Race to the Treasure! and 4 other cooperative board games

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Race to the Treasure! is $15.99 on Amazon.

Our four-year-old was recently gifted Race to the Treasure!, a self-titled cooperative board game from Peaceable Kingdom. Prior to playing, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of “cooperative board games” — being of the “it’s healthy for kids to learn to lose!” mentality, I wasn’t sure if I would be on-board with the idea.

To put it simply, a cooperative board game is actually a genius idea: instead of being pit against one another in their quest for the treasure, the players work together on a team to race an ogre to the finish line. The goal of each game is to emphasize play and not competition. You’ll need to band together to build a path to a) collect keys, b) amass ogre treasure to thwart the ogre’s efforts, and c) reach the end of the path. No one is left out, and at the end everyone either sinks or swims — together.

Peaceable Kingdom Press have several games with this style of cooperative play at the core — here are few faves:

Mermaid Island.

In Mermaid Island, your team of mermaids are racing against the Sea Witch to get to the island first. You use a spinner to see who can pick up the magic wand — your team or the witch!

Stone Soup.

This game is based on the classic tale of cooperation, Stone Soup. In this one, you’ll work together to match various ingredients to cook up a soup. You want to match everything before the fire under the kettle goes out — this could also be played before/after you guys make your own real-life version of the soup!

Hoot Owl Hoot!

Hoot Owl Hoot! is a color-coded cooperative game — when you begin play, it’s time for the owls to go home. Players help the owls fly back to their nest before the sun comes up by playing color cards to find which spot to land on. Each time you draw a sun card you find yourself closer to daylight!

Lost Puppies.

Lost Puppies is super adorable in premise — each puppy is lost, and you need to work together to help them find their homes! You’ll encounter road blocks, so you have to be clever to keep each puppy safe.

A few of the games are described as being perfect for kids between one month and eight years, but I’d say the ideal age range is between three and a half and six. These games are a great addition to competitive games — what games do you guys play with your little kids?

Comments on Race to the Treasure! and 4 other cooperative board games

  1. I’m not familiar with these either. Sounds interesting but I think as an addition, not replacement to competitive games. I have to say that I look forward to the day when I can crush my (much more grown) kids in Scrabble. Is that wrong? (If it helps, I also look forward to the day they beat me in my favorite game. Then my work will be done, sort of.)

    • Totally not wrong, my husband has been excited about beating our kid in Scrabble since I found out I was pregnant. 🙂 I agree with you, these look like cool additions to competitive games.

    • OOHH definitely an addition! We play tons of competitive games with J (Scotland Yard, Candyland, etc), but Race to the Treasure is enjoyed by all as well. It’s nice to have our son say “We’re all on the same team!” instead of “I hope I win, I hope I win!” every so often. 😉 I’m adding something to the post about them being a good addition. Thanks!

  2. First: I have been a reader of Offbeat Families for YEARS. Seriously. Second: I am Peaceable Kingdom’s Marketing Manager and was thrilled to find this post this morning! The whole cooperative board game concept is still gaining momentum and we love seeing it discussed. THANK YOU for featuring our games!

  3. We haven’t tried any of these games, but they sound great!

    For slightly older kids (my son started playing it at 4 with simplified rules) Bohnanza from Rio Grande Games is an interesting blend of competition and cooperation. My friend who taught me to play said, “The goal of the game is to have fun. The way you have fun is by helping the other players win.” This is by far the best way to approach it, because if you’re focused solely on trying to win it yourself, you avoid making trades that help other players, and that means you tend not to get the trades you need.

    Here are some of my favorite games to play with my kid.

  4. My 7.5 year old son asked for Race for the Treasure on our last trip to the bookstore. I was hesitant, but it’s turned out fine. While he’s likely a bit older than the target audience, we’ve modified some rules to up the ante and have a had a great time playing it. I actually just wish it were a bit longer! There is something nice about playing together. In fact, he asked for Risk a few months back and while he got the concept, he hated feeling like he was losing. At his suggestion, we played with separate teams, but working against a 3rd army. He had a much better time and wasn’t sulky when guys got killed off.

    • If he liked Risk, he may enjoy Pandemic. Players work as a team to cure various diseases all over the world. It’s definitely complex, but with some minor modifications to make it a little easier to beat the game I bet he’d enjoy it.

      • I love Pandemic. It is hard and probably a little too much for a 7 year old as is, but with some creative modifications, I bet you could make it work out. Plus it’ll teach him some geography. (I don’t know about you all, but I learned my geography from “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego”.)

  5. My husband is a board game FANATIC. I have closets full of ’em, and my favorites are the cooperative games. I don’t have any suggestions for the little kids, but for those of you with teenagers and/or grownup gamenight:

    Shadows Over Camelot – defeat evil and save King Arthur’s Court!
    Betrayal at the House on the Hill
    Castle Ravenloft
    the Lord of the Rings game (this game is evil. Trust me.)
    Arkham Horror (and the spin-offs)
    And one of my favorites, Fury Of Dracula (which is not completely co-op, it’s 4 vs. 1. But still amazing!

    I love co-op board games – they teach teamwork. They teach leadership. And just as important as leadership, they teach folks how to follow, and to follow helpfully with an end goal in mind. Good times!

    • I love Betrayal at the House on the Hill! The interesting thing there is you never know if it’s going to remain cooperative after the Haunt starts… One of the most frustrating games we ever played was actually a cooperative scenario, but unfortunately the House turned out to be waaaaaaaay overpowered due to the layout.

  6. For older kids and grown-up kids, Flashpoint is my new favorite game. It is an amazing fire fighting cooperative adventure where you play different members of the team and work together to put out fires and save people in a variety of buildings. The game is easily adjustable from “family mode”, to challenging, to crazy difficult. The firefighters are even of varied races and genders. We’ve played it both with hard core gamers and with my reluctant in-laws. Everyone has liked it so far.

  7. Jenga’s pretty cooperative. One person screws up, the whole “building” comes crashing down! The sound might startle really little kids, but I think the older ones would have a lot of fun. I grew up playing Candyland.

  8. Ohhhhhhh yeah! Thank you so much for this post! I’m a psychoeducator in an alementary school and I just spent the budget I had left for this game! I’ve got a few kids who definitely will benefit from this (or these, when I have the budget to buy more!) game. Kids who have a lot of conflicts, bad friendship dynamics! Woot!

    By the way, competitiveness is very important… I spend a lot of time playing with kids with behavioral difficults and I don’t let them purposefully win. They really need to learn not to be sore losers or bad winners. And you just can’t learn that when you’re constantly playing videogames. I swear these kids have been brought up by videogames and it really saddens me. Heck I even have to explain good old UNO because they’ve never played. And don’t even try taking out a basic card deck!

  9. My husband is an avid boardgamer and we’ve been playing with our near 7 year old since he was about 4. For the younger crowd I’d suggest:

    Monza: sort of a kiddie version of Formula De, which was recently played on Table Top, the YouTube series all about boardgames.

    Draculix: haunted house themed kiddie version of Yahtzee.

    Robot Explorers: this one requires reading. Up to 4 players, racing to jump from planet to planet picking up samples from each one in the solar system. You can choose your own route around the board, which means it’s good for starting to learn strategy.

    Zombie Dice: roll dice to eat brains, be shotgunned, or run away from the survivors. Whomever gets to 13 brains first wins.

  10. We’ve played “Wildcraft” and another similar game that I can’t remember the name of with great success. Everyone (ages 5-45 years old) had a lot of fun. We also play Pictionary without the board. We just draw from the cards and whomever guesses correctly draws next, or alternately, the turn passes around the table from person to person. Oh, and Apples to Apples!

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