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My quest for the best two-player board games

My partner and I were initially frustrated during lockdown to find that most of our board games require four players or more. Careful digging through the game closet and ordering a few highly reviewed games has produced a rotating array for just the two of us.

SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg
SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg

Sarah Tew

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best two-player boardgames
1 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Travel Blokus

Though not quite as fun as the beloved standard four-player version, Travel Blokus is a portable version designed for two players. Just keep your colored blocks connected and take over as much territory as possible. This is a game of 100% strategy and can be ruthless. If you liked Tetris as a kid, or are a visual person, you'll really dig it.  

best two-player boardgames
2 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

A Game of Thrones: Hand of the King

Game of Thrones may be over, but our relationship with the characters is ongoing. This fantastic two-player tabletop game is called Hand of the King, which involves moving Varis' card around the board, making "alliances" with members of the various houses. Nobody tell Varis what happens to him later...

best two-player boardgames
3 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

7 Wonders - Duel

I purchased 7 Wonders - Duel on sale based on its wildly positive reviews, but so far neither my husband nor I are willing to take the time to read the substantial instructions to figure out how to play.  One of these days we'll watch a YouTube video to get going. 

best two-player boardgames
4 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Quoridor

This one is divisive.  I dread playing Quoridor mainly because my husband is so good at it. He loves it -- because he's so good at it. It's pure strategy and extremely frustrating when one is losing... at least, that's been my experience.  I have a lot of respect for this game's combination of simplicity and depth. 

best two-player boardgames
5 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Dominion

Years ago we learned to play Dominion from friends after dinner at their place.  They were obsessed, and had been playing it together compulsively for months. The game does have a cult following and is definitely worth a shot if you're looking for something engaging and don't mind a learning curve.

best two-player boardgames
6 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Backgammon

Backgammon is a classic for good reason.  Back in New York City we once attempted to join a group of regulars who were consistently monopolizing tables to play backgammon in Bryant Park.  That did not go well.  My husband  beats me every time, I suspect because he has way more practice under his belt, so I avoid this game most of the time, though I do enjoy it now and again.  

best two-player boardgames
7 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Othello

Othello is another oldie but goodie.  Who can resist the simplicity of such a game of strategy?  It's largely based on the classic game Go, which has a history thousands of years old. As with most such games, it can be fiercely competitive. 

best two-player boardgames
8 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Scrabble

Word games used to be more my thing.  Scrabble was a favorite in my family growing up, and there was a brief period where we were playing Words with Friends on our phones all the time. I love that you can have a game of Scrabble out for days at a time and just play a turn whenever is convenient.  Not as doable if you have pets wandering around, however. 

best two-player boardgames
9 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Boggle

Speaking of word games, Boggle has never disappointed me.  We are evenly matched with this and never know who's going to win.  The pressure of timed rounds means we can squeeze in a game in short bursts and just keep a running score. 

best two-player boardgames
10 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Chess

Ah, sweet chess.  My dad taught me to play when I was around 10, and it's probably still my favorite game of all time.  Somehow I've held onto a slight advantage in the dozen or so games we've played since the lockdown started, but he's gotten good enough at it that we're pretty evenly matched. We tend to leave it midgame on this table all the time and take a few turns whenever we feel like it. 

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