Board games for two players can be hard to find, which is a shame because two player board games are the perfect activity for couples and for when you want to play a board game but you have difficulty mustering a large group of players. In this list we share our favourite board games for two players.
You can read our complete Asante review. In short, what we really like about the game is how unique it is. Most two player games are about building up resources and using those to gather victory points. In Asante your victory points are your gold, and your gold is also your main resource. This means that your victory points don’t grow linearly, but fluctuate more while they increase. Especially in the end game this can lead to interesting interactions, where you can sometimes steal games because your opponent spent too much money to prepare a trade that you won’t give him the time to execute. Further, the theme of Asante (African trade) is original and refreshing.
We like the strategic aspects of Asante so much that we wrote a complete Asante strategy guide. This guide also contains some suggestions for extra rules that help to smooth out some of the imperfections in Asante.
Citadels is a relatively unknown card game. It is very dynamic and heavily involves mind games. In Citadels, players take on new roles each round to represent characters they hire in order to help them acquire gold and erect buildings. Each character has a special ability, and the usefulness of any character depends upon your situation, and that of your opponents. Typically, it is also important to deceive your opponents about which rule you take on, as you may leave yourself vulnerable to their abilities if they Uncover your identity.
What we really like about Citadels is how dynamic it is. Since you have to guess the other players identities while hiding your own every round, it almost feels like you play a complete social deduction game every round.
Citadels can be played with more than two players too. This is not ideal, because with only two players you may find similar scenario’s repeating themselves after playing for several games. But, we also think that in some senses the game is actually more strategic when it is played with only two players, because of some interesting strategic exchanges that can only occur in two player games. We described these exchanges in articles here.
3. Codenames Duet
The original Codenames was a smash hit and the two player version of the game, Codenames Duet, is a strict improvement of it. Codenames Duet is cooperative instead of competitive, and the most important difference with the original game is that there is no strict distinction between the clue giver and the guesser anymore. Instead, both players can give clues and guess whenever they wish in a joint effort to identify all the secret agents before the time runs out. This difference is crucial because it eliminates the moments where guessers have to wait a long time for the clue givers to think of clues. And it also takes off some of the pressure as a clue giver to think of a clue quickly, because people are waiting for you. Therefore the whole experience becomes more engaging and also more relaxed for both players.
Furthermore, Codenames is great for people that quickly form all kinds of associations about words, but some people’s creativity fires much more readily on pictures than on words. We are among these people, which is why we prefer Codenames Pictures over the original Codenames. And to our pleasant surprise, Codenames Duet is fully compatible with Codenames pictures. All you have to do is replace the word cards from Duet with the picture cards from Pictures.
Dominion is the first deck building games and has won several awards for its ingenuity, among which the prestiguous Spiel des Jahre (Game of the year) award in 2009. Today it is still the most popular deck building card game (on both Boardgamegeek and Amazon).
In Dominion players start with a deck full of Copper and Estates. They can use their Copper to buy stronger cards such as Silver and Gold and powerful action cards, which they can then add to their deck. Their end goal is to fill their deck with more Victory points than their opponents.
Dominion has the most replay value of any board game. This is because every game, 10 kinds of Kingdom cards are available for purchase for the players. The Dominion basic set contains 25 different Kingdom cards, which means that with only the basis set you can already play with about 12.000 billion different card combinations. Furthermore, Rio Grande Games has released a number of excellent Dominion expansions, that all contain numerous interesting and fun Kingdom cards, as well as new game mechanics. Dominion can therefore really provide endless fun and room for strategy improvements.
The only negative thing we have to say about Dominion is that it takes quite long to prepare and clean up, and that some games can last very long. (But read our articles about how to set up quick Dominion games.)
1. 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel is the two player version of the popular board game 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders Duel has won the prestiguous Golden Geek Award for best 2 player board game in 2015 and is currently rated a 8.1 on Boardgamegeek (the IMDB for board games), which makes it number 14 in the list of best board games of all time.
In 7 Wonders Duel two players build up their cities using cards they draw from a common card pool. The cards in this pool are structures as a tree, so that when one card is drawn it exposes other cards which then become available to be drawn too. The tactical considerations that go into planning which cards you want to draw are huge, because you need to take into account both which cards you need, what cards your opponent needs, and even in which order you would want these cards to be drawn. In total 7 Wonders Duel last three era’s which each have their own card pool. To effectively plan ahead which cards you want to draw during every era is tactically very challenging and interesting.
The strategy aspect of 7 Wonders Duel is even more interesting than the tactics aspect. In our opinion 7 Wonders Duel is the best strategy board game. This is mainly because there are three different ways to win 7 Wonders Duel: military victory, scientific victory and civic victory. Even at the beginning of the game, when players get to pick their wonders, they have to consider how their wonders will impact their abilities to achieve any of the victory conditions. The same is true for every card that is drawn during the game. Typically, the player that is able to stick to his long term strategy will prevail.
7 Wonders Duel also has an expansion: Pantheon. In short, Pantheon adds Gods to the game which gives the game more strategic depth and balances the three different win conditions. We particularly like that Pantheon solves the problem that science is a bad strategy in the 7 Wonders duel base game.