Board Games

Top 21 Best Cooperative Board Games

Best Cooperative Board Games

With board games becoming increasingly popular in recent years, players are constantly looking for new game types that are unique and engaging. Cooperative board games are one of the best game types available because they involve working together with your friends to win as a team. Unlike 2 player board games that pit you against your friends as adversaries, cooperative board games require you and your friends to cooperate in order to overcome the game’s challenges. There are thousands of games on the market, but we have picked through the available options to give you a definitive list of the top 21 best cooperative board games.

Cooperative board games vary widely in terms of their mechanics. Some games have each player manage a specific task for your team while other games have each player act as a unique character. In most of the best cooperative board games, there are ways of scoring each player’s performance so that there are incentives for contributing to the team’s goals. In other cases, the team simply wins collectively when the efforts of each player are highly intertwined.

1. Gloomhaven – Tops Our Best Cooperative Board Games List!

Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 12+ | Year: 2017

On top of our list of best cooperative board games is Gloomhaven. Gloomhaven is a board game that comes with a massive array of cards, pieces, and dungeon gear to make play fun and immersive. The game is packaged in an oversized box that is loaded with collectible miniatures and multiple game boards so that you can play through the game in a non-linear way that makes every round unique.

To make Gloomhaven even more special, it plays in a way where the board changes dynamically as rounds progress. The game also uses a unique way of handling turns where you do not have to roll simple dice like with most games. Instead, the game relies on the order of the shuffled cards so that you can progress through a campaign faster.

Gloomhaven is a great choice if you are a player who enjoys choosing your own adventure. You can play Gloomhaven on your own, or you can have up to four players join you. Overall, Gloomhaven is a great board game as long as you have enough space to store its massive box.

2. Spirit Island

Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 90-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 13+ | Year: 2017

Spirit Island is one of the best cooperative board games that involves protecting the inhabitants of a remote island from invading spirits. In the process of saving the island, you will work to scare off the spirits that are threatening to hurt the native inhabitants.

The game functions in a way where you have to defend different types of buildings and people. There are cities and towns on the map that you have to defend, and they have various levels of strength. Invaders also have various strength levels, such as explorers that have only one health and Dahans that have two health.

To play through the game, each player takes on the role of a good spirit. Each player gets four cards, and these can be used to cast spells, do damage, or shield certain positions. The goal is to defeat all of the spirits in order to save the island. Rounds can take well over two hours, and you can play either by yourself or with four friends.

3. Arkham Horror

Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 120-180 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 14+ | Year: 2018

One of the most popular card-based co-op games available is Arkham Horror. Your job is to work with your team to investigate mysterious disappearances, but you will end up having to face daemons along the way.

Arkham Horror works in cycles where you have to move through four stages. In the first stage, you discover your objectives before moving on to the next stage where you conduct your investigation. From there, you have to go through stages where you have to fight off enemies before going through a final “upkeep” stage where new resources become available. The goal is to survive while solving the mystery.

Arkham Horror is a game that you can play solo or with the company of four friends. The game’s designer claims that you can play games in just one hour, but most rounds will take a bit longer than that. Overall, Arkham Horror is a great card game that offers fun for anyone who enjoys complex mysteries.

4. Mechs vs. Minions

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 60-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2016

One of the most unique cooperative games on the market is Mechs vs. Minions. In this game, your team has to basically create a program by using cards. Although ordinary programming can be challenging for people who do not code for a living, Mechs vs. Minions makes it really easy for anyone to create the code needed to win.

Mechs vs. Minions plays in a way where you have to work to set everything up in the right order so that you can execute the code you need in the right sequence. Specifically, the program sets up a scripted sequence determining where you will move, how your character will turn, and when you will fight. With the code created, you can move between enemies to achieve your objective. As one of the best cooperative board games, though, you will have to work with your team to make sure that everyone has the right code to get where you need to be in order to win. You can play Mechs vs. Minions with up to four players, and a round takes approximately one hour.

5. Aeon’s End

Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 45-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2019

Most of our best cooperative board games center around a large game board full of zombies and other enemies, but Aeon’s End is strictly a card game. However, Aeon’s End is a lot of fun since it is fast-paced and lets you take exciting actions, like casting spells, using gems, and recovering relics.

Each player is given a unique deck of cards, but everyone has the option of buying new cards before playing. You can also charge up special abilities or prepare spells that can be used on coming turns. You will, then, use your cards to defeat the non-player nemesis that your team is matched against. Overall, Aeon’s End can be seen as a board game where your team is fighting a boss like in a video game. Aeon’s End has an extensive array of rules, but you can play through a round in under an hour once you understand how the game goes. You can also play the game on your own or with up to four friends.

6. Pandemic

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 45 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 8+ | Year: 2008

One board game that has become truly popular in recent years is Pandemic. Unlike many of the newer games reviewed in this article, Pandemic has been around for over a decade. As its title implies, Pandemic is centered around the concept of a deadly virus sweeping through the world. Your job is to prevent the virus from spreading so that you can ultimately save humanity.

Pandemic is divided in a way where each player takes on a specific role that impacts all of the other players. Some of the available roles include medic, scientist, researcher, and dispatcher. Different roles give you unique abilities that can help your team to save the planet.

As a truly cooperative game, Pandemic is great fun if you enjoy working with other people. In fact, in the process of playing Pandemic, you will learn skills in how to negotiate with people who are on your side. Consequently, some players have reported that they have been able to convince their manager at work to let their team play Pandemic as an exercise.

Although you might not get the luxury of being able to play Pandemic at work, the game can be a great deal of fun on any occasion. You can play Pandemic on your own or with a group of up to four people. Rounds can be completed in as little as 30 minutes, but most games will take about 90 minutes.

7. T.I.M.E Stories Board Game

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 90-240 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 12+ | Year: 2018

T.I.M.E Stories provides a true science fiction experience since it involves traveling forward and backwards in time. The game plays by having you draw from a deck of cards that give details about characters that you encounter, your environment, and changes in the storyline. As you draw cards, you will start to form an actual image that will show you a picture of your environment at the current point in time.

As T.I.M.E Stories progresses, your have to adapt as the environment changes. In order to move, you have to use time units that are in limited supply. If you run out of time units, you have to return to the starting base to resupply.

Although the game seems simple, it is actually very challenging. You will probably have to play through several rounds before you will feel comfortable with the rules. Nevertheless, T.I.M.E. Stories is a great game that you can play with four friends over the course of about an hour.

8. Dead of Winter

Players: 4-11 | Game Time: 45-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Heavy | Age: 12+ | Year: 2017

If you are a big fan of “The Walking Dead,” you will definitely like Dead of Winter, a game that is unofficially based on the hit television series. Your job is to work with your team to survive as zombies regularly ambush your positions.

As in “The Walking Dead,” you are immersed in a colony of people who managed to survive the initial zombie onslaught. The colony itself has its own objectives that are determined by drawing a card. The objective determines where you place the zombies and the types of actions that you can take. Overall, the goal is to simply survive, but there are many challenges along the way, such as cards that give players incentives to undermine the group and unexpected attacks.

As in “The Walking Dead,” you are immersed in a colony of people who managed to survive the initial zombie onslaught. The colony itself has its own objectives that are determined by drawing a card. The objective determines where you place the zombies and the types of actions that you can take. Overall, the goal is to simply survive, but there are many challenges along the way, such as cards that give players incentives to undermine the group and unexpected attacks.

9. Legendary Encounters

Players: 1-5 | Game Time: 30-60 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 17+ | Year: 2019

If you like alien games, you should look into getting a copy of Legendary Encounters, a scenario-based board game that involves working with your friends to fight off extraterrestrials.

In Legendary Encounters, you start off by deciding which scenario you want to play through. Each scenario has its own deck of cards and three objectives. You will, then, use these cards to recruit helpers and ultimately attack the aliens.

Overall, Legendary Encounters is great fun because it is straightforward and does a great job of bringing its alien theme to life. Although the game is marketed as a co-op game, it has a special set of rules that lets you play in solo mode. An average game takes 45 minutes to play if you work through the challenges quickly.

10. Zombicide: Black Plague

Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 60 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2016

Zombicide is a game series that has been around for a while, but it has continued to improve with each new release. The latest version of Zombicide is Black Plague, a game that takes place in a fantasy version of the medieval world.

In Zombicide, you and your friends basically work your way through dungeons that are rather predictably full of challenging obstacles, traps, and a healthy mix of enemies. Along the way, you will have to fight off against necromancers, diseases, poisons and other challenges. As the game’s title suggests, you will primarily have to wrestle with legions of zombies.

One of the best parts about Zombicide’s gameplay is that it requires you to throw literally a handful of dice on each round. Zombicide is also a strategy game that makes you think 10 moves ahead. The game can take up to three hours to play, but you can shorten rounds to about 60 minutes if you are in a rush. Overall, the game can be great fun for up to six players.

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11. Mysterium

Players: 2-7 | Game Time: 42 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2017

One of the newest of the best cooperative board games is Mysterium, a detective game that challenges players to push their creativity and critical thinking skills to their limits. Mysterium has a surprising past since it originally became popular shortly after it was released in Ukraine.

Unlike most board games, Mysterium was originally published in the Ukrainian language. Nevertheless, it managed to gain popularity outside of its country of origin. In fact, it became so popular that many people who did not know a word of Ukrainian were playing the game at events. Consequently, the game’s publisher has since released an English version of Mysterium that has been a smash hit.

When you play Mysterium, the goal is for players to figure out how a ghost was murdered. The ghost leaves clues, and players have to narrow down the murder weapon, consider possible perpetrators, and figure out where the murder took place. You can play Mysterium with up to seven players, and the average round takes about 45 minutes.

12. Ghost Stories

Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 60 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 12+ | Year: 2014

Ghost Stories is a horror game that requires your team to overcome a host of ghosts in a setting based on traditional Chinese philosophy. Basically, everyone plays as a Taoist monk who is responsible for fighting off ghosts and incarnations of Wu-Feng.

One of the coolest dynamics of Ghost Stories is how you can ask villagers for help with moving and removing ghosts on the board. You can also roll the dice to attempt exorcisms on either players or ghosts. Each player is even given special abilities, so your team can get the best results when you work together.

An average round of Ghost Stories takes about an hour to complete. You can play the game by yourself, or you can have up to four friends join you for an evening of fun.

13. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Players: 1-8 | Game Time: 60-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2017

The Sherlock Holmes series shows no sign of declining with recent movies and video games based on the century-old franchise. The board game, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, was originally released in 1981, but it has made a comeback in recent years as board games have grown in popularity.

In the Sherlock Holmes board game, your job is to solve cases by using clues that are provided. In order to solve mysteries, you have to draw cards, read newspaper clippings, and review other evidence that arises throughout the game.

Although you can play Sherlock Holmes on your own, the game works best with at least one player since you need someone to tell you whether you have solved the mystery. Consequently, Sherlock Holmes is ideal for large groups of up to eight people. An average round takes about an hour to play. The only limitation of Sherlock Holmes is that it only comes with 10 cases, and experienced players may remember how certain cases progress.

14. Forbidden Desert

Players: 2-5 | Game Time: 45 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2013

In forbidden desert, you work with your friends to retrieve a flying machine from the middle of an arid desert. Consequently, you have to deal with challenges, such as sandstorms, limited water, and protecting your team from the elements. After all, deserts get really hot during the day, so you have to blaze through the map before the sun’s rays finish you off.

One of the coolest elements of Forbidden Desert is how it manages to build a moving sandstorm into a card game. In addition to trying to achieve your objectives, your team will have to work hard to avoid getting too close to the sandstorm. Of course, the storm’s direction is not always predictable, so even your best efforts can lead to trouble. At the same time, the game requires a significant degree of skill since there are actions you can take to minimize the risk of getting caught in a storm when you think ahead.

The main challenge in Forbidden Desert is trying to get all the pieces for the flying machine as you grapple with the challenging terrain. Therefore, the game requires a lot of critical thinking to juggle between getting resources, avoiding sandstorms, and actually retrieving the items that you entered the desert in the first place to retrieve. You will, thus, get to polish your skills in teamwork and leadership as you play.

As a fast-paced game, Forbidden Desert only takes about 45 minutes to complete. You cannot play Forbidden Desert by yourself, but it supports up to five players.

15. Legends of Andor

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 60-90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 10+ | Year: 2017

Legends of Andor is a board game that originated in Germany. The game quickly became popular following its release in 2012, so it has since been translated into English to support an international audience. Legends of Andor centers around a fantasy kingdom that has come under attack. You and your team are tasked with fighting back the horde of attackers to survive the onslaught.

The game comes with five campaigns that are each highly unique. There is a specific deck of cards that you will use with each campaign to support a different storyline. One of the storylines is designed to function as a tutorial, so you can get your friends acquainted with the game in a fun and engaging way.

The mechanics of Legends of Andor involve tokens that you move across the board, so the game is highly interactive. A round of Legends of Andor takes about 75 minutes to complete, and the game supports two to four players.

16. XCOM: The Board Game

Players: 1-4 | Game Time: 90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 14+ | Year: 2016

XCOM is normally recognized for its popular video game series, but the game’s developer has branched into making board games in recent years. XCOM is a strategy game that entails many of the same challenges that you face in the live version, such as commanding squads, coordinating air support, and fighting off extraterrestrials.

If you are a fan of the interactive version of XCOM, you are sure to love this board game. Additionally, XCOM can really be a hybrid between a video game and a board game since you can optionally use the XCOM app to choose cards and get extra challenges. The app is also highly practical since you can use it to start the game quickly without needing to set up hundreds of pieces. You can play XCOM by yourself or with up to four friends. Playing through the game will take about two hours.

17. Last Night on Earth

Players: 2-6 | Game Time: 90 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 12+ | Year: 2017

If you like zombie games, another fun option is Last Night on Earth. In this game, you work against armies of undead creatures as they try to eat your brain. However, the game makes it really fun to deal with what should otherwise be a very scary and depressing world. In fact, the game makes the macabre environment so fun that you and your friends will most likely be laughing the whole time that you play.

One of the funny aspects of Last Night on Earth is how it makes use of movie references as you work through events. If you have ever watched “The Walking Dead” or played the “Resident Evil” franchise, you will find references regularly.

Basically, Last Night on Earth plays in a way where you have to finish tasks before night closes in. To achieve your objectives, you have to work with other players to get resources and form alliances. A round of Last Night on Earth takes about an hour, and you can play with up to six friends.

18. Forbidden Island

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 30 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2010

Forbidden Island is a game made by the same developer as Forbidden Desert and Pandemic, but it is completely unique and a great deal of fun. As with Pandemic, each player has a unique role so that everyone has to work together as a team. You can play Forbidden Island solo, but it works best when you have at least one other player at your side.

The game board consists of 24 tiles that each represent a different area of the island. Players, then, have to navigate through the island to collect all four of the treasures. However, water gradually begins to flood the map in a way that restricts movement and makes treasures out of reach. To win, you have to collect every treasure before the water level gets too high.

The best aspect of Forbidden Island is that it is very easy to learn, so you can play it with friends who do not have the game in their collection. The game also supports up to six players, and round take just 30 minutes to complete. In summary, Forbidden Island is an excellent game for both experienced players and beginners alike.

19. 5-Minute Dungeon

Players: 2-6 | Game Time: 5-30 minutes | Complexity: Light | Age: 8+ | Year: 2018

Most of the best cooperative board games are turn-based, but 5-Minute Dungeon is one of the few real-time games that enables players to fight through challenging dungeons to take down bosses. 5-Minute Dungeon is an excellent alternative to multiplayer role-playing video games because it incorporates many of the same mechanics while remaining exciting and engaging.

As the game’s name suggests, 5-Minute Dungeon is intended to allow you to play through a quick round in just five minutes. In reality, rounds tend to take about 10 minutes. Nevertheless, the game is still super fast compared to most games that require you to set aside at least an hour to get to the end.

In 5-Minute Dungeon, every player starts with a hero mat and a special deck of cards that goes with their hero character. Your cards can be used to cast spells, heal teammates, and employ special abilities that are assigned to each character. Since the game is intended for fast play, 5-Minute Dungeon’s developer made the cards color-coded so that players can instantly recognize what special abilities their teammates have.

Overall, 5-Minute Dungeon is an intense cooperative game that will get your adrenaline going and capture the interest of both new and experienced players alike. The game is also easy to learn, so it is perfect for parties or relaxing with two to five friends after a long day of school or work.

20. Shadowrift

Players: 1-6 | Game Time: 45-120 minutes | Complexity: Medium | Age: 13+ | Year: 2018

Shadowrift is a complex card game where players work to fight off monsters that are attacking an American city. You and your team will work with local residents to keep everyone protected and to prevent the monsters from taking over.

When you play Shadowrift, your team can decide on which type of monster faction you want to fight. From there, you can set up the decks for that monster. You can also choose between hero characters so that you can play with the set of abilities that you prefer.

Players can take turns in any order, so you can take multiple turns if you have an important move to make. You can also buy coins that your team can share collectively. With the coins, you can get spells and abilities to help your team win. The game’s mechanics work in a way where you will gradually work to defeat all of the monsters in the city one at a time. When you defeat a monster, you can draw heroism cards that can give you extra stamina, magic spells, or coins.

One of the best aspects of Shadowrift is that the game’s developer recently updated it with a second edition. The updated game has a beautiful design, and its rules have been patched to make the game more fun. A round of Shadowrift takes about 45 minutes, and it supports up to six players at a time.

21. Spy Club

Players: 2-4 | Game Time: 45 minutes | Complexity: Medium Light | Age: 10+ | Year: 2018

Rounding out our list of best cooperative board games is another great detective game that is quickly becoming popular, Spy Club. The game was launched recently in 2018, and it has already exploded in popularity. Basically the game involves 54 clue cards that each provide a name, color, and image. By using the information on the clue cards, you can gradually solve the mystery with the help of your companions.

Spy Club is turn-based. At the start of each turn, your team gets to draw an idea token that provides a potential clue. Each player is also allowed to take three actions on each turn. Actions include investigating by drawing another clue card or confirming that you are correct about the answer to the case. You can also discard one of your cards to get another clue or scout ahead by drawing an extra idea token for your team.

Spy Club is truly fun because it is fast-paced and provides a unique case to solve every time. You do not, therefore, have to worry about cases running out like you do when you play Sherlock Holmes. Each round takes about 45 minutes to complete, and the game supports two to four players.

About the author

Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family.

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