There is an incredible renaissance happening in the world of board gaming right now, but sometimes it can feel like you need to host a dinner for six just to have some fun. Thankfully, that boom in wonderful new games has created experiences of all shapes and sizes, both for small groups and for solo players. Perhaps the richest little vein is in the two-player genre.
Maybe you live with someone — a roommate or a partner — and are trying to find something other than Friends re-watches to pass the time. Look no further than these incredible two-player, cooperative board games that’ll mix up your evenings without breaking the bank.
As a bonus, they’re all available at your friendly local game store or online less than $30.
Best two-player board games
This simple, yet challenging co-op card game pushes you to your mental limits … and then some. To begin with, each player receives a hand of cards. You then stack cards in the middle in ascending order. Sounds simple, right?
Well, The Mind is a game where communication is limited. No words can be uttered. No warnings can be given. It’s all about strategy as expressed through body language alone. If you are left holding a card lower than what’s in front of you, then you have to discard your hand and the group loses a life. The silence really is deafening as you play for your, and your friend’s, life.
Ever fancied being a treasure hunter? Well, with Forbidden Island you can test your mettle against the clock as you try to gather as much treasure from a steadily sinking island. There are four treasures, all centered around the four elements, that you’re tasked with finding by claiming tiles on the board.
Careful though! Take too long and the island will sink and the treasure will be lost forever. Each player has a special power that can be the difference between winning and losing, so be sure to cooperate if you want to escape with riches beyond imagining.
Ni No Kuni 2: The Board Game
Inspired by the legendary art style of Studio Ghibli, you’d expect Ni No Kuni 2: The Board Game game to be cute, relaxing fun with adorable sidekicks and a moral adventure. Instead, you’re treated to a strategy adventure of rebuilding your kingdom, slaying monsters, and going on quests.
Here’s the rub: The game only lasts five turns, so you have to pick and choose what you do to get the most out of each round. Every moment counts and it relies on intensive teamwork to get the job done. The huge depth and variety of tasks will keep you coming back to rebuild your kingdom over and over again.
You’re probably sick of the word “pandemic” by now, but this one isn’t really COVID-related. We swear. Pandemic is one of the best cooperative board games around, where you and a partner battle against four deadly diseases, which rather annoyingly are trying to end civilization as we know it.
Spread across a world map on the board, each disease grows more dangerous with every turn as you research ways to defeat them, battle against infected cities, all while taking on key roles like Researcher and Scientist. This truly is a race against time where you win or lose together. It’s also easy to teach, and quick to get on and off the table.
You could also try Z-Man Games’ new line of smaller, even shorter Pandemic experiences in the Pandemic: Hot Zone series. It also includes new characters and abilities, perfect for experienced players.
One Deck Dungeon
This dungeon-crawling light role-playing game (RPG) sets you in the role of a mighty adventurer, making their way through, well, a dungeon. Bound to remind players of Dungeons & Dragons, you and your partner get all the thrills of an epic tabletop RPG without the long sprawling campaigns.
The game is incredibly immersive for something based around a few rolls of the dice and simplistic character cards. Depth is found in the variety of enemies that get thrown at you, as well as in your personal deck of cards that must be carefully curated from the huge stack the game gives you. You’ll never get the same game twice. Your character can also be wildly different with each game; a glass canon, dealing loads of damage with little health; the damage sponge, who soaks up the hits so your partner can deal the pain; or the magic wielder, a fiery mage who has no time for goblins. All of these options and more are yours in the world of One Deck Dungeon.