12 best board games for couples
Fuel the passion and cooperation in your relationship by playing these tabletop titles for two.
Whether you’re looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day, an anniversary or simply planning a romantic evening, board games for couples can offer the perfect activity. Playing a board game with your date, partner – or even friend – can prove to be surprisingly intimate, forcing players to connect with their opponent or ally and figure out what makes them tick. Rather than boring yourself by playing the same old copy of Guess Who? or whatever reality TV trash board game you’re expected to play as a couple, why not find something new and exciting to crack into with your significant other?
Though one or two of these games do play into some of the themes associated with Valentine’s Day or dates, we’ve not chosen tabletop titles based on whether they feature love hearts, teddies or other typically romantic imagery. Instead, our guidelines for the best board games for couples are focused around whether they provide their players with the chance to learn more about each other – whether from a competitive or collaborative standpoint. The entries featured on this list will allow players the opportunity to study their partner, figure out how their minds work and study their strategies.
Best board games for couples
- Fog of Love
- Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
- Mantis Falls
- Cosmic Encounter: Duel
- Codenames Duet
- The Fox in the Forest Duet
- 7 Wonders Duel
- The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
- Welcome To…
- Splendor Duel
You might end up end up enjoying playing these board games with your partner/spouse/friend so much that you decide to make them a regular occurrence or even explore other titles together. Some of the titles on here definitely have the potential to be played over many sessions – particularly the larger ones – and may serve as the spark to your tabletop gaming love affair. Wherever they take you, these 12 entries stand out as the best board games for couples.
1. Fog of Love
Experience different romantic scenarios as an unlikely fictional couple
Fog of Love is a unique two-player game where you explore how relationships begin, how they develop and how they can potentially end - sometimes in a number of particularly dramatic ways. A game about breaking up might not seem the best fit for a couples’ board game on Valentine’s Day, but stay with us on this.
At the beginning of the game players choose from a random selection of relationship goals - whether their character is manipulative, kind, intense or another one of many traits - that will determine what their ultimate win condition is. Throughout the game player characters will be placed in a variety of situations wherein a decision has to be made, which can be as minor as whether to leave the toilet seat up or as major as purchasing a property together. Sometimes both players will secretly choose and then compare their choices afterwards, whilst other scenarios will have just one player making a decision.
As choices are made character traits will gradually shift in different directions, with characters becoming more sensitive and gentle or self-centred and stubborn as the game continues. If characters become too distanced they could choose to break up or the story might have them growing even closer - it really depends on player decisions.
This is what makes Fog of Love such a great board game to play as a couple, because it provides a safe space for players to explore questions about relationships without threatening their own.
Buy Fog of Love on Amazon US and Amazon UK
A quick way to enjoy escape room puzzles at home
Escape rooms and puzzles are one of the best activities to enjoy as a couple. Working together to crack codes, solve mysteries and - often against the pressure of a ticking timer - is a great way to bring friends, partners and family together.
Luckily, you don’t need to travel outside of your own home to enjoy a similar feeling. The Unlock! series offers escape room-style puzzles designed to be played in under 60 minutes. While technically you can play them with a bigger group of people, we reckon the sweet spot is to play the board games with two players.
There are a number of different Unlock! boxes, each collecting three standalone scenarios based around a certain theme. There are puzzles based around classic environments like a mysterious island or secret bunker, while others take inspiration from pop culture stories like Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and even Star Wars - a particular highlight of the series.
Whichever Unlock! game you choose to play, the boxes all use a similar system, making it easy to jump into other entries if you enjoy one. The rules are kept simple, using little more than a deck of cards and a companion app on your phone or tablet to keep track of the timer and allow players to insert codes and solve other puzzles via minigames. This means that the puzzles are kept front-and-centre. The use of an app also means that the games can be reset and replayed later, unlike the also-excellent - but one-time-only - boxes of fellow escape room-in-a-box series Exit: The Game.
With a huge variety of puzzles that can be enjoyed by a couple of players in less time than it takes to watch an episode of the latest TV show, Unlock! is a great choice for couples short on time looking to enjoy something tense and dramatic on the tabletop. Once you’ve cracked one, you’ll almost certainly want to complete the rest.
Buy Unlock!: Space Adventure from Amazon UK and Unlock: Epic Adventures from Amazon US
3. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
Become a band of mercenaries looking for your next paycheck in this fantasy co-op game
If you haven’t heard of the original Gloomhaven, it’s a fantasy board game that was released back in 2017 and became a massive hit, so much so that it has since spawned an upcoming sequel, Frosthaven, and this spin-off. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion takes the concept of the first game in the series - a co-op experience that has players exploring a fictional world in search of treasure and renown - and strips things back a bit. At its core, Jaws of the Lion provides a more digestible version of what the original had to offer, which is arguably more ideal for a smaller group of players: say, a couple?
In Jaws of the Lion players take the role of mercenaries who are on the hunt for their next paycheck. There are four possible characters you and your partner can choose from - a tankier character designed to soak up blows, a ranger fighter who shoots from afar, a magic wielder who can provide their allies with support and a straight-up melee attack to lead the charge. Depending on which of these characters you decide to control, you’ll have access to a selection of abilities and a deck of cards you can use to perform actions during combat. You can explore 25 different scenarios in an overarching campaign that will take you to a variety of locations, all of which can be found within the game’s book.
Jaws of the Lion is a chunkier experience compared to the rest of the couples’ board games on this list. However, it’s significantly easier to get into than the original Gloomhaven thanks to its simplified ruleset and streamlined setup process. If you fancy getting swept away in an epic narrative adventure for the evening, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is an excellent choice for a bit of escapism.
Buy Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion on Amazon UK and Amazon US
4. Mantis Falls
A two-player way to enjoy social deduction games like Werewolf
Social deduction games like Werewolf and The Resistance are some of the most popular board games around today. If you’re often just playing board games as a couple, though, it can be hard to find something that captures the same tension and thrill of wondering whether you can trust the people around you without needing a bigger group.
Mantis Falls cleverly concentrates the feeling of classic social deduction into a game that can be played with just two or three people. (But really, it’s best with two.) Like in Werewolf, the players are given hidden roles: they might both be innocent witnesses looking to flee a mob-ruled town, or one might be a secret assassin looking to take down their target before they escape. There’s always a chance that the game might be completely cooperative, but you won’t know until the end - and it may be too late.
Players must work out whether they’re accompanied by a friend or foe by playing cards each round to deal with various events and threats, from other enemies chasing them in the dark to stormy weather. These cards can also be used to help the other player - or attack them, if you feel confident they’re not to be trusted…
Soaked in moody atmosphere and primed for dramatic twists and turns, Mantis Falls feels like a classic mystery TV show packed into a box. If you’re looking for something tense to enjoy as a couple between playing Werewolf with friends, this is the perfect two-player experience.
Buy Mantis Falls on Zatu and Distant Rabbit Games
5. Cosmic Encounter: Duel
Go head-to-head with your partner in a race to take control of the galaxy
Cosmic Encounter is a chaotic hidden-role game that has players allying with - and against - each other to become the most powerful alien species in the galaxy. It’s specifically designed to be played with larger groups of people, so not exactly ideal for an intimate evening between the two of you. However, Cosmic Encounter: Duel is a recently-released variant for two people that adopts the ethos of the original and transforms it into a shorter experience that’s more about clever strategy than the gift of the gab.
As in classic Cosmic Encounter, players can choose between a wide range of weird and wonderful alien species, which each have their own unique ability. If it’s your first time playing, the rulebook recommends you play as two of the more straightforward species. However, with later games, players can get really silly with some of these aliens’ abilities. Players will be aiming to conquer five planets before their opponent does. Whenever they draw a Discovery card, players must simultaneously secretly select how many ships they want to send to the planet that they are fighting over. Once players have revealed the number of ships they’re sending, they select one of the potential tactics standings they have in their supply. Tactics can range from dealing damage to throwing up a shield, with players losing ships for any damage they take.
If there are still ships of both players’ species on the planet, they reveal which card they decided to set aside from their hand during the tactics phase. The number on this card represents how much influence they have over the final decision of ownership, with the higher number winning. This process continues, with plenty of back-and-forth and U-turns keeping things exciting, until one player finally takes five planets and reveals who the most space-worthy out of the two of you is.
Buy Cosmic Encounter: Duel on Amazon UK and Amazon US
6. Codenames: Duet
Use your own couple’s language to lead you to victory
Though the original Codenames has made a name for itself on the tables of families across the world, its cooperative counterpart, Codenames: Duet, isn’t quite as well-known. Duet is a variation on the modern classic word game that turns the title from a competitive match between two teams into a co-op board game for exactly two people.
If you’re not familiar with Codenames, it’s a game that sees players attempting to select the right word cards from a grid using clues given by one of their teammates. Each round has the clue-giver on each team providing their allies with a single word and the number of cards on the grid it’s associated with. The clues given to players will ideally connect multiple words in the grid together, as the team who guesses all their required word cards first wins.
Codenames: Duet works similarly, but this time both clue-givers are working together to help the other guess their words from a shared grid. Each player takes turns to give their teammate a clue that will help them to correctly select at least one of the words from their word sheet, with players having their own unique pattern of word cards they need to have the other guess. As in the original game, clue-givers will want their teammate to avoid choosing the hidden assassin card on their word sheet, otherwise the game ends and they both lose.
What makes Codenames: Duet a great board game for couples to play is that – besides being cooperative – it gives them the opportunity to use their own unique little clues and hints to help lead each other to the right words. As with friends and family in the original competitive version, Duet allows couples to rely on the experiences and knowledge they’ve shared with one another to lead them to victory.
Buy Codenames: Duet from Amazon UK and Amazon US
This abstract board game provides a lighter alternative to the classic Chess
Insects have never exactly been considered the most romantic of animals, but I’d personally like to change that perception because I believe that bugs deserve better. My first step in liberating insect-kind from this unromantic reputation is to propose that Hive become a classic board game for couples to play on Valentine’s Day.
A simple and speedy abstract board game, Hive requires absolutely no setup and provides a positive cornucopia of lovebugs. You heard me Herbie, time to step aside.
Playing Hive is straightforward enough, with each player choosing whether to be white or black before they take turns laying down tiles displaying various beautiful bugs; from the noble beetle to the delicate spider. Like abstract strategy games such as chess, the aim of Hive may be simple - successfully surround your opponent’s Queen Bee with tiles before they surround yours - but it’s not necessarily easy, as a serious strategy is likely required to outwit your competitor. You’ll have to be careful of where you place what tiles and get inside your partner’s head to anticipate their next move.
Once you’ve gotten through one session of Hive you’ll undoubtedly want to move on to the next. Before you know it you’ll be 30 games deep, while someone spontaneously purchases a colony of bees and an entire ant farm.
Buy Hive on Amazon US and Amazon UK
8. The Fox in the Forest Duet
Walk a path with your partner by playing the right cards in this co-op game
Usually, The Fox in The Forest is an intense card competition between two players that often ends up with one person wiping metaphorical egg from their face. However, The Fox in the Forest Duet turns the brutal head-to-head card game into a collaborative experience that rewards communication and good planning.
Similarly, to the original Fox in the Forest, Duet is a trick-taking card game; players take turns to lay down cards from their hand to match the leading suit, with the highest card played winning the trick. The leading suit – which in the case of The Fox in the Forest Duet, can either be stars, roses or doves – is determined by the person who won the last trick, with the other player needing to lay down a card matching the suit, if they have one.
In the original Fox in the Forest, this trick-taking gameplay mechanic made for a card game of wits that challenged players to win just enough tricks to be within the parameters of scoring highly, whilst avoiding falling into the trap of winning too many by the end of the round – leading to a penalty. Duet, on the other hand, sees both players working together to win tricks using their respective hand of cards, with each card depicting a certain number of fox prints on them.
The fox prints indicate how many spaces the players’ shared token moves forward on the game’s board, with the goal being to reach the very end of the path. Every section of the board in Duet features a certain number of spaces that players need to pass to advance to the next. Play cards with exactly the right number of fox prints on them and you’ll quickly move forward to the next section of the path.
However, should the cards players lay down contain too many combined fox prints than needed for their current section, the token will move too far and players will be punished with a restriction on how many fox prints they need for the next section.
The Fox in the Forest Duet takes an otherwise intensely competitive card game and turns it into a highly cooperative experience that tests players’ communication skills, as well as their ability to anticipate their partner’s next move. It’s also got some damn adorable artwork to boot.
Buy Fox in the Forest Duet on Amazon UK and Renegade Game Studios
9. 7 Wonders Duel
Become leaders of the ancient world and build impressive structures in this card drafting board game
The original 7 Wonders is an absolutely brilliant beginner board game about the leaders of the world’s great civilisations hosting the ultimate flex-off to see who truly holds the greatest number of wonders. But while technically able to work for two people, 7 Wonders doesn’t exactly provide the most nuanced of one-on-one experiences; which is why 7 Wonders Duel is the optimum choice of board game for couples.
Rather than simultaneously drafting cards as a group (as in the original 7 Wonders), players can instead take cards from a shared pool dealt at the start of each round. These cards are important because they allow players to perform a number of essential actions such as building and contributing towards creating a world wonder; or otherwise discarded for coins.
Players start the game with four wonder cards and can obtain resources to build these using whatever funds they’ve acquired. However, players will have to be speedy about what resources they want to buy, as the more resources their opponent purchases the more expensive those resources become. Building wonders isn’t the only way for players to win, as advancing the military marker into your opponent’s capital by playing military cards is an instant victory, as is obtaining six different scientific symbols. Wonders are simply the best way to win if you’re in it for the long run, as they break a tie if the game is decided on victory points alone.
Whilst you may not be physically visiting the wonders of the world this Valentine’s Day, you could imagine building them by playing 7 Wonders Duel, which is about as close as you’re going to get to the real thing in your own home.
Buy 7 Wonders: Duel on Amazon US and Amazon UK
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game
Channel Frodo and Sam’s bromance as you explore Middle-earth together
In fantasy, few couples are as iconic as Frodo and Sam, the hardy hobbits who trek their way from the Shire to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring. If you’ve found yourself questioning whether your other half or closest pal would rescue you from an evil spider’s lair and carry you up a burning lava-strewn hill, why not put it to the test by embarking on your own adventure across Middle-earth?
Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is one of the longest-running living card games, with its original edition being supported by close to a decade’s worth of expansions and extra cards for players to continue their journey across Middle-earth.
In the game, players work together as their own Fellowship - formed of familiar heroes including Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and more - to fight their way through various scenarios. There’s the option to play original quests set between Bilbo’s birthday and Frodo’s departure of the Shire at the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, or even recreate specific events from Tolkien’s books as a dedicated saga.
As players play cards to defeat enemies and overcome threats on their journey, they’ll also need to resist the corrupting force of Sauron and balance fighting off foes with progressing their quest - or risk failure. Once they’re familiar with the rules, players can customise their unique decks with different characters, items and abilities to help them take on even greater challenges.
With so many cards and scenarios drawn from every corner of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is a particular delight for fans of the series, packed with rich theme and excitement. But knowing your Gothmog from your Grond isn’t necessary to have a great time. The Lord of the Rings LCG is one of the best games for couples of any Tolkien affinity thanks to its ability to scale an epic journey to just two players, letting you really feel like you’re on an adventure with your closest friend.
The game’s latest revised core set makes it easier to jump in, too, with enough cards to play with up to four people, plus a campaign mode in the box. The core set has been followed by an expansion that lets you replay the events of Fellowship of the Ring, with saga expansions for both Two Towers and Return of the King on the way.
Buy Lord of the Rings: The Card Game: Revised Core Set from Amazon UK and Amazon US
11. Welcome To…
Become an architect during the 1950s and design the most idyllic town possible
Be transported back in time to the USA during the rocking 1950s, when Elvis was jamming out tunes and drive-in movies were really popular. Welcome To… is a board game that sees the two of you becoming architects during an era of economic growth - for the US at least - with suburban neighbourhoods popping up left and right. As architects, you’ll be competing to plan and construct the most picturesque and popular town possible, using your contacts and resources to build houses, pools and more.
These concepts are translated into gameplay via cards, because Welcome To… is a flip-and-write game - meaning that players flip cards from a deck in order to perform the various actions listed on their scoresheet. This is a spin on the roll-and-write genre, where players roll dice in order to fill in a scoresheet - as in Yahtzee. In the case of Welcome To… players will be taking cards from three different piles in order to create sets of house numbers and action. The house numbers correspond to one of the spaces on your scoresheet, which the player fills in before taking the action shown on the card.
Actions can consist of increasing the value of the player’s estates or scoring points at the end of the game by building parks or pools. Alternatively, players can use their actions to change their house numbers or even duplicate them, opening up more opportunities for expansion. On top of the players’ private ambitions, they have a series of public goals to complete - the quicker they do this, the better.
Welcome To... is technically capable of supporting hundreds of players, because actions are shared and play happens simultaneously. However, it’s a fantastic board game for couples because it’s simple, quick to play and has a certain bygone era feeling of romance to it.
Buy Welcome to... on Zatu UK and Amazon US
12. Splendor Duel
This two-player version of the gem trading game will indulge your competitive sides
Whereas the original Splendor is a fairly laidback board game about gem collecting, Splendor Duel is a vicious battle to the death. This is only partly an over-exaggeration, as Splendor Duel really is an intensely competitive tabletop experience in comparison to its more relaxed predecessor. Although Duel has the same central gameplay loop as Splendor, it makes all the right kind of alterations and additions to transform those mechanics into a pure head-to-head board game for couples.
As in the original Splendor, Duel sees players taking turns to either take gems or use them to buy the cards they need to win the game. What makes Duel so different from the previous Splendor – apart from the hard two player count – is that players take their gems from a grid, instead of just a shared pool. The grid in Duel is what enables players to really mess with their opponent, as there are specific rules governing what gems are taken and how they’re acquired. This means that the gems players take more directly impact what their opponent can do, whether intentionally or not.
Another big change implemented in Duel, as compared to classic Splendor, is that players have three different ways to win the game - instead of just one: either collect 20 victory points, 10 crowns or a total of 10 victory points in the same category of gem. More ways to win forces players to really watch their opponent and potentially implement multiple ways to prevent them from winning.
Overall, Duel massively ramps up the intensity and excitement of playing Splendor, making the once relatively chilled engine-building game a fierce competition. If you and your partner are particularly competitive and enjoy challenging one another, then Splendor Duel is definitely a board game you need to add into your couple’s nights.
Buy Splendor Duel from Amazon UK and Amazon US
Regardless of who you play games with - whether it’s your partner, spouse or cat - there are plenty of tabletop experiences that are perfect for encouraging love, whether it’s for someone else or yourself. (Or both!) Remember that tabletop gaming is about having fun, so take this opportunity to relax, let your hair down and enjoy each other’s company.