This list has been updated.
Click here to see the new Top 10 List
Even though I have regular game nights at my house, my primary gaming partner is still my wife. And I’m exceedingly grateful for her willingness to try just about any game I toss onto the table (especially if I need to play it for a review). So I definitely appreciate when publishers come out with new 2 player games. Sure, there are plenty of games that play fine with 2, but many times those games really shine with more players.
So with that in mind, today I’m going to talk about my Top 10 Two Player Board Games. And to clear things up, this list will only be for two player games, so no games that play with more than 2 players. However, I am making an exception for a few games that have clearly shoehorned in extra player counts, but are really 2 player only games (War of the Ring, I’m looking at you). So with that out of the way, on to the list!
Top 10 2 Player Board Games
Honorable Mention: Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit (review)
I really enjoy Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit. Based on the eminently forgettable Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, this game was probably the best thing to come out of those movies. It would be higher up on the list, but it’s long since been out of print and fetches a stupidly high price on the secondary market. That being said, if you ever have a chance to play this dice chucking battle royale, do it. It’s tons of fun.
2-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 120 minutes • Out of Print
10. Tides of Madness (review)
Portal Games answer to fans looking for a card drafting game that played well with only 2 players. Enter Tides of Madness, their sequel to Tides of Time. In Tides of Madness, players are trying to acquire sets of cards over the three rounds of the game. The reason I like Tides of Madness better than its predecessor is the new madness mechanic. If a player collects too many madness tokens, they go insane and immediately lose. This opened up a new avenue of strategic options.
2 Players • Ages 10+ • 15 minutes • $10
9. 7 Wonder Duel (review)
This one actually grew on me since my first play. I originally wasn’t a fan of 7 Wonders: Duel, but subsequent plays have caused me to warm up to it. And with the Pantheon expansion, this game gets even better. More cutthroat than the original 7 Wonders, Duel has players drafting cards from a pyramid on the center of the table. There are actually 3 ways to win in 7 Wonders: Duel, which really helping this game to stand out from its older brother.
2 Players • Ages 10+ • 30 minutes • $30
8. Twilight Struggle
Last year, Twilight Struggle was dethroned as the highest ranked game on Board Game Geek (after an impressive number of years in the top spot). A highly strategic card game set during the cold war, Twilight Struggle has everything gamers love. Minimal luck, multi-use cards, and loads of strategy. Despite its high-ranking, it’s a fairly heavy game and might not be for everyone. Thankfully there is a tablet app if you want to check it out first.
2 Players • Ages 13+ • 120-180 minutes • $45
Part of designer Uwe Rosenberg’s 2 player only series, Patchwork has players drafting Tetris-like shapes as they try to make a quilt on their personal boards. The game is easy to learn and yet has a surprising amount of depth. Plus, I really appreciate how he branched off with the theme on this one. I don’t own very many games about quilting, but this one is definitely worth owning.
2 Players • Ages 8+ • 30 minutes • $30
6. Memoir ’44 (review)
Depending on if you prefer a historical World War II theme or a fantasy one, you could easily substitute Memoir ’44 with BattleLore. The two games are very similar and built upon the same engine. Using Richard Borg’s Command and Colors system, Memoir ’44 is designed to be easy to learn and quick to play. Yet while the game is simple to pick up, winning still requires strategic card play, tactics, and maybe some luck from the dice.
2-6 Players • Ages 8+ • 30-60 minutes • $60
5. War of the Ring
Another game that lists itself as 2-4 players, but really is a 2 player only game. When you play with 4, it simply carves up each side in half, shoehorning in the extra players. Anyway, War of the Ring is an epic game set in the Lord of the Rings universe. It takes players from the start of the books on a quest to destroy the one ring in Mordor. This is THE thematic game for Lord of the Rings fan. However, if you are looking for a game that’s a bit lighter and easier to get to the table, The Battle of 5 Armies could be a good substitute.
2-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 120-180 minutes • $65
4. Star Wars: Armada
When it comes to ship based Miniatures games, Star Wars: Armada is my clear favorite. While you could easily slide Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures in here if you prefer a more tactical game, I love the strategic nature of Star Wars: Armada. That, and controlling capital ships is way cooler than dog fighting in x-wings and tie fighters. Plus, I much prefer the end game in Star Wars: Armada as it wraps up a lot smoother than in X-wing. But both are really excellent options.
2 Players • Ages 10+ • 30-45 minutes • $80
3. Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small
Another solid game from Uwe Rosenberg, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small distills his hit game Agricola down to a quick playing, 2 player only game that has players raising animals on their pre-industrial farm. While it shares a name and look with Agricola, it really does stand on its own and is about as solid a euro game as they come.
2 Players • Ages 10+ • 30 minutes • Out of Print
2. Star Wars Rebellion
Much like War of the Ring above, Star Wars: Rebellion is billed as 2-4 players, but is truly a 2 player game. This epic game, which clocks in with a play time of about 3-4 hours, has players fighting for supremacy in the Star Wars universe. One side takes control of the mighty empire, hunting for the secret rebel base with their limitless resources. However, they must find the base before the rebels can use their hit and run tactics to delay the empire long enough to generate sympathy (and destroying the death star helps as well).
2-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 180-240 minutes • $90
1. Android: Netrunner (review)
Honestly, Android: Netrunner has everything I want in a 2 player only game. Exciting asymmetrical game play, a great theme, tons of options, and addictive game play. In Android: Netrunner, one player takes on the role of a major corporation (possibly evil in some viewpoints), trying to advance their agendas. The other player is a lone hacker, trying to expose the corporation’s evil doings. The mechanics in Netrunner are fantastic and really engaging once you get into constructing your own decks. This is also one game where I would love to see it turned into a tablet app so I could play it constantly!
2 Players • Ages 12+ • 45 minutes • $35
I can’t believe that you left off the perennial favorite of wife games – Lost Cities! The classic should still get an Honorable Mention.
While Lost Cities is a good game and a favorite for some. I wouldn’t put it anywhere near my top 10. 🙂
Star Realms is our number 1, solid list though.
Arkham Horror LCG is my #1
Arkham Horror is a great game, but it’s not a 2 player only game.
Mtg is miles better than your no. 1
Thank you for your opinion, but I don’t agree with you in the slightest.
I agree with you Jeppe…
I’m not saying Mtg is a bad game, far from it. It wouldn’t be around this long if it were. But It has tons of bloat, and has the absolute worst distribution model in all of tabletop gaming. It doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the #1 spot. And frankly, Netrunner is just a much better game.
While this is a top 10 “Board Games” for 2 players , id have to give you a pass on netrunner being number 1 , “Your Opinion” is just that your opinion but MTG having as you call it “to much bloat” i can only assume means it has to many cards to choose from. Thats why theres different formats (standard,modern,legacy,vintage…. and pauper) . Your second point of it having the worst distribution is moot in reviewing a game if its distribution isnt up to par since that has ZERO to do with the game play itself. @@@@@ Continued @@@@
Lastly MTG has so many lairs of complexity to it similar to how chess is both easy to learn and hard to master. Added to which MTG is only the Best TCG out there and it isnt even close!
While I appreciate your passion for MTG, here’s the bottom line. It’s just not a game I’d recommend to anyone.
If you are looking to play a MTG type of game casually, then Allegiance: A Realm Divided is a MUCH better choice.
If you are looking to play in the tournament scene, than this list probably isn’t for you anyway.
For a lighter Twilight Struggle, 13 Days: Cuban Missile Crisis should be mentioned. It’s one of my favourite 2 player games.
Onitama and Santorini should also get a shout-out.
Both Onitama and Santorini were definitely considered. Santorini didn’t make it though because it’s not strictly a 2 player game.
Android Netrunner is not a board game. It’s a deck builder.
Board game is just a general term, not meant to be taken literally.
What about Raptor? That should have been on this list.
I second Josh P’s recommendation of Raptor. It is by far my favorite 2 player game – and no matter who wins, you’re always kinda rooting for the other side too! Very easy to relate with the motivations of both sides. 🙂
Have you player caverna cave vs cave yet? Would be interesting to hear where in your.list it would rank.
I have played it a couple of times so far. Unfortunately, it would not make the top 10 list.
My husband and I are new to board games, which of the above would you recommend for beginners. Something fast paced (less than half an hour) and something not too strategic.
From the list above, Tides of Madness would be the easiest. It plays in 10-15 minutes and is very light. It’s really more of a filler game though. Patchwork would be another good choice. It’s somewhat meatier, yet still isn’t too complicated.
Ashes rise of the Phoenix born should be here, lightning and thunder and Onitama for the abstract board gamer
@Ken and other MTG fans. I’ve played MTG for about 20 years (since 1994) and competitively, and in early 2014 i made the switch to Netrunner. Since then I haven’t looked back. Don’t get me wrong, Magic is a great game, and when I played it, I used to think it was the best game ever. Hands down. After getting into Netrunner however I realized that the complexity of MTG in most games is often not close to that of Netrunner. In short, (thought I know this is a slight exaggeration, but not as big as one could imagine), in MTG the decks plays, you, in Netrunner, you play the deck. I think many magic players would object to that, as clearly there are good players and bad players, and I don’t disagree, but this is just much more obvious in Netrunner. Now when I play magic (I still have about 20 re-constructed tier1 standard decks from about 2000 up to 2012), I get almost angry. I feel this loss of agency that’s really hard to deal with. This is not saying that every magic players who would try Netrunner would enjoy it more, I’m just saying that I do. Is it a better game? Well, that depends ofc, I would say that it’s much less luck based and that means something to me, on the other hand, go and chess are less luck based than Netrunner, and I dont’ enjoy them more than Netrunner. So to each his/her own I guess. My main point is that I think die hard fans of a any game should at least be (genuinely) open to the fact that there might be better/more complex/more fun games out there. So far I haven’t found anything more fun than Netrunner, but that’s me.
Great for two gamers but bad for me and my girlfriend, mostly.
I don’t think Risk: Star Wars gets enough love. Possibly because it has Risk in the title.
Race for the galaxy with adv 2p rules is the best imo. My wife and I have 200+ games.
We occasionaly play 7 wonders duel.
You can also use the app I build – ClueBot – to make 2 player Clue games awesome! I promise it’s good, you just need a decent size phone or an iPad. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cluebot/id1450659384?mt=8