No, we’re not talking about War or Egyptian Rat Screw.
Have you ever been stuck on a plane or in an airport for hours and wished you had something to do with your travel buddy (other than scroll endlessly through Instagram on your phone)? Have you found yourself in a cafe with great people-watching and you just wished you had something to do?
Good news! I’m here to tell you that two-player card games are the answer.
Bryan and I travel a lot and always have a card game on-hand… but not always a group of friends to play a big box game.
Here we’re going to cover:
- Our favorite two-player card games
- The best components of each game
- The pros and cons of each game
- Other versions of the game
If you’ve been searching for a fun pastime that you can carry in your pocket or purse, you’ve come to the right place.
|Munchkin Deluxe||$29.99 from $24.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Alderac Entertainment Group Love Letter||$12.93||Buy on Amazon|
|Rio Grande Games Dominion: 2nd Edition||$44.95 $31.02||Buy on Amazon|
|Fluxx 5.0 Card Game||$15.99 $13.79||Buy on Amazon|
|Rivals for Catan||$24.99 $19.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Brotherwise Games Boss Monster: The Dungeon Building Card Game||$24.99 $18.98||Buy on Amazon|
|Asmodee Jaipur||$24.99 $18.54||Buy on Amazon|
|Morels||$24.95||Buy on Amazon|
|Thames & Kosmos Lost Cities - The Card Game||$19.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Lord of the Rings: The Card Game||$39.95 $31.96||Buy on Amazon|
It’s the card game version of Dungeons & Dragons for all my super nerds out there. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, silly (and yet strategic), game of magic, murder, and monsters. What’s not to like? Munchkin is hands-down our favorite 2 player card game. Of course, it is also great fun with more people too! But unlike so many multiplayer games out there, Munchkin just doesn’t lose any of the fun with just two people. It is a fun game to play, pretty easy to figure out, and has endless expansions that can keep you building new decks and combining cards for ridiculous scenarios. Where else would you see something like this?
I love it so much I don’t even mind when I die and come back as a ghost and get to torture Bryan. Also, how can you resist a company with this marketing plan? Absolutely brilliant. It combines all our favorite things.
Go down in the dungeon. Kill everything you meet. Backstab your friends and steal their stuff. Grab the treasure and run.
- Always fun with 2 players (or more).
- Great for traveling or on-the-go.
- Tons of expansions, so you never get bored.
- Keeping score is kind of a pain (unless you have the foldable game board) especially because you can gain and lose levels willy-nilly in this game and writing it on a piece of paper becomes quite messy.
- Lots of expansions = tough to keep organized. A card organizer really helps!
- That’s it. There are no more cons. It’s a great game.
If you’re a hardcore Munchkin fan like us and take your cards wherever you go, we highly recommend card protectors for your Munchkin decks to keep them clean and unbent. They have been a terrific investment for our decks.
Love Letter is a game of risk, deduction, and a lot of luck. Your goal is to get your love letter into Princess Annette’s hands while deflecting the letters from competing suitors.
One of the great things about Love Letter is that it’s very easy to learn and very quick, but afterward, you’re left wanting to play another game.
In Love Letter every player will have one card. The goal of the game is to remove all other players from the game or have the highest numbered card when the deck runs out. Each card has a specific ability or rule that must be followed.
Behind the simplistic rules is a very competitive and cutthroat game. Do you play the baron and risk knocking yourself out? Do you hide behind a handmaiden and hope they have a smaller card than you?
- The most portable game. And cheap too. It’s literally 16 cards.
- Still fun with only 2 players.
- Does require a bit of strategy and bluffing.
- Very quick, so if you lose you can always play another round.
- If you play with the same player you may start to guess actions and tactics (which does allow you to really get to know someone).
We have the original but there are tons of versions out there too. Even a Munchkin version called Loot Letter! The cleverly titled, Lovecraft Letter, is one that I would love to try.
Love Letter is also available on Steam.
Dominion (Second Edition)
Dominion is a big box game as opposed to some of the others on this list. Dominion is the original deck-builder, and some people may argue that it’s better played with more players, but it’s still a ton of fun with two players.
In Dominion, each player will receive their own identical starting deck of 10 cards. As the game goes on they’ll be purchasing cards from the shared pool and building their decks.
Later in the game, players will need to start purchasing victory cards to actually score points and win the game. However, if you buy victory cards too early, you fill your deck up with useless cards and hinder your deck’s effectiveness. If you buy too late, then you may not have enough time to catch up.
- 2nd Edition features updated cards, artwork and streamlined rules
- Tactical game for 2-4 Players
- 30 minute playing time
- Very high replayability due to random supply card combinations.
- Plenty of different expansions to choose from.
- Not at all portable. (I flew from the UK to the US with the box in the overhead. It was a mess).
For a full breakdown and review of Dominion, check out our in-depth review.
Fluxx is probably one of the most random games I’ve ever played. The rules are entirely simple to start and can get incredibly complicated as the game goes on.
To start the only rules in the game are:
- Draw 1 card
- Play 1 card
That’s it. It’s impossible to win and that’s all you do. I’m underselling it a bit, and there is eventually quite a bit more to the game than that.
The cards you can play are:
Keepers are simply placed in front of you and you “control” those cards.
Goals are the win conditions that tell you how you can win the game. Most of the win conditions involve controlling specific Keeper cards. Put together, they usually form something silly or a pun. For example, the Toast goal requires control of the Bread and Toaster Keeper cards to win.
The goals are going to be constantly changing so a set of keepers that don’t do anything early in the game could be exactly what you need to win later.
Rule cards do exactly what they say. They alter or add rules to the game. This can get completely out-of-hand very quickly. The original rules start with “draw a card and play a card”. It can quickly turn into “draw 5 cards and then play every card in your hand”. This is one of the games that if a card contradicts the original rules, then follow what’s written on the card. It very quickly devolves into madness.
These give you a one time bonus or attack against another player and they could really be anything. The game is so random that it’s usually good, but you sometimes may accidentally hurt yourself too.
Creeper cards are bad. They stop you from winning the game…unless they don’t (There’s an exception to every rule in the game). In our previous example, if you have the Toast goal, and you have both the Bread and Toaster Keepers in play, but you also had a Creeper card in front of you, then you would not win the game until you got rid of the Creeper somehow. This can be extremely annoying, but there are some Goals in every deck that require you to have a Creeper to win the game so again you never really know what’s going to happen.
- It’s extremely portable. The entire game is the equivalent to the size of 2 standard playing card decks.
- It’s very easy to learn and non-gamer friends seem to like it.
- Whatever your fandom, there’s probably a version of Fluxx for you.
- Part of the fun is that it even though it’s a small portable game it can quickly eat up table space when you have a ton of rules out.
- Games can sometimes drag on pretty long if you’re unlucky.
- If you’re looking for a serious strategy-heavy game then this isn’t it.
The Rivals for Catan
Bryan and I love the world of Catan. Rivals of Catan scratches that itch when we don’t have enough people to play the regular version or when we’re on-the-go.
In Rivals for Catan, each player will start with the standard setup. Instead of a board, your playing area will be represented by square tile setup to create your two starting towns and the surrounding resources. Each player starts with one of every resource card surrounding their two starting towns.
Because this is a streamlined version of the game there are no resource cards. Instead, the resource tiles have images of the resources on the edges. Each square tile has 0, 1, 2, & 3 resources, one on each side. The side with no images is the default starting side that faces you and indicates that you currently have no resources of that type.
Let’s look at a forest tile. You’ll start the game with the blank side facing you indicating that you have zero lumber. In the center is the image of dice with two pips showing. So if a two is rolled on the production phase you would rotate the tile to have the one lumber facing you, indicating that you have one lumber in-stock. If later you use that lumber, you would rotate it back to the blank spot indicating that the lumber is no longer available.
The next difference you’ll notice is that there are event cards and additional dice. This is what adds some additional complexity to the game. As your towns expand out you’ll get different options on what’s available to build and what resources you’ll have available. It’s a little different from normal Catan, but all the elements are there and it was a lot of fun for a two player game.
- Updated version of the classic Settlers of Catan card game
- For 2 players
- Tons of replay value
- Still feels like a Catan game. Some of the other Catan spinoffs have some odd mechanics and feel like their own game with Catan elements. Rivals still gives me that Catan feeling when there’s only two of us and I don’t feel like dealing with 2-player homebrew rules.
- Several really cool expansions that branch outside the medieval theme.
- Requires a bit more table space than some of the other games on this list.
Instead of playing as a hero, Boss Monsters puts you in the shoes of the baddies. All those hidden rooms, picked locks, smashed up pots, and treasure behind closed doors… did you ever stop to think that maybe you were breaking into someone’s home?
You’ll be able to take control of (you guessed it) a Boss at the end of a dungeon. You’ll have to build rooms and make it as deadly as possible to kill the “heroes” coming into your dungeon. The player who reaches 10 kills first or the last one standing wins the game.
Boss Monster always hits me hard with nostalgia. I grew up playing a lot of NES and SNES video games and Boss Monster’s art and design are modeled after that era of video games.
Boss Monster does work pretty well as a dueling card game. I actually prefer it with only a few players. To lure adventurers into your dungeon you have to build rooms with their preferred stat, and with too many players it becomes a chore to keep track of everything. It even works pretty well on the go. I just leave behind all the tokens and keep track using a pen and paper.
Wanna be the boss? Check out our in-depth review of Boss Monster here.
- Awesome artwork inspired by retro video games.
- Works really well as a dueling game.
- Tons of expansions to keep this party going.
- Does require you to keep track of quite a bit by hand. Boss Monster also has a Steam version available (I personally prefer the digital version).
My kingdom for a camel. Work hard, earn more than your opponent and become the official merchant of the Maharaja.
A card game for two seasoned traders! And who can resist a game that starts with, “My kingdom for a camel”? Not us, certainly.
Jaipur is a city in the north of India, an important center of trade in the region. Each player becomes a local merchant, attempting to acquire goods and sell them for the best price available. Earn the most Rupees from your trades to triumph. Of course, it’s not that simple. You’ll need to master the art of camel management (to transport your wares) while striving to outdo your competition in catching the eye of the Maharaja so he’ll pick you for his personal trader.
Components of Jaipur
The deck is comprised of 44 goods cards and 11 camel cards. It also comes with 38 goods tokens that you’ll acquire by selling goods on your turn. The images match that of the cards, so it’s easy to tell what matches up. Also included are a range of bonus tokens for selling goods, a Camel bonus token for the largest herd, and Seal of Excellence tokens for winning the Maharaja’s favor.
Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk, and luck. The game relies on set collection and hand management mechanics. You’ll win Jaipur when you secure their 2nd Seal of Excellence, so in essence, the game uses a best-of-three win condition.
Points to the first person who can explain the dead panda to me.
- For 2 players
- Play time of 30 minutes
- Jaipur is a fast-paced card game, a blend of tactics, risk and...
- Highly accessible: easy to pick up rules, very little explanation required.
- Vibrant and colorful artwork.
- Also available as a PC game on Steam.
- Features a significant amount of luck of the draw.
- Scoring is a bit difficult.
- Small and compact, but tokens make it tricky for travel.
The woods are old-growth, dappled with sunlight. Delicious mushrooms beckon from every grove and hollow. Morels may be the most sought-after in these woods, but there are many tasty and valuable varieties awaiting the savvy collector. Bring a basket if you think it’s your lucky day. Forage at night and you will be all alone when you stumble upon a bonanza. If you’re hungry, put a pan on the fire and bask in the aroma of chanterelles as you saute them in butter. Feeling mercantile? Sell porcini to local aficionados for information that will help you find what you seek deep in the forest.
At its heart, Morels is a set collection game with a few complicating features. How can you carry your mushrooms without baskets? How can you cook your mushrooms without a pan, butter, or spices? These additions create new possibilities, requiring some planning and strategic thinking beyond simply gathering ‘shrooms.
In Morels, players take on the role of mushroom foragers, working to collect sets of mushrooms card types. Once collected, players can either sell the mushrooms for currency or cook them for points. While some mushroom types are common, others are scarce, so the opportunities to pick them are limited. This creates a fair amount of competition with your opponent to collect the most valuable varieties while also forcing you to plan ahead to maximize the utility of your turns.
We love this silly, yet patently strategic, mushroom-themed matchup. It’s a great game for two players with the bonus of becoming a mushroom expert by the end.
Whoever thought mushrooms could be so exciting?
- Easy and relaxed gameplay with a good amount of unique options.
- Not terribly aggressive for a 2-player game.
- Highly portable.
- Impressive artwork.
- Involves some luck, especially in the night mushrooms component.
- Less direct interaction with your opponent.
Lost Cities: The Card Game
The research teams are outfitted and ready to embark on their adventures to find five forgotten cities. Who will lead the way to fantastic discoveries?
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. Who am I kidding? I still want to be Indiana Jones.
Lost Cities is a simple, two-player card game and one of the older games on the list. Don’t let that scare you off, though, this game is still a ton of fun! Easy to pick up and play and tailor-made for two players, Lost Cities is brimming with adventure and exploratory joy that only comes from making an amazing new discovery.
In Lost Cities, you are an adventurer trying to succeed in up to five expeditions. In order to make progress, you place the corresponding cards in ascending order. Investment cards will let you double, triple, quadruple your earnings. But beware! Starting an expedition costs points and you may fail to cover your costs! Doom!
Points are awarded based on how far the explorers make it along their paths. Each step earns more points than the one before it, and the first three steps earn negative points. Along the way, players can increase points by finding artifacts, victory points, and shortcuts forward. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins! (There’s a shocker.)
No matter how the rounds go, the inevitable conclusion is the loser sweeping up the cards to reshuffle and asking, “Ready to play again?”
- Two explorers embark on research journeys to remote corners of...
- Explore Himalayan mountains, The central American rainforest, the...
- The expedition routes take shape and the explorers earn points
- Easy to pick up rules, very little explanation required.
- Quick setup.
- Few components make it great for travel.
- There’s also a board game and a version on Steam!
- Like Jaipur, scoring is a bit of a chore.
- Features a significant amount of luck of the draw.
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
An ancient evil stirs in the black lands of Mordor, and the people of Middle-earth speak of a terrible doom approaching from the east. The Dark Lord Sauron is gathering his forces, and should he acquire the power he seeks, he will cast the world into eternal shadow. The only hope lies in a heroic few who must work together to stem the tide of evil…
I am a huge Lord of the Rings nerd. You only have to look at the Elvish tattoo on my back and Tolkien’s initials tattooed on my arm for evidence. I tried to learn the languages of Middle Earth as a kid, creating glossaries for myself while reading The Silmarillion. Yep… nerd.
Any game that incorporates Tolkien’s world is a winner in my book.
What it’s all about
In Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, players choose three heroes and a deck of allies to combine forces and fight against Sauron, represented by an “encounter deck”. Players can also choose between completing quests to advance through the scenario in a more aggressive campaign or to stay in defensive mode and defeat enemies as they come.
It is both a living card game and a deck-builder. The goal of the game is to finish a series of quest stages before your threat reaches fifty. You must decide how to use each of your characters on your turn because (mostly) they can only be used once per round.
Each player chooses a hero that will grow in ability by means of their sphere. The spheres are Leadership, Lore, Tactics, and Spirit. The rounds happen in a series of phases. On your turn, you’ll get a resource and draw a card. Next steps include:
- Planning Phase
- Questing Phase
- Travel Phase
- Encounter Phase
- Combat Phase
Once combat is resolved, the threat level is increased by one and the first player marker passes to the next player.
The game combines a delightful mix of mechanics and thematic elements. It has stood the test of time and now has an impressive pool of cards to play with. Like the books, the narrative, and now the game, it’s more about the journey than the destination; more about the trial and error than the victories and defeats. But without a doubt, this game is a place for your imagination to run wild.
- The first cooperative LCG
- Build your decks from the 4 spheres of influence tactics, lore,...
- Build a party of heroes from an assortment of notable characters...
- Exceptional artwork on the cards.
- Lives up to the epic theme of The Lord of the Rings.
- Lots of thematic expansions like Hobbits, Dwarves, Gondor, and Rohan.
- Also available as a PC game on Steam!
- More complicated mechanics than others on this list. A bit tougher for a newbie to pick up and play right away.
- Not portable and actually requires a fair bit of table space.
Sometimes it’s hard to get a whole gaming group together. People move away, have conflicting schedules, get swallowed by the warp storm. Things happen, so it’s good that there are a lot of options for 2 players out there.
We travel a lot, and although not every game on this list is travel-friendly, card games, in general, are usually easy to take with you. We’ve come a long way from Uno and War. Speaking of traveling… while on the road, we’ve been seeing Exploding Kittens at board game cafes all over the place.
This list is by no means exhaustive. We picked out some of our favorites that we’ve personally played together as a couple, and there are plenty of awesome games we haven’t played (yet).
What are your favorite 2 player games? Drop a comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts.