If you love a games night but, like me, are locked down with just one other person, you might find yourself unable to play any of your usual favourite games. Some of my favourite card games (shared here), for example, require 3+ players. So during this time Craig and I have been enjoying quite a few different games instead. Not all of them are technically “board” games, but if you are looking for 2 player games to try, here are our current favourites.
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1. 7 Wonders Duel
7 Wonders Duel is a specific 2 player version of the card drafting strategy game 7 Wonders. Admittedly it’s quite complicated and it took us a while to figure out all the rules and elements, but now we’ve got the hang of it we absolutely love this game!
In simple terms, the game develops over the course of 3 ages (3 card decks), and in this time the aim is to develop your civilization by building key buildings and wonders. You can also choose to strengthen your military or scientific development, as a strategy to winning the game early, or you can play the long game and build a more rounded civilization that could win through victory points. Cards are selected in turn from a pyramid arrangement, but can only be selected if they are not covered by another card.
What we love is that strategy is key in playing this game, both in terms of how you develop your civilization but also in terms of how you pick up your cards – sometimes it’s more important to deny your opponent a key card that could help them! Each play through takes 30 minutes to an hour, and every game is different to that last.
Bananagrams is a word game with tiles much like Scrabble but without the letter scores. It can be played competitively with 2 or more players, or you could even play it alone, and a game can take as little as 5 minutes.
The premise is that each player starts with a pile of letter tiles and uses them all to create a “crossword”. Once one player has used all their tiles, every player takes an extra tile from the communal pile, and so each crossword has to keep evolving until every last tile is taken. After that it’s a race to the finish to complete your word grid.
We love Bananagrams because it has Scrabble vibes, but it so much quicker to play! It’s a nice one to play in the afternoon with some tea and cake, and we also love the little portable banana pouch, making it convenient to take away on holiday or on day trips.
3. Star Realms
Star Realms is a deck building game with a science fiction theme. It’s another one where the rules seem complicated at first glance, but all it took was one play through and we had completely got the hang of it. It’s great because it’s travel size, so perfect for taking on a 2-person holiday, and it can be played in around 20 minutes (although we find that one game is never enough!)
Both players begin with a small armada which represents trade credit and attack points and 50 “authority”, and the ultimate aim of the game is to wipe out your opponents authority score by attacking them. To do this you need to trade your credit for bigger and better ships with attacking power, more credit, or special features, and star bases which often act as a defense for your own realm.
There’s more nuance to it of course, but it’s a fun and engaging game to play, with every play though being different to the last. We can easily play it for hours and hours!
4. Unstable Unicorns
Unstable Unicorns is a card drafting game designed for a group of players, but can be adapted into a 2 player version simply by removing a number of specific cards from the deck, and starting off with a different number of cards.
The aim of the game is to collect 7 unicorns in your stable (and prevent your opponent from doing so) by picking up cards from the communal pile and playing cards from your hand. There are so many varied cards in this deck with all sorts of unique effects, which makes the game extremely random as well as hard to explain. The easiest way to learn it is just to start playing and see where it takes you. Basically you just have to go along with the madness and enjoy the ride. It can take 30 minutes to an hour to play a game, depending on how much sabotage goes on between players. But most importantly, look how cute it is!
We are big fans of a good old fashioned classic board game and before 7 Wonders Duel came into our lives, Risk was our favourite. We love a good strategy conquest game! Although Risk has a Secret Mission gameplay mode, which usually makes for a more interesting and shorter game, this mode is not available for 2 players. The only way to play with 2 players is Global Domination.
Starting out with a small number of troops each, and the territories divided equally between both players plus an invisible neutral party, players set their your troop allocation to best protect their territories from neighbouring attacks and to plan their own strategic conquests. Attacks on neighbouring territories are won and lost based on dice rolls, with better odds by putting more troops at risk, and over the course of the game the number of troops on the board multiply. A player’s turn can go on for as long as needed, and they can attack as many territories as they want to, as long as they have the troops!
The only way of winning the 2 player game is when one person has conquered every territory, which means a game can last well over an hour, but we do enjoy a good long game of Risk every now and again!
6. Top Trumps
Ok so we’ve never actually owned a proper set of Top Trumps cards, but lockdown brought out a creative (and geeky) side in us and we decided to create our own set so that we could play it. You can easily do the same, especially if you own a printer and don’t need to draw characters like we did! All you need is a theme that can generate 30 cards (we went for MCU characters) and 5 or 6 categories that you can score each card on. (Please don’t judge our MCU scoring choices – it’s based on nothing more than opinion.)
What’s great about Top Trumps is that it’s very quick to learn and very quick to play. Although some strategy is involved, a lot comes down to luck, so it’s light hearted and fun.
All the cards are dealt out between the players (2, in our case). On every turn each player must play the card at the top of their pile and cannot look through their hand. Player one calls out which category stat on their card they want to play, and their opponent plays their card against it, winning or losing based on the chosen category stat. The winner of the hand adds both cards to the bottom of their pile, and plays their next card, choosing the category for that hand. It’s a major advantage being the one to choose the stat! The winner is the player who ends up collecting all of the cards, but of course there can be quite a lot of back and forth if the strongest cards end up divided evenly.
7. Online Scrabble
I’m sure everyone is aware of how classic Scrabble is played, and although it’s one of our favourites, we rarely pull this game off the shelf nowadays. It’s mostly been replaced by the quicker and less competitive Bananagrams. However, I have still been enjoying a daily dose of Scrabble by playing regular online games with my mum. What’s great about online Scrabble is that you can play your move and then get on with your day. You don’t have to devote time to sitting down and playing a full game all at once – which is generally why we don’t play it too much. Sometimes though, you just can’t beat a classic!
Are you a board game fan, and have you played any of the games on this list? We’re always on the lookout for great new games to play, so please leave any recommendations in the comments!