5 Popular Co-Op Tabletop Games

Tabletop games have come a long way since Monopoly, Risk, and Sorry. These days, it’s not uncommon to hear about a tabletop games meetup or convention, featuring games like Settlers of Catan, Small World, and King of Tokyo. Earlier this month, gamers all around the world celebrated International Tabletop Day in cafes, pubs and homes.

“Tabletop game” refers to any type of game that is played on a table. This includes board games, card games, dice games, pen and paper RPG games and so on.

“Co-operative tabletop games” requires players to work together towards a common goal (as opposed to “semi co-op games, which usually has a traitor). I scoured Amazon and Boardgamegeek.com, and watched Wil Wheaton’s immensely popular show on the Geek & Sundry Channel, Tabletop.

These award-winning co-op games listed have a 4.0+ star user rating or higher on Amazon. They have also been ranked in the Top 500 out of the nearly 70,000 games in Boardgamegeek.com’s database. These fully co-op games have either earned a nomination or won a Golden Geek Award, presented by Boardgamegeek.

I am proud to say that I have played and/or own six of the games on this list, thanks to friends, conventions I have attended, and Wil Wheaton. Will I try out the remaining four? Most likely. Care to join me?

1 Castle Panic

The monsters are coming! They emerge from the forest and make their way towards the castle in droves. If you can successfully fend off the monsters without losing all of your castle towers, victory is yours.

The board is divided into five rings and four colored quadrants in Castle Panic. Archers, Knights and Swordsman can only attack from their designated rings, while the Barbarian and the Hero have more flexibility.

Together, you plan your turns based on what card in your hand would be useful for an upcoming player and what card combination is most effective for your turn. Sounds simple enough, until a plague or giant boulder rolls into the castle or you pull out, “Draw 4 more monster tokens.”

Castle Panic was designed by Justin De Witt and published by Fireside Games. It is for 1 - 4 players, ages 10 and up. Although the lists gameplay at 60 minutes, it truly depends upon how long it takes players take to strategize and play their cards.

The game won 2011 GeekDad Best Board Game of 2011 for “Most Monsters” and earned two Golden Geek nominations in 2010. Most recently, Castle Panic’s Wizard Tower expansion earned a nomination at the 39th Annual Origins Awards, presented by the Game Manufacturers Association. It currently sits at #523 on Boardgamegeek.

Amazon Link: Fireside Games FSD1001 Castle Panic

2 Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island is the predecessor to Forbidden Desert. Your team of adventurers will explore the island in the hopes of unearthing four sacred treasures. However, as Wil Wheaton says in Tabletop, the island is out to get you.

Utilizing each player’s special abilities, you must find the treasures, while trying to prevent the island from sinking completely. There are seven roles to choose from, including Pilot, Diver, Explorer, and Messenger.

Forbidden Island was created by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright. It’s for 2 - 4 players, ages 10 and above. Gameplay is 30+ minutes.

 This co-op game won the 2010 Golden Geek Award for Best Children’s Board Game, 2010 Mensa Select, 2013 UK Games Expo Best Family/Children’s Game, the 2011 Juego del Año, and 2011 Vuoden Peli Family Game of the Year. It is currently ranked #333 on Boardgamegeek.

Amazon Link: Gamewright Forbidden Island

 3 Defenders of the Realm

This is an RPG hybrid. If pen and paper RPG games aren’t your thing, if you don’t like the idea of being a Game Master, yet you want to take a break from RPG video games, give Defenders a try.

You and your companions are the King’s Champions. You can choose from eight roles, including Wizard, Paladin, Dwarf and Ranger. Each player has different special abilities and weapons.  Every game is different, depending on what role you play and which quests you take on.

Four enemy generals and their growing army of minions are marching towards Monarch City. Even the best of your party’s plans can go awry by way of a poor card draw or dice roll. Victory is pretty sweet if you do manage to slay all of the generals.

Defenders of the Realm is a co-operative fantasy game for 1 - 4 players, ages 13 and up.  It was designed by Richard Launius and published by Eagle Games. Gameplay is 90+ minutes.

Defenders of the Realm was nominated for the 2010 Golden Geek Best Thematic Board Game, and Origins Awards Best Board Game Awards. It is ranked #185 on Boardgamegeek.

Amazon Link: Eagle Games 101253N Defenders of the Realm

4 Hanabi

Listed as the best board game of 2013 by Paste Magazine, Hanabi is a co-op card game with a twist. The object of Hanabi is to work together and build fireworks by building colored number sequences from 1 to 5.

However, players hold their hand facing the others so that they cannot see their cards. This game tests your short-term memory: Can you remember the hints your friends gave you two turns ago to decide which card to play next? Is there someone at the table who unknowingly has the next card that should be played and could use a hint?

There are a limited number of hint tokens. You must balance the hint tokens with the cards played, or you will wind up playing your hand.

Hanabi was designed by Antoine Bauza and published by RnR Games. It’s a game for 2 - 5 players, ages 10 and up. Gameplay varies depending upon the number of players and how long a player’s turn takes.

This game currently sits at #120 on Boardgamegeek. It won the 2013 Fairplay À la carte Award and the 2013 Spiel des Jahres.

Amazon Link: R&R Games Hanabi Card Game

5 Forbidden Desert

In Forbidden Desert, you and your colleagues are on an archeological expedition to recover the parts of a legendary flying machine. From the Climber and Explorer, to the Navigator and the Water Carrier, each member’s special skills play a critical role in the expedition’s success.

The storm picks up and moves the the artifacts. If you take too long to find the parts, the desert will get you. If your team is too slow at clearing the growing piles of sand, you will be buried.

It is extremely satisfying when you successfully find and assemble all the parts. There’s just enough room on the airship to place a couple of game pieces on it for a victory photo.

Forbidden Desert is a co-op game for 2 - 5 players, ages 10 and above. Gameplay varies depending on the size of the team, but averages 45 minutes.

Designed by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright, Forbidden Desert currently ranks #168 on Boardgamegeek. It has won the 2013 Golden Geek Award for Best Children’s Game, the 2013 Mensa Select Award and the 2013 UK Games Expo Best Family/Children’s Game Award.

Amazon Link: Gamewright Forbidden Desert

Stay tuned for my next list of 5 Popular Co-Op Tabletop Games.