What is a Cooperative Board Game?

11 June 2024
Cooperative games, or coop games, are a board game genre in their own right. Nevermind arguing with players across the table for victory, instead join with them to the great conclusion!

Definition of Cooperative Board Games

A game where you work together to beat the game itself, or improve on previous scores.


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What is a Cooperative Board Game?


There are two types of board gamers. Those who love playing, not phased by winning or losing. And those who don’t believe the first type exists. Whether your table has sore losers, sore winners, or just finds removing competition increases their enjoyment, cooperative games have shaken up the possibilities. In a co-op game, it’s you and me against the world. There is still the exhilaration of overcoming challenges and the ever-present risk of missing the mark, but here both success and failure are a team achievement.

In most co-ops, unless not communicating is a special feature of the game, table discussion is encouraged. Games like Forbidden Island can feel like a soft introduction to roleplaying games. Each character has a slightly different job role and a unique ability. The team must try to meld these together in the right way to achieve the goals. Players still take their own turns, with the active player having final say over the actions they take, but planning them together and brainstorming ideas is important. I’ve seen even the most skeptical players on the edge of their seats at the epic finale. 


Related article: The best cooperative games

Cooperative games really shine as legacy or campaign experiences. Gathering a group of friends or family together over multiple gaming sessions to continue the journey builds upon previous games, both in-game and in real life. Card game The Crew showcases a fantastic subset of co-op games where communication isn’t allowed, meaning individual strategy and logical deduction of the possibilities come to the fore. As in everyday life, working together can open doors that would be nigh on impossible alone. Escape games and murder mysteries become team bonding experiences, with everyone playing their part and showing their individual skills and perspectives.


Co-ops can have their foibles. If cooperation were easy the world would be a fundamentally different place. Cooperative games can result in stronger voices and bigger personalities taking over. Alpha players arise and start puppeteering others. It’s a pitfall to be especially aware of when teaching new players. No one likes a backseat board gamer, and new players learn infinitely quicker when they’re allowed to make their own fantastic mistakes. 


Best Cooperative Board Games


The board game box for the cooperative game Pandemic

The classic cooperative game. It's a little close to the bone these days, playing as medical professionals trying to save the world from a series of out-of-control illnesses. For something a little less on the nose, try Pandemic Legacy: Season 0, which has you play as spies battling against soviet agents across the course of one year in the cold war. In all versions, the excitement is real and the talk between turns feels like real-world teamwork and strategising. 


Buy a copy of Pandemic on Amazon


Codenames: Duet 

The board game box for Codenames: Duet, a cooperative two player game

Word and communication games take cooperation to its border with telepathy. Codenames: Duet takes away the excessive downtime that can build up in classic Codenames. With only two players you can be planning your next clue at the same time as your teammate. The scoresheet map is a brilliant way to challenge yourself to different levels of difficulty. It gives the game a campaign-like feel as you try to meet spies in every city. 

Buy Codenames Duet on Amazon


The board game box for Horrified, a cooperative family friendly board game

Horrified, in its Universal Monsters, Greek Monsters or American Monsters version is a full-on battle game, but you're not fighting those around the table. You're standing side by side with your friends or family, beating up monsters together. Cooperative battle games allow an opportunity to enjoy violence in board game form, where directly rumbling with each other's pieces could end with undesirable real world consequences.

Buy Horrified: Greek Monsters on Amazon

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