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Best Cooperative Board Games: 10 Ways to Have Fun With People You Don’t Actually Like in 2019

March 23, 2019
cooperative board games demand teamwork

Cooperative board games can bring just about anyone together — even people with whom you have absolutely nothing in common! You’ll want to quickly hustle them out the door after the game, but this way you’re guaranteed at least 90 minutes of non-awkward fun.

And it gives you a neatly packaged way to socialize, which is pretty novel for board gamers such as ourselves, what with our Gollum-like aversions to the sun.

The sun is like a big garish ball of ocular discomfort that turns your skin red.

Ooh, yeah, let’s go to the beach! Then we can get gritty sand in our underwear while our flesh burns to a crisp and our nostrils bloat with the sour musk of old seaweed!

No, thank you, I’ve had enough sour seaweed musk for the day.

Best Cooperative Board Games

Instead if your friends and you want to hang out, have a good time, while avoiding sand everywhere, here is a list of cooperative board games you should play instead of going to the beach.

Pandemic

Work together to save the world!

Pandemic is a must experience for cooperative board games.

In Pandemic, the world has been struck by a nasty plague. There are multiple strains of this disease, and it is up to your crack team to save humanity from a sick demise.

Per the cover of the game, this crew includes a scientist, a military medic, a guy in an orange jacket with a walkie-talkie, and a car salesman who rolled up his sleeves.

The appeal of this game lies in its accessibility — novice gamers ought to enjoy it as much as their more-experienced gamer friends.

This game does not lack for theme though, with an elegant map of bright colors, biohazard tokens, and techy-looking view of Planet Earth.

The rulebook is as light as a feather, yet Pandemic is somehow engrossing and intense. You’ll have to divide your time between preventing the spread of the diseases and actually curing them.

As you cure a disease, the other strains of old Sally Sickness are spreading out of control. Was it worth it?

There is no straight answer. There is only the race to the finish fraught with hard choices. Will you, guy in the orange jacket, be the one to save humanity?

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

Eldritch Horror

A fun way to fight unspeakable horrors, you know, a typical Friday night.

Years ago there was the old version of Arkham Horror. It was clunky, massive and needy. The old game required a huge effort just to manage the board and its moving pieces. Then came Eldritch Horror.

Eldritch Horror is one of the best RPG cooperative board games. Players take on the roles of brave men and women from all walks of life, coming together to prevent the awakening of a very old alien monster thing.

You’ll be travelling from Egypt to San Francisco to Eastern Europe as great portals to other dimensions open up and spit out monstrosities. These fiends want to suck your brains out of your ear. Or your nose. They’re not picky.

Load up on magic tomes, tommy guns, classy cigarette holders, and plates of moderately tasty food as you travel the world to shut down these monstrous heralds of doom. Before it’s too late, preferably. Otherwise, the ancient entity wakes up and slaps you around.

You can still technically win at that point, but our bets are on the enormous planet-devouring alien monster. This game packs all the action of old Arkham into a faster, easier experience. Superb art, cool character abilities, and exciting story developments.

Great board game, but the playtime is lengthy. Seriously.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

Legendary Encounters: An ALIEN Deck Building Game

A great cooperative deck building experience!

Legendary Encounters is the oddly titled Ridley Scott edition of the Marvel Legendary deckbuilders. If you have ever wanted to re-enact any of the movies in the Alien series, this is your best bet.

Unless you are actually going into space, in which case you should still bring this game with you. What else do you do in space? Press buttons and eat yogurt? We failed astronaut school, so now we review board games.

The designers clearly knew their Alien lore, so expect some really cool game representations of film events. Basically, those vaguely sexy black aliens will be creeping out of the woodwork, traveling through the play area until they reach you. Don’t let them reach you.

Easy, right? You’ll have to balance your deck between currency and killing power in order to survive, and that’s where it gets tough. Focus too hard on currency, and you get overwhelmed as you build a super deck. Focus too much on killing power and, well, you can’t really. Not without the currency to build your attack power.

Any of the movies can be reenacted, from the ground-breaking original to that one where Ridley is a clone and has a weird alien baby or something.

Our personal favorite is the facehugger cards, which lay eggs in your deck. As in, a chestburster card is slipped into your deck, and you could pull it at any time. And then it’s Hello, my babyyy, hello, my honeyyyy…

The downside? Tons and tons of cards to sort. Watch the entire Alien series in the background while you undertake this task.

Yes, even Prometheus. Not the sequel though.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

And for more deck building games like this, check out our guide on the Deck Building Game for You!

New Angeles

Just a great game, made better with friends!

Can we just start by saying that this game kicks ass? Well we just did. You’re not the boss of us! As far as cooperative board games, this one stands out on it’s own in many ways.

New Angeles is set in the flashy postmodern Android universe of clones, evil megacorporations, genius netrunners, and also Whizzard. It’s basically “Neuromancer” meets “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” only more intellectually accessible than either.

You and the other players take the roles of corrupt megacorporations running the city for profit. But between riots, organized crime, power outages, and other chaos, this is no easy task. If things get too far out of control, the federal government steps in to take over, and you can kiss your profits goodbye.

Players have a series of secret agendas throughout the game, like cutting power costs by siphoning power from city districts. It will then be your job to subtly persuade the other CEOs to neglect the power outages from which you are profiting.

The best one is when you have to steer the leadership away from fixing diseases so that you can come in at the last second with a mega cure. Can you say: $$$?

Just an amazing game. However, it is quite complicated, featuring a lot of moving parts and different mechanics. It might take a playthrough just to get the hang of things.

If you give this a try, we guarantee you’ll fall in love with it.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

XCOM

Approachable for new players and those who’ve played the video game version!

Hold the “Sexcom” jokes until after you see how sexy this game really is.

Xcom is an old video game series with a pair of particularly successful and fun entries in the last ten years. Xcom 2 is the latest in this ongoing saga — small squads of cool, ethnically diverse dudes (in a way that feels natural and not PC–bravo!!) slugging it out with an alien menace.

Why can’t more aliens be like E.T.?

We’d take E.T.’s weird, long fingers over sectoids and snake men any day. In the board game adaptation, you (one of you, anyway) are once again placed in the shoes of the “Commander,” a tactical genius guiding humanity’s last-ditch guerilla operations against big-head bastards from outer space.

Cooperative board games typically feature role / responsibility division and XCOM does an excellent job of it.

You and your friends will divide your efforts by taking different roles:

  • Commander
  • Chief Scientist
  • Central Officer
  • Squad Leader (not a desk job — somebody drew the short end of the stick)

This game hasn’t left the digital medium entirely behind though. It uses a free companion app that dictates the alien strategy, forcing you and your team to respond in limited time windows.

Hard times call for hard decisions. Do you push your luck or cut your losses? Between destroying UFOs, researching alien tech, and coordinating battle plans with your team, you’ll have your hands full.

Full of goopy alien blood. Just don’t get any on your smartphone.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

At the Mountains of Madness

Watch your friends go insane and laugh about it (insanely)

They finally made a cooperative board game based on the ideal vacation spot.

At the Mountains of Madness is based on the Lovecraftian short story of the same name. Yes, this is another Lovecraft game. No, it is not some cheap cash grab like Cthul-Clue or Yog Sothoth-opoly.

Mountains gets Lovecraft, like a soulmate who truly loves old H.P. for what he is: An author of existential terror. Where most Lovecraft games have you aiming a pistol at eternal aliens of immense power, Mountains places you right where Lovecraft always wanted you:

A terrible place of fear and impotence. The first step to having fun is acknowledging the futility of human existence.

In Mountains, you and the other university employees are slowly going insane as you dig up alien artifacts, making your way up frozen peaks.

You’ll be limited by this creeping insanity, which forces you to stunt your own communication. Play on the “expert mode” variant for best results. Madness cards accumulate and your group will struggle to complete even simple tasks.

One player is whispering, another is shouting from the far end of the room, and the other guy can’t utter numbers. We won’t spoil the best madness card afflictions.

The whole game is about trying to scrape by with your tenure intact and as much of your sanity as you can maintain. Expeditions gone wrong have never been so hilarious.

Some complain it’s too much like a party game, but when you reflect on the way your adventure is dying of paranoia and infighting, we think that’s just unsettling enough to balance the humor.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Cooperative with a betrayal element – plus countless scenarios – no play through is the same!

Explore new places! Betray your friends! Go into the other room and read a rules pamphlet by yourself!

Do any of these sound fun? Well, they should. Betrayal at House on the Hill is an exceptional game of mostly cooperative horror.

Build your own haunted mansion together room by room. No haunted house will ever be the same. As you navigate the traps, curses, ghosts, and other spooky stuff of the house, you’ll collect weapons and accessories to help you manage in the coming phase.

Once a semi-random time has passed, the haunt phase begins. One player becomes the traitor and must fulfill a randomized objective. Empower an evil poltergeist, direct an army of zombies, etc.

The other players will have their own rules pamphlet to work with, which details most of what they need to know. The heroes and the traitor both know their own end of the deal, but can only guess at the exact nature of what the other side is up to.

If you have ever wanted to be an old priest in thrall to an ancient vampire, swinging a knife at children in a magic elevator, you have found your next cooperative board game.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Help Sherlock solve crimes!

There is nothing elementary about this inventive and challenging title. It’s really not even a “board game” in the way you expect.

Consulting Detective is an intellectual adventure of deduction and dead ends. It’s more like a choose-your-own-adventure mystery with a big old buttload of content the size of Holmes’ private cocaine stash.

What, you didn’t know Sherlock got high? As a kite, readers. But only when he was bored due to lack of mysteries to solve.

There are no drugs in this game, and you play as a series of “Baker Street irregulars,” orphaned thug children prowling the streets for Holmes to gather details in exchange for the promise of distant, vaguely parental affection from the great detective.

Which you will never earn, since Sherlock is actually solving the mystery at his own savant’s pace. You’ll never best him unless you’re a real-life detective.

It sucks a little that you don’t get to play as Holmes, or at least a chubby, mustachioed Watson, but the intense mystery and total freedom ought to keep you busy enough not to notice the holes in your trousers.

From authentic-looking newspaper clippings to carefully typed case files, you and your fellow detectives can really get lost as you pore over the beautiful map, exploring every nook and cranny.

A+ mystery-solving roleplay experience.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

Last Night on Earth

Spend your last night on Earth playing this great game!

What would it look like if you lived every night as though it were your Last Night on Earth?

Can you imagine: Running nude into the street, firing an antique revolver you stole from your old boss, whom you’ve always wanted to screw over by stealing his antique revolver in the nude?

This is not a sustainable way to live, and proof that not every day should be treated as a mirror of your final moments.

Which means you have time to sit down and play this semi-cooperative board game! Last Night pits teams of players against one another in the B-movie setting of some Blockbuster zombie ripoff.

Don’t worry, it’s deliberate. It’s zombies vs. humans, and the humans have limited windows in which to compete cliche movie objectives like defending the manor or revving up the old car to escape before it’s too late.

Humans move fast, but zombies are numerous. It’s easy to learn, pretty straightforward, and lets you finally make good on all those times you watched a horror movie and said, “If I were in this situation…”

Will the jock, sheriff, sexy nurse, and homeless man successfully torch all the zombie nests before Sleepyville gets ransacked by the rotting dead? Only if they don’t roll ones every time they try to fire a gun.

As far as cooperative board games go, this is must have.

Check Catan availability on Amazon here!

You Kids Stay in That Bathroom Until You Can Cooperate!

That’s what our moms used to say, anyhow. They should have just sat us down with some of these incredible cooperative board games. And they’re not merely for domestic use — need to create a sense of cohesion and fraternity amongst your employees? Why not bring a cooperative board game to the next meeting?

And also cheap vodka. Nothing makes a team friendlier than generous supplies of bottom-shelf liquor. Maybe a little too friendly. Marlene from Accounting has been watching us with her lazy eye, and liquid courage is probably the last thing she needs.

Oh jeez, here she co-

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