Board games for 2 players are the perfect solution if you're short on people to play with. They're not a consolation prize, either. The recommendations we've included below are comfortably some of our favorites.
They're also flexible. Many can be scaled up for a larger group, and that offers far better value for money in the long run (board games can be expensive, after all). Better still, many of these board games for 2 players will fit into a backpack or pocket when you're out and about. That's particularly handy if you're looking for ways of passing the time with your kids.
To save you money along the way, we've included an offer or two as well. Those prices are updated on a regular basis by our bargain-hunting software, so be sure to pop back every now and then if you're looking for a discount. With Black Friday board game deals on the horizon and Christmas close behind, now is the perfect time to shop for reductions.
Board games for 2 players
Disney Villainous is arguably one of the most satisfying board games for 2 players. Besides letting you play in a Disney-themed toybox with all your favorite evil-doers, its layers of strategy will have you hooked. Although it can be tricky to learn, the effort is worth your while.
Your goal is simple: give one of six villains their happy ending. For Maleficent, it's cursing the realm. For Jafar, it's controlling Genie for a taste of ultimate cosmic power - and so on. That's not the cool bit, though. In a neat twist, each character has a unique objective, board, and playstyle. That means there's plenty to get your teeth into, and the experience only improves as you uncover new layers of strategy.
What's more, clever opponents can activate heroes specifically designed to scupper their foe's plans. You see, the title isn't just a name. It's a mindset you'll need to embrace if you want to win. The quickest path to victory is throwing a wrench into another player's schemes.
Once you've gotten your head around the main game, there are a ton of Disney Villainous expansions to try out as well. These can be added to the base game or used separately, as per the standalone Marvel Villainous spin-off. No matter which version you pick, they're all gorgeous - the production values of their movers, boards, and cards are astounding.
- Read more: Disney Villainous review
Pandemic is one of the greatest modern board games, and it's easy to see why - it's straightforward to learn but tough to master. It's also a superb co-op experience. Teamwork is essential.
The setup is terrifyingly relatable, especially now. Four deadly viruses are sweeping across the world, and your job is to cure them. No pressure, right? Fortunately, your characters have special abilities that will help you out. Some prevent outbreaks before they can spread, while others are able to remove multiple illnesses from a space at once. Mastering yours is crucial for victory, and you'll need to use them in tandem with your partner if you want any hope of surviving. This is a game about strategy and cooperation rather than blind luck.
Yes, Pandemic is tricky. It's intense as well; you're battling against the clock and the odds. But that means it's something you can play time and time again without things becoming stale, particularly due to the fact that diseases pop up in different locations every time you start. This makes it the perfect board game for 2 players.
Once you've mastered the original, you can then up the ante with expansion packs (including a Cthulu version) or the Pandemic Legacy edition. In the latter, your actions have consequences that carry from one game to another.
Ticket to Ride is a delight no matter whether it's played in pairs or a large group. Accessible and not overly competitive, this is a satisfying, chilled out board game anyone can play.
There's a deep undercurrent of strategy running beneath the surface, too; its subtle mix of risk and reward will keep you coming back for more. Crucially, it's easy to get your head around. Players score points by creating train routes across the world. Certain lines win you a higher payout, but you'll be racing your opponent to claim them (unfortunately for us, there's a limited number of spaces on the board). This allows you to cut off your rival if you can guess where they're trying to go, spicing things up in the process with a hearty dash of tactics.
Because you have limited resources to play with, there are many different paths to victory. Should you focus on smaller, less valuable routes for a quick payday? Or will you attempt bigger connections for more points in the long run? The gameplay is hugely engaging despite its simplicity.
If you get bored of the standard version, there are plenty of alternatives to try out. The base game takes place in North America, but there are also versions set in Europe, the UK, India, Asia, Africa, and beyond. You can even grab a stripped-down alternative for younger players. Basically, Ticket to Ride offers something for everyone and is the best all-ages board game for 2 players.
This Jaws board game does the impossible - it provides an experience that's almost as good as the movie. In fact, it's one of the tensest board games for 2 players we've tried in a long, long while.
There are two distinct rounds to enjoy here. The first takes place on Amity Island, mirroring the start of the film with a white-knuckle session of cat and mouse where one of you controls the shark on their swimmer-eating rampage. However, the predator's movements are hidden. As a result, their opponent (who commands the movie's heroes) will have to make clever use of tools and forward-planning to stop them. This lends the game a desperate edge and leads straight into the second round.
The latter is set aboard the good ship Orca. Your mission? Both sides must battle to the death, and only one can survive. To make things interesting, the previous round's winner gets bonus abilities or weapons they can use in combat. This results in nail-biting, David-vs-Goliath moments that'll stick with you for a while.
As an added bonus all of that is wrapped in very nostalgic packaging. Much like Disney Villainous, the theming here is top-notch.
- Read more: Jaws board game review
Disney's Haunted Mansion board game had an uphill battle ahead of it. How are you supposed to turn a classic yet undeniably passive theme park ride into something fun for the tabletop? Like this, apparently - it's a delight.
As per the ride's song, your goal is to 'socialize' with as many of the house's ghosts as you can by collecting their cards. Some offer points straight away, while others provide a larger reward if you complete the set. This is where tactics come in. Do you take the path of least resistance with guaranteed results, or gamble it all for a magnificent payday? Because your opponent will be weighing up the same thing, you can scupper their plans by going after the ghosts they need. If there's a way to our heart, it's duplicity.
That doesn't mean the other player is your only problem, though. Three Hitchhiking Ghosts are on hand to cause chaos as well, and if they pass through someone's token, that person must take a 'Haunt' card. Whoever has the most Haunt cards at the end will be penalised, and the only way to get rid of them is by using up a precious action. You'll need those to gather ghosts and avoid falling behind, so it's an engaging balancing act.
As such, Haunted Mansion is a great board game for 2 players who want something spooky... but not as scary as horror adventures such as Betrayal at House on the Hill. Much like the Jungle Cruise board game, it never loses sight of what makes the ride special either.
King of Tokyo is the perfect game if you want a little strategy without the effort - or the time commitment. A dice-based adventure inspired by the likes of Godzilla, it sees you wrecking the crap out of a city and hoarding points like a kleptomaniac dragon. In other words, it's awesome.
A lighthearted experience that doesn't take itself very seriously (one of the monsters is a 'Space Penguin', for instance), the game has players battling it out to claim the titular metropolis of Tokyo. The longer you stay within its streets, the higher your score.
Standing your ground isn't easy, though. Your opponent will be able to attack you while you're downtown, and players in the city can't heal from any wounds they receive. Although you can improve the odds with Ability cards, it's still a matter of pushing your luck. Essentially, you'll wind up playing chicken with your life as you attempt to maximise your score.
However, King of Tokyo isn't complicated. No matter who's in the city, Yahtzee-style mechanics help keep things ticking along at a steady pace. You simply roll the game's collection of dice three times and choose which results you want to keep, be it health, power, attacks, or matching numbers that'll win you points. This makes it great for kids and frazzled grown-ups alike - it's dead easy to understand, resulting in an excellent board game for 2 players or a larger crowd.
Redshirts are almost always doomed in Star Trek, but they're your only hope in this series. The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet puts you in control of an away-team looting a planet swarming with giant bugs, and your commanding officer just bit the dust. Now you have to complete their mission before becoming worm food yourself. It's a tense, high-stakes co-op experience that board game veterans will love.
For starters, Dangerous Planet shares a lot of DNA with other high-profile board games. As an example, it sports a randomised board like Betrayal at House on the Hill's. That means it's different every time you play. Secondly, things steadily get harder the longer you last (as per Pandemic). It's a real challenge as a result, particularly as a board game for 2 players.
There are many different routes to victory, too. Thanks to numerous tower-defence weapons and a crew of 21 to choose from (each with their own unique abilities), Dangerous Planet isn't lacking longevity. Plus, there's a juggling act underpinning the whole thing that'll make each match unique. Do you use your skills to ward off bugs or collect the artefacts you need to win? This keeps the pressure on, and it's a gratifying loop.
All the same, the tongue-in-cheek theme is one of Dangerous Planet's best features. It makes the most of tropes you'll recognize from Next Generation and beyond, and that modernist art-style is captivating.
- Read more: The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet review
If your vibe is 'spooky but cute', the Hocus Pocus board game will be right up your alley. Based on the classic 1993 Disney movie, it challenges you to banish all three Sanderson sisters - the witches who return to life one fateful Halloween - by dawn. However, that doesn't mean you need to be familiar with the film to enjoy this adaptation. And it's not just for kids, either. In fact, I was surprised by how difficult it is. This is an challenging board game for 2 players that'll keep you coming back time and time again.
Naturally, defeating the witches means brewing a potion of your own. Just like the movie, it'll be stuffed with gross ingredients (dead man's toe? Check. Oil of boil? Double check). These will fill five slots of your cauldron, and you're trying to match the same color or ingredient type. This moves your victory counter closer to sunrise. It also stuns a witch, stopping them from foiling your plot with a spell.
Unfortunately, you can't communicate with your teammates about what to put down unless you have the Binx cat token. Indeed, you can't even show them what ingredients you've got in the first place. Instead, you have to ask whether the other player own a specific type or color. Because they're only able to answer with a "yes" or "no", that means a lot of reading between the lines. This makes coming up with a plan tricky, and your allies might accidentally undo your hard work along the way. It's a fun test of your perception, non-verbal skills, and ability to pivot on the fly.
Sure, it can be brutal. Yet it never feels unfair. That's what kept us coming back; it's a tricky but fun conundrum to overcome.
- Read more: Hocus Pocus board game review
It's hard to stand out in the wargaming arena, but Godtear has a good chance of making a name for itself. Thanks to a focus on accessibility and mechanics that have more in common with traditional board games than Warhammer, it's able to offer something unique. Don't have time for chunky rulebooks and labor-intensive miniatures? This is for you.
If anything, Godtear is reminiscent of the Overwatch video game. To be specific, everything hinges around a cast of memorable characters and arcade-like action that never quietens down. Similarly, there's no need to fret about complex rules. Everything you need to know is available on a reference card that can be scanned very quickly, and it's easy to learn. You can be up and playing much faster than other wargames such as Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms.
The elevator pitch is just as succinct. The gods of this universe are dead, and their shattered remains are falling from the heavens. Anyone who claims those 'godtears' will be blessed with magnificent powers, and that's what you're fighting over. It's an elegant, in-universe explanation for why everyone's battling with one another. This is also a good way of justifying some unusual mechanics. Why are objective tiles spreading across the map or teleporting around the board? Because, you know, magic.
The models you'll use are every bit as imaginative. Even though they're not quite as detailed as the competition due to the fact that they're assembled and ready to go out of the box, they look fantastic. It's the sort of board game for 2 players where both sides will spend a lot of time gawking at their miniatures.
- Read more: Godtear review
Hold your scepticism for a moment; word game or not, Bananagrams is a stroke of brilliance. It's also the board for 2 players we come back to the most. Besides being oh-so portable, it can be enjoyed with almost anyone.
The idea is simple. Each player gets 24 single-letter tiles, and they have to put them into a crossword. When you've finished with your tiles (which is harder than it sounds, particularly if you get a handful of ‘q’), you have to take another one that must also be added to the same crossword. The rub is, your opponent's got to take a new tile as well… regardless of whether they’ve finished their own pile yet.
This leads to mounting pressure as your unused tiles grow in number. Because your overall goal is to be the first person who uses all the spare tiles in the game, it's a race against time to create a crossword that actually makes sense.
Frantic, cerebral, and tense, Bananagrams is a must-have as a result. Due to the nature of its mechanics, it always plays out in different ways too - you can never tell which letters you'll start with. In short, it's the sort of game you'll still be playing months down the line.
Best of the rest
Even though it's around 40 years old, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is still an awesome board game for 2 players. Intriguing, immersive, and challenging enough that any victory will make you feel like a straight-up genius, it's the perfect choice for anyone that likes detective TV shows or murder mystery books.
Casting you as a member of the Baker Street Irregulars (a band of merry men and women who keep Holmes up to speed on everything happening in London), you'll work your way through numerous original cases ranging from a mummy's curse to a murder on the Thames. The aim is to solve those crimes before the great detective himself figures it out.
As you'd expect, this is pretty difficult. In addition, you have a strict time-limit looming over each game. You won't mind, though. Each version of Consulting Detective comes with a set of props, clues, and case files to work through. These are hugely immersive, offering a mood and atmosphere you're unlikely to get elsewhere.
Better still, you don't need to be a board game fan to enjoy Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. It has a broad enough appeal that anyone with an interest in mysteries will enjoy themselves.
It says a lot that Forbidden Island spawned a franchise; the series now includes a visit to the Forbidden Desert and mysterious airborne platforms during Forbidden Sky. Nonetheless, the original is arguably the best. This is a board game for 2 players with staying power.
Focusing on teamwork and replayability, your aim is to collect treasure from a sinking island before it's lost beneath the waves (in other words, this is Indiana Jones crossed with Atlantis). Unfortunately, you don't have long - the tide is rising with each passing moment. As such, you'll need to form a plan quickly and problem-solve as you go.
That's because each player has a special ability to help the team succeed. The Pilot can move to any tile, for example, while the Diver is able to pass through flooded areas. Working out the best way of using these skills in tandem is crucial to victory, offering plenty for you to get to grips with.
Although Forbidden Island was designed for up to four people, playing as a pair is absolutely possible. It also adds a welcome layer of challenge.
Want more suggestions? Looking for something specific? Don't forget to check out our range of other board game guides. No matter whether you're hunting down a beloved classic or something for your children, we've got you covered.
- Best board games: Everyone should have these in their collection.
- Best card games: Must-have games that are perfect for travelling or parties.
- Best classic board games: Revisit old favorites like Monopoly or Clue.
- Best cooperative board games: Why not work together?
- Board games for adults: Choose from a wealth of strategy adventures.
- Board games for kids: Get the little ones involved.