The best cooperative boardgames are the ones where one person can’t hijack the game and make all the decisions. By that standard, Pandemic and Forbidden Island are both awful, but Arkham Horror and Hanabi are pretty good.
Co-opoly is a fun game about building a cooperative business. No, really.
CO2 is another good example - it’s coop-competitive, so the outcome is either everybody loses or one person wins.
Be careful with Shadows Over Camelot because there’s a chance one of the players will be the traitor. That happened to me the last time my friends and I played it. I bided my time for a couple of hours until the most opportune time to screw everyone with a bad decision. The game wasn’t over but it was at a crucial point. People didn’t feel like finishing the game because they had invested so much already just to have it nearly crushed (it was debatable whether the players could still win at all).
My fiancé was sitting next to me and I don’t think he’s ever felt so betrayed and alienated from a board game before. I imagine that’s the opposite of the intent of this article. I don’t think anyone from the group has played the game since.
There’s a chance there won’t be a traitor in any given game or you could remove the traitor card before shuffling the player deck.
Not even an honorable mention for Hanabi? It won the 2013 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award, among many other awards.
No Space Alert? Time pressure is an excellent way to force real cooperation instead of “do what the most experienced player says”, and losing a co-op game is usually much more fun than winning one. Space Alert rocks on both counts.
Not mentioning the traitor aspect to Shadows Over Camelot is a huge omission.
While it’s interesting, many people may not like the dynamic of one player secretly working towards failure for all – especially in a “cooperative” game.
To be fair, I’d argue that that’s a failing of the players, not the games.
I misread the headline as “Best ever corporate boardgames” and did a double take before I figured out what I was doing wrong.
That sounds like pretty epic traitor tactics. Be proud.
Ahh, co-ops, one of the most divisive game styles of them all. In my experience, people either hate them or adore them. Leaving aside the diagnostic grist that can derive from where one falls on that spectrum, there is no doubt that this genre is a great means of bringing players into the designer board game fold. This list is adequate, but I agree with the gist of many of the comments above, it seems incomplete. For what it is worth, I think the title within the list that is most likely to appeal to the broadest audience (and I have scores of plays to back this up) is Castle Panic. It should be noted that there are variants on this game, including a zombie version (Dead Panic) and a Munchkin version (forthcoming). Each have slightly different mechanics (if not for theme, sorry zombies are starting to bore me, Dead Panic would actually be may favorite of the three).
I agree that Pandemic is a wonderful gateway co-op, though as has been noted above, it is prey to the alpha gamer problem. I actually prefer Ghost Stories to Pandemic to fill that niche, 1) because I prefer the theme and 2) I think the way in which each player is invested in clearing their own play area mitigates against the alpha gamer problem. In Ghost Stories players take on the roll of monks fighting wraiths in a Chinese town. The ghost emerge in infuriating frequency from a deck of card and players must fight the ghost; however, different ghost attach to different players (appearing in a play are before the players) and if a players board gets overrun they take damage.
Another game that I think bears mentioning is Escape: Curse of the Temple, in which players move their figures through an ever growing maze rolling dice in order to capture a certain number of gems, all again the clock. The real time element makes the game accessible, easy to learn and unique. Moreover, players are so focused on their own rolls they typically seek out help rather than volunteering it.
I think my favorite co-op however (and to my mind the most notable omission from this list) is Robinson Crusoe. This game is as elegant as they come. Moreover, it is rich with narrative and the mechanics require shared action, but permit independence. Granted the game is pretty darn expensive ($80’ish) but it is a spectacular pleasure.
CO2 is a great game, as are many co-op/compete games, BSG, Legendary, etc. But in my experience newer gamers have a harder time with these games then traditional co-ops. Have you found that? It should also be noted that CO2 is a heavy game (meaning complex). Which is not to say it is not a game that players should explore, just be aware.
I agree with citizenknong, way to go lumpmoose. But your point is well taken, traitor games are great fun, but they can provoke strong responses from some players, especially if they don’t go into the game fully aware that sussing out the traitor is vital to their success. I for one would have commended you (and glowed with pride at having made such a sage choice in partner) and ached for the next chance to play.
No Scotland Yard?
I haven’t played Hanabi, but can’t Arkham Horror equally fall into the trap of having the most experienced player dictate the game? I’m not sure why it’s different than Pandemic in that regard.
That said, I’ve found that the best way to play Pandemic is to require closed hands (i.e. players can only see their own hands), so that you have to say what’s in your hand. I don’t know whether there’s an official rule about that or not, but most games I’ve played in the players have defaulted to open hands.
Closed hands requires much more communication, and feels more like you’re cooperating as a team. Yes, you keep saying the cards that are in your hand several times, but with four players, it’s hard to keep track of 4 x 7 cards, so you feel like you’ve got slightly less complete information. There’s a lot more “How do we get all the yellow cards cards? I have three. Ok, I’ve got two, let’s meet in Sao Paolo. No, I’ve got Bogota, I’ll just fly there. Wait, you had a yellow card too, why didn’t you say that?? I did!!”
Pandemic is awesome. It was first game I got my wife to play. She’s in social services so the idea of preventing an outbreak was something she couldn’t resist.
The Battlestar Galactica game was awesome in that it’s co-op but there could or could not be a cylon tying to sabotage everyone.
Zombicide is also very fun if you’re into the whole zombie thing.
I love the idea of cooperative games, but ALL of them have the quarterback problem. There’s no way to completely mitigate it when there is a huge difference in player comfort/ability/familiarity with the game.
Pandemic and Lord of the Rings are fun with closed hands and people who are all at the same level.
Zombicide is tedious but tense.
Shadows over Camelot is amazing as long as you’re playing with a possible traitor and the person who gets the traitor is reasonably good at what they do.
Space Cadets: Dice Duels and Escape! are great random messes that could be taken over by a quarterback, but Space Cadets mitigates this by embracing the quarterback and Escape is too fast to have lasting strategy.
Great to see Family Pastimes getting a shout-out here. They’re real pioneers of this form, they’ve made a bazillion games, and the look and feel of their products is very congenial and upbeat. Lots of good stuff there.