The 10 Best 2-Player Board Games for Lightweight PVP

These awesome two-player board games and card games are easy to learn, quick to play, and full of tense PVP action.

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As I’ve gotten older, I find it harder than ever to get a group of friends together for game night. I’m busy. They’re busy. Schedules rarely line up, and we can barely meet up once or twice a year.

That’s why I’ve learned to love and embrace two-player board games and card games that can be whipped out and played at a moment’s notice—no large group gatherings required!

These games are all pretty lightweight, meaning they can be taught in under 5 minutes and played in under 30 minutes. (That rules out Gloomhaven, The Castles of Burgundy, etc.) I also value portability, so say goodbye to big box hogs like Dominion.

Here are the best two-player board games and card games with lightweight PVP to consider adding to your collection!

1. Onitama

Average length of one game: 15 minutes

Onitama is the ideal game for gamers who want to like chess but hate chess.

Both players control five pieces: 1 Master and 4 Students. The game is played on a 5×5 grid and the goal is to capture the opponent’s Master, or move your Master to the opponent’s Shrine.

Here’s the twist: your pieces can only move according to movement cards in your hand, and once you play a movement card, it goes to your opponent.

Plus, the movement cards are different from game to game, so there’s a lot of replayability!

2. Hive

Average length of one game: 20 minutes

Hive is another chess-like game for people who hate chess. But unlike Onitama, which looks a lot like chess, Hive is sure to draw you in because it looks so unique.

There’s no “board” in Hive. The hexagonal game pieces become the board when they’re played. Each piece represents a type of bug, and each bug can move a certain way, such as the Grasshopper jumping over adjacent pieces.

The goal is to surround the opponent’s Queen Bee piece. Really fun, even when you lose all the time like me!

3. Kingdomino

Average length of one game: 15 minutes

Kingdomino is the most fun tile-laying game I’ve played. Each round, you take turns picking from a batch of tiles and adding those tiles to your growing kingdom.

Here’s the twist: each tile has a unique value, and whoever picks the least valuable tile in one round becomes first to pick tiles in the next round.

The tension lies in having to decide whether to grab that important tile now or forego it in order to set yourself up for next round.

The official 5×5 kingdom size is fun, but I recommend trying the 7×7 variant on BoardGameGeek for something more strategic.

4. Hanamikoji

Average length of one game: 15 minutes

In this game, players are vying for the favor of different Geishas, where each Geisha has a preferred Item and is swayed toward the player who offers her more of that Item.

It’s a bit similar to games like Battle Line and Lost Cities, but what sets it apart is its simplicity and elegance.

Each round only has four turns, and each of the four turns is different, forcing you to decide between which Items to play when, without giving away too much information to your opponent.

5. Coup

Average length of one game: 15 minutes

The official two-player variant of Coup is notoriously bad, but the well-known community-made two-player variant for Coup turns this game of blind bluffs into one of strategic depth.

It’s the perfect mixture of decision making, social deduction, planning ahead, and deception. Tense!

6. Patchwork

Average length of one game: 30 minutes

Patchwork is a game where players take turns buying irregularly-shaped tiles and fitting them together to produce a quilt.

Tiles are bought using buttons, which are earned in various ways, but buttons are also worth points at the end. Empty holes in one’s quilt also detract from points at the end.

It’s a race to see who can craft the best quilt and collect the most buttons before time runs out!

7. Squadro

Average length of one game: 20 minutes

In Squadro, players each have five pieces placed perpendicular on a grid, and each piece can move a certain number of spaces per turn, but only in a line across the grid.

The goal is to get your pieces across the grid and back—but if your piece is overtaken by the opponent, it goes back and needs to start over.

The twist? Some pieces move quickly going across the grid but slowly on their way back, and other pieces are slow to cross but fast to return. It’s simple but surprisingly tactical, and perfect for a quick round of clashing minds.

8. Lost Cities

Average length of one game: 30 minutes

Designed by legendary German game designer Reiner Knizia, Lost Cities is a card game that is easy to pick up and play. That doesn’t mean that the game is shallow by any means, as the more you play the more you’ll find deeper strategies.

Setup time is extremely quick, as is putting it away. The latest version includes a new expedition, adding to replayability.

9. Star Realms

Average length of one game: 20 minutes

If you’ve been looking to introduce a friend or family member to deckbuilding games, Star Realms is the perfect gateway drug. The entire box can fit in the palm of your hand, and it’s quick to set up and start playing.

Veterans of deckbuilders might find Star Realms a little lacking in complexity, but that’s why it’s great for introducing people to the genre. You can also add more copies to expand the game for more players.

10. Carcassonne

Average length of one game: 30 minutes

If you’re even remotely interested in board games, you’ve probably at least heard of Carcassonne. There’s a good reason too. Since this is a tile-laying game, there’s very little setup time but you’ll get more than 30 minutes of game time.

Later versions of the game have a redesigned rulebook to make learning the game easier, which makes it even easier to recommend.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Game Night

Are you sick of people ruining game night with bad manners?

Maybe you’re reluctant to say anything because you don’t want to cause trouble. Or maybe you’ve already told them off multiple times and you’re starting to feel like a broken record.

We’ve created a nifty PDF that you can print out and stick on the wall. It highlights the 7 Deadly Sins of Game Night, which you can use as a reference for all players during game night.

Download the cheat sheet below and you’ll never have to directly confront anyone about their behavior. If anyone fights back, just tell them that whatNerd says they’re wrong!

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