Sometimes you just want a cooperative board game where it’s you and your fellow gamers against the game, not each other. Believe me, our gaming group has been there before, and so aside from the competition we’ve been known to take a break with a good co-op game once in a while as well.
As much as those of us at Assorted Meeples are usually up for the gaming knife fight with one another but sometimes you’ve just had enough. Sometimes it’s nice to embrace that change of pace, get a bit less competitive with one another, and move to a more cooperative experience. The good news for any group feeling the same thing is that there are literally dozens of amazing co-op board games out there that are all about that cooperative experience.
This post is about our seven favorite choices. These are games where the table is working fervently together for a common goal whether it’s surviving a cursed house when things go bad, fighting a series of deadly outbreaks, or keeping the zombie apocalypse at bay.
A few of these games have a traitor mechanic to spice things up while others don’t.
While this list could easily stretch out to 50 games, we’ve simmered it down to 11 outstanding co-op games that we’re always happy to see out on the table!
Our picks for the 11 best co-op board games are:
- Betrayal at House on the Hill
- Dead of Winter
- 5-Minute Dungeon
- 7th Continent
- Robinson Crusoe
- Hidden Desert
- Castle Panic
Could there be any other choice? Too close to home, art mimicking real life arguments aside, this is one of those co-op boardgames that actually is cooperative in every sense of the word.
No traitor mechanic, no character randomly the victim of supernatural influence, no “now it’s Hunger Games free for all time.” Pandemic is a game that is all about you and your fellow players at the table working together to fight against overwhelming odds as diseases are breaking out and threatening mankind.
Because of the difficulty level of this game (you expect to lose the overwhelming majority of the time) there is an instant camaraderie. It’s literally all of you at the table vs. the world, a feeling that is further reinforced by the map of the world laying out in front of you.
I’m putting the original pandemic as the #1 on this list because not only is it a classic, but the replay value is super high. This should not scare you off from any of the many expansions, off-shoots, or the amazing Pandemic Legacy series, which also each could claim their own spots on this list.
Pandemic is the ultimate co-op board game because from round one it is the team against the game. The odds are stacked against you. You all need to talk, plan, and coordinate to do your best, knowing it just might not be good enough.
This game is all about the cooperation. Even if one player needs to go to one part of the map alone and “do their own thing” they need to do this while talking it out with the team as they coordinate how to handle all the other dumpster fires getting started.
This is the very definition of a co-op board game and while admittedly hitting a bit close to home in 2020 or 2021, that doesn’t change just how good this game is.
If you want to see the game in action consider watching Wil Wheaton’s Table for Two episode of Pandemic that was amazing and showed how quickly a game could go from deadly to “we might make it” or from “we got this” to “oh no.”
Great game and great playthrough. Worth the watch if you’re on the fence about purchasing this game for your next family board game night.
#2: Betrayal at House on the Hill
Well…it starts as a co-op game. That counts, right? The irony being that a player who appears to be helping out the group the most could end up being the nightmare that ends them all.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is an absolute classic and if you’re a young adult and a gamer, or have gamer friends, it would actually be stranger if you have not played this game versus having played it before.
Story based, with several interesting mechanics going on at once, Betrayal starts with all the players trying to solve the mystery. But at some point the rolls will go really, really bad and one of the players will become a traitor helping whatever natural, supernatural, sociopathic, or even alien force has decided that everyone else needs to die.
Depending on how geared up everyone is (including the new traitor), and what the scenario is, often times it goes very, very bad for the group. Or at least some of them.
The fact no one can predict who the traitor will be until the bad roll is made and the scenario read out keeps the game fresh, keeps players ganging up early, and also means that for the other players at the table – it’s still a co-op game. As now you’re fighting together to survive. It’s kind of a co-op game if you’re the traitor, too. You’re teaming up with the house to backstab all your former friends 🙂
This is a game our group really enjoys.
In fact, this was an early Twitch stream of ours, and it almost certainly will get in the rotation again.
As far as co-op games go, it’s really hard to find a great board game that competes with Betrayal at House on the Hill.
This is a classic boardgame that really holds up. Despite the guaranteed traitor mechanic I still see this as a co-op game since so much of it is done as a team.
Even after the change and the betrayal takes place, hey, most of you are grouping up. This isn’t only one of the best co-op boardgames out there but a classic that belongs in every board game fanatic’s closet.
#3: Dead of Winter
Oh yeah, this is an amazing game. This is a fully co-op game or it can be a “possibly” co-op game. See the note below for more on that. While it takes time to set up and grab a scenario, since each scenario has a different setup, as a group you are fighting against oblivion as you build an understaffed and undersupplied camp during the zombie apocalypse.
Fighting a combination of low morale, food supplies, trash/disease, and of course safety against growing hordes of undead, players each have individual win conditions in addition to needing to keep the group alive.
Unless you’re a traitor, of course…
Note: There is an optional traitor mechanic that can make the game incredibly difficult to win as a co-op. There are mechanics for dealing with a suspected traitor and it brings a LOT of extra fun to the game, but that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Either way this is a very fun game, so don’t feel pressured either way. We actually play either or depending on how we’re feeling.
This creates an interesting balance where what is good for the team isn’t always best for the individual and vice-versa. But if the camp falls every non-traitor loses. This creates a suspenseful and intense game that plays out differently each time.
Keeping in mind there can be an active traitor mechanic but no traitor adds a bit of paranoia that REALLY plays well with this game.
Look no one said surviving the zombie apocalypse would be easy. Especially in the middle of winter. This game really does a great job of capturing the look and feel of a zombie apocalypse and somehow putting it into board game form.
This is a great co-op game and because of the long setup it might not get pulled out all the time, but it is a wonderfully designed game that gives you a great gaming experience.
Mixing high fantasy elements with a quality Euro-style board game play, and you end up with the co-op game Gloomhaven, one of the best out there. A long-time classic or cult classic of a game depending on who you talk to, it’s safe to say at this point that not only is Gloomhaven one of the best cooperative board games out there but it has also gone heavy mainstream.
Anyone who has been in a D&D campaign will be familiar with the general beginning setup for Gloomhaven. Each player is an adventurer. This game is very much built with the long tabletop RPG campaigns in mind.
There are many different scenarios that can play from this epic boardgame but it’s important to know that you will not be Conan the Barbarian or Legolas starting out.
In fact your heroes are very, very killable in the beginning.
They have specific skills, but there’s also a lot of paper tigers starting out. You’re facing challenging monsters, dungeons, and enemies who one on one could smash any given player. This is where the teamwork becomes an utter necessity.
By working together as a group you will all grow stronger as characters, find creative ways to overcome obstacles, and (hopefully) spend a lot of sessions overcoming the monsters, enemies and challenges before you.
If high fantasy and tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder aren’t your thing then this game probably isn’t your jam. And that’s fair, it’s not going to be for everyone.
But if you love epic games, long quests, and the feeling of cooperation overcoming one challenge after another then this is definitely going to be an addition to your collection that you will appreciate.
And no argument: this is a cooperative game. No one-man armies here!
Mysterium is a great game that really flies under the radar of even many experienced gamers. A game for anywhere from 2-7 players, this game is going to be a huge hit with anyone who enjoyed playing Clue growing up.
In fact, there’s a reason that this game was our number one choice for board games like Clue.
But a murder has taken place and it is up to each psychic medium to investigate what has happened and try to solve the murder. One player plays as the ghost while the clairvoyants work to put together hints and clues to attempt to figure out the crime before time runs out.
The more players work together, the more likely they are to come up on a solution. There’s only seven hours for the the players to figure out the clues and the ghost’s limited abilities to help or clue them in.
Will the players win working as a team or will the clues be too difficult, too disconnected, and will the murderer get away with it as the ghost goes unavenged?
A very fun blend of a Clue-like mystery game and a parlor game that brings a unique and fun gaming experience.
#6: 5-Minute Dungeon
If this one sounds familiar, then you have been following us for a while. And we thank you for that!
Five Minute Dungeon lives up to its name as a fast paced game that the four of you, you guessed it, rush through a dungeon against a timer that increasingly talks trash at you from a pre-recorded voice (as fans of DBZ Abridged we had to choose a panicky Krillian). Choosing your classes you reveal trap after trap or danger after danger.
Each card has symbols that as a team, the four of you have to match in order to defeat the foe, the trap, or both. And you’d better hope you have enough cards to play when the boss comes your way or you’ll be yet another victim of the 5-Minute Dungeon.
This was a game that was introduced to the group by Old Man Callahan and it was an absolute blast to play the first time. We had some successful ones, and we had some where the big bad boss gave us a beatdown when we were just a little bit short of an arrow, a lightning bolt, or whatever symbol we needed to prevail.
With different decks, each player having different powers that can help teammates, and increasingly large piles of enemies, obstacles, and challenges looking to block you, 5-Minutes dungeon is one of our absolute favorites.
We are really big fans of this fast paced card game and it is a great co-op experience with entertaining card art to deliver the full experience.
You’ll definitely want to check it out and give it a shot!
#7: 7th Continent
Seventh Continent is a community cooperative boardgame of up to four players that sees all of you starting on a mysterious new continent that had only just been discovered on your last expedition. Having come down with a curse since then, your group returns hoping to find the secret that this mysterious new land holds and hopefully find a cure for deadly curse that has afflicted you all.
The teamwork here is exploring the continent, which is formed drawing a card at a time from the deck. This keeps the game fresh as you never know what the land looks like and what comes next.
As a team you have to traverse a land that is all the best stereotypes of 1930s explorer movies and “lost land” cult classics. This is a continent that makes Australia look like rookie mode and it will take plenty of teamwork with everyone at the table if you hope to survive all the challenges that are coming against you.
Explore as a team, fight off dangers and challenges, and unlock the mystery of (cue suspenseful music) of the 7th Continent. This is a co-op game that is challenging and will bring a table of gamers together and offer them everything they can handle!
This can be a very long-term game (it can also be very short if you draw badly) so do keep that in mind while planning a game night.
#8: Robinson Crusoe
Based very loosely on the famous book, this board game starts as you would expect: you and the other players are stranded on a cursed island. And that’s when the game is at its easiest.
There are seven scenarios that you can play, and the game does a great job of creating a unique gaming experience for the group even when you are replaying a scenario that has happened before. A deck of over 250 cards is a bit of a hassle to shuffle, but worth it when you break into the actual gameplay.
A few cards may help, but many, many of them bring misfortune, potential misfortune, and hungry tigers showing up while you’re unarmed levels of misfortune.
One thing I really personally love about this boardgame is that it really focuses on the hardships of survival. it doesn’t gloss over that as a background story and then move on to bigger and wilder things (although those are in here). This gives a nod to just how hard it is IRL to build a shelter, maintain a fire, fight off big aggressive wildlife, keep safe and stock up supplies.
And the game does it in a way that is very thematic with the setting and enjoyable for the players.
Robinson Crusoe is a game that is incredibly challenging. Like the number one cooperative game on this list, Pandemic, Robinson Crusoe is incredibly difficult game. Even working together as a team the failure rate to win is very, very high.
Keep that in mind if you all decide you’re in for an intensive heavy-duty game like this for game night. But the design is great, the challenge is there, and if you want to survive you better have that teamwork working in full gear!
If this game sounds familiar, then congratulations – you’ve been following us for a while! This was an excellent playthrough by Heather and Phil on one of the rare cooperative two player games out there – and it plays more players, as well so you can host a full table. You on the trail of various classic movie monsters from the era when they were novel instead of scary, and it leads to a very cool super retro feel with this game.
If you love the movie monsters from the “Golden Age of Cinema” when you get black and white Wolf Man or Frankenstein, then this game is going to be right up your alley.
We won’t spend a ton of time on this as we’ve already seen the Let’s Play Horrified via Table for Two on our YouTube channel where you can see the 2-player co-op mode in full action.
On the table you work as a team. What monster is responsible? What clues can you find? Can you figure out what needs to be done to stop them before it’s too late?
If this type of cliffhanger is your thing, then without question so is this really cool and unique cooperative board game experience.
#10: Forbidden Desert
You start with a helicopter crash in a desert that is dangerous, unforgiving, and even beyond the average dangers will come mysteries that have the potential of ending the players’ days quite badly.
While players are likely to split up to explore and look for the clues, resources, and power ups needed in order to win, this is very much a cooperative style of board game where it will take the strategy and teamwork of the group to come together and create a strategy that allows them to overcome the many obstacles the game throws out to try to stop them.
This is about exploring, surviving, and mastering that often precarious balance between trying to push a little bit further to get what you need and playing it safe to avoid the many, many disasters that the desert is more than happy to send your way.
Forbidden Desert is a fun game that really manages to ratchet the pressure on, and making intelligent moves while that pressure exerts itself will add to the challenge in a way that many serious gamers find enjoyable.
#11: Castle Panic
Castle Panic is a great cooperative game that lives up to the name. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it was featured on an early episode of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop and that video honestly didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, in my personal opinion.
There is a castle in the middle of the board and that is the all-important focus of your team’s defensive efforts. Attacks are going to be coming from all sides. While you have outer walls, you need to do everything in your power to keep the defenses up, to pay attention to emerging threats, and to work as a team to make sure the keep is still standing by game’s end.
Can you do it?
Can your team work together to stop the invasion?
That is the question you will get to solve in this co-op boardgame that is great for family game night or for bonding with close friends over a game that encourages cooperation versus competition.
There’s a lot of strategy in this game and the random order of what attacks and where makes it easy to replay. There’s a different experience each time and there’s a reason this game rounds out our list of our group’s personal favorite co-op games.
Traitor Mechanic or No Traitor Mechanic?
One of the interesting things about co-op games is the argument about whether or not the game should still be considered co-op if there is a traitor mechanic. You have games like Betrayal at House on the Hill where the betrayal must eventually happen, and games like Dead of Winter that have an optional traitor mechanic.
For me, it’s all about how the mechanic works in the game.
I would consider both of those to be co-op games. You’re generally not competing against each other for most of the game and even when you are the traitor, the possessed, the foil, you’re playing the part of the bad guy with an understanding that you’re meant to bring the rest of the team together to come against you.
To me these are still co-op games. Even if you’re caught up on a technicality on the traitor mechanic, they are games that are worthy of being a part of your board game collection.
The Best Co-op Boardgames, In Conclusion
We hope you love this list. There are many great board games out there that focus on the group versus the game versus each other. For some families this is the ideal set up for game night. While for others the competitive nature is a bit more on point.
This list of great coop board game list gives you plenty of options to rotate them into your collection so you are always prepared for family night whether the competitive juices or flowing or you’re ready for a bit more of teamwork!
Hope you loved these 11 cooperative board games – let us know if we missed any that you love!
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time amateur poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games.