Going out on Valentine's Day can be a proper chore. All the cheap flimsy decorations, sickly sweet chocolates and overpriced meals are enough to put you off from leaving the house come February 14th. Sometimes you just want a quiet night in with your chosen beau and a fine collection of the best board games.
You’ll want to avoid any family board games because frankly you’ve probably had enough of playing those and this day should be about the two of you. The same goes for party board games as, unlike most public holidays, Valentine’s Day isn’t about having enormous get-togethers with friends - it’s a time to share with your partner and no-one else.
Of course, dating isn’t everything and enjoying your own company is just as important as socialising, so if you’re spending Valentine’s with me, myself and I, why not pick up one of the best solo board games to play by yourself? Watch Johnny, Wheels and Matt talk about some more of their favourite board games you can play solo this Valentine’s Day.
Best board games for couples
One type of ‘board game’ to steer away from are the cheap Valentine’s Day cash-ins that start popping up around this time of year - we’re talking the novelty dice that suggest you should kiss each other and the card games about remembering what your partner’s favourite food is - because they’re complete garbage
In the spirit of this we’ve created a selection of couples’ board games perfectly designed to be played with your other half, special someone, part-time lover, honeybun, player two, pumpkin pie, sweetness...
From intimate two-player board games to romantic roleplaying experiences, these are the best board games for couples.
1. Pandemic Iberia
The original Pandemic is a classic beginner board game wherein players work together to save the world from mass disease by innoculating 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 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
Fog of Love is a unique two-player board 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. Ticket to Ride: Europe
Trains are undeniably romantic. The woosh of the steam, chug of the engine, velvet-covered compartments and remembering not to cry at the end of Brief Encounter. Which is why one of the best board game series to delve into this Valentine’s Day is the world of Ticket to Ride. (Although it’s also rather a rather suitable series of board games for Christmas, or any other holiday.). In particular, Ticket to Ride: Europe - because what could be more inspiring than imagining a dreamy holiday riding the rails across the continent?
A great beginner board game, Ticket to Ride: Europe is much the same as the original Ticket to Ride, except you’ll be exploring a continental countryside rather than the landscapes of North America. As you collect and play new train cards entirely unexplored routes are made available, enabling players to connect various cities across the continent and take them one step closer to victory. Ticket to Ride: Europe does bring something new to the dinner table in the form of tunnels - which require players to pay extra cards to build on them - and ferries, a mode of transport that needs locomotive cards to be claimed.
Even with these new elements, Ticket to Ride: Europe still retains that satisfactory feeling of gradually taking over the map and seeing your opponent (and, in this case, partner) slowly shrink into a little ball as you continue to dominate. Remember to not get too competitive - after all, you don’t want to destroy your relationship over a board game.
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 parks 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 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
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. Star Crossed
Romance is something that many roleplaying games often steer away from, usually because some players seem more interested in fighting people than loving them. Which is a damn shame, because the world could always use more love. This is why Star Crossed feels like such a breath of fresh air when it comes to roleplaying experiences, and why it should work exceptionally well for a Valentine’s Day date.
Star Crossed is a storytelling RPG wherein players assume the roles of two characters who are inexplicably drawn to one another but, for one reason or another, cannot express their love. These two characters could be on opposing sides of the same war, in countries miles apart or even completely different species from each other; this is where the real drama comes from. These storytelling aspects are translated into gameplay via a Jenga tower, which players take turn to pull from as new situations intended to weaken the barriers between the lovers arise. If the Jenga tower falls then players decide how the two people act on their love and how the story is resolved. Alternatively, the Jenga tower may never fall and the two characters decide to keep their love a secret.
Whatever happens, Star Crossed is a roleplaying game unlike any other and does really interesting things with interactive storytelling. And just like two-player board game Fog of Love, it’s also a great way to explore relationships in a safe space and have some fun with it.
Buy Star Crossed on Drivethru RPG
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 two-player 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
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
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.
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.
Regardless of who you spend this Valentine’s Day 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.