Which coop game is for your family? Family board games sessions are a great way to bring your family together without the interruption of screen time and real life. The trouble is that in a family setting you often have adults and kids of different ages all wanting to play the game, and of course this means that some people have an inherent age/ability advantage. This mismatch can mean that younger players need more help or are unlikely to win, which is a bit of extra brain power for the adults around the table to ensure everyone knows what they are doing. There is also the age old learning curve of being a good winner and also a good loser, which for many children is a bitter pill to swallow at the best of times and can cause some meltdowns. This is where co-operative family games really sing.
In these family co-op games, everyone is working together with a common aim, but each player still gets their own turn where they are in charge. The idea of working together and all winning together is something that I really enjoy about family co-operative games. I have assembled here a list of five games that we think might be right for your family, hopefully you can get the perfect fit here.
For Those Who Like To Play The Bad Guy - Craig Smith
Sometimes playing as good characters in a game is so painfully boring. Everyone secretly hopes it’s them who becomes the traitor in a game of Betrayal, or hopes that they can wreak havoc in a game of Whitehall Mystery. The problem with those games is they pit one bad player against many good players – but what if I told you there was a family weight campaign game that allows you to all be the baddie?
Keep the Heroes Out is a cooperative game which, as the title suggests, encourages players to keep heroes from taking treasure that you’ve been placed to protect. Each player is in charge of an asymmetric monster or group of monsters, playing cards from their hands to activate powers, room bonuses or even attack the heroes. The problem is that as the game progresses, the heroes get stronger, making it harder for you to keep them away from the treasure.
The game is really charming, and the artwork and wooden creatures are adorable, leaving you
recreating that Mitchell & Webb sketch and asking, “are we the baddies?” The difficulty of the game can be adjusted to suit the group, which is lucky because the first time I played it was with a group of adults and we were mercilessly beaten! It’s also a campaign game, really increasing the replayability and being a great way to introduce your family to the genre.
For Those Who Want Seeking Good Fun - Hannah Blacknell
As a child, I used to love the memory game, anything like pairs or the game where people had random stuff on a tray and took one away whilst you weren’t looking. Now imagine the love child of a memory game, but add in a sprinkle of Where’s Wally and the use of a torch to see where things are hiding and you have Peek-A-Mouse from Gigamic.
This game is like nothing I have ever seen before or since. The family co-operative game is played in the box which is a mouse’s house complete with bathroom, living room, kitchen and bedroom sections divided by 3D walls. Around the edge are cut out windows through which players will be peering into the rooms. At the top is a hole into which you place the little wooden chits, and shake the house to distribute these randomly around the house. Then when everyone is ready you turn on the torch, which has its own inbuilt timer, and you peek through the windows trying to spot the tokens and more importantly remember where everything is. Once the torch turns itself off, then it is time to answer the randomized questions, for each correct answer you gain a point.
If you have smaller kids, then this is a serious must-have game. Anyone can enjoy it but I think this really sings with kids 6 and under. There is excitement around the torchlight going off and running around the table searching in all the windows. There will be squeals of excitement during the seeking and cries of delight when each question is correctly answered.
For Those Who Loved Small World But Look For A Cooperative Play - Stefano Paravisi
Castle Panic is one of the first games I started playing with my son years ago and it is still one of our family favourite cooperative board games. The game setup and the need of strategic choices remind me a lot of Small World with all kind of different creatures populating the land and looking to expand their domain. In Castle Panic , however, you are one of the kingdom being attacked and you need to defend your castle till all monsters have been wiped out.
The game mechanics are pretty simple to learn. Monsters tokens are pulled blindly from a bag, placed on a board and they move one space a turn aiming to reach the castle at the centre of the board. At the same time, players play cards to attack the monsters and prevent them from destroying the castle. If all monsters are killed before the last castle tower is destroyed, players win. Often, this happen at the very last minute with just one tower standing.
The tension coming from the constant risk of being overpowered is probably the first great aspect of this game. The second one is definitely the need to carefully plan every move in order to win. These are both typical aspects of games like Small World but, in this case, the whole family can strategize together in order to win. I love how cooperative this game feels and how it can get people closer making everyone working as a team. This game is great in particular for less experienced or younger players as they can benefit from the help of the adults while at the same time developing their strategic skills. The game is also very scalable making it a great gateway to get into more complex strategic games.
For Those Who Want A Game That Changes Every Play - Alana Wren
If you’re looking for a family co-op game to play with kids of all ages then Zombie Kidz Evolution is a great choice. We’ve been playing with a 5 year old and an 8 year old and they both love it. Zombies are attacking your school! You must lock all four gates before the zombies overrun the place. This is how the game begins, but included in the box are numbered envelopes that you can only open once you have achieved enough stickers to unlock the next envelope. Every time you play Zombie Kidz Evolution you receive a brain sticker to add to the chart at the back of the rules. Each time you complete an added objective you also gain a trophy sticker to add to the chart. When you hit the next number on the chart it’s time to open another envelope!
The excitement from the kids about what the envelope would contain was lovely. Throughout the ‘evolution’ you will receive powers for your characters, powers for the zombies (to make them harder to defeat), new rules and achievements to stick into the rulebook and clones. The first time we played we all picked a different character. There are four characters, and as a four person household, we all picked one and stuck with this character throughout the game progression. Staying with the same character each time made it even more exciting when your person gained a new ability.
We really enjoy Zombie Kids Evolution. It’s so easy and quick to play as a family and we love having our own characters and receiving new powers/clones for them. Working together is key to this game as the powers work together to help destroy the zombies faster. Everyone feels included and everyone has fun!
For Those Who Have Loved Cluedo But Want A Family Theme - Favouritefoe
Uh oh! Mrs. Plumpert’s prized pot pie has disappeared! But have no fear as some slick chicks are on the case! Outfoxed! is a wonderful family co-operative game for 2-4 players aimed at age 5+ . In it, you’re working together to hunt for clues to eliminate suspects from your enquiries. But there’s a wiley fox hot on your tail feathers so you’ve got to sniff out the correct pie pilferer before he reaches the end of the path! This is an ideal family co-operative game if you loved Cluedo, but are wanting a theme more appropriate to children. The game features the hunt for clues, but none of the murder weapons!
Player turns are simple. You decide if you are going to search for clues by moving your chicken around the board to claim clue tokens. The clues go in the special decoder to show whether that particular feature matches or misses something about the thief’s identity. Or you can or flip over 2 suspect cards and use what you know to keep or remove them from your shrining circle of possible thieves! Be careful though – finger the wrong fox and it’s all over!
Outfoxed is such a lovely family game. The co-operative mechanism works really well because, although you take individual turns, everyone can help decide whether it’s the right time to search or reveal. Having more than one chicken on the board also means you can all target different clue squares and collect the available information as efficiently as possible. And the decision space isn’t overwhelming. Search or reveal, and that’s perfect for the target audience. Both options are manageable and mean that young gamers can follow and control a complete turn which is great for agency and confidence building. The artwork is also utterly delightful. From the little hats on the chicken meeples (chickles?) to the illustrations on the cards, Outfoxed is as much of a joy to behold as it is to play. We love playing Outfoxed as a family and hopefully you will too!