by Evan Allgood and Cara Michelle Smith
You’ve tried couples therapy. You’ve tried hashing things out over wine. You’ve tried taking a walk and thinking things through. And where did that get you? Broke, drunk, and wobbling too close to the freeway.
Consider instead these two-player versions of classic games, each one designed to resolve a different relationship issue (as opposed to the original versions, which introduce conflict). Roll the dice, make your move, and blindly trust that no one is cheating!
Charades: On the Same Page determines whether you and your partner see the world the same way. You’ll act out the behaviors that happy couples need to agree on, such as “the perfect vacation,” “loading the dishwasher,” and “the only acceptable way to cook eggs.” Pro tip for those who want kids: Make sure your partner doesn’t pantomime drowning when they draw the card that says “having a baby.”
In Risk: Shared Domination, each player wins exactly half the time, so no one feels inferior. You split victories, defeats, and countries that end in ‘kutsk.’ As a bonus, the board latches onto the table, making it impossible to flip even after you realize that you don’t have anything that’s fully your own. Conquer the world, then conquer your codependency.
Dungeons & Dragons
D&D: Don’t Split Up is for the couple who works well together but foolishly romanticizes the single life. Splitting up may seem exciting, but it’s not as fun when you’re staring down a pack of intellect devourers, or a hoard of kobolds, or a finance bro. Learn to appreciate what you have, especially if your companion is an intelligent, charismatic rogue who’s proficient in foot rubs.
Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. In Taboo with My Boo, you and your partner compile a list of words that neither of you is ever allowed to say, like your exes’ names, or your exes’ occupations, or, “Wow, you look really tired.” The most beautiful love language of all? A partner who lets your past stay in the past, and your under-eye bags hang loose and free.
The Settlers of Catan
Imagine you and your partner are at a crossroads. One of you is drawn to Chicago’s culture, diversity, and April blizzards, while the other prefers Topeka for its world’s-largest collection of Evel Knievel memorabilia. Settle things with The Settlers of Catan: Too Young to Settle, in which you and your partner must agree on just one location for a settlement. As none of the coastal locations also border a desert, this task presents an unsolvable problem.
Backgammon is the world’s oldest game of strategy, patience, and planning. Unfortunately, no one has played a game of patience and planning since the early 2000s, when Angry Birds hit the iOS app market. The couple’s edition of Backgammon is actually an empty Backgammon box, because within moments of the box being placed between two people, both decide they’d rather break up than play.
Regular Stratego is one big metaphor for a bad relationship: The power dynamic is confusing, there are bombs hidden everywhere, a dearth of diffusers, and each player feels like a sad little spy. Instead of just hanging back and hoping your partner explodes first, play Stratego: Love Is a Battlefield: a computerized, co-op version where you team up with your love to take down a bunch of those smug lieutenants. Then you plant your flags on each other.
Ah, Mastermind, the sophisticated game of (checks notes) guessing a bunch of colors someone picked at random. Mastermind: I’m Not Psychic is the original game with the tagline, “DEFINITIVE PROOF THAT YOU CAN’T READ EACH OTHER’S MINDS!” Perfect for those who struggle with communication; you’ll be dying to talk after a few rounds of what is essentially Cerebral Blue Balls.
Nothing frustrates in the bedroom like having your partner hit all the wrong spots, come really close to hitting the right one… and then launch another dud. Battleship: Her Body may not teach anyone about the female anatomy (that’s Operation: Roleplay’s job), but it does offer women the catharsis of screaming “MISS!” over and over and over again.
Scrabble: Couple’s Swap is the twisted version your partner’s parents play, where they swap tile racks at the end of every turn in the name of “fairness.” Scores run low, tensions run high, and still Jim and Annette push this perversion of the rules on everyone they know. Don’t play this way unless you’ve been married for at least 40 years.
In Jenga, one wrong move can end it all. In Jenga: You’re Allowed to Walk Away If It’s Not Fun Anymore, the structure does not collapse regardless of how many wrong moves you make. No matter how shaky the foundation, how sloppy and thoughtless your gestures, these blocks are hell-bent on forming a flimsy, passionless tower that all your friends will shake their heads at, asking, “How has that not fallen apart yet?”
Tread lightly, lest you get ghosted.