Top Of The Table – Games To Play With Your Valentine
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and that likely means a crowded restaurant and overpriced flowers may be on the horizon for many of us. But if you and your partner prefer a quiet and romantic evening at home, you could do a lot worse than laughing and smiling across the tabletop for at least part of your evening.
The games below are great picks for couples looking to mix their love for one another with an enthusiasm for great game design, humor, and good conversation. I’ve tried to make a point to include games that fit different styles of play. Maybe you’re both dedicated gamers looking for a new shared game. Or perhaps you’re a non-gamer, and you want to give a gift to your gaming partner that shows you’re interested in their hobby. No matter the situation, I hope you can find something fun to share with each other below.
I’m posting this story ahead of the holiday, in case you’d like to purchase and work one or more of these games into your plans. But even if these don’t fit into your Valentine’s Day plans, all these suggestions are all excellent options to enjoy with that special someone on any day of the year.
And of course, if you have any two-person games you love, make sure to suggest them in the comments below.
…and then, we held hands.
Publisher: LudiCreations/Passport Game Studios
This beautiful and abstract cooperative game is all about a romantic relationship in turmoil. It challenges the two players to work together to win, but here’s the catch; you can’t speak about the game while it’s being played – only non-verbal cues are allowed. Each player moves their own player token around a board to different objective nodes representing states of mind, like angry or happy. The rules demand that each player explore their own emotion cards (which dictate where you can move), but also their partner’s emotions, and try and use the card needed to get to the next desired space. But if either player runs out of options for where to move (as in, they’re emotionally trapped) the game is lost. To win, both players must reach the center, and both must have attained emotional balance, saving the relationship, and enacting the title of the game. "…and then we held hands." is thoughtful, elegant, and a standout pick for any game-loving couple.
Publisher: Mayfair Games
Lots of games offer the chance to kill aliens or go on a heroic quest, but maybe your partner has different interests than high adventure? Patchwork is a stellar two-person competitive game, built around the theme of patchwork quilts. Each player is trying to fill out their own quilt board with Tetris-like patchwork pieces that are drawn from a shared pool. Adding a new patchwork piece demands a certain number of buttons, but those same buttons are also part of how your score is counted when the game concludes. The winning player maintains a healthy supply of buttons, but also fills up their quilt, leaving as few spaces as possible. Patchwork has a fascinating approach to game balance and turns, so that players who take their time and carefully plan their quilt often gain an advantage. By tapping into a lesser used theme, Patchwork has the potential to be an ideal meeting point for two players of varied interests, one of whom might love games, and the other of whom loves crafting.
Having a double date with your best friends? Love Letter works great as a two-player game or a four-player experience, and its light and breezy playthroughs are a perfect option for folks who don’t want to get bogged down in a long game. Each of you is a suitor to the Princess, trying to sneak your love letter to her without it being intercepted along the way. Get enough romantic missives through, and you will have won the heart of the young royal. On your turn, you play a card that represents someone close to the Princess. Her best friend, the Countess, can certainly get your letter to the right place, but only if she doesn’t get distracted by the Prince or the King also showing up in your hand. The Priest card knows everyone’s secrets, and lets you look at other players’ hands. And playing the Princess’ Guard might not get your card to the Princess, but could root out someone else trying to sneak in. Love Letter is whimsical and easy to pick up and play, and a perfect quick game that also happens to explore the Valentine spirit with aplomb.
Next Page: A great two-person card game for couples looking for something a little less mushy, and the romantic comedy board game
Publisher: TableTopics/Ruby Mine
Perhaps despite your best efforts, your partner just can’t warm to all the rules and complications of a tabletop game. If that’s your situation, I’m going to point you toward this card game that is unique among my recommendations, because it’s really not a game at all. No rules, no win conditions – just cards to draw. TableTopics sets come with a huge number of cards that can be drawn out to open up fun discussions. Other sets are designed around family gatherings or dinner parties, but the Couples set is built to encourage fun and revealing conversations with your romantic partner. “Is it our similarities or differences that attract us to each other?” and “What advice would we give a younger couple?” are the sorts of questions that can bring you closer and reveal things you didn’t know about your significant other. I also appreciate that this edition keeps things positive, focusing on questions that will make you laugh and reminisce, not get uncomfortable dealing with past relationships or other awkward subjects. TableTopics: Couples includes requests to recall the early days of your relationship, questions about sex, and planning for the future; as such, this isn’t first date material. But longtime couples might find a lot to like here.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
What? Why is this on the list? Perhaps the overtly romantic stuff is a bit much. Maybe you’re a couple who prefers to keep the mushy stuff to a minimum, but you don’t mind a good horror movie from time to time. This stellar cooperative card game supports two players with a single copy of the core game. Subsequent expansions continue the story, in case you discover that you want to keep things going for future dates. Like all of Fantasy Flight’s Arkham universe games, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a Lovecraftian adventure focused on storytelling and terror, drawing you deep into the Cthulhu Mythos as a brave but often vulnerable human investigator. The game unfolds as you and your partner explore creepy rooms, fight monsters, and discover new equipment to improve your daring (perhaps foolish?) heroes. Few story-based two-player games offer such splendid art, opportunities for cooperation, and rich narrative potential. While this probably isn’t the right pick if one of you is just learning about tabletop gaming, longtime couples are likely to be delighted by the rich gameplay and opportunity for interesting decisions.
Fog of Love
Publisher: Hush Hush Projects
I’d be remiss not to mention Fog of Love here, even though it’s the only entry on this list that won’t be available for this year’s Valentine’s Day. (Editor's Note for 2018 article readers: Fog of Love has since released, and it turned out great! In fact, it won accolades in our Top Tabletop Games of 2017 list.) Fog of Love had a successful Kickstarter last year, and it’s steering toward a release later this year. This story-based game aims to emulate the tropes and narrative devices inherent to romantic comedy films. Each player controls a character seeking love, complete with a set of distinct traits, like being narrow-minded, jealous, patient, or down-to-earth, each of which interacts with your partner’s traits as you make your way through various story events that make up the “plot” of your relationship. The fascinating thing about the game is that it can be either cooperative, competitive, or a little bit of both, as each player has different (or sometimes identical) win conditions, ranging from happily-ever-after tales of unconditional love, to only winning if you end up as the happier partner. The game can even end with a dramatic break-up. In many ways, Fog of Love has echoes of a role-playing game, taking it above and beyond the scope of a traditional board game. I’ve had the good fortune to play an early version of Fog of Love, and it’s fair to say that the game is quite unlike anything else I’ve encountered; I love the potential for varied encounters, and the way each character pairing plays out a different tale. If you’re interested in following along with the game’s lead-up to launch, or you want to pre-order, you can check out fogoflove.com.
Do you have any board or card games you like to play with your significant other? Share your favorites in the comments below.
If you’re looking for other less romantic gaming options in the coming weeks, feel free to click into the Top of the Table hub by clicking on the banner below. And as always, email or tweet me if you have any requests or recommendations for games you’d like to see featured in future columns.