What is a cooperative board game? - Forbidden Island, Legendary Marvel and Pandemic Image

Explainer: What is a Cooperative game?

What is a Cooperative game?

Cooperative board games involve all players working together to collectively achieve a common objective. In these types of games players will either win or lose together. These games usually require a high degree of coordination.

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Who might like Cooperative games?

Some of our favourite games to play are cooperative games. Cooperative games can really help children to practice working with others and communicate effectively. The fact that everyone is working towards a common goal, often means these games are more accessible to younger players because the rest of the players can openly help them. Anyone who enjoys a high degree of player interaction in their games is likely to enjoy cooperative games.

One thing to be aware of though, is that if you have a strong personality playing there is a risk they may dominate the discussion.

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What are some Cooperative games worth trying?

If these sorts of games sound like your thing, here are few we really enjoy.

Castle Panic

What is a Cooperative Game - Castle Panic Box

Play Time: 60 Min / Players: 1-6 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 6+ /Publisher: Fireside Games /Designer: Justin Dewitt

Castle Panic is a cooperative tower defence game that kids will love. To win you must defend your castle from rampaging orcs, trolls, goblins and a range of boss monsters. Each player will receive a hand of cards that they must use to defeat the monsters charging at the castle walls. Cards can only be used to attack a monster if they have the corresponding colour and range. If the monsters reach the castle walls, they will begin to destroy them, if you lose all 6 castle towers you lose the game. Castle Panic is a great introduction to cooperative games for kids. The choices here are very straight forward and mean that young kids can play confidently without much help once they have a game or two under their belt. The age rating is 10+ but we think this game is better suited to a younger audience between 6 and 10. See our full Castle Panic review.

5 Minute Dungeon

What is a Cooperative Game - 5 Minute Dungeon Box

Play Time: 5-10 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ / Publisher: Spin Master / Designer: Connor Reid

If you are looking for a game that plays quickly and caters to those that have a short attention span, you should check out 5 Minute Dungeon. In 5 Minute Dungeon you select one of 10 heroes to battle a dungeon full of monsters and obstacles, represented by a dungeon deck. This game is frantic and requires you to think quickly which is great for teaching kids how to make decisions under pressure.

Player interaction here is high and will generate a lot of laughs as you frantically work with your team mates to play the right card combinations to defeat the next dungeon card. See our full 5 Minute Dungeon review.

Forbidden Island

What is a Cooperative Game - Forbidden Island Box

Play Time: 30 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 6+ / Publisher: Gamewright Games / Designer: Matt Leacock

This is a great intro to cooperative games and is suitable for newbies and younger players. Great as a family game, we love it! There are actually three cooperative games in the Forbidden series, but Forbidden Island is the easiest to learn. We have a great comparison of Forbidden Island vs Forbidden Desert vs Forbidden Sky if you are interested in checking out the differences. See our full Forbidden Island review.

Forbidden Desert

Play Time: 45 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ we think 7+ / Publisher: Gamewright / Designer: Matt Leacock

If you are after something a little more challenging in the Forbidden series, you could check out Forbidden Desert. Forbidden Desert shares some similarities with Forbidden Island but adds an interesting sand storm mechanic that shifts the tiles around the board and causes the tiles to accumulate sand that hinders the players. It’s another great instalment in the Forbidden series of cooperative games. See our full Forbidden Desert review.

Forbidden Sky

Play Time: 60 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 10+ / Publisher: Gamewright / Designer: Matt Leacock

This is the third instalment of the Forbidden series, this time your goal is to assemble a circuit on a platform 7,000 feet in the air so you can launch a rocket ship. This game sets itself apart in the Forbidden series by being by far the most challenging game. There are lots of different things to consider as you try to ready your rocket ship for launch, high winds and lightning strikes are likely to hamper your efforts. See our full Forbidden Sky review.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea

What is a Cooperative Game - The Crew Mission Deep Sea Box

Play Time: 20 Min / Players: 2-5 / Complexity: Low / Age: 10+ / Publisher: Kosmos / Designer: Thomas Sing

The Crew: The Mission Deep Sea is a cooperative trick taking game where your team will work its way through 32 undersea themed missions. The twist here is you can not communicate anything about your hand of cards to your teammates except by way of a sonar token. This means everyone needs to keep engaged in the game and pay attention to non-verbal information as you work together to complete each mission.

The missions require completion of a certain number of tasks and will progressively get more challenging as you make your way through the mission logbook. There is a ton of variety in the missions which keeps the game fresh and interesting each mission. My son and I really enjoy the variety here and each game only takes 10-15 minutes to play which makes it easy to get to the table when you’re short on time. The gameplay here is excellent but just don’t expect an immersive theme, while there are some nice back stories for each mission it is hard to make a trick taking game feel thematic. See our full The Crew: Mission Deep Sea review.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

What is a Cooperative Game - Legendary A Marvel Deck Building Game Box

Play Time: 30-60 Min / Players: 1-5 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 14+ we think 11+ / Publisher: Upper Deck Entertainment / Designer: Devin Low

My son and I love this game! We are huge Marvel fans, so this game is tailor made for us. In Legendary Marvel, you will use your team of heroes to defeat an evil mastermind and his villains. The game play is very solid so if you don’t like the Marvel theme, there are a wide range of other themes on offer. To name a few, Legendary has created games for the following popular themes, James Bond, Aliens, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files and more. See our full Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game review.


What is a Cooperative Game - Pandemic Box

Play Time: 45 Min / Players: 2-4 / Complexity: Low / Age: 8+ we think 10+ / Publisher: Z-Man Games / Designer: Matt Leacock

Pandemic is a bit of a classic when it comes to cooperative board games and is a very popular pick. It’s easy to learn, it has a theme with broad appeal, and it has a lot of depth and replay value. Pandemic may not be a hard game to learn but it is a hard game to get good at. The strategy requires a lot of forward thinking, teamwork and planning.

The goal of the game is to cure four different diseases before any of the loss conditions are triggered. The different roles and difficulty levels make this a game that is hard to master and worth coming back to over the long term. See our full Pandemic full review.

Aeon’s End

What is a Cooperative Game - Aeons End box

Play Time: 60 Min / Players: 1-4 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 14+ we think 12+ / Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards / Designer: Kevin Riley

This is a very challenging cooperative deckbuilding game. If you like the idea of mages engaging in epic battles with powerful monsters this is for you. In Aeon’s End you will battle one of the powerful Nemesis using a variety of spells, relics and gems to prevail. See our full Aeon’s End review.

We hope you have enjoyed our explainer. If you have any more questions or just want to share your thoughts, please leave a comment below, or get in touch through our contact page.

About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. If you enjoy our content and want to support us you can do that through our Ko-fi page by clicking on the button below.

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