Up until relatively recently, board games have been a primarily competitive medium. Thankfully, thanks to innovations in game design, players can now work together to face off against an opposing force that can only be stopped with your combined talents. This edition features a group of games that will keep you working as a team all night long.
Ages 8 and up
Let’s start this cooperative party with one of my favourites, Hanabi. Players are playing the role of absent-minded pyrotechnicians that must work together to prepare the perfect fireworks show. This is done by arranging cards in a particular sequence. The problem is that you aren’t allowed to see your own cards. Instead, players have a limited number of hints they can use to try and signal others to play the right cards.
In order to be successful, teamwork is key. Everyone has to know when to give clues, when to discard cards, when to play cards and memorize what they have in their hand. Otherwise, the fireworks show will certainly end in disaster. There’s so much fun to be had as you go through the process of optimizing your communication that you may not even get to the next two games on this list.
Ages 8 and up
In the world of Pandemic, four dangerous diseases are quickly spreading across the globe. As members of the Center for Disease Control, you and your team must slow the spread of the diseases and find cures for them all before it’s too late. Pandemic may not have invented the cooperative board game, but it’s certainly the game that popularized this style of play, and for good reason. This is a phenomenal game where the stakes are high and teamwork is essential if you want to have any shot at saving the world. Of the cooperative games out there, this is also one of the easier ones to learn.
Ages 13 and up
Designed around a very touchy subject, Freedom: The Underground Railroad is a game about the Abolitionist movement in the 1800s. You and your fellow abolitionists are tasked with guiding slaves out of the plantations and up north to Canada. This won’t be easy though, as Slave Catchers are constantly on patrol, key events in history will set your cause back, and the slave market seems to move new slaves into the plantations faster than you can get them out.
Handling this subject matter is inherently difficult, but this game manages to do it tastefully while providing a masterful cooperative board game experience. It’s going to take a lot of teamwork and brainpower to abolish slavery, and the thematic overtones of the game add a ton of emotional weight to this one. Trust me on this one; Freedom: The Underground Railroad is an amazing cooperative game and certainly worthy of a spot on your table.