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Best two-player card games 2023: Banish boredom with these easy, strategic and travel-friendly games

Grab an opponent and get playing one of the best two-player card games for kids and adults

When looking for the best two-player card game to while away an evening with a friend or partner, a deck of playing cards is often the go-to choice. But while Snap and Gin Rummy are classically familiar choices with a standard 52-card deck, there are a wealth of dedicated and specialised decks on the games market – and we’re not just talking about Uno or Top Trumps, either.

Once you start browsing the card game prospects, it can get a little overwhelming. Do you fancy playing a strategy-based game filled with cunning and deceit, or are you looking for a quick and easy card game with only a few rules? Then there’s the co-op style, where players team up and confront the game together.

It’s less common to see card games that are best suited for two players only, though. So, to help you sort the aces from the jokers, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites. For the unfamiliar, we’ve also summarised the various kinds of card games you might feel like playing.

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Best two-player card games: At a glance

How to choose the best two-player card games for you

What styles of card games are there?

Trick-taking card games are one of the most common game styles, where each player has a hand of cards and plays them to win a trick. There are usually multiple rounds in a trick-taking game.

Strategy card games, however, invite players to make logical decisions that adhere to the game’s overall theme. Strategic games often include plenty of bluffing and deception to keep things interesting!

Vying or comparing games feels akin to gambling, such as poker, where players attempt to hold the best combination of cards in their hands.

Then there are collectable card games, which are those with plenty of rules and structure. Players create a deck and trade these cards with others outside of gameplay.

Finally, co-op card games allow you and your fellow player to team up and compete against the game itself.

How much do two-player card games cost?

The card games we’ve included in this list are priced between £13 and £61, with most falling in the £20 area. A higher-priced game takes some convincing, but these usually include various added components. Some of the games here are part of a more expansive “game world”, meaning you can purchase expansion packs with new cards for an additional cost.

READ NEXT: The best board games for adults 2022

The best two-player card games you can buy in 2023

1. Jaipur: Best fast-paced two-player card game

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

Trading and selling is the aim of the game with Jaipur. It’s fast-paced enough to hold a player’s attention, and the brightly coloured cards and matching tokens make it visually appealing.

You’re trading with commodities such as leather, spice, fabric and rubies, each of which has varying worth. Each player starts with five cards in their hand and three camel cards upturned between the players. You’ll reveal the rest of the cards one by one as the trading market kicks off and make strategic decisions about what to trade and when with the ultimate goal of having the most points by the game’s end.

With 44 commodity cards and 11 camel cards, you’re playing with a big deck, and there are 38 tokens to keep track of, too, so we wouldn’t suggest Jaipur as a particularly travel-friendly game. That said, it’s designed specifically for two players, and gameplay is around 30 minutes, so it’s worth taking it for a long, cosy weekend away.

Key specs – Players: 2; Age range: 10+; Estimated game time: 30mins

2. Pokémon Battle Academy: Best two-player card game for kids

Price: £20 | Buy now from Amazon

While the Pokémon TCG is immensely popular with collectors in search of ultra-rare chase cards like the 1st Edition Charizard or alternative art Evolving Skies Umbreon, it’s also an extremely fun and engaging two-player game.

With so many sets and expansions available, it can be hard to know where to start your Pokémon TCG journey, but the Battle Academy game is, without a doubt, the best entry point. It comes with three 60-card starter decks (featuring Cinderace, Pikachu and Eevee), guides for those decks, a board that neatly highlights key gameplay features, easy-to-digest tutorials, and a set of damage counters to keep tabs on your pocket monsters’ health.

It’s the perfect way to quickly get to grips with the game’s mechanics and doesn’t require a lengthy time commitment either, with matches taking around half an hour. Battle Academy is also a lot more affordable than most Pokémon TCG products, so if your kids are eager to take their first steps toward trainer stardom, this is the game to buy.

Key specs – Players: 2; Age range: 6+; Estimated game time: 30mins

3. Arkham Horror: Best horror card game for two players

Price: £61 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re looking for a challenging card game for you and a friend to sink your teeth into, Arkham Horror is a masterful choice.

Each player chooses a character (Roland is the recommended choice) along with an investigator deck that contains the character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. They then investigate the mysterious horrors afoot in Arkham town by using a series of location, agenda and encounter cards and drawing tokens from the wonderfully named “chaos bag”.

There’s plenty of detailed narrative to get involved with, and as Arkham is cooperative, you’re playing against the game, not against each other. Though Arkham can be played with three or four players, to do so requires another box of the base game. At this point, you can also buy expansions to widen the gaming world – and you’ll probably want them!

Key specs – Players: 1-2; Age range: 14+; Estimated game time: 1-2hrs

4. Love Letter Card Game: Best two-player card game for travelling

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

Love Letter is a quick and well-designed game to play. Players compete for the princess’s affection by attempting to deliver their love letter while simultaneously thwarting their fellow suitors.

Sixteen cards represent different members of the royal court. Players take turns to draw and play cards, and the player with the highest card value at the end of each round wins. It may sound simple, but this game involves a lot of thwarting. Throughout, you’re building on your tactical decision-making and bluffing strategies, although there’s a certain amount of luck in play here, too.

Love Letter is easy to pick up, has a charming premise, and due to its small deck and the included drawstring carry bag that keeps all the game components together, it’s an excellent choice for travelling. The gameplay is quick, so it’s a perfect option to while away the hours at an airport terminal or waiting for a train to arrive. It’s easy enough with two players but can accommodate up to six, so it’s versatile enough for inviting some travel buddies to join in.

Key specs – Players: 2-6; Age range: 10+; Estimated game time: 20mins+

5. Scattergories: Best easy-to-learn card game for two players

Price: £24 | Buy now from Amazon

For a speedy and exhilarating card game, you can’t go wrong with Scattergories. This wonderfully simple game involves just two decks of cards – one featuring categories, the other featuring letters. You’re pressured into thinking up matching answers for every category/letter combo revealed by the newly turned cards by slapping the ‘I Know’ card and shouting your answer first. With more than 250 categories to pick from, this game has endless answers, making it fun to play over and over again.

As you might imagine, Scattergories is an excellent game for adults and kids to play together if you’re looking for a subtly educational pastime, as it helps with memory, concentration and mental organisation. It’s also great fun at family get-togethers, as kids enjoy the imaginative aspect of it.

Key specs – Players: 2+; Age range: 3+; Estimated game time: 15-30mins

6. Fox in the Forest: Best strategic two-player card game

Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon

Fox in the Forest is all about trick-taking, and it’s specifically designed for just two players. The game is played with 33 cards featuring unique suits such as bells, keys and treasure, and a set of “victory tiles” made from sturdy cardboard. Each player receives a 13-card hand, with the remaining seven cards placed face down as a draw deck, and players must reveal cards to win the trick and score points.

Intriguingly, the scoring system of Fox in the Forest keeps players humble, as winning too many tricks results in fewer points. There’s plenty of guesswork as you try to decipher how your opponent might play, and it can get surprisingly competitive, too. The artwork on the odd-numbered cards is particularly beautiful; there are fairy-tale character cards that have special abilities and can change various aspects of the game.

Key specs – Players: 2; Age range: 14+; Estimated game time: 15-30mins

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