For many readers, this term may sound a bit foreign...Cooperative? Board games? Huh? Well, I'm here to tell yall that co-op board games are a huge part of the hobby gaming scene and continue to rise in popularity. I'm going to share a few games on this list that range from the light and breezy to the crunchiest out there.
The entire Forbidden series is great, but I've picked Forbidden Desert, as I like the goal/theme the best. This is a lighter co-op that takes players through sandstorms and other hazards to find scattered parts of an airship, which is their only means of escape. Each player has a unique role and ability, and the game doesn't usually last more than 45 minutes or so. It's a great introduction into the genre.
I have two co-op trick-taking games here because they're similar in complexity but offer unique experiences in small packages that don't take long to set up and play. Fox and the Forest Duet and The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine are must-haves for lovers of Euchre, Pinochle, Spades, Hearts, Pitch, etc. If you're not familiar with trick-taking, I might steer clear of these, though.
I'd be shocked if you haven't encountered Pandemic before, as it's readily available in a lot of non-hobby-stores like Target. This is the game that really popularized the genre of co-op games, and it's a great system that many other games have tried to implement, to varying degrees of success. I'd say this is a bit of a jump in complexity from the previous games mentioned, but it's absolutely a great next step and a fun experience with a lot of replay value. If you really love Pandemic already, you MUST try Pandemic Legacy: Season 1.
All of Fantasy Flight's cooperative Living Card Games -- Arkham Horror LCG, Marvel Champions, and Lord of the Rings LCG -- are fantastic for their own reasons. While related mechanically, each does offer unique game play. If you want a bit of meat on the bone, I'd suggest trying out a core set of one of these and seeing if you're willing to jump in according to which theme/IP you like the most. Warning: It's a huge commitment monetarily to keep customizing your collection, but it's an experience I've loved with Lord of the Rings. These are also a significant step up in complexity from Pandemic. One rare difference here is that these games can also be played solo!
No list of cooperative games would be complete without some sort of dungeon crawler where you take on the roles of heroes battling monsters. Gloomhaven is currently the number 1 ranked game of all time according to Boardgamegeek and it sorta broke Kickstarter. It's a massive game with a complex rule set and a sprawling campaign with cardboard bits galore. The designer did, however, release a sort of sequel in the form of Jaws of the Lion, which is widely available and about a third of the price. The rules are taught in a series of introductory scenarios, and the gameplay is silky smooth. Can't recommend this enough.
Spirit Island. What a game. It's a brain burner; I'll say that upfront. But it's so satisfying. Perhaps the epitome of cooperative experiences, in my opinion. Also great solo. The theme is outstanding -- you play as native peoples and spirits on an island trying to repel incoming colonists. The card play is really crunchy, and the presentation is phenomenal.
CO2: Second Chance comes from my favorite game designer and is easily the heaviest game on this list -- on par with Spirit Island and perhaps even a bit more complex. It's a tough one, though -- definitely not for the faint of heart. It, like Spirit Island, also has an incredible theme as players work to try and reduce global carbon emissions by ending the world's fossil fuel addiction with sustainable power plants and green energy.
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek
I know, the title is a bit click-bait-y, but I'll express now that one of the goals of this blog is to get people to think of board games in ways that move beyond the mass-market classics like Monopoly, Risk, etc. While my main board gaming group is just my partner and myself, I know that family game nights aren't super uncommon, especially during pandemic times. So, without further ado, let's get into some games that might be new to you to check out. I was going to do just five, but I couldn't help myself.
Ticket to Ride: Europe -- Perhaps the king of all gateway games other than Catan, Ticket to Ride has sold millions of copies worldwide, but my favorite iteration of this beloved modern classic is the Europe map. It adds just a little bit to the rummy-style set collection of the original by adding train stations, --which allow you more flexibility on those longer routes at higher player counts -- as well as tunnels, which simply require you to plan ahead a bit more in terms of spending your cards to place trains. Both rules add just enough spice and are still easy to teach.
That's Pretty Clever! is an amazing roll-and-write that, for me, definitively replaces Yahtzee. This game uses the same basic mechanism of rolling a set of dice three times on your turn, but each turn you're selecting one of the different colors to activate spots on your board and chaining bonuses for more points, rather than simply rolling for that Full House with your last remaining die. Plus, you're always paying attention to what your opponents are doing because you'll get to pick from their leftover dice at the end of their turn. It's simple, brilliant design.
Splendor -- This might be a nearly perfect family game. The rules overhead is almost insignificant: get chips or buy a card. But the strategy and tactics that evolve over the course of this modern classic are still entertaining to new and experienced gamers alike. I've played it at all player counts, and it's a great package for 30-45 minutes of pure thinky fun as you build up your own personal engine.
Kingdomino -- This was my partner's gateway game. If you're looking for a great, interactive puzzle that you can play in about 20-30 minutes, this is pure perfection. Warning, though, that the two-player variant just isn't all that great; it's definitely best to play with 3 or 4. I can't say enough about this game. The components are super charming, and the presentation is wonderful to go with simple, streamlined (yet dynamic) gameplay as you lay domino-style tiles around your starting castle. It's great for kids and adults. Just amazing.
Takenoko is, in a word, adorable. The gameplay is rich, and the theme is great -- building up a bamboo garden to take care of the royal panda. Amazing. But it's also sharp game design. I can't say enough about it other than it's a must-own for family game night. Great presentation as well. It's also one of the first games I ever encountered that specifically references color-blindness and addresses it in the rulebook as well as on the components themselves.
Point Salad is amazing fun in a small package. It's just a deck of cards in a box, but it's imminently re-playable, and there's some great math teaching involved as you count up final scores. I highly recommend this game for younger players.
Space Base -- This one gets on here because my mom adores this game. She's a gamer, but she likes to stick with Backgammon, a standard deck of cards, Scattergories, etc. I firmly believe that you can teach this game to most anyone, but it's a fair jump in complexity compared to the others on this list. I will say, though, that if you're looking for something to replace Monopoly, this is the game.
Codenames -- This is the party game / word game to end all party games / word games. That's really the pitch. It obviously excels at 4 or more players, which might be a drawback for some, but for those who are interested in word association and hilarity, combined with some interesting strategic choices, this game simply cannot be beat. It's a classic for a reason.
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek
I’m back to talk to yall about, as promised, some gateway games (some folks like to call them welcoming games – pick your word, it’s all the same) that can sort of ease you into the realm of hobby board gaming. While they’re all easy to learn, they all have depth of strategy or tactics…and for those who may not know the difference, strategy is a long-term plan that must be executed over multiple turns/rounds throughout the course of an entire game, while tactics are the moment-to-moment decisions based on what the game has presented to you. So, now you know. I’ll use those terms quite a bit in this series, I’m sure. Well, the title definitely gives you an idea of what I’m going for, here; I’m talking about abstract games, and if you’re not familiar with the term “Abstract Game,” I’m referring to a game that basically has no thematic component to it or very little integration of the wider world. There might be some conceit to sell the game or influence artwork, but the game mechanisms are the chief concern, and they generally tend to be elegant, simple rule sets (think Chess, Checkers, Go, etc.). So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some hit abstract games that I’ve played that you might enjoy! I’ll eventually get to full reviews of these later, so this blog post is really the first list.
Azul: Incredible components. A great introduction to drafting from a central board and tile placement on your own player board. Can get a bit mean with two players, but the production value alone makes it worth getting this one. I like this game because it’s easy to teach, looks great, and offers some hard choices throughout the game. The end-game condition is also fun.
Patchwork: Probably our favorite two-player-only game we own at home. This game is adorable, and if you love Tetris, this game is for you. Take a look, please. It’s incredible
Sagrada: You’ll notice a theme here, despite the fact that these games don’t have theme…This game is GORGEOUS. The translucent dice are a bit small, but they look incredible when they’re placed in your stained-glass window. This is the most elegant dice-drafting game I’ve ever played, and the base game itself offers near infinite re-playability.
Onitama: Another two-player-only game for those who may have tried and struggled with Chess or Go (both fantastic games, but the meta-game makes those games decidedly unfriendly to new players). Alternately, if you enjoyed Chess or Go but aren’t necessarily willing to spend the hours on the meta-game, then this is for you. Amazing production. Ergonomic packaging that doesn't take up much space. This game will blow your mind as you try and decide which card to pass to your opponent to execute moves while executing your own. It's great.
Blue Lagoon: Easily the most complex game on this list, but it’s definitely worth a shot, as it's from a legendary designer. The theme is sort of there in that you are technically exploring an archipelago with your tribe, but it’s really just about placing villages and settlers onto the board. This game is great to introduce the ideas of area control, set collection, and route-building.
At any rate, I hope yall leave some comments or interact with me on Twitter to continue the conversation. Next time, we’ll be talking about Family Games!
Credit: All images come from Boardgamegeek
So, this idea was born on Twitter, as all good ideas are. I got a few likes on a post (not many, tbh, but enough) and decided to start a blog on this site about my other great passion (not writing): hobby board games.
This first post is just the introduction to the series, and I figured the best way to begin would be to outline some of the topics I'll be covering:
So, stay tuned for my first series of lists -- my favorite games to introduce to new(er) gamers to get acclimated to the world of board games beyond Risk, Monopoly, and Scattergories.