My favorite partnership game is Canasta. Canasta is the go-to game I get for couples (because it's cheap, easy to learn, fun with two, and easy to attract others to play), but while it's fun with two players, it hits its stride in four-player partnership games. For those who are unfamiliar with Canasta, it is not just a game for old ladies. In fact, there is quite a bit of tension in the game (reflected in that the name for the discard pile is the "prize pile," and picking it up is the only way to increase your hand size). Table talk is discouraged in four-player games, so each member of the partnership is guessing at what the best move is. It is generally better to keep cards in your hand so your opponents don't know what to discard, but if you hold cards in your hand, your partner won't know what to play. The balance, the bluffing, the tension make Canasta my favorite team game.
Team-based games are tough. Especially when it’s player team vs player team as opposed to fully cooperative. You have to rely on someone else who might not have the same skill, or may disagree on your best strategy.
I think my favorite team game is Last Night On Earth. While you live and die by your dice rolls, this game captures perfectly the desperate feel of fending off a zombie outbreak. On the Zombie team, you get the exhilaration of overwhelming your foes with a horde of hungry undead. On the Hero team, you get a chance to fight with a small group of survivors in a desperate battle to overcome the horde. And if your team screws up… they get eaten by zombies, while you use your cunning and strategy to survive the night and escape. A variety of scenarios and a dynamic board setup, LNoE is fresh and fun every time you play.
A shout-out goes to games that aren’t “Team” games per say, but allow uneasy Alliances. Forging an alliance with another player, when the rules do not inherently require them to do so, adds the tension and excitement and possibility of backstabbing and being backstabbed. If you play it too untrustworthy, no one will join you ever again. But if you can save the backstabbing for the key moment – or just ride the alliance to victory – you’re golden. As long as the other player doesn’t backstab you first. Cosmic Encounter and Ascending Empires are two of my favorites that allow such alliances without becoming too unbalanced against the other players.