Board games are older than the written word. For millennia board games have pitted two or more players against each other in a competition to determine supremacy. And while game design has changed over the millennia, competition was almost always a part of board game design. In the past few decades, a new type of cooperative board game has risen to prominence. These are games where players cooperatively compete against the game itself, rather than against each other. The following are the top ten cooperative board games.
10. Hanabi – This is a rare cooperative game that you can’t lose. The goal of the game is to set off the best firework display possible. A perfect game has a score of 25, but perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is simply to do well, which means that lower scores are also considered a win. The mechanics of Hanabi are rather unique, because you have complete information about every player’s hand except for your own. Thus the game becomes one of trying to provide useful information to other players about their hand in the limited time available and without breaking the strict game rules. This is much more of a mental game than most cooperative games.
9. Battlestar Galactica – This game is both cooperative and competitive. Two teams of players compete with one trying to save the human race while the other is trying to destroy it. Each player knows what team they are on, but the rest of the players don’t know who is on their team. It is possible to reveal that you are on the team of the bad guys, but this tends to weaken your chance of winning. Thus the game tends to be tense and intricate as players actually act against their best interest in the short term in order to complete long term goals.
8. Betrayal at House on the Hill – This horror game matches a small group of plucky investigators against an evil curse that has fallen on a haunted house. The game has over one hundred scenarios and the game dynamically determines which scenario you are playing based on random card draws, tile draws, and dice rolls. The horror feel is excellent and the scenarios are generally a lot of fun. Unfortunately, many of them feel similar, so replay value isn’t as high as it appears.
7. Eldritch Horror – This is a much improved variation of Arkham Horror that is streamlined in almost every way, without giving up any of the creativity of the original game. It accommodates up to eight players and generally takes about three hours to play. It is the perfect mid-length game for fans of the Cthulhu mythos.
6. Space Cadets – This game is essentially six games in one box. You take the role of space cadets on a ship and try to travel around a small section of space, completing a goal, without getting blown up. Each player engages in a different mini-game, ranging from shuffleboard to a quick version of Robo Rally. The wide range of mini-games makes it a great game for appealing to players of varying tastes and it is incredibly kid friendly.
5. Yggdrasil – Except for the Norse theme, this is almost an entirely generic cooperative game where all players need to carefully manage resources in order to beat the board. Unlike many other cooperative games, you have enough control to not feel completely overwhelmed and there is no player who is actually allied with the board. The game is hard, but fun and easy to learn.
4. Pathfinder Adventure Card Game – This cooperative game is rather unique because it is designed to be played as a campaign. The campaign has multiple scenarios and completing one scenario improves your character, giving you the tools necessary to attempt future scenarios. It is the perfect game for a dedicated group of players who enjoy evolving play styles.
3. Flash Point – Flash Point makes you a firefighter working to save victims from a burning house. Each firefighter has a different specialization, which makes teamwork critical to saving victims. Besides the variation in firefighters, you can also set the difficulty from easy to challenging. The lack of violence and colorful pieces makes it a kid friendly game and the ability to adjust difficulty makes it appealing to people of all skill levels.
2. Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island – This is a rather standard cooperative game that requires good resource management skills by all players. The unique aspect of the game is that it has multiple scenarios and each scenario makes it feel like you are playing an entirely different game. These scenarios make it easy to add expansions to the game and give it very high replay value.
1. Sentinels of the Multiverse – This superhero themed game has almost the perfect mix of accessibility and difficulty. Set in a world with superheroes and villains that are lightly based on DC and Marvel mainstays, the game pits a team of superheroes against a mastermind villain and his minions. Due to the variety of villains, heroes, and locations to battle, nearly every game plays out differently than the last. The amazing artwork and brilliant flavor text makes the game a lot of fun to play, even when you aren’t actively taking your turn. Streamlined mechanics and a very well written story make it by far the best cooperative game on the market.