I think I usually choose my game based on my mood. If I am feeling ruthless, perhaps it will be a hidden traitor game that will hit the table. If I am feeling tired then it will be an old faithful that I gravitate towards, something I know all the rules to without checking. But if I am feeling lonely and/or disconnected from the others around the table then I can guarantee that a co-op game is going to be what I need to play. It balances me back out and brings those around the table closer together tackling a common action. So I have assembled a merry band of bloggers who will be putting our favourite strategy coop suggestions here for you to peruse at your leisure.
For Those Who Loved Agricola But Want Sometime Cooperative & More Spicy… - Stefano Paravisi
What’s better than an economy/farming game that takes place on a farm? Nothing actually, it makes absolutely sense. In fact one of the oldest games I own, Agricola, is among one of the best known competitive board games of bucolic settings.
A few years ago, I was looking for a game similar to Agricola but cooperative and I was quite pleased to bump into Stardew Valley: The Board Game. A lot of people would probably know the indie video game this board game was based on but, in my case, the brand was a complete surprise. A very pleasant surprise I must admit. Stardew Valley is, in fact, a quite complex strategic co-op board game where players cooperate to restore the community centre of a little village by completing six bundles of various goods. To accomplish the final goal, players will need to perform all sorts of different tasks including farming, fishing, mining, harvesting and making new friends among the people in the village.
As seen in Agricola, during the game the players will face both a limitation to the amount of actions they can perform in their turn and a fixed game duration. Managing properly the time allocated and the amount of actions is paramount to the success in this game . Players will also need to be very flexible because Stardew Valley adds an element of luck in the form of dice rolling to determine the goods you collect during each action. This level of randomness is not present in Agricola and creates a very interesting hybrid mechanic in Stardew Valley. Last but not least, although the game is a cooperative one, the amount of goods to be collected grows as the players count. The result is a very scalable game that remains challenging at any player count.
For Those Who Like To Flip Themes On Their Head - Hannah Blacknell
There are some themes that have been done to death, so whenever something comes out that really does something new, I am instantly attracted to it. Spirit Island is one of those games. During the game you will be playing as spirits trying desperately to deter the human invaders from settling on your island and ruining it. Because, well let’s face it, humans really do ruin nature. Your aim in this strategic co-op is to remove all the towns and cities without the island become blighted as the invaders fight back against you. The win condition will become easier as the game progresses, but staying alive long enough to get there is not that easy. The ways to lose are harsh and it is very easy for the island to become overrun.
Each spirit will have specialist power cards which will give it its own asymmetrical play style. Some will be really aggressive and good at damaging the invaders and removing cities and towns from the board. Others will play more defensively, helping you to move the Dahan (the island mushroom dwellers) around and protect them so they can fight back against the invaders. Some spirits (my favourite kind) will help you to generate fear, this is the way to drive the game win condition to easy mode, as well as giving you some sweet special one time events too. One of the most beautiful things about this game is how the spirits work together, you can create amazing synergies with your fellow players’ spirits and that might be the part I love the most. You are really working wholly together.
Although each spirit has a play style, throughout the game, you will be adding more action cards to your hand, and these will change game to game. If you want something that is thinky, strategic, beautifully thematic and wholly co-operative with synergistic turns then look no further than Spirit Island. It really is best in class.
For Those Who Like A Refresh On A Classic - Craig Smith
OK I can hear you all now… “in a feature about strategic co-op games, Craig has suggested a solo expansion. What an idiot!” Well, Concordia Solitaria is a 2021 expansion which also allows you to play a cooperative two player game against Contrarius. Each player has a hand of cards like that of Concordia which allows them to take actions like in the base game. The real wrinkle of the game is that the cards also tell you what Contrarius’s action is going to be. Do you take an action that will be helpful for both you and the automa, or do you play a less impactful turn?
Once the end game has been triggered and all scores are added up, players take the average of their scores as their final score. If it’s lower than Contrarius, the game is lost. Trying to ensure both players are scoring well is quite a hard concept in Concordia, when everything in your head tells you to try and outscore your opponent.
Can I shock you though? I love the cooperative mode just as much as the competitive one.
Yes there are dice involved in the cooperative mode, but these are merely to help assign buildings to certain regions or resources, and realistically only encourage the game to be played in the same way you would against an actual opponent. Players can’t share resources but can share money, meaning there’s negotiation at the core of this mode too. It’s a wonderful, wonderful adaptation of a modern classic which I would strongly recommend.
For Those Wanting A Slice Of Reality With Your Co-op Experience - Favouritefoe
Pandemic. The OG, Matt Leacock’s bleak (and strangely prescient) disease ridden landscape changed our hobby forever. Not to be overly dramatic, but it was a game changer in the industry. And since then, it has undoubtedly spawned one of the most respected, popular strategic, co-operative series out there.
But, with all legends, the beginning is a helpful place to start. In Pandemic, virulent diseases have broken out across the globe. We are working together as are disease busting pros who are trying to contain and hopefully beat the bugs. Saving humanity with up to 3 of your board gaming buddies is no easy task. But luckily, you’ve each got a special set of skills (think Liam Neeson in Taken but more PhD and less, well, stabby!). And, as such, you’ll be strategising your way around the world, thinking and implementing the best ways to contain the ever-spreading diseases.
In a turn of Pandemic, you’ll have 4 actions from which to choose; travel, treat, cure, or build a research station. But throughout the game, Epidemic cards are revealed which ramps up infection rates. So, you’ve got to work out how to put your special strengths to best effect, bearing in mind what your teammates can and can’t do. Ops Experts can build like pros, but they can’t work a microscope for toffee. As such, you need to synergise and strategise with one eye on what’s happening right now, and the other on potentially impending doom!
Pandemic hits you with set collection, hand management, point to point movement and of course, teamwork. No denying there’s a lot going on. But it suits our group because the rules are simple (suggested age range 8+) and we often have a mix of younger and older players. And simple rules doesn’t mean it’s easy. Epidemics pop up and everything can change in that single flip. So if you have a group that spans the ages and experience rainbow, Pandemic could be a good choice for you too!
For Those Looking For Something That Shouldn’t Be Co-op - Dan Street-Phillips
For those who know the Nemesis franchise, the idea of ‘Co-Op’ is a grey area. Nemesis Lockdown is the second in the series of games, taking the original concept of trying to escape an alien infested spaceship and moving it to a base on Mars.
Each player will have a character. Some characters are survivors of the first game and some have been on Mars for some time. Each player has a speciality. For example, the Hacker will have access to the computer system and will be able to do remote actions such as opening and closing doors, especially useful when trying to slow down a giant alien Queen from chasing you down the corridor. Or the Survivor has a level of knowledge already and so starts the game a little more equipped to defeat the Martian monsters. Each character is given a personal objective that they need to achieve before the end of the game. There is a semi-cooperative version which might see you needing to kill certain other players in order to win but there is a much more accessible fully co-op mode for those who want to trust those around them. Collectively you will need to figure out certain information whilst also trying to keep everybody alive. Not to mention your own personal task as well. It is A LOT! These games are hard but winning or losing isn’t important here. The emergent storytelling is what makes the experience so memorable.