Fantasy Flight Games
All of these games can be played with exactly two people, though some card games can be played with as many as four or five people. There’s even one game on this list that you can play by yourself if you wanted. Because these are card games that don’t really have a traditional tabletop board, they’re super easy to take with you while traveling.
Best Short Version of a Longer Game: Rivals For Catan
- ✓ Simple setup
- ✓ Faster playthrough than the original game
- ✓ Strategy game
- ✗ A more expensive choice
- ✗ Requires a lot of table space
If you’re at all into board games, you’re probably familiar with the famous game titled Catan, or sometimes Settlers of Catan. The original game takes up a lot of table space, and while this two-player version does too, Rivals For Catan doesn’t take nearly as long to play, and the rules are slightly more simple to learn.
For people already familiar with the original game, the rules won’t take too long to learn because you’re already familiar with many of the terms and resource types. Each player is in charge of one of two factions that are in charge of developing a principality from new to thriving. Throughout the game, you acquire resources through dice rolls and use those to expand your settlements and cities as well as recruit heroes.
The first player to reach seven or more victory points wins the game. Each settlement that you own is worth one victory point, and if you upgrade that settlement to a city, it’s worth a total of two victory points. Then, you can also gain victory points by having the strength or trade advantage, which is when you have three or more strength/trade points and more than your opponent. You calculate strength and trade points based on unique icons on certain cards.
Rivals For Catan certainly has a steep learning curve, but it’s well worth it. Anyone ages 10 and up can play, and each game takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete.
Best Short Version of a Longer Game
Rivals For Catan
Take the classic board game Catan, turn it into a card game for two, and you’ve got Rivals For Catan!
Best Trick-Taking Game: The Fox in the Forest
Renegade Game Studios
- ✓ Highly strategic trick-taking mechanics
- ✓ Small and perfect for travel
- ✓ Beautifully illustrated cards
- ✗ Might be too simple for some
The Fox in the Forest is a trick-taking card game for two players, which means that after each player puts a card down, the “trick” is over and whoever has the highest value card in the trick wins. If you’ve ever heard of or played Bridge, Hearts, or Spades, those are trick-taking games as well.
In this particular card game, there are 13 tricks in one round, and points are awarded at the end of the round. To win a trick, your card has to have the highest value, which doesn’t always necessarily mean having the higher number. You keep playing complete rounds until one player reaches a total of 21 points.
The unique thing about The Fox in the Forest is that the goal isn’t to win all of the tricks; in fact, if you win too many tricks, you don’t earn any points at all for that round. This means you have to lose and win tricks strategically to make the most points in a round without losing them all toward the end. Each game takes about half an hour to complete, and anyone ages 10 and up can enjoy!
Best Trick-Taking Game
The Fox in the Forest
This is a game where the goal isn’t strictly to win the most tricks; instead, you have to win a strategic amount of tricks to earn the most points.
Best Story in a Card Game: Arkham Horror The Card Game
Fantasy Flight Games
- ✓ Interesting story unravels over multiple games
- ✓ Can play by yourself or with someone else
- ✓ It’s a living card game
- ✗ More expensive than other card games
- ✗ Game might take too long for some
- ✗ It’s a living card game
Arkham Horror The Card Game is a Living Card Game, which means that new cards and adventures are released on a regular basis, letting players create their own decks or simply customizing and adding to the core set. The game isn’t necessarily designed to be played over and over again, though it can be; instead, there are frequent new expansions that give players new scenarios and adventures. For some, this is a pro; for others, it’s very much a con because you’ll constantly be spending $10 to $25 on another expansion.
Take on the role of an investigator as you try to solve strange happenings in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. You’ll come across a whole slew of mysteries to unravel, conspiracies, and more Lovecraftian madness. And be careful of the decisions you make because they do actually make a difference in how the game plays out.
You can play this game with another person, but if they’re not around, you can also play the game by yourself! Whereas many card games have a clear winner, that’s not the case with this game. Each game is essentially a chapter in a long campaign, much like sessions of Dungeons & Dragons. A single playthrough takes about one to two hours, and anyone ages 14 and up can embark on this dark, puzzling journey.
Best Story in a Card Game
Arkham Horror The Card Game
If you love the horror or dark mystery genre, you’ll absolutely love this card game. You can even play it by yourself!
Best Short Mystery: Codenames Duet
Czech Games Edition
- ✓ Cooperative strategy game
- ✓ Can play with more people in teams
- ✓ Variable difficulty
- ✗ Can be a bit pricey, if not on sale
- ✗ Could be boring for some
While Codenames Duet is designed to be played with two people, you can also play with teams or combine it with other Codenames games for more variation. With two people (ages 11 and up), each game takes about 15 minutes to complete, and your goal is to identify all of your agents while avoiding deadly assassins.
If you’ve never played any variation of Codenames before, here’s a quick breakdown of how the game works. Through one-word clues given to you by other players, you have to guess which card you think your agent is under. With Codenames Duet specifically, if you guess correctly, you get to attempt to identify another agent with a new clue word from your partner. Then, you and your partner alternate giving clues until all agents—and no assassins—are revealed.
There are 100 different matrix cards in the game, which are double-sided; you and your partner use these matrix cards to take turns between identifying agents and giving your partner clues. There are 15 agents in each game; six agents are unique to each player’s side of the matrix card, and three agents overlap and are on both sides of the card.
Best Short Mystery
With a single word as a clue, you have to find all your agents before the assassin comes out of the woodwork.
Best Simple Strategy Game: Beard Wizards
The Dusty Tophat
- ✓ Easy to play, but incredibly fun
- ✓ Cute art style
- ✓ Can play with up to five people
- ✗ Some might want a longer or more intricate game
Beard Wizards is a hilarious strategy game in which you compete against one to four other players (ages 12 and up) to see who can grow their beard the fastest. There are cards with golden beard hair on them, and it’s your goal to collect seven before your opponent and cast the ultimate ritual.
Every player starts with a single golden beard hair, and the longer your beard grows, the more powerful you become. You can wield magical artifacts of grooming and cast spells on opponents, all in the name of the world’s longest beard. On your turn, you draw two cards and perform up to two actions, which could include playing a spell or artifact card, adding a beard card to your stack, or discarding cards to perform a ritual. Each game only takes about 10 to 25 minutes to finish.
Best Simple Strategy Game
The entire goal of this game is to grow the longest beard. How much more do you need to hear?
Best For Inexperienced Players: Couch Skeletons
The Dusty Tophat
- ✓ Easy to set up and learn to play
- ✓ Pretty affordable
- ✓ Games are incredibly fast
- ✗ Some might want a longer game
If you want a fast card game or one that’s simple enough to introduce someone new to card games, Couch Skeletons is a perfect choice. Each game takes about five to ten minutes to play, and the rules are super easy to learn.
There’s a single couch with five spaces that both you and your opponent are trying to fill with your skeletons. You can knock your opponent’s skeletons off the couch, and whoever fills the whole couch with their skeletons first is the winner! Anyone ages nine and up can take part in this spooky fun.
Best For Inexperienced Players
You’ve heard of a couch potato, but have you heard of Couch Skeletons? This game is simple, but super fun!
Best Silly Card Game: Trash Pandas
- ✓ Pretty affordable
- ✓ Get to moonlight as a raccoon
- ✓ Compact and great for travel
- ✗ Instructions can be slightly confusing at first
Trash Pandas is another card game in which you need the most points to win, but how do you earn those points? By tipping over trash cans and digging for food. The game ends when the deck of cards you draw from runs out, but you have to be picky about the trash you stash throughout the game.
When it’s your turn, you roll the die. Then, you get to choose whether you want to keep rolling or stop and activate the results of your roll. If you roll again, you could push yourself ahead and get the results you want, or you could potentially roll a duplicate result and lose your turn completely. Activating a die result could include drawing cards, stealing cards from other players, or stashing cards. And cards only count as points when they’ve been stashed, so you have to play your turn wisely.
You can play with only two people or add an additional two people (ages eight and up) for a total of four players. Each game takes about 20 minutes to complete, meaning you could easily play multiple games in a single night.
Best Silly Card Game
Digging through the garbage in real life might be a little gross, but in this card game, you’ll be fighting over and stashing the best trash.
Best Twist On a Classic: Monopoly Deal
- ✓ Super affordable
- ✓ Easy to travel with
- ✓ Quick to play
- ✗ Sometimes wish games were longer
The original Monopoly game, or its many different variations, often takes an incredibly long time to finish. The only variation that takes a max of 15 minutes to play with two people is Monopoly Deal, which is a card game version of Monopoly. Though you can play with up to five players, it’s more fun with fewer players (ages eight and up).
Imagine everything on a traditional board for Monopoly—only in card form. There are property cards, cards with houses and hotels on them, money cards, and so on. Then, there are unique cards like the Dealbreaker card that lets you steal an entire property set from your opponent; or a Just Say No card that lets your opponent block your Dealbreaker card.
The goal of the game is to be the first person to collect three full property sets. This game has all the same properties as the original board game, so some sets need three cards, while others need two or four if you’re going for the railroads. Sometimes, reaching three property sets with two people is too easy, so you could bump it up to five sets to make things more interesting.
Best Twist On a Classic
Monopoly Deal is the perfect little game for people who love the concept of the original Monopoly game, but don’t have hours upon hours to spend playing.
Best Active Card Game: Throw Throw Burrito
Exploding Kittens LLC
- ✓ Active fun
- ✓ Can play with more people if you want
- ✗ A slightly more expensive card game
While you can play Throw Throw Burrito with up to six people, you can also play with just two; both situations are full of whacky fun. It only takes about 15 minutes to finish a game, and anyone ages seven and up can play. Put simply, the goal of the game is to win two rounds by earning the most points.
How you earn those points and win a round, however, isn’t that simple. Whereas most card games involve each player taking turns, Throw Throw Burrito doesn’t have turns. Instead, you’re trying to earn points by matching sets of three cards faster than your opponents while also looking out for a foam burrito flying at you.
If someone matches three non-Battle cards, it’s worth one point. But if you match three Burrito Battle cards, it’s worth two points, and it starts a battle, the rules of which depend on the particular card you got three of: Brawl, War, or Duel. When you’re playing with two people, the battles aren’t too unique because you’re always trying to hit the only other player. With more people, however, the battles are more fun because the unique rules come into play.
Whoever loses the battle has to take a Burrito Bruise, worth a negative point, and the first round continues until all six Burrito Bruises are given out. The winner of the first round gets to hang on to the Fear Me Badge. If the owner of the Fear Me Badge wins the first battle of the second round, they win the game; if the other player wins the second round, they have to duel the winner of round one—burrito style.
Best Active Card Game
Throw Throw Burrito
As the title says, you literally get to throw burritos at other players. Now, who gets to throw the burritos depends entirely on how the cards are dealt.