Some people play games for the thrill of winning in head-to-head competition. But others prefer to play cooperatively, joining with family and friends as they work toward one common goal. If that sounds like your thing, you'll find a lot of new favorites on this list. There are options here for all ages, from pre-K to teens and adults. Whether you want to escape to a fantasy land or solve a mystery, these cooperative board games have something for you.
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Get the youngest players in on the fun with Outfoxed! This is a lot like Clue for beginners, but all the players work together to find out who stole Mrs. Plumpert's prized pot pie. Games take 20 minutes or less, just long enough to keep little ones interested and excited. (2-4 players, ages 5+)
Oh no! A band of sneaky snakes has infiltrated the mole rats' space station. Work with other players to carry all your equipment to the escape pod before time runs out. Reviewers note that Space Escape feels like a clever twist on Chutes and Ladders. Quick gameplay, easy rules, and minimal reading make this ideal for younger kids. But older kids and even adults will love to play too. (2-5 players, ages 7+)
This might be a word you're tired of hearing by now, but Pandemic regularly tops the lists of the best cooperative board games. Each character brings their own strengths to the table as you attempt to eradicate diseases that keep attacking the world with ever-stronger outbreaks. A game takes about 45 minutes, and you can buy expansions if this winds up being one of your favorites. (2-4 players, ages 8+)
There's a mystery to solve at Warwick Manor, and the ghost who holds all the clues can only communicate using the game's beautifully illustrated cards. The rest of the players must work together to decipher the clues and determine who was murdered, where, and how. Fans of Clue will love this one! (2-7 players, ages 10+)
Enjoy trick-taking card games like Hearts or Euchre? Check out The Crew! It's a cooperative game you'll play in complete silence. This is also a terrific game when you're short on time, since it's made up of 50 successive missions that take about 5 minutes each. They get progressively harder as you play, but you'll find that your team gets better at the game as you play too. (3-5 players, ages 10+)
This feels like a different game every time, since the game board is made up of cards that give you a new experience each time you play. As you play, each tile "sinks" off the board, making it harder and harder for you and your teammates to escape. One of the great strengths of this game is the ability to differentiate it for different ages, interests, and skill levels. Families will find this is one of their favorite cooperative games to play together. (2-4 players, ages 10+)
There are a variety of cooperative board games you can play with two players, but this one was designed with two players in mind. Each player must "contact" (choose) 15 agents from an array of cards on the table. You know who your partner can safely contact, and they know who you can contact. By giving each other one-word clues, you work to contact all the agents before your turns run out. The original Codenames has some of the same cooperative game-play, but is better for bigger crowds. (2+ players, ages 10+)
Call up all your bravest friends, because there are seven scary monsters (well, monster figurines) in town! Team up to fight them, playing the best actions from your Hero cards. You'll have to work together to get the items you need to smash Dracula's coffin or break the Mummy's curse. A game takes about an hour, but players love that this one is easy to understand and get into straight out of the box. (1-5 players, ages 10+)
If you're a Muggle still waiting for your Hogwarts letter, play a game in the meantime! Four students team up to battle evil forces in this cooperative deck-building game. There are seven rounds to play (just like the seven years at Hogwarts), each progressively harder than the last. Each player has their own deck of cards, bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the game. (2-4 players, ages 11+)
Gloomhaven's cost and complexity make it best for true gamers, those who love the idea of all-day gaming sessions. Each player is a wandering adventurer with their own set of skills and reasons for being in Gloomhaven. All players work together to explore ruins, clear dungeons, and create the story as they go. Fans of Choose Your Own Adventure books will love the evolving world of this cooperative game. (1-4 players, ages 14+)
Spirit Island is another complex and detailed game, one that will likely take a few hours to play. Your island home is under attack by colonizing invaders. Playing various spirits of the land, each with its own powers, you and your fellow teammates play your power cards to fight them off. You'll need to plan and strategize to prevail and make the island safe once again. (1-4 players, ages 14+)
Just like the fictional Crusoe, you're stranded on a deserted island. Work together to build shelter and avoid danger. The game includes a variety of missions to solve, from raising a family to fighting against cannibals. Reviewers note this game is often fiendishly difficult, so prepare for epic sessions and know that you may not always win. (1-4 players, ages 14+)
Need a little alone time? Try the Best Solo Board Games For Competing Against Yourself.