We live in a competitive culture.
Last week I was mocking my buddy because he hit a jump shot over a junior higher. “OOOOO. You totally just schooled that 12-year-old! Nice work, Lebron! ”
Last year I was playing Say Anything (a great party game) with some friends who began arguing about which person’s made up answer was more correct. They just had to win, even at a party game where the point wasn’t to declare a winner, it was to see who could have the most fun with silly answers.
We live in a competitive culture. And some people just can’t turn off that instinct.
But despite being in a culture of competetiveness, there is a sub-genre of co-operative board games that are THRIVING: Co-ops. Co-op (cooperative) gameplay allows gamers to work together as teammates against one or more AI opponents. And they’re great.
7 Best Co-Op Tabletop Games
Pandemic is largely considered the tentpole co-op game, so I have to include it on this list. In Pandemic, players work together to prevent a worldwide virus epidemic and must zoom around the game board like jet-set CDC employees to stay one step ahead of an outbreak.
It was designed by Matt Leacock, who is largely considered the Godfather of the co-op board game movement, and who also designed the co-ops Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. I play all 3 games with my entire family.
Another great thing about Pandemic is that it has great expansions, plus it’s totally mainstream, meaning you can pick it up at places like Target. If you want it at a nice discount and straight to your door, here it is at Cool Stuff Inc.
Dead of Winter
I’ve reviewed Dead of Winter in detail, so I’ll just cut to the chase: It’s fantastic, and for sure one of the best tabletop co-op games.
Dead of Winter is a co-op, but one that allows a story to unfold while it keeps zombie tension high. Another wrinkle is that it is possible that one player is secretly a traitor, only pretending to cooperate while they selfishly conspire.
Good luck getting it, though. It’s selling out all over, but perhaps you can add it to your wishlist
I’ve never had so much fun knowing I was ultimately going to fail. Robinson Crusoe is HARD. Even as you co-operate, it’s likely you won’t ultimately reach your objective.
But Robinson Crusoe is beautifully designed and meticulously themed. If you have any interest at all in the shipwrecked-island-casaway-survivor, then you will 100% love this game, which is easily one of the best co-op tabletop games. Learn more here.
Legendary is another game that I’ve reviewed, and as a Marvel fanboy, I have to gush. Legendary is a deck-builder, but also a co-operative game, where players build a deck of cards comprised of Marvel comic heroes, then work together to defeat some of Marvel’s most legendary villains.
It’s great fun, was featured on Tabletop, and has a boatload of expansions. You can get it here.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game
I’m a fan of games you can also play solo, and I must admit that I’m alone in my play of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game more that I play it co-operatively.
But a co-op game that can be soloed is a feature, not a bug. When I need to scratch an RPG itch, I’ll bust out Pathfinder ACG and take a chapters through a couple of adventures, roll some dice, and level up my character deck.
It’s a solid game and has oodles of expansion adventures. Grab the base set here.
Betrayal at the House on the Hill
Betrayal was the first co-op my wife and I played together way back when. It’s a pulpy game where players explore a haunted house (on a hill), opening it up room-by-room, thus building the game board as you go.
At some point an event is triggered that turns one of the players into an evil traitor. It has a light Lovecraftian theme, and while balance isn’t its strongpoint, it has great replayability and is loads of fun.
The game has had quite a renaissance of late, that caused some shortages, but it’s finally finding availability again.
Zombicide is derivative, campy, and over-saturated, but it’s also pretty fun. I mainly buy the Kickstarters for all the sweet miniatures to paint. But I also bust out the game from time-to-time, simply because it’s fun for you and a buddy to run through a quick zombie scenario.
Between the gameplay and the miniatures to paint, Zombicide may have provided more value than any game I’ve owned. The 1st one can be had here.
There you go, 7 GREAT co-op games where you can play with friends, not worrying if everyone’s inner competitiveness will lead to fist fights in the parking lot. All you need to do is call up a couple pals, set out a bowl of salsa, and you have a great gaming party on your hands.
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