Games 101

What are Co-op Board Games?

We love introducing people to new games. One of my favorite things to bring to the table for someone who is new to board games, or hasn’t really played them since they were a kid, are co-op games. Unlike traditional board games where players compete against each other, cooperative board games involve players working together and playing against the board.

Co-op board games are a whole new experience for people and is a great way to get people curious about what else you may have on your game shelf. These games are also perfect for people who want to enjoy themselves without the stress of competition. In this article, we will discuss what cooperative board games are, why they are so much fun, and how to win (as a team)!

What is a co-op board game?

A Co-op (Cooperative) board game is a game where all of the players work together to complete a goal. The challenge in this type of game comes from trying to beat “the board”. After each player turn “the board” will get a turn, trying to defeat the players. Each player typically has a special ability that only they can perform. The players must strategize together to combine these abilities in the best way possible to succeed!

Example of a co-op board game (Forbidden Island)

There are a lot of Co-op board games on our shelves, but when teaching the genre to new players, we always reach for Forbidden Island. Forbidden Island has enough complexity to introduce the core co-op concepts, without layering on too much extra. We’ll use it for our digital co-op intro as well!

In Forbidden Island you play as a team of explorers searching an Island for four hidden treasures (think Indiana Jones). The Island is created by shuffling 24 location tiles and randomly arranging them in this pattern.

Oh, and did I mention the island is sinking?

After each player turn a number of cards are dealt for a “flood deck” and the locations revealed are turned over to signify the tile is flooded. If that tile comes up again before it can be “shored up” (turned back over), it sinks and it removed from the game.

Throughout the game players will encounter “water rise” cards which require the flood discard pile be shuffled and placed back on top of the flood deck. This will increase the chances that an already flooded tile comes up again. As the game progresses the number of flood cards drawn increases.

In order to collect a treasure, the players must get 5 cards picturing that treasure to one player and that player must get to one of two locations where that treasure can be collected (before both sink).

If both locations for an treasure sink before it is collected… you lose.

If the helicopter pad tile sinks (no way off the island)… you lose.

If you lose your path to the helicopter pad … you lose.

If the water level raises too high … you lose.

It can get pretty intense… and it’s a great time!

What are some benefits of a co-op board game?

There are a lot of reasons to love cooperative board games, but here are just a few:

  • They’re perfect for people who want to enjoy themselves without the stress of competition.
  • Cooperative games teach players how to work together and strategize in order to complete a goal.
  • Many co-op games have a ” easy to learn, hard to master” quality about them.
  • Cooperative games tend to have a high replay value because of the way they are designed.
  • They’re perfect for people who want to introduce friends or family members to the hobby of board gaming.
  • Co-op games come with a built-in sense of satisfaction because players feel like they’ve accomplished something when they win.

What are some strategies for winning co-op board games?

The best part of co-op games is that all of the players win or lose as a team. Even though you are not trying to “beat” anyone else, there are still strategies for helping the team win!

Pay attention to everyone’s abilities: The game designers gave you these special abilities for a reason. If you don’t use them to your advantage, you’re going to have a hard time winning.

Don’t lose sight of the goal: Things can get stressful as the game progresses. Try not to get too focused on the drama, stay focused on what you actually need to do to win and strategize accordingly.

Keep communication flowing: You’re all working together, even if it’s not you’re turn, if you have an idea share it! Just be sure to make sure you’re taking everyone’s input and don’t let the extroverts dominate the table. You never know where the next great idea will come from.

Stay positive and have fun: These games are typically designed to be difficult. Losing and re-strategizing is part of the experience.


An absolute classic! Play as a group of scientist trying to contain and cure four diseases that are spreading around the globe. If you like this one and you have a group that gets together regularly try the Pandemic Legacy series.

Castle Panic

Great game for playing with kids. Defeat a horde of advancing monsters before they knock down your entire castle. There are also some great expansions for this game that add new mechanics (The Wizard’s Tower is my personal favorite).

Forbidden Desert

The follow-up game to Forbidden Island. This version is MUCH more challenging. I honestly think we’ve only beaten it once.


The perfect game for people who like puzzles. Your goal is to create the best fireworks show possible by giving your teammates clues about the firework cards you have in your hand.

Final Thoughts

Cooperative board games are a great way to have fun and work together as a team. They teach players how to strategize and communicate with each other in order to achieve a common goal. Many co-op games come with a high replay value, due to the way they are designed. They’re perfect for introducing friends or family members to the board gaming hobby. I hope you try some of the games on this list and enjoy them as much as we do!