Cooperative board game

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In a cooperative board game, players work together in order to achieve a goal, either winning or losing as a group. As the name suggests, cooperative games stress cooperation over competition.[1] This type of board game attracts people who enjoy the social aspect of games and is a good way to get new board game players interested in the hobby.[2]

Participants typically play against the game. In Pandemic, for example, players work together to stop and cure different strains of diseases.[3] In some cooperative games, one or two players take on the role of traitor.[4] Traitors typically win if the other players lose. In Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, players who receive a “You Are a Cylon” card when loyalty cards are handed out work in secret to undermine humanity. Some cooperative games might have an added layer of intrigue by giving players personal win conditions. In Dead of Winter: A Cross Roads Game, a zombie apocalypse game, in order to win players must achieve the communal victory condition and a personal objective.

In many contemporary cooperative games, cards are drawn each turn from a deck of random events. These provide the conflict or challenge in the game, and make it progressively more difficult for the players.

Cooperative board games should not be confused with noncompetitive games, such as The Ungame, which simply do not have victory conditions or any way to compete.[5] Furthermore, team or partnership games in which players compete together in two or more groups (such as Axis & Allies, and card games like Bridge and Spades) usually fall outside of this definition, even though there is cooperation between some of the players. Multiplayer conflict games like Diplomacy may also feature cooperation during the course of the game. These are not considered cooperative though, because ultimately only one individual will win. Games like Descent: Journeys in the Dark have similarities to roleplaying games and could be considered cooperative because players tend to work together.

Cooperative board games generally involve players joining forces against the game itself, and can be played without any player in the role of the opposition. For example, in Save the Whales, players work together to protect whales from the challenges inherent in the game setting—radioactive waste, commercial whaling, etc.[6] However, in some cooperative games, players actually cooperate with the opposing forces in the game. For example, in Max the Cat, players are mice who keep an aggressive cat at bay by offering him milk and other appeasements. In this way, all participants in the conflict scenario are fulfilled and the resolution is truly cooperative or "win-win".

In José P. Zagal, Jochen Rick, and Idris Hsi's "Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board games", the lessons the researchers learned highlight what makes a good cooperative board game.[7] First, the game needs to point out the folly of being competitive by allowing players to make decisions that benefits themselves rather than the whole group. Second, each player should not need the input of the rest of the group when making a decision. Third, players need to be able to identify what actions had benefits or consequences. Forth, the game should reward selfless players by giving players unique roles or traits. These researchers also point out pitfalls of cooperative board games: a single player decides the actions for everyone, players are not invested in the end result and are not content when the game is finished, and the game is repetitive.

History and development[edit]

Early cooperative games were used by parents and teachers in educational settings. During the 1980s, several cooperative games were published in the gaming hobby, namely Scotland Yard, The Fury of Dracula, and Arkham Horror. Early developers of popular cooperative board games include Jim Deacove of Family Pastimes (inventor of Max the Cat) and Ken Kolsbun of Child and Nature (inventor of Save the Whales.) In 2000, Reiner Knizia published Lord of the Rings which influenced a number of subsequent titles, including Shadows Over Camelot. Other recent cooperative games are Space Alert, Sentinels of the Multiverse, and Freedom: The Underground Railroad.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cooperative Games" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-24. Retrieved 2009-03-02..
  2. ^ Wilkes, Chris (April 15, 2018). "Cooperative Games". Library Journal. 143: 44 – via MasterFILE Elite.
  3. ^ Zielinski, Sarah (April 29, 2009). "Playing Pandemic, the Board Game". Smithsonian. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  4. ^ "THE BEST SECRET IDENTITY BOARD GAMES". IGN. 14 MAR 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2019. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Rovner, S and y (May 3, 1981). "Confronting the Unspeakable". Washington Post. Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  6. ^ Ward, Jean (March 1, 1982). "Game Review : Save the Whales by Kenneth E. Kolsburn. Animal Town Game Co., P.O. Box 2002, Santa Barbara, CA 93120. Copyright 1978. $17.00". Simulation & Games. 13: 122–124. doi:10.1177/104687818201300110.
  7. ^ Zagal, José; Rick, Jochen; Hsi, Idris (March 2006). "Collaborative games: Lessons learned from board games" (PDF). Simulation & Gaming. 37: 24–40. doi:10.1177/1046878105282279.