Games review: cooperative board games

Kris Kon, my week of celebrating good friends and good games, may be over, but it showed me once again that there are some amazingly fun things to do at a table (other than eat).

I don’t know about you, but when I get together with my friends I’d rather work with them rather than against them, which is why I love cooperative board games. These are games that pit you and your buddies against some kind of challenge or impending doom, allowing you to all be on the same team. For those of you who are competitive, you still get that thrill of victory when you stategize and defeat the board, and for those of you who are communal you get the feeling of camaraderie that can only come from a shared challenge.

Here are some of my all-time favorites and new finds from this year


Lord of the Rings board game

The Lord of the Rings Board Game was the very first cooperative board game I encountered. My friend group discovered this years ago and we’ve been playing it ever since. In this game, you work together to play hobbits on the run from all the forces of the dark lord as you move from map to map attempting to recruit help along the way.

Fans of Middle Earth will enjoy this game, as will anyone who likes games which require strategy to overcome the fickle fluctuations of lady luck. The play time is long: you should allow an our or two for each game. Also, be ready for a challenge: getting the ring to Mount Doom is no easy task, and victory is by no means guaranteed.

Sadly, this year we didn’t do so well. By the second map, Sauron had corrupted the ring bearer and the forces of darkness tromped all over us. But that just means we’ll have to play again soon!


Castle Panic

Castle Panic is one of my absolute favorite new games of the past year. The goal here is to defend the castle at the center of the board from goblins, ogres, and all kinds of other things that come at you from every direction. It truly lives up to its name, because before you know it the map will be flooded with baddies, your castle walls will fall, and you and your friends will be gnashing your teeth in suspense to see if you survive.

This game is a real winner. It is about half the cost of Lord of the Rings, and the play length is about half the time, meaning games last about an hour with the basic set. The expansion set ups the difficulty and the variety of enemies, which also ups the length of play a bit, but if you’re in a rush it also includes optional rules for a 60 minute game.


Forbidden Island

Speaking of panic, Forbidden Island also offers some nail-biting suspense. In this one, you and your fellow treasure hunters helicopter into an unstable island in search of four treasures. You need to move fast and work as a team, because sections of the map are rapidly flooding and can quite literally fall away under your feet or take the treasures with you.

This game takes about 30 minutes to play. but it seems much, much quicker because of the fast pace and high suspense.


I highly recommend any of these. If you’ve got other suggestions, I’d love to hear them, too!

Tomorrow’s post will be on imagination/association games. Stay tuned (and subscribe to this blog by email to make sure you don’t miss anything!)

About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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