Game mechanics explained: Cooperative games

Coöperatieve spellen

What are cooperative games?

Co-op, co-op or cooperative games are games in which the players work together towards a common goal. It is the opposite of a competitive game where the players often win or lose individually. In a cooperative game, the players win or lose together. These types of games have become more and more popular over the years and new games are popping up with bushes. Because you work together, you can also easily play these games with children or adults who cannot cope with their loss. It takes away a certain amount of stress because you don't have to perform individually. Although co-op games can also be very stressful. Just look at the Escape Room games series.

But what do you have to keep in mind when making your own cooperative game and what variations of co-op games are all conceivable?

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Players against time
Players against AI
Players vs Player
Competitive cooperative games
What do you have to consider when you are going to make a cooperative game yourself?
A co-op variant

Players against time

A simple form of co-op games can be seen in games where the players have to complete a certain task within the time. The time can stand for literal time, such as in the Escape Room games or Magic Maze, but also for a certain number of actions or turns within which the goal must be achieved, such as with The Crew or The Mind.

When a stopwatch or hourglass becomes part of the game, the stress and chaos will increase. If you want to play a quiet game, that is certainly not advisable.

Magic maze
De Crew bordspel

Players against AI

A common variant is that the players play together against an AI (artificial intelligence, or computer). You see this for example in the Dungeon Crawler games like Zombicide or Mice and Mystics. The players take turns playing against the AI until one of them wins.

It often happens that the AI can be predictable. After all, he moves according to predetermined, fixed rules. This is not a problem with a game like Zombicide. You expect zombies to be predictable, as their strength also lies in the numbers. As a player, you can even make use of this predictability by deliberately making noise and thus sending the zombies on a desired track. But it can also affect the credibility of a game. At Mice & Mystics, the enemies also move according to fixed rules. The enemies always walk to the player who is closest. For example, you can protect an injured player by putting another player in front of it. This can feel a bit 'cheaty' at times.

One way to partially prevent this is to make the AI's actions unpredictable. With Mice & Mystics this happens, for example, by the speed at which the enemies walk. This is determined by a die roll and can therefore never be fully predicted. Bee Blackstone Fortress, a game in the Warhammer universe, they take this one step further. The actions of the enemies are determined by a table based on a position where they are and a die roll.

As a result, it is never possible to predict how the AI will move. However, the characters keep doing “stupid” things. In Blackstone Fortress, for example, you can place fireballs on certain routes. A smart AI wouldn't run through this quickly unless really needed, but in Blackstone Fortress, this is simply determined by a die roll.

Players against player

A good way to take away the predictability of the AI is to replace the AI with a player. Besides the fact that a player can make unexpected movements, he can also carefully attack the weaker players first or make other tactical considerations. A game like Imperial Assault is a good example of this. In this Star Wars game all players play against one player. This one player controls all enemies (the dark side of the Force) and tries to make it as difficult as possible for the other players.

You also have games where one player functions more like a Dungeon Master. That player is not responsible for making it as difficult as possible for the other players, but for creating the best possible challenge. It is not a battle between one player and another, but more a kind of story that everyone goes through together. Next Dungeon & Dragons you can also see this in the DOOM board game.

Imperial assault bordspel
Doom bordspel

Competitive cooperative games

There are also games that are both competitive and cooperative. These are games where you compete against each other in teams. For example, think of 30 seconds or Codenames. These games are often very suitable for a group of friends or family and often fall under the category “Party games”. The setup is similar to, for example, Pictionary in which you try to guess each other's hints in a team.

But also with social deduction games such as Werewolves from Wakkerdam or Secret Hitler you see competition and cooperative coming together where the company is divided into two groups, each with its own goal. You also lose or win together with your group, but you play together against the other group.

With the holidays just around the corner, it's always a good idea to pull out a fun cooperative game to have a fun experience together. What game do you put on the table?

What do you have to consider if you are going to make a cooperative game yourself?

Are you planning to make your own cooperative game? What do you have to take into account? First, it is important to determine what the feeling is that you want to make the players. Do you want to make a comfortable party game where the players try to complete certain assignments in a calm setting? Do you want a continuous feeling of stress because your company is always in a dangerous setting? Or do you want there to be a sense of battle between the team and the enemy? This can determine the type of co-op game you want to make.


A common problem with cooperative games is that the game is played by the most avid player. You lose interest and involvement in the game if you are quietly thinking about what to do but then someone else tells you what is the best choice. As a result, not everyone has the same chance to participate properly. A good way to avoid this is to limit communication between players.

If each player has their own information that may not or only to a limited extent be shared with the other players, then nobody has all the information to make the best choice. Each player can therefore play his / her own game. This is done well with the Crew, for example, where everyone has their own hand full of cards, but each player may only communicate one card with the other players.

However, limiting communication must fit the theme. When you travel as a group of adventurers, it is illogical if you as a player are not allowed to share with the other players that you own a certain item or know what the weakness of an enemy is. Unless you are too far away from the other player to share this information.

A co-op variant

It can also be interesting to make a separate co-op variant available for your game. Perhaps with a small tweak in the rules of the game you can make the game suitable for both competitive and cooperative play. It must of course fit with your theme, but there are plenty of themes you can try this with. For example, try to escape from prison as a team, or turn it into a race. The first to escape won. The game can therefore be played in different ways, which only increases the replayability.

Are you currently making a cooperative game yourself? Tell us about it in the comments and let us know what you run into!

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Can you be more specific about the content of your article? After reading it, I still have some doubts. Hope you can help me.


Thanks for sharing these cooperative games. I would like to try them out as my friends often get together on weekends to play too. I am especially curious about the strategies and the rules of the game. It sometimes sounds very complicated, but that of course also provides extra depth in a game.