Best Cooperative Board Games
Want to play on the same team with your family and friends? Then you're in luck! We've rounded up the top 6 cooperative board games to help make the game night even more enjoyable, no matter your gaming experience.✍️ January 24, 2023
- 😷 Best Overall: Pandemic
- 🏝️ Best Adventure: Forbidden Island
- 👻 Best Horror: Mysterium
- ⚔️ Best Strategy: Gloomhaven
- 🧹 Best for Kids: Hocus Pocus
- 🔎 Best Immersive: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
- 👉 How we picked and tested
Teamwork makes the dream work, they say. Well, nothing says group effort quite like cooperative board games! For anyone hosting a game night or just helping pass the time over summer break, our top pick is Pandemic for its tension-packed and strategy-focused approach that will leave you feeling like a superhero!
We believe board games shouldn’t always pit player against player, so we compiled a list of the top 6 cooperative board games that bring out the best in group play. Want to know how we curated our list? Read our selection process here.
1. Best Overall: Pandemic
- Player count: 2-4 players
- Duration: 45 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 8+
This award-winning game has spread its greatness since its 2008 release and infected our shelves with its tense and strategic approach! Pandemic is a perfect game for those who like to think ahead as your team works together to save humanity from the deadly diseases that threaten to eliminate it.
Why we love it
What makes Pandemic so special is the challenge it brings! You must work together to contain the diseases, but your team will be wiped out completely if you don’t act fast enough. This is a great way to hone your problem-solving skills while having fun!
There is an immense level of replay value with this game, as each time you play, the board can be different. With expansions, difficulty levels ranging from beginner to expert, and the variety of characters you can play, you’ll have hours of gameplay left in this fast-paced game!
Pandemic also has a seamless turn-based system that allows you to transition from one player to the next smoothly. This means the game doesn’t drag on forever, and you’ll never be left waiting for your turn.
However, this can be overwhelming to new players as it has a steep learning curve. But that’s all part of the fun! You and your team will love getting to grips with the ins and outs of this exciting game!
Overall, we can’t recommend Pandemic enough! It’s the perfect way to practice your problem-solving skills, work as a team and have tons of fun in the process.
How to play
In this game, you and your teammates work together to find cures for four lethal viruses before they spread too far. To begin, ensure everyone has a role card by shuffling them up and then dealing one out face-up to each player. Keep a reference card nearby to look back on it while playing easily!
If an outbreak expands beyond your board, it will result in a loss for everyone playing. To win this game, players must be effective at controlling conditions. Gather the necessary cards to discover cures before time runs out so you all can enjoy a win!
Setting up: Before beginning the game, place the board within arm’s reach for easy accessibility. Place six research stations and four different piles of disease cubes nearby; start by setting up one station in Atlanta.
Now that you’ve organized your role cards and pawns by color place the corresponding colored pieces in Atlanta on the game board. The extra role cards and pawns are not meant to be used during playtime, so go ahead and take them out of the playing area!
Start by shuffling the Infection cards, then placing them with their infected side facing down in the appropriate spots on the board. Flip two cards over for all to see and add three cubes of each color onto both cities depicted on those cards.
Now flip two more cards and position corresponding cubes onto the cities revealed. Then turn over another two cards, placing one cube on each respective city displayed. Set aside the remaining cubes for later.
Playing the game: On your turn, you can choose from four different paths of action. These include traveling worldwide to acquire cards, discarding a card and journeying to an unconnected city, sharing information with other players by exchanging cards, or curing diseases.
After you complete the four actions, draw two cards from the player deck and add them to your hand. Subsequently, draw a card from the infection deck and place cubes on three cities as instructed by the cards.
Concluding the game: To win, your team must acquire five matching colored City cards and discard them to cure all four diseases. If you run out of disease cubes, eight Outbreaks occur, or you need to draw from an empty player deck, it’s a loss for everyone.
2. Best Adventure: Forbidden Island
- Player count: 2-4 players
- Duration: 30 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 10+
Put your survival skills to the test with the next tension-packed game on our list, Forbidden Island! Uncover an island’s relics as it slowly sinks beneath the waves, or your team faces an early watery grave!
Why we love it
Our favorite part of Forbidden Island is its perfect introduction to cooperative gaming. Its complexity is easy to grasp, and beginners and experienced gamers can quickly get into the action. This game is sure to make a splash when it hits your table!
We also love that the tasteful artwork ties well with the narrative and mood of the game, making it an aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable experience. The tension that builds with each turn as you struggle to keep the island from sinking also makes it a thrilling ride for all.
Plus, Forbidden Island is incredibly replayable with an adjustable difficulty level, allowing for a unique game each time you play it. Don’t worry — the rules are always your faithful guide if you need a refresher on how to play.
The only thing other players may struggle with is the tension that builds with each turn. With the island slowly sinking, it can be challenging to keep your cool, but this is all part of the fun! So, if you’re looking for an exciting and immersive cooperative board game, Forbidden Island is a perfect choice.
How to play
In Forbidden Island, you aim to collect all four treasures and escape the island before it succumbs to the rising waters. To start, prepare the 24 Island tiles by shuffling them thoroughly, then carefully place them in a 4 x 4 square directly ahead of you with their non-blue and white sides exposed.
Once the Forbidden Island is constructed, include two additional tiles on either side of every square in the middle. This will provide a platform for your pawns to explore and traverse!
Separate the cards into three separate decks based on their card back: Flood (blue), Treasure (red), and Adventurer. Place all Flood cards in a pile at the center to form an island tile. All players take one Adventurer card, then read through their respective roles and abilities.
👉 Suggested read: Top 10 Most Popular Board Games Of All Time
Playing the game: Every round, you can take up to three actions, draw two cards from the Treasure deck, or draw Flood cards equal to the current water level, which rises each turn.
You can make your way towards Fools’ Landing by performing up to three actions at a time, such as relocating and obtaining Treasures or moving twice. When all four artifacts are finally acquired, a member of your team must discard a Helicopter Lift card to escape the island alive.
But beware — if the Temples, Caves, Palaces, Gardens, or the Fools Landings tiles sink before you collect their respective treasures, or If the water level reaches the skull and crossbones, then you all lose!
3. Best Horror: Mysterium
- Player count: 2-7 players
- Duration: 45 minutes
- Ages: 10+
Solve a spine-chilling whodunnit with your friends in Mysterium, the next game on our list! A psychological thriller of ghostly revelations, Mysterium will challenge your sense of intuition and deduction as you solve the mystery of a deceased ghost’s untimely demise.
Why we love it
The beauty of Mysterium lies in its immersive atmosphere! Pull up a chair and prepare to be transported into a world of dark secrets, eerie atmospheres, and supernatural forces. The ghostly yet whimsical artwork will entice your team into this eerie and suspenseful experience.
Another exciting aspect of this game is that it facilitates player interaction because of its unique mechanic of one person being unable to talk while the rest of the team is trying to decipher the ghost’s clues. This forces players to think about their decisions and strategize together — making it an excellent game for team-building.
Moreover, Mysterium has a high level of replayability since it’s so engaging that it won’t feel repetitive! The card artwork is so detailed that it can be used again and again to form various dreams for the players to interpret.
Mysterium’s only downside is that the setup can be a bit long. However, once everything is laid out and the game is underway, we guarantee you’ll be enthralled by its visually stunning world and suspenseful atmosphere. Pick up a copy of Mysterium today and prepare to be immersed in a truly unique board game experience!
How to play
Before the game begins, players must select one person to play as the ghost. The chosen participant receives a ghost screen, three decks of cards (characters, locations, and objects), and an additional deck of Vision cards.
The rest of the participants are Psychic players, and they each receive a player pouch, crystal ball pawn, and clairvoyance tokens. The number of participating players should determine the game level beforehand, as the difficulty increases with extra players.
After that, players should take turns reading off their numbers from behind the cards so that the Ghost player can select each of those six Character cards later. The same process applies to Locations and Objects as well.
Then, the ghost player begins distributing Vision cards to other participants. Each card contains a character, location, or item from their earlier. Psychics must interpret these visions and guess correctly within the allocated period. When time runs out, all participants discuss an answer through consensus agreement.
If your answer is correct, you will know it when the ghost player knocks once for yes or twice for no. Continue this process until each player reaches the end of the progress board within seven hours (turns). If all players achieve this goal in time, they move to the next and last phase - if not, you lose!
4. Best Strategy: Gloomhaven
- Player count: 1-4 players
- Duration: 60 to 120 minutes
- Ages: 14+
Explore an expansive dungeon of monsters and trials in a tactical strategy game with Gloomhaven! Considered one of the most highly-rated board games ever created, this game involves elements of storytelling, cooperative role-playing, and strategy blended into an immersive fantasy world.
Why we love it
The superbly immersive RPG elements make Gloomhaven an absolute joy to play. The artwork is top-notch, and the character classes are full of personality, which helps bring the game to life. This game is for you if you and your friends are into fantasy worlds.
This game also allows for a ton of creative and tactical thinking because of your team’s highly varied special abilities and actions. You don’t have to rely on luck; you’ll have to manage resources and character health, making for an incredibly challenging but rewarding experience.
We also like how replayable it is — you can create an entirely new experience and still be surprised by resetting. There is no official end to Gloomhaven, as it can continue for months — even years before you’ve explored all it has to offer!
Our only gripe with Gloomhaven is that it’s probably not for you if your group isn’t into long, epic games. This game is no walk in the park and can take hours to even cycle through your character’s abilities. But if you’re looking for a deep and challenging adventure, Gloomhaven is definitely the way to go.
How to play
Immerse yourself in the world of Gloomhaven - a campaign game with endless possibilities! Select your desired character class and use its unique abilities and stats.
Then, open up the tiny boxes to obtain five character tokens, a mat for that specific class, and a deck composed of level 1 ability cards. The adventure awaits!
Before you begin your adventure, ensure everyone understands their character’s backstory and objectives by reviewing their character sheet. Then select a scenario to play through as a group and read the introduction together.
When all players understand what is expected from them, you can start setting up your game!
Setting up: After getting acquainted with their character and the scenario, hand out two random personal quest cards to everyone. Find an adventure card that resonates with your chosen character’s personality and story, and return the other card to its deck.
Then, equip each player with a 20-card Attack Modifier Deck. Distinguished by crossed swords on the back of every card, these cards are color-coded based on the number in their lower left corner from 1 to 4. Of such cards include six “+0”, five " +1" and five “-1”, accompanied by one for each of these values: “+2,” “-2,” “2x” and “Null”.
Equip each participant with a blue wooden Experience Tracker to log their current experience on the right side of the character mat, which begins at 0. You are now ready to kick off your first round!
Playing a scenario: Depending on your chosen situation, the first round of play can vary. Generally, players take turns exploring and engaging in battle with enemies. Missions range from clearing a dungeon to simply surviving or escaping for life—so be ready!
As you advance through the game, your character will gain levels and access to increasingly powerful ability cards that can provide temporary boosts and special effects. Depending on your chosen class, additional cards will be provided to optimize your character’s abilities.
Concluding a round: When your team conquers the mission, you will be generously rewarded with new items, golden coins, and other accomplishments - plus access to even more scenarios for further exploration!
On the other hand, if you or your team cannot complete the mission objectives or your characters become too tired to continue, you must restart the mission with a new set of cards and items.
5. Best for Kids: Hocus Pocus
- Player count: 2-6 players
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Ages: 8+
Inspired by the popular 1993 movie, Hocus Pocus is a family-friendly cooperative game with everyone joining in on the fun. Gather all your ingredients and craft the perfect potion to defeat the Sanderson Sisters once and for all!
Why we love it
There’s just something about the accessibility of the game that makes it so appealing. Not only is it effortless to learn and set up but there’s enough challenge to it without the crushing weight of failure.
Hocus Pocus is a perfect game for all ages and interests because young players can jump in quickly, while older fans of the movie will appreciate the nods to its nostalgia.
Plus, the artwork is adorable and spot-on — it truly captures the spooky spirit of the movie. Not to mention, it’s a perfect way to get into the spooky spirit during a long night!
The only downside? This game may be too easy for experienced players because of its cooperative nature. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable! So if you’re looking for a fun, family-friendly game — we highly recommend Hocus Pocus!
How to play
The goal of Hocus Pocus is to combine ingredients and defeat the three wicked Sanderson Sisters before it’s too late! Begin by positioning the cauldron board in the center of your play area, adding four trick tokens and a binx mover nearby.
Ensure all participants can easily view the witch board on one side, then place the sun token at its lowest position on the sunrise track. Then, shuffle the spell cards and ingredient cards together before handing out cards to each player.
Now that everyone has their cards, it’s time to begin. The player who lit a candle goes first, and the play continues clockwise. With every turn, each individual can take three actions — asking a question, using an ingredient card, and drawing an ingredient card. Let the game commence!
You can ask if anyone has a specific spell or ingredient card when inquiring about something. For example, you ask, “Does anyone have Newt Saliva?” Each player can answer yes or no, but cannot show the card or tell you additional details.
Once you have asked a question, evaluate if any ingredients in your hand match either type or color. Place it on one of the five piles inside your cauldron. To end this step, draw an ingredient card from the top deck to add to your collection!
Ending the game: In this game, your goal is to work with the other players in combining five ingredients of the same color or type to defeat the Sanderson Sisters. You and your team win after successfully casting a spell three times and moving the sun token on the sunrise track to the top.
Winning the game: Cooperate with your fellow players to combine five identical ingredients of the same color or type and ultimately vanquish the Sanderson Sisters. You successfully cast a spell three times and advance the sun token on the sunrise track, winning the game!
6. Best Immersive: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
- Player count: 1-8 players
- Duration: 90 minutes average playing time
- Ages: 14+
Go back in time as a team of detectives and solve some of London’s most mysterious cases! As you explore the streets of London and unravel clues, it’s up to you to find the answers and beat one of the greatest detectives ever.
Why we love it
What we love most about this game is that it truly immerses you in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Not only do you get to travel back in time and explore London, but the cases are incredibly engaging and full of twists and turns.
There is also an excellent level of accessibility in this game — even if you’re not a fan of classic novels, you can still quickly learn the basics and get immersed in the investigations. The cases are well-crafted and masterfully written, and they will keep you guessing until the end.
A significant downside? There are only ten cases included in the box — so the replay value isn’t as high as other cooperative board games. That being said, we still think it’s worth giving a try if you’re looking for a little mystery and intrigue.
How to play
Put your detective skills to the test in this game! As a member of the illustrious Baker Street Irregulars, you and your team must solve a crime with haste. Visit various locations to seek clues and use deductive reasoning to uncover evidence that will lead you to victory.
Embarking on your mission? Only left with the essential game materials: a book of cases, a map, a directory, and newspapers with helpful clues. Position them within everyone’s reach to ensure you make the most out of each one!
As lead detectives, each player can pick a case from the book. You could decide on ’the scene of the crime’, for example, and turn over to that page in the book so you can read out loud what is written there. All players then must come up with clues and solve each mystery one by one!
While you go through the clues, players are encouraged to express their thoughts and theories of this case. Investigate every aspect!
Delve into character directories for potential suspects or witnesses, browse through newspapers, peruse the map, and examine old leads; there is no limit on what can be explored while trying different methods! Feel free to experiment with any path available — success may lie within your reach!
Once you are confident that your answer is correct, answer two questions related to the case. Take into account how correct your answers are when calculating your scores. Compare this number with Sherlock’s — if it is higher than 100, congratulations, you have bested him!
How we picked and tested
PsyCat Games is built by people who know how to have fun! We’ve been researching parties and games since 2018 and have published 400+ articles on our website. That’s why we’re confident that we know what we’re talking about!
We want you to have the best time possible and not waste your money on a subpar product. That’s why we spend over three months testing over 30 games with groups of kids, teens, and adults. We’ve ranked the games by the fun factor, player experience, and replayability!
Our ranking is subjective, but we’ve tried our best to be as impartial as possible. However, if you stumble upon a cooperative board game that you think deserves a spot on our list, please reach out to us! We would love to hear from you.
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