Forbidden Island is a fun cooperative tabletop game

Originally published at: Forbidden Island is a fun cooperative tabletop game | Boing Boing


There is a nice line of games along that theme. Forbidden Island is a good gateway.
Also look at Horrified for a good co-op game!


Forbidden Island was one of our house favourites for a while, but now kiddos have outgrown it and we’ve moved on to other coop games. Our best ones are:

  • Eldrich horror: the story and writing is so good. Lots of fun to play
  • Spirit island: (not related to forbidden island), requires lots of strategy and real teamwork. It’s also fun to take the side of those fighting colonizers.
  • Castle panic: A fun tower defense game

Anyone have other suggestions?


When I first played this the card mechanic of shuffling the discard deck without touching the undrawn cards & placing it back on top of the deck made me thing it was a total rip off of Pandemic (which is another awesome coop game, although for some reason I haven’t been in the mood to play it since early 2020).

Then I “discovered” that both are written by the same game designer. :slight_smile:

Sure, all coop:

CTHULHU: DEATH MAY DIE by CMON is really nice, similar theme as Aldrich horror though, so you may have that niche filled already.

Final Hour by FFG, also the same niche, with the slight twist of every game starts after the world ending ritual has concluded, and you need to find a way to hold the nasties back and undo the ritual.

Shadows of Brimstone which is somewhere between a board game and RPG (and definitely a campaign game). Think “tentacles and cowboys” (or Forbidden Fortress is feudal Japan).

Centauri Saga mankind has left the earth! Ooops, other stuff is out there and they aren’t excited about new neighbors.

Pathfinder Adventure Card game

Aeon’s End (lots of sets, but I like Legacy). A deck builder with the interesting mechanic of not shuffling your deck (so be careful about when you buy new cards, and what cards you decide to hold in your hand and you can set up some great combos…)

I want to say Runebound (FFG), but it isn’t coop, it is “first to defeat the evil is the hero!”. You can play it coop if you try hard.

The most recent FFG Descent (a phone/tablet/desktop app plays the part of the bad guys), also FFG’s Journeys In Middle Earth which is very similar to the Descent game.

While we are on the topic of Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert & Forbidden Sky are both pretty good. I find Sky a little gimmicky & Desert is cool, but harder then the Island version (I don’t know if that is something you are looking for or not).

I have more, but those are the ones that come to mind (some because they are legit awesome, others may have some bias because I have played them more recently than others).


Forbidden Desert is fun, a bit more complex than Island, but may still be a little too simple, depending on how savvy your kiddies have become. Pandemic is also a blast, especially the Legacy seasons, but that one can get intense, and the theme is definitely more subdued, no fantasy creatures or anything, just diseases. My current favorite co-op, though, is Atlantis Rising. The latest re-issue of the game is gorgeous, and it’s thematic and tense without being stressful. Highly recommended.


Another game by Pandemic’s designer is flashpoint where you play a team of firefighters trying to rescue people from a burning building. For something loosely cooperative I might suggest ‘Hellapagos’, a game where you all work together to survive and escape a desert island at least until the food and water start running out.

There is also a pretty fun Co-op game based on ‘Back to the Future’, Back to the Future: Back in Time | Board Game | BoardGameGeek.


I’m always on the lookout for good co-op games.

Played a lot of Arkham Horror (2nd Edition). I tried third edition but didn’t care for it.

Also Robinson Crusoe: the base game is quite fun, but expansions are pretty meh.

I’d like a game that really works well for 2, 3, or 4 players. Most games seem tilted towards one end of that spectrum and play less smoothly at the other end. In both Arkham and Crusoe when playing two players we typically double up on characters to balance things out better.

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I haven’t played Arkham Horror, but heard good things. It’s the same designers as Eldrich Horror (which got better ratings on boardgame geek, which is why I bought that one).

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My son love this game, but the rest of us would rather play Monopoly than play it with him. No one but him finds any joy in it. He just likes being the helicopter pilot.

Do you care about replayability? A lot of good coop games have limited replay value due to them being legacy games or having a limited number of scenarios so replay value is limited.


Elder Sign (light, 2-4 players). Basically a dice-based version of Eldritch Horror or Arkham Horror with the attendant trappings. Quick, snappy with some good push your luck mechanics.

Codenames Duet (light, 2 players). It’s a coop version of Codenames. Basically, you have a grid of words and each player sees one side of a double-sided card describing which words you want your partner to uncover. Between the two of you, you have a certain number of clues to uncover all the words both sides want each other to uncover. Clues are the same as Codenames: one word and the number of cards associated with that word. I consider this game to be better than Codenames itself.

Pandemic (medium, 2-4 players). I consider this to be the grown up version of Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert in many ways. The expansions definitely add spice to the game and can make it easier or harder (Pandemic in the Lab is definitely harder, but I’m not sure it’s better)… if you want expansions, I would get On the Brink first. If you’re interested in Legacy versions, you can play standard Pandemic using Pandemic Legacy Season 1 before you start, like, opening boxes and drawing stuff on the board and it’s not that much more expensive than Vanilla Pandemic. Current events have definitely put a damper on this game, themewise.

Last Bastion (aka Ghost Stories reskinned with a less Orientalist theme) (heavy, 2-4 players, but best with 4): you’re trying to prevent a bastion (temple) from being overrun by hordes of monsters (ghosts). Each player has special powers. It’s a complex, rewarding coop game combining elements of Flashpoint with Forbidden Island.

Non replayable:

Mansions of Madness (2-4 players, difficulty depends on scenario): A great example of how an app can integrate with a board game. Similar characteristics to Arkham Horror. Very atmospheric with that Call of Cthulhu-esque atmosphere of being a bunch of average joes finding themselves rapidly getting in over their heads. You absolutely need the app to play the second edition of the game, so that might be a con… the first edition requires one player to sit out and basically play against the other players.

Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (medium, 2-4 players): I usually recommend people play this game before playing Gloomhaven… it’s cheaper, smaller and gives you a taste of what actual Gloomhaven is like (which is a large, expensive legacy box). Gloomhaven(: JotL) is basically a dungeon crawler. You characters gain experience and affect the world. Replay value is trying out the different characters… as a bonus, you can use characters from Gloomhaven in Gloomhaven: JotL and vice versa (and you can use those types of characters in Frosthaven as play Gloomhaven with Frosthaven characters). I recommend spending a little extra and getting non-permanent stickers if you want to eke out that bit of replayability. Note that while Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is medium in terms of weight, Gloomhaven itself is heavy; the character actions are more intricate and the scenarios are harder and it’s, like, 4 times more expensive.


Oh…that one is high on my list. I’ll probably be buying that next. My family has bought a lot of games lately, so we probably have to wait for a special time (my son’s birthday is coming up soon, so…).

ETA: Personally, replayability is less important if the game is really good. If we can play a game 5-7 times as a family, that’s fine in my book. Though, I’m not a fan of the legacy games that require you to rip or destroy pieces since we usually give our games away when we’re done with them.

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There are games that do that? Wow, that’s stupid.

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I remain entranced by the idea of “Forbidden Office”, in which one slowly becomes buried in paperwork while fending off existential dread by procrastinating on the Internet and consuming coffee furtively dosed from a hip flask. Instead of artifacts you are desperately trying to assemble the components needed to print off the last few copies of the TPS reports. It all just fits so perfectly.


That’s… an amazing idea. Though I think it would induce more anxiety than the original Forbidden Island.

That was really what I love about Forbidden Island, though. It’s so rare that you really feel the stakes of a game. Even on nights where one or two of us were a little disinterested, by the time of the last helicopter lift everyone was on the edge of their seats. A couple of times we actually had the tile we were on last fall out from under us as we were leaving (by revealing the next round, of course). So satisfying.

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I agree, it sounds really bad. But everyone I know who has played a Legacy-style game has come away saying that it is often amazing when done right.

The first of this style, Risk Legacy, was a game that evolved as you played it. Improvements in arsenals. Permanent changes to the map. Disadvantages to a player who previously won. Each game was different. And then there’s an envelope in the box marked with a warning that you should never open it.

Then came Pandemic Legacy Season 1. (Yeah, part of a series.) Players work together through a storyline impacted by your decisions. Characters could receive permanent changes, locations become wastelands, etc. It makes what you do in the game matter more. It can make the game seem pretty intense.

Some of these games remain playable in the end, after all is said and done. Others? Well, some people have been known to frame the final board state and hang it on the wall. It becomes a reminder of a shared experience.

  • Pandemic: The Cure - This is a dice version of Pandemic that sets up and plays much more quickly than the original. I think the original is still a more solid puzzle of a game, but this one is easier to get into the table these days.

  • Forbidden Desert - Already mentioned here, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s the more advanced version of Forbidden Island.

  • Hanabi - Totally different style of play. It’s a card game in which you have to place cards of different colors down in numerical order. Sounds easy until you realize that you hold your cards facing away from you. In your turn you may play a card, discard a card, or give another player a hint about what they have in their hand…with the hint limited to either color or numerical value. (Hints are limited. You get them back by playing or discarding.) No table talk allowed.

  • Lord of the Rings - Often credited as the first co-op boardgame. It was out of print for a while but was just reprinted last year. You play as the hobbits on their journey, collecting cards to complete challenges along the way. Some consider this more of a puzzle, meaning it’s sort of solvable, but it doesn’t take away from the fun. The expansions are supposed to alleviate some of that, including making another player Sauron.

  • Star Trek: Expeditions - Out of print but secondhand copies aren’t horribly priced. Take on the rolls of (sigh) JJ Abrams’ Star Trek series to explore a world while simultaneously fighting back the Klingons. Lots of card trading to put yourself at an advantage before you roll dice to resolve a crisis. Quite satisfying, but the I don’t think the game caught on enough.

That’s, uh, probably enough…

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Ick. Love star Trek…but not that.

Two more kid-oriented coop games:

Break the Safe - family of spies break into the bad guys secret hideout to steal the (…documents? I dont remember) locked in his safe. Very Mission Impossible/Spy Kids

Volcano Island Countdown - find the totems and avoid the evil tiki to escape the island before the volcano explodes!

Good for kids 8 - 10 years old, and just tense enough to keep the grownups engaged. Themes are fun.

Both are out of print, but available on ebay for $20.

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Elder Sign has an excellent app version! Highly recommend.

I encountered the app first, and it ruined the board game for me (…so nice to have the software do all the fiddly bits for you…).

Sounds like one of the scenarios in Robinson Crusoe