Board Game Basics – The Best Games for Couples
So, Valentine’s Day has come and gone and you’ve used up all your romantic ideas in one epic fell swoop. Your partner now owns 5 dozen roses, a giant box of chocolates, two cute kittens, and one human sized stuffed otter. I know what your thinking. Did I go to far? How will I follow this up? Will they think that I’m less attractive next to that otter-ly adorable stuffed animal? Don’t worry because I can answer at least one of those questions, well, I guess I could answer all three, but you wouldn’t like the answers to two of them.
You probably won’t be surprised to hear me say this but the one of the best things you can do as a couple is play board games together. It’s an interactive experience, where both of you are thinking and engaging each other. My girlfriend and I have spent many fond hours gaming with each other. Some of our best memories are of hanging out and playing the games on this very list.
For this list I’ve picked five games that work specifically well as a couple. All of these games are fun with other people and at higher player counts, but they also all have something that makes them uniquely suited to play with your partner. There are probably games that are better strictly two player then some of the ones on this list. You won’t find Paths to Glory or 7 Wonders Duel here. Even though I love both those games, I find that the ones that are most fulfilling as a couple are ones where there is a co-operative element, even though not every game here is a co-op. So break out the wine, open those chocolates, and let’s get playing!
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
What is it: A series of games that all play pretty much the same way, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective has players who are working for Sherlock Holmes trying to solve a mystery before he does. After an introduction to each case, players choose clues to follow by looking up people in a directory book or going to places marked on a large map of London. They do this by choose the corresponding number on the map or directory book (126 for the insane asylum, 34 for Ms Willowby, etc), going to that entry in the case book, and reading the passage to get more clues. When the players think they’ve solved the mystery they go to the back of the case book, answer a few questions, and read the final passage where Sherlock has gathered you all in a room to reveal who committed the crime. You get points for answering the questions correctly and solving the mystery in less steps then Sherlock Holmes.
Why it’s Great for Couples: One of the things that brings people together is working to solve a problem and this game is all brainstorming together. It’s not a game where players can sit quietly and do their own thing (well I guess you could but why play with another human being in that case). You and your partner will be writing notes, talking about possibilities, and deciding what thread to follow next. My girlfriend and I like to take turns reading story clues while the other is taking notes in a reporter style notebook. It’s the perfect rainy afternoon experience. Just beware though, a game normally takes 2-3 hours so it is a bit of a time commitment.
The 7th Continent
What is it: It’s the early 20th century and players have just returned from and expedition to the mysterious 7th continent when they realize everyone who went is cursed and dying. Now players have to return to break the curse. One part story game, one part puzzle game, and one part exploration game, 7th continent lets players explore a sprawling mysterious world by putting down cards that represent the world and then investigating them to find clues to break your curse. Players must craft tools, solve puzzles, and defeat wild beasts to break the curse and win.
Why it’s Great for Couples: Much like the last entry, this one has players finding clues to solve a mystery, but unlike Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective players can die in the process! This game is one big adventure and the excitement as you reveal more areas and discover more ancient artifacts grows with every turn. Every time we’ve played, it feels like we’re on a wild adventure together carefully planning our next move. This game also has a save feature so you can pack it up and restart where you left off later, which is good because each scenario takes upwards of 10 – 20 hours to finish! This game does come with a high price tag since it had a limited print run, but if you’re willing to shell out $200 - $300 it could very well be the only game in your collection and keep you playing for years!
What is it: This one is a deck builder in which players use letter cards to spell words. Each turn player spell a word from their hand of letters and then buy more cards which either give points to purchase cards or victory points. Most of the cards in the game also have special abilities that help spell bigger words. Once two piles of victory point cards are gone the game ends and most points wins.
Why it’s Great for Couples: This is the only straight out competitive game on the list, but like many deck builders it never feels cut-throat. I lose this one a lot, but I have a hard time feeling bad about because the game is so relaxing. There’s something very soothing to just seeing who can make the biggest words. This is also a good choice if your partner isn’t an avid gamer because the spelling part appeals to so many people. With myself and most couples I’ve talked to, there’s usually a split where one person is better at the spelling aspect and the other is better at optimizing their deck, letting you naturally sharpen each other’s skills.
What is it: Certainly the silliest game on the list, Billionaire Banshee has players taking turns drawing a perk and a quirk card and secretly choosing weather they would date this person. The other player then has to guess what you chose, if correct they get a point. For example, I draw a perk that say my date has a moon base that they can take you to whenever you’d like to go, however their quirk says that they steal your tears while you sleep. Date or Deny?
Why it’s Great for Couples: Even though this is technically a game, it’s more of just an experience or activity when played as a couple. I don’t think my girlfriend and I have ever played it for points. It’s just fun seeing how well you know the person you’re with. It’s also great to learn more about the person. We played it on one of our first dates and couldn’t stop laughing when one of us was willing to date some crazy combination of traits. Sure, he’s a skeleton, but he also has a magical island made of chocolate! It’s also worth noting that different categories of cards have different backs so if you don’t feel comfortable talking about naughty stuff on a first date, they make it easy to remove those cards.
What is it: Gloomhaven is a tactical strategy game wrapped up in an epic story based adventure. Each game has players, who play a group of adventures, going through scenarios that take place in old ruins and frightening dungeons to win treasure and glory. During their turns players play actions by choosing two cards from their classes unique hand. They do the top of one and the bottom of the other, which usually involves attacking and moving in some fashion. Over time though these cards become gradually exhausted limiting player options. In addition to the core game play, you’ll get to read story based events, open boxes containing new characters to play, and learn more about the grand overarching story of the world.
Why it’s Great for Couples: This is my go to couple game. There is a great mix of story and challenging game play. It’s feels great when you and your partner work together to beat a really tough scenario and come out victorious. The story elements are of the game are also well-written and keep you wanting more. The play time is perfect at two players too. Once you know how to play you can bust out a scenario in about an hour. This does have a somewhat high price tag at around $120, but, like 7th Continent, you get a gigantic amount of game. Last winter my girlfriend and I could not stop playing this. We lost many a weekend smashing oozes and bonding together over psychic rat people.
Carrcasonne: While I personally am not huge on this one, I know MANY couples who say that this quick tile-laying classic is the premier couples game.
Deadline: Much like Sherlock Holmes, this is a mystery solving game, but they add on a fun card game element to it where you have to feel out the other player to see if they have the right cards.
Lost Cities: I don’t love this one, but there’s no denying that this simple, yet beloved card game is very much liked by many a couple out there.