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Valentine's Day gets a lot of hype — love, romance, wine, roses, chocolate, the whole shebang. But frankly, that's not for everyone. There's a lot of pressure to plan a great Valentine's day evening, and not everyone even wants to deal with that.
I'm of the opinion that sometimes the best way to connect with someone or show them you care is just to spend time with them. And so you're probably not going to be surprised when I recommend getting cozy with your S/O and playing some board games for Valentine's Day.
I mean yes, some games really are best with 3, 4, 5 or even more people. But there are also some great two-person options for you and your S/O to play!
There are a lot of ways you could go for picking games on Valentine's day. My criteria here is primarily that the game plays well as a 2-player option, but I also love Valentine's-appropriate themes.
So you might not be enjoying a romantic getaway in a castle for Valentine's, but you can play Castles of the Mad King Ludwig. In this tile-laying game, each player has been hired to build a magnificent castle for Ludwig II.
You'll start with a foyer, and gradually adding rooms as you go. However, you can't just add on at random -- the goal is to place each room in a logical spot within the castle.
You earn points for completing each room, and players take turns being the Master Builder for the round, responsible for setting prices for each room.
Players: 1-4 | Playtime: 90 minutes
Smash Up is kind of the ultimate nerdy mashup game — it's rather implied in the name. It's called a "shufflebuilding" game, but you can think of it as a sort of deck-building game.
Combine the decks from two factions to form your team, and then try to smash more bases than your opponent. Aliens Wizards vs Ninja Tricksters? It's entirely up to you — or up to fate, if you let it.
The best part is there are several expansions with new factions that you can combine for even more crazy combinations, from the Science Fiction Double Feature to the Obligatory Cthulhu Expansion.
Players: 2-4 | Playtime: 45 minutes
There's something at once both horribly cliché and and terribly appropriate about the idea of a couple of introverts curled up playing word games. Almost of the introverts I know tend to be drawn toward words — they love both writing and reading. But honestly, what's wrong with that?
I like Bananagrams because it plays quickly, much more quickly than Scrabble (though that would certainly be a good choice as well). Each player drawers their tiles and builds a freeform wordcross with them. The game isn't turn-based, but plays in real-time, which I think makes it more interesting.
Players: 1-8 | Playtime: 15 minutes
Not only is Splendor a great 2-player game, but I also think that the theme is very appropriate — you're a merchant during the Renaissance, dealing in gems. I mean, Valentine's Day is often synonymous with expensive jewelry, right?
In addition to acquiring jewels in the game, you also need to manage transportation and shops — everything that comes with doing business. You'll need a bit of strategy to get ahead in Splendor, and be willing to take action, not just build up your resource reserves.
That said, the game plays quickly and the rules are designed with simplicity in mind. The game only takes a few minutes to set up and explain, and the whole thing wraps up in under a half hour, typically.
Players: 2-4 | Playtime: 30 minutes
It shouldn't be a surprise that Carcassonne is on this list. It's one of my favorite games, and often thought of as a "gateway" game, because it's so simple — draw a tile and lay it out to build cities, pastures, roads, and even cloisters.
Unlike Castles of the Mad King Ludwig, you're playing on the same board, so it's possible to vie for control of territory and steal a city, road, or pasture from the other player. Of course, it's up to you whether you really want to play that particular strategy on Valentine's day.
Oh, and have we mentioned the expansions? Spice things up with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion or the standalone Carcassonne: The Discovery. There's even a fast-paced dice version.
Players: 2-5 | Playtime: 30-45 minutes
Looking for some other ideas for 2-player games? Here's my picks for honorable mentions:
Jenga Throw & Go: Despite the fact that most of my childhood consisted of modifying the rules of any game to give my little sisters a chance to win (ahhh the plights of being the oldest child), I do actually enjoy the occasional classic game, and Jenga is one that's especially suited to two people. The Throw & Go variation of Jenga comes in some of my favorite color, and it changes the gameplay somewhat by introducing dice rolls that dictate which block you remove — or the option to reverse an action and even force the other player to take out two blocks.
Players: 1+ | Playtime: 15 minutes
Sutakku: This is a press-your-luck game with roots in Japanese tradition. Roll 3 dice, and add two of them to your stack. You can keep going for as long as you dare — the longer you go, the more points you score, but if the stack falls, you lose out. (Side note: In Japan, women traditionally give chocolates to men on Valentine's Day, and on March 14 — known as White Day — men respond by giving their own gifts as a thank you.).
Players: 1-12 | Playtime: 15 minutes
Rivals for Catan: I don't hate Catan, but I do dislike featuring it on so many lists. So instead, here's Rivals for Catan, a variant of the game designed especially for two players. There are 3 gameplay styles, including a Duel variant if you're feeling particularly competitive.
Players: 2 | Playtime: 45 minutes
The nice thing about the game night being just two people is that you can pull your hunny into the kitchen and get some help, and not worry about ignoring your other guests, or stalling the entire game while you cook. So you can make as an elaborate a menu as you like or go out to dinner — whatever works for you.
Have I mentioned how much I loved desserts? I love making sweet things. And so while there are no Valentine's Day dinner menus here, I do have some great suggestions for desserts:
Raspberry Fool: This recipe from Real Simple is indeed very simple — just whipped cream swirled with raspberry jam and dotted with fresh raspberries. Serve with some shortbread cookies or chocolate cookies. It's nice and light and fresh, which is a good alternative to some rich and heavy decadent desserts.
Molten Mocha Cakes: A twist on the chocolate lava cake, this Martha Stewart recipe uses espresso powder. The recipe is already portioned for two, making it the perfect Valentine's day.
Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake: Another chocolate-y dessert, courtesy of Center Cut Cook. This cheesecake is made with an Oreo crust and infused with peanut butter for that perfect sweet and salty combination. This one is super easy to make, and topped with a chocolate ganache.
Strawberry Marshmallows: Marshmallows might sound scary to make at home, but they're not difficult to make. These marshmallows from Fox and Briar are made with gelatin, sugar, and strawberry puree. Dip them in chocolate for an extra bit of decadence.
Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies: From Bake Eat Repeat, this recipe combines chocolate, cheesecake, and raspberry into one delicious concoction, and it's quite simple to make.
I did say these recipes are all Valentine's Day approved, so there's nothing too crazy here. But they are tasty, and they'll definitely deliver on a little bit of romance for your quiet, game-filled Valentine's Day game night.
What do you think of these choices? What are your favorite 2-player games? Leave a comment and let us know!