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Cooperative Board Games Review

Cooperative board games? Yes! This is a new thing in the world of board games! And since we have a family full of board game lovers, we’ve been adding a few to the family fun vault. Okay, we don’t actually have a vault. Just a gi-normous cabinet game stash.

Leave it to my kids to discover and introduce me to brand-new game adventures! Every year there are several board games that are requested and gifted at Christmas time. This year there were a few cooperative board games exchanged. Since we had so much fun unwrapping and playing these, and I wanted to share them with you.

What is a Cooperative Game?

Back when I was young…. we didn’t play cooperative board games!

No, but really, we never had such a thing. All our games were about rising to the top, defeating opponents, and seizing victory. Iconic games like Monopoly and Sorry show no mercy.

Cooperative games, on the other hand, invite all players to work together to defeat the game. Players unite their resources (game pieces), strategies and effort to develop a winning plan together.

Who loves Cooperative Games?

Some people are going to love these and some will hate them. If you are cut from a very competitive cloth, these games will drive you nuts. Is your idea of fun is totally crushing the competition? These may not be the games for you.

If, however, your objective is to spend time with others, and you enjoy seeing other people succeed, read on!

Now, admittedly, I do like to crush it, and I love to win! But I can embrace a team mentality as well. Group projects? Count me in. As much as I love personal victory, I do also relish working with others.

And parents, cooperative games help all your kids to win and not fight! There is a place to learn graceful losing and gracious winning. But when you’re looking for a moment of peace, or trying to get siblings to appreciate each other, cooperative games help everyone work together for a group win!

Also, as I introduce each game, I’ll mention some of the opportunities they each provide for young players to receive coaching and aid that will help them acquire the necessary skills to play well as individuals.

The Crew

Two The Crew boxes stacked on top of each other.

We’ve been playing The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine and I reviewed it previously in Six Games I’ll Be Playing in 2022. This year we added The Crew: Mission Deep Sea. Both are trick taking games and the play is fairly identical.

All the cards are dealt out among 3-5 players. The cards are in 4 colors numbered 1 to 9. Additionally there are 4 black cards that serve as trump cards. Whoever is dealt the 4th black trump card (Rocket 4 or Submarine 4), is the Captain of the round.

Pieces of The Crew: Mission Deep Sea laid out to show cards, tokens, directions and logbook.

Each of these two games comes with a Rulebook (directions) and a Logbook. The Logbook adds a narrative and supposed group story to each set of tasks you complete on these missions. In The Quest for Planet Nine you are part of a research space team sent to verify the existence of a new planet. In Mission Deep Sea you’re part of a diving crew exploring underwater archeological finds in the Pacific.

At the beginning of each round, the Logbook will explain what the mission or objective is for that round. If there are task cards involved, they are revealed. Players choose the indicated number of tasks with the Captain picking first and then selection following to the left.

Without conferring verbally, the players try to work together to complete the tasks. This requires them to plan carefully how many tricks individuals will take, in what order the group will take tricks, and how to slough off cards so that everyone will complete the tasks together. At each round, the tasks become progressively more difficult.

The Crew for Beginners

This game can be a great way to introduce trick playing card games because the newcomer has the chance to work with a group and gradually learn the subtle strategies of how to antipate players moves and use this knowledge to gain advantage. As with any trick taking game, you may want to let the newbie play his hand open (with cards laid out for everyone to see). Also, you may need to be lax on the rules about verbally cueing the cards in your own hand.

Illiterati

The box for Illiterati with some of the books and Villians laid beside it.

This is a wonderful cooperative game for word nerds, of which we have several in our family. The idea of Illiterati is that you have joined the League of Librarians in combatting the infamous Illiterati who are trying to spread illiteracy. How menacing and evil!

You and your group defeat the Illiterati and promote truth and knowledge by using letter tiles to create words that get bound into books before the timer runs out. Unused letter tiles may burn if they overflow the library limit, so you’ll want to use as many as you can. After each round, players must overcome a sabotage initiated by a Villain, or member of the Illiterati (from a drawn deck pile). To win, all players must complete all their books before too many letters are burned or the Villain Deck is emptied.

This is a fun and frenzied rush of making words from given letters! Players can share letters with each other and swap letters in and out of the library – an additional stash of letters. Given the time restraint, decide how much attention you’ll give to building words for your own book or building random words so that your letter tiles don’t get “burned” or removed.

Illiterati directions page showing game layout.
Table laid out with pieces of the Illerati game in play.
Game layout during the last round, Final Chapter, where all players complete the same task.

Love the artwork, the adorable books that you bind, and the allusions to known literary works. Title examples include “Bladder of Darkness,” “20,000 inches Under the Lake,” and “Uncle Tim’s Timeshare.” Novices may have to pull out a literary dictionary to understand how to build homophones, synonyms, antonyms and anagrams.

I also love that there are three levels of difficulty that you can choose to play – Normal, Hard and Legendary.

We weren’t impressed with the written game instructions which were clumsy and hard to follow. We all thought this was a little ironic in a game where the quest is literacy. But the QR code for a video of directions was very helpful, and the Round Order cards were a quick game play guide.

Task card of Illiterati shown beside letter tiles and books.

Helpful Hint

Rather than use the 3-minute sand timer, we set a phone alarm. Because how can you watch a timer while you’re hurriedly building words?

Illiterati for Young Players

Given that you need to have some knowledge of English grammar, this may not be the best game for children. The game suggests 1-5 players for ages 7 and up, but I think it is a rare 7-year-old who would enjoy playing this fast-paced game.

Just One

All writing tents laid out next to Just One with clues written for the word Music.

Then there’s Just One. Similar to Taboo, Charades or $25ooo Pyramid, Just One is a word guessing game. In Taboo you would be playing in teams, but in Just One, players take turns being the Active Player or guesser. The cards select the word and the other members write a one word clue. Next the members reveal their words to one another and remove duplicates. Finally the remaining word clues are revealed to the Active Player who must then guess the word on the card.

The challenge for this game is to give good clues that won’t be duplicated by others. Since Duplicates are eliminated, duplicates result in fewer clues given. And since it’s a cooperative game, you want your Active Player to have as many word clues as possible.

Just One for Young Players

This game is so simple and easy to learn! And yet it is still fun to play with a group friends or family. As long as a player can write word clues herself on the cute display board, she is ready to join in the fun! The game is designed for 3-7 players ages 8 and up. But I think that age suggestion is high. And you could add more players if you wanted to improvise with paper and pen.

So Clover!

So Clover! box shown beside Keyword cards and a clover leaf display board.

So Clover is indeed so clever and my favorite from the list! Beyond word guessing, players must give one word clues that guide their friends in the placement of four-sided cards into their clover leaf.

Think you’re good at giving word clues? How are you at giving clues that can group two words together?

Each player is given four, four-sided Keyword cards which they randomly distribute into their Clover board. Using the outer words, you select a one-word clue that links the two words together, and write this in the Clue Zone of your board.

Then you draw an additional Keyword card, remove the Keyword cards from your Clover board and mix them together.

Empty clover leaf display board with clues written and five Keyword cards beside it ready to be placed.

Select a player to go first. He shows his empty Clover board with written clues and the five Keyword cards. Other players work together to place the Keyword cards correctly.

So Clover for Young Players

Suggested age is 10+ for 3-6 players. With younger players I would suggest pairing them with an adult to complete Clues for the Keyword cards.

For More Cooperative Board Games, consider these

Of course there are several more cooperative board game options available in stores and online. Two of the most popular are The Mind and Pandemic which both have several versions available. My daughter also owns and loves Horrified in which players unite to defeat classic monsters. You have Horrified Universal Monsters in which you team up to fight Frankenstein, Dracula, the bride of Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and the Creature from the black Lagoon. In Horrified American Monsters, your monster villians include Bigfoot, Mothman, the Chupacabra, the Jersey Devil, the Ozark Howler, and the Banshee of the Badlands. And then there’s Horried Greek Monsters with Minotaur, Cerberus, Chimera, Medusa, Basilisk, and Siren.

Cooperative Board Game Conclusion

Although I shared that So Clover! is my personal favorite, there is not a dud among them. Each of my family members who played this Christmas picked a different Cooperative Board Game as their favorite! Which one do you find most intriguing?

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