It was not all that long ago that cooperative board games were something that just did not exist. In recent years, cooperative board gaming has exploded on the scene. I do not want to bash anyone in my gaming group, but when certain members are present, cooperative games are much more enjoyable to throw out on the table. Those friends are just tough to play with sometimes in competitive games because they are either sore losers or horrible winners. With a co-op game, we are all working together towards the same goal, which makes the game night more fun. For that same reason, sometimes cooperative games are more enjoyable for families with young children.
These are the cooperative board games that me and my gaming group have enjoyed the most.
What would happen if Bird Flu, Ebola, the Plague, and Polio all broke out at once? Although the diseases do not have names and are only identified by 4 colors (red, yellow, blue, and black), that is pretty much the premise of Pandemic.
What I love about Pandemic the most is it is hard. The game can really kick your ass. Just when you think you have things under control, everything can flip in a single turn.
This game can be played by up to 4 players. Each player assumes the role of a character with a special ability that can help the team do things such as move around the board, cure diseases more rapidly, and build new research stations.
If you do not work together in this game, you will not win. In fact, even if you do, you will probably still lose about half the time. That’s what makes winning so enjoyable.
This is probably the simplest game on the list, and if you are looking for a good co-op game to play with your kids, this is an excellent choice. You can play with up to 6 players. Players defend a castle from monsters approaching out of the woods.
To defend the castle, players play cards from their hand. Players replenish their hands with new cards from the deck each turn and can trade cards to other players on their turn to help themselves for their own turn or to help teammates in their upcoming turns.
Unless you create some house rules to make the game a little more difficult, it is a pretty easy game to win. In fact, I’ve never played a game of Castle Panic in which my team lost. Don’t let that dissuade you though. It is still a lot of fun.
There are also variations of Castle Panic featuring zombies, Star Trek, Munchkins, and probably other themes on the way. The variations include slightly different rules to fit their theme. The variations are all a little more challenging than the base game. If one of those themes intrigue you, that’s the version I would recommend.
This is a cooperative deck building game set in the Marvel universe. Players work as part of S.H.I.E.L.D. recruiting super heroes to help fight against an evil mastermind and their diabolical plot.
As with all deck building games, you are trying to build a more and more powerful deck of cards. Each time you play you can choose 5 super heroes to include in the game. Each hero has their own deck of cards that gets mixed into the hero pile. The base game comes with 15 heroes including Deadpool, Hulk, Captain America, Spider-man, Iron Man, and Black Widow. You also choose from different groups of minions to work with the mastermind, such as Hydra and The Brotherhood.
The game is very easy to learn and to teach. After going through 1-2 turns, anyone would understand what is going on.
There are a ton of expansions for this game adding more super heroes and villains, as well as a lot of new challenging scenarios.
The Marvel theme really shines in this game. The only downside I would say the game has is the setup and cleanup can take a bit of time. Outside of that, everyone is happy when this game hits the table.
If you are looking for a hack and slash zombie game, there is no better choice than Zombicide. This game is a huge hit with my friends. Wives and girlfriends even love to get in on this one.
The game comes with some incredible miniatures of different types of zombies as well as the heroes the players control. The game also comes with an impressive cardboard tileset that you will use to make the map for whichever scenario you are playing. There are about 20 scenarios included with the game and tons more online.
Each scenario will have different objectives, but the basic premise is that you will be rooting around in different rooms of buildings looking for better equipment and weapons to take down the ever growing hoard of zombies trying to chew your face off. Killing zombies rewards your character with experience. As you gain more and more experience, you will gain additional actions each turn or new abilities. As you gain experience, the zombies will also be coming at you in increasing numbers, ratcheting up the difficulty.
This game feels like someone took a zombie hack and slash movie and put it into a board game. Sometimes, the dice will be on your side, and your character will be the hero of the group with a giant pile of dead zombies at their feet. Other times, you might have to make the tough choice of leaving another player behind to be eaten alive by the zombies so the rest of you can escape.
Zombicide also has several several standalone game sets. The original is Zombicide Season 1. It’s probably the best starting point for new players. It was followed by Prison Outbreak, and Rue Morgue. Each of these can be played on their own and do not require the others. There are expansions which do require one of the standalone game sets to play. The expansions are Toxic City Mall and Angry Neighbors.
The different game sets and expansions add new zombie types, map tiles, scenarios, and weapons to the mix. There are also mini expansions that add things like zombie birds and zombie dogs. You can mix and match these into the games any way you choose if you own them all.
One thing I will highly recommend if you play this game is to use a house rule about firing weapons. In the rules, if you fire a gun into a square that is occupied by zombies and a player or players, you must target the players first. You cannot target the zombies. That rule is just dumb and the one big complaint that many people have about this game. The way we play instead is that if you roll a miss on a shot, then you hit the player. Only on misses though. That way there is risk firing into a crowd where another player is, but it’s not an automatic hit the player thing.
If you prefer a fantasy setting, there is also Zombicide: Black Plague, which takes place in a setting that includes magic, medieval weapons, dwarves, and necromancers. It adds some new twists, such as armor to the game.
Dead of Winter
Yes, another zombie game, but this one plays nothing like Zombicide. Zombicide is all hack and slash. Dead of Winter feels more like what you see on the popular television show, The Walking Dead. The zombies are not the real enemy. The real enemies are survival and other humans.
You and your fellow players are living in a camp after the zombie apocalypse has crippled the world. You will have a scenario that defines how many turns you play and what objectives you must accomplish in those turns. You must gather food to feed yourselves and other survivors. You need to gather weapons to defend yourselves. You need to make sure the trash and waste doesn’t pile up to unhealthy levels. And every time you travel outside of your compound, there is a chance you get stricken with frostbite.
Each player is also given their own secret agendas they must accomplish. If you accomplish your own agenda, but the objectives of the scenario are not met, you lose. If the objectives are met, but you do not accomplish your agenda, your team wins, but you still sort of lose. And all of this happens while one of you might actually secretly be a traitor with their own agenda trying to sabotage the team from meeting the scenario objectives.
If someone is suspected of being a traitor, the rest of the group can vote them out of the camp, but what if you are wrong? Then you just sent away a valuable teammate. Will you be able to meet the scenario objectives without them?
This game is a ton of fun. As I said above, it is more The Walking Dead than just hacking and slashing up zombies. If you would rather just be blowing holes in and chopping the heads off of zombies, go with Zombicide. If you want something that is difficult with a bit of deceit to it in which you are not sure who you should trust, Dead of Winter is an excellent choice.