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Best two-player board games 2021: Our favourite board games and card games for two people

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When three's a crowd, you can rely on these two-player board, card and strategy games to beat boredom

Finding the best two-player board games is a challenge. Board games are more popular than ever, but when there’s just two of you at home, hunting for something fun to play is tough as it feels like most of the options are aimed at larger groups. There are some excellent board games for two players out there if you know where to look, though – and luckily, we do.

While you might know and love the classics, there are so many creative two-player board games available right now. As old-school gaming has taken off once again, there has been a flurry of new games appearing that are perfect for adults and children alike. Many of them have a fantastic amount of replayability and expansion too, making them future-proof purchases you can enjoy for years to come.

Whether you love complex strategy board games set in fantasy worlds or you’re simply looking for a fast-paced game that's easy to pick up, we’ve found some of the very best two-player board games across a variety of genres. So no matter your age, budget or skill level, there’s something on this list to satisfy those board game cravings.

READ NEXT: The best board games available now

The best two-player board games to buy

1. Pandemic: Best co-op two-player game

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

Four terrifying diseases are rapidly spreading across the world and it’s up to you and your team to contain them and find a cure before they take over. In this pre-apocalyptic cooperative game, you’ll use cards and tokens to beat the board and save humanity. Choose your skills, set up research labs across the globe and increase or decrease infections depending on which cards you pick up.

Depending on your skillset, you can increase and decrease the difficulty of the game, giving it great replayability. Once you’ve got a taste for it, there are also expansion packs and follow up games including Pandemic: Rising Tide and Pandemic: Contagion. This isn’t a quick game by any means but if you’re looking for something strategic and deeply satisfying, it’s a must-buy.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-4; Age range: 8+; Estimated game time: 45 mins (for seasoned players)

2. Ticket to Ride (New York Edition): Best quick two-player game

Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon

This follow-up to the highly popular Ticket to Ride game is a fast-paced race perfect for two players. The idea of the game is to claim popular taxi routes across the board by playing a group of matching coloured cards. Longer routes and popular destinations get you more points. To start, each player gets a set of coloured taxis, as well as two transportation and destination cards. Throughout the game, you can pick up cards from the deck and use these to place cars on different routes (providing you have the right card combo).

The game ends when a player has two or fewer taxis left. Points on the board are then added up and the player with the most points wins. It’s best not to hang on to too many cards though, as any journeys at the end of the game that haven’t been placed will cost you points – and if you’re unlucky, the game. Ticket to Ride is incredibly easy to learn and this particular version can be played in as little as 15 minutes.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-4; Age range: 8+ ; Estimated game time: 10-15 mins

3. Exploding Kittens: Best card-based game for adults

Price: £17 | Buy now from Zatu Games

Kittens? Explosions? Cards? This game has it all. The rather aptly named Exploding Kittens is a Russian roulette-style card game which involves picking up kitty cards until someone draws the metaphorical short straw and gets an exploding kitten. At this point, you’re either out of the game or you can play a defuse card and distract the kittens with laser pointers, catnip sandwiches and other diversions. You can also play other strategy cards that allow you to peek at the deck, make your friend’s life difficult or secretly relocate the exploding kitten card.

Exploding Kittens has had huge success so far (it was the most-funded game in Kickstarter history) and you can even get this NSFW version if explosions, laser beams and ruining your friend’s day isn’t quite naughty enough for you.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-5; Age range: 7+ (original) 30+ (NSFW version); Estimated game time: 15 minutes

4. Thow Throw Burrito: An immensely fun dodgeball card game

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re already a fan of cute, animal-based games, then we think you’ll love Throw Throw Burrito, the second offering from the creators of the hit card game Exploding Kittens. In this hectic game, you’ll need to collect matching sets of cards faster than your opponent, while simultaneously dodging kitty burritos. This might sound a bit scary but we promise these cuddly weapons are made from super-soft foam and won’t cause you too much harm, as long as your friend plays nice.

Whoever generates the most points from the cards in the deck wins, but be warned: if you get hit by the burrito, you’ll lose some of those points, so you’ll need to be quick (and great at dodging). With 120 cards and seven tokens, there’s plenty of frenetic fun to be had, especially for two people.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-6; Age range: 7+; Estimated game time: 15 mins

5. 7 Wonders (Duel): Best two-player strategy building game

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

The original 7 Wonders gets an ingenious two-player twist in 7 Wonders Duel. This scaled-back version is very much like the original game. Over three “ages”, players pick up cards that either grant them resources or advance their military or scientific development. The end goal is to have the greatest empire. The more resources you gain, the greater the cost is for the other player. In this version, you’ll draw from a selection of cards at the start of each round, rather than simultaneously from two stacks of cards.

You can win in three ways. Advance your military enough so it takes over your opponent’s capital, pick up enough symbol cards to gain scientific dominance. Or, if neither of these things is possible, the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. 7 Wonders duel is over in a flash compared to the original, but it’s still packed full of strategy and fun. It’s highly replayable too, which we think makes this an affordable must-have.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-; Age range: 10+; Estimated game time: 30 mins

6. Battleship (Grab & Go Edition): A classic strategy guessing game

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

This mini version of Battleship is not only affordable but also sure to keep boredom at bay. Battleship is an absolute classic, but if you haven’t played before, the rules are simple: each player sets up their ships on their own grid without the other player knowing where they are. You take it in turns to guess co-ordinates and the first player to correctly “sink” all of their opponent’s ships wins.

This is a great game for both kids and adults and there are plenty of copies and spin-offs available too. It might be simple, but Battleship has stood the test of time and can still provide hours of fun if you're looking for some entertainment that isn’t too taxing.

Key detailsPlayers: 2; Age range: 7+; Estimated game time: N/A

7. Forbidden Desert: A modular co-op board game with a great story

Price: £22 | Buy now from Amazon

In Forbidden Desert, you and your team crash land in an ancient desert city and must work together to excavate the site and find missing pieces of a legendary flying machine before a sandstorm hits. To do this, you’ll need to take actions to make your way across the randomised bored, picking up cards as you go. The cards you pick up change gameplay and can result in parts of the board being blown into the eye of the sandstorm. If you run out of water or become completely overwhelmed by the sandstorm, your entire team loses and you become trapped in the Forbidden Desert forever.

The rapidly changing board and fight to stay sand-free and hydrated make this a hugely exciting game, even with two players. The interchangeable tiles and randomised cards also give this game huge replayability. If that’s not enough, there are two further games in the Forbidden series including the original Forbidden Island game and the electrifying Forbidden Sky.

Key detailsPlayers: 2-5; Age range: 10+; Estimated game time: 45 mins

8. Guess Who: Best classic two-player game for kids

Price: £17 | Buy now from Amazon

It might be an oldie but we still think it’s a goodie. Guess Who is a classic two-player game that’ll keep you entertained for hours. If you can’t quite remember how to play, the rules are straightforward: each player chooses a mystery card and it’s up to the other player to ask yes or no questions to try and figure out who is on that mystery card. Flip down characters on your board as you narrow down your choices and try to figure out who it is before you run out of chances to guess.

For greater replayability, you can download and print additional character sheets on the Hasbro website and swap these out for the ones included in your original game. If those don’t quite take your fancy, there are plenty of other places where you can download character sheets (just type Guess Who character sheets into your search engine). Being able to swap out characters is a great addition to this classic game and gives your hours upon hours of additional fun.

Key detailsPlayers: 2; Age range: 6+; Estimated game time: 20 mins

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Guess Who

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