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In the screen time and selfie age, it is refreshing to see the growing interest in board games the past few years, particularly ones where you must work with the other players instead of competing against them.

The market offers hundreds of options to choose from but finding the best cooperative board games can be a bit overwhelming. So, we have boiled it down to the best 14 cooperative board games to make it easy for you to find one that will keep you entertained for hours.

In Short

If you can pick only one of the best cooperative board games, it should be Pandemic. It is relatively easy to learn, inexpensive, and stimulating. The design promotes team play and together you save the world from horrible diseases or face annihilation in less than an hour. A sense of tension and the need for creative thinking are part of why it can become addictive.

If you enjoy fantasy and are willing to pay more, Gloomhaven deservingly won a bevy of awards in 2017 and 2018. You will explore places like dangerous caves and dark crypts searching for treasure. Gamers who love quests and fighting monsters can stay engaged for a single game or over multiple sessions when played in campaign mode.

1. Pandemic Review - Best Overall Coop Board Game
  • Builds tension and requires creative thinking
  • Easy to learn, inexpensive, and challenging
  • Multiple difficulty levels
  • Promotes team play
  • Game takes an hour or less to play
  • Replay often, every game is different
  • Inexpensive
  • Add on packs and other versions (including legacy) are available
  • Difficult to win
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Players: 2-4 | Age: 8+ | Time to play: 45 mins. | Genre: Save the World

Ever want to be a hero and rescue the world from certain death? Well, Pandemic is your chance to work with a team of specialists to do just that. Each of the elite crew members have different abilities and must work together to eradicate four diseases before the clock runs out. Or you and everyone on the planet dies horribly.

Every move you make can spread disease and lead to an outbreak. You must be a team player, anticipate, and think creatively or the mission will fail.

As the clock ticks down, a sense of urgency forces you to travel the world, finding solutions as part of a team plan. It actually becomes intense for many players. This is a tribute to the game design and most who play are quickly drawn in.

Also, many cooperative games can lead to one team member going rogue or taking over (a.k.a. “quarterbacking”). But not with Pandemic, the obvious need for teamwork is one reason why it is consistently a top rated and award winning cooperative board game.

The game is popular for other reasons, too. Its rules are fairly easy to grasp and it is not very expensive compared to other games.

But just because the rules are understandable, do not make the mistake of thinking this game is easy to beat. It is not. In fact, you should be prepared to fail the first time you play. Once you have played the game a few times, you can raise the level of difficulty to keep things challenging, if necessary.

This game can be addictive and most will want to return for another attempt, even after a harsh defeat. Since every game played is different, you can play repeatedly and have a go at saving the world as many times as you like.


If you have friends or family who like challenging board games as much as you do, then you will want to own this classic. It is a fun experience you can play repeatedly. Worth every penny for a chance to try and save the world’s population from annihilation.

2. Gloomhaven Review - Best Fantasy Quest Cooperative Board Game
  • Players employ cards during combat, not dice
  • No “Dungeon Master” needed
  • The board evolves and changes
  • 1700 playing cards
  • 47 monster/enemy cardboard cutouts w/ stands
  • 17 playable characters
  • Plastic miniatures for player’s characters
  • Can play in legacy/campaign mode
  • Expensive
  • Takes time to upack, learn, and setup
  • Needs commitment from the players
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Players: 1-4 | Age: 12+ | Time to play: 60-120 mins. | Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

If it was possible to stuff Dungeons and Dragons without the dice or Dungeon Master into a single board game, with a pinch of Game of Thrones thrown in, you would have something close to Gloomhaven.

The main concept is simple, your mercenary team embarks from Gloomhaven on an adventure in search of wealth and fame. But none of the local villagers expect you to return alive.

That is because your team will have to explore perilous caves, clear out dangerous crypts, and travel through dark forests. Along the way, fantastical monsters and enemies will be encountered, and fought.

To make things harder, the board constantly evolves and changes based on your decisions and actions.

So, players must work together to adapt to the changing scenarios and defeat the monsters. Take too long to clear a dungeon and exhaustion can force you to retreat, or worse. In one variant you can play called Permanent Death, it is possible for your characters to die.

Instead of the ubiquitous dice employed by many of the other popular role playing games, cards are used for combat in Gloomhaven. This adds to the strategy aspect of the game as you must rely on the cards you select to play and consider how they work with others on your team.

In this regard, Gloomhaven is at its core a board game, not a role playing affair, and you need to focus on your strategy, not your cosplay.

The map tiles and accessories are extensive. In fact, the game’s box is a beast, weighing just over 20 pounds.

Playing cards, tokens, map tiles, miniatures, cardboard cutouts, etc. are numerous and the assorted accoutrements are one of the reasons this game has gained a strong following. It is also why this is one of the more expensive cooperative board games on the market.

A single game can be played in an hour or two, but many who are drawn to this type of board game will take advantage of the campaign aspect. This means each play session can build on what transpired in previous games.


Get your axe sharp and pack your supplies, there are monsters to fight and treasure to discover. An intriguing dungeon crawl you can play in one session or as a campaign over many games. It is expensive, but Gloomhaven is a detailed quest without the dice and dungeon master.

3. Mysterium Review - Best Paranormal Coop Board Game
  • Unique and odd in a fun way
  • Artwork and story are done well
  • Relies on deciphering of visions/pictures
  • 7 players can play
  • Can be replayed often
  • Online versions available
  • Mid priced
  • Same players over multiple games in the same roles can become predictable
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Players: 2-7 | Age: 10+ | Time to play: 45 mins. | Genre: Sleuthing/Paranormal

Chasing ghosts in a haunted mansion sounds interesting, but pursuing a ghost for its assistance so you can solve a crime is even more entertaining. That is precisely your task as a member of a psychic investigation team, determine the details of the ghost’s murder through contact with the apparition.

But your job is complicated since the spirit cannot speak. It can only share surreal visions that are vague. You must then interpret the odd images and piece them together to uncover the murderer, location, and weapon.

In this regard, it is a little like the old game Clue, but the similarities end there. In Mysterium, you play as a team, not against each other. Plus, things can get a little weird as the players try to comprehend the pictures provided by the ghost.

The abstract visions do have many potential meanings so the investigators must communicate with each other and “vote” on solutions based on their reading of the images. The team offers its best guess, and in the end, you either solve the crime or let the criminal escape as a team.

The art work and maps present an old, almost Victorian setting, with a paranormal twist. It is done well, and pulls you into the crime solving more than than the dark, eerie side of the paranormal.

One unique aspect of this game is one player must play as the ghost. This role is entertaining, though, since the spirit role allows you to watch as the psychic team correctly, or incorrectly, decipher the visions offered.


Mysterium is an interesting twist for those who like the crime-solving genre. The strange pictures you and your friends interpret are a Rorschach test that can get weird at times. But it is challenging and lots of fun in a game that takes less than an hour.

4. Forbidden Island Review - Best Quick Play
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to learn and play
  • Quick, 30 minutes per game
  • Appropriate for younger children
  • Can play repeatedly
  • Variations of this game are available (e.g. Forbidden Desert)
  • May be too simple for serious gamers
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Players: 2-4 | Age: 10+ | Time to play: 30 mins. | Genre: Fantasy Quest

A quest to find sacred artifacts with your friends on a remote island, in 30 minutes, is a good hook. But this is no ordinary island, it sinks every time you take a step.

Your time is short and you must collect all four treasures before the entire island sinks, or the whole team loses. Cooperation and communication is crucial, and to win you must employ some creative thinking.

The game duration is shorter than most cooperative board games, so it is attractive to those who do not like long, drawn out games.

Also, some have called this game Pandemic “lite” as it is less urgent and intense. But it uses similar mechanics for the gameplay that is a bit faster and easier to use. This aspect does make Forbidden Island more accessible to younger ones and some use this game to introduce friends to the Pandemic style of gameplay.

The price is low compared to other options, making Forbidden Island accessible to just about everyone interested in cooperative board games.


Forbidden Island is a treasure hunt with a strong story and fast, easy turns. It is a good introduction to the cooperative board game world and affordable. Plus, the sinking island story is clean enough to even get the kids involved.

5. Spirit Island Review - Most Unique
  • Unique concept
  • Modular island boards
  • Repeatable play
  • Detailed and challenging
  • Two different invaders to choose from to set difficulty level
  • Expansion pack is available
  • Mid-price game
  • Not for those who shun details
  • Takes longer to play than other games
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Players: 1-4 | Age: 14+ | Time to play: 90-120 mins. | Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Quest

While many games put players in the role of explorer or adventurer, Spirit Island flips things on its head. In this game, you are part of a team of spirits, defending your island and the native inhabitants against vicious, invasive explorers.

These outsiders build settlements and bring hardship and blight to your island. As one of the spirits, you fight back using your paranormal powers. Each spirit has vastly different powers and some powers take longer than others to have an impact.

Things get even more complicated because the natives can assist you and your fellow spirits. But it does not always result in the way you intended.

So, players must work together and use their disparate powers to augment one another. Also, while the game progresses, you acquire new powers, which keeps things evolving and interesting. You pay attention to the details and think creatively.

The game also allows you to increase the difficulty level in a clever way, you get to pick the invaders. Each group of invaders brings a different challenge and keeps the game replayable.

The playing time on the box is optimistic and games have been known to go longer than 120 minutes, so be sure you have some time before sitting down for a session.


Spirit Island is a well-designed game, requiring attention to detail and focus. To defend the island, and win, you must coordinate your spirit powers with the other players. This task is difficult and takes some time, so it is not for the casual gamer.

6. Too Many Bones Review - Best Dice Game
  • Beautiful, detailed story
  • Complex and challenging
  • Requires cooperation of the players to win
  • Can add new gearloc characters
  • Solid build quality, no cardboard or flimsy pieces
  • 136 custom dice
  • There are rules variants to mix things up
  • Expansion packs are available
  • Expensive
  • Long play time
  • May be too complex for kids
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Players: 1-4 | Age: 12+ | Time to play: 60-120 mins. | Genre: Dice Builder RPG

While some games eschew the use of dice, Too Many Bones embraces the dice heritage of role playing games (“RPGs”) and boldly includes 136 custom dice in the box.

There are four characters, or gearlocs, included in the game and the manufacturer does sell additional add-ons if you want more character choices. Each gearloc comes with a detailed profile, spelling out their abilities, and a tray to collect the dice and other information as you play.

Of course, the gearlocks abilities vary to make things interesting. You must formulate strategies to coordinate with each other to be successful in your mission.

At the beginning of a game, you must acquire “loot and trove loot” to build your character’s strength and power. Once you have enough “loot”, you can confront and attempt to defeat the seven tyrants who have invaded your land. Did we mention the tyrannical invaders?

This game is well constructed and intricate, but you have to pay for quality and it is expensive. However, many feel it is worth the price and some go so far as to say that Too Many Bones is built to be waterproof. Yes, even the cards are printed on plastic.

Somewhat similar to Gloomhaven with dice, this game is complex and not for those who despise details or rules. As you add gearloc abilities, you have to deal with even more rules and it can become difficult to keep track of everything. This may be hard for younger players to follow.

While this might sound like a game destined for drawn out campaigns, it is actually intended to be played in a single session game. The manufacturer has a beta campaign version in development, but for now, this is not a campaign style game. Plus, they are adamant that Gloomhaven will never be a legacy game.

Speaking of the manufacturer, this game is sold direct. You might find a used one for sale on some of the popular shopping sites, but there is a concerted effort to sell this game and its expansion packs direct.


Elaborate and well built, Too Many Bones embraces the dice throwing roots of the original role playing dungeon crawls. But unlike its predecessors, no dungeon master is required. For those who want an immersive fantasy experience, this game will deliver if you are willing to pay over one hundred dollars for a board game.

7. Castle Panic Review - Best Family Board Game
  • Easy to learn
  • Whole family can play (except very young children)
  • Up to 6 players
  • Rules variations for different levels of difficulty
  • Can be played repeatedly
  • Can be played as solitaire
  • Inexpensive
  • May be too simple for hardcore gamers
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Players: 1-6 | Age: 10+ | Time to play: 60 mins. | Genre: Medieval Fantasy

Some games are simple but fun, and Castle Panic is one such game. The rules are easy to understand and the game is appropriate for the entire family. Unless you have very young children, this game is a good choice for some interactive time with your friends and family.

The premise is you and your team work together to defend the castle tower from approaching monsters. You play cards to battle the attackers and some strategy comes into play as you are allowed to trade a card with another player during your turn.

Many games are for four or less players, and many are best when played with three or four players. Castle Panic is flexible and works quite well with just two players, or six, and it can even be played in a solitaire mode.

One of the other nice touches is the ability to tweak the rules. You can use these variations to mix things up and keep the game interesting.

For example, it is unusual to have a “winner” in a cooperative game, and make no mistake, this is a cooperative game. You either save the castle tower, or you lose as a team.

But in one version of the rules, you keep each monster token as you kill it so it can be tallied. At the end, the one with the most monster life points earns a special slayer title. An individual title is unusual but adds another dimension to this cooperative board game.

While Castle Panic might not be elaborate enough for hard core gamers, it is more flexible in the number of players needed than other games. Plus, it is easy to learn and would earn a “G” rating if it was a movie, so get the kids involved.


Easy to learn rules make Castle Panic a good cooperative board game for beginners. You keep the monsters from knocking down your castle walls by mutually playing cards. Rules variants keep things interesting and every game played is unique. The game has a cartoon vibe that is very kid friendly, so it is a great choice for a family.

8. Betrayal at House on the Hill Review - Best Surprises
  • Artwork and story help to create eerie feel
  • Peculiar, surprising game play
  • Requires strategy and cooperation
  • Traitor is a unique twist
  • Modular board
  • Repeatable play, every game is different
  • Expansion kit is available
  • Affordable price
  • Need at least 3 players
  • Many pieces are cardboard punch-outs
  • Material may be too dark for some
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Players: 3-6 | Age: 12+ | Time to play: 60 mins. | Genre: Haunted Mansion Crawler

If you like surprises and blood curdling situations, then Betrayal at House on the Hill may be your game. Unpredictable, strange events await in this creepy haunted house that you construct, then work cooperatively with the other players to escape alive. It is not an easy task.

If that is not strange enough, during the course of play one of the players may betray the group. This traitor will have to be defeated while dealing with the bizarre supernatural occurrences and fighting off monsters.

Players also encounter spirits and omens along the way that foreshadow their fate. In order to get out alive, you must work with the other players and use shared strategy based on what the team members have learned.

Some of the material is surprisingly dark, and the 12+ age rating is a good guideline for parents to follow. But for fans of horror and the supernatural, this cooperative board game will be a favorite.


Betrayal at House on the Hill makes you fear what awaits around each corner. Staying alive is difficult and odd twists will surprise you, but that is what makes this game fun. If you have at least two friends who enjoy the haunted genre, it is a unique experience for your group.

9. The Mind Review - Best Coop Card Game
  • Simple to learn
  • Is inherently a cooperative game
  • Hard to get to higher levels, but addictive
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick to play
  • 120 card deck
  • Repeated plays, every game is unique
  • Cardstock is not coated, prone to water damage
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Players: 2-4 | Age: 8+ | Time to play: 20 mins. | Genre: Cards/Mind Reading

The Mind is not technically a board game as it does include an actual board. But the 120 cards used to play the game are piled in the center of the table and serve as the game center in the same manner as a board. Plus, cooperation is needed as you must read each other’s minds.

After the numbered cards are dealt, the players simply need to unload the cards from their hands in ascending order. But there is a catch, you cannot talk to each other or show anyone the cards you are holding. You must use nonverbal communication to figure out which card should be played next.

There are increasing levels of play, and you must draw the number of cards for the level. For example, each player takes one card in level one, two cards in level two, and so on. Then all of the player’s cards must be restacked in ascending order without the players communicating, other than ESP.

There are some aids in the game that do allow you to make mistakes every now and then. But getting to the higher levels is a challenge, and it is addictive to try and reach a new best with your team.


The Mind is a fast, easy to learn card game. The implied use of ESP to figure out who plays the next card is strange enough to hook any curious mind. The Mind is an inexpensive, fun game to have available when you need a group activity.

10. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle Review - Best for Movie Fans
  • Mid priced
  • Not too complex
  • Good build quality
  • 7 levels to play
  • Favorite characters and villains from the series are involved
  • Replay each level as many times as you like
  • Younger movie fans can play
  • Expansion packs are available
  • Only four of the series characters to choose from
  • May not be as much fun for non-fans of the series
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Players: 2-4 | Age: 11+ | Time to play: 30-90 mins. | Genre: Wizarding/Deck-building

The Harry Potter series is well known and loved. Marrying this franchise with a cooperative board game seems pretty obvious, but it is tricky to do. Let’s face it, fans can be easily disappointed if the game fails to provide a gaming experience that mimics the series.

Fortunately, this game provides the Hogwarts experience with the seven different levels, each tantalizingly packaged in individual brown leather print boxes. The Dark Lord is lurking, and you must keep him from taking over the castle.

Fans will appreciate that you can play as Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley or Neville Longbottom. Plus, many of your favorite villians are here, too, and you get to fight them.

One little nitpic is it would be fun to play as some of the other many popular characters in the franchise, Luna for example. There is an expansion pack, but the four levels in the expansion pack are best played after completing the first seven adventures in the base game.

Just as in the books, you will need to work together to defeat all the villains and secure various castle locations. Strategy is needed and the players cards are visible to all, which helps coordinate tactics.

The build quality is good and the price is moderate. Combined with the recognizable Harry Potter name, this game has become quite popular giving people a chance to try their hand at casting spells.

The recommended age is on the high side. The game is not too complex and younger Hogwart movie fans will enjoy this game. Other sites have mentioned the age range should be more like 8+.

Also, this is a deck-building game. That means you only start with a few cards and must build your deck as you play. Your deck determines how much power you wield, and during a cooperative game, strategy by the team comes into play as to who should obtain certain cards.


For fans of Harry Potter, the chance to secure the castle will be a hit. The artwork and game design bring you into the wizarding world and it provides a fun experience for Hogwarts enthusiasts, spells and all. It is slightly more expensive than some other games, but far from the most expensive.

11. Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Review - Best for Larger Groups
  • Immersive and accurate depiction of Victorian Londen
  • 10 cases to solve
  • Game of wits and cooperation, not luck
  • You are ranked against Sherlock Holmes
  • Moderate price
  • Expansion packs with new cases are available
  • Once the 10 cases are solved, they are not replayable
  • Very hard to beat Sherlock Holmes’ rating
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Players: 1-8 | Age: 12+ | Time to play: 90 mins. | Genre: Sleuthing

This Sherlock Holmes based game has been around since 1981. But it remains popular and is still high on many “best of” lists.

The reason is simple, solving crimes is fun and it is even better when you get to compare your skills against the master sleuth.

Prowling the city is necessary as you search old London for leads and people to interview. But, villains lurk about and you must be careful as you are immersed in the streets of Victorian London, visiting places like an opium den beneath the Bar of Gold or the rat infested docks.

As a player, you are a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, armed with a map, casebook, and newspapers, and must use your wits to solve a crime together with your team. No dice rolling or chance involved here, this is a test of your mind and ability to cooperate.

At the end of the game, an interesting aspect is that your score is rated against the master himself. Of course, your hope is to best Sherlock, but it is quite hard to do. However, that is an aspect that draws fans to this game.

With regards to accuracy, this game will not disappoint. Research and care were used to provide a true representation of Holme’s bygone world. Consulting Detective could not remain as one of the most popular cooperative board games for decades if it were not accurate to the period.

The box comes with 10 cases for you to solve, but these are not replayable. Some pass the game on to friends after completing them all, or there are expansion packs if you just cannot let the game go.


The old London feel is period-accurate and immersive. Even those unfamiliar with the books will appreciate the crime-solving challenge that is fun and challenging. Plus, the chance to best Sherlock Holmes is enticing.

12. Arkham Horror: The Card Game Review - Best Customizable
  • Based H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos
  • Good art work
  • Blend of deck-building and role playing
  • Is a campaign style game
  • Immersive, hair-raising experience
  • New cards can be added and the living deck concept is customizable
  • Inexpensive for 1-2 players
  • Not for those who like a one and done game
  • Only for two players unless you buy a second game
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Players: 1-2 | Age: 14+ | Time to play: 60-120 mins. | Genre: Horror/Deck Building/RPG

Arkham is a quiet New England town. But below the surface, there are strange creatures, foul rituals, cultists, and haunted houses. You are one of the town’s residents, tasked to solve the eldritch secrets. But you may not live to tell anyone what you found.

The danger and horror are taken straight from the 23 Cthulhu tales written by H.P. Lovecraft. So, the hazards and monsters are weird, unpredictable, and scary. The art work is good and helps to pull you into the game.

This is a deck-building game, but different. The manufacturer calls it a living card game, because your deck is used for campaigns over multiple games. In addition, new cards are released regularly and this allows players to customize their “living” deck to make it unique to them.

But this is also a role playing game, sort of. You assume a character, defined by a detailed profile card. Of course, everyone has different abilities so you must work as a team to compliment your strengths and delve into the town’s secrets.

So, it is a blend of role playing and deck building, and the box does include the tokens and 5 investigator (character profile) cards.

Also, every move you make has consequences. You might burn down a building, or release the Ancient Ones from a world beyond. So, strategy and planning your moves to work with your partners is a must.

The base game allows 1-2 players, but 1-4 players are possible if you purchase two sets.


Arkham Horror is a unique blend of deck building and role-playing. You must solve the town’s secrets, but beware. The design relies on H. P. Lovecraft for inspiration and that brings strange but fun threats for the players. Designed for play over multiple game sessions, so not for the one and done crowd.

13. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island Review - Best Adventure
  • 4 Characters included
  • Seven levels of difficulty
  • Good build quality
  • Expansion packs are available
  • Moderate price tag
  • It is hard, the game seems to hate you and constantly tries to kill you
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Players: 1-4 | Age: 14+ | Time to play: 90-180 mins. | Genre: Quest/Exploration/Survival

Shipwrecked, you and your fellow castaways must build shelter, find food, and fight wild beasts. That’s just for starters.

Then there is treasure to be found, secrets to unravel, hidden villages, and other adventures to seek out. Through all of this, you have one core job, stay alive. It is very, very hard to do.

You can assume the role of four different characters; cook, carpenter, explorer or soldier. Each has different skills and you must debate, discuss, and decide as a group to complete your mission successfully.

In the box, you will find a lot of pieces. That is because this is a complex game with a lot going on. This is an immersive, mission based game with 7 different levels of difficulty. In level seven, you are actually trying to capture King Kong.

The build quality is impressive. Detail like the many wooden tokens add to the immersive experience.

Playing this game is an intense experience, and that leads to most frequent complaint. There is no downtime or small victories. Staying alive is almost impossible, and you can never let your guard down.


If you want a challenge with non-stop hazards, Cursed Island is your game. The details and rules are complex and you will struggle to stay alive after your shipwreck. And it gets worse as you try to complete each level’s goals. It takes longer than some other games, so not for those who like a casual, quick game.

14. T.i.m.e. Stories Review - Best SciFi
  • Good story/theme
  • Nice game board and pieces
  • Can “pause” a game
  • Expansion kits available
  • Users can develop their own scenarios
  • No replays once the fault or paradox is corrected
  • Leans to the expensive side of the price range
  • Requires commitment from players
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Players: 2-4 | Age: 12+ | Time to play: 90 mins. | Genre: Puzzle/Time Travel

Boasting a sleek, good looking game board, the concept sends you hurtling through time as a T.i.m.e. agent. You must stop temporal faults and paradoxes while inhabiting the body of another being. These odd missions are called runs.

Plus, you must complete the run as fast as possible. If time runs out, then the scenario is reset and you must keep trying until you succeed. The fabric of the universe must be maintained to protect humanity.

A run is never simple and unpredictable events do occur. You may be forced to jump from one host to another or even play against your fellow agents at times.

While playing, you may be required to search a dungeon for a hiding Syaan king, or confront massive creatures under the Antarctic ice. Just about anything is possible.

The build quality is good, but that also makes this game a little pricey.

This is an intriguing game, but can take some time to play and that is made worse when someone has to repeat a run. It not only extends the play time, but the multiple runs get repetitive for the player.

However, players can save their game using an included insert, which allows play over multiple sessions as a campaign style game.

Once your mission is complete, it is essentially not playable again. But as you might guess, additional scenario expansion kits can be purchased.

Another interesting feature of this game is that you can create your own custom scenarios using a designer kit published by the game manufacturer. It is best to wait until you complete the included missions in the base game as there are spoilers in the designer’s kit.


An intriguing concept where you inhabit an avatar while working in the past, or the future. You must correct issues in the universal fabric without creating more disruption. This mid-priced game is sleek and the build quality is decent. It requires some time to play and the included missions are unusable once completed. But, expansion kits are available. Also, you can also design your own scenarios using a free kit available from the manufacturer.

15. Codenames: Duets Review - Best Cooperative Party Board Game
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to learn
  • Short game time
  • Can play with just 2, or with many people
  • Works well as party game
  • Rules variations mix things up and increase difficulty
  • Campaign mode with included maps
  • Can mix in the words from the original Codenames game
  • Pieces are cardboard
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Players: 2 (or more) | Age: 11+ | Time to play: 15 mins. | Genre: Word Association/Spying

If you want a game that is fun to play at a party, allows others to get involved, and only takes 15 minutes to play, Codenames: Duet is your game. A cooperative version of the original Codenames game, some will recognize the word association core concept still present.

While Duets was designed to be a two person affair, it does allow the game to be played by more by forming two teams of multiple players. Combined with the short playing time, this makes it a good game for parties where everyone can jump in and play.

The concept is you must identify 15 agents by correctly picking words associated with verbal clues offered by the other player/team. For example, one clue might be Egypt 2. That means there are two words on the board that could be associated with Egypt.

If you select a wrong word, your turn stops. But there is a risk. Select a particular wrong word and you to uncover an assassin, which ends the game immediately.

This is a fast paced, fun game that can be played repeatedly. But it also includes game maps, and these allow you to play a campaign style game, over multiple sessions if are so inclined.

In addition, the game can be played using rule variations, to increase the difficulty factor and keep things interesting.

With a small price tag and multiple ways to play, this cooperative game has surprised many fans of the original Codenames and earned a strong fan base.


Duets is a cooperative version of the popular Codenames game. Using word association, you work together finding missing agents while avoiding an assassin. The collaborative nature makes it a great choice for parties or for a couple. It is easy to learn, quick to play, and flexible in how many people can take part. A great game to have around for those times when you want some fun interacting with your friends and family.

Factors to Consider when Selecting a Cooperative Board Game

So, how hard can it be to pick a cooperative board game for friends and family? With hundreds of games to pick from, it can be more difficult than you think.

But as with most things in life, if you break it down into a few manageable pieces, it becomes much easier. So, when looking for the best cooperative board game for your group, you might consider using the list below to organize your research.


The price for games on our list ranged from under $20 (The Mind, Codenames: Duet, and Forbidden Island) to over $100 (Gloomhaven and Too Many Bones). That is a wide range for board games, and what you are willing to spend may impact your game selection.


Most people will prefer some themes and topics over others. You might like to solve mysteries as in Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective and Mysterium. Or, others might prefer the dark, scary feel of a game like Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

A cooperative board game should match not only your personal interest, but it should be of interest to everyone else who will play. If you are the only Harry Potter fan in your gaming group, Hogwarts Battle might be fun for you, but no one else.

Keep in mind, most games take some time to play, so it is a commitment and you and all the other players are more likely to have fun and be committed when you like the genre.

Number of Players

Many games are for 2-4 players, but the number of players a game can accommodate does vary. If you have a big group, the 8 players Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective allows may be a key feature for you.

Some games require a purchase beyond the base kit to allow more players. For example, Arkham Horror: The Card Game only allows 2 players. But if you buy two sets, you can include 4 players.

Then there is the issue of a game administrator (e.g. dungeon master). While none of the games on our list call for a dungeon master, Mysterium does require one player to act as the ghost and supply the visions to the investigators.

Recommended Ages

While a discussion of age range may seem like overkill, the manufacturers age recommendations are important for those who have kids.

Also, it is unfortunate, but many of the ages listed on the box are often off. Sites like Board Game Geek go so far as to list a “community” age recommendation to help parents evaluate the appropriateness of a game for their young ones.

Time to Play

In today’s world, time is an important commodity. So how much time are you willing to put into playing a game?

For this reason, almost all games today list the typical playing time on the box.

Some like long games, but it is more common today to find people looking for games that can be played in less than an hour. Games like Pandemic, Forbidden Island, and Mysterium are good choices if that is you.

If you want real short, like 20 minutes, consider The Mind.

Legacy/Campaign Games

There are those players that want a big, complex, immersive experience that involves hours of play and they want the repercussions of every game to matter.

Some cooperative games can be played over multiple sessions and they bring the consequences of previous games session into your new games. You are picking up where you left off the last time you played with the rules or settings permanently altered.

Games on our list that allow you to pack up and keep the settings from game to game are Gloomhaven and T.i.m.e. Stories. But Gloomhaven is the only game that can properly be called a legacy game.

You can also buy special versions for some of your favorite games. For example, you can buy Betrayal Legacy, Arkham Horror Legacy, and Pandemic Legacy. So, if you desire a cooperative board game that is played over multiple sessions where your decisions have a permanent impact, get the legacy version if it is available and let your group’s adventure begin.

Note: A campaign is a game played over multiple sessions, but it can be reset and you can start over with the original rules and settings. Most of the games on our list can be played as a campaign if you so desire, provided you have table space to leave things set up.

In a legacy game, the rules and settings are permanently altered. Cards are torn and things are altered with stickers or by writing on them. There is no going back to the original settings or rules in a legacy game.

More Info Please!

The number of players, recommended ages, and time to play is summarized on many games today. But sometimes you will need to dig a little to find the information you want.

For additional input, there are dedicated websites that deal with nothing but board games. These can be provide useful input from people who played the games and reviews from experts.