Two-player board games have been around for centuries, tracing their origins to the ancient Egyptians. Over time, the traditional physical game boards of clacking wooden pieces and ornate playing pieces have been joined by a huge range of digital creations, found both online and as in-app purchases on mobile phones. Two-player games have come to encompass a variety of genres, from simple puzzles and strategy-based tactics to elaborate simulations and narrative building through cards or dice. Whether it’s classic titles like chess and checkers or newer offerings like Android: Netrunner, two-player board games provide an accessible way to indulge in friendly competition while testing resource management skills, wits, luck, and even creative flair.
The Best Classic Two-Player Board Games
Chess: For centuries, this classic two-player game of strategy has stood the test of time. Players attempt to outwit their opponent by positioning their pieces cleverly and attempting to checkmate their opponent’s king. The skill level needed for success in the game makes it a popular choice for those who are looking for a challenge.
Checkers: This is a great alternative to chess that requires far less strategizing. Each turn, players can only move diagonally across the board, jumping over opposing pieces when possible. Checkers is often considered more approachable than chess, as it does not have as steep a learning curve but still offers a fun and challenging experience.
Go: This ancient Chinese board game has been around for millennia and remains popular even in modern times. Players compete on an elaborately drawn 19×19 grid, where they place stones to try and obtain dominance over the other player’s pieces or territory. Go provides a unique and rewarding strategic experience with simple rules that can be learned quickly making it an excellent choice for those who want to delve into the depths of two-player board games.
Backgammon: Another classic two-player game with origins going back thousands of years ago; Backgammon involves rolling dice to move one’s pieces around a small board while attempting to capture their opponent’s pieces or force them off of the board before they can do so themselves. A popular pastime all over the world, backgammon is ideal for anyone looking for an easy-to-learn yet intense two-player game.
Two-Player Cooperative Games
One example of a cooperative two-player board game is Pandemic. In this game, players take on the roles of global disease-control experts in order to identify and eradicate viruses. Players must use their expertise, plus occasional aid from research stations and other items that can be obtained through card play, to work together in order to eradicate each of four viruses before time runs out. Victory comes when the players have successfully eliminated all four diseases and saved humanity!
Another two-player cooperative board game with ample success stories is Forbidden Desert. Participants take on the role of adventurers who are seeking to uncover an ancient civilization’s mysterious flying machine before they become buried under sand dunes forever. As each player explores the area around them, they must make use of strategies such as combining resources, marshalling vehicles and managing their water supply in order to succeed in their mission. Players must also work together closely in order to reach their goal!
Two-Player Word Games and Puzzles
Two-player board games can also include word and puzzle games. Popular titles like Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Boggle are perfect for two players and require quick thinking. In Scrabble, players race to complete words using letter tiles that are drawn randomly. The player with the highest score at the end of the game wins. In Boggle, players try to identify as many words as possible on a 4×4 grid of letters in the allotted time. With Bananagrams, each player tries to use those tiles to create their own crossword puzzles before their opponent does the same. This can be an exercise in strategy as well as swift thinking!
Two-Player Deck-Building Games
Deck-building games are a great strategy game for 2 or more players. The goal of these games is to accumulate cards throughout gameplay by either buying them from the selection or starting with a pre-made deck. You play the cards in your hand and aim to score points, usually by defeating monsters, completing special objectives and/or obtaining weapons. As you accumulate more cards, you can customize your ‘deck’ allowing you to strategize around certain choices you make while building it. Games like Dominion, Ascension and Star Realms are examples of popular deck-building games that feature elements such as playing multiple copies of one card in one turn, acquiring resources through card interactions, and creating combos with certain aspects of the deck – these strategic choice all add nuances that really help determine how well each player performs. It also helps give coherence to performances when compared to others who began each game differently. There are several different ways to be successful in competitive decks but everyone has their own way that works best for them.
Two-Player Card Games
Two-player card games are known for their fun and interactive game play. Matching Pairs, also known as Concentration, is one of the most popular memory games that can be played by two players. It requires each player to remember the position of a number of cards that are laid facedown in an array. Once both players have memorized the positions, they take turns flipping over two cards at a time, attempting to remember identical pairs on each round. Chess is also considered an ideal game for two players, as it requires careful planning and strategy in order to outsmart your opponent. Go Fish is another classic two-player card game that focuses on building sets and making matches by asking other players for specific cards or suits. UNO is another great two-player card game designed for family members of different age groups and offers exciting challenges”from matching colors and numbers to creating action commands with special cards. One of the newer editions to this genre is Exploding Kittens which combines matching images with inventive strategies for a fast-paced and exciting experience.
1. Settlers of Catan: A hugely popular game of strategy and resource management, which is suitable for two players. Players will develop the island’s resources while producing goods and building settlements. An ideal starter’s pack would include: The base game, the 5-6 player expansion, 2-3 piece Count Pack and 5-6 Player Extensions 4th Edition.
2. Stratego: Stratego is an ideal two-player strategy game that pits two armies against one another in a classic battle of wits. Armies aim to capture the enemy’s flag by carefully deploying, moving and attacking pieces on the board. A good starter’s pack would include: The base game, Battle For The Flag Expansion Set, Pieces Package & 75 Figure Game Pieces Expansion Kit, Flags Reusable Magnetic Pieces Stickers set & Deluxe Travel Version Set of 40 Magnetic Pieces
3. Hive: This abstract strategy game requires players to construct their own “hive” and try to trap their opponent’s Queen Bee within it before they can do the same to them. A solid starters’ pack would include: The base game, 20 Piece Bee Outdoor Edition with carrying bag & 2 addon expansions – Mosquito and Ladybug pieces
I love playing all kinds of games – from classics like Monopoly to modern favourites like Ticket to Ride.
I created this blog as a way to share my love of board games with others, and provide information on the latest releases and news in the industry.