The 30 Best Cooperative Board Games Ever Made

Co-op board games for every play-style preference and age!
Odin Odin (25)
0

I adore cooperative board games. In fact, they’re probably my favorite type of board game, even though I only discovered their existence about five years ago. As a kid, the only board games available were competitive, and even co-op games like D&D would often take on that competitive edge. With my discovery of games like Pandemic, Arkham Horror, and Forbidden Island, however, I found myself happily immersed in the sort of team-orientated gaming experience I had always longed for: just us players against the game itself.

These are the games I recommend that parents play with their kids, too, over anything that features a more competitive-orientated mindset. Helping your kids learn cooperation and team-focused tactics earlier will serve them so much better later in life than games of one-oneupmanship. For anyone who ends up feeling like the odd person out at parties, too, these are the games that make sure everyone is included and has a great time!

Posted in these interests:
Board game being played
h/boardgames4 guides
Hocus Pocus

It’s a full moon tonight. That’s why all the weirdos are out.”

Well, one of those weirdos is me any time that this game is laid out on a table. The Hocus Pocus film is a holiday classic, so naturally, I’m there for the gamified version as well, particularly because it manages to take one theme from the 1993 Disney film and turn it into the sort of simple and fun card-based game that can be played by almost anyone, anywhere.

How it's played

The goal is to ruin the Sanderson Witches’ potion three times before the sun has risen, a feat accomplished by matching different types of cards held by the players around the table. There are some fun tie-in moments for fans of the film, too, in the form of Tricks that players can use to overcome advanced challenges in the game (and that are based on scenes from the movie).

In all, it’s a really quick and easy thematic game that’s perfect for a Halloween board game evening with friends.

Articulate!

Do you have a verbose repertoire of similar synonyms to dispose of? This is the game for you if so. Technically, this is a team game, which I sometimes find just as stressful as single-person competitive games, but Articulate! is so much fun that it hardly feels like a competitive game at all. It’s also a great party game that can handle anywhere between 4-20 players, making it perfect for larger groups.

How it's played

The goal is simple: draw a card, describe a word from the card (without actually saying the word or miming it), and then repeat the process for as many cards as you can within a time limit. The pawns then move forward on the board the number of spaces equal to the number of correctly described (and guessed) cards.

In this way, you can’t say “Mousetrap.” You would have to say, “Device that kills rodents with a spring-loaded metal doodad.”

It’s a great party game with a far more genial spirit than most team-based trivia games, making it a win in this co-op gamer's book.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

I love small, easy-to-carry games, the kind that I can carry with me and play with friends on the run. The Crew is a tiny and wonderful co-op game with a cool space aesthetic that I adore. A trick-taking card-based game, it all comes down to playing the right kind of card at the right time (color or number). Each round it gets harder to complete the mission, and the combinations of cards required can get incredibly complicated.

How it's played

Everyone is trying to complete the missions together and get the players to succeed or fail as a group. This is a lot better, in my opinion than most trick-taking games where the competitive aspect can make things feel less fun if you’re not quite as quick on the draw as your friends.

Quirky Circuits

Cute, quirky, and cooperative are all great words. And Quirky Circuits is what happens when all three get combined into a wonderfully silly board game.

How it's played

The game's goal is to program a robot, which is accomplished by playing different cards that provide the robot with different actions and movements… the catch? Each player is putting in a different command but doesn’t know exactly what their companions are putting in; to fulfill the scenario of the game, the players must try to work together to guess the type of cards they’re playing and solve the puzzle of how to program the robot cooperatively.

I like games that manage to make players think outside the box, and the limitations provided here on how the players can communicate rewards players who can make seemingly odd decisions that manage to pair well with the choices of their fellows for the good of all.

Legendary Encounters: Alien

I wrote about Legendary Encounters: Alien before, but the cooperative aspect is so great that it really needed to be stressed. LE: Alien is based on the film franchise of the same name, where players take on the role of different characters trying to survive a hoard of monstrous Xenomorphs while fulfilling certain scenario goals. It’s an aesthetically gorgeous game that really feels like something pulled straight from the universe (though the graphics are quite bloody at times, so this is definitely not recommended for kids), so I highly recommend it for fans of the films.

How it's played

The co-op aspect is what I want to concentrate on today, however, because the game demands that players work carefully as a team to survive the Xenomorph threat. Each player starts with a basic deck of cards and then builds that deck through play, adding new cards to provide new options for tactical choices to play. This becomes really important for completing objectives during gameplay since the game has dynamic components that respond to player actions — so making the correct play becomes vital for the success and survival of the team.

The game really is meant for players who have watched and love the Aliens films, but the gameplay is exciting enough that even players who have just seen one of the films or even casually heard of the franchise should be able to enjoy (so long as they don’t mind all the gore on the cards).

Dragonfire

As I’ve mentioned before: I love D&D, but when you combined D&D with some of my other favorite gaming types, like deck-building and cooperative board games, you’ve absolutely ignited my interest (in this case, with Dragonfire).

How it's played

Dragonfire allows players to pick between a number of different D&D races and classes and then pits them against the game itself in a number of scenarios that come together to form a full D&D campaign. The game expands, literally, by adding new expansions, and the character’s progression through the game is marked by an increase in the cards available to them in their decks.

This is absolutely not a simple game, and since the game is heavily based within the Forgotten Realms D&D setting it might play best with gamers who are already familiar with the classic D&D setting — but it doesn’t require it, nor does it require any experience playing D&D. In fact, I might suggest this game to players who don’t want to play D&D, but who like the D&D aesthetic.

V-Commandos

A World War II-themed game, in V-Commandos, the players take on the role of allied commandos attempting to undermine and defeat the Nazi menace. The game uses an ingenious tile system that allows for a new game board with every game, adding a ton of replay value to the game. Players try to fulfill different objectives on this generated map, avoiding Nazi soldiers along the way.

How it's played

The aesthetics of the game are cartoonish but fun, and the mechanics are complex enough to allow even more experienced groups of players to have a lot of fun (but not so complex that newer players can’t enjoy it and get the hang of things fairly quickly). There are plenty of additional randomizing factors that make the game even more fun, and the fact that it’s a cooperative game really makes things shine for me. The stealth aspect of the game is really cool, too, which means that avoiding combat is really the core concept (making it quite a bit different from most dungeon-crawl-style games).

Jaws: The Game

Written about previously in my list of board games based on movies, Jaws: The Game fast become one of my favorites, so it gets another mention. The Jaws movie was the world’s first true blockbuster film, and the board game follows the film’s premise perfectly. Players cooperate to save the citizens of Amity Island and kill the monstrous shark hunting the island waters.

How it's played

Following a really cool three-act structure, the game has different phases where the goals and even the game board itself change, presenting players with a wonderfully dynamic experience. Now, technically there is some competition here, since the players taking on the roles of Brody, Hooper, and Quint are up against the player who controls the shark, but the experience is so delightfully cinematic (and the shark feels so cool to control) that it doesn’t at all have the same vibe as traditionally-competitive games.

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

That blasted Biff Tannen has stolen the DeLorean for a joyride through time, messing up the space-time continuum and threatening the very fabric of the Universe itself! Behold, Back to the Future: Dice Through Time!

How it's played

Players take on the role of characters from the classic science fiction film series Back to the Future, namely Doc Brown and Marty McFly — and their counterparts from different times! Working together, the players move through time trying to clean up the discrepancies left behind by that dastardly Biff.

The game is a lot of fun and has a delightfully classic aesthetic that makes me nostalgic for the films. Players zip around and around through time, trying to defeat Biff and remove all the timeline discrepancies along the way. This game manages to capture the feeling of the films quite well, managing to make the experience of time travel fun while keeping to some of the thematic touches of the films.

CO₂: Second Chance

It’s sadly no secret that in this era of the Anthropocene, humanity’s effect on the climate has become utterly disastrous. We’ve got a slim chance at halting the worst effects of climate catastrophe, but only if the whole world comes together and makes drastic changes as quickly as possible. That’s the state of the real world, but it’s also the foundation for this incredible cooperative game, CO₂: Second Chance, where players must work together to bring down the CO2 emissions of the global energy infrastructure in time to avoid the utter ruin of the planet.

How it's played

I’m a huge fan of games that get people to think, and considering how vital the situation regarding climate change is in reality, anything that gets people to approach the topic is a win in my book. But it also happens that this game is really, really fun, with enough complexities to allow for a huge range of replay value, and the cooperative aspect to keep everyone at the table happy (or at least united in victory or defeat).

Burgle Bros.

Have you ever wanted to achieve the perfect heist? Well, now you can with Burgle Bros., where the players play a band of thieves trying to stage the ultimate break-in and robbery. It’s a pretty unique and epic game, and not just because it features an optional 3D game where the game is played out on an actual cardboard tower that represents the different floors of the building being burgled by the players. It’s a charming game, with great artwork and a clever design that packs a lot into a surprisingly small package (if you’re not using that optional tower).

How it's played

In Burgle Bros., players take different actions to flip over cards and try to find the safe, all while avoiding alarms and keeping the alarms from being triggered (or triggering the alarms strategically to draw the guards away).

It’s a game of stealth, not combat, and if any character is caught, everyone loses. But, if the players work together to design their heist carefully, the game will feel appropriately epic, just like being thrust into the middle of one of the Oceans films.

Castle Panic

Castle Panic might have a mechanic where a single player can win but it’s actually a co-op game since, effectively, the game is a cooperative game where the players work together to defend their castle from a swarm of monsters. It’s a game that’s also technically for kids… but don’t believe that one either — it’s simple but can be surprisingly difficult, and is certainly fun for the whole family. It’s also a really well-designed game, with fun artwork and a cool 3D aspect for the castle.

How it's played

Essentially, it’s a combat-mechanic game, where the players use different cards to harm or affect different attacking creatures (goblins and trolls) who are slowly moving through different zones on the game board toward the castle.

The game has some delightfully subtle design components, such as the method for determining how damage is dealt to the monsters. The tower defense genre of the game really can provide unlimited fun, but making it a co-op game was really inspired since the players all get to win or lose together.

The Grizzled Cooperative Card Game

The art style of The Grizzled is one of my favorite of any game out there, and on that aesthetic alone I had a great feeling about it, but when I found out that it was also a co-op game I knew that I needed it in my collection. The concept is simple: work together as a team to overcome various threats to survive the trenches of World War One and make it out alive with as little trauma as possible.

How it's played

The idea that the game isn’t about simply blasting away at the “bad guys” but is rather about supporting your friends is really unique and lovely, and the game manages to offer a very unique experience that can appeal to players of literally any experience level. I love the theme and unique experience of play that The Grizzled provides, which is really different than anything else I’ve encountered before.

XCOM: The Board Game

XCOM started as a turn-based video game series, and the board game follows in the thematic footsteps of that series: a squad of soldiers fighting against a hoard of alien attackers. The game features three phases, with the middle phase controlled by an app that handles some of the randomization and times the players.

How it's played

Players take control of different characters assigned to different positions in the game, such as running missions, budgeting for missions, or maintaining the defense of the planet from enemy UFOs. Each player gets a few different roles, with one player taking on the role of “game master” who controls the forces of the aliens based on the information provided by the game app.

The players need to work together to keep the world’s panic low and survive various assaults from the alien forces. The automated feature of the game through the app is quite intelligent and allows game mechanics to be quite complex without overwhelming any of the players. I usually stay away from games that force me to use a device to play them, but in this case, it fits with the theme and allows for all of XCOMs brilliant complexity to really shine through.

Zombicide

So proclaimed the cover of my old VHS copy of Dawn of the Dead, a George Romero classic that I still rewatch and enjoy. Zombies have always been a point of fascination for me, and I’ve played most of the zombie games out there, be they video games or otherwise. Trying to replicate the zombie-horror experience on the board game side of things has been attempted many times, but I feel that a co-op game like Zombicide is really the most successful at tackling this particular genre.

How it's played

It’s really quite a simple game: as you kill zombies, you get more skilled, and as you get more skilled, more zombies appear! It’s got huge replay value because the number and type of scenarios are vast, and it’s easy to create your own. This is absolutely the game you want to have ready the next time your (appropriately vaccinated) friends come over for a Walking Dead marathon.

Hanabi

The premise of Hanbi is awesome: the only person who can’t see your cards is you, and you need to work with the hints of your fellow players to figure out what to play next. The name of the game is the Japanese word for fireworks, and the delightful artwork of Hanabi lives up to this well.

How it's played

The whole point of the game is to create the perfect fireworks show, working as a team to play the right cards and finish the fireworks display before the deck runs down. Playing cards into different groups based on color and number, you can build up the types of cards together until you have the whole fireworks display created.

Gloomhaven

Most board games are one-and-done events where players sit down, knock out one to six hours of gameplay, and call it quits. But what if the game continued? Gloomhaven is a great co-op game where the world literally changes based on the decisions players make. Like a pick your own adventure story, players make choices at the end of a scenario about what their characters do and how the story continues. In this way, a single story could continue for multiple sessions, and the game world will continually evolve in unique ways depending on the choices made.

How it's played

I’m a huge fan of Dungeons&Dragons, so seeing a D&D-style campaign get placed into the structure of a board game is a massive win for me. Add to that the feature of it being a cooperative board game, where the players fight together against the game itself, and I’m hooked.

Mysterium

Mysterium is a really fun and aesthetically pleasing board game where the players take on the roles of psychic mediums and the ghost they are attempting to contact in order to solve the mystery of a Scottish mansion. The ghost is unable to recall the traumatic manner of its death without the help of the mediums, who must work together to explore the ghost’s past and the reason for its demise and subsequent haunting.

How it's played

This is a surprisingly fast-paced mystery exploration game, making it the perfect party game for a relatively large group of players (as many as 7). The mediums must all work together in order to uncover the secret, for it will require successful psychic visions from each of them to uncover the full mystery before the ghost dissipates forever and the mystery remains forever unsolved.

Arkham Horror

The Lovecraftian mythos is one of my all-time favorites for its sleepy and grim aesthetic, its otherworldly horror, and its psychological miasma at the utter unknowability of the Universe. H.P. Lovecraft may have been terrifyingly racist, but his weird mind also spawned a powerful modern horror landscape that has taken on a life entirely its own (and has been adopted by far better writers — and people — than he). That's exactly where Arkham Horror comes in.

How it's played

Thus, diving into the murky world of a Lovecraftian mystery, with all its chthonic alien unknowns, is exactly the sort of thing that floats my proverbial boat. Arkham Horror is also a cooperative game. The players choose from different investigators to explore the mystery of the rising Ancient One and prevent that cyclopean intelligence of malignant horror from manifesting on the mortal plane!

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Okay, so it’s no secret that I love co-op games far more than I enjoy competitive games…but it has to be said that Betrayal at House on the Hill manages to blend things in such a way that the best of both worlds are achieved. In one: it’s a game of betrayal, with the players exploring a haunted mansion while trying to figure out which of their number has betrayed them!

How it's played

One of the things I enjoy most about this game is that the mansion is created fresh for every game using tiles, meaning that there’s a lot of replay value here beyond what the base mechanics of play provide: any game that actually alters how the game board functions with every game is a win in my book. But I also have to say that the suspense created by the betrayal actually makes the game a lot of fun because not only are the players all trying to overcome the dangers of the haunted mansion, they’re desperately trying to uncover the traitor in their midst.

This is a really easy game to play, with about an hour average game time, and perfect for a large group of 5-6 players. All of this makes it a perfect party game with friends, allowing a sizable group to tackle the game with minimum set-up and difficulty that caters to gamers of all backgrounds and ages.

The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet

When your crashlanded ship is in danger of being overwhelmed by a hoard of ravenous alien bugs, it’s going to take the cooperative wit and savvy of the whole crew to survive and affect the repairs required to blast off to safety!

In The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet, the tower-defense genre of games is blended wonderfully into the world of card-based board games. A host of different character cards allows for a wide range of replayability, and the game has a progressive difficulty means that things won’t get too easy even for experienced crews.

How it's played

While the game concept of defense against the onslaught of enemy bugs while gathering the resources needed to get your ship out of dodge is simple, the fun aesthetic of the artwork, the unique game board design, and the intense card management required to win makes this a fun and demanding game that players from a wide range of gaming background can enjoy.

Forbidden Island

By the same designer as Forbidden Desert, Forbidden Island is another cooperative game where the players must work together to uncover artifacts from the island before the ocean sweeps in and everything sinks forever to the bottom of the waves! It’s a fair bit simpler than Forbidden Desert, so if you’re playing with inexperienced gamers or younger kids, this might be a good option, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun, even for experienced gamers.

How it's played

Trying to play the game on its harder modes requires careful planning and teamwork. Each player handles a different character with different abilities. The work of shoring up the sinking island must be undertaken while also collecting the cards needed to grab the artifacts hidden on various island squares.

Since the game board is created by placing down the island tiles in different combinations, the game has a lot of replay value, and can be made easier or more difficult based on the placement of the tiles. It’s a lot of fun to work with your friends at approaching the sinking island and figuring out how to use everyone’s abilities to their fullest. The progressive difficulty of the game (the island sinks faster the longer the game goes on) makes for a surprising and delightful level of tension even among experienced gaming groups.

Codenames Duet

There are a few different iterations of Codenames, but Codenames Duet is a great version that brings a fun co-op-based experience to the system. It’s a guessing game, or clue-based game, where you work with your team to try and discover the spies while avoiding the assassins who are lurking in wait for you!

How it's played

To play, a number of cards featuring certain words (like knife and razor) are placed down in rows. The goal is to provide your team member with a clue based on a decoder card and try to get the “Spy” cards placed atop the word cards in the correct spot. What gets tricky is that the decoder card has different locations for both players, so, in order to get all the spies down requires careful planning(and hinting) between the two players.

There are a whole host of different “scenarios” that can be played, so the replay value of Codenames Duet is massive. Likewise, it’s a really compact game and therefore great for travel (though it does require a fair amount of playing space on which to lay out the cards). I love this one and think the transition of the original Codenames to this co-op version is a really exciting update that I think makes this a huge win.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Okay, I love puzzles. Playing D&D, one of my favorite things is to explore a cleverly crafted mystery and poke at it until new story delights to pour out. That’s probably partly due to my childhood love of all things Sherlock Holmes, which is a love that has survived perfectly well through to my adulthood. (I grew up listening to the Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce versions, but my favorite is probably Jeremy Brett’s incredible and iconic version).

How it's played

This game is not a game of luck; you won’t find any dice rolling here! Instead, the game hinges on your mental acuity — that is... your wits and your talent for the art of deduction. The game has been researched thoroughly by actual Holmesian scholars and experts in Victorian London, so you’re going to get an immersive playing experience as you try to solve these mysteries (an experience enhanced by the great artwork and design of the set.

This is absolutely a game that benefits from having a group of friends coming together to solve the mystery (though there’s a single-player version as well). Can you and your fellows solve the case, or will the criminals get away and escape into the gray London fog?

Horrified Board Game

The classic monster films of the 1930s and 1940s have filtered into the public consciousness like nothing before them: Universal Pictures really did manage to create some universal icons of the horror genre, from The Mummy, and The Wolfman, to Dracula, or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. This is definitely one of the best board games based on the movies.

How it's played

In Horrified you take on all of these iconic horror monsters, pitting yourself and your friends against the most dastardly group of fiends ever assembled! Each monster is unique and requires a different tactical approach to defeat it, working together to take down these horrors before it’s too late for the villagers.

I really dig the design of this one: it feels really high quality, with gorgeous artwork and sculpted minis, and it puts me right in the mood for some candlelit gaming, maybe with the classic movies themselves in the background. It’s also easy to adjust the difficulty of the game, meaning you get a lot of replay value out of it, something I always look for when searching for new games.

Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a really hot cooperative game where the players work together as a team of firefighters to respond to an emergency call. The game board is a house where a fire has broken out, and each player completes a number of actions during a turn, from moving, opening and closing doors, and putting out fires. The game fights back by using a randomized mechanic to create new fires throughout the house.

How it's played

Players need to work together to keep the fires under control in order to save the people in the house before the fires get out of control and the whole structure burns down. This is a really unique and fun setting with some great co-op mechanics that reward players for working together thoughtfully as a team. The aesthetic of the game is a little simplistic and generic perhaps, but overall the mechanics and theme make this an absolute win if you’re searching for a new cooperative game for your family or gaming group to play.

Pandemic

I’ve written about Pandemic before because, frankly, it’s just too ironic a game not to have played a whole bunch during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also happens to be one of the best classic co-op games around, with a simple and satisfying ruleset that allows for a fair bit of replay (aided further by any of the numerous expansions).

How it's played

The goal is simple: work with your team of disease-fighting experts to try and stop the four disease outbreaks threatening the world. Become increasingly frustrated by repeated outbreaks in the city you literally just cleared of disease! (Probably because people refused to wear masks). Share knowledge, plan your attack, and try to keep the world’s population from dipping into the single digits. It’s a lot of fun.

Marvel Champions baord game

The Marvel universe is really the perfect place for a cooperative board game. After all, who doesn’t want to team up as a group of superheroes working to take down some super-villainous threat? One of the coolest things about this game, too, is that it’s a “living” game with constant updates and expansions that allow for new cards and scenarios released over time.

How it's played

The goal of the game is to defeat a supervillain and his “scheme” as well as overcome a number of secondary villains and threats. The players all come with a deck of cards that gives them different potential moves and goals, as well as a specific threat (Peter Parker comes with an eviction notice, proving that not even Superheroes can escape the villainy of capitalism). Players take turns and try to accomplish as many actions as they can and keep the villain from accomplishing their scheme. Players have to work together on this one, just like a big team-up in the Marvel verse, making it a lot of fun to play with other comic-geek friends.

The artwork for these cards is really awesome, too, so I give this one a big win for aesthetics.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island

If you were like me as a kid, one of your favorite stories was probably Robinson Crusoe, where a family gets stranded on a deserted island and must use their cunning and pioneering spirit to survive the harsh environment. It’s one of those classic dramatic tropes that so many different shows, films, and books have explored, enduring because it holds a measure of fascination for people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

How it's played

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island attempts to recreate this classic theme as a cooperative board game, where the players must work together to build shelter, find food, fend off wild beasts, and even stave off inclement weather. Meanwhile, a secret lurks at the heart of the island waiting to be discovered…

This is exactly the sort of co-op board game that I adore because the decisions that the players make have a real and visceral effect on the evolution and outcome of the gaming session. It really feels like an epic adventure spanning many weeks rather than a gaming session that can be completed in two hours.

Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Desert (originally Forgotten Desert in its German release) is really cool concept game where players must work cooperatively to find the pieces for an ancient machine and put them together to make the mysterious ship function once again. The game mechanics are constantly working to overwhelm the players, with each player having to defend against the relentless desert sun and wind to survive. The sand constantly tries to cover the desert, and the sun dehydrates the players whenever they are caught outside. If even a single-player runs out of water and dies, the whole team loses, and the team loses as well if the shifting sands completely bury the whole ancient city.

How it's played

More complex than Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert forces players to come up with ingenious approaches to defeating the game, and the replay value is sufficiently massive to reward you with a nearly limitless amount of fun.

30 board games every geeky gamer and film lover needs to play!
Odin Odin (25)
0

Board games have been a staple of human civilization for at least 7,000 years.