Tabletop Gaming Nights – Cooperative Play

Library gaming nights (or weekend afternoons) are great ways to get teens into the library. Gaming events generally can focus either on video games or tabletop games. Tabletop games have a lower entry cost than video games (they have no peripheral, hardware, or electrical requirements), can allow more simultaneous players than video games, and they tend to be more social (face-to-face as opposed to face-to-screen).

One way to ensure that a tabletop gaming event is exciting is by offering the opportunity to play games that are more recent, complex, and/or exotic than players are used to. Games for these events should present a blend of strategy and luck, allowing players familiar with the mechanics to remain deeply invested and engaged while ensuring newcomers aren’t steamrolled as they learn. This helps ensure that players of different skill levels can play together without killing the fun.

This post’s focus will be on cooperative play games. In these, all players work together towards a common goal, succeeding or failing as a unit. Some cooperative games still have individual accolades, like the Master Slayer in Castle Panic. Look for posts covering competitive play and quick play games in the coming days…


Forbidden Island

  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Extensible: No, but a sequel is scheduled for release in August
  • Duration: ~30 min.
  • Cost: $17
  • Awards: 2010 Mensa Favorite Brainy Games Winner
  • Publisher Description: Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!


Castle Panic

  • Number of Players: 2-6
  • Extensible: One expansion has been published to date, Castle Panic: The Wizard’s Tower
  • Duration: ~60 min.
  • Cost: $35
  • Publisher Description: The forest is filled with all sorts of monsters. They watched and waited as you built your castle and trained your soldiers, but now they’ve gathered their army and are marching out of the woods. Can you work with your friends to defend your castle against the horde, or will the monsters tear down your walls and destroy the precious castle towers? You will all win or lose together, but in the end only one player will be declared the Master Slayer!
  • Notes: It may look like it’s designed for a younger audience, but it’s definitely fun for all ages.



  • Number of Players: 2-4
  • Extensible: Yes, Pandemic: In the Lab and Pandemic: On the Brink; more will probably follow
  • Duration: ~45 min.
  • Cost: $40
  • Awards: Meeples’ Choice Award (2008), GAMES Magazine Best New Family Game (2009)
  • Publisher Description: Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together, playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks.


Arkham Horror

  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Extensible: There are tons of expansions for this long-running game series
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Cost: $66
  • Award-winning?
  • Publisher Description: It is the roaring 20’s, and while there’s electricity in the air, unnatural storms are brewing as well. Strange things are happening in the small Massachusetts town of Arkham; people have gone missing, sightings of indescribable creatures grow more and more frequent. And the very air thickens with a sense of foreboding that roils like an acrid mist through the streets.
  • Notes: this is not only the most expensive, largest, and longest playing game here, it’s also the most complex. It is extremely engaging and popular with those with the patience to learn and the time to play it, however, even those who have lost all their sanity points. If this game takes off, definitely augment your library’s collection with some of the writings that inspired it or this great audio collection of short stories.

Things to keep in mind as you’re getting your recurrent gaming event up and running:

  • It’s best practice to only introduce one or two new games per event.
  • Augment with some more traditional selections (Scrabble, Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Farkle, chess, cribbage, cards, Trivial Pursuit, etc.) so that people who come in late, or prefer something that moves at a different pace (or with a different focus) won’t be left out.
  • Be familiar with the rules and play prior to introducing a game. In very short order things will run themselves, but you may still need to provide some rules guidance on occasion. Just remember not to loom!
  • If you have a group of teen volunteers, play test with them. You’ll learn together, and some of them will likely show up at your gaming events to provide additional guidance and enthusiasm.
  • If one game becomes a true and enthusiastic hit, consider purchasing an expansion for it.
  • If you have a local games shop, support them! Moreover, tell them you’re from the library and that you’re buying games for teen events. They may cut you a deal and provide a cross-marketing opportunity! If you don’t have a local games shop, you can always purchase them from an online retailer like Amazon. You may also want to try contacting games’ publishers directly, as they may want to support your undertaking in surprising and wonderful ways.
  • Still having trouble getting teens to come? Try invoking the magic word: pizza.

Interested in learning about more great games and seeing them in action? Be sure to check out Wil Wheaton’s online video series TableTop (Geek and Sundry). You can also read user reviews, tips, and discussion at the informative site BoardGaming.

Did I miss your favorite cooperative game? Please let me know about it in the comments!

One response to “Tabletop Gaming Nights – Cooperative Play

  1. Pingback: Celebrate TableTop Day at Your Library | Field Notes

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