What are some of the best board games to play as a couple? By far, the most popular content that I’ve written on the Tabletop Bellhop blog is about good two player board games, and of all of the times I’ve written about two player games, one particular article gets read more than any other: “What are some of the best two player board games for date night?“
That article is about the best board games for couples to play and the best games to play on date night. Date nights are something my wife and I continue to do regularly, and we still pack games to take along whenever heading out for coffee, dinner, or some craft beers.
The thing is, that post is quite old, and while we still play many of the games I talk about there, there are also a bunch of newer games that my wife and I have fallen in love with. So I decided it was time to write a follow up list and let you know about some of the best games my wife and I like to play on our date nights as of the start of 2024.
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Picking the best game for date night?
The big thing you really need to watch for when grabbing a game to bring out on a date night is how much room it takes up and how long the game plays.
You want a game that doesn’t take up too much table space, especially if you are planning on playing at a restaurant. Restaurant tables are often cluttered to start with, even before your food comes, and if you plan on snacking while you play that food takes up room.
Game length is an important consideration, if you are planning on playing while waiting for food or drinks to arrive, or if you’re heading to a venue where they want to rotate the tables often. While most pubs are generally great about a couple spending hours there (as long as you are buying drinks), your favourite diner spot would probably rather you get in, eat, and get out.
Another thing to consider, that I didn’t cover in the last article, is lighting. We’ve found that games with high contrast, large text, and clear iconography are often better for date night. This is especially true if you don’t know exactly what your plans are.
We’ve found that places tend to like to dim the lights as the night gets later and those high contrast components are going to let you keep playing when this happens.
Something else I didn’t think of last time is looking at how much communication is needed to play the games you are thinking of bringing. This can matter both because you don’t want to be too loud in some quaint or romantic settings and also because it can be hard to play a game that requires a lot of talking once a noisy live band starts playing.
Of those SHŌBU is getting the most play from us right now. It’s a two player abstract strategy game, with a bit of a chess like feel without any of the complexity.
Rack-O is a true classic that we fell back in love when we discovered that our favourite local brewery had a copy on their game shelf.
While Point Salad is something with a bit more meat on it, a card driven engine builder that’s just a single deck of cards.
I also need to call out The Duke as a game from the old list that we continue to enjoy every time we play it. It’s still one of our favourites and is a game we haven’t grown tired of at all.
Some of best two player boardgames for date night:
So, what are some of the best games to play as a couple? Well, deciding on what game to bring out on a date night is often going to be based on where you expect to play. In general, you want small, quick games with high contrast components, but that’s not always the case.
Often my wife and I will head out to a local brewery which has huge tables which will easily fit any game in my collection and they encourage us to stay as long as we like. Just as often though we will head to our favourite cafe which has tiny tables that can barely fit our coffees and treats. The games we bring to one spot aren’t the same as what we pack for the other, though we also own games that work at both.
Board Games with a Quick Playtime and a Small Footprint for 2-Players:
These games should fit on small coffee tables or a small standing bar table and can be played in under twenty minutes.
This is where SHŌBU fits in. The game is played on four five by five wooden boards with a rope separating them. The only other pieces are some stones in two different colours. Each player has two wooden boards in front of them, one light and one dark. Each board has four stones per player placed on opposite edges. Players take turns making passive and then aggressive moves. Passive moves can be taken on either board in front of you by just moving a stone one or two spots. However the aggressive move is a matching move on the opposite coloured board, and this one can push other stones. The goal is to eliminate all of your opponent’s stones from any one board.
(You can read more about this great two-player only board game in my Shobu review.)
Next up I’ve got boop. which was published by the same company as SHŌBU and is considered an official follow up game, though it doesn’t have the same designer and I find the mechanics quite different. (I get more into this in my full boop. review.)
Boop. is a two player only board game about cats jumping on a bed. The bed is the board and even features a quilted playing area. Each turn players play kittens onto the bed and these kittens boop. away any other kittens they are placed next to. You’re trying to get three kittens in a row to upgrade them to cats. Cats can boop both cats and kittens but can’t themselves be booped by kittens. Get three cats in a row to win.
Drop It has become one of my favourite dexterity games of all time. Though maybe it would be better to call this one a physics game. Drop It is all about dropping different geometric shapes into a vertical tray Tetris style. It has surprising depth centred around the fact that you only score if you’re not touching anything the same colour or shape as the dropped piece. Points are scored based on how high that piece sits, with bonus points for if it lands within any of the bonus circles.
The game works just as well with three or four players as it does with two and you can play even more if you split into teams.
Check out my Drop It review to learn more about this one.
For a true dexterity game that’s great for date night check out Catch the Moon. This is a game where players are trying to reach the moon by building a precarious stack of ladders. It features a plastic base and a variety of differently shaped birchwood ladders. Each turn players roll a die and then place a light weight wooden ladder so that it’s either touching exactly one other ladder, exactly two other ladders, or ends up being the highest point in the growing structure.
If a player causes things topple, or any ladder touches the cloud base or the table, that player has made the moon sad and they have to collect a moon tear. The player with the least tears at the end of the game wins. As an added bonus for date night, the game can be played either competitively or cooperatively. It’s also great with up to four players as well.
Check out my Catch the Moon review for more info on this one.
I grew up playing Rack-O with my parents and my grandmother and then pretty much forgot about the game as I grew up. Then one night my wife and I were at a local brewery and I noticed they had a copy of this classic there for people to play. I grabbed the game and showed it to my wife. She had never heard of it. We spent the rest of that night drinking beers and playing Rack-O.
Since then Rack-O has become one of our favourite date night games when that date night involves adult beverages. It’s light and fast enough that you can play while just hanging out and chatting. Learn more about this classic card game in my Rack-O review.
Another game we discovered because one of our favourite spots had a copy there is Sushi Go! This is a quick playing card drafting game that doesn’t require much table space at all. Get a hand of sushi cards, pick one to keep then pass the rest to your opponent. They pick a card to keep and pass the rest back to you. The cards you keep become a tableau and will score points at the end of the game with each different type of sushi having its own scoring system.
For something with a bit more punch check out Sushi Go! Party which lets you play games with different mixes of sushi types. There is also Sushi Go! Spin Some Dim Sum which looks interesting but we personally haven’t tried.
Datenight board games with medium game time and a small footprint:
The games here don’t take up a lot of tablespace but you are going to have a hard time fitting them in before a meal arrives, though they also aren’t long enough you have to feel guilty about staying too long while finishing up your drinks.
I’m putting Point Salad at the top of this list as its game length can range from quick to medium. When playing Point Salad with two players one of the suggestions in the rulebook is to play three times in a row and total your score. So while one single round can be played quite quickly, a full two player game with three rounds bumps it down towards this part of the list.
Playing Point Salad is quite simple. The cards in the game are two sided, one side showing a vegetable and the other showing an end game scoring option. You set up a market with three equal decks of cards, with two cards from each deck flipped facing up. Each turn you either take two veggie cards from the market or a scoring card from the top of one of the decks. The scoring cards will show you different point values for different combinations of veggies. Keep drafting until the cards run out, then players calculate their scores based on the point cards they took.
You can check out my full Point Salad review for more details.
While we haven’t tried it yet AEG has also released Point City which is supposed to be just a bit heavier than Point Salad, which sounds great to me.
The Duke is a two player abstract chess like game that we still play regularly. Like in chess, you are trying to capture one of your opponent’s pieces. The neat bit here is that the pieces show how they move right on their tiles, with different moves on each side, and after each move you flip them thus changing what’s currently possible with that piece.
I had The Duke on my previous list but since that list was published the game has been re-released in a new version called The Duke: Lords Legacy. I want to note that this is the same game. It comes with everything that was in The Duke, in a new improved box, with a clarified rulebook, plus the Arthurian Legends expansion and five brand new tiles.
Zensu is another abstract strategy game. Many of these abstract games are called Chess-like games, well in this case Zensu is a Shogi-like game, based on the Japanese version of chess. This game even puts the “Easy to Learn, Hard to Master” tagline right on the box. Like The Duke this game features pieces that show you how they move right on them, no flipping them over this time though. Instead, this is a perfect information game about getting one of your pieces to the opposite side of the board before your opponent does the same.
My wife and I are still discovering Zensu and you can look forward to a full review sometime in 2024.
Two-player games with a medium footprint and quick game time:
These games are quick to play but take up some room. While you won’t need a full table, they probably aren’t going to fit on one of those round coffee shop tables. These can work out nicely when there are only two of you sitting at a four seater.
Kitara is a folk on a map area majority game with an Afro-Fantasy theme. It’s one of the few games of this genre that I found works really well with only two players. The game even includes a special smaller two player board with less space on the map, which also takes up less physical space on a table. Players will draft cards that determine how many units they get and how many actions they get with those units. Combat is deterministic, the larger army pushes the smaller army out. Units are never killed, they just have to retreat.
I honestly have no idea why Lost Cities wasn’t in my original date night game article. This is a two-player-only card game that my wife and I used to play a ton of back when we were actually dating. A local coffee shop downtown had a copy and I would meet Deanna during her lunch break and we would often play a round or two of Lost Cities.
It’s a classic card game from famed game designer Reiner Knizia that features hand management, push your luck, card counting and memory aspects. It’s a very tight game with a lot of tension and I still love it as much as I did some twenty or so years ago.
Dice Kingdoms of Valeria is a roll and write game set in the Valeria Universe. It’s a stand alone Valeria game that has players rolling dice and activating their citizens similar to how resource generation works in Valeria Card Kingdoms. The active player then selects one of the dice to use to take an action with the value on that die indicating how powerful the action is. Use your actions to explore the map, battle monsters, hire new citizens, build monuments and more
While the game works with up to five players it’s particularly quick and tight with just two. It also doesn’t need a lot of room, especially if you use the box lid to roll in. Check out my review of Dice Kingdoms of Valeria for more info (and if you are looking for added replayability you can also check out my review of The Winter Expansion for Dice Kingdoms of Valeria).
Date night board games with a medium footprint and medium gametime:
These games require a bit of space and a bit more time to play. They’re probably best for a coffee shop or a slow night at your favourite restaurant where they might not mind you taking up a table for a couple of hours between playing and eating.
KAPOW! is a superhero vs super villain battling game that features customizable dice. One of you picks a hero and the other picks a villain. You are given a player board and a starting set of dice. Set up a screen in front of you and roll your dice. Use them to attack, defend and upgrade your hero. Upgrades let you gain additional dice or more faces for your customizable dice. KAPOW! is very asymmetric with each hero and villain playing very differently due to their unique powers and what dice you start with.
There are two versions of KAPOW! out there, KAPOW! Volume 1 and KAPOW! Volume 2. Each volume features a different set of six characters. The rest of the game is identical and the two sets can be combined so you can mix and match characters or even play with four players.
Next up, I have Star Realms: Frontiers. Now I had the original version of Star Realms on my last two-player date night game list but I wanted to call out Star Realms: Frontiers on this new list as it introduces cooperative play to the classic deck building game, something that I think makes it particularly perfect for date night play. (This newer box set also allows you to play four players out of the box and features an entirely new deck of cards).
My wife and I both still adore the original Star Realms and our love for this game was reignited when we discovered Frontiers. Check out my Star Realms Frontiers review for the full story. We’ve been playing this one a lot lately, both with the new cooperative rules and also as the standard two player duel.
Illiterati is a cooperative word building game that I like to think of as Bananagrams for Hobby Gamers. I’m calling it out here mainly because I had Bananagrams on my last date-night game recommendation list.
In Illiterati, players are rogue librarians trying to save the world’s books from the evil Illiterati. They do this by forming words out of letters and binding books by having words that match the current targets. What I love most about this game is that it’s cooperative. My wife is much better than I am at word games and that usually means that it’s no fun for me to play against her. With Illiterati her skills just mean our team does better together.
Dulce is what people are now calling a BINGO game. This is an engine building game about building a confectionary empire. Every round a card is flipped over and each player finds their own personal version of that card. Each card is a different confectionary and players have to decide what to do with it. They can build the building, they can flip the card and use it to plant ingredients in their field, or they can discard it in order to produce desserts.
I love how everyone gets the same input but by the end of the game each player has their own thing going on. While many people have called this a multi-player solitaire game, and they aren’t wrong, that is what makes it work just as great with two players as with more.
The last game I’d like to recommend that takes up some room and a bit of time, though that time can vary, is Disney Lorcana. This is the new hotness in the world of collectable card games. Lorcana is designed to let you battle with your favourite Disney scenes, characters, events, and songs. While you can play at any player count, a two player duel just feels right somehow.
You can start off by picking up a couple of the pre-made starter decks. Each starter is packaged together with one booster pack, so you can see if you enjoy customizing a deck and if that ends up being your thing you can start picking up more cards.
While my wife and I haven’t played this one on an actual date night yet, we’ve been playing plenty of games at home with plans to bring it along on our next trip out of town.
Two-player board games with a large footprint and medium game time:
Here are some games that need a good sized table. They either have central boards or require a larger playing area for each player. These games are too big for most restaurants but do work at some pubs and cafes with larger tables that aren’t overly busy.
On our last date night game list I put Race for the Galaxy, which leads me to putting Terraforming Mars Ares Expedition on this new list. This game is what you would get if Terraforming Mars and Race for the Galaxy had a baby. It features a much smaller map of Mars and an action selection system that is very similar to Race for the Galaxy, but still has all of the tableau building goodness from Terraforming Mars. It also plays in about an hour, which makes it a better date night game than either of the originals.
Disney Sorcerer’s Arena Epic Alliances is a two-player card driven skirmish wargame that lets you battle your favourite Disney and Pixar Characters. Each player builds a team of three characters, and each character has its own deck of cards. Mash these decks together and take the battle to the arena board while using some of the best looking standees I’ve ever seen in a game. Despite the Disney theme, this is a very solid, tactical, and strategic skirmish game that is both approachable enough for new players and deep enough for hobby wargamers. All of that with no miniatures to assemble or paint.
I saved The Castles of Burgundy for the end of this section because it can take a long time to play, especially when you are first learning the game. That said, once you and your partner know the game, it plays very quickly and you can usually fire off more than one play in a night. This is a fantastic drafting game from Stefan Feld that has been around for a long time, but I wanted to call it out here for two reasons.
One, my wife and I recently re-discovered this classic by playing online through Board Game Arena. Playing there got me to dust off our physical copy, which we’ve now played many times since. The second reason is that there is a new shiny The Castles of Burgundy Special Edition out there and it looks truly amazing.
Whatever version you prefer, The Castles of Burgundy is one of the best two-player games ever published.
Date night game suggestions with a large footprint and longer playtime:
This final list of games are ones you are probably going to want to save for stay at home date nights. This might be something you return to after a nice dinner out, or something to play after dinner at home. Personally, my wife and I like to play these games at home, paired with some charcuterie and craft beer. That said I have played two of these games at a coffee shop, one that didn’t mind us spending the afternoon and putting a couple of tables together.
Note: Most of the games listed below are on the heavier side. My wife is a Euro gamer, she likes long, heavy, thinky games where player skill plays more of a part than randomness, so this counts as a fun time for us, though I acknowledge that might not be true for all couples.
Tapestry is one of my wife’s favourite games and it plays surprisingly well with only two players. You can play this anachronistic civilization building game as a head to head battle or toss in an automata to make things more interesting, and honestly, more cutthroat. Now I will admit I do prefer the game with more players but I also love the fact that when it’s just Deanna and I we can still sit down and play one of her favourite games.
You can learn more about this fantastic looking civ game through my Tapestry review.
The hot game in our house right now is Marrakesh, from the Stefan Feld City Collection. Most of the games in that series are rethemes, but this one is a brand new game. It is a very component-heavy, Euro game that is perfect for long time Feld Fans and experienced gamers. Despite the fact that we have managed to play this on a date night at a coffee shop, you are probably better off playing this one at home. It’s a table hog. It is also a game full of tons of tiny components, with no spares.
Now I know Marrakesh won’t be for everyone but it’s a beautifully juicy point salad with a lot going on, but a limited option tree which helps keep the game manageable. We have the original full version of the game, but if you are considering taking the game out of the house you probably want the new Marrakesh Essential Edition which features condensed player boards and less wooden components.
The hybrid deck-building and worker placement game Lost Ruins of Arnak is a favourite in our house and has been since we first picked it up. We love playing this at all player counts but noticed it’s particularly engaging and cutthroat at just two players. There’s a real rush to try to buy the good cards, advance up the temple tracks, defeat the right monster, or explore the perfect area before your partner can beat you to that thing you really want.
The thing is, in Arnak, there are so many different paths to victory and ways to go that getting cut off in one direction doesn’t necessarily ruin your chances of winning. There’s always another valid option available. And that’s part of the fun.
Check out my full review of Lost Ruins of Arnak for more info.
The last game on my list today is HeroQuest and I’m putting it here because it’s a game my wife and I played through back when we were actually dating. I took on the role of the evil Zargon and my wife played all four of the adventuring characters. We played through the entire campaign as our relationship grew so this game will always hold a special place in my heart.
I didn’t put Heroquest on my original list because the game had been out of print for years, lost in the world of red tape and copyright. However, that has since changed. Hasbro, through their Pulse crowdfunding platform, has published a new version of Heroquest which features the same original gameplay but with updated artwork and miniatures. Plus, they are also continuing to produce new content for the game.
Check out these other great two player game articles:
- I’ve already referenced it a lot but this article was inspired by, and is a follow up to, our very popular What are some of the best two player board games for date night? article.
- For some two player cooperative game suggestions, many of which would also be great on date nights, check out our Best Two Player Cooperative Board Games article.
- If you find you are always short for time, check out this 27 Quick, Easy to Learn, Fun Two Player Board Games article.
- All of this talk started back in 2018 with What are Some Good Two Player Board Games? and I still stand by every game recommendation listed there.
I’m sure there are plenty of other great datenight boardgames out there. What’s a game you and your partner enjoy playing that I missed? Let me know about it in the comments below!
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