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Two-Player Games for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day is a upon, but what is the board gaming couple to do when it seems that all of the great board games take 3–6 players?

Not to worry – we have some great options for you without dipping into heavy wargames. Nobody wants to have an ultra-competitive game start a fight between you and your date.

In addition, I am including some romantic variations of each game that you can, err, enjoy.

Bananagrams is a very light word game that is fun for two or more players, but is extremely playable with two.  Essentially, players are trying to build their very own Scrabble board in front of them (as opposed to sharing one) as fast as possible.

With its low price-point, it's hard to pass up this staple of any word-lovers' collection. It doesn't hurt that Bananagrams eliminates Scrabble's problem of letting one player unknowingly ruin another's chances — not the best situation for a romantic evening.

Strip Banangrams: You can dump a letter, and instead of taking more letters, take off a piece of clothing!  Also, loser removes an article of clothing.

Fjords is one of my favorite tile-laying games, meant for only two players.  The game is fairly light and completely balanced, with super-easy rules to learn.

Players take turns building a map in front of them on which they build competing farms. Over multiple rounds, players with the bigger farms wins.

Strip Fjords: At the end of each round, the difference in points must be expressed through the loss of clothing of the loser: if one person loses by 3 points, he or she must lose 3 articles clothing!

A fun card game that plays well with two is Dominion. In Dominion, players take turns trying to buy new cards, which in turn give the player new powers with which to buy cards and try to win the game.

Its growing popularity in the past year has made it easy to find, and many people may already own this one. With the extremely high replay value from the large selection of cards to include, this game should provide lots of fun.

However, for Valentine's Day, you might want to take out the Witch, Thief, Militia, and other attack cards. :)

Strip Dominion: Repurpose one of the attack cards to force your opponent to remove a piece of clothing.

Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is another great card game that plays well with two. In Race, players each pick roles that will be played this round, such as producing and selling goods, or building new cards. Everyone then simultaneously executes the abilities of the roles that were played while trying to get the most points.

The theme is fun, and the game has a lot of replay value, especially with its two expansions. Following in the footsteps of most Eurogames, there is little direct competition in these games.  Play is simultaneous, so there's no sweetie to blame for your bad misfortune after.

Strip Race for the Galaxy: Whoever produced the least goods this turn has to remove an article of clothing.

Alternative: San Juan.  Although I prefer Race, many people who want a slightly simpler and friendlier game with a lighter theme may prefer San Juan.  It's very similar in many ways, but with a Puerto Rican theme.

Heroscape is one of the only directly competitive games in this list. The game consists of two parts (in my mind): building the board, and fighting each other with creative armies.

But, despite the competitiveness, half the fun in the game is in building the board on which you will play. If you two enjoy(ed) Legos or similar building activities, this part may be more fun than the actual game.  The battles themselves are pretty random, so no ones' feelings should be hurt on account of the lucky die rolls.

Strip Heroscape: Reroll any die by removing an article of clothing.

is a two-player strategy game, whereby players place and move hex tiles that act with different characteristics, both of you trying to "kill" the enemy queen. The best analogy is probably to chess – you have pieces with varying abilities in attempting to dominate the other player.

But, the game is not too competitive, and is certainly easier to play than chess. Since it does not have a fixed starting board, games are often strikingly different than each other, and there isn't the pressure to study the game as heavily as chess, so two people can have some light fun.

Strip Hive: Since the games are fairly short, the loser can simply remove an article of clothing.

The only completely abstract game on the list, Blokus is a great two-player "tile"-laying game.  Although, instead of traditional square or hex tiles, you are placing different sized blocks, arranged often like "Tetris" pieces with 1–5 squares (tetrominoes, pentaminoes, and such for the math geeks out there).

Since this game is played on a shared board, it can be a little more competitive than the others, as every move you make directly blocks or hurts the other player.  Play with caution!

Strip Blokus: Take back any of your played pieces in exchange for a piece of clothing.

Runner Up: Citadels
One of my favorite games is Citadels, another card game. However, I could not wholeheartedly put it in this list because it is very competitive, with lots of thieving and mean acts. If your relationship is strong enough, you might be able handle playing this, but be careful!

Citadels is played by the players taking different roles with different powers in an attempt to build the best city.  It tends to play quickly, but with lots of drama thrown in due to the evil nature of at least half of the characters.

Strip Citadels: The player who is not the king must remove an article of clothing at the end of every round.  Alternatively, you must remove an article of clothing every time you take the King.

Image by Flickr user stevefaeembra

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