Cooperative board games have become really popular lately, with many fun and exciting new titles released each year. Just like regular board games, cooperative board games are great for bringing people together to create shared experiences and memories.
But with cooperative board games, where players work as a team to achieve a common goal and everyone wins (or loses) at the same time, there isn’t any unnecessary tension that competitive board games sometimes create.
For those who are partial to Bible-themed games, check out “Commissioned” and “Kings of Israel” below. While several popular non-Bible-themed cooperative games contain elements that some Christian families would rather avoid, such as role-playing as evil characters fighting to defeat dark spiritual forces, there are many others that are nothing like that. Below are some popular cooperative board games that caught our attention.
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Ages 13+, 2-6 Players, 60 minute playing time
Commissioned is one of the most highly recommended cooperative Bible-themed board games available. Although based on the first 150 years of Church history, players do not need to know anything about the Bible or Church history to play this game.
In Commissioned, players are Apostles who must work together to strengthen their Faith decks, grow the Church, collect the books of the New Testament, and overcome trials. There are five game scenarios to choose from, each with a different set of victory conditions. For instance, to win in the “Acts of the Apostles” scenario, players must have a church in every city and collect all nine New Testament Word Cards before five churches are extinguished or the Trial deck runs out.
This game is played in rounds, with players taking turns to be the group’s elder and making decisions that affect the entire team. At the beginning of each round, players first build up their Faith decks, then live out their faith through trials, praying, sharing, moving and growing, and finally mature through expanding their Faith decks.
Commissioned also comes with a Theme Appendix for those who are interested in learning about the game’s historical setting.
Ages 8+, 2-4 Players, 45 minute playing time
Pandemic, which was first published in 2007, is hugely popular and many still consider it to be the best cooperative board game today. There are several expansions and spin-offs, most notably Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and Pandemic Legacy: Season 2.
In Pandemic, the world is threatened by four deadly diseases and the fate of humanity lies in the hands of the players, who are members of a disease control team. Players, each with a specific role and special abilities, must work together to treat infections around the world, build research stations, share knowledge with fellow players and discover cures. Players win if they successfully cure all diseases before the time runs out.
Ages 14+, 2-4 Players, 45 minute playing time
Kings of Israel, another popular cooperative Bible-themed board game, is based on the period when the nation of Israel was ruled by kings, starting from King Saul in approximately 1050 BC to the time the Northern Kingdom collapsed more than 300 years later. Although players do not need any knowledge about the Bible to play this game, it probably appeals more to those who are familiar with this period of Israel’s history.
In Kings of Israel, players are prophets who must build a specified number of altars (depending on the number of players) before Israel is destroyed or overrun by sin and idolatry. Players take turns to play, with each turn involving four phases: King’s Godliness, Sin Increases, Prophets Work and End of Round.
Ages 4+, 2-4 Players, 15 minute playing time
Hoot Owl Hoot is an easy to learn cooperative board game with beautiful artwork. No wonder this game is extremely popular among families with younger children.
Players take turns to play. On your turn, simply play one of the three color cards in your hand and advance any owl to that colored space, then draw a card. If you have a sun card, you must play it and move the sun token one space forward. Morning draws closer with each sun card played. Everyone wins if players successfully fly all owls to the nest before the sun rises.
Ages 8+, 2-5 Players, 30 minute playing time
In Hanabi, players must work together to create the best fireworks display. This card game consists of 6 different suits, numbered 1 to 5. The goal is to lay down the cards sequentially from 1 to 5 for each suit.
Hanabi is a deduction card game with a very unusual gameplay: cards are held facing out so everyone, except the player holding the cards, can see what those cards are. Players take turns to play. During each turn, you can do one of three things: give one piece of information to any player, discard a card or play a card. It is a truly cooperative game where the only way to know which card to play is to follow the clues given by other players.
Ages 5+, 2-4 Players, 15-20 minute playing time
A wily fox has stolen Mrs. Plumpert’s pot pie and players are detectives who must identify the guilty fox before it escapes to the foxhole. Outfoxed! is a deduction game for younger children.
The gameboard for Outfoxed! is somewhat similar to the game Clue or Cluedo. There are different areas, such as the playground or lake, that players need to move to in order to pick up clues. Outfoxed! comes with a cool Clue Decoder that, while concealing the identity of the guilty fox, lets players know whether the guilty fox has the characteristic in the given clue. By the process of elimination, players can eventually guess which the guilty fox might be. Some memory work is involved as players must try to remember the clues in previous turns.
In this cooperative board game, players take turns to play, and everyone wins if they correctly identify the guilty fox before it escapes to the foxhole.
Ages 3+, 2-4 Players, 20 minute playing time
Richard Scarry’s Busytown: Eye Found It! is humongous 6-feet long cooperative board game that is great for younger children, with illustrations by American children’s author and illustrator Richard Scarry. Players work together to look for various items on the board. While each player has a unique character mover and starts off moving individually, everyone eventually gets onto a ferry at the end of the road. From there, all players travel as a team to Picnic Island. The goal is to reach Picnic Island before the Pigs eat up all the food.
Ages 10+, 2-6 Players, 45 minute playing time
In Flash Point: Fire Rescue, players must work as a team to rescue people and animals from a building raging with fire.
Each player is a Firefighter and takes turns to play by spending action points to either extinguish fires, move through the building, move victims out of the building or perform various special actions such as moving emergency vehicles. As players are progressing in their rescue attempt, the fire continues to spread, causing further damage, sometimes blocking off pathways through the building.
This cooperative board game comes with a double-sided board representing two different buildings. There is a basic set of rules for beginners and a more challenging set for experienced players.
Ages 4+, 1-4 Players, 45 – 60 minute playing time
Wildcraft! is a beautifully illustrated cooperative board game where players embark on an adventure to collect huckleberries for Grandma to bake a pie. Along the way, players learn about various edible and medicinal plants.
The gameplay is somewhat similar with Chutes and Ladders: players take turns to spin and move according to the number indicated. There are waterfalls, logs and deer trails that either act as short cuts or take you back to where you were before. But the similarities stop there. In Wildcraft! players get injured when they land on Trouble Spots and they collect herbs that may be used to cure those injuries when they land on Harvest Spots. Landing on Rainbow Spots allow players to collect Cooperation Cards that can be used to help other players. As players progress so does the sun; players must hurry back safely to Grandma’s house with the huckleberries before the sun sets.
Ages 10+, 3-6 Players, 5 minute playing time
If you like fast-paced games, you will enjoy Spaceteam. In this cooperative board game, all players play simultaneously instead of waiting for your turn. Each player takes charge of fixing one sector of a malfunctioning spaceship. If you don’t have the necessary tools in your hand, you must shout so another player with the right tool can pass it to you. The tool that you require may be indicated by name (which may be difficult to pronounce) or by an image. While you are racing against time to fix your own malfunctioning sector by shouting out the name or description of your required tool, other players are similarly shouting out what they need. To add to the chaos, you will encounter anomalies, like getting sucked out of the spaceship and will require other players to pull you back in.
Players win if they fix all six malfunctioning sectors within five minutes.
Ages 11+, 2 or more Players, 15 minute playing time
Codenames Duet is a card word game, where players are secret agents on a mission to collectively contact 15 agents while avoiding a band of enemy assassins.
To play, lay 25 one-word cards on the table in a five-by-five grid. Some of these represent agents, some enemy assassins and others innocent bystanders. You don’t know which are agents that you need to contact, and which are your assassins, but your partner knows and vice versa. Players take turns to give each other one-word clues that point out as many of your partner’s agents as possible. The goal is to contact all 15 agents within 9 turns.
Ages 8+, 2-5 Players, 5 minute playing time
5-Minute Marvel is another fast-paced cooperative card game where all players play simultaneously without having to take turns. Fans of Marvel comics and movies will probably like this game.
Players can choose to play as one of the Marvel Heroes: Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Spider Man, Black Widow, Rocket and Groot, Ms. Marvel, Medusa, Spider Gwen or Squirrel Girl. Each Hero has his/her own special abilities and resources. There are also common Resource Cards that will be evenly distributed to all Heroes before each mission begins.
There are six Bosses, each requiring a different set of Resource Cards to defeat, and players must battle through different numbers of Doors and Crisis before reaching each Boss.
During each 5-minute mission, Heroes must work together to defeat one of the six nefarious Bosses.
Ages 7+, 2-4 Players, 20 minute playing time
Mole Rats in Space is a cooperative board game by Matt Leacock, who also designed Pandemic and several other popular games. Players are Mole Rats on a research station that has been invaded by snakes and must work together to collect four pieces of equipment and beat the snakes to the escape pod. They must do this without being bitten twice by any snake or being shot into space through an air shaft. During each player’s turn, instead of a dice, movements are dictated by Movement cards. The Movement cards are interestingly varied: sometimes you will move your own Mole Rat, sometimes another player’s Mole Rat, and other times all Mole Rats. These movement cards also dictate the number of spaces to move, but you are free to decide on the direction of these moves. Movement cards also indicate how you should move the snakes during each turn.
Ages 12+, 1-8 Players, 90 minute playing time
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a highly unusual game that does not have any moving pieces or cards. Besides the gameboard, which is a map of London, the game comes with a London Directory with a List of Informants at the back, 10 Newspapers and 10 Case Books.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective has its unique appeal, and chances are you will either love it or hate it. The goal is to solve each case with fewer leads than Sherlock Holmes the Master. The game involves a fair bit of reading aloud to keep everyone on the same page. Once players decide on which of the ten cases to solve, the lead investigator will read aloud the introductory pages for that case before deciding on a lead to follow-up on. Look up that lead in the London Directory for the address to go to, then read the relevant chapter (paragraph) in the case book. Sometimes the lead draws a blank, in which case you can choose to follow another lead. During your turn, you may also look at the Newspapers and revisit previous leads. In this cooperative board game, players take turns to be the lead investigator.