Co-op board games are some of the most popular games on the tabletop, allowing players to work together to achieve victory as a team – whether that’s by beating the game itself or aiming for a shared goal.
From saving the world from nightmarish monsters to adventuring across an unexplored fantasy land, many of the best co-op board games run the gamut of themes and gameplay experiences, from deep story campaigns lasting dozens of connected sessions to quickfire challenges that can be played in under half an hour.
Best co-op board games
- The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine
- Mansions of Madness
- Spirit Island
- Stuffed Fables
- Escape: The Curse of the Temple
- Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
- Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers
- Flick 'em Up: Dead of Winter
- Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
Some co-op games, like Gloomhaven, are whopping boxes filled with miniatures and hundreds of tokens, while others need little more than a simple pack of cards to offer a fun time for family and friends. You might be rolling dice against the clock, flicking discs around the table or even facing an AI opponent powered by a mobile app.
While co-op games come in every shape and size, the very best co-op board games all have one thing in common: they allow the players around the table to come together and share in defeat or victory. Many cooperative titles offer more difficult challenges for players to overcome as a group, while others are a more relaxed way to enjoy an entertaining story together.
Whatever co-op experience you’re after, you’ll find it below – from simple games to play with just one other person to big games that will fill an evening with friends.
The co-op board game giant offers an epic fantasy adventure in a box
Gloomhaven has quickly earned a reputation as one of the greatest co-op board games of recent years, earning a place alongside the likes of Pandemic and Arkahm Horror as a true modern classic.
There’s a good reason for Gloomhaven’s widespread acclaim; it’s a brilliant melding of fantasy roleplaying in the vein of Dungeons & Dragons, innovative legacy gaming a la Pandemic Legacy, crunchy combat straight out of a complex strategy game and good old-fashioned dungeon-crawling in the lineage of HeroQuest.
It all comes together in an epic campaign spanning dozens of unique scenarios that players embark on as a party of adventurers, delving into each of Gloomhaven’s hex-based levels to fight monsters and collect treasure. Combat is controlled by each character’s set of cards, providing a highly tactical experience that can be customised as players add new cards to their deck. Between missions, the group returns to the titular city to experience story-driven events, with the legacy game elements of Gloomhaven permanently evolving its world through stickers, destroyed cards and more.
Gloomhaven has since spun off into a game telling the origins of the city, Founders of Gloomhaven, as well as a more beginner-friendly (and much smaller) introduction to its gameplay in Jaws of the Lion. There’s also whopping sequel Frosthaven on the way, with the hotly-anticipated upcoming board game due out in 2022. Until then, the original remains one of the best co-op board games of all time, offering the perfect replacement for a weekly D&D session in a single – but massive – box.
2. The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine
Communicate through cards in this space-themed co-op board game
Up until fairly recently, The Mind was considered to be the go-to cooperative card game. Though its main gameplay mechanic makes for an unusual playing experience - players cannot talk to one another - it’s always felt a little too simple. Which is why The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is such a fantastic co-op card game; it takes the central concept of The Mind, no vocal communication, and expands upon it to provide a greater challenge.
A trick-taking game at its core - meaning that players lay down cards of the same suit, with the highest number winning that round - The Crew translates the vastness of outer space into a short little game that tests players’ attention spans. Each game of The Crew revolves around players working together to complete a set of objectives, which can be as simple as having the last round be won by a card of a certain suit to more complex requirements, such as playing each round of each suit in a particular order. However, as players cannot communicate what they have to the others, they have to watch what other people play and remember what their objectives are.
In specific versions of The Crew, players are able to use certain cards to subtly communicate what they might have in their hand, thereby aiding their fellow astronauts. Eventually, players should get good enough to not require these aids, as The Crew is also great at difficulty escalation. Get ready to explore outer space in this quirky co-op card game.
3. Mansions of Madness: Second Edition
Explore haunted houses and uncover terrible cults with friends in the co-op horror hit
Set in the Lovecraftian expanded universe of the Arkham Horror Files series, Mansions of Madness does what it says on the box: players venture into spooky houses (or sometimes unsettling city streets) to discover what awful horror befell their residents – and avoid falling victim to the same doom.
The co-op board game’s second edition crucially replaces the original game’s antagonistic dungeon master-like human player with a companion app, adding to the mystery of things as events pop off randomly and players’ investigators race against the clock to uncover clues before it’s too late.
Gameplay is straightforward, with each unique investigator – a number of familiar faces from Arkham Horror and Eldritch Horror make an appearance – moving around, interacting with objects and, when it comes to it, fighting off otherworldly creatures.
Where Mansions of Madness shines is in its spooky atmosphere, with every new room holding the potential for snippets of story and the potential to discover something unexpected. Even replaying the same scenarios can lead to a variety of different outcomes, depending on how the investigators fare in their search.
Mansions of Madness: Second Edition is one of the best co-op board games for friends looking for something a little more involved than watching a scary movie together, but with no less dread. You might not survive, but you’ll have a very good time together.
4. Spirit Island
An anti-colonialist board game that offers a tough challenge for cooperating friends
Too many board games give colonialism centre-stage, tasking players with taking control of parts of the world and exploiting them for their own gain without a second thought. Spirit Island flips the sadly all-too-familiar colonialist template on its head, putting players in control of powerful natural spirits that must drive invading forces away from their island.
In an echo of fellow co-op board game great Pandemic, in Spirit Island the players must control and contain the spreading threat on the board – although in this case it’s European colonisers, rather than diseases. Each spirit has a unique ability that can be used to protect the local Dahan, using their power cards to drive fear into the invaders and ultimately send them packing.
Spirit Island’s theme is brilliantly evocative and vitally unique in board gaming, but it’s just one part of what makes the game so fantastic. Its modular board offers a flexible, dynamic layout to keep each playthrough fresh, while the way that different spirits’ innate powers combine make it exciting to discover efficient ways of working together to halt the invaders’ blight. It’s also not an easy game, presenting a tough challenge for players to tackle as a team – when you do succeed, it’ll be a very satisfying victory.
5. Stuffed Fables
Rescue a lost child from a dangerous world as a party of adorable plushies
From Jerry Hawthorne, creator of narrative-driven co-op board game Mice and Mystics, comes Stuffed Fables, a game about a troop of toys rescuing their child from a dangerous and fantastical world. Stuffed Fables is the more child-friendly cousin of Mice and Mystics, being aimed at a younger audience in both tone and gameplay mechanics, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overly simplistic. As an adventure book-style game, the big draw of Stuffed Fables is that players experience each chapter through pages in a book, rather than a traditional board, which helps to further push the themes of childhood whimsy and magic.
Each game of Stuffed Fables revolves around a different chapter in the story, with players gradually making their way through an overarching narrative. Every chapter in the game will present the players with new challenges and decisions to make, with their choices helping to drive the rest of the story. Players will be able to perform certain actions - such as healing, melee attacks and ranged attacks - depending on the types of dice they draw from the bag. Each player will have access to a unique ability which they can use to help themselves and their allies against spawning minions.
There are quite a few board games out there that seek to provide a narrative experience, but none quite like Stuffed Fables. The combination of a creative concept and more accessible gameplay mechanics, help set it apart from its contemporaries and make it one of the best co-op board games out there.
6. Escape: The Curse of the Temple
A real-time, dice-rolling co-op game about ancient treasure and traps
Board games like Escape: The Curse of the Temple are few and far between, which is an absolute shame because they’re amazingly fun. A real-time board game - meaning that players are tested against a time limit - Escape puts its players in the shoes of a team of brave and treasure-hungry explorers who find themselves in an increasingly bad situation. With the promise of a collection of shiny jewels, the explorers have entered the mysterious temple only to discover that the doors to each room close every so often, causing anyone left outside of its central chamber to suffer a terrible fate.
In the game, players simultaneously roll their dice and look for particular symbols to unlock doors and move into rooms. The layout of the temple is fresh every time you play, with tiles being revealed as and when players move into new rooms. Whilst some rooms are empty, others will contain jewels that players will want to collect, which requires a certain number of keys to be rolled in order to be unlocked. However, players will have to be careful not to remain out of the central chamber too long. Throughout the game, a musical track will play - which does a lot to help with the immersion - which will signal to players when they need to start making their way back to the central chamber.
Should a player be caught outside the central chamber when the track stops, they are forced to lose a die and must attempt to carry on the game without it. This can happen a surprising amount, as players can also have their dice lock out on them if they roll any black masks, which they’ll need to clear by rolling the same amount of golden masks. Luckily enough, players can help others who are locked out of using their dice by rolling golden masks of their own. Running to each others’ aid – whether to unlock dice or fulfill a jewel room requirement – is essential to winning Escape, which is ultimately what makes it such a good co-op board game.
7. Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
You’ll need to put your collective heads together to solve these cases
Now the basis of several spin-off games – including Dune: House Secrets and Batman: Everybody Lies – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game caught people’s attention when it first released, and for good reason. A deduction and puzzle game at its core, Detective mixes things up with both its rich narrative storytelling and digital integration elements. Players won’t just be using the game’s physical components to solve mysteries - they’ll be deducing using an app specficially designed for Detective as well.
As investigators working the Antares National Investigation Agency, it’s the players’ duty to identify the culprits behind a series of crimes that all seem to be somehow connected. Across the entire Detective campaign you’ll play through five different cases, with each one providing its own set of challenges to overcome using the clues you collect and the suspects you interrogate. Whenever players come across something they can’t seem to find the answer to, they can turn to the game’s dedicated app to search for the information that might just provide the breakthrough they needed. Throughout the co-op board game, you’ll need to share notes, clues and evidence with one another, collating everything you have to help you unravel each mystery and eventually put all the pieces together.
What makes Detective really work is the game’s committment to its concept and theme. If you’ve ever watched a murder mystery series or detective drama and wanted to experience the closest thing to that, without actually pursuing a career in forensics, then Detective can provide you and your fellow sleuthing enthusiasts with the perfect outlet for those passions.
8. Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers
Form your very own Ocean’s Eleven and pull off a series of elaborate hiests
The original Burgle Bros is a fantastic co-op board game about sneaking into banks, locating their vaults and relieving said vaults of their wares. What Burgle Bros 2: The Casino Capers does is further expand upon this concept with new gameplay mechanics and an exciting new setting. Has anyone who’s ever watched the classic heist movie Ocean’s Eleven (2001) not daydreamed about getting their own crew together and pulling off an elaborate robbery? Well, Burgle Bros 2 facilitates this particular fantasy almost to the letter. (Barring the inclusion of George Clooney and Brad Pitt.)
Taking place across an entire casino strip, Burgle Bros 2 challenges players to do their part and hold their nerve as they attempt to rob its residents. As in the first Burgle Bros, players will be trying to locate a safe, as well as its combination, in order to grab the loot and run before being discovered by the guards. However, the sequel mixes thing up by introducing new threats – such as bouncers, who will make a beeline for the nearest player if they run out of movement cards – and fresh ways to run rings around your marks. Alongside their chosen character’s unique ability, players will be able to prepare a kit of tools to help get the team out of a tight spot when needed. Players are going to have to come prepared, as the various floors of each casino will feature potential pitfalls like security cameras and even chatty salespeople.
Even once players have managed to open the safe, there’s still plenty of opportunities for disaster within the new Finale section of the game – which adds a unique twist to each job, making the challenge of leaving with the loot even more complicated. What makes Burgle Bros 2 such a great co-op board game is that any mistakes made by one player will have a knock-on effect on another, forcing players to coordinate together in order to prevent any job-ending mishaps.
9. Flick 'em Up: Dead of Winter
Two board game favourites collide in a co-op crossover
What do you get if you mix western shootouts with a zombie apocalypse? Flick ‘em Up: Dead of Winter!
This disc-flicking dexterity game is the unexpected crossover between the finger-pinging competition of cowpoke game Flick ‘em Up and classic zombie-survival co-op board game Dead of Winter. It might not sound like an obvious match, but the result is something special.
Replacing Flick ‘em Up’s pistol-shooting gunslingers are the undead and the human survivors they’re chasing, with players now working together (well, most of the time anyway) to make it out alive instead of aiming for each other’s ten-gallon hats.
The survivors must aim carefully to dispatch zeds without alerting the horde – made especially terrifying by the zombie tower used to bring a wave of walkers crashing down onto the table.
Like Flick ‘em Up, there’s a host of 3D scenery to brings things alive – or living dead at least – on the table, as well as serving as obstacles and cover for the players’ survivors as they flick discs around. Players can equip different weapons – from guns to baseball bats and knives – and duck inside buildings to safely take out the horde without being bitten.
Flick ‘em Up: Dead of Winter offers ten scenarios for players to make their way through, including both cooperative and versus missions – as well as large scenarios for up to 10 players.
Borrowing the best parts of two already brilliant board games and combining them into something completely new, Flick ‘em Up: Dead of Winter is a fantastic game of fans of both series, an entertaining dexterity game and a great co-op board game if you’re looking for something very different - but still familiar - to add to your collection.
10. Pandemic Legacy: Season 0
An outstanding origin story for the co-op board game classic
Pandemic is one of the best co-op board games of all time. Almost everyone knows that by now. But what many players don’t know is that the game about battling diseases around the globe also has a fascinating origin story worth discovering.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 tells that story. A prequel to brilliant legacy game Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and its sequel Season 2, but the last entry in the trilogy to be released, Season 0 travels back to the 1960s to reveal the origins of the world-threatening viruses seen in the other Pandemic games.
As it’s set before things descend into a global catastrophe, Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 takes a step away from the iconic cube-fighting of the Pandemic series, introducing new gameplay ideas inspired by Cold War spy thrillers. Instead of hunting down contagions, players are CIA agents tasked with uncovering Russian plans and eliminating agents on their tail, all while avoiding detection themselves.
There are returning ideas from the first two seasons of Pandemic Legacy, such as the way that stickers make permanent changes to the game board based on how players fare during each missions, but Season 0 manages to feel like a very different experience overall, offering a more story-driven campaign and plenty of brand new surprises as its 12-plus connected playthroughs unfold.
If you’ve never played Pandemic or Pandemic Legacy before, Season 0 is a great starting point for the co-op board game series. If you're already a fan, it’s an excellent prequel that deepens the world and story of the previous games. Either way, you should play Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 – a fantastic co-op board game in a series of fantastic co-op board games.