Cooperative games are STILL one of my favorite genres of board games. They allow me to play a game with friends and family, and compete together against the board instead of against each other. It is a great way to build teamwork and problem-solving skills, all while having a blast playing a game together.
Below are my updated top ten cooperative games. I made my original cooperative board games list back in 2015 and figured it was time for an update. This is my personal “Top 10 List,” not a list compiled from all of us here at BGQ. I made the list based on my experiences with many cooperative games, as I have not played every coop game.
(Note: This list is for pure cooperative games, so a game like Legendary has been left off the list due to it being semi-cooperative.)
Top Ten Cooperative Board Games
10. Freedom: The Underground Railroad (review)
Freedom: The Underground Railroad weaves historical events and people, both good and bad, into a strategic game of moving slaves northward while attempting to avoid slave catchers. The impact of the game has not lessened over time. I still find the game tense and I still feel guilty making the choice to sacrifice one group of slaves for the good of others. That being said, its lack of replay value has impacted how it stands in my Top 10. It is one of only two games on the list that does not have an expansion to introduce new life into the game. I will say this: this is a game that everyone should experience at least one because of its unique theme and impact it may have on you.
9. The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (review)
If you have read the Dresden Files, a multi book story about a private investigator that is also a wizard, play this game! If not, go read the series and THEN play this game! The Dresden Files core game covers the first five books. You can mix and match the characters how you want, either recreating the book or making “what if” scenarios by using characters not present in the original text. The game uses a shared Fate Pool for resources – you either pay Fate to play a card or discard to add Fate back to the pool. It is this balancing act, combined with its quick play time that really drew me to this game.
8. Sentinels of the Multiverse (review)
This is no longer my go-to cooperative game. Maybe the app version spoiled me by providing all of the fun with none of the fiddly token tracking. Maybe it was my awful experience with the Kickstarter for its final expansion. Maybe it was just so many newer coop designs. Whatever it is, Sentinels of the Multiverse is not as enjoyable to me as it was in 2015. I still love the interactions between the different heroes, villains, and environments and the replay value it provides. I also enjoy playing this game and would still recommend it; however, it is no longer the cream of the crop.
7. Mechs vs. Minions
I loved/hated Robo Rally. I loved planning out my moves but hated when people ran into me. Enter Mechs vs. Minions. The game uses action programming, but slots where you program your actions can be damaged, resulting in a random movement you had not planned on doing. So now when someone (a teammate of yours because this is a cooperative game) runs into you, unless you have a Michael Jordan-esque level of competitiveness, it’s funny. Combine the entertaining action programming with a ten mission campaign, incredible production values, and a shared draft of actions that is timed, and you have yourself an incredibly fun game!
6. XCOM: The Board Game
An app is required to play this game. There, it’s out there. To which I say: so?? The app is not a gimmick and is integral to this experience. I fully embrace the app and the real time, frantic pace it provides during the timed phase. While the actions are the same, the order in which they occur can be randomized depending on how well or badly you are performing. The Scientist, Squad Leader, and Commander roles are fun; however, I do not like playing with four players because then someone is relegated to the role of App Reciter and Data Entry Officer. That being said, there is a terrifying beauty in watching your plan unravel during a timed phase. That is what keeps me coming back to the XCOM Board Game.
5. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Yes, it is another game with an app. Similar to XCOM, the app makes this game fun. It randomizes what you experience, making each game, even when playing the same scenario, at least slightly different. Unlike the world hoping of Eldritch Horror, this game is smaller in scope, taking place in one small city block or house, depending on the scenario. What makes Mansions of Madness standout is a) the focused narrative it provides combined with the app integration (there are app based puzzles that need to be solved, for example), b) the balance of combat and investigation used to flesh out the stories and c) the app including expansion content in the base game, expanding replay value. While I prefer Eldritch Horror, this game has grown on me over the past year.
4. Too Many Bones (review)
I really enjoy this game. I shouldn’t as I usually dislike games that require investing extra time to fully understand how to play; however, it was MORE than worth it for this game. I LOVE how each character is completely unique in its playstyle. The character building experienced over the course of a game simulates the RPG advancement I crave, but in a much shorter timeframe. I thoroughly enjoy the tactical choices that are made on the battlefield as well as deciding on how to use the dice you rolled. I highly recommend you try Too Many Bones – just try to play with someone who knows the game!
3. Aeon’s End
I love this game! Aeon’s End is currently my favorite deckbuilder. You control a Mage protecting a city from a Nemesis (big demon guy/girl/thing). You use your cards to either buy more cards from the market or to attack the bad guys. What sets this game apart is how different each Nemesis plays, the fact that turn order is random, requiring tactical cooperation, and that you do not have to shuffle your discard. You can set your deck depending on how you discard your cards. Another bonus is that younger gamers do not have to worry about shuffling.
2. Eldritch Horror (review)
Eldritch Horror has aged well with time. It has moved up one spot from my previous list. This is because I don’t have to reread the rules anymore and setup is MUCH easier for me now, even with the expansions. Yes, it is still fiddly, but repeated plays have made it play faster. Most importantly, it STILL provides an engrossing story that keeps me coming back for more. This is one of the few games I own that the journey is more important than winning. It also provides the best, albeit sometimes ridiculous, storytelling of any cooperative game I have played.
1. Spirit Island
Spirit Island is my new go to cooperative game. You control a spirit trying to protect an island and its natives from invading settlers. It is a brain burner, especially the first few games. But once you get past the learning curve and understand how the invaders behave, you can start anticipating what you should do next. Replay value is through the roof because each spirit plays differently and the powers gained during the game are random as well. In addition, the game includes Adversaries (the settlers are countries with their own powers, like England or Prussia) and Scenarios, both of which allow you to adjust the game’s difficulty. This is a must play game for fans of coops!
That about wraps it up for my updated Top 10 Cooperative Board Games. Please let me know what game(s) you would have included in your personal Top 10 list in the comments below. I will let you know if I have played it and, if I have, why I did not include it in the list above.
INB4 Gloomhaven/Pandemic Legacy….and yes, I have played both. 😉