a little personal fun with your significant other. But which should you buy?
What to Look For in a Two-Player Board Game
Board games come in all shapes and sizes. In a way, they give you more options for two-player fun than most video games. Some board games are ultra-portable, while others can take up a whole table.
That’s why it’s helpful to consider the three most important aspects of a board game, and how those may align with what you and your partner enjoy.
- Competition: Known by some as “stress,” competition is one of the most important aspects to consider when choosing a board game. If you and your partner aren’t into cutthroat games, then look for a short game that involves teamwork rather than player-versus-player competition.
- Portability: There’s no point in getting a giant board game if you’ll never use it. If you have to travel to play games with your partner (or if you like to play on the go), consider buying something small and portable, like a card-based game.
- Learning Curve: Some people prefer games with a steeper learning curve, but there’s no shame in playing “easy” games if that’s what the two of you enjoy. A more accessible game also means you can skip hours of rulebook talk and get straight to gameplay.
Now that you’ve considered how you and your partner’s preferences align with the three most important aspects of a board game, it’s time to pick the right one.
Competitive Strategy Board Games
When some people think of board games, it’s the cutthroat strategy games that first come to mind. If you’re ready to put your relationship on the line for a good bit of stress and fun, then these are the board games for you.
- Patchwork ($25): A quick (15 minute) board game in which the goal is to build an aesthetically pleasing quilt. While based on a weird idea, it’s a really in-depth game that’s worth a shot.
- Stratego Original ($18): This is a light, history-based strategy game for two players (no, it isn’t Risk). The goal is to plan your army for war and take down your opponent. War games don’t have to be complicated!
- Twilight Struggle: The Cold War ($40): If you like long, stressful board games, then Twilight Struggle is for you. It’s a history board game that’s similar to Risk (but also, not Risk), in which you use your power and influence to take over the world.
- TIME Stories ($40): This game allows you and a partner to go on time traveling adventures. The goal is to control people’s past lives and steer them toward a mission goal. Each game comes with multiple decks of cards with unique stories, so the adventure never gets old.
Sometimes, the intensity of a strategy game can be a little too much. If you and your partner prefer something a little less competitive, a puzzle-based game may be the way to go.
Low-Key Puzzle Board Games
Puzzle based games aren’t just for kids. They challenge your mind, are easy to jump into, and provide some of the depth you’d expect from a strategy board game. If you want to keep things low-key with a puzzle game, here are some of the best to check out.
- Azul ($24): This is an easy puzzle game, but it involves a lot of depth. At a basic level, you compete to pick up tiles and score points. As the game progresses, though, you and your opponent have to fight for tiles, set strategic traps, and keep your eye on the board.
- Blokus Duo ($15): The goal of this incredibly simple game is to fit more oddly shaped blocks on the board than your opponent. It’s fun, cheap, and easy to get into.
- Gloomhaven ($102): A combat-oriented strategy game where you and a partner work together to clear dungeons, discover ruins, and plunder riches. Think of it like Dungeons and Dragons mixed with Risk. This is a long-form game with a ton of story elements and random events for infinite replay-ability.
- Hive ($25): A bit like dominoes mixed with mahjong, the goal of this game is to capture a queen bee. You and an opponent build a board as you go, and you can cancel out each other’s pieces with a bit of strategy.
Of course, both strategy and puzzle games can be a bit bulky. If you want something easy to throw into a bag, a card-based game may be more your thing.
Portable Card-Based Board Games
Some board games don’t really come with a “board.” For the sake of convenience, we’re going to call these “card-based” board games. Don’t worry—they’re not like Uno or Old Maid. When playing many of these games, you build a board along the way or interact with elements you’d usually find in a board game.
Why play a card-based board game? Well, they’re fun, but they’re also cheap and convenient. Most card-based board games sell for under $20, and they’re small enough to take to parties or pack in bags.
- Rivals for Catan ($20): In this two-player version of the famous Settlers of Catan board game, you build resources and fight your opponent. This version is based entirely on cards and small tiles, rather than a large board.
- Caper ($25): A strategic card game in which you hire and arm thieves to steal famous European artifacts, Caper offers a good mix of history, strategy, and easy-to-understand, card-based mechanics.
- Codenames Duet ($20): A cooperative word game where you and your partner try to deduce the names of spies. It’s like a more robust version of Guess Who.
- Exit: The Abandoned Cabin ($12): An escape room game for your home! Essentially, you work with others to solve a series of riddles and puzzles. This teamwork game can be ideal if you’re not feeling too competitive.
- Forbidden Island ($15): A portable strategy game where you and your partner work together to find four sacred treasures in a deserted civilization. Like other card games, Forbidden Island is full of random elements and replay-ability.
Whether you’re looking for a stressful strategy game or a chill puzzle game, be sure to choose one your partner will enjoy, too. They are two-player games, after all.