Boredom. It’s an issue many, many couples are dealing with right now. With the pandemic raging, there’s nothing to do.
And now that winter is here, you’re stuck indoors. At home. Which isn’t going to help things.
Almost a year into this pandemic, you likely have dusted off your classic board games — like Scrabble, Risk, and Monopoly. And you’ve played them just about as much as you can stand.
Because of that, this list won’t include those oldies (but goodies). Our goal is to help you find new board games (hopefully two or three) that sound intriguing for you and your spouse — or you and your family.
Now, board games aren’t necessarily a cheap hobby. A number of the “hot” games right now can run upwards of $50 — and sometimes even reach triple digits.
So if your budget is tight, post on your local neighborhood page or Buy Nothing group to see if you can borrow board games from neighbors or receive a donation of games that are just collecting dust in someone else’s closet. You can return the favor by opening up your board game library to them!
Without further ado….
Board Games for Just You and Your Partner
Note that several of these games can be played by more than two people. The reason we’re including them in this section is because they are just as fun playing with only one other person.
Quick Play Games
Essentially, you and your partner will be working together to uncover spies using word deduction with a limited number of turns. The game is quick (roughly 15 minute rounds) and a fun way to put your teamwork on display in a game designed to make you think without stressing you out. Only for two players.
15 minute gameplay
Want a deceptively simple game you and your partner can just pick up and play? Mastermind puts, as the marketing language says, “codemaker vs. codebreaker.”
The basic idea is that one player creates a code up to four characters long by using colored pegs which the other player then has to guess using trial and error within a limited number of turns.
Games are quick — typically 10-15 minutes at most — but quite satisfying when you break a code… or when you stump the other person, if you’re the codemaker. Only for two players.
Currently available for $14.77 at Amazon.
10-15 minute gameplay
Have you and your partner burned through all the procedurals and murder mysteries on Netflix? Does watching Picard play detective on the Holodeck in TNG make you feel jealous? Wish you were around back when radio plays were big?
St. Noire is ready to scratch that itch for you and then some. The set-up is familiar to anyone who’s played a murder mystery type of game before — someone has been killed in this small town, the culprit is hiding in plain sight, and you have to figure out who did it.
What sets this game apart, though, is the world it creates to help you do that. The best way I can describe it is to imagine Clue as an immersive experience. As you travel to each new location on the board — stores, restaurants, schools, even city hall — you’ll be treated to a new “audio scene” complete with excellent voice acting and sound design.
How are these “audio scenes” playing? If there’s a drawback, this is it — you have to use an Alexa-enabled device to play the game. Already got one? Great! Don’t? It might actually be worth it…
The victim, killer, method of death, and location of the crime always change, so you get a completely new and unique story on each play-through. Expect to spend roughly 20-30 minutes per game. You’re tasked with solving the mystery within a certain amount of time, so the play never drags. Oh, and there’s no specific number of players, so you can play just the two of you — or make it a double date and have another couple join via Zoom!
Currently available for $39.99 at Amazon. (Plus the cost of an Alexa device.)
20-30 minute gameplay
Board Games That Take Up to an Hour
What’s more fun than making a quilt? Playing a board game about quilting! Okay, it’s only sort of about quilting.
Patchwork pits you against your partner as you each battle to collect differently-shaped pieces (fabric patches) and fit them onto your game board without going outside the lines (think Tetris).
The various patches are worth currency in the form of buttons, but cost “time” — which essentially means they make you move closer to the end of the game board.
Since whoever has the most buttons by the time the first person reaches the end of the game board is the winner, the strategy is in balancing button “income” versus “time” cost.
Original version currently $32.26 at Amazon, but there are several other versions selling for less.
30+ minute gameplay
What better way to spend the pandemic with your partner than learning some science!
Periodic allows you to use the Periodic Table of Elements in a scientifically accurate way to advance across the game board, collect elements, and defeat your opponent.
You will learn chemistry — whether you want to or not. (But we promise it’s fun!)
Currently available for $39.98 at Amazon.
40-60 minute gameplay
Ticket to Ride
Become a railway mogul by claiming train routes across the U.S. and earning game points. Will you complete the longest route? Have the most routes?
It’s a game designed for adults, but it’s simple enough that middle-age elementary students can learn it if you want to make it a family event.
Regular version currently $40.27 at Amazon, but there are a variety of other editions at different price points, including a phone app.
30-60 minute gameplay
We’re not sure if this is the perfect game to play in our current situation or the worst one, but it had to be included on this list.
As the name implies, the point of the game is to work together to prevent the spread of a global pandemic. You choose from game pieces that each have a specific job (i.e., ability) that can help in this goal.
You’ll travel around the world quelling outbreaks and working towards the cure for four different viruses before things get too out of hand. A great cooperative game for two (or more).
Currently available for $27.90 at Amazon.
45+ minute gameplay
Board Games You Need to Make a Night Of
Ever dream of getting rich owning a power company? What kind of energy source would you use? How would you fight off competitors? Is it better to corner a market, or focus on rampant expansion?
Power Grid employs game play that forces you to think about all of these questions as you build your energy empire across the United States and attempt to fend off your opponent.
Currently available for $33.31 at Amazon.
2 hour gameplay
You play as a farmer whose goal is to expand both their home and family. In order to do that, you will have to gain skills, grow crops, and get livestock — but all three things have a cost. As do any home improvements you want to make. And while a bigger family can help you do more each turn, it also has a higher cost in terms of feeding them.
Whoever has the most robust farm and family at the end wins.
Currently available for $53.95 at Amazon.
30 minutes per player (your first time will definitely take longer!)
Bonus Family Game Section
Board Games That Don’t Require Reading But Are Still Fun for All
Kids as young as 4 or 5 can play this one. In fact, you may find your kids create some of the most interesting prompts.
The age on the box is 10 and up, but there’s no reading involved. If you have a younger child who enjoys complex games — again as young as 5 if they have the patience for it — you can all enjoy this cooperative game.
This game has reading, but kids as young as 4 can learn to quickly identify the images on the cards and play.
This is a great two-player game. But we’re including it here because it is also great for families. The hardest part for younger players to grasp is keeping the board in a 5×5 square. You can help them out by waiving that rule for them. Or you can cut a piece of paper to the correct size to serve as a guide for them.
Board Games That Do Require All Family Members to Read
There’s no reading, but this game is a bit complex for more pre-readers. But if you have a pre-reader, you can give Catan Junior a try.
There’s Zombie Fluxx and Monty Python Fluxx and Spongebob Fluxx and about a million other versions. The point of this game is that the rules are constantly changing. Seriously. Your goal is to change them to your benefit so you’ll win. Because of this, games can take mere seconds or upwards of 30 minutes.
The box says 13 and up. But if your child can play a game like Pokemon or Magic the Gathering, they can play Dominion.
Imagine Dungeons & Dragons crossed with The Simpsons crossed with a video role-playing game and you’re in the right ballpark.
The setting is a Lord of the Rings-style fantasy world, but you’re just in a dungeon fighting monsters and all of the cards are incredibly silly and snarky. Kill a monster, you go up a level and get treasures to make you stronger. First player to reach level 10 wins.
Do Your Own Search for What You Love!
This is just ever-so-lightly scratching the surface of what’s out there. Board games have exploded over the past decade or so, and you can find just about anything these days.
When looking for a new game, consider if you want to work together, enjoy some healthy competition, or get to know each other better. Above all, we hope this list helps you beat your boredom — either as a couple or as a family.