A fun game night for me is hanging out with my friends, chatting, and playing our favorite cooperative board games. I’m not very competitive when it comes to games in general, but a lot of my friends can get intense if they are facing off against each other. So it’s good to force them to work together every once in a while.
Thankfully there are a variety of cooperative board games out there that can be fun for the competitive and casual gamer. We’ve put together a list of the best cooperative board games out there; but before we dive in, lets find out what type of cooperative games are good for your next get together.
Types of Cooperative Games
Not all co-op games are the same. In fact, you may still find some elements of the typical competitive games in some. Here are some of the flavors you’ll typically encounter:
All versus the Game
The goal here is to work together to defeat the obstacles presented by the game itself. You’ll typically have to strategize quite a bit, with everyone playing to their own strengths and abilities to ensure everyone survives and you can complete the objective.
All versus One
I know more than a few people who have no trouble at all with being the villain to everyone else’s hero. If you know someone with the bravado to say “Come at me, bro” and survive, an all-versus-one match could be just the thing.
All versus the Traitor
In this sort of board game, everyone starts out on the same side — until an event happens, and someone turns against everyone else. Sometimes you have to figure out who the traitor is, sometimes you just have to survive them.
Team games are probably the least cooperative of all the types of cooperative board games because in the end it’s every team for themselves, but it can be a good way to reduce the friction while still keeping that edge of competition and aggression.
10 Best Cooperative Board Games
If you’re looking for something a bit different (or to maybe salvage a friendship or two), why not try our recommendations for the best cooperative board games?
1. Pandemic (All versus the Game)
It’s like a thriller movie in board game form: In Pandemic, players must work together to stop the outbreak of four diseases threatening the globe.
In this case, you and the other players will have to decide how to best allocate your resources and which actions to take — moving between cities, treating the infected population, researching a cure, and building a research station. Each player has unique abilities to use to their advantage throughout the game, too.
The Pandemic expansions, On the Brink, In the Lab, and State of Emergency, modify the rules to allow an additional player (bringing it from 4 people to 5). They also introduce new characters and events to shake up the gameplay, so you’re not going to get bored with this game any time soon.
Players: 2-4 (5 with expansions) Play time: 45 minutes Ages: 8+
2. Betrayal At House On The Hill (All versus the Traitor)
In Betrayal at House on the Hill, players work together to explore a magnificent old mansion. Each turn players “build” the house as they uncover its secrets, including frightening spirits and grim omens. The suspense builds as you encounter each horror, until the Haunt is triggered and one player secretly betrays the others. Then, the players must work together to stop the traitor if they want to survive.
While Betrayal at House on the Hill might seem like a time investment, it’s easily one of the best cooperative board games. The game comes with 50 different scenarios. And since you build the house as you go with modular tiles, the experience is never quite the same. It can, however, take up a bit of time, especially for a group of new players (but let’s face it: that’s the case in almost any new game), so you should plan your game night accordingly.
Players: 3-6 Play time: 60 minutes Ages: 12+
3. Forbidden Desert (All versus the Game)
Forbidden Desert puts players in the harsh desert ruins of an ancient civilization and pits them against the elements. Players must team up to find and then excavate 4 pieces of an ancient flying contraption that is their only means of escape.
Complicating that is a storm that moves around the ruins with each turn, re-covering areas you’ve already excavated. And the storm increases its intensity each time. On top of that, players must avoid the heat of the sun and make sure their water supplies don’t run out.
I like Forbidden Desert because it really does demand strategy. You have to know what resources you have and when to use them for maximum impact, and players have to be willing to help one another out. Otherwise you’ll wind up buried under sand just as you discover where the last piece is. Trust me, I know from experience.
Players: 2-5 Play time: 45 minutes Ages: 10+
4. Sentinels of the Multiverse (All versus the Game)
If you’re a fan of comic books, Sentinels of the Multiverse is the perfect cooperative board game. It puts the players in the shoes of comic book-style superheroes and pits them against both a villain and the environment (both self-run decks). The goal is simple: Stop the villain before every hero is incapacitated.
I LOVE how nerdy this cooperative board game is, and it’s incredibly fun to play. There’s some pretty familiar character archetypes for those of you who are avid comic book fans, and each one has a slightly different style of play. The fact that there’s no player elimination and that you can still use some of your powers to help the team even if you are incapacitated, is a plus. There are multiple heroes, villains, and environments to choose from so gameplay is never quite the same — especially when you factor in the expansions: Rook City, Infernal Relics, Shattered Timelines, Vengeance, and Wrath of the Cosmos. You can even assemble a team of villains so that you can battle against the ultimate league of evil.
Players: 1-5 Play time: 30-60 minutes Ages: 8+
5. Flash Point: Fire Rescue (All versus the Game)
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is in no way something that falls in my normal repertoire of games (I lean heavily toward fantasy and sci-fi). But it’s brilliantly design makes it one of the best cooperative board games to play with your family, especially if you have kids. The goal is simple: Put out the fire before the building burns to the ground and lives are lost.
It’s an all-versus-the-game situation, which means that everyone has to team up and develop a strategy. Players have several actions they can take — you can put out a fire, chop through a wall, or carry someone to safety, among other choices. You can win the game by rescuing 7 victims — or lose by failing to rescue 4.
What is really cool is that there are multiple difficulty levels. It’s not just “base game + harder variant.” There’s the kid-friendly Family variant, as well as 3 other levels of gameplay: Recruit, Veteran, and Heroic. Recruit level is similar to Family, while Veteran and Heroic escalate in difficulty.
Players: 1-6 Play time: 45 minutes Ages: 10+
6. The Resistance (All versus the Traitor/Teams)
The Resistance isn’t quite your usual fare for cooperative board games. At its heart, it’s an all-versus-the-traitor game, except that in this case, there are several traitors working together. You could even classify it as a team game, except that only the traitors know who the other traitors are. It’s also designed for up to 10 players, which also makes it a great party game.
In the game, the Resistance must carry out missions to undermine the Empire. Unbeknownst to them, Imperial spies have infiltrated their ranks. The game plays out across several rounds, with a leader nominating players to a team. Everyone then votes on whether to approve the team — and if it isn’t approved, the next leader repeats the process. Once a mission is approved, the team members secretly vote on whether the mission succeeds or fails. The game ends after 3 successes, or 3 failures.
Unlike a lot of the other co-op board games on this list, you’re going to have to do a bit of bluffing and deduction, so there’s certainly a competitive element, but you also need to work together, no matter which side you’re on.
There’s also several expansions, including Hostile Intent and Hidden Agenda. A standalone spinoff, The Resistance: Avalon, is set in Camelot. However, it can be combined into the base deck of The Resistance for a twist on gameplay.
Players: 5-10 Play time: 30 minutes Ages: 13+
7. Eldritch Horror (All versus the Game)
Eldritch Horror is a sort of sequel to an earlier board game, Arkham Horror. Both are based on Lovecraftian mythology, so yes, you and your fellow game players will be facing off against the Ancient Ones. Eldritch Horror is by far the longest cooperative board game on this list, with a play time of 2 to 4 hours. Players work together to investigate strange phenomena and try to prevent an Ancient One from entering the world — or stopping it once it does. Along the way, players will face dangers that can leave them with injuries both physical and mental, as well as unwelcome debts that must be repaid.
Unlike Arkham Horror and its expansions, which are confined to a single city or a handful of them, Eldritch Horror has a global scale, meaning players travel all over. The gameplay has also been refined for a more streamlined experience — at least in comparison to its predecessor. And don’t forget to pick up the expansions, Forsaken Lore, Mountains of Madness, and Strange Remnants.
Players: 1-8 Play time: 120-240 minutes Ages: 14+
8. Hanabi (All versus the Game)
I like Hanabi because it’s quite a bit different than the other co-op board games on this list. The game has a vaguely Japanese feel: The name comes from the Japanese word for “fireworks” and the idea is that you and your friends are trying to create a pyrotechnics display. To do that, you need to lay down cards in the correct ascending order.
Here’s the catch: You don’t actually know what’s in your hand. Only the other players can see your cards, and it’s up to them to help you figure out not only which cards you have but where they are in your hand. They can give you pieces of information that help you figure out which card is the one you need to play next. But beware, you only have so many tries to get the order right!
The reason Hanabi is one of the best cooperative board games that you really do have to work together. You can’t just have one player go off and do their own thing because they think they know what’s best. It’s also rather like a brain teaser, which I find very engaging.
Players: 2-5 Play time: 25 minutes Ages: 8+
9. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases (All versus the Game)
Looking to match wits with none other than the genius detective, Sherlock Holmes? Look no further and pick up a box of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective.
This game pits you and your team against Detective Homes himself as you struggle to solve crimes that perplex even the best of Scotland Yard. You’ll be given a directory/phone book of London, newspapers, maps, and a case book to pore through. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure game – you select the places to visit, read what transpires there and see what clues you find, and then put together all the pieces in your head. Once you’ve finalized your answers, you can answer the quiz booklet and see how you fared against the famous detective of Baker Street.
There are 10 confounding cases in each box, but should you feel the need to do more detective work, there are other editions of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective that you can get your hands on, such as the Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures, The Carlton House & Queen’s Park, and many more.
Players: 1-8 Play time: 60-120 minutes Ages: 13+
10. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island (All versus the Game)
If game night for you and your buddies means building a hut in the middle of a raging typhoon with only one hammer amongst you while also trying to avoid becoming a pack of wolves’ dinner, then Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on Cursed Island will satisfy your need for complete and utter chaos.
This game puts you in the shoes of up to four castaways – you can be a cook, a carpenter, an explorer, or a soldier, and all of you must work together to overcome everything that said cursed island tries to throw at you. You’ll have to find food, shelter, and clothing, all while avoiding the elements and the other furry or feathered inhabitants of the island. The best part? You’ll have to craft most everything, because shirts don’t grow on trees.
Winning the game means two things. First, completing the goals listed in the many scenarios you can choose from. Second, not dying. Both are harder than they seem. It’s recommended that people playing this game have either a strong resolve or a good sense of humor, because based on other people’s experiences with the game, everything going belly up is highly likely.
Players: 1-4 Play time: 60-120 minutes Ages: 14+
Guide to the Co-op Game Night Menu
So what kind of food do you serve for the best cooperative board game night? I like the idea of something served family style, or a one-pot meal — in other words, something communal. It ties into the theme beautifully, but more importantly, it’s less work for you, and a bit less cleanup. I am also trying to keep things somewhat simple.
Our kitchen generates an uncomfortable amount of heat, which then wafts into the dining room, which makes me loath to turn on the oven when people are over. And most people don’t want to stand over a stove while everyone else plays a board game. No, we need simple and quick… Which got me to thinking, and here are my solutions:
Slow-Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
|Even when the weather is warm, I still like a hot meal. And in the fall and winter, there’s just nothing better. This slow-cooker soup delivers all of that, but all you need to do is add the ingredients to the pot in the morning and let it go for a few hours. You can garnish it with as many or as few toppings as you like.|
View the recipe Slow-Cooker Chicken Taco Soup Recipe here
|While we’re on the subject of soups… gazpacho is a tomato-based cold soup from Spain. The Pioneer Woman has the best recipe to make it easy and it comes together in less than 30 minutes. Make it ahead of time or pull a friend into the kitchen to help you do the prep!|
In some places, gazpacho is thickened with bread, but this recipe doesn’t call for that. It doesn’t mean you can’t serve it with a nice crusty bread, though! The Pioneer Woman also grills some shrimp to toss on top. That’s entirely up to you, but it will add some protein, which usually appeases the carnivores in my life.
View the Gazpacho recipe here
|Now, if you’re brave enough to turn on the oven, or if it’s the dead of winter when you stumble across this post, try a pizza ring. I know, pizza is kind of stereotypical, but it’s also one of the best cooperative game night foods. This recipe uses crescent rolls instead of a dough and you roll it into a ring. Everything pulls apart so it’s easy to serve, and it cooks quick.|
The best part is, it’s kind of a no-recipe recipe. How do you like your pie? Mushrooms, green peppers, and olives? Or maybe pepperoni, cream cheese and pineapple? Straight up pepperoni? You can substitute whatever ingredients you want here — just be sure to keep the proportions about the same.
Recipes provided courtesy of Taste of Home magazine. Find more great recipes at www.tasteofhome.com.
I’m also a fan of potlucks, because it cuts down on the amount of work you have to do. Stick to foods you and your friends are comfortable with!
If you don’t want to plan full meal for game night, I always recommend having some snacks for grazing. Why not set up a chocolate fondue? It’s a little bit messier than I would normally like, but…it’s hard to say no to chocolate, marshmallows, strawberries, cookies, pretzels..well, there’s a very long list of things you can dip in chocolate. Even bacon! Food Network has an easy chocolate fondue you can make in a slow cooker.
Co-op board games are perfect when you have a highly competitive group of board game players or a totally mellow group of friends — or a mix of both! Because these games come in different flavors, there’s truly something for everyone. Some co-operative board games will take up your entire night, while others you can easily tackle a few different games in one go. Either way, it’s a safe bet there won’t be any table flipping or rage quits.
What do you think are the best co-op board games? Did we leave something off the list? What kind of foods do you think tie into a co-op board game night? Let us know in the comments!