Americans are familiar with the "winner takes all" style of board game, such as Monopoly, Chutes & Ladder, and Candy Land. However, a revolution in the popularity of board gaming has resulted in a multitude of games that reduce friction between players and encourage cooperation.
Even though everyone wins or loses together in these games, "Cooperative" board games are still full of nail-biting fun! Consider giving the following game a try at your next family board game night:
In Forbidden Desert, up to six players struggle to survive the harsh windstorms and heat of a strange, remote desert. Because each player has different skills, everyone must work together to uncover the missing relics before time runs out!
Similar to the game above, Forbidden Island is also a race against time to collect treasures and escape a rapidly-sinking island. The main difference? Forbidden Island uses a disappearing-card mechanism to make the game even more panicky. This is certainly one of my favorite games of all time, because everyone is willing to play!
The Secret Door
The Secret Door is an old family favorite, manufactured by Family Pastimes, a small Canadian company. It puts a fascinating twist on what would otherwise be a boring game of Memory. Instead of individual players competing to complete the most matching sets, everyone must work together to remember what is underneath the cards. Not only must you find matches, but you must also find them before the clock strikes twelve! Once time runs out, everyone must use their deductive skills to determine what lies behind The Secret Door. You can support Family Pastimes by purchasing The Secret Door directly from their website.
Far more strategic and stressful than the previous games in this list, Pandemic has soared in popularity on account of the recent global COVID-19 pandemic. Just like Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island, Pandemic uses six players with special abilities to move around the map and perform special actions. The difference? The entire world's fate depends on what you and your team members do!
For serious players, Pandemic has released multiple expansions and spin-offs that increase the complexity and excitement of the base game. The makers have even produced "legacy" version of pandemic, where the results of the players' actions permanently alter the game board and playing pieces over a series of games.
On the complete other end of the cooperative-game spectrum is The Ungame. As you may have guessed from its title, The Ungame is unlike any game you've ever played. At its heart, The Ungame is a social ice-breaker, full of cards that ask silly and serious questions of its players. As such, this game has no end. Since there is no "winning" in this game, groups are encouraged to set a time limit. If you're feeling uncompetitive and just need a break from the usual board game fare, this may be the game you're looking for.
Looking for Something Different?
If you're feeling competitive, check out my other board game blog post, where I describe my favorite competitive games in four different categories.