Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and if you are like many people, you are considering getting a gift that shows the special person in your life exactly how much you love them. The holiday of love is associated most often with chocolates, flowers, and cards but more and more people are giving gifts that are in line with their partner’s hobbies.
In a way gaming is one of the perfect activities for couples and there are a number of benefits for those who play together regularly.
- In some games cooperative play is encouraged, which can bring a couple together and strengthen their relationship.
- Often playing together, especially more quirky games, leads to laughter and a reduction in stress as well as a reduction in blood pressure.
- Communication over the course of gameplay is person-to-person and not digital.
- Gaming together increases creativity and self-confidence.
- Overall those who game together are happier.
Given the benefits of gaming for couples, gifts that maximize engagement with gaming and the likelihood of playing together are not only good for the enjoyment of the hobby itself, but also for improving the foundation of the relationship. This doesn’t end once a couple is married either. My wife and I regularly play games together, both to relax and for official date nights. That being said we don’t game willy-nilly but plan out what we do in advance to maximize the fun and to make sure we don’t get wrapped up in other things. Generally speaking, we split our time between a few board games, RPGs, and video games, just to make sure we don’t get bored doing one thing too often.
Before we were married there was one board game my wife absolutely refused to play with me under any circumstances: Monopoly. As she termed it to me once it is the relationship breaker. To a certain degree I could see where she was coming from. Monopoly can be ultra competitive, and when this is combined with the random rolls of the dice and me now wife’s super competitive nature, I could see where she would be concerned that a bad game would put strain on our relationship. She even told me a story of when she had played with a previous boyfriend and, when the dice hadn’t gone her way, she had immediately gotten in his face, flung the board across the room, and stormed out after a heated argument.
It does make me feel a bit warm inside that she cared enough about me from the start to try to protect me in this way. Needless to say, within the first week of being married we broke out the board game to finally play together.
It was bad. Like really bad.
The dice clearly preferred a firm male hand that night, and I quickly made my way around the board. Moreover I clearly remember a series of turns where my wife ended up in jail again, and again, and again. She didn’t flip the board, however, and though she was grumpy about those foully cursed cubes, she did not flip the board, we did not get into an argument, and our love grew in strength that night.
Monopoly is not for the faint of heart though, and if you are still dating and at least one of you have a competitive nature, perhaps a different board game would be more your speed. Apart from Monopoly, these three are our favorite:
- Scrabble: Scrabble is the ultimate crossword game in which every letter counts. Grab your significant other and take turns forming words on the board. After playing your turn, count the value of all the letters in every new word that you formed, and don’t forget to take into account the special tiles. As a bonus, this game can help improve knowledge of words and increase your vocabulary.
- Throw Throw Burrito: A newer game, it combines dodgeball and a card game for a hilarious time. Nothing is quite so much fun as beaning your significant other in the face with the cute, soft burritos. Be warned: put breakable things away, the first time we played I definitely broke three glasses on our kitchen counter.
- Catan: Occasionally the wife and I have another couple that we are friends with over for a game night. Often the game we pull out is Catan, in which each player controls a civilization across a modular hex board where we each compete over harvesting and trader resources to see who comes out on top. Always a great time, but sometimes it runs a bit longer than an hour or two.
Dungeons and Dragons is another favorite for the wife and I. The first time I introduced her to it was during a night we were baby-sitting the teenage kids of some friends in her hometown. The kids were bored and with six hours to go before the parents came to pick them up I decided to pull out my D&D supplies to run a quick one-shot. Apart from me none of them had ever played before, but within thirty minutes of creating there characters and killing their first few goblins they were hooked. I think the moment it happened was when my wife (who decided to play a barbarian) dropped her weapon in favor of playing baseball with the door to a room and a goblin’s head. If I do say so myself the sound effects I made to portray this fight were some of my best work. Prior to COVID we all played together once a week, and even after the pandemic started my wife and I still do one shots together.
Dungeons and Dragons is not the only option if you and your partner want to dive into RPGs. A whole range of them are out there to play, with many themes beyond fantasy like sci-fi, horror, and mystery. Though our mainstay is D&D, my wife and I do play a few others as well:
- Pathfinder: Similar to Dungeons and Dragons, the appeal of Pathfinder lies in how there is, generally, a wider range of content and options to explore. That being said, this RPG can also get bogged down in complicated rules, back stories, and figuring out how different classes and races functions in the story you are roleplaying. Still, if you would like have another, different kind of unique adventure Pathfinder is well worth considering.
- Starfinder: If you enjoy sci-fi RPGs instead, you might consider Starfinder, which is centered around exploring the galaxy. In the Starfinder Beginner Box you can create and customize your own futuristic hero to play through challenging adventures and action-packed battles against a wide range of dangerous foes. With streamlined rules, this deluxe boxed set is the ideal introduction to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, an imaginative tabletop roleplaying game for 2–7 players, so you might consider playing it with other couples as well.
- Miniatures AND Terrain!!!: Lastly, part of the fun of playing these games is to actually see how the action plays out in front of you. Now fair warning, if you decide to collect a lot of miniatures and/or terrain to set up the campaigns you play through, the price can add up quick. That being said there has been little that my wife and I have enjoyed more than setting up and playing through a campaign with our miniatures.
- Tabletop Wargaming: Last, but certainly not least, is tabletop wargaming. Unfortunately a bit more expensive than pure RPGs, if you and your partner are more interested in competitive and strategic play against each other it still might be something to look into. The favorite of my wife and I is Warhammer 40k, which is set in the far, far future in a sci-fi universe where learning and progress have given way to superstition and unending war. It features the struggles of different armies with a wide range of units with various abilities against each other leading to very strategic gameplay. Again be warned, apart from the cost in purchasing the miniatures the time you can sink into this hobby together is a lot. That being said, if you have some money and weekends to commit to it I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Sometimes the wife and I don’t want to do much setup for our game nights. While we really enjoy board games and our RPGs, sometimes we just want to turn on the TV, pick up a controller, and just play without having to worry about setup or cleanup. This past Christmas we ended up getting a new Nintendo Switch with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. While it is fun doing normal races together, what I recommend is (assuming you are legal to drink) that you get out some snacks and a few beers and do a drink&drive match. The rules for this are you each have one beer and you can drive or you can drink from it but not do both at the same time. The winner is the one who finishes their beer first by the time the finish the last lap. My wife and I always have an amazing time with this game, and it is a perfect way to destress after a hard day in the office for both of us.
There are a wide range of other videogames to play with each other out there, and while we mostly enjoy playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe lately, we enjoy a few others occassionaly as well:
- Super Mario Party: The return of the classic series board game mode appears in this latest interaction. The gameplay is unique every time with eighty mini-games to play through, each of which make clever use of the Joy-Con controllers.
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze: A new take on a classic, here you can play cooperative by taking control of Donkey Kong and one of his buddies to play through a range of environments in seven worlds to try to reclaim stolen bananas from polar invaders.
- Pikmin 3 Deluxe: In this game you grow and use a group of adorable creatures called Pikmin to solve puzzles and save your planet. Coming in different types, you can play coop with your partner to defeat enemies and overcome obstacles in both story mode, mission mode, or even go heard-to-head in Bingo Battle.
This article contains some affiliate links to games to enjoy with that special gamer in your life. If you choose to purchase these books or games via my affiliate links, you will help support my writing and research at no additional cost to you.