Long time viewers will know that myself and Elaine are a couple. In fact, we've been practicing the ancient art of... uh... coupling? for years. And as a duo who plays board games we thought wouldn't it be fantastic if we shared the best games two people who love each other's company could enjoy. But rather than just make a list of games that we like to play we wanted to cast as wide a net as possible. So without further ado, five games out of which at least one should make many fantastic evenings together. You decide which one.
Pandemic Legacy: Season One.
When Forrest Gump said “Life is like a box of chocolates,” I thought he was full of patootie but if anyone ever told me that Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is like a box of chocolates I would probably hug them. OK, let’s ignore for a minute the fact that Pandemic is a game about diseases because you don’t actually get diseases when you open the box or when you hug it. What you do get instead is a big board with a map of our world constantly ravaged by viruses. Your job is to travel around the world, treating diseases represented by translucent coloured plastic cubes in the hopes of eventually finding a cure.
The original Pandemic is not only a critical darling but is often attributed as patient zero of the co-operative games bug. Whilst you might find it an odd concept to battle bacteria as a pastime activity with your significant other, trust me when I say this - there’s something incredibly compelling about solving this puzzle and many of the people who have been introduced to modern board gaming through Pandemic are probably nodding their heads in agreement right now.
But the Legacy version is a different beast altogether that makes it a truly perfect game for couples. Each time you play Pandemic Legacy the game will evolve. You’ll open boxes with new secret bits, peel off stickers from special sheets and add them to the rulebook, cards or even to the board that adorns your personal scribblings. Most importantly, your copy of Pandemic will be like no one else’s because you raised it. And whilst you’ll never have to feed it, it might actually keep you awake at night, thinking that maybe things wouldn’t have gone so wrong if only you built a research station in Cairo. Ah, parenting.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who hunt dinosaurs and those who are dinosaurs. Raptors specifically. And if you’re comfortable with that statement (and even perhaps if you are not) you’ll certainly be comfortable with Raptor, a two player only, asymmetrical game where you’ll be playing as a mother raptor who’s trying to protect her babies, or the evil horrible scientists who are trying to capture them for… OK let’s face it, they’re not capturing them to put them in a playpen and raise them together with puppies and kittens and baby seals so that they can all be friends.
Raptor has the benefit of being a very simple game that feels very satisfying to play. Each turn you’ll choose one of the three cards in your hand, play it face down and reveal it simultaneously with your opponent. If your card has a higher number, you get a number of action points equal to the difference between your card and your opponent’s card. If you have the lower number, you get to do the ability on the card. When I say ability, I mean driving jeeps, setting everything aflame with napalm and firing tranquilizer darts if you’re the scientist, and clawing, tearing and leaping if you are the dino-mother-dynamo.
Raptor isn’t just great for couples because it’s been built from the ground up for two players, but because it’s light and breezy, perfect for those evenings when you don’t want to go out anywhere, but you’re sick and tired of the constant fact that you’ve already seen everything that’s good on Netflix. It’s for that night when you want to do something but you really don’t want to do anything. Did I mention the adorable baby raptor miniatures? Editor, please cue the “OMG SO CUTE!” sound effect.
Look, I know the box says Duet but I promise you, there’s absolutely no singing although there are words. Codenames: Duet is the game that will likely make you bin that old copy of Scrabble that’s been lying around for two decades because as far as word games go - there isn’t a more rewarding experience. Be warned, they’re not quite the same thing however. Scrabble is a word creation game whereas Codenames is a word association game. Just like in real language, the words are already made - you just have to put them together which can be harder than it sounds. Trust me, I’m a writer.
Some of you might be familiar with Codenames - it was the surprise party game hit of 2015 and won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres in 2016, a german award that means the game will be very popular in Germany but don’t let that dissuade you if you’re not German or are not at least partial to lederhosen. In Codenames: Duet you’ll have a board of twenty-something words laid out in a grid and take turns to be the spymaster, linking two or more words together with a single word in your head, and then blurting out that word in hopes that your partner will form that same link in their head.
Codenames: Duet is so obvious as a couple’s game - it hurts. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as asking your partner to connect the word “octopuss” to “shoes” and “umbrella”. None of you reading this have any idea why this makes sense, but it makes sense to me and my significant other and that’s what counts. It evokes memories of adventures past and isn’t that just the greatest feeling? Codenames: Duet is a game for you. You two.
Note: Codenames: Duet is the only game on this list that hasn’t been released yet but you can snag a copy as soon as September.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Sometimes relationships get stale and you need a little bit of spice in your life to zhuzh it up. Something a little different, off the beaten track. I say, why not form a team of investigators that beats up cultists and stops eldritch horrors from being summoned? After all, if you and your loved one won’t do it, who else will?
If you’ve ever come across Magic: the Gathering and enjoyed playing it with that important person in your life, this is probably the next thing for you. Just like Magic, you’ll collect cards, build decks and take them to battle. But there are two major differences. First, there’s no randomized booster packs of cards that will make you disappointed every time you open that pack and find yet another Serra Angel as your rare even though Serra Angel hasn’t been a rare for more than a decade. But most importantly, Arkham Horror: LCG is a co-operative game.
You still get that joy of building decks but you can build them together, figuring out what cards are best to tackle a specific scenario. What’s better is that each month you get a new pack of non-randomized cards not just for your collection, but giving you a new adventure to take on. So put on your investigative boots and get yourself a good umbrella because this is Lovecraft and there will be octopoid tentacle slime.
EXIT: The Game.
When life gets you down, or traps you in a mysterious laboratory, or even worse, an Egyptian tomb - you just need to get away. Thankfully, Exit: The Game is a fantastic getaway for both of you. Each game in the Exit series will let you forget about the daily worries for about an hour by putting you in a locked room and asking you to solve puzzles to break free. Trust me, there's not a travel agent in the world that will offer you that for £12.99.
The unfortunate part of Exit is that not only is it a one and done game, but it's one you're going to destroy as you go along. The fortunate part is that you'll rip, tear, cut, shape, draw and do just about everything you can imagine with cardboard in order to solve the puzzles that it throws at you. Don't think that's fun? Just look at how much merryment Britain is having with it's own escape the room puzzle. And the best part? It has a decoder ring to check if you've solved the puzzles right.
Exit does more than one thing great but the thing it does best is giving you the immense satisfaction of achievement. And whilst it's a game that can be played with three, four or even six... think of it as going to a restaurant. It's a good time you can have with your friends as they watch you desperately trying to figure out how to dismantle a lobster or a magical evening with someone who matters to you most.
What if five isn't enough?
Of course it's not enough. There's like a gajillion new games released every day and we'd run out of keyboard ink if we were to type out all of them. Leave a comment and let us know what you think is criminally missing from this list and hopefully turn this article into a comprehensive resource.