These days couples are either spending more time together than ever, or longing for the days that they can more regularly reconnect. And either way, they deserve to spend that time together in a way that's as fun as possible. Games are a perfect way to do that - sharing challenges, experiences, stories and building a little teamwork or competition with that romance, whether it's a first date or a fiftieth anniversary.
With that in mind, we've put together the best board games for couples, a selection of great tabletop adventures in which you'll be able to work to show just what you can do as a pair. Just don't get too competitive.
Best board games for couples
- Pandemic Iberia
- Fog of Love
- Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
- Cottage Garden
- Cosmic Encounter: Duel
- 7 Wonders Duel
- The Fox in the Forest
- Welcome To…
Plenty of the entries on this list put their players in situations filled with conflict - which can be an exciting prospect for any couple looking for adventure - but there are an equal number of titles here that offer a decidedly more peaceful experience that’s perfect for a relaxing evening, just the two of you. So hang your coats up, get out the table, pour some drinks and get cozy with the best board games for couples.
1. Pandemic Iberia
Grab a partner and save some patients in this tense board game about historical medicine
The original Pandemic is a classic beginner board game wherein players work together to save the world from mass disease by inoculating citizens and finding a cure.
Pandemic is traditionally quite a stressful game to play - with everyone needing to react quickly to outbreaks and race across the world to minimise casualties - and doesn’t exactly have the most breathtaking of themes. However, Pandemic Iberia transports players back in time to 1848 when the very first railroad in the Iberian Peninsula has just been constructed - and what could be more romantic than historically-accurate diseases?
A co-op board game where you and your partner travel from Barcelona to Lisboa, Pandemic Iberia takes the formula of the original and alters it to fit the setting. Instead of facing unknown diseases, you’re battling malaria, typhus, cholera and yellow fever - and instead of distributing medicine you’re handing out purified water, making for a surprisingly unique experience. There are a few gameplay differences from Pandemic, too, with the new ability to build railroads to travel around the beautiful landscape faster.
Of course, like the original Pandemic, it still has the ability to put players under intense pressure, leading to plenty of fast decision making and tense moments as you hope an outbreak doesn’t cause an entire city to go into complete meltdown.
And after all, love can be strengthened in perilous situations, so you might be surprised by what effect playing Pandemic Iberia might have on your Valentine’s Day.
2. 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.
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.
This gentle resource management game contains artwork celebrating national parks of the US
Imagine a blissfully tranquil forest with the only noise coming from a tinkling stream running alongside the path. Parks is a board game that celebrates US national parks by featuring beautiful illustrations from the Fifty-Nine series of art prints.
In Parks players take turns to move one of their two hikers along a trail, choosing to have them camp on one of the tiles and gaining the corresponding benefits - for example, collecting a sun resource and being able to copy a power from another tile. Resources are important because they allow players to purchase park cards, with each one being worth a certain number of points - depending on what secret year card you happen to hold. When one player has led both their hikers to the end of the trail, the other player must also finish and that round moves to the next season. The game ends once all three seasons have been cycled through, with players adding up their points and declaring the winner.
Parks is a great board game to play as a couple because it’s so straightforward; you know exactly what your opponent is doing and how you could beat them. It’s also a gorgeously-produced board game and has a decidedly heartwarming theme akin to taking a romantic walk in the park.
Buy Parks on the Keymaster Store.
5. Cottage Garden
Discover who is the more talented gardener between you and your partner
Cottage Garden enables you and your partner to tend your own little plots of soil by planting seeds and cutting back flower beds - sounds unbelievably idyllic, doesn’t it? The reality is that playing Cottage Garden can be quite an intense experience that’ll see you and your Valentine competing to complete each of you garden boards, whilst carefully ensuring that you score enough points along the way.
In Cottage Garden, players can select from various tiles of flower beds pooled within the shared market, with each bed coming in a different shape and size. (Somewhat like Tetris pieces.) Once a player has chosen a tile - which depends on where the gardener token is - they then have to decide where to place it within their garden. Certain spaces will score players different amounts of points and some spaces will only score points if left empty. Once a garden board has been completely filled that player clears it, totals their points and starts again. After one player completes their fifth time around the shared market the game ends and the points are tallied, with the player holding the largest total being named the winner.
Cottage Garden’s simple rules and cute theme allows couples to quickly get to grips with how to play and jump straight into the plant growing action. This means less time wasted on reading the rulebook and more time spent cultivating your respective gardens. Perhaps you’ll even grow some roses?
6. 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 s. 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.
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.
8. 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.
9. The Fox in the Forest
If you're looking for something quick, then Fox in the Forest is an excellent short card game
Mystical forests, toadstools, magical swans. Fairy tales are inherently romantic - so what better board game to whip out on Valentine’s Day then The Fox in the Forest? A card game for two it features classic fairytale characters such as grumpy-looking flower lady, woman with bird and, of course, the titular fox. (All joking aside, the artwork is genuinely stunning).
The game begins with one player dealing 13 cards to themselves and their opponent, whilst the other leads by playing the first card. In The Fox in the Forest cards can be of three different suits - bells, keys or moons - which players can respond to by either laying down a card of the matching suit or, if they cannot, playing any other card in their hand.
Whoever plays the highest numbered card in the leading suit wins the trick, unless someone plays a card from the trump suit - which is determined by whichever card is drawn from the top of the deck before players start. The winner of a trick can also be determined via certain ability cards, such as number nine of the moons suit, which enables its player to win if they’re the only one who has played a nine. These ability cards are what elevate The Fox in the Forest above being a game you can play with a standard deck of cards, as nearly every card in each suit has its own unique ability that can change the entire course of the game.
Win enough tricks and the round is yours, but get too greedy and - as the game’s manual explains - “you will be brought down like the villain in so many fairytales”. Which presumably means that you’ll be cooked in an oven by two children or otherwise suffer some similarly horrible fate. So, in order to maintain a positive Valentine’s Day atmosphere it might be a good idea to stick between winning seven and nine tricks.
Rather than splashing money on real jewels, get your hands on some imaginary ones in Splendor
Our last recommendation of an ideal board game for couples is the beloved merchant simulator Splendor, whose inclusion of precious gems and cut-throat entrepreneurial spirit makes it a perfect fit for a Valentine’s Day date. It’s the height of the Renaissance and the market for beautiful things has never been more lucrative, with Splendor having players assuming the roles of merchants looking to invest in the gem trade.
Players take turns to perform one of three possible actions - collect gems, buy and build cards or reserve a single card - with players choosing to collect gems having to decide between taking three different kinds or two of the same. Whilst buying cards does cost precious gems, buildings enable players to further invest in their business and increase their overall wealth, making them more appealing to passing nobles - who can be claimed for bonus points. As players reserve and purchase more cards they gain access to permanent gem discounts on future cards, whilst others offer even greater levels of prestige - which is important because the first player to reach 15 prestige points is named the winner.
There isn’t anything more to Splendor than that, which not only makes it a good beginner board game, but also makes it a great game for couples because there’s so little downtime, especially as the player count is so low.
And who knows, spend enough time together purchasing gems on the tabletop and you might even find yourself offered a real sparkling rock by the end of the evening.
Travel to the Saharan desert and lead competing tribes in this worker-placement board game
Targi is a board game inspired by the Tuareg tribes who make their home in the Sahara Desert. These tribes are led by Imascheren nobles who lead the different households and establish relations with other Tuareg tribes in the area. In Targi, two players each take the role of a Imascheren and must effectively lead their tribe by encouraging trade and growth amongst the families. A five-by-five board of tiles is established before the game starts, with 16 of these tiles showing potential actions that players can perform, whilst nine of the squares remain blank - with a set of cards being placed on each of these.
Players take turns to place meeples onto an action card of their choice - such as trading items like salt or dates - but must ensure that their opponent hasn’t already placed one of their own meeples on that action card. Players also need to avoid placing meeples on any cards that are opposite a card with an opponent’s meeple on, meaning that you’re going to need to be clever with which actions you prioritise each round and which you’re willing to let go. Depending on where players put their meeples, they’ll also be able to take cards from the nine blank tiles in the middle, as long as they match the row and columns of any meeples placed on the border tiles.
Actions only take place once both players have placed all of their meeples on the grid, with players then able to place any cards they have acquired on their individual displays. However, you must be able to pay the cost of each card using any goods you have acquired over previous rounds. Displays are made up of three rows of four cards, with certain cards scoring a higher amount of victory points than others. Creating certain patterns can also score players additional points. Whichever player has the most points by the end of the game is named the winner. Targi challenges you and your loved one to a tricky card game where each and every meeple counts.
12. 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.
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.