Joseph works as an editor in one of the magazines dedicated to video games. Here, at RecRoomPick, he’s given the opportunity to enjoy the reverse of the medal – the no less engaging world of offline games.
Ryan knows everything when it comes to gaming, both online and offline. Since his early years he’s been in love with arcades, air hockey, and foosball. Finally, he’s given the opportunity to share his knowledge and opinion on the hobby of his life (and even get paid for it!).
Last updated: February 19, 2021
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So, you want to have a game night but it’s just you and one other person. Unfortunately, a lot of games require more than two players or are just more fun when more people are playing along. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you find the best 2-player board games. There are some great games out there that are just as fun to play with two people.
We looked at over 43 different gamed and narrowed it down to our top seven picks. Our Editor’s Choice is Z-Man Games’ Pandemic. This is one of the best 2 player co-op board games around. Work together with your partner to stop four different diseases from taking over the world. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, we also included card games, tile games, and some with more head-to-head competition.
When putting together this review, we considered some important features including age, genre, how much time you’ll spend playing, and what’s included with the game. So, whether you want a game you can play with your kids in under an hour or a complicated mystery to unravel with your partner that will take up the whole evening, we have you covered. The first thing you’ll find is a table where we compared all of our games side by side. After that are in-detail reviews of each game followed by a buying guide to help you make sure you find the right game for you.
Our Editor’s Pick is Pandemic by Z-Man Games. This is one of the best 2 player cooperative board games of all time. You and your partner play as members of a disease control team working together to prevent four different deadly diseases from taking over the world. You can only win by working together.
Throughout the game, players move around the globe, treating those affected by the disease, establishing research stations, and seeking out cures for all four diseases. Outbreaks can start and spread at any moment and things can quickly get out of hand
At the beginning of the game, players choose a card that assigns them their role moving forward. There are seven cards in all and each one has a special ability that helps them throughout gameplay. For example, the Dispatcher can move other players’ pieces and the Scientist needs fewer cards to cure a disease.
Gameplay takes about 45 minutes, though the first few plays may take a bit longer until you get the hang of the rules. One of the only complaints about this game is that it takes a while to get the hang of it. There is a lot going on and it can be a little overwhelming at first. While it’s an awesome game for two players, some people found it was a little easier with four players.
Space Cowboys’ Sherlock Holmes – The Thames Murders & Other Cases is the best 2 player board games for adults who are looking to solve a mystery. This is another great co-op game perfect for two players, though you can also play alone or with up to eight players. Note that this isn’t a casual game where you can chit chat with your partner. You really have to pay attention to all the details.
This game comes with 10 cases to solve and a casebook and newspapers to go along with each mystery. Players have to inspect clues and follow leads around a map of London to solve the case using reasoning, perception, and deduction. If you played this game in the 1980s, some of it might look familiar to you, though updates have been made. A single game takes about 90 minutes to play and it’s recommended for players ages 12 and up.
A big downside to this game is that, once you’ve solved all 10 mysteries, it’s not really fun to play anymore because you already know what happened in every case. The best thing to do is either hold onto it and play it again after some time has passed and you don’t remember how each case ends or give it away as a gift. If you love it, don’t worry. There are other Sherlock Holmes games available with more cases.
What we liked:
Can play solo
What could be better:
Once you work through the 10 cases, you can’t play the game anymore
Plan B Games’ Azul is a strategic tile-placement game that puts you head-to-head with your opponent. It’s ideal for two players but you can play with up to four people, ages eight and up.
Once you figure out how to play, a game usually takes about a half-hour to 40 minutes. Players try to get the highest score by arranging bright colored patterned tiles on their board. The games start off simple enough but it gets pretty tricky a few rounds in when you have to start thinking strategy. Should you make your move? Or try to prevent your opponent from making theirs?
People who bought this game not only love playing it but they also regularly comment on how beautiful it is. There are 100 resin tiles with gorgeous patterns and colors and a thick, durable bag for storage. All of the pieces are well made and the game should be able to handle years of use.
Some people commented that the scoring system is confusing and that manually placing each of the tiles on the boards could be a bit tedious and slowed down gameplay. The instructions that come with the game can be hard to understand but there are plenty of instructional videos available online.
What we liked:
Can play with up to 4 players
Easy to learn
What could be better:
Scoring system can be tricky
Some people found the instructions difficult to follow
Mayfair Games’ Agricola is one of the best 2 player strategy board games if you’re into competitive economic strategy turn-based play. Agricola has a basic premise. You play as a farmer and his spouse and who live together in a small wooden shack. Every turn, the farmer and his wife do things around the farm.
Plant veggies and grain, tend to cattle and sheep, build fences, collect wood and stone. Eventually, you can improve your shack or start a family. One of the best things about the game is the design. The tiny, colorful farmers, animals, and fences are adorable and made of real wood for detail you don’t always get with board games.
You can play with one to four players. There are 14 rounds of six stages with a harvest after each stage. The whole game takes about one to two hours to play so this is a good choice when you’re ready to settle in for a game night. We also really like that you can play two ways, as a beginner or advanced player, by using different decks of cards for Minor Improvement and Occupations.
Some people commented that this game was a little difficult to figure out at first but, once you get going, it’s pretty easy to understand. Another thing that people mentioned a few times is that they were surprised by how long a game took.
Asmodee’s 7 Wonders – Duel is a special version of the game designed especially for two players. You and your opponent face off against each other to build the most powerful city in the ancient world. Win by getting the most victory points, invading the other player’s capital, or having a monopoly on a scientific advancement.
You decide which path to choose. Do you pursue prestige, military power, or scientific knowledge? The trick is to find the right balance so you can defend your city and keep advancing technology at the same time.
Because there is more than one way to win, this game never gets boring which is always a risk with a two-player game. Each game is different and there are enough cards and options that you’ll want to play it over and over again. One game takes between a half-hour and 45 minutes so it’s perfect for a game-night or date-night in. If you’re a fan of the original and are wondering how this game stacks up, a lot of people have commented that much of the feel of the original game comes through.
It can take a few plays to figure out the game which can be frustrating if you’re playing against someone with a different skill level than you. Some people also felt that the cards were a little thin and bent and creased easily.
Hive by Smart Zone Games is a board game without a board. This tile game has a lot of parallels to chess in that each bug has specific rules to follow about where and when it moves. The goal is to surround your opponent’s Queen.
The tiles themselves are well-made and look great. They’re a decent size that’s easy to manipulate and they feel smooth and weighty, sort of like dominoes, and the bright colors really pop. The insects are recessed into the tiles which means you’re not constantly rubbing the pain so they should hold their color, even after repeated play. It comes with a nice zippered storage bag that’s easily portable.
Games vary in length depending on how long players take to make a move but it’s possible to finish one in 10 to 30 minutes. Some people describe this game as a cross between chess and dominoes with a few going so far as to say it’s an easy introduction to chess. You have to think strategically to win but the Hive is much easier to get a hang of and not as intense.
This game only comes with 22 tiles in all, 11 for each player. Some people found that this wasn’t enough to really enjoy that game and added the expansion packs. While this makes the game more fun, it also costs a bit of money on top of what you already paid for the original game.
What we liked:
What could be better:
May need to buy expansion packs to thoroughly enjoy the game
Another great 2 player game is Jaipur from Space Cowboys. In this one, you’re a powerful trader in the city of Jaipur striving to earn two seals of excellence to be invited to the Maharaja’s court. How do you do it? By selling, buying, and exchanging your wares at better prices than your competitors while also keeping an eye on your camel herds.
This is a card game that moves pretty quickly. When it’s your turn, you can sell the cards you have or take new ones. If you take cards, you can take all the camels, take a single card from the market, or swap two to five of your cards. If you sell, choose one type of good and get chips in return. The value of the chips decreases so you have to move but you also get better rewards for waiting and selling multiple items at a time. Choose wisely!
Jaipur is easy to learn and quick to play. Once you know what you’re doing, you can finish a game in about 30 minutes. The card art is beautiful and the game setup is pretty easy. Because there are so many options for each player’s turn, it’s very replayable and every game is different. While some people might not prefer this fast-style of play, if you’re a fan of card games, this is a great choice.
What we liked:
What could be better:
Reviewers had few complaints
Things to Consider
Playing board games is a great way to spend quality time with someone special. The right game can help you bond with your child or help you work together with your partner to figure out a complex puzzle. We put together this helpful buying guide that covers everything you need to know about choosing a game so you can be sure you pick the right one.
Are two-player board games fun to play?
Of course! That’s the main reason why we put this guide together in the first place. A lot of people assume that two-player board games aren’t as fun as multiplayer games but that is far from the truth. You just need to find the right game.
Features to consider while buying the best 2-player board game
There are a few key features to consider when choosing a board game for two people. Here are some of the most important.
Obviously, price is important. Some of these games are quite involved and come with a lot of little pieces and cards. The price range is pretty wide – from about $25 to close to $80.
This might sound like a big difference but keep in mind that all of these games are different. Some are simple card or tile games while others like Agricola include dozens of tiny wooden pieces. More expensive games are usually of better quality, too, with sturdier boards and more attention to detail.
We know that sometimes you like to play with your kids so we tried to include something for everyone. Age limits on games are chosen depending on how difficult the game is to learn as well as the theme of the game. For example, Sherlock Holmes – The Thames Murders & Other Cases is recommended for ages 12 and up because the mysteries are tough to figure out and some of them deal with things like murder and aren’t suitable for younger children.
On the other hand, Azul is a fun strategy game that uses brightly colored tiles and is recommended for players ages eight and up. You just need to make sure younger kids understand how to play the game.
We chose a variety of different genres so you’re sure to find one that you like. Cooperative games are those that require you and your partner to work together to solve a problem. For example, Pandemic, our top pick, is a cooperative action game.
Because we know some people are all about the competition, we chose some head-to-head games, too. Hive is a competition tile-placement game while Jaipur is a competitive strategy game. Both require you to think about the long-term implications of your actions and whether or not they’ll get you closer to winning.
Should it be hard to play?
It depends on what you’re looking for! If you want something you can play with your kids then it’s probably best to pick something that’s a little easier to understand. On the other hand, if you and your partner love figuring out puzzles and want something challenging, choose something that’s harder to play.
It’s really important to consider the quality of the game board and pieces. If the pieces are flimsy or if things like cards and books fold, rip, and tear easily, you won’t be able to play the game very long. There aren’t a lot of optional pieces in these games so once something breaks or tears, it can effectively ruin gameplay.
How much time do you have? Playing time really boils down to personal preference. If you want something that’s quick and easy that you can finish in under a half-hour, there are plenty of options to choose from. Or, if you’re looking for a game that will take hours to finish, we included some of those, too.
Co-op or competitive?
Again, this is all about personal preference. Co-op games require you and your partner to work together to win while competitive games pit you head-to-head against each other. Some people get very competitive which is something you should be aware of when choosing a game. Competitive people may prefer a game where you play against each other but if you know that they tend to get carried away, a co-op game may be a better choice.
Some of the games we chose are a little complex and have themes that children aren’t ready for. That said, we did include a few options that are great for kids ages eight and up. Azul is fun and easy to learn plus kids will love the bright, fun designs on the tiles. Another great choice is Hive. This is another tile game that features brightly colored bugs. Plus, Hive is similar in strategy to chess as each type of bug has designated moves. It can be a great way to introduce kids to chess down the line.
Of the games we included in our review, there are a few that might be road-trip-ready. Hive is a good choice for trips because all you need are the tiles. Plus, it comes with a durable sack to carry the tiles in which makes it easy to toss into your bag or suitcase. Azul and Jaipur might also work on a trip. They each have a few more components than Hive but not nearly as many as the other games.
Again, Hive is a great game if you’re looking for something quick. It might take you a few rounds to get up to speed but once you know what you’re doing, you can finish a round in about 15 minutes. Most of the other games we chose need a little longer than 20 minutes to play, but Azul, 7 Wonders Duel, and Jaipur can all be played in about 30 minutes once you get the hand of the rules.
A lot of these games require cards to play but they don’t really give you a safe way to store them long-term. Remember, it’s important to keep these cards in good shape because if they bend or tear, you might not be able to play the game anymore. If you want to keep playing your game for as many years as you can, it’s a good idea to invest in a deck protector. What we like about these is that they protect the card even while you play. Each card gets its own sleeve and they’re thin and flexible enough that you can still shuffle the cards. The corners won’t bend and you won’t have to worry about tearing, bending, or staining.
Wrapping It Up
Our Editor’s Choice is Pandemic from Z-Man Games. This is easily one of the best 2 player board games of all time. Gameplay takes about 45 minutes and you can replay it over and over with a different result each time. Will you stop a pandemic? Play to find out.
If you like mysteries, check out Sherlock Holmes – The Thames Murders & Other Cases by Space Cowboys. This game includes 10 different cases that you and your partner work together to crack, exploring London and diving deep into case files and newspapers. Each mystery takes about 90 minutes to solve.
We also highly recommend Azul by Plan B Games. This is one of the best 2-player board games for quick and easy play. Arrange the beautiful tiles to out-do your opponent, strategizing when you should make your move and when you should stop them from making theirs.