Gaming with Two: The Ten Best Games to Play with Your Spouse

Want to play games with your wife / husband / fiancée / financé / girlfriend / boyfriend / partner / significant other, and you don’t know which games would work best?  You’ve come to the right place.

Each of the games below work very well with two players.  Some of them also work with more, but if you primarily play games with just one other person (as a great many people do), you need a game that excels with just two.

I’ve included two games per category in each of five different categories, mainly to mix things up a bit.  There are plenty of other good games in the categories below, obviously, but the ones I’ve listed certainly won’t disappoint.

And yes, any of these games would make a great gift, if that’s what you’re looking for.  No excuse for buying a monogrammed bowling ball this year.  :-)

Classic Games: 

Backgammon: 2 players, 30 minutes, ages 8 and up, 200 A.D., weight of 2.0.
Backgammon is my favorite game of all time, for a number of reasons — it’s fast, there’s a nice blend of luck and strategy (if you’re playing with the doubling cube), and you can sometimes come from behind to win it in a dramatic way.  Anyone who says that luck dominates the game needs to (a) start using the doubling cube and (b) start playing for money — I guarantee they’ll start taking the game more seriously.  You can also read my review of the game.

Gin Rummy: 2 players, 30 minutes, ages 8 and up, 1909, weight of 1.8.
A card game classic, this game can be played anytime you have a deck of cards, a horizontal surface (handy, but not strictly necessary), and a little time to kill.  My wife and I have played it on the porch, at the breakfast table, in the airport, on a train, waiting in line, &c.  It is in many ways our go-to game of choice.  And again, those who feel the game is dominated by luck need to start playing for money — there’s a lot more to this game than first meets the eye.

Word Games:

Scrabble: 2-4 players, 90 minutes, ages 10 and up, 1949, weight of 2.2.
Scrabble is one of those games you can spend a lifetime playing and never get bored. There’s strategy, there’s blocking, there’s hand management, there’s word knowledge, and there’s a bit of luck, too.  What’s more, you should be able to learn a few new words along the way.

Bananagrams: 1-8 players, 15 minutes, ages 7 and up, 2006, weight of 1.5.
Just imagine Scrabble where everyone is playing on their own tableau as fast as they can, and you have a rough idea what this game is all about.  Every player starts with a number of tiles and tries to fit them into a valid crossword pattern — when they succeed, they yell “peel” and everyone, including themselves, has to draw another tile.  A very fast-paced word game that comes in a cute banana-shaped pouch.

Modern Board Games:

Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries: 2-3 players, 45 minutes, ages 8 and up, 2007, weight of 2.0.
A tighter and more cutthroat game than the original Ticket to Ride, TtR: Nordic is the perfect TtR for two players.  It works with three, too, but boy is that board tight.  Don’t get too ambitious when choosing which destination cards to keep, or you might just end up with a negative score!  You can also read a bit about the game and where it fits in the TtR universe.

Pandemic: 2-4 players, 60 minutes, ages 10 and up, 2008, weight of 2.3.
An excellent game where players play against the game itself to try to eradicate diseases.  It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve introduced it to, and it’s a great couples game, too.  Not an easy game to win, but very satisfying when you can pull it off.

Abstract Strategy Games:

Hey, That’s My Fish: 2-4 players, 20 minutes, ages 8 and up, 2003, weight of 1.5.
Move your penguins to try to get as many fish for yourself as you can — move to hex tiles with lots of fish, and try to block other players’ access to parts of the board.  Careful, though, or someone else will sneak into an area you thought you had locked down.  Good fun, and short, too.

Blokus Duo, a.k.a. Travel Blokus: 2 players, 15 minutes, ages 5 and up, 2005, weight of 1.8.
It’s essentially the same game as regular Blokus, but there’s an improved ruleset for 2 players:  in the standard version, 2 players are encouraged to play with two colors each, and this is frankly a bit unsatisfying.  Blokus Duo corrects this fault by shrinking the board and changing the start position.  The improved game can be played on a standard set, however, by following these instructions

Modern Card Games:

Jaipur: 2 players, 30 minutes, ages 12 and up, 2009, weight of 1.6.
A fun trading game for two. On your turn, you can either take a good from the market, trade some goods and camels with the market, or sell goods for points.  When everything is going well, there’s a definite rhythm to the game — if you control the tempo, you’ll likely win.  You can also read my review of the game.

Lost Cities: 2 players, 30 minutes, ages 10 and up, 1999, weight of 1.5.
A card game for two where players are trying to lead the most successful expeditions. Players invest in more expeditions in order to give themselves more options, but if they invest in too many, then they can’t support them all.

  1. December 18, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    these links are… wrong. lost cities leads to hive, htmf leads to steam…

  2. December 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Wow, that’s really weird — thanks for catching that! I’ve fixed them now….

    Update 12/28/11: it looks like it has to do with copying and pasting links. Now I’m going back through some of my previous posts to see if they have the same problems…. :-(

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