Boardgames for Two Players

The easiest gaming session to organise is one with two players - a spouse or partner on a weekend morning, a co-worker during lunch, or a buddy at your place for the afternoon. Despite how common two-player sessions are, there is a surprising lack of high-quality two-player games out there in the boardgame-verse. Designers and publishers take note: we need more!

There are plenty of games out there that are designed for more players, but play well with two players, (like Pandemic and Agricola) but today I want to look at games that excel with two players. That is, games that feel complete (even if the best strategies change) with a reduced number of players, or awesome games designed for two-players in the first place.

The games are presented in no particular order and are not supposed to suggest an exhaustive list of possibilities.


Carcassone is designed for more than two players but the base game actually plays better with two. In Carcassone, players take it in turns to play tiles and construct a top-down view if the French countryside, scoring points for completing features like cities and roads. With a larger group of players, you don't have a whole lot of control over the development of the board - but with two players, you will find that both of you directly compete for the creation of the same features and the whole experience becomes much more cut-throat. It's an older game, but it's become a boardgaming icon for a good reason. You can also check out my full review for more details.


Mr Jack

Here's a game made specifically for only two players. One player takes the role of Jack the Ripper, trying to escape the Whitechapel district and maintaining his secret identity, whilst the other player is a detective, attempting to identify and capture that murderous fiend! The rules are very straightforward: players each move two characters (from a possible eight) and then Jack must declare if he can be seen by any other character or is standing the light of a street lamp. This allows the detective to begin eliminating suspects. The game is over in about twenty minutes and, if you play it right, can consist of some fun mind-games. Despite this, Mr Jack can feel a little shallow and unbalanced at times. Mr Jack New York addresses some of the balancing issues present in the original and Mr Jack Pocket distills the core gameplay into a cool, cheap package. (My full review of Mr Jack is on the way!)

Mr Jack


Divinare also featured on my list of best intro-level games (found here) and I'm sure I'm going to suggest it again and again for all manner of reasons -- it's that good! In Divinare you play fortune tellers, trying to predict the remaining cards in the hands of other players. Through watching the predictions of others, card drafting (selecting and passing cards to other players), exhibiting an understanding of probability, and perhaps through some genuine divination, you make and change your predictions. Every playthrough, in my experience, ends up in total silence as players try to follow the progress of cards and figure out how best to toy with their opponents understanding of the cards. As a two player game, there is just as must brainwork, and also a deeper layer of strategising - denying your opponent cards and spots on the prediction board.

Divinare (Image source: Asmodee)

Android: Netrunner

Android: Netrunner is probably my favourite card game in the world at the moment! You can read my full review for more info, but in essence, two players take on opposing roles of an evil corporation and a lone-wolf hacker in a battle of wits and deception. It's an incredibly tense and deep experience unlike anything else I've experienced on the boardgame market. The main downside to the game is its very sleep learning curve, which may put off a lot of potential players - particularly those more used to casual fare. Fortunately, I've written a beginners guide that you can refer to, right here.

Android: Netrunner

All Manner of Deck-Builders

Many deck-builders, as fun as they often are, can end up playing a little like multiplayer solitaire. This makes several of them very fitting for two-player gaming. You might want to check out fantasy weirdness, Ascension (review coming soon, iOS review available), fan favourite, Dominion, or the silly, fun and simple DC Comics Deck-Builder (review available). I offer more suggestions for deck-building game options on my deck-building glossary page.



Hive is a game a little similar to chess, in tone. In this case, players are moving hexagonal pieces, which represent different insects, in order to surround and capture the enemy's queen bee. Each insect has its own unique rules for movement. The initial learning curve is a little steep (as you have to learn each of the movement rules), but also there are deep-deep-depths of strategy in this game. One thing I really like about Hive is that there is no set-up time because there is no board. Players simply place their pieces on the table, making sure that they connect to one another in a honeycomb pattern. It's a really cool feature which makes Hive a great game for a short, but intense, play sessions. Hive is not really a good fit for me though, because I generally don't enjoy abstract-thinking-strategy games (I just invented that genre) like chess, but if that's your bag, Hive is a good quality, well designed game.

Hive (Image source: Experience Points)

Neuroshima Hex

Another game of battling hexagons, Neuroshima Hex is a post-apocalyptic war game. Players take it in turns to place tiles into a grid representing a battlefield. These tiles include your base, which if is hit twenty times, will cause you to lose the game, and an assortment of weird and wonderful warriors and powerups.  Neuroshima Hex is an excellent example of a tight and intense two player battle, where forward planning and unorthodox strategy is explicitly rewarded. I actually find that the iOS and Android versions of Neuroshima Hex are better than the physical version - they are quicker and the gameplay is more streamlined.

Neuroshima Hex. (Image credit: Polyhedron Collider)

Project GIPF

I have very little experience with the Project GIPF games, but feel like I must mention them -- they are an award winning series of games made specifically for two players. The Project GIPF games are all abstract games often with pretty pieces and an emphasis on long-term strategy. Don't take my word for this, but I hear good things about one game in particular, going by the name of Yinsh. You can find some nice reviews of it at The Board Game Family and Board Game Reviews by Josh.

Traditional Abstracts

Chinese Chess
For most of its history, boardgaming has existed in the realms of two player games -- particularly abstract two player games. Chess is the obvious example but there are some other excellent ones out there. Excellent traditionals include Carrom (a dexterity game, often with beautiful boards), Go (the ultimate, minute to learn, lifetime to master game), Chinese Chess and all manner of traditional card games. Games like the Project GIPF games, Blockus, Quatro, Quoridor, and Cathedral (review available) have many of the trademarks of traditional abstracts (simple rules and pieces) with the benefit of modern ideas, mechanics and balancing.

I hope these suggestions help those players who are in that situation where big group gaming proves difficult. Check back now and then and I'll endeavour to keep this list updated with other great two-player games that I encounter.

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