February 29, 2012

A Comparison of Co-op Games

Co-op (or cooperative) games can now be found in abundance.  There's something fresh about playing with the people sitting next to you instead of against them.  In co-op games, the game itself (and sometimes a traitor) is the opposition.  These games, accordingly, tend to be hard-to-beat, with a "let's play one more" when victory slips away at the last moment.

This isn't a complete list by any means, but it does give some of the breadth of the genre.  They're not ranked in any particular order, either.  These are all good games, and cover the range from quick, casual games to invested endeavors.

Pandemic: Perhaps because it was the first one I played, this sticks in my mind as the classic co-op, enjoyed by casual and dedicated gamers alike.  Many co-ops have roles for each player with special abilities, but in Pandemic, you always hurt for the missing roles.  Everyone works together to try to stop outbreaks of relentless diseases from sweeping over the globe.
 Forbidden Island: This actually plays a lot like Pandemic, though of course, the objective is different (grab the treasure and get off the island before it sinks).  I love the artwork on it.  It's a shorter game, about half an hour, and the rules are a bit simpler than Pandemic.  It's easy for casual or younger games to pick up and you can play a few games back-to-back.  I like it because I can sneak in a game before bedtime with my husband without frying my brain.  As an added bonus, for a board game, it's dirt cheap, despite the lovely components.

Shadows over Camelot:  This game is longer than Forbidden Island, but the rules are similarly easy to grasp, based on cards numbering 1-5.  It also plays a lot -- up to 7 -- making it great for a crowd.  I've played it with all adults, but this would be an easy one to include a younger player with, too.  This game includes the possibility of a traitor (a player secretly working against everyone else) which adds to the fun.

 Yggdrasil: This one also works with a crowd (up to 6), but it includes some unique, interesting game play mechanics that require extra effort to manage.  I still don't think it's hard to learn, but it does offer complexity and choices.  Also, I love Vikings.

 Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game: This is the ultimate paranoia game.  Traitors abound.  I've never seen an episode of the show, but my favorite part of this game was still saying, "You're a Cylon, aren't you?" Like Yggdrasil, it has some cool mechanics (in this case, a card-voting system) and works with up to 6. 

Space Alert: Co-ops can suffer from one person trying to dictate everyone else's actions.  Usually game mechanisms (from specific roles to possible traitors) minimize this.  In Space Alert, micromanagement is simply impossible.  A CD tract announces new threats -- enemy ships, asteroids, commandos on the bridge -- and players have a limited number of actions to keep their ship intact.  There's no pausing the CD, or the onslaught of problems.  No one person can cover energy supply, shields, and lasers in the crunched time.  The game is short, fast, hectic, and amazing. (There's also a free app that you can use instead of the CD, making play even easier).

Anyone have a favorite co-op I left off the list?


  1. I played Pandemic for the first time a few months ago and loved it. Forbidden Island looks interesting, especially since you said it was cheap! I think I'll have to add it to my birthday wishlist...

    1. We own both Pandemic and Forbidden Island, and have played Shadows over Camelot. Both Em and I enthusiastically endorse all three games. Pandemic is a rush to keep ahead of the curve as the diseases spread, and Forbidden Island is a futile race against time as the island sinks. Camelot...we must have it. We must! Mwahahahahaha!

      ...so we might have a slight weakness for co-ops. Who knew? :)

  2. The worst part about blogging about games is not living in the same time zone as friends. Wish we could all get together and play. It would be like writing group, but with less sarcasm...okay, like writing group, but with more cookies. :)

  3. These sound fun! I don't think I've ever played a co-op game, but I'd love to. :)