2021 has been a great year for cooperative board and card games! We have so many games we want to share with you, we suspect there will be another list of Another Top 10 Great Cooperative Games of 2021! (Be on the lookout: we will update this link!) This current list gives our favorite games that came out in 2021 (at least from the USA perspective). You might also be surprised that some games don’t make this list … they might just be on our Top 10 Cooperative Expansions of 2021 (link to list will be updated when that list goes live: be on the lookout!)
Let’s take a look at some great games released in 2021! We will also note how well the game supports Saunders’ Law and gives a solo mode! Interestingly, three cooperative dice-placement games made our list this year! Is this the new trend in cooperative games? Let’s take a look at the list!
Honorable Mention: MicroMacro Crime City
Supports Solo Play? Yes. Works well.
MicroMacro Crime City is an Honorable Mention ONLY because of the official release date. Strictly speaking, it was released in 2020, but it won the German game of the year (Spiel Des Jahres for 2021). I never saw it released in the USA until mid-July 2021! So, we’ll give it a mention because the game was so good! We reviewed it here and loved it!
Basically, this is Where’s Waldo meets a Detective game! Players look over the huge map above and look for clues in an ocean of pictures!
Players work together to solve little mysteries that take no more than 15-20 minutes usually. It’s fun, light, and still exciting when you find stuff. This game really took my game group by storm! If it weren’t for the “official” release date, this would be very high on our top 10!
10. The Loop
Supports Solo Play? Yes
The LOOP has been available for some time for many reviewers, but poor schlubs like us have to wait for it to be released generally so we could buy it: this just came in the mail a month or so ago. This is a hard but fun game for 1-4 players about stopping Dr Faux (pronounced “foe”: Dr. Foe, get it? He’s your foe!) from dealing damage to past eras. Players take the role of variable powered players and traverse through time trying to undo the damage Dr. Faux has done! Clones of Dr. Faux clog up the timeline and accelerate his dastardly plan, but you can take out the clones by creating “paradoxes” that destroy them!
The art is quite “comic-booky” but very thematic. If you stop to pay attention, you’ll notice a lot of funny items come in the game: this game has a sense of humor! This game might make our next Top 10 Cooperative Games With A Sense of Humor!
9. The Phantom: The Card Game
Supports Solo Play? Yes
The Phantom: The Card Game is an interesting card game for only 1 to 2 players. It probably could have been higher on my list if I could bring it out more with my friends, but the 1 to 2 player count kept it from coming out as much as I wanted. The Phantom: The Card Game feels like Marvel Champions could have been! It’s a card game where you buy resources with cards and notate with tokens: it “feels” a lot like Marvel Champions. That’s a good thing!
One of my favorite things about The Phantom was the way it brought out a story: you flipped through a story all the while trying to build up your character, spending resources as needed. The story part was the thing I thought The Phantom did better than Marvel Champions: Wrath of the Red Skull (which we reviewed here).
Overall, the game has an older comic-book feel (from an older generation of comics), but I found it very thematic. Check out our review here to see if you’d like The Phantom: The Card Game!
8. Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery!
Supports Solo Play? No, but you can fake it by playing two hands and having one less action
So, this probably shouldn’t have made the list, but this game just keeps coming out at my gaming tables! It’s a fun “end-of-the-night” game or light and quick “waiting for Andrew” game. Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery is listed as a Cooperative Baking Card Game: it’s a light game about building confections for customers that come into your shop. It’s very light and fluffy! In many ways!
It looks really cute on the table and the art and components for baking (on the cards) are very cute. This game is very charming and a surprisingly fun light-weight cooperative game in 15-30 minutes.
See our review here to see if Kim Joy’s Magic Bakery! is for you!
7. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
Supports Solo Play? Yes, pretty well!
This is yet another in a long line of “games in the Pandemic system“. This particular version had a lot of great things going for it. For one, the components are first rate: cards are linen-finished, minis are pretty nice for a fairly mass market game, every card has a unique piece of art, the board is gorgeous, etc etc… When set-up on the table, it’s quite attractive! See below!
In further refinement of the Pandemic games, it adds some dice, but dice that are not too lucky. The “good” cards it gives you also allow you to choose to augment your actions when YOU want to: you always feel like you can do a little more when you really need to!
This game works great cooperatively: this might have been rated a touch higher if the quests in the game were just a little less “abstract”, but otherwise this was a fun refinement on the Pandemic system. I don’t know anything about World of Warcraft and I liked it: I assume World of Warcraft fans would love this! See our review here!
Supports Solo Play? Yes, but the rules need a lot of clarifications: Intrepid is much better with multiple players!
This is the first of many cooperative dice-placement games in this years top 10! Intrepid is a cooperative dice-placement game for 1-4 Players about building and balancing resources on a space station! See our review here!
Intrepid is a huge game that takes up most of a game table, but once you figure out most of the mechanics, the game flows pretty easily. This Kickstarter game came with a ton of content, and the components was all fantastic (except for some warped boards).
5. Roll Camera!
Supports Solo Play? Yes, pretty well!
Roll Camera! is a cooperative dice-placement game about making movies! (It’s our second cooperative dice placement game on this year’s list!) It’s a silly game with lots of touches of humor, but it still a serious game with some serious mechanics. We reviewed it here and played it with lots of groups of friends, and it just went over great!
If your group of friends has a sense of humor (and won’t roll their eyes at the silly humor in the game) and enjoys a cooperative game with dice-placement mechanics, Roll Camera! is a hoot. It probably should have made our Top 10 Cooperative Games with a Sense of Humor!
One of the best mechanics of the game that encourages cooperation is the IDEA cards (see above)! One player can call for a meeting and ask for everyone else to pitch an idea! Even though it’s not your turn, all players are still involved in pitching ideas outside of their turn! This was one of my favorite cooperative mechanics I’ve played in a game this year!
4. Gascony’s Legacy
Supports Solo Play? Yes, very well (with several modes)
Gascony’s Legacy is a cooperative adventure/fighting game taken from the pages of the Three Musketeers! It’s a game all about sword-fighting and working with your compatriots to rescue/save things! There is nominally an adventure that unfolds in the game, but the game is really about sword-fighting and getting through a scenario.
Gascony’s Legacy was a bit of a surprise for me this year! This game was so great it made our Top 10 Cooperative Swashbuckling Games! The gameplay was fun, but what made Gascony’s Legacy really stand-out were all the little touches to make it feel like a real swashbuckling game: how to could fight two-handed and off-handed! The were special rules for barrels, chandeliers, braziers and other special “swashbuckling” elements that really made this shine as a game.
3.Roll Player Adventures
Support Solo Play? Yes, but it plays so much better with multiple players
Roll Player Adventures is a dice-placement game in the middle of a giant sprawling adventure! (And it’s our third cooperative dice-placement game in this year’s list!) The game is all about doing skill checks and combat, using your skills, weapons, armor, and cards to help you mitigate the dice rolls. Even though the dice placement mechanic is central to solving puzzles and advancing the game, the game is really about the adventure the players go on! The storybooks unfold a fascinating adventure, but with lots of choices and branching!
This game got a bad rap in our first impression review: See Review here. The game just doesn’t work great in solo mode, as there aren’t enough powers to mitigate the dice. But, this game sings in multiplayer mode! With multiple players, there are more powers/cards to help mitigate dice rolls. My group has been playing through the 12+ stories and there’s no question what we play when we get together. We are still enjoying this immensely! And the components are amazing.
2. The Initiative
Supports Solo Play? Yes, but I can’t imagine playing this with one
We loved this cooperative game of codebreaking! My group and I couldn’t stop playing this story-driven game until we got to the finale! See our review here. This game was an absolute joy, reminding me of being a kid adventuring outside and breaking codes like in Alvin’s Secret Code.
Some gamers think the base game is too simple, but I think they are missing the point! The point of the game is to solve codes: the simple base game is just a way to explore the state space of the code (while you physically explore a facility). This game is all about noticing things, exploring what’s important for solving codes, playing the odds, and making intelligent choices. We loved this game so much it almost made my top spot!
Supports Solo Play? Yes and maybe the best way to play! But co-op play works well too
Cantaloop was our favorite game of the year! See our review here! It might be cheating to put this so high because it probably plays better as a solo game than a cooperative game, but it still works as a cooperative game too! As longtime blog readers know, we love the Monkey Island adventure games (it made our Top 10 Cooperative Swashbuckling Games even though Monkey Island is a computer game), and this game feels more like a point-and-click computer adventure game more than any other game we have played. Players read hidden text (using the read acetate) and explore a world on cards and in the main book:
A great adventure unfolds as the players break into prison: this sounds like it might be a dark and depressing game, but it’s not! It’s one of the funniest games I have ever played, and it took the top spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor! This game just soared for me! I am very much looking forward to Part II of the adventure which picks up where this leaves off!