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What Is A Cooperative Board Game?

What Is A Cooperative Board Game

Perhaps you have seen the label on some game boxes and it made you wonder – what is a cooperative board game? Traditionally, we think of tabletop games and board games as inherently competitive, but they don’t have to be.

Instead of competing with your friends, in collaborative board games players work together to win against the game. This makes them awesome for building trust and encouraging generosity and social skills in children.

Read more to learn exactly what cooperative board games are all about and what makes them so special. We’ll also introduce you to some of the best cooperative board games out there.

A Cooperative Board Game - What Is It?

A cooperative board game is a game that requires players to work together to succeed, rather than everyone competing against the other players. Most co-op games involve all players working together to win against the game, but there are some that involve both cooperation and competition.

You may assume that without competition and strategies to outwit the other players, board gaming would be boring. But there are so many techniques that cooperative game designers use to keep the experience fresh and exciting. There are games that get stronger as time goes on, ones with a primary goal and secret secondary goals, ones with a traitor in your midst, and more…

Playing The Game

When you play a cooperative board game, the game experience is obviously not going to be exactly the same as a traditional competitive game. No single player wins – rather, all players win or lose against the game.

You may be wondering how turn-taking works if everyone is on the same team and how the game’s part is implemented. Usually, players still take turns to play and control different pieces on the board. However, all players are working toward the same ultimate goal, so players often discuss how to proceed.

Ultimately though, it is up to each player to decide how to use their turn. When it comes to the game’s turn, any player can roll the dice or draw a card on behalf of the game or whatever mechanism the particular game uses.

If everyone is on the same team, what’s to stop a player from cheating? While cheating may technically benefit the whole team, what is the point of winning if you haven’t played the game properly? Most of the time you’ll find that if someone wants to cheat, the rest of the players will not let it happen, because they want to win fair and square!

Of course, what we have just described is the most common mechanism for cooperative board games – in reality, they come in all shapes and sizes and each cooperative game is different.

Making It Challenging And Interesting Enough

Making It Challenging And Interesting Enough
Whether a game is cooperative or not, it is important to achieve the right level of challenge for it to be interesting. Even games in which you compete can be boring because they are too easy or frustrating because they are too difficult!

The difference with cooperative games is that the difficulty level doesn’t change depending on who you are playing with. When you play a competitive game, if you’re playing against an expert, that makes the game harder. In contrast, if you’re a pro at a particular game and play against a beginner, it is going to seem easy for you.

But with collaborative games, all players work together, so those that are stronger support those who aren’t as good at the game. That’s why it is extra important for the game itself to be designed with just the right level of challenge.

A key element that impacts a game’s fun factor is its replayability. If a game plays out in exactly the same way each time you play, you’ll get bored quickly. But if a game has a lot of variation built into its mechanics, it will have almost endless replay value.

If you’re buying for older kids like 10 year olds and teens, it’s important to get games that are both challenging and highly variable.
Thankfully, the best cooperative board games have been designed to draw you in and keep you wanting more. If you don’t trust us, just give one a try!

Types Of Cooperative Board Games

Types Of Cooperative Board Games

Cooperative board games come in a variety of different categories with varying degrees of cooperation.

All Versus The Game

In board games that are “all versus the game”, all players collaborate to achieve victory against the game. Because everyone is on the same team, these games can often be played solo. If you’re interested, click the link to find out more about solo games. Some examples of all versus the game options include:

  • Arkham Horror: Possibly the best cooperative board game there is, Arkham Horror is set in a classic H.P. Lovecraft setting. As they explore the streets of Arkham, players acquire items and build their skills in order to stop the Ancient Ones from invading the world.
  • Castle Panic: In this classic co-op board game, you are a team of knights defending your castle from monsters. Although it’s a cooperative game, there is still an overall winner, which is the player who defeats the most monsters.

More all versus the game options include Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Spirit Island, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and many more.

All Versus One

In “all versus one games”, one player is pitted against a team of two or more other players. This makes them both competitive and cooperative – players are working together, but they are competing against a single player. Some examples include:

  • Catacombs: In this great game, one player controls an army of monsters lurking in the Catacombs, while the others attempt to save the town of Stormtryne from a terrible end. Catacombs is a dexterity game that involves flicking wooden discs representing the monsters and heroes. You can find more examples of dexterity games here!
  • Not Alone: If you love ghost stories, you will love this game. One player (the Creature) plays against the others (the Hunted) who are shipwrecked on a mysterious planet. Not Alone has similarities to deck-building games, but the game includes a lot of bluffing and guessing. The goal is survival… or total assimilation for the Creature!

All Versus The Traitor

“All versus the traitor” is a variation of all versus one style games. The catch is that none of the players (besides the traitor themselves) knows who the traitor is. In other iterations, the traitor may be part of the team and then break off later on.

  • Werewolf: A classic survival game, players are assigned as either werewolf or a villager at the start of a game. Every night the werewolves bite villagers, and it’s up to the players to figure out who the werewolves are and eliminate them!
  • Betrayal At The House On The Hill: In this horror game, players explore a haunted house. If they find an Omen, players roll dice to see if that has triggered the haunt to start. Sometimes, the player that triggered the haunt becomes the leader of the haunt, while the remaining players attempt to survive the haunting…

Team Based

Team Based Cooperative Board Games

Team based games are a perfect balance between cooperation and competition, as players cooperate to play in teams against each other. Note that team based games require at least four players – but you can find the best games for 3 players and 2 players here.

  • Codenames: In this fantastic game, you play as spies who have to communicate in code. There are two teams, each one with a code master and any number of spy teammates. The game is all about word associations – but be careful, one of the cards is an assassin!
  • Time’s Up: A good party game, Time’s Up offers laughter and fun for all ages. Players take turns to provide clues, while their teammates get 30 seconds to guess as many names as possible. You can use words, sound effects and charades at first, but it gets more restricted as the game progresses. If you like party games, click here to learn about the best trivia games.

Why Kids Should Play Cooperative Board Games

Why Kids Should Play Cooperative Board Games

There are so many benefits of playing board games in general, but cooperative board games provide some that are unique to them.

Cooperative Board Games Are Fun

Why do people play board games? Because it’s fun, of course! Cooperative board games are just as fun as your other games and some people find them even more enjoyable. In fact, though competitive games tend to be more popular among adults, it seems that preschoolers actually enjoy co-op games more.

According to a recent study, preschoolers who played competitive games showed less enthusiasm and afterward showed an uptick in bad behavior. In contrast, those who played collaborative games showed more enthusiasm and there were no post-game increases in bad behavior.

Cooperative Board Games Encourage Generosity

In a recent study, researchers found that children who had played a cooperative board game were more willing to share with others afterward than those who had played a competitive one. It’s not that surprising if you think about it – games that involve cooperative play require you to work together and think in terms of a team to win. Naturally, this is going to encourage behavior that is more group-oriented and thus more generous.

Although regular board games can lead to bonding between family or friends, they don’t activate the parts of ourselves associated with generosity, while cooperative games do.

Cooperative Board Games May Help Build Trust Between Players

Cooperation in a board game can also lead to more willingness to cooperate in real life. Research suggests that kids (and adults) adjust their willingness to cooperate based on the feedback they get from others. If kids have more positive experiences with cooperation, they are more likely to cooperate in the future. This also means cooperative board games are an awesome way to encourage bonding among new friends or schoolmates.

If you’re looking for icebreaker activities, team board games might be the way to go.

There Are Cognitive Benefits For Children

Very young kids can play very simple competitive games, but these don’t really have many cognitive benefits as they mostly rely on chance. With cooperative games, parents can support their kiddos as they think through options and make decisions. The game can be more complex, but still within the grasp of kids under 5 – making co-op games a win for childhood cognitive development.

The cognitive benefits that come from practicing communication and interaction also cannot be overstated. If you are looking to buy games for young kids, you can read more about the best board games for 4 year olds, 6 year olds and 5 year olds here.

Cooperative Board Games Encourage Children To Discuss Decisions And Justify Their Reasoning

Cooperative Board Games Encourage Children To Discuss Decisions
When we have to explain our reasoning to others, our thinking becomes clearer and more logical. On top of that, having to discuss decisions with others helps us identify the strengths and weaknesses of our arguments.

Practicing these skills in the low-stakes context of a board game makes children better at making well reasoned decisions in real life. Through playing board games that require teamwork, children will gain many skills related to working with others that will serve them well into their adult lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

If there is any teamwork or working together involved, that makes a game cooperative. This could involve all players working together to defeat the game or players could play in teams. Cooperative does not necessarily mean there is no competition involved, just that it is not each player for themselves.

A good cooperative game offers enough challenge and variation to keep you interested and make you want to play again. In cooperative games, the challenge does not come from the other players, but from the game itself – so it’s important that the right level of difficulty is built into the gameplay. Like in any game, the best cooperative games offer high replayability, unpredictability and interactivity.

Cooperative games are important because they encourage communication and teach kids how to work together to achieve a goal. In addition, playing cooperative games can actually enhance children’s generosity and help to build trust between those playing. If you think about it, it makes sense – cooperative games encourage players to view themselves as part of a team rather than at odds with others.

Chess is not a cooperative game, as it is traditionally played between two players. Technically, it would be possible to play chess in teams, in which case it would be a cooperative team based game. However, it is classified as a two player competitive game.

If chess is what you’re after, read more here. You can also follow the link to find the best backgammon sets.


There you have it – hopefully you now know what a cooperative game is and what makes them so great. Next time you are thinking of adding a new board game to your collection, why not make it a cooperative game? With a little searching, you are sure to find the best cooperative board game for you!

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