We live in a competitive culture. Some people just can’t turn off that instinct, even if it’s just playing with cardboard.
As a result of our culture of competitiveness, there is a sub-genre of co-operative board games that is thriving in part because it goes against that grain: 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 it’s an automatic inclusion 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, having also designed the co-ops Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. All can be played with families.
Another great thing about Pandemic is that it’s totally mainstream, meaning you can pick it up at places like Target, and it also has dipped into different genres, like Pandemic: Fall of Rome.
But if you want it at a nice discount and straight to your door, here it is at Amazon.
Mysterium is a quirky little game that started out as an obscure European title that just kept gaining momentum due to word of mouth until it broke out in the United States.
Set in the 1920s, a ghost guides a group of psychics to uncover a murderer using only visual clues. Choose your way to play: take on the role of the ghost who gives others clues, or as one of the psychics who work together to decipher the mystery.
(An alternate in this genre is Deadline: a great game if you want the detective aspect to be more straightforward than a ghost tale. Catch our review here.)
In Flash Point, you play as fire fighters who are working together to rescue people from a fire. The previous sentence really does tell you all you need to know. Flash Point is simple, straight-forward, and excellent.
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 and has a boatload of expansions. You can get it here.
Another Matt Leacock game, Forbidden Island has players working together in a rush to collect ancient artifacts and escape a sinking island.
Forbidden Island is another game that is mainstream. In fact, you can pick it up for about $15, which makes it an easy choice. It’s an inexpensive pickup to see if your family enjoys co-ops.
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 oodles of fun.
Zombicide: Black Plague
Zombicide is derivative, campy, and over-saturated. It’s also a hoot!
You create zombie-filled scenarios with cardboard tiles that have objectives. Players then work together to complete those objectives and get the heck out of there alive before zombies overtake them.
There are many versions but Black Plague is the best. It’s Zombicide set in Medieval times complete with zombie orcs, ogres, and mages. Get it 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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