Today, as Part 2 of my series on favorite table top games, I’ll be discussing my favorite cooperative games. I am only going to be listing three favorite in this genre of board game because there just are not as many of these out there. A cooperative game is exactly what it sounds like – a game in which the players play on a team together, often against the game itself but in some cases one player gets to play the “enemy”.
I’m noticing as I write this that none of my listed games are what I consider “dungeon crawlers”. These sorts of board games are cooperative as well, and quite fun – we own quite a few. But they often involve such a time commitment, and lately I am not a huge fan of devoting myself to a single game for 6 hours or more. If I’m going to play one of these, I feel like I have to just plan a whole day for the single game. Honestly, they are a little bit like light versions of D&D, often involve lots of fun miniatures, and can be a wonderful, fun time with the right group of people. Examples of this type of game include Descent, Mice & Mystics, and Zombicide.
But I digress. Even though I enjoy dungeon crawlers, none of them made my favorites list for the cooperative genre simply because of time required to play. Here we go!
3. Robinson Crusoe
I will admit to only having played Robinson Crusoe 2 or 3 times. It is a rather new title in our game collection. The game is scenario based and all players are trying to win the scenario as a group. Thematically, it involves four players being stranded on an island. Each scenario has winning conditions that are different. All four players have different strengths (carpenter, explorer, chef, soldier), and each player can do a number of different actions on their turn, such as gathering resources, exploring the island, fighting beasts, building part of the camp, etc. The game has a little bit of a worker placement mechanic to it, where players take turns during the planning round figuring out what actions they are going to do (you can discuss an work together during this part). The scenario I have played involves collecting enough resources in a certain number of turns to be able to be able to light a signal fire and be rescued. The weather step of this game can beat you down harshly, so don’t neglect things like upgrading your camp! This game is cute, very thematic, and a good amount of challenge, and I would estimate it takes about 90 minutes to play (although the first time it will be longer).
2. Ghost Stories
Ah, Ghost Stories. We’ve owned this one for almost 5 years at this point, and have played it a lot. This game is not for people who like to win easily – the game will beat you. Often. It is a four player game, and you are playing against the game itself. Your band of samurai is protecting a local village from ghostly minions and horrors. Each player has a special ability (there are two randomizable options for each one). The board is quite different from most games; you place nine square tiles in a random order to form a square in the center, and on each side of the square a player board is attached. The nine squares have different abilities that players can unlock to help them against the ghosts, such as pushing them back a step or gathering tokens to help defeat ghosts. On each players turn, you move, do your action, and then a ghost is spawned. The player cards have three spots each for ghosts, and there are some rules for placing them. Over time, some ghosts move closer to the village and can “haunt” the nine squares in the center, making them useless to the players. If the ghosts haunt too many village squares, you lose. If all four players are dead, you lose. If you run out of ghost cards to spawn, you lose. The players can win this game by defeating a boss ghost, who lives 10 cards from the bottom of the ghost deck. Really fun game, great artwork, and the difficulty level can be raised and lowered at your desire (though the easy level is pretty tough). My only issue with it is that there can be a bit too much group think, leaving some players more involved in the strategy than others.
1. Space Alert
You may already know how I feel about Space Alert, since I did this review last year when we got the game. This game is more real time than most cooperative games, and it is also playable in about 30-45 minutes. The game has an audio soundtrack (available on your phone now too!). You are the crew of a spaceship and are sent on a training mission. When your ship arrives at the coordinates, all hell breaks lose, and you have to work as a team to fight enemy ships, defeat internal threats, and make sure not to forget about powering the shields and maintaining the central computer. Without going into great detail, players listen to the ~10 minute audio track and plan out their actions for 12 turns using cards allowing them to move or activate different parts of the board. Time is a huge component of this game because an enemy might appear at turn 4, but you tried to shoot at him in turn 3. When the audio track is over, planning stops. At this point, players go through the 12 turns on the ship, moving each player token around and performing the actions they did, attempting to see if the ship survived the onslaught. This game is a neat take on cooperative games because you are trying to help one another, but each player plans their own actions. You can wind up with two players trying to do the same thing and stepping on one another’s toes, or players who thought they went to the right side of the ship when they really went to the left side. It is not easy at all, and can cause a lot of frustration depending on the type of player you are. It’s also really loud and chaotic. But I love it. We spent all of Christmas day playing through the manual of this one, which takes you in steps through the different mechanics of the game. I highly recommend this method of learning it.