In our books, the best board games for couples are well-designed two-player games that can bolster your relationship while also putting it to the test – either pitching you and your significant other into a tense tug of war, or pitting you both against a shared, cooperative challenge. This guide profiles our team’s very favourite couples board games, to help you plan your next tabletop date night.
A few of these titles also rank among our best board games of all time, but this particular list is all about the best games for couples – so they’re all two-player board games, and include a mixture of competitive and coop board games, depending on how team-oriented you two are feeling.
As a curve ball: if you and your beloved share a particular fandom, you could lure them to the tabletop that way; try our guides to the best Star Wars board games, Game of Thrones board games, Disney board games, or Marvel board games for some pointers there. For now, though…
The best board games for couples in 2023 are:
- 7 Wonders: Duel – a competitive drafting classic, made 1v1
- Azul – a beautiful, fiendish, wall-decorating tile game
- Carcassonne – the original tile laying board game
- Codenames: Duet – the hit social deduction game, adapted for 2
- Pandemic – the gold standard of accessible co-op board games
- Patchwork – a quilt themed game that’s adorable and deadly
- Hive Pocket – a compact, satisfying, tactical tile game about bugs
- Splendor – a trading game of canny deals and shiny jewels
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game – a deep Lovecraft adventure
- Imhotep: The Duel – all’s pharaoh in love and war
- Jaipur – buy low, sell high, screw over your loved ones
- Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan – an elegant wargame
- Twilight Struggle – an intense Cold War strategy game
- War of the Ring: Second Edition – a four-hour Lord of the Rings epic to test your relationship
- Watergate – Richard Nixon versus justice: the board game
- Fog of Love – a couples’ board game for couples about couples
- Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – a crime-solving caper worthy of Conan-Doyle
7 Wonders: Duel
A competitive drafting classic, made 1v1
7 Wonders: Duel is the two-player version of Repos Productions’ leviathan 2010 board game, putting couples in a tight race to build the most advanced civilisation and gather the most points. When you can’t travel for an exotic, romantic getaway, what better alternative than a city-building resource management game for two?
Players will run through three eras, jostling to secure a win through either military or scientific development. You will also need to start building your four allotted Wonders, meeting all prerequisites, gathering resources and playing mind games.
Rather than choosing cards simultaneously, as the original 7 Wonders had you do, players take turns picking face-up and face-down cards from a central collection. You’ll have to work your way to the resources you most desperately need, hoping they aren’t snapped up by your opponent first.
Although tallying up your points at the end of a match can sometimes be a bit of a mood killer, 7 Wonders: Duel makes up for this minor annoyance by offering tons of variation, and replayability, in each game. It’s a solid choice for repeat game nights, and is sure to keep you coming back for more.
A beautiful, fiendish, wall-decorating tile game
Regularly hailed as one of the finest two-player board games of all time – and rightly so – Michael Kiesling’s Azul is a game that authentically delivers on that old cliché: a feast for the senses. The gorgeous, patterned tiles are endlessly pleasing to the eye, clack together satisfyingly in their bag, and give the game a calming energy – even when your partner has just beaten you three rounds in a row.
Azul is a drafting game that casts you and your opponent(s) / life partner(s) as rival interior decorators, vying to impress the King of Portugal with your breathtaking five-by-five-tile wall designs. You’ll take turns choosing your desired tiles from shared pools, then using your picks wisely to create the highest-scoring, matching patterns you can.
Better patterns mean more points, and the player with the most points wins. It’s quite the epitome of the ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ mantra that so many modern board games strive for.
Like some others on this list, Azul has become such a riotous success that it’s spawned several sequel-slash-expansions – each of which provides a fresh aesthetic flavour, and some minor twists on the key formula, built around the same gameplay core: drafting beautiful tiles to complete patterns.
Easy to learn, but much deeper than it looks, Azul deserves a spot on every shelf – and its combination of arresting aesthetics, creativity and tactile fun makes it a super-accessible, low-stress game for casual nights in. For a more in-depth look at this tile-laying treat, read our full Azul board game review.
The original tile laying board game
This two-to-five-player board game is a stone-cold classic, known and beloved by many. Carcassonne is an incredibly easy-to-teach tile-laying game – and an excellent ‘gateway game’ for couples relatively new to the board game hobby.
You’ll be placing down tiles that depict parts of cities, roads or abbeys, building up a map of southern France with each successive turn. As you try to gather territory, you can cooperate, or purposefully muck up each other’s building efforts, claiming areas to block your opponent.
There’s something incredibly involving about physically placing down tiles, while bantering with your partner, making Carcassonne an excellent couples’ bonding choice.
No matter if you choose to play together, or a bit dirty, this game (even after 21 years) is hard to put down. As one of the best gateway games ever, it’s still one of the ultimate go-to board games for first date shenanigans.
For a fuller picture, check out our Carcassonne review.
The hit social deduction game, adapted for 2
One of the best cooperative two-player board games you can find, Codenames: Duet is a frequent favourite for many couples. The two-player spin-off takes all the best elements from the Codenames series, and squeezes them into a sleek, faster-paced team-effort structure.
As in the original Codenames, players must work together to decode messages, giving each other one-word clues to safely identify hidden field agents, while avoiding the deadly assassin.
Handed a grid of cards, each labelled with a single word, players will take turns providing clues, trying to hint at which of the cards laid out in front of them represent their friendly agents. But you’ll need to move swiftly. With only nine turns to find all 15 of your compatriots, you’ll need to hint at multiple cards with a single clue, linking the disparate cards together with whatever tenuous connection you think best.
This easy card game comes with 200 new cards and a campaign option that adds a fair bit of replayability. The united effort to win, as well as the fun wordplay puzzle mechanic, makes Codenames: Duet a winning choice for any pair of partners in their date night activity.
The gold standard of accessible co-op board games
A masterpiece that works just as brilliantly as a two-player board game as it does with a larger team, Pandemic is rightfully called one of the best gateway games.
Since 2019, the theme of preventing a deadly virus from killing the entire human population doesn’t exactly scream relaxation or romance – but look beyond that and you’ll find Pandemic a super-rewarding cooperative board game.
You’ll work together to minimise the spread of global infection, build research centres, and eventually administer a cure for the virus. But do so quickly, before it spells doom for the planet. Each player is assigned a different role, and brings distinct abilities to the table: some are adept at moving across the board quickly, others treating areas rife with disease, while some are better at quashing outbreaks.
This is no easy game, mind. It can be punishing to new players, as random events disrupt your carefully laid plans, and disease build-ups overflow into neighbouring countries.
You’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed with the sheer scale of the pandemic, and be hanging on by the skin of your teeth by the game’s end. Even better, the game scales nicely with more players, so once you and your partner have become masters, invite some friends over for a new challenge.
A quilt themed board game that’s adorable and deadly
Throw yourself into the fury of a head-to-head quilting competition with Patchwork, a two-player tile game that’s halfway between Tetris and a nursing home (we mean that in the best way possible). You’ll be competing to create the finest, most commercially valuable quilt by snapping up stray patches of fabric and needling them together.
Patchwork‘s central tile-grabbing mechanics are simple enough. Each turn, you’ll be handed an array of oddly-shaped patches, which you can purchase if you pay their cost in buttons.
Once yours, you’ll be able to add the patch to your quilt to expand the burgeoning blanket. Take care, though, and be sure to arrange your patches tightly. The tiles won’t fit together neatly, and if you don’t think ahead, you’ll soon find that your glorious design is full of holes.
Some patches carry valuable buttons, too, which you’ll need to expand your quilt and earn points at the end of the game. Grab only those patches that fit snugly in your design, and you’ll soon run out of buttons; but let your greed get the better of you, and you’ll have a quilt so full of holes that you’ll be the embarrassment of the town.
Patchwork’s mix of Tetris-like tile placement and push-your-luck button grabbing does well to combine visual excitement with forward planning. Not tough on the noggin, and quick to play, it’s a great pick for couples after some breezy tabletop gaming.
A compact, satisfying, tactical tile game about bugs
Hive Pocket is a battle of wits and a great alternative for two players who love Chess, Go, or other abstract strategy board games. By laying down hexagonal tiles decorated with different creepy crawlies, players compete to surround their opponent’s queen bee, without breaking up the pattern of tiles already placed down.
Each bug tile has its own moves and rules, and every play will leave you and your partner obsessing over possible new tactics – as well as all your previous mistakes.
However, like Chess or Go, Hive Pocket is one of those games you either have the feel for or you don’t, making it a useful temperature test when picking out a couples’ activity. If you and your significant other do get a taste for it, though, Hive will prove as addictive to you both as sweet, sweet nectar to a bee.
We’ve chosen to highlight the travel version, Hive Pocket, partly because its simple, compact design lends itself to the on-the-go tabletopper, but also because it includes the mosquito and ladybug expansions for even more tactical flavour.
A trading game of canny deals and shiny jewels
Another entry in the friendly-commerce style of head-to-head, two-player board games, Splendor makes you a thrifty gem merchant, intent on sweeping up the most valuable stock. You’ll be picking gems and buying buildings to earn prestige. Earn enough, and you’ll win the game.
Each turn, you can choose to collect gems from a central pool, use those precious stones to purchase a point-scoring building, or reserve a site to buy in the future. You’ll have to balance your budget, trying to accumulate wealth quickly enough for future spending, but not waiting too long before all the best plots are sold to your opponent.
Be sure to gain a variety of gem colours so you can snatch up any building that comes available, but don’t spread yourself too thin, or you’ll lack enough capital for the perfect purchase. If you’re lucky, a passing noble might stop by your residence, offering some prestige of their own.
Simple mechanics make Splendor a breeze to jump into, and opportunities to block your opponent’s carefully laid plan provide more than enough moments of (loving) aggravation. Plus, depending on how hard you want to think, a full playthrough can take no more than half an hour.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
A deep Lovecraft adventure
Arkham Horror combines the greatest elements of cosmic Lovecraftian literature into a rollicking adventure. Become an investigator on the twisted streets of Arkham, and unearth the phantasmal peculiarities that lie within its belly. So far, so Cthulhu board game.
Your foes will be insidious, your findings incomprehensible, and the dangers that lurk in the abyss will test your sanity. But your journey will be fabulous.
Each player takes the role of an investigator concerned with some mysterious happening in the city of Arkham. Journeying from location to location, you’ll investigate your surroundings, defend yourself from all manner of vile creatures, and progress through the scenario’s breadcrumb trail of clues towards its conclusion.
As much a game of survival as action, it does well to capture the psychological fantasy of the Cthulhu mythos in suitably cosmic narrative adventures. With a sizeable rulebook, this isn’t a game to quickly pick up and play. Be prepared to spend an evening on each adventure, and when you’ve mastered the basics, delve into the game’s light RPG elements to create a character-specific action deck.
Imhotep: The Duel
All’s pharaoh in love and war
Each taking the role of one-half of Egypt’s most famous power couple, you and your partner will rule as either Nefertiti or Akhenaten in Imhotep: The Duel.
This quick, tactical two-player board game pits the two rulers against one another as they strategically unload six barges, in the hopes of retrieving building materials and other tiles.
The game is a less aggressive version of the original Imhotep, making it a better-balanced and more couple-friendly choice than its older brother. It feels casual enough for a light-hearted date, but tactically deep enough to fully absorb players into a semi-competitive race, as you strategically place down pawns to gather those precious tiles.
Buy low, sell high, screw over your loved ones
The uncompromising wilderness of market trading might not be your first preference of theme when spending an evening in with your partner, but Jaipur’s colourful setting, and streamlined, push-your-luck gameplay, will have you both joyously profiteering like any good investor.
A competition to gain the Maharaja’s favour, this well-loved two-player board game (and renowned gateway game) pits you and your partner against one another, to buy, sell, and exchange your way into unbounded riches.
What makes Jaipur so brilliant is its simplicity. On your turn, you may either buy or sell – that’s it.
Exchange cards from your hand for those revealed in the central marketplace, as you try to nab the most valuable goods, or collect any high-scoring camels that might wander into the bustling town square. And when you’ve accumulated a hefty portfolio, sell the goods for profit, discarding cards in exchange for valuable tokens.
But Jaipur’s financial incentives get a little juicer. You’ll get bonus rewards for selling multiple goods of the same type at once, encouraging you to bide your time and accumulate a fat stack before selling.
But, as the game progresses, the value of highly demanded goods will fall, pushing you to hawk your growing portfolio as quickly as possible. Players face the eternal struggle that meets all investors – do sell I now for an immediate reward, or wait out the market in the hope of a bigger return?
Quick to set up and a breeze to play, with matches lasting no more than half an hour, Jaipur works through its intuitive turn-to-turn gameplay. Although you’ll be focusing on amassing your own wealth, the changing central marketplace and dynamic value of goods add an element of player interaction.
You’ll be breathing a sigh of relief when your opponent leaves that essential card in the market for you to claim next turn, or be left to watch in horror as their exchange halves the value of your own hand. Simple, but addictive. Check out our Jaipur board game review to find out more.
Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan
An elegant wargame with distinct style
GMT games’ runaway hit Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan, set in 1600, is a seven-week campaign designed for two players. Each player must battle for supremacy as either Ishida Mitsunari, defender of an heir, or Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan’s most commanding feudal lord.
Over the course of the 14 turns, players move their block units, use cards to engage in combat, and pay for movement to increase their impact score.
With mechanics for loyalty challenges, sieges, and the different instant-win conditions for each player adding some balanced complexity, Sekigahara adds up to a great couples’ strategy game.
It’s also a fantastic production; all its components are of first-rate construction and perfectly capture the aesthetics of feudal Japan. If you are a couple that’s into wargames or interested in world history, this is really a title worth your attention.
An intense Cold War strategy game
What’s more romantic than the threat of nuclear war? Twilight Struggle is a well-known, loved, and infamously complicated two-player war board game. Set during the Cold War, the Soviets battle the USA in a tug-of-war for control of territories across the globe.
Gameplay is separated into three phases, offers tons of difficult decisions and even has a Defcon track measuring the impending threat of mutual annihilation, making Twilight Struggle feel like a vast, moving story that neatly simulates the ideological tension between the two countries.
The complexity and depth of Twilight Struggle have rightfully made its name as one of the best two-player board games of all time. If its reputation or gameplay don’t convince you of its date-night capabilities, just remember that a Cold War (while possibly leading to global devastation) is basically just another way for some good old-fashioned strategic flirting.
War of the Ring: Second Edition
A four-hour Lord of the Rings epic to test your relationship
War of the Ring is a revered giant among two-player board games, and with good reason. But this one is definitely not for the faint of heart. A complex, expansive two-player Lord of the Rings board game, it’s a perfect fit for experienced couples with plenty of free time, but – and we mean this – it ain’t for everyone.
Because, at its crux, War of the Ring succeeds by being an ingenious yet punishing experience, that will keep you and your partner coming back for more, even though the last game left you gibbering, scarred husks, and your living-room floor covered with orcs.
In the battle of good versus evil, players fight for control of Middle-earth, moving forces (and/or hobbits) across a detailed board that will, in itself, be a visual pleasure to any Lord of the Rings fans. Its complexity and hard tactics may seem like too much at first, but soon you’ll realise these features make the game fun for partners.
After tasting defeat, you’ll find yourself obsessed with calculating different ways to win, staying up at night thinking about all the moves you could have tried to defeat Sauron’s forces, and ever more optimal ways you could (and should) have made your partner struggle harder.
If you can push through the first playthrough, and grasp the in-depth rules, there’s no better game than War of the Ring to shackle couples together as they continually puzzle out new ways to fight their way across Middle-earth.
Richard Nixon versus justice: the board game
Watergate is a clever, addictive political board game that throws you and your partner into one of the biggest scandals in American political history, represented in straightforward, yet very tense tug-of-war-style gameplay.
One player plays as the Nixon administration, scrambling to conceal their dirty deeds, the other as The Washington Post on a mission to expose Tricky Dick to the eyes of the world.
Not only is Watergate an incredibly streamlined game that’ll grab you straight away; it’s also a brilliantly-produced, atmospheric experience that does a good job of capturing the 1970s setting. The linen-finished cards, spider-web pinboard and characterful artwork featuring the big names of the day will be appreciated by any history-loving couple.
Fog of Love
A couples board game for couples about couples
Fog of Love is a game that’s all about relationships. You and your partner take on the role of a fictional couple, and it’s up to you to play out the story of their romance.
Like real relationships, the aim of Fog of Love isn’t necessarily to ‘win’ – this is a cooperative, immersive storytelling experience that encourages you to be creative, engage in dialogue, and simulate a real relationship.
The satisfaction of your fictional couple can change based on your decisions and dialogue, as can aspects of their personalities. In the end, you’ll discover this relationship’s destiny.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
A crime-solving caper worthy of Conan-Doyle
There may be no secrets in a strong relationship, but a little mystery now and then never hurt. For lovers who love to cooperate, or who love murder mystery games, we recommend the Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective board game series.
In each of these boxes, you’ll find a map of London, various newspapers, and a booklet filled with locations and notable persons’ statements. You’ll also find several scenarios – each of which is an unsolved mystery that the great detective himself has decided to delegate to you.
Together, you’ll need to pore over the game’s pages and read between the lines to solve the mysteries. Beating Sherlock to the perp is nigh-on impossible, but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had in solving a case – and it’s an experience that’s even better when shared.
If you’ve made it to the end of this guide, we hope you found at least one cracking couples board game for you and your significant other to dip into! For those times when they’re busy, however, there’s always our guides to the best solo board games and the best solo RPGs. Alternatively, there are some kick-ass free online board games you can try out while you wait for the next date night.