It means that players have to form teams that collaborate, help and support each other. At times, some may even need to sacrifice oneself for a team win. Usually, cooperative gameplay implies that everyone wins or loses together, but there are exceptions.
For the last ten years, coop board games have been rapidly increasing in popularity. It appeals to large audiences who enjoy the feel and thrill of team spirit and collaboration.
Technically, there are two types of cooperative board games, full-cooperative and semi-cooperative. The difference is that full-coop board games have all participants playing against the game. Those games are also known as traditional cooperative board games.
On the other hand, semi-cooperative board games are not as straightforward. Most of the time, they represent two or more teams playing against each other or one team playing against one bad guy (played by one of the participants). In addition, some semi-coop games use secret identities and traitors where players don’t know each other’s side. This naturally, creates a sense of suspicion and paranoia drastically different from the team spirit of a traditional full-coop board game.
The list of the top 10 best cooperative board games below includes full coop board games only. If you are after board games that feature traitors, we will cover them in one of our upcoming reviews.
Best COOPERATIVE Board Games – Quick Comparison
Below is a quick comparison table of the best cooperative board games available on the market today.
|Codenames Duet||Deduction||Very Easy||2-4||15-30 Min|
|Robinson Crusoe||Survival||Hard||1-4||60-120 Min|
|Legendary Marvel||Superheroes||Easy||1-5||45 Min|
|T.I.M.E Stories||Storytelling||Medium||2-4||90-240 Min|
|Forbidden Desert||Adventure||Easy||2-5||45 Min|
|Mysterium||Investigation||Very Easy||2-7||42 Min|
The game has caught the board gaming world by surprise to become the highest rated board game of all times in a matter of months.
At the center of the map is the fantasy city of Gloomhaven surrounded by 95 locations, each representing a different scenario.
As you would expect from excellent fantasy RPG games, character classes in Gloomhaven are unique, with each one having a twist. There is a learning curve if you want to learn how to play them efficiently, but the process is quite enjoyable.
At the start of a turn, players simultaneously choose two cards from their hands and execute them in initiative order. Since players are not allowed to discuss their actions and choices, it makes the gameplay and collaboration semi-secretive.
Although the actions are straightforward for a skirmish game (move, attack, loot, heal, magic, etc.), the hand management is relatively complex.
Combat is resolved using attack decks which limit the luck factor compared to dice. Attack decks are highly customizable so you can build the one that matches your preferred combat style.
Overall, session after session, you will find yourself hooked into leveling-up your hero, who will eventually retire to allow new characters of more powerful classes to enter the game. The city of Gloomhaven features a development path, as it also evolves together with players by introducing new rules progressively. Are you ready for the biggest gaming ride?
|If you are looking for a shared fantasy adventure so extraordinary that you will want to play sessions back to back, don’t look any further! Gloomhaven is pure magic.
It manages to check all the right boxes, and it does it with bold, confident ticks. Each game you play immerses you in with intense power that makes it easy to understand why BGG rates Gloomhaven the best board game of all times. As far as we are concerned, it is a fantastic collaboration experience served with a fantasy sauce that makes it one of best cooperative board games around.
|Amazing game design|
|Not for new gamers|
The term ‘Legacy’ implies that the physical game (cards, board, etc.) changes throughout the game sessions, creating a unique story. Characters might die, cities may fall, and cure may never be found.
During Season 1, multiple dramatic pandemic breakouts have put the World on its knees. Players had to fight viruses, find cures and save cities.
Now, in Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, players get a fresh start as scientists located in floating stations called ‘havens’ somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. They have not been in touch with the rest of the World for over 70 years. It is time to go on a 12-month journey to re-discover the new world.
The gameplay is similar to the original Pandemic game and Season 1. Scenarios are stitched together to create a deep thematic campaign experience. Moreover, decisions you make and actions you take have a long-term or even permanent effect. In other words, you are shaping the world with permanent, irreversible changes. In addition, this time around, changes will get carried across to Season 3 when it comes out.
In general, movement around the world is straightforward and is driven by lines connecting different locations. Players can hop from one city to another traveling by land or sea. Depending on the scenario you will find yourself visiting different areas of the world trying to prevent diseases, discovering cures, building infrastructure or helping your teammates.
Overall, the Legacy mechanism of the everchanging world adds another dimension to an already captivating theme and streamlined gameplay. Rules change part way through the game, and new components get added, forcing players to adapt their gameplay throughout the campaign.
|Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 will throw your team of doctors in a survival race to rediscover an everchanging post-apocalyptic world. You get to shape and grow characters and most importantly, alter the shape of the world with permanent changes that are carried across to future campaigns. The game truly delivers a deeply thematic feel of collaboration and contribution making it one of the best cooperative board games we have ever played. If I had to pick a single coop board game to play with my family, it would be Pandemic Legacy without a doubt.|
|Extremely immersive theme|
|Elegant game design & challenging decisions|
|2018 German Special Prize winner|
|The best legacy board game ever made|
|Campaign can only be played once (because the game will get altered)|
Most of the time, two-player board games are competitive, with players facing each other in a head to head encounter. Codenames Duet, however, takes a different approach creating a unique two-player collaborative experience where players win or lose together.
The board setup contains 25 randomly chosen cards that have one word written on each card. Those cards represent people who are either secret agents or assassins.
The objective of the game is to give each other clues to be able to uncover hiding secret agents. At the same time, you do not want to get this wrong as revealing assassins instead ends the game.
On a turn, you have to give a clue to the other player by saying one word and one number. The other player needs to guess all cards on the table that relate to your hint. For example, if you say ‘3 milk’, then the board has three agents that can be uncovered, and they are somehow related to milk. The other player needs to figure out the relationship and pick the cards to reveal.
Overall, Codenames Duet features a very creative yet an extremely simple mechanism to discover clues. The tension the game manages to create is remarkable. You always find yourself juggling between trying to find as many agent cards as possible in one go versus staying clear of assassins.
|Codenames Duet is a perfect game for couples (or besties) especially if you have an art, culture or books itch. The game somehow manages to make you feel clever and inventive. Besides, there is a true sense of achievement and collaboration, especially when your partner manages to crack challenging clues! Alternatively, the game can be played in teams of two which usually gets excessively loud and crazy fun.|
|Extremely interactive and fun|
|Unique two-player cooperative experience|
|2017 Golden Geek Best 2-player game|
|Quite portable, a good getaway game|
|It can feel a bit abstract / brainy|
Depending on the scenario, you will either build a bonfire, fight cannibals, run from lava, capture King Kong, or even build a family.
Not only do scenarios have different goals, but also feature specific rules, actions, events, and weather. As a result, each scenario is unique and highly thematic.
At the start of a turn, an event gets triggered requiring players to make a decision. The effects of choosing one thing over the other may seed consequences in later turns.
Additionally, you need to take care of producing food and wood. Food is required to keep players going and not to starve. Wood, however, is used for construction purposes.
The main phase of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is an action phase. Each player gets to place his pawn on one of seven action areas he/she wants to trigger. Some of the actions include hunting, exploration, gathering resources, arranging the camp and resting.
Once the pawns are in place, you get to execute the selected actions in a given sequence. And oh boy, things can go wrong here. For most actions, you need to roll three dice. One for success, one for injury and the last one for drawing an adventure card.
Also, when building tools, you need to follow a tech tree. It defines the order you need to develop your tools in. For example, you need to learn how to make a fire before you can use the cooking pot.
Thankfully, for risk-averse, Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island allows to play it safe. Every time you want to take less risk or guarantee the success of an action, you can place an additional pawn on a given action area. At the same time, it is a balancing act as the second pawn could have performed an additional action instead.
Finally, at the end of the turn, you have to roll the Weather dice. However, the weather roll can be punishing and deadly, especially if you are not ready for it. To prepare, you need to have the roof above your head to protect yourself from rain and snow. Additionally, building a palisade guards your hut against wild animal attacks.
Apart from Robinson Crusoe being one of the best cooperative board games we have played, it also works well with almost any number of players. In fact, it has earned its place amongst the best single player board games out there in one of our solo player shootouts, check it out for more details.
|Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island is the ultimate survival cooperative board game experience. Yes, there are plenty of survival-themed board games on the market, but nothing quite matches it. The tension feels real as the scenarios are well thought out and are incredibly thematic. The game continually pushes players to adapt to ever-changing conditions and make tough choices. It demands high levels of player interaction and teamwork, which feels great to experience.|
|Realistic and elegant game design|
|Collaborative feel, teamwork|
|Scenarios are very different and immersive|
|A lot of replay value|
|Rules are be fiddly|
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a deck-building card game of superheroes set in the Marvel universe.
The game is both cooperative and competitive at the same time. Cooperative in a sense that all players win if they defeat the mastermind. And competitive, since the player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
The game plays equally well with any number of players from one to five. It is incredibly dynamic and only takes around 45 minutes to play. At the same time, it manages to pack a surprising amount of action into a relatively short game.
The board game setup takes some time, despite it being a card game. You need to select a scenario (called schemes) to play and one mastermind to fight with. Lastly, you need to form villain and hero decks.
Each player starts the game with a deck of 12 agents. The cards can be used to recruit superheroes or fight bad guys. As players progress in the game, they get to grow their deck by hiring superheroes. It provides for additional firepower, special abilities, and prepares agents to face the mastermind.
Next, the main action starts where players play cards from their hands. In essence, you either recruit a mighty hero to join the team or fight the baddies at various map locations.
Additionally, some cards may represent supporting effects. For example, drawing more cards, increasing your fighting power, or moving some villains around.
The best part of Legendary is that you can create devastating card combinations and chain reactions. Building an efficient card deck is essential to winning the game. It allows you to plan your attack upfront and deliver the strike consisting of multiple connected attacks dealing immense damage.
|Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game is a fast-paced, dynamic and fun card game with Marvel superheroes. It features both cooperative and competitive game modes giving it a unique gaming experience. The deck building process is simple and delivers an endless variety of deadly combinations. Finally, the game provides a ton of replay value due to the multitude of ways it can be set up. If you are looking for the best cooperative board games in a superhero space, you may have just found one.|
|Super thematic and fun!|
|Great Marvel artwork|
|“Only” a card game|
Players take on roles of investigators who explore the Mansion (and sometimes the outdoors too), discover clues and fight monsters to uncover mysterious plots.
The game sets the scene in the Lovecraft horror universe created by H.P. Lovecraft in the early 20th century. Also known as Cthulhu Mythos, the universe features a set of monsters and gods that influence the World in a very unholy way.
The game features four unique scenarios that can be played standalone in no particular order.
Next, you find yourself in a room together with other players. Without any clear directions, you need to start exploring the mansion to find items and clues. Most of the time clues lead you to other clues, but you need to pay attention to the text and your gut feel. The game is also good at deceiving you and forcing you to go down the wrong path.
As you advance your way through the mansion, you get to face monsters spawned by the mansion’s keeper. Pick your battles wisely as sometimes fleeing makes more sense than fighting.
The best part of the game for me is the fact that you never know the objective of the scenario up until the final stages. In other words, you need to search almost the entire house to discover the win condition and understand what on earth is going on.
In addition, the app will also manage events, resolve combats and keep track of monsters and stuff for you.
Component quality is another area where the game stands head and shoulders above many. It is packed with gorgeous miniatures, characters or monsters some of which are huge.
The artwork on cards and the rulebook is beautiful and thematic. Room tiles and the map, are well thought out and feature even the smallest details. All components look and feel both aesthetically and thematically pleasant to create an immersive horror board game experience.
|Mansions of Madness plunges your team of investigators in the fantastic horror mythology created by H.P. Lovecraft. The scenario is gripping, the miniatures are gorgeous, and the artwork is detailed. All elements combined create an immersive horror experience that your friends won’t forget.
Overall, Mansions of Madness has been my personal favorite over the last couple of years. It sits amongst the best cooperative board games that are best enjoyed on a winter night in a chalet somewhere up in the mountains.
|Super immersive horror universe|
|Gorgeous miniatures and artwork|
|Amazing App integration|
|Only 4 scenarios in the base game|
As temporal agents from the future, you are sent back in time by the T.I.M.E agency to protect humanity. You get to take bodies of beings from various realities to complete missions.
Your objective is to prevent paradoxes and temporal faults that threaten the very existence of our world.
Prepare yourself for solving mysteries and stopping evil at all cost. Failing is not an option as you get sent back in time to retry resolving the mission until you finally succeed.
- A scenario deck (or decks) that include all the characters, special rules, setup, map, locations, etc.
- Generic components required to play the scenario: board, dice, objective tokens, resources, player tokens, etc
Depending on the scenario, the resources may have specific meanings such as ammunition, money, magic, sanity, and so on.
T.I.M.E Stories comes with Asylum scenario in the box. But it’s better if we don’t spoil it for you and you get to discover it yourself. That’s what this game is about: discovering an adventure, a mystery by exploring a deck of cards. We call this a “Decksploring”.
After playing Asylum, you are likely to want to buy one of the seven scenarios available at the moment. Every scenario plays on its own timeline and sometimes even a different universe. Also, each scenario features special rules and mechanisms, making it unique.
Then your team will start exploring different locations, sometimes unlock new ones, encounter non-playable characters, fight them or ally with them. And mostly gather information.
The bad news is you only have a limited time in your host and if you don’t complete the objective in time, it is likely that you will have to start over. You will most likely need several “runs” to finish a scenario, each time, a little more efficient, knowing what you learned from last time.
One really cool constraint in T.I.M.E Stories, is that, if you’re the only to visit a given card, you cannot show or read it to your companions. You’ll have to come up with your own description instead. Here comes a welcome touch of roleplay that is also fun.
|There is nothing quite like T.I.M.E Stories out there. Firstly, it is one of the best storytelling board games you can buy. Secondly, it features game mechanics that are simple yet elegant. Thirdly, scenarios are unique and feature beautiful artwork. Lastly, gripping plots will leave talking for hours after the game.
Also, if you enjoy Telltale video games, you would love T.I.M.E Stories. In fact, you would love T.I.M.E Stories anyway.
|One of the best storytelling board games|
|You probably won’t want to replay a scenario once it’s over|
|Finishing a scenario might take a couple of sessions|
Unfortunately, the desert storm is picking up and will make matters worse. It moves the locations (tiles) around and slows down players by placing sand everywhere.
During the setup, you’ll form a board that consists of desert tiles laid out in a 5x5 grid. Next, players choose their characters, and you ready to go!
Being in the desert, water is vital. If any player runs out of it, he dies, and everybody loses.
Before you can search for parts, you need to uncover a specific location that indicates the column and the row of a given piece. It represents a clever mechanism with an aspect of puzzle solving which fits the game and the theme perfectly.
Overall, the feeling of tension and time running out is part of the game’s DNA. It forces players to take prompt decisions and coordinate their efforts efficiently. Making mistakes is generally not the end of the world, but given the circumstances, Forbidden Desert can be unforgiving.
|Forbidden Desert is an enjoyable cooperative game with beautiful components and fantastic artwork. It is easy to set up and quick to play making it very accessible to family members of almost any ages. The game delivers an excellent thematic feel where players are forced to push themselves, and their survival strategy as the game adds more pressure progressively.|
|Perfect for families|
|Super cute components|
|Elegant game design|
|Light, simple, perfect getaway game|
|It can feel repetitive over time|
The game represents a survival challenge for up to six people and improves the gameplay compared to its predecessors in multiple ways.
Unlike other zombie board games, it features two major twists that make it unique.
Firstly, as you can tell from the box cover, the game sets its theme in medieval fantasy ages. Hence, you get all the thematic attributes to come with it – swords, magic, zombie orcs and much more. Well, it’s called Green Horde for a reason.
One of the main changes introduced in the game is the concept of noise. The more noise you make, the more zombies you attract. Depeding on the circumstances, it may be a good thing as you can use it to give you a tactical advantage. For example, you may make noise on purpose to distract zombies. In the meantime, other players could focus on scouting, searching or fighting other zombies.
What is crazy, however, is that zombies get to level up also! In other words, when your character levels up and becomes tougher, so do zombies.
In fact, the level of zombie advance gets determined by the most advanced character in the team. This mechanic on its own uncovers additional tactical decisions your party needs to make. Who should level up first? When? Who should kill the next zombie? And many more.
|Zombicide: Green Horde at its core employs the same amazing recipe that made the original Zombicide board game successful. It features gorgeous miniatures, streamlined game design, and an exciting leveling-up mechanism. Besides, the game adds a unique twist by mixing zombies and fantasy genres in one game. Overall, if you like zombie or horror theme and teamwork, Zombicide: Green Horde is one of the best cooperative board games you will find.|
|Great design, beautiful artwork|
|Awesome mix of themes: Zombies and Fantasy|
|Gorgeous and well-made miniatures|
|Can combine with other Zombicide board games for more brain frenzy!|
|Clearly structured rulebook|
|Can be quite stressful|
|Requires some tablespace|
Have you played Clue before? No, ok. In a nutshell, you need to solve a murder by finding the murderer, the location and the weapon. In other words, full on logical deduction engagement with your left part of the brain, mostly.
Similarly, in Mysterium, you need to solve the murder case. Again, it includes figuring all three parts of the puzzle, the murder, the location, and the object. However, this time, the ghost of the victim is still floating around the house. It changes your discovery and solving approach as you need to use your intuition instead. Let’s perhaps wait and see what our right part of the brain has to say.
One of the players gets to take on the role of the ghost. The only way the ghost can communicate with other players is using cards that have illustrations.
When ghost takes its turn, some illustration cards are selected and get handed over to the mediums. Using those cards, the ghost tries to pass on a particular message to the mediums. But what is he trying to convey?
The ghost can then indicated whether the mediums are on the right track on not. The game goes on until the mediums manage to solve the case or the time runs out.
|Mysterium takes the theme of Clue (resolving a murder by finding the murder, weapon, and location) and adds a new ‘supernatural’ dimension to it. Teamwork, collaboration, and player interaction is something special altogether. Illustrations to convey the message, unspoken language, intuition, and empathy generate an amazing sense of mystery and fun. Overall, the game does an outstanding job at redefining player interaction and cooperative experience. A must try for any coop fan in our view.|
|So amazing to use your intuition and empathy|
|Really thematic artwork|
|Exciting up to the end|
|The ghost can feel lonely at times|
|Frustrating if the magic doesn’t happen|
Frequently Asked Questions
What is DECK BUILDING?
As the game progresses, each player will have opportunities to buy stronger cards and add them to her deck. Which means that once her deck is empty and her discard pile gets re-shuffled, she will then be able to draw and play much more powerful cards and actions.
What is a DUNGEON CRAWLER?
Those days, the boundaries have evolved, and it is not necessarily limited to fantasy, neither it has to be in a dungeon!!! Typically, Mansions of Madness qualifies as a dungeon crawler, even though you are “crawling” in a house and it has a horror theme, not fantasy!
Full Vs. Semi Cooperative Board Games
Conversely, in Semi Cooperative board games a couple of variations may be introduced, such as:
- On top of the team objectives, players also have personal hidden objectives
- One of the players plays as a dungeon master against all other players
- One or more players may convert to traitors throughout the game and have their objectives changed