Valentine’s day weekend is around the corner, and with that in mind I wanted to discuss two games that are great for couples. The first is an experimental board game that really embodies the Valentine’s day theme, …and then we held hands. The game is played cooperatively, meaning you and the other player are working together to meet the win condition versus competing against each other. This can be a great style of play for couples who do not want to be directly competitive, since both players win or lose together. After all, nothing can kill the desire to play a game faster than an endless win streak for one player.
The theme of the game is working together in love to find balance. To do this, players use cards that depict various emotions to move to different spaces on the circular board. The spaces correspond to the colors on the cards, so playing a blue happiness card would allow you move to the adjacent blue space. The goal is to move your piece in such a way that you land on a certain set of emotions in a single turn. Doing this several times, lets you and your partner move towards the center of the circle, where when you meet, you win the game.
Sounds simple, right? It might be, if there was only one color on each card. Instead, in a brilliant metaphor for the dynamics of a relationship, each card has a left side and a right side with potentially different emotions on each side. A player is only allowed to use the side of the card corresponding to which half of the circle their piece is currently on, the left or the right, emulating different perspectives on the issues and emotions that make up the lifeblood of being close to someone. Players ARE allowed to use their partner’s cards to accomplish a goal, but if any player runs out of cards, both players lose the game. In a final twist, players aren’t allowed to communicate during play, leaving them to rely on reading the other players moves and intuiting their intention and how to best share the cards that are available.
The second game I would like to recommend is Lost Cities. This is a great two player duel of wits that is easy to learn, but has quite a bit of strategic depth. This one is a better fit for couples that like to kindle a friendly rivalry. Essentially you and the other player are organizing expeditions as turn of the century explorers. Each of the six expeditions is a certain color of cards, numbered 1-10. Your goal is to play stacks of numbered cards on your side of the central board in ascending order. At the end of each round, the expedition is worth the total value of the cards you played, minus twenty. Organizing such a grand journey is not cheap and the investors want their cut! If the your total is less than twenty you can even score negative points.
The key tension to this game is that your opponent across the table is trying to do the same thing. As there is only one of each number card in each suit, half of the strategy is making sure your opponent does not have access to the cards they need to continue the sequence. To up the ante in this game of cat and mouse, each suit has it’s own discard pile on the central board. Players can either draw from the main deck of cards or take the top card in any given discard, so you have to be careful not to discard a card your opponent could use. What results is a wonderful dual between players to set up a good string of numbers while not showing their hand or committing to any one expedition too early.
There is also a delicious element of gambling involved. Mixed in with the basic six suits of one through ten are “investor” cards. These come in the same six colors, but must be played as the first card in a sequence. They double the overall value of a stack, but they will also double it if it ends up negative.
Both games are fantastic, and produce wildly different experiences with just some cards and a central board. I remember trying out …and then we held hands at a convention with a complete stranger who was also curious how the game played. Here was a person I had never met, and he and I were trying to navigate the emotional waters of a board game romance. Both of us could not stop laughing and pantomiming with exaggerate gestures just how happy or sad we were when we played each emotion card. It was made all the more comical that his girlfriend was standing next to him during these rocky waters. I also have many great memories of playing Lost Cities after a dinner date, unwinding with my girlfriend at the time, drinking some wine, and bonding over some cards and competition. Here’s hoping everyone has a wonderful Valentines day weekend, and that you all have a chance to break out some games.