12 Board Games and RPGs 2 People Can Play While Keeping Their Distance...Together

Clockwise from left: The Fox in the Forest, Mage Wars Arena, Fog of Love, and Stories From the Crypt.
Clockwise from left: The Fox in the Forest, Mage Wars Arena, Fog of Love, and Stories From the Crypt.
Image: Renegade Game Studios, Arcane Wonders, Hush Hush Projects, Spectrum Games

Social distancing isn’t necessarily a one-person experience (although if it is for you, we made a list of games that can help with that). Some of us are living with a partner, a roommate, or someone else who plays an important role in our lives. It’s important to take time to spend together—without driving each other crazy—so we’ve made a list of two-player games to experience together.

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This is the second in a series where I’ll be profiling board games and tabletop roleplaying games for folks to try out at home. We started with single-player-friendly games (sometimes referred to as solo or “solitaire play” games); we’re now onto two-player games, and we’ll finish up with unique family-friendly ones. I’m including a mix of physical games and digital versions—Steam versions of existing games, or PDFs of various RPGs—for folks wanting options that don’t involve home delivery.

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I’m also highlighting game developers’ websites for purchasing over big box stores and Amazon, unless that option isn’t available, but make sure to communicate with potential sellers about their delivery situations. Amazon has also been facing serious delays because of high demand, so that’s something to consider when making purchasing decisions.


Board and Card Games

The components of 7 Wonders Duel.
The components of 7 Wonders Duel.
Image: Fantasy Flight Games

7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders Duel is a two-player version of 7 Wonders, a card game where players face off as opposing civilizations trying to grow and expand their empires. Over the course of three ages, players construct buildings and wonders, working to achieve scientific prowess, military might, or social growth. For those wanting to up the difficulty there’s the Pantheon expansion, which adds different mythologies and gods to the franchise—meaning not only will you have to build your empire, but also strive to not incur your gods’ wrath. 7 Wonders Duel costs around $30 and is available at stores like Barnes and Noble. For those wanting a digital option, there’s an app version on Android and Apple devices for $5.

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Codenames Duet

Codenames Duet, from Czech Games Edition, is another two-player version of a popular game. Unlike Codenames, where teams face off against each other, Codenames Duet is a cooperative game where each player is a secret agent trying to help the other contact several fellow agents—who are hiding beneath word cards—while trying to avoid evil assassins. Each player knows the agents the other one can contact safely, so they have to give each other single-word clues to help them find the right words. Codenames Duet costs about $20 and is available at several stores like Target and Barnes and Noble.

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The components for Fog of Love.
The components for Fog of Love.
Image: Hush Hush Projects

Fog of Love

I highlighted this game in my previous Valentine’s Day game list, but I’m pulling it back out because it’s absolutely worth a try. In this two-player game, each person is one half of a romantic couple that has to go through the trials and tribulations of a relationship (you don’t have to be in a relationship with the other player to try it, it’s also good for roommates). It plays as a romantic comedy, but don’t expect it to be all fun and games. This one will challenge you. It’s good for a long night of connection and empathy—given how vulnerable we all feel, sometimes we need a good emotional release. Fog of Love costs $50 and is available on the company’s website. Plus, to help stores suffering from the covid-19 pandemic, Hush Hush Projects is donating 20 percent of all proceeds to local game shops—all you need to do is tell them which one you’d like the money to go toward.

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Patchwork

This one is perfect for those moments you want to exercise your brain but in a calming, nurturing way. Patchwork is a two-player game where players work to build beautiful quilts, laying down different tile and button combinations to get rid of as many of their pieces as possible. It’s currently available on Amazon for $20, but the estimated arrival is about three weeks. In the meantime, a digital version of the game is available on Steam for $7, as well as on iPhone and Android devices for about $4.

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The box cover art for Mage Wars Arena.
The box cover art for Mage Wars Arena.
Image: Arcane Wonders

Mage Wars Arena

Set in the world of Arcane Wonders’ Mage Wars franchise, Mage Wars Arena is a two-player combat game where two powerful mages face off against one another in deadly combat. Mages work within their specific disciplines to summon creatures, cast spells, use enchantments, and any number of other magical devices to thwart the enemy. Mage Wars Arena costs $60 and is available on Arcane Wonders’ website; there are also a number of expansions for those looking to grow their gameplay even more.

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The components for Forbidden Desert.
The components for Forbidden Desert.
Image: Gamewright

Forbidden Desert

Every one of the Forbidden games is great for two players, but I decided to highlight Forbidden Desert because it’s the one my husband and I play the most together (I’ll most likely be including another game in the series in my upcoming “family games” article). To me, Forbidden Desert is the most daunting game in the series so far. Players have crash-landed in the middle of a desert and have to dig through the sands to find the missing pieces of their airship. Only problem is a sandstorm keeps brewing, sowing chaos in its wake and burying everything in layers of sand. It’s a great team-building exercise, but I’d recommend starting on an easier level. It’s way easier to lose than you might think. Forbidden Desert costs $27 and is available on Gamewright’s website.

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The box cover art for The Fox in the Forest.
The box cover art for The Fox in the Forest.
Image: Renegade Game Studios

The Fox in the Forest

The Fox in the Forest from Renegade Game Studios is a two-player card game set in an enchanted forest where players try to trick each other. But you have to be careful how often you try to win, as performing too many tricks can end up working against you. It features gorgeous artwork and is a wonderful quick game to help pass the time. Get ready to face off against your opponent over and over and over. The Fox in the Forest is $15 and available on Renegade’s website. But if you want something more collaborative, there’s also The Fox in the Forest
Duet, which is a cooperative version where two players work together to perform tricks. That version is on sale for $12, also on Renegade’s website.

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Digital RPGs

The cover art for Cthulhu Confidential.
The cover art for Cthulhu Confidential.
Image: Pelgrane Press
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Cthulhu Confidential

When you ask anyone to share their favorite two-player roleplaying games, Cthulhu Confidential is usually at the top of the list. This game from Pelgrane Press is designed for one player and one GM using the popular Gumshoe One-2-One system, which can be adapted for use in other games (I’d originally included Scarlet Heroes in this list for the same reason but chose to remove it over representation concerns). Cthulhu Confidential features three adventures, each with their own protagonist, as players take on the role of investigators trying to get to the bottom of the greedy urban underworld to find the monstrous truth lurking underneath. The game is available as a PDF for $25 on DriveThruRPG.

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Fate’s Fickle Winds

In Fate’s Fickle Winds, designed by Nathan D. Paoletta, two players face off—one as the champion of Good, and the other as the Blight of the Wicked. Players call upon the “Winds of Magic” cards to further their agenda, as each of them tries to take control of a prophecy that “foretells the end of the world.” The game length requires no prep (except for some print-and-play cards, which you can handwrite if you don’t have a printer) and playtime is flexible based on schedule. Fate’s Fickle Winds is available on itch.io and is donation-based.

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The cover art for Stories From the Grave.
The cover art for Stories From the Grave.
Image: Spectrum Games

Stories From the Grave

Stories From the Grave from Spectrum Games is kind of like a horror comic come to life. Using one player and one GM, the game has players creating an anthology-style horror series of short stories, like Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone. Players are rewarded for making the story interesting rather than just staying alive, so get ready to get creative. Stores From the Grave is available as a PDF for $10 on DriveThruRPG.

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Adventurer and Troll

This is a simple roleplaying game for those times you have 30 minutes to kill. The premise of Banshee Games’ Adventurer and Troll is simple: One person is the adventurer, and the other is the troll under the bridge. The adventurer and troll try to negotiate a safe crossing that doesn’t involve one of them being murdered by the other, sharing stories and answering questions to establish trust. Adventurer and Troll is available as a PDF for $5 on DriveThruRPG.

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The cover art for Star Crossed.
The cover art for Star Crossed.
Image: Bully Pulpit Games

Star Crossed

This is another game I profiled in my Valentine’s Day list, but having since played it myself I want to give it an extra boost. In Star Crossed, from Bully Pulpit Games, the two players take on the roles of people who want to be together but for some reason cannot. Perhaps one of them is a political candidate and the other is their campaign manager, or maybe one is a robot and the other is an anti-AI activist. Star Crossed is available as a PDF on itch.io and DriveThruRPG for $12. The game uses a Jenga-style block tower, which you can purchase at many online stores—or you can try other options, like building a house of cards or using dice rolls.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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DISCUSSION

DavidLomax
DavidLomax

I love these articles. Know what I’d like to see? One about how families separated by distance in this time of social isolation can get together and play games. My wife, sons, and I are in Toronto, while my daughter and her partner are in Halifax. We Skyped a game of Yahtzee tonight, and it was great fun. We’re thinking of doing Karuba next (https://www.habausa.com/karuba-tile-laying-puzzle-game/) — we just need them to acquire a couple of boards. We figure that game should work because everyone gets their own board and there’s no need to exchange pieces.

As I say, I’d welcome a full feature on games we can do like this, because it seems like it’s going to be a long haul.

Anyone got any ideas?