Squad 51 vs. the Flying Saucers

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Beginner's Guide to Tabletop Co-Op
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Beginner's Guide to Tabletop Co-Op

Five great board and card games for newbies

It has been just under five years since we started the Tabletop Co-Op column here at Co-Optimus. Even before we looked at Space Hulk Death Angel the card game back in September 2011, we had covered other co-op tabletop games like Pandemic and Castle Panic in the now-retired Co-Op Casual Fridays column. We’ve taken a closer look at more than forty different board and card games that feature cooperative mechanics since we started.

Tabletop gaming is becoming more popular at an impressive rate. The so-called “golden age of board gaming” is in full effect, and co-op games are gaining an ever-increasing share of the market. Walking into your friendly local gaming store can be an overwhelming experience, with a huge variety of gaming options available. It can be difficult to find exactly what you are looking for when the shelves are full of cardstock and chipboard goodness.

Worry not, though, friends, we here at Co-Optimus are here to help. We’ve compiled a list of great options for those of you who are new to modern board and card games. The games on this list were chosen with three important factors in mind. First of all, complexity. These games are simple to learn, but deep enough to promote repeated plays. Secondly, thematic appeal. The idea is to get a game that all sorts of people will want to play, not just hardcore fans of a particular genre. Lastly, and most importantly, cooperation. All five games on this list require all players to team up and make decisions in order to meet their shared goals, and do so in enjoyable ways.

Without further delay, and in no particular order, here is the list!

Forbidden Island - If I were to put only one game on this list, Forbidden Island would be it. Players take on the roles of a party of adventurers exploring a sinking island. They must team up and use their specialized skills effectively in order to obtain four artifacts and escape via helicopter without losing a member of the team. The game has great components, solid gameplay, and enough challenge to keep you coming back for more. I’ve introduced this one to youngsters and older non-gamers with great results. 

Pandemic - Forbidden Island’s older, more complex sibling is the quintessential cooperative board game. Four deadly diseases are spreading across the globe, and you and your teammates must find the cures before it’s too late. Balancing treating the populace with researching the cures is a genuine challenge. Pandemic perfected the compelling, ever-increasing pace that makes great co-op games such a blast to play.