It’s been two years now since our last report on the top co-op games. How have things change in these two pandemic years? Here’s a look at some of the top games in this year’s rankings.
BGG: Top Ranked Co-ops
One of the simplest ways to check in on the best co-ops is simply to see how Board Game Geek (BGG) is currently ranking them. Their ranking algorithm, which appears to devalue ratings over time, even keeps things slightly fresh.
- Gloomhaven (8.7)
- Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 (8.6)
- Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (8.7) [new]
- Spirit Island (8.4) [-1]
- Nemesis (8.4) [new]
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game (8.2) [-1]
- Marvel Champions: The Card Game (8.2) [new]
- Too Many Bones (8.4) [new]
- Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 (8.1) [-2]
- Mansions of Madness 2e (8.0) [-4]
Gloomhaven, Pandemic Legacy, and Spirit Island continue to rule the co-op field at BGG, with the addition of the new introductory Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion (2020). Beyond that, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, Pandemic Legacy: Season 2, and Mansions of Madness all make repeat appearances, though with gradually decreasing ranks. Though the newer Pandemic Legacy: Season 0 (2020) doesn’t make the listing, it’s got a very high rating of 8.6; it just doesn’t have enough ratings to leverage that into a top-ten ranking, which is probably a result (ironically) of the pandemic years.
More surprisingly, there are three new entries, none of them entirely new games: Nemesis (2018), Marvel Champions (2019), and Too Many Bones (2017). We’d kind of expected the rise of some games that were easier to play online, but as far as we know these are just older games that have slowly risen up as they received enough ratings to rank on the BGG scale. As for what they are: they’re an alien survival game, a hand-management game, and an adventure game.
BGG: Most Owned Co-ops
We like the “most owned” co-ops listing because it’s more of all all-time best games, rather than a look at the current obsessions of the last few years. Here’s what that looked like in BGG at the end of 2021:
- Pandemic (167,000)
- Forbidden Island (77,000)
- Gloomhaven (77,000) [+3]
- Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (70,000)
- Hanabi (68,00) [-2]
- Arkham Horror: The Card Game (59,000) [new]
- Robinson Crusoe (58,000) [+1]
- Mysterium (55,000) [+1]
- Arkham Horror 2e (50,000) [-2]
- The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (49,000) [new]
What does being in Target and other mass-market stores do for game sales? Almost 40,000 new ownerships marked for Pandemic in two years, keeping it at the top of the co-op heap by a rather considerable margin. Meanwhile, Gloomhaven has certainly shown there’s still room for a big, dense game, but the newcomers tended to be on the lighter side, such as The Crew (2019) and Arkham Horror: The Card Game (2016). What’s particularly interesting about the Arkham Horror card game is that it’s not only eclipsed FFG’s 2e (2005), but also their 3e (2018), which in three years has only managed to rack up 12,000 ownerships on BGG, a rather small amount compared to the continued increases in 2e ownerships (which itself went up +7k in just the last two years, even with 3e out there). What happened to the Arkham Horror franchise with third edition is probably worth an article in itself.
Board Games Wizard: Best Cooperative Board Games 2021
The Board Games Wizard put out a new list of top co-ops for 2021 that starts out fairly traditional but continues on to a number of newer games that largely postdate Meeples Together.
- Forbidden Island
- Robinson Crusoe
- Ghost Stories
- T.I.M.E Stories
- The Mind
- Escape: The Curse of the Temple
- Spirit Island
- Just One
- The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
The Mind (2018) fits into our “barely a game” category because it’s just about playing numbered cards when you think it’s the right time to do so. Escape: The Curse of the Temple (2012) is one of the few real-time co-ops, a category that’s generally made more exciting just by the frantic need to do stuff in real time. Spirit Island (2017), as we wrote in our last yearly update, is clearly one of the new co-op hits, particularly in the heavier category. We just barely missed it because we picked other co-ops as our last new releases for the book. Just One (2018) is another fun variant on co-op word-guessing games where you’re trying to offer unique clues. It’s fun but shallow and its all-or-nothing scoring can be a bummer, because if you miss one word you feel like you lost. Finally, The Crew (2019) in its original incarnation is a great way to mix trick taking with co-op play; The Board Game Wizard is clearly recognizing its overall success, since it’s already made it on the Most Owned list at BGG as well.
Shannon’s Most Played Co-ops
The pandemic had a bad effect on Shannon’s gameplay, with co-op play relegated to either games available online or else more casual games that can be played with family. Here’s what his updated played-game list looked like following two years of that (with only big moves upward called out):
- Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (193)
- The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game (26)
- The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine (23) [new]
- Pandemic Legacies (22)
- Between Two Cities (18)
- Pandemic (15)
- Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System games (13) [+6]
- Shadows over Camelot (13)
- T.I.M.E Stories (12)
- Space Alert (11)
- Hanabi (10) [+8]
- Descent: Journeys in the Dark (9)
- Lord of the Rings (9)
- The Game (8)
- Arkham Horror 2e (8)
- Codenames (8)
- Bang! + Samurai Sword (7)
- Betrayal Legacy (7)
- The Crew: Mission Deep Sea (6) [new]
- Battlestar Galactica (6)
- Orléans: Invasion! (6)
- Saboteur (5)
That’s an embarrassing small number of co-op plays in two years, but one of the problems is that online gaming, even with a Zoom channel sitting next to the game, isn’t necessarily great for cooperative discussion.
If you’re wondering about how these games were played: The Crews were both light enough to be played with family, in person; Pathfinder ACG and The Temple of Elemental Evil D&D Game were both painfully played on Tabletop Simulator; while Pandemic and Hanabi were both played on BoardGameArena, which is also where Shannon met The Crew for the first time, leading to his purchase of both sets.
And that’s co-op board gaming two pandemic years later, looking much like it did at the end of 2019, but with a few new additions.