Many excellent cooperative board games and card games have been published in recent years, including Pandemic and Battlestar Galactica. Here are my picks for the best cooperative games.
Pandemic is an addictively fun board game in which all the players work together to eradicate four diseases from the world. Each player is given a different role, such as the Scientist (who can cure diseases more easily) and the Operations Specialist (who can build research stations). Playing against the game system, they must travel the world to contain infections while developing the cures. If the players don't find all four cures in time (e.g. before there are eight outbreaks), they all lose. Various levels of difficulty are available.
Based on the SyFy Channel television series of the same name, Battlestar Galactica is a semi-cooperative board game. Each player takes the role of a character from the show (10 characters are available) as they work together to save humanity. Among the obstacles players will face are enemy ships, robot invaders, and dwindling resources. Further complicating things, greatly, is the fact that one or more characters in every game are secretly enemy Cylons.
3. Space AlertFor 1 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Vlaada Chvátil, published by Czech Games Edition and Rio Grande Games.
Players work together as the crew of a small spaceship, trying to protect their ship from a variety of dangers including enemy aliens, asteroids and equipment malfunctions. This is also a real-time game, with each play taking about 10 minutes. One of the most creative aspects of Space Alert is that gameplay is controlled by a CD which gives the players directions at different times. (However, it can also be played without a CD.)
This cooperative board game, based on a series of novels by German author Wolfgang Hohlbein (which themselves were inspired by H.P. Lovecraft), is set in early 20th century New England. Players work together to close portals which are allowing the terrible "Great Old Ones" access to our world.
5. Ghost Stories
In this cooperative game, players move through a house using special powers to hunt ghosts. The 3x3 gameboard is randomly laid out to start the game, with a player board on each edge. Each player is a ghost hunter with a unique power. On each turn, you first reveal a ghost card and then put it in play (sometimes in front of yourself, sometimes in front of another player). You can then move a space and either take an action or attempt an exorcism. The ghosts also have special powers, and they are not easy to defeat. Ghost Stories' artwork deserves special mention; it is gorgeous.
6. Shadows Over Camelot
Players each take on the role of a Knight of the Round Table in this game, seeking honor and glory by completing various quests. However, it's possible (but not certain) that one is a traitor -- so although this is a cooperative game, you can never be entirely sure of the other players' motivations. The traitor wins if everyone else loses; otherwise, the players win collectively.
7. Lord of the RingsFor 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Reiner Knizia, published by Kosmos / Fantasy Flight Games.
Players work together in this game, trying to destroy the Ring and eliminate its evil influence. But Sauron is trying to corrupt the players as they work to complete their mission. The original game includes several boards, and several expansions are available.
This board game is truly unique. Players explore a haunted house, which is revealed by adding a new tile for each room you go into. Each character has specific strengths and weaknesses, physical and mental. Initially, the players work together as the house is revealed. But one of the characters betrays the rest of the party, and the innocent players must then defeat the traitor before it's too late. The game is different each time its played because of the 50 "Haunts" that are included. Which Haunt is used in a particular game depends on how the variable board develops and when the Haunt begins.
Dwarves are looking for gold in this card game that plays like a board game, but one -- or more -- of them might be a saboteur and uninterested in sharing with the team. Players dig through underground tunnels trying to find the gold, but they can also break each others' tools, peek at hidden cards, or dig a tunnel that leads the wrong way. Players are dealt a hand of six cards to start; at the end, the dwarf with the most gold wins.
10. Arkham HorrorFor 1 to 8 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Kevin Wilson and Richard Launius, published by Fantasy Flight Games.
H.P Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos is the setting for this cooperative game. The players walk the streets of Arkham, trying to prevent an Ancient One from breaking into this world. Doing so requires confrontations with many monsters, none of which want the players to close the portals that must be closed.