Teaching Cooperation with Board Games

So, a few weeks ago, I had a post about some games families can play over the holiday break. I had a few people ask about what other games are out there that encourage cooperation over competition.

So, here is my attempt at just that! This will have a few games that are duplicated from that earlier post, I did this to be as complete in this posting as I can be. I’ll list the games in order of appropriate age ranges, starting with the little ones and ending with games for teens and up. I hope this helps some of you out there!!

Lets start with some games for younger audiences.

Note: This article contains links to Amazon through the associate program. Any purchase you make through those links provides a small payment back to my site at no cost to you. 

Forbidden Island
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Forbidden Island

This game is actually a good game for kids as young as six. The mechanics are simple and there is virtually no reading involved. The object of the game is for the players to explore a sinking island trying to find four lost treasures. The players have to balance searching for the treasures with shoring up the sinking board squares.  Once all the treasures have been found, all the players must get to the landing pad for a helicopter pick up. If the players cannot get all the treasures or if all the players cannot get to the helicopter the game wins.

Forbidden Desert
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Forbidden Desert

Like its predecessor above, this game’s mechanics are similar to forbidden Island, but there is a bit more going on mechanically and it does require a bit of reading, though not much. I would say this one is better suited for those in second or third grade. In this, you are lost in a desert trying to find the missing pieces of your flying ship. Instead of a sinking island, you have to contend with the shifting sands and dehydration. The board is constantly moving and shifting, moving the possible locations of the missing pieces of the airship. This game has a very steampunk or Jules Vern-esque feel with the artwork and how the airship looks.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple
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Escape The Curse of the Temple

This is a great cooperative game for kids as young as kindergarten or first grade. Why? Most games take ten minutes or less! So in the time it takes to play one of the other games on this list you could play three or more games of this. Making this one great for kids with short attention spans. In this, the players are all explorers (think Indiana Jones) searching through a temple. The mechanics are an easy to learn Yahtzee style of dice rolling. The results allow you to reveal and explore new rooms. You win by getting all the players out of the temple. This game is not turn based like others. The coolest thing about this is that it is played in real time. You play a CD that is included (I ripped the CD to play on my phone, since we actually don’t have a CD player in the house. The CD keeps you informed of how much time you have. This element does a great job of keeping even the most easily distracted player focused.

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In this, you are all part of a specialized team from the CDC working to cure four epidemics spreading across the world, trying to prevent a global pandemic. The players race across the globe helping to treat sick people while collecting cards that will help create cures for the four diseases. As the players run around clearing out infected cities, the tension is constantly ratcheted up by how the mechanics play out. There is one way to win and multiple ways to loose. This is a hard game! I’ve played it on regular about ten times and won twice. But we have had fun loosing! It keeps you at the edge of your seat nearly the whole game. This can be a bit more difficult for younger kids, but I have had good luck with kids as young as seven playing it.

Flashpoint: Fire rescue
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You are a hero in this game. Not a comic book super hero but a real life one. You take on the roles of fire fighters trying to rescue people and pets from a burning building. The players all work together to put out fires and look for points of interest (POIs) that may turn out to be people, animals or nothing at all. What I really like about this game is that there are two rule levels. Beginner is good for players as young as second grade to play fairly easily. More advanced rules can by added to the game a little at a time for a more challenging and engaging game experience. Full rules are typically more for kids in fourth or fifth grade.

Sentinels of the Multiverse
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This cooperative game can take a bit more time to play and is not suitable for kids with short attention spans, that said, it can easily be played by kids in third or fourth grade (again, if they have a good attention span). It can be a bit difficult to learn at first and it really pays off to learn the game before bringing younger kids in on the fun. The players each take on the role of a super hero fighting a random villain-boss. As the game play progresses, the players each build a deck of cards that represent special abilities their super hero has. I like the board game and own the Android version for my tablet. The length of time to play is the single biggest detractor for younger kids as It can take up to 2 hours to play some games.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
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This is a well done and fast paced deck building cooperative game. The players each build a deck by recruiting heroes to do battle against a common foe. The enemy’s deck is built based on the villain you have chosen to fight. Set up can take upwards of twenty minutes, but once set up is complete, the play is quick and games are typically done in 30-45 minutes. The mechanics are simple enough that kids in second or third grade could easily have fun playing. There are loads of expansions to this game and even spin off games like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and the Legendary Encounters game line that includes Firefly, Aliens and Predator games that focus on those films and TV shows. While some of the spin offs may not be suitable for younger players, the core game is firmly in the comic realm. With so many Marvel movies being released, it won’t be hard to get most kids interested in playing characters from the Marvel universe!

Elder Sign
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Elder Sign

This game is great for those wanting to introduce the horror elements of Cthulhu to younger kids. The game’s feel and tone lend to a spooky, tense game, but the artwork is not very graphic or frightening. In this game, each player takes on the role of a 1920’s investigator trying to put a stop to a ritual that would unleash a horrible elder beast. The elder beast you have chosen to go up against determines the difficulty of the game. Going up against the great Cthulhu for instance is very difficult. Keep in mind that the “easy” elder beasts are hard to beat! This game is an even mix of strategy and luck with its dice mechanic. The player characters often have abilities they can use to aid other investigators lending to the cooperative nature of the game.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill (Honorable Mention)
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I list this as an honorable mention because it is a cooperative game, until it isn’t. Before I go too much farther, let me tell you that I have not played this. But I have seen it played on YouTube and in person (at a local con, I missed getting into the game but got to sit in and watch). The game starts off as a cooperative game, each person taking on a character exploring an old haunted house. At some point in the game, an event happens that turns one player against all the others. What that event is and how the betrayal plays out depends on what scenario you chose to play. And there are a lot of scenarios! The base game has 50 scenarios while the expansion (Widow’s Walk) gives another 50. That means out of the box, you could play this 50 times and not repeat a scenario! How many games can you say that about? The cooperative nature and large scenario selection means that even if you played this every weekend, you could play for almost an entire year and never repeat a story or plot is why I list this as an honorable mention.

Go out and try some of these cooperative games with your family! Let me know what you think. Or, let me know what cooperative game you play that you feel I missed!


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