Best Two Player Games
Cosmopolitan published an article in September 2019 with their best two person board games for date night. Some of their choices were fine in my book while others were downright odd. That being said, I have some opinions about the games they chose and offer some alternatives in some cases as well as some additional games to check out for you and your partner to play on date night, or with a friend, or one of your children.
Many multi-player board and card games out there may play fantastic for three, four or more players, but when scaled down to two, they may not work very well or may even play differently with a separate case of rules to accommodate the lower player count. Therefore, I did my best to choose those that are solid two player games that are either great on their own or scale well.
Cosmo: Codenames: Duet
Completely Board: Codenames: Duet
This deservedly should be on this list. The Codenames line has other titles with multiplayer, Disney and Marvel themes. Codenames: Duet is for two and is fantastic! Both players work together using word clues based on the words on the table in order to reveal the fifteen hidden agents on the table without revealing the assassins. Recommended.
Cosmo: Laquered Box and Cards (Backgammon)
Clicking on Cosmo’s link took me to a $300 backgammon board. I’m not sure if that was their intent as backgammon has no cards. It’s a beautiful set to be sure but I think you need to be a bit of backgammon fanatic and plan on having this out on display for that kind of money. Nothing wrong with classic board games, especially one that has stood the test of time like this one, but for the purposes of this article might I suggest Carcassonne.
As players alternate placing randomly chosen tiles that depict roads, cities, and cloisters, players have to decide whether to place one of their meeples on it that may represent a robber, or knight, or monk or farmer. It’s a light game to be sure which is nice as the two of you can still have conversations that won’t detract from the game as you play it. When you are done, you will have a unique map of the southern French landscape. The rules are easy to understand and have you up and running in minutes. To expand game play and complexity, there are many expansion available that can be mixed and matched into the base game.
Bananagrams is definitely a great replacement for Scrabble. Nothing wrong with Scrabble, but this is a bit more fun and frantic. So we’ll leave this one here.
From a selection of 144 letter tiles, each player works to create their own crossword the fastest. Another big advantage to this game is that it’s portable so you can throw it into your glove box, in coat pocket, luggage or what have you.
I am conflicted here. Morels is a great little two player only card game. Players are searching though the forest for different type of mushrooms in an effort to gain like sets of ‘shrooms. The theme is most certainly different and may turn some people off. If one can make it through the rules you will be rewarded. For a couple just starting out in the gaming hobby, I would not recommend this, instead I would go with Jaipur.
In this colorful, fast-paced, light two-player only card game, players are traders in the capital of Rajasthan y9u are trading and selling goods like silks, leather, and spices and trying to get sets of cards that you trade in for points. The more you collect and trade, the more points they will be worth. You also have access to camels that can be used to trade or you may keep them for additional points at the end of the game as well. This one is a classic and recently got a re-printing with beautiful art. Jaipur is also an excellent introductory game to the hobby!
Scrabble is a classic word game first published in 1938 has stood the test of time. But, here I suggest the game Paperback as its replacement.
A truly unique word building game wrapped up in a deck builder. Players have a deck of letter cards that they use to form words. Each card played has a special ability as well. The better the words, the better letter cards they can purchase buy to score even more points. You can play competitively or you can play with the included variant for cooperative play.”
Hive is a solid little tile placement game for two. It’s small enough that you can carry it with you and play it on the restaurant table while you wait for your order. It gets a lot of love but not for me. Why? Bugs. I’m not a fan of bugs and find myself with a certain aversion to any board or card game that depicts or is themed around bugs. Just my preference.
My recommendation would be to swap this out with Onitama. You probably saying to yourself, “Why does this look like chess?” It certainly feels like it but adds a twist. It is a perfected information game which means nothing is hidden and you can plan out your moves as well as see what your opponent could do. There are two card available to teach player that dictate how your pieces can move. The fifth card on the side will be swapped out when the current player moves his or her pieces relative to one of their cards. It’s quite a simple game but definitely requires a little thinking ahead. This would great alternate to chess as well obviously..
Cosmo: Tiny Towns
CB: Tiny Towns
No complaints here. In Tiny Towns, you are the mayor of a tiny town int he forest with all its critters. Cards will dictate how to layout the buildings you construct for more points. Cute little wooden pieces represent the different structures you can build – houses, towers, churches. A solid little game without a doubt!
Very much a Tetris feel so it makes it approachable since everyone is familiar with the idea of re-orienting shapes to get then to fit without wasting space. Patchwork is all about creating your own quilt and if that theme doesn’t do anything for you, there are other games out there that use the same tetris-like mechanic that might interest you.
For other themes, check out creating your own garden in Cottage Garden, or building your own bear park in Bärenpark, or my current favorite (and my daughter’s too) Copenhagen where you play cards to collect tetris pieces to build a colorful building like those you find in Nyhavn, Copenhagen. This is a gateway, family game as well as a solid two-player game.
Cosmo: Tic Tac Toe
Here’s another case where the cosmo article took me to an exorbitant coffee table version of brass and acrylic for $1750? No. Just no.
If you want an abstract game to to be displayed on your coffee table that is beautiful and functional, that you can actual play I would recommend Tak. There are some beautiful custom versions of the game that can be obtained. Its rules are simple trying to make a path from one side of the board to the other, but its strategies are far deeper.
CB: Honorable Mentions
Without going into the details, check out some of these other games known for their approachability, components and art, and fantastic game play for your next board game date night.