With Valentine’s Day approaching, more and more people are realizing that a night in, playing games with your sweetie can be a romantic way to connect with each other. The traditional date of dinner and a movie doesn’t allow for as much interaction between the two of you, while board games allow you to either have dinner out or order in, while creating some exciting experiences right in your own home. But which games should you play when it’s just you and your favourite other person? Let’s review the different types of games that work well with two players.

So happy together with co-operative games

Co-operative games are perfect for playing on Valentine’s Day because instead of trying to clobber each other, you’re both working together to play against the game itself. Pandemic is one of the best selling co-operative games out there in which you play scientists trying to cure the world of diseases. OK, sure, perhaps that doesn’t sound like a great way to start a romantic night in!  Maybe you’d both be more interested in something with more of a story to it. If that’s the case then check out either Legends of Andor, Time Stories or Exit. I’ll explain each of these in more detail to help you decide.

Those that play together, stay together

Legend of Andor board gameIn Legends of Andor, you work together to save the land of Andor from an approaching horde of monsters. What’s great about Legends of Andor is that it has a great learning curve as it walks you through your first game using components included just to help you learn the game. Then once you learn the game, there are more scenarios to explore. The game offers a great narrative that unfolds as you play which helps create some special moments between you and your significant other.

Time Stories also has a strong narrative to it as players explore areas in the story until their time marker runs out. When it does, the players time travel back to the beginning to play through it again, this time with knowledge of hidden passages and traps to avoid. It’s a clever system that has many different scenarios available once you complete the ones included in the box.

Escape together

Exit board gameIf you are more interested in emulating the escape room concept, but one that comes in a box then check out any of the Exit series of games (Polar Bear Station, Forbidden Castle, Forgotten Island) . These games are great for Valentine’s Day as you are working together to figure out puzzles and escape a room, and once you’ve finished you really feel like you’ve accomplished something. These games will have you figuring out word and number puzzles as well as spatial and logic puzzles. If the largest erogenous zone is your brain, then these games will be a perfect start to your evening!

More interested in wordplay?

Codenames Duet board gameOne of the most interesting games that has come out in the last 5 years is called Codenames and just last year they came out with a 2 player version of the game called Codenames: Duet. In this game there is a set of cards on the table that have one word on each card. You then place a card between the two of you that depicts a grid that matches the grid of word cards. This grid card indicates which words you need to get your partner to guess and your partner has words that you have to guess correctly—of the ones that are face up on the table. This game is amazing in how creative it forces you to be as you are limited to only one-word clues and there is one word on the table that makes you both lose if either of you pick that word.

Friendly but with a winner

NMBR9If a pure co-operative game isn’t that interesting to you, then try games that allow you to plan your own strategies without having to attack or interfere with each other that much. These are friendly games that allow you to have a winner but not at the expense of humiliating your opponent! In this category I’d recommend games like NMBR 9 that came out last year. This is a clever game that has a card being flipped up indicating a number from 1 to 9. Each player takes a token of that number and places it into their own display. These number tokens are all weird shapes that look like they’re from a deranged Tetris game. The rules about placing these tokens is what makes the game interesting: you can place them on the table, connecting to any other piece you’ve placed, or you can place them on top of previously placed tokens, as long as you’re covering at least 2 other tokens below it AND there are no gaps or holes underneath. When each number has been drawn and placed twice, the game is over and players score their own display: anything on the table gets its value in points, while anything one level above it gets its value times 2, and each level increases that multiplier after that. It’s tricky and puzzley and you can’t interfere in your opponent’s game in any way so it’s a very friendly game that won’t hurt anyone’s feelings if they lost.

Kinda friendly

Lost Cities board gameAnother game that will have a winner and is fairly friendly but has a little bit more competitiveness to it is Lost Cities. The 2-player only version of this game gives each player a hand of cards valued 2 to 10 in 5 different colours. On your turn you must play a card on your side in one of the 5 matching coloured areas, or discard it. The trick is that you can only place cards that increase in value, and you only get points if you can make it to a certain threshold, so it becomes a push-your-luck game where you’re wondering if you’re going to get more cards of the colours to which you’ve already contributed. The interaction comes from seeing what your opponent is going after and knowing what is safe to discard as either player can access the top discard from each colour. It’s a bit thinky, but it only takes 15 minutes and has never failed to impress!

So there are some ideas for how you can spend some time with your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day. Which board game will your significant other want to try first? Tell us in the comments.

Jay Cormier
Jay enjoys his double life: working at Best Buy Canada as a Video Production Specialist, and his side career as a board game designer. He has a dozen or so games on store shelves right now and many more signed to come out soon. He also teaches game theory to students taking the video game design program at Vancouver Film School.