My favourite boardgames for two

An article by Sélène Brinkhof

Many people think of board games as things you do on special occasions.  Like, Christmas, family gatherings and on evenings with friends. A lot of times people then play the usual suspects. Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly or a more recent game, Settlers of Catan (or Catan, as the game must be called at the moment). Often I hear people say, when I tell them that I play games multiple times a week, ‘but board games are not really fun with two, right?’


Well, I beg to differ. When you look at ‘our’ (read: Rowdy’s) game collection, then it would be a pity if there always have to be more then the two of us to play a game. In this guest blogpost I give you advice on two-player games. To play on lazy Sunday afternoons, as on alternative for ling on the couch, or to play in a café while enjoying an adult beverage. Completely subjective, but hopefully this article will be inspiring and enjoyable to read. Click on the title of the game for the review of the game.

The (young) classics:

Are you looking for games that are accessible, but where you still have to make some tactical decisions? Then these new classics might be the game to play. I’ll discus Carcassonne, Dominion and Puerto Rico. These games are relative easy to teach and these use mechanisms that are also used in may other games. That makes it much easier to learn other games and it increases your chances of doing well in the game. Or even win.

Even though we don’t play these game much often lately, because our collection has grown significantly, these games are timeless and I do think they will be played again, sooner or later.


Building cities, pastures, monasteries and roads in medieval France. Accessible for everyone and definitely a fun game to play once in a while with two players. Try to vary with one or more of the several expansion that are out there. These give the game a little more depth.
Another game with a medieval theme where you, as a ruler, strive for power, richness and respect. The central mechanism in Dominion is deck building. By buying cards you become stronger and stronger. You can endlessly vary the game, because you choose with which cards you start the game. In this way, you can choose a game that focuses more on money or more on thwarting each other.
Like for Carcassonne, there are many expansions for Dominion, but I think the base game is good enough. The game is easy to play, even for new players, and is also very fun with more than two players. A good game to have in you game collection (and dust it off and play it once in a while).

Puerto Rico

From the Middle Ages to colonial times. In Puerto Rico you construct plantations, build up your colonial settlement and trade and ship the goods you obtained earlier. Every round, you choose a certain role and that makes that this game is slightly different every time you play it.

Do you like these games? Maybe you also like another classic:

Ticket to Ride. This game even has a version (Nordic Countries) and an expansion (Switzerland) that is specially designed for two players.

When you only have a couple of minutes to spare:

Half an hour to spare at an airport? Want to play a game, but you don’t want to much hassle? Want to bring a game, but you don’t have a lot of space in your bag? Then these games might be the perfect fit and are very nice with two (or more)!

Lost Cities

As an adventurer you are looking for five different lost cities. This is a card game for two players only, where luck and tactics go together perfectly. A stack of cards and a small board is all you need!


Collect the most rare mushrooms in the forest, cook them and collect points. This is very fun two-player only game. The fun thing is that you can thwart each other by snatching that rare mushroom from underneath the nose of your opponent. There is some luck of the draw, but (luckily) eventually the choices you make are decisive.


A game with a desert theme that is especially designed for two players. 12 Cards are placed in a grid. You then place your pawns on the border cards (and on the inner intersections) to collect resources and buy card to place in your own tableau.


Of all the games I discuss here, I think Targi is the game with the most strife. By tactically placing your pawn on a specific card or buying a card that the other played wants, you can really thwart each other.  Targi has a little more components than the other games, so it is not suitable for bumpy train rides or playing in places with little space.

The Builders: Middle Ages

In medieval France you hire craftsmen to build all kinds of buildings. Every labourer has its own qualities. By efficiently using your abilities, you can build more prestigious building in your personal village. It’s a fairly ‘multi-player solitaire’ game, as quickly as possible for the win.


The Builders is a card game, which is also suitable for more than two players and that fits in every women’s purse.

Valley of the Kings

The last game in this section has a theme that we haven’t seen in this article, the treasures of the Pharaohs. This is a card game where you gather treasures in your tomb for the afterlife. These treasures are also your currency and when you’ve placed them in your tomb, you cannot use them again. This is something that the players continuously have to consider and this means that your brains really have to work. You not only find cards that help you, but also cards that influence your opponent’s strategy.

Valley of the Kings2

Just as Dominion, Valley of the Kings is a deck building game and because it only consists of cards, it is very suitable to take with you in your pocket.

My personal top three:

These game maybe less familiar to the occasional gamer than the classics and they might be a bit more difficult to learn and play, but I really like them. Race for the Galaxy is my all time favourite. I’ve played a lot of games, but it did not change the urge to play Race. Tzolk’in was also an easy choice. Maybe it has something to do with how much I win this game, I don’t know…  My number three was a little more difficult, because there’s always a continuous flow of new games that I almost always like. Eventually I had to make a choice and my number three is Five Tribes.

Race for the Galaxy

I played it the first time while I was on vacation in sunny Spain. That was enough to get me totally addicted. The first two games were not very fun and I almost gave up. How do I get points? Where is this game going? However, I’m glad I did not throw the cards into the ocean. We quickly added the first two expansions; Rebel vs. Imperium en the Gathering Storm. These make the game even more versatile.


About the game: in a galaxy (far far away?) you discover and conquer planets en make sure your civilization develops and prospers. And you do that by playing cards. The cards are your currency and your goal, namely planets and developments. Lots of choices. You need to place twelve cards in your tableau as fast as possible. Do you choose to be a military power or are you the more peaceful type and do you try build production planets and do you consume your way to points?

Tzolk’in: the Mayan Calendar

We go from planets far away to Mexico in the heyday of the Mayans. Tzolk’in is a board game with a board that make just as enthusiastic as the board of The Game of Life made me when I was young (roads in 3D!). In the middle of the board you will find five cogs that are interconnected.


The game takes one year, which means that the biggest cog will rotate 360 degrees. You place your workers on one of the other four cogs to collect resources, sacrifice to the gods and develop your tribe. But don’t forget! Your people are hungry and need to be fed.

Five Tribes

The Middle East from 1001 nights with her camels, palaces, palm trees and delicious spices. Move meeples (you know, those little guys from Carcassonne) of different colours around the board and claim different areas in the desert. With the help of Djinns (mythical spirits from Islamic culture)  you can get special abilities.


The game is different every time you play it, because the board is modular. You also bid for player order. In a two-player game that means that you can sometimes have two turns in a row. It’s a tactical game with loads of choices to be made. These are two elements, which make me very happy.


A couple of years ago, I could not imagine that there were so many board game around. So many fun, different, exciting, thematic and beautiful board games. I tried to give some advice to people who do not play games that often. Without limitation, not objective, just to inspire. Because what is more fun than to grab a game out of your closet and play with your friends or family on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I can definitely say that I’m not done with gaming. There’s just so much to discover.

(And let’s face it, with a board gamer boyfriend that’s not even an option)

2 gedachten over “My favourite boardgames for two

  • 24 maart 2015 om 16:30

    Thanks for including my Valley of the Kings as one of your picks.

    Tom Cleaver


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