Best cooperative board games for beginners

Cooperative games are a genre of board games that have risen to prominence over the past decade. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence that the rise of cooperative board games has coincided with the decline of local cooperative video games, because nights out with friends will always be a thing, no matter how good online communication is. The pandemic has also contributed to people buying more cooperative board games, especially in 2020 when shutdowns were common around the world.

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As for the games themselves, cooperative board games are a great alternative to competitive games, as many people prefer working in teams rather than competing individually. Unfortunately, some people are put off by co-op games because many of them are epic role-playing games that take hundreds of hours to beat and come with a rulebook that feels like a novel.

Luckily, there are some great beginner-friendly games on the market that aim to provide the same laid-back fun as popular competitive games. The titles on this list have been ranked in order of complexity on and are all great places to start in their world of cooperative board games.

5 The mind

The Box and the Mind Cards

Complexity Rating: 1.07

The mind is an ideal game for those who want to hang out with their friends but don’t care to talk to them.

Each player receives a number of cards corresponding to an increasing level count; for example, at level 1, each player receives one card – at level 2, each player receives two cards – and so on until level 12. These cards are numbered from 1 to 100, and each level tasks the group with placing their cards in order from lowest to highest.

It may seem simple, but as mentioned earlier, players are unable to communicate with each other. Therefore, the only way to win is to create some form of unspoken language and hope that every player is on the same page.


4 Duo Codenames

codenames duo cards

Complexity Rating: 1.35

Codenames: Duo is a cooperative version of the game code names, which was first launched in 2015 and quickly became one of the most recognizable modern board games in the world.

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The premise of Codenames: Duo is very similar to the original. A deck of cards will be laid out with words on it; then one player will say a word which will serve as a clue for as many cards as possible – the other player will then try to guess which card(s) they think the clue is referring to. The clue giver should be careful though as many trap cards need to be avoided, especially the assassin card which will immediately result in a loss for the team that turned it over.

Codenames: Duo is one of many variations of the original game, with Codenames: Disney Family Edition, Codenames: Harry Potter, and Codenames: The Simpsons Family Edition being just some of the others.

3 forbidden island

forbidden island all parts

Complexity Rating: 1.74

forbidden island was designed by Matt Leacock and released in 2010. The game traps players on a fast-sinking island and tasks them with collecting four treasures before successfully departing in a helicopter containing each player. Instead of a board, the game features a selection of tiles that players shuffle and then order into the shape pictured above, which is a smart and simple way to ensure there aren’t two identical games.

Fordibben Island was a hit with critics and won a handful of awards, including Best Family/Children’s Game at the 2010 UKGE Awards. The game received two sequels, forbidden desert and forbidden sky, which are similar in basic design and worth checking out for those who love the original.

2 The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine

the crew's quest for planet nine from scratch

Complexity Rating: 2.00

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine is a trick game designed by Thomas Sing and first released just a few years ago in 2020. The game features 50 different missions that gradually increase in difficulty as players travel through the system solar.

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As is the case with almost all cooperative games, communication and teamwork are the key to success in The Quest for Planet Nine. However, this is much easier said than done, as in The mind, players are not allowed to speak freely about the cards in their hand. Instead, they can only leave hints and clues for other players using their cards and limited communication tokens.

The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine has been crowned with awards since its release, including Best Cooperative Game at the 2019 Golden Geek Awards and the prestigious Deutscher Spielepreis 2020.

1 Pandemic

pandemic box, board and coins

Complexity Rating: 2.41

For those who haven’t heard of it, Pandemic might seem like an odd cash-in on recent world events, although the game was actually released in 2008. Pandemic is one of the most influential co-op board games of all time because not only did it manage to reach the mainstream, but it also offered a condensed co-op experience that was shorter and more beginner-friendly than the most other cooperative titles on the market at the time.

As the name suggests, the object of the game is to prevent a pandemic from happening. To do this, players must discover the cure for all four diseases before eight epidemics occur, the disease cubes run out, or there are no more player cards to draw. The number of cards and pieces may seem overwhelming to new players at first, but once you read the rules, it will only take a few minutes of play before the game starts to click.

PandemicThe huge commercial success of led to several expansions and derivative versions. Pandemic: Cthulhu’s Reign added a lovecraftian touch to the game, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 capitalized on the rise of legacy games with an ongoing story, while the On the edge the expansion introduced new maps, new challenges, and allowed a fifth player to join in on the fun.

Until recently, a video game adaptation of Pandemic was available on many platforms, including Steam, Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch, although the game was recently pulled from all stores “by publisher’s request”.

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