Family Game Night: Cooperative Board Game Edition

We love to play board games, but playing a competitive game with one child and two grown-ups doesn’t usually end well. Christopher is very competitive (Jim and I are too, so it’s no surprise), and he gets very upset when he doesn’t win. Of course, we don’t like to just let him win, but it’s no fun for anyone when he has a tantrum in the middle of the game. Our solution has been cooperative games!

A cooperative game is one where all the human players work together to win. It’s like playing against the computer in a video game. There is usually one win condition and various lose conditions. If you can meet the stated objective before “dying” (usually), then you win.

Here are some of our favorite cooperative games. Many of these are for older children, but Christopher is very good at understanding game mechanics, so he has been able to handle them without a problem. Plus he has two adults to help him out.

Castle Panic

This game is listed as being for ages 10+, but Christopher has been playing it with us for a couple of years (so starting at age 5 probably). The gist is that you’re protecting your castle from invading monsters. To win you have to defeat all of the monsters without losing all of your castle sections (6 total). The board is set up like a bulleye with monsters entering in the outer ring and moving closer to the castle after each players turn. The players have cards – knights, swordsmen, archers, etc. – to fight and ultimately kill all of the monsters. Players can trade card and strategize together on how best to defeat the monsters. It’s very heavily weighted to the players, so we almost always win, which is great for younger kids. But it also teaches them game strategy, and it’s a ton of fun.

Forbidden Desert

This game is actually the second in the “Forbidden” series, but it’s the better game, so we started with this one with Christopher. It’s easier to win because there are less difficult lose conditions, which makes it more fun. In this game the “board” is actually a configuration of tiles (which is great for replay-ability) in the desert. The players have crash landed there, and you have to find the pieces of your ship, so you can fly out to safety. The tiles must be excavated (flipped over) and they reveal equipment or the coordinates to the plane pieces. I love the mathematically element of the grid and coordinates. All the while the sand is piling up on the tiles and the sun is beating down and making your dehydrated. Players take turns, but some special actions require a lot of collaboration. It’s another great one, and even though it’s for ages 10+, we played with Christopher starting at age 6. He even played this game with his babysitter one night, and he almost got all of the rules right when explaining it to her.

Forbidden Island

The precursor to Forbidden Desert, this game is much more challenging. It is actually quite difficult to win this game, and we’ve only ever played it on the “Novice” level. It also has a grid of tiles, but because this game involves water and not sand, the tiles can sink and disappearing, sometimes making it impossible to win. Again, you’re using a grid and coordinates to find 4 relics to win the game. It’s also ages 10+, but we only started Christopher on this game this year (age 7).

Flash Point

This game is about fire rescue. The board has two sides – family and experienced. Each side lays out a building that has victims spread throughout. The fire expands each turn, and the players have to work together to put it out and rescue people before the building collapses. The family side has less rules, so it’s very manageable for kids, but it’s still a lot of fun. The experienced side is challenging and very fun to play just with adults. It’s again rated for ages 10+, but I played this game alone with Christopher this year, and he really enjoyed it and didn’t have any trouble with the rules.


This game is the ultimate in cooperative games. It’s really an adult game (ages 13+), and it’s one of my all time favorite games. It’s made by the same company as Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert, so once Christopher had mastered those games, I played it with him. We did so well and won so easily, I’m worried he’s spoiled for life. This game is usually very difficult. The players are a team of scientists trying to rid the world of 4 diseases. Each turn more cities are infected and the viruses can spread and become outbreaks very easily. It’s intense, but also a ton of fun.

Do you have family game night? What games do you play?

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