Good communication between couples is essential for healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.
That communication isn’t always verbal. Two people who know one another intimately can speak volumes with a glance, a touch, a spontaneous gesture. Even the determined effort to communicate nothing says a great deal to a perceptive partner.
Good communication can also be vital in board games. Especially in cooperative games. As in relationships, this is often difficult. But in a board game, you can blame the rules for that.
Games often create challenges by requiring cooperation among players while imposing artificial limits on their communication. Some games demand players speak in single words or short phrases. Others go as far as to prohibit all talking. Players might have to express themselves by drawing, miming, or by transmitting their thoughts directly into the minds of those across the table via mental telepathy.
These limited-communication games challenge players to hone their nonverbal communication skills, perfect for couples.
Without further ado, here are five of the best cooperative games for couples in which good communication is vital—even when you aren’t allowed to talk. We can’t guarantee that playing these will improve your relationships, but they will inspire you to commune with one another in new, creative ways.
Wavelength is a competitive party game, but it can also be played as a cooperative game by two players. In cooperative mode, the players select 7 clue cards at random and try to guess as many as they can, scoring more points the closer they guess.
The clue cards present two opposing concepts, like hot/cold, or safe/dangerous. A target zone along that continuum is randomly chosen on a large plastic dial. Then the “psychic” player gives a short clue to guide the guesser toward that target.
If the psychic said “lava” for the hot/cold card, then the guesser, who cannot see the location of the target zone, would likely turn the dial far to the left, toward “hot.” If the psychic said “soup,” the guesser would still turn the dial to the left, but not as far.
But just where does “soup” fit on the continuum between hot and cold? Guessing where the psychic would place that clue is the crux of the game. Knowing the personality and preferences of the psychic can be an advantage.
Once the guess has been made, the target zone is revealed. If players are in harmonious agreement, they will score 3 points for hitting the target and draw a bonus clue card, giving themselves an additional round. If they are not on the same wavelength, they will score fewer points, or none.
Wavelength is a more nuanced guessing game with limited communication. The guesser isn’t right or wrong, just more or less right. As in real life, there isn’t always one exact correct answer. If you want a game that rewards you for being close enough, then get on the same Wavelength.
2 Codenames: Duet
Is Mr. & Mrs. Smith your idea of a romantic movie? Assume the identities of a secret agent power couple in Codenames: Duet, a two-player cooperative version of the very popular party game Codenames, from Czech Games Edition.
As in the original, players give one-word clues to help their partner identify agents and avoid assassins, but this time, you are working together.
Players make a 5×5 grid of word cards on the table and place a random key card upright so that each player sees one side of the card. This card identifies 9 agents and 3 assassins. Each side of the key card is different, although there is some overlap; players must correctly identify 15 agents to win.
Players take turns giving a clue consisting of one word and a number. The number indicates the number of agents potentially identified by the clue. The other player will then choose one of the cards. If she…
- …is correct, then that card is covered by an agent card, and she can guess again.
- …identifies an innocent bystander, her turns ends.
- …encounters an assassin, both players lose the game.
You only have nine turns to correctly identify all agents!
Codenames: Duet is a great cooperative game for couples. Winning feels like a true shared victory for your team of two, but the game is difficult enough that you won’t feel too bad for losing. Just play again!
3 Magic Maze
Not all communication is verbal. If you and your partner are truly in sync, you can work together with nary a word passing between you. In Magic Maze, from Dude Games, you’ll have to! No speaking is permitted in this silent cooperative heist game.
Together, you play as four fantasy adventurers gearing up for their next campaign by burgling a shopping mall. The character pawns move about the board, uncovering new tiles, avoiding security, grabbing the loot, and heading for the exits before the sand timer runs out.
Magic Maze can play up to eight players, but it plays well for two players. Each player can move any of the pawns, but they can only perform the actions permitted on their action card. In a two-player game, one player can move pawns north and east and can teleport them from one vortex to another. The second player can move pawns south and west and up and down escalators.
Players must work closely together to get their pawns the equipment they need and to make their getaway. If one player is failing to take a necessary action that only he can take, the other player can draw attention to this by placing the red “Do Something!” pawn in front of him, while also staring intently at one section of the board and clearing her throat.
Magic Maze is even better with its expansion Magic Maze: Maximum Security which adds more puzzle elements and options to the base game.
If you can communicate a great deal with only a lifted eyebrow and a significant glance, this is the game for you. Get lost in the Magic Maze.
4 The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
Each crew member is assigned one or more tasks they must complete to succeed at the mission. You may be ordered to take the yellow 7 card in a trick while your partner must take the green 4. The mission may also specify that cards be won in a certain order or that one player may not win any tricks. Communication is limited and players must work together to take—or avoid taking—tricks. If players fail to meet any of those conditions, they fail the mission and must replay it before advancing to the next mission.
Players can’t tell other players what cards they have. They can only communicate through tokens placed on their one face-up card to indicate that card’s position in its suit. Placing the token at the top of the pink 6 indicates that this is the highest pink card in your hand. Placing it in the middle of the blue 2 tells your crewmates that this is the only blue card you have.
The Crew is best played with three players or more, but it can be played by two with the addition of a dummy hand.
If you prefer undersea exploration to the cold vacuum of space, play the stand-alone sequel The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. This version offers similar gameplay alongside new mechanics.
Couples who enjoy trick-taking card games like Euchre or Hearts will likely enjoy The Crew. The cooperative nature of the game puts a fresh spin on a classic category of card games.
For a unique take on trick-taking games, join The Crew.
5 Mysterium Park
The director of Mysterium Park, a spooky 1950’s carnival, has disappeared. After conventional investigators fail to solve the mystery, the psychics step in to uncover the truth. It’s not long before the visions begin.
In Libellud‘s Mysterium Park, players work together to solve the murder. One plays as the ghost of the deceased who attempts to communicate the identity of the murderer and the location of the crime to the other players, who take on the roles of psychic investigators. Six people can play, but two works fine as well!
The ghost cannot speak to the investigator and can communicate only by sharing visions in the form of illustrated cards. Through the dream-like art on the cards, the investigator must interpret the ghost’s visions and gradually eliminate innocent suspects until only the guilty party remains.
After narrowing down the list of suspects, the ghost attempts to communicate the location of the murder by the same method. After reducing the possible locations, the ghost and psychic have one final shot at discovering the true murderer and location.
If the two players communicate successfully, they solve the crime, and the ghost can rest in peace. If not, then the players lose.
Mysterium park rewards good visual communication and gut instinct. The clues given by the ghost are necessarily vague and open to interpretation. It’s not easy communicating from the afterlife.
Mysterium Park is a more streamlined stand-alone version of the popular and slightly more complex Mysterium. Both games offer head-scratching bewilderment and the thrill of enlightenment as you suddenly realize that the dream card with the weird UFO-hat things could indicate the knife thrower, who is also wearing a similar hat.
If you enjoy interpreting dreams and communicating in highly symbolic images, pay a visit to Mysterium Park.
If you prefer the simplicity and portability of a card game—something you can take on a lovely ramble through the park—slip The Mind or The Game into your pocket. Both titles from Pandasaurus Games are cooperative abstract card games in which players must play cards in ascending or descending order without telling the other players what cards they are holding. If you and your partner succeed in one of these games, you truly have a special connection.
That wraps up our list of five of the best cooperative games for couples. These games may even improve your communication skills. They will certainly challenge them. Perhaps beyond the breaking point, as not all attempts at communicating through bizarre dream-art will be successful. But if your relationship can survive an evening of second-guessing and perplexed stares, then it will be much stronger for it.
There are always wines and chocolates, but don’t forget the most romantic of all gifts: a new board game! The couple that games together stays together!
Written by John David Thacker
John David is a freelance writer specializing in board games and the board game industry.