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Cooper Island Board Game How to Play Guide

Check out this easy to read Cooper Island Board Game how to play online guide. At Daroolz, our goal is to make understanding and learning the rules hassle-free and easy. Our goal is to get your game started fast.

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Find out about Cooper Island

Players: 1 to 4 | Game duration from: 60 mins | Game Complexity: EASY How to play Cooper Island rules in simple steps Cooper Island rules pdf / rulebook

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What is the goal?

Cooper Island Board Game is set in the 17th century, during the age of exploration.  A band of explorers have discovered this beautiful odd-shaped Cooper Island, which comprises of different peninsulas. Each of the explorers (the players) with their 2 sail ships have landed at different peninsulas and set up a small harbour. Starting from their harbour, they will explore and try to develop their peninsula into a flourishing place.

Your goal is to develop your peninsula. You will do this by exploring and developing it as much as you can. As you do so, you will earn helm points. Your goal is to gain the most points.

You will use LANDSCAPE TILES to discover and cultivate 4 kinds of landscape to gain resources:

  • Forests to cut wood
  • Meadows to produce food
  • Mountains to quarry stone or mine gold
  • Settlements to produce cloth

You will explore and develop by placing landscape tiles on your peninsula.

Landscape tiles are placed on:

  • uncharted spaces to expand your discovered territory
  • existing landscape places to increase cultivation level (number of tiles placed indicates cultivation level, (e.g. 1 tile: 1 cultivation level)

After placing a tile, 1 cube of the corresponding resource is placed onto each of its landscape spaces. However, the value of each cube depends on the tile\’s cultivation level (e.g. 1 food cube on top of tiles with cultivation level 3 gives you 3 food)

With the resources and COINS, you will earn helm points when you:

  • build income boats
  • erect buildings
  • build statues
  • supply cargo ships

You track your helm points with your sail ships on a  score track of water spaces that runs around the entire island.

One of your sail ships moves clockwise around the island, while the other moves counter-clockwise, and eventually they will move through the waters and harbors of the other peninsulas.

Game components 

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Game setup

Assemble the island board based on the player count.

4-player game

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3-player game

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2-player game

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Cargo Ship Cards

  • Take the 5 cargo ship cards. Place them beside the island board face up in an ascending row (according to the number of dashes in their bottom right corners: | to |||||)
  • Place harbormaster upright on 1st card
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Player Board Setup

  • Take the 5 crate lids of your color and place 1 onto each cargo ship
    card (onto the crossed out space of your color on its left side).
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  • Take 1 player board and place it in front of you.
  • Take the worker board of your color and place it
    to the right of your player board.
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  • Place buildings, cartographer marker, workers and milestone tokens
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  • Place ruin/statue tokens, ships and form personal reserve
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8 Royal Cards

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Building Cards

  • Shuffle the 15 small building cards and place them as a face-down
    stack next to the island board.
  • Then shuffle the 15 large building cards and place them as a facedown stack beside the stack of small building cards

Scoring Card

Place the final scoring overview card and the final scoring pad for reference in easy reach of all players.

Landscape tiles

  • Put the 60 double landscape tiles in the bag and mix them thoroughly.
  • Then each player draws 2 random double landscape tiles from the bag and places them in her personal reserve.
  • Afterwards, place the bag close by.

General Supply

Form a general supply that includes:

  • single landscape tiles
  • coins
  • wooden cubes of the 5 resources
  • anchor tokens
  • log book tokens

Storage spot

Each player takes 1 coin from the general supply and places it onto 1 of the storage spots on her player board.

Starting player

Determine a starting player and to mark this, give her the Cooper token.
Then each player positions her cartographer marker on her cartographer track according to where she is sitting:

The starting player and the player to her left put their markers on
space 3 of their cartographer tracks.

The third player (if any) and fourth player (if any) put their
markers on space 4 of their cartographer tracks.


Cooper Island Board Game is played over 5 rounds. 

Each round comprises 3 phases:

  • a) Income Phase
  • b) Worker Phase
  • c) Clean up Phase

There are several actions you can perform during the Income and The Worker Phase. In addition, your player board contains ANYTIME ACTIONS which you can perform during the various phases.

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a) Income Phase

  • carried out simultaneously by all players
  • players perform income action of each of their income hands once
  • order of action is up to the players
  • income actions that you cannot or do not want to perform are forfeited

In the first round, you can only carry out the actions of the 2 income hands in the upper left corner of your player board.

Action: Place 1 islet tile and perform its islet action

When you take this action:

  • Choose 1 islet tile from your personal reserve
  • place it onto your peninsula

An islet tile is made up of:

  • an islet space
  • a landscape space
Cooper Island Board Game - Islet Tile

Placing islet tile

When placing chosen islet tile,  its landscape space must be placed onto an uncharted space which is:

  • adjacent to at least 1 existing landscape space (of any height type)
  • not occupied by a ruin token

When placing an islet tile on a water space:

  • tile\’s islet space must cover half of the water space\’s sand back and leave the other half visible
  • you are not allowed to place it if it would make the sand bank entirely disappear
  • if there are sail ships on the half where you place the islet, slide them over to the sand bank\’s other half
Cooper Island Board Game - Unchartered Space

Note: In the game\’s 1st income phase, you must place the islet tile onto the water space to the right of your harbor.

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In later income phases, islet tiles can be placed onto any water space for which all placement rules are met. If you cannot place in accordance with the rules, forfeit this action.

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After placing islet tile, perform islet action

  • put 1 cube of the corresponding resource from the general supply on its landscape space AND
  • perform tile\’s islet action once. If you cannot or do not want to perform, you forfeit the action

Action: Place 1 double landscape tile

Choose 1 double landscape tile from your personal reserve and place it onto your peninsula. If you have none there, you cannot perform this action. (Attention: Islet tiles can never be placed through this action!)

Double landscape tile has 2 landscape spaces on the front and 2 landscape spaces on the back.

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Placing double landscape tile

Cooper Island Board Game - Place Double Landscape tile options

Place tile on 2 uncharted spaces
  • At least 1 of the spaces is adjacent to at least 1 existing landscape
  • neither of the spaces can be occupied by a ruin token
Place tile on 2 existing landscape (to increase cultivation level)
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Place on 1 existing land space (cultivation level 1) and 1 uncharted space
  • At least 1 of the spaces is adjacent to at least 1 existing landscape
  • neither of the spaces can be occupied by a ruin token

As there is a height difference of 1, you need to use Cartographer’s anytime action to shim the double landscape tile with a single landscape tile from the general supply

After you place the tile, put 1 cube of the corresponding resource from the general supply onto each of its 2 landscape spaces:

  • cloth on settlement,
  • wood on forest,
  • food on meadow,
  • stone on mountain

Mine gold on mountain spaces 
On mountain spaces of cultivation level 3 or higher, you have the option to mine gold.

If the newly placed tile has a cultivation level of 3 or higher and includes a mountain space, you can either place 1 stone cube or 1 gold cube onto that mountain space.

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1st round Income Phase Example

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b) Worker Phase

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Starting player takes the first turn. and then it proceeds on to the player on the left and so on.

On your turn, place 1 of your available workers onto the worker space of an action section and carry out its action(s). When you have no available workers left, your turn is skipped. When nobody has any workers left, the phase ends.

When placing worker onto the action section\’s worker space, note the following rules: 

  • normal workers (round) are placed on round worker space
  • special workers are placed on square worker space
  • place worker onto a free worker space or onto space that holds a stack of 1 or more workers of other players
  • Placing worker onto other workers requires a fee
    • the fee of 1 coin or 1 resource cube of your choice is  paid to the owner of the topmost worker.
    • coin or resource cube is placed on to marketplace on that player’s player board
    • if you cannot or do not want to pay the fee, you take 1 coin or 1 resource cube of the owner\’s choice from the general supply and place it in that player\’s marketplace. You must take 1 anchor token from the general supply and place it underneath 1 of your sail ships.
    • if your sail ships don’t have the same number of anchor tokens, place it under the one with fewer. Anchor tokens are in effect minus points.
  • Pay no fee if worker is placed onto free worker space

Additional Actions and Action Modifiers

All of the square worker spaces and 1 of the round worker spaces have symbols in them. These symbols are additional actions or action modifiers. When you place a worker onto a free worker space with such a symbol and cover it up, you may use that additional action or action modifier as part of that section’s actions.

Once the symbol is covered, other players can still go to that space but can not make use of its symbol.

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After placing your worker onto the worker space, perform that section’s action(s).
There are 8 action sections:
Sections A, C, E and G allow you to gain and/or place landscape tiles in order to generate resources.
Sections B, D, F and H allow you to spend those resources in order to gain helm points and other benefits.

Attention: If an action section has more than 1 action, perform them in any order. This includes any additional actions gained. 

Actions that Gain and/or place landscape tiles to generate resources

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Action Section A : Draw or Place 1 double landscape tile
How to play Cooper Island Board Game - Action Section A
Draw of Place 1 double landscape tile

Additional Action:

  • Take Cooper token and be the starting player in the next round

Action Modifier:

  • Perform all 3 sections of this action section (Draw and Place 1 double landscape tile and Gain 1 step on your cartographer track)
Action Section C: Draw and Place 1 double landscape tile
How to Play Cooper Island Board Game - Action Section C
Draw and place 1 double landscape tile

Additional Action:

  • Perform the islet action of any 1 islet tile (yours or opponents) placed on a water space
Action Section E: Gain 3 steps on Cartographer track and gain 1 coin or resource cube
How to Play Cooper Island Board Game - Action Section E
Gain 3 steps on your cartographer track and gain 1 coin or resource of your choice and place onto free storage spots

Additional Action:

  • Perform income action of any 1 built income boat
Action Section G: Either draw or place 1 double landscape tile and perform action twice
Cooper Island - Action Section G
Either Draw or Place 1 double landscape tile and perform chosen action twice

Additional Action:

  • Gain 1 step on your cartographer track

Actions that spend resources to gain helm points and other benefits

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Action Section B: Build 1 Income Boat

How to play Cooper Island Board Game - Action Section B
  • Choose 1 income boat token from personal reserve
  • Place face up on free landing space on player board
  • Pay coin & wood printed on landing space
Action Section D: Erect 1 building
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  • Choose 1 building from player board:
    • Small building
    • Large building
    • Fortress
  • Place on Peninsula
  • Gain Helm Points
  • Gain any effects
Action Section F: Remove 1 ruin or build 1 statue
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  • Remove 1 ruin or Build 1 statue
  • Gain Helm Points
Action Section H: Supply 1 Cargo ship
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  • Choose 1 cargo ship card that has a crate lid of your colour on it
  • Gain Helm Points
How to pay costs

Note: Costs always have a number in red.

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To pay a coin cost, return from your storage spots at least as many coins  to the general supply as the number in the respective coin symbol shows.

Resource costs:

Each part of a resource cost shows a specific resource and a total value for that resource. To pay it, return to the general supply cubes from your storage spots and/or landscape spaces whose combined value meets or exceeds this total.

The value of any cube on a storage spot is 1.

The value of each cube on a landscape space depends on the cultivation level of that landscape space.

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Attention: When you use a cube from a landscape space, you always use up its entire value, even if that means that you overpay. If there is any spare value, you forfeit it. You can never split the value of a cube.

When gaining Helm Points

Whenever you gain helm points, choose 1 of your sail ships and move it that many steps forward

Attention: You cannot split your earned Helm points between your 2 ships.

Moving a ship forward
  • If you choose the ship with one sail, move it clockwise around the island
  • If you choose the ship with two sails, move it counter-clockwise around the island.
Moving a ship 1 step
  • Move it from one sand bank to the next.
    (It does not matter if one half of the destination sand bank is covered with an islet tile. In that case, simply move the ship to the visible half of that sand bank. Any islets in between the 2 sand banks are passed over.)
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When passing an islet

Whenever you pass an islet (regardless of who placed it), perform its islet action immediately. If you pass over 2 islets with 1 step, perform both their actions, in either order.

Islet actions that you cannot or do not want to perform are forfeited.

If you reach a bay water space, immediately gain 1 log book token from the general supply. Flip it to its back and immediately perform the action shown on it. If you cannot or do not want to perform its action, forfeit it. Then flip the token again and place it with its front side up in front of you. (At the end of the game, this will help you to calculate your score.) 

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If you reach a harbor, gain 1 log book token from the general supply as described above  (including performing its action). You must pay a harbor fee of 1 coin or 1 resource cube (of your choice) taken from your storage spots or landscape spaces. If the harbor belongs to another player, pay it to that player by placing it onto her marketplace. If it is your own harbor, pay it to the general supply. 

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If you cannot or do not want to pay the harbor fee:

  • take 1 anchor token from the general supply instead
  • place it underneath the sail ship you just moved into that harbor
  • if that harbor belongs to another player – that player takes 1 coin or 1 resource cube of her choice from the general supply and places it in her marketplace
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Anchor tokens:
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Sail ship with anchor tokens under it, cannot move. To move, you must spend helm points on removing its anchors first: each point spent lets you return 1 of the ship’s anchor tokens to the general supply. (At the end of the game, for each anchor token under your sail ships, you will lose 1 point.)


  • Sail ships do not block water spaces
  • There is no limit to the number of sail ships (of the same or different players) that can be on the same water space.
Cooper Island Board Game Rules - example of gaining helm points
Example of gaining helm points

Anytime Actions

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Anytime actions are referenced in various places on your player board and are marked with an hourglass.

You can use them at any time during your turn (or when you and the other players act simultaneously) in phases a, b and c (and at game end).

You can use:

  • any number of these actions before, after or in between other actions or
  • interrupt single actions

Whenever you pay costs for these actions, you must do so completely in one go. The payment process cannot be interrupted by anytime actions.

Anytime Action – Storage
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Anytime Action – Market Trade
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  • Coins and resource cubes on your marketplace are “dead stock” and cannot be used for any kind of action.
  • There is no limit to the number of coins and/or resource cubes allowed on your marketplace.
Anytime Action – Using Crate Lids
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After performing the action, leave the lid covering the crate space for the rest of the game or until you reactivate it in “Step 2: Reactivate assets” of phase c

Anytime Action – Cartographer

Attention: The “Cartographer” action is limited. Each round, you may perform this action only:

  • once during entire income phase
  • once during each turn you take in the worker phase
  • once during entire clean-up phase

To perform this action, choose one of its 4 options and move your cartographer
marker the corresponding number of steps backward (to the left).

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Anytime Action – Large Building Cards

Each large building card that you have face up in front of you gives you a powerful
anytime action that you can perform whenever you like, following the usual rules
for anytime actions.

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However, after performing its action, flip the card face down. The card remains face down for the rest of the game or until you flip it face up again in “Step 2: Reactivate assets” of phase c 

Gain new workers by fulfilling milestone tokens

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Once you move the token to a hire space, it remains there for the rest of the game.

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When you get new workers, your feeding costs increase in phase c of each round.

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Only 3 hire spaces show this reward and hence, you can only gain maximum of 3 new workers over the course of the game

End of Income Phase

Once you finish your turn by having performed all possible actions of your chosen action section (including anytime actions, gaining new workers, etc.), the player to your left takes her turn.
If, at the start of your next turn, you have no more available workers, your turn is skipped for the rest of the current worker phase.
When nobody has any available workers left, the worker phase ends. Then move to the clean-up phase.

c) The clean-up phase

Players carry out the 7 steps simultaneously. Go step by step together and wait for each other before moving to the next step

Step 1: Feed Workers

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  • Pay feeding cost to the general supply
  • Cost depends on how many and which additional workers you have added
  • Calculate feed cost by looking at feeding row on your worker board and adding up uncovered feeding values
    • Use food cubes (total number based on the added feeding values) to pay the feed cost

For each food you fall short, take 1 anchor token from general supply and place underneath your sail ship. Anchor tokens are distributed evenly between 2 sail ships. If one has more anchor tokens, place the next token underneath the ship that has less.

Note: When you pay your feeding cost in full, each of the 2 rightmost feeding values grants you 1 helm point if it is uncovered. When you fall short they grant nothing.

Step 2: Reactivate assets

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If you want, you can reactivate 1 asset now:

  • pay 2 coins to flip 1 of your face-down large building cards face up OR
  • pay 1 coin to move 1 of your used crate lids from its crate space back to
    your area for unused crate lids

If you have built your fortress and thus uncovered its space, you may instead perform either or both of these actions free of charge

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Step 3: Gain statue bonus

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Gain 1 helm point for each statue on your peninsula.

Step 4: Gain passage bonus

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If each of the 3 spaces at the top of your peninsula is covered with a landscape space (of any type or height), gain 1 helm point in total.

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Step 5: Return workers

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Return your workers from the central island board to your available workers area.

Step 6: Clear Marketplace

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If you have any coins or resource cubes left on your marketplace (and cannot or do not want to move them to your storage spots), return them to the general supply.

Step 7: Move harbormaster to next cargo ship

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Stand the harbormaster upright and move it forward to the next cargo ship card (with the next higher number of dashes).
When the harbormaster moves from the last cargo ship (with 5 dashes), you have played 5 rounds and the game ends. Otherwise, continue with the income phase of the next round.

How do you win?

After the clean-up phase of the fifth round, the game ends.

Then, carry out the final scoring by going through the 5 steps of the final scoring overview card to calculate your score.
To make tallying easier, use a sheet from the final scoring pad. For the final scoring, the symbol for points are log book pages

Determine how many helm points you gained during the game

a) Count your log book tokens. Each is worth 5 points. (Log book tokens are just a representation of the helm points you gained during the game: for every 5 helm points, you should have gained 1 log book token. So when in doubt, you can easily track how many log book tokens you should own by checking how far each of your sail ships has traveled.)

b) To account for the helm points not covered by log book tokens, check how many steps each of your sail ships has moved past the last harbor space or bay
water space. Each of these steps is worth 1 point.

Gain points from royal order cards

Check how well you’ve fulfilled the task of each royal order card holding one of your workers.
Each task has 3 stages.

  • Reaching the first stage usually gives you 3 points.
  • Reaching the second stage usually gives you 5 points.
  • Reaching the third stage usually gives you 8 points.

These points are not cumulative.
If you have not even reached the first stage, you gain no points.

Gain points for certain building cards

A few of the building cards (small and large) also have a task you can fulfill.
These building cards are marked with a flag.
Gain the points shown on each face up card of this type  whose task you’ve fulfilled.

Gain points for leftovers

Gain 1 point for every 5 of the following leftover items (in any combination):

  • coins and resource cubes on your storage spots
    (those on landscape spaces do not count, but as usual, you can use anytime actions beforehand)
  • steps left on your cartographer track
  • double landscape tiles in your personal reserve

Minus points for anchor tokens

Lose 1 point for each anchor token under your sail ships.

The player with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the tied player who has fewer uncharted spaces on her peninsula (with and without ruins) wins. If that does not break the tie, the victory is shared.

General notes and special cases:

  • Coins, resource cubes and anchor tokens are considered unlimited. If you run out, use something else as a replacement.
  • If there are no more double landscape tiles in the bag, you cannot perform the action: Draw 1 landscape tile any more.
  • When you are carrying out phases simultaneously, should anyone think that the order in which you act is important, do so in seating order, starting with the player with the Cooper token and going clockwise.

Important notes about storage spots and gaining coins and resources

  • If an action lets you gain coins and/or resource cubes, take these from the general supply and place them onto any of your free storage spots (unless stated otherwise). If you have no free storage spots, you cannot gain them.
  • Each storage spot can only hold 1 coin or 1 resource cube.
  • If an action lets you gain several coins and/or resource cubes – but you cannot store all of them – choose which to gain. The others are forfeited.
  • The single value of each coin and each resource cube on your storage spots (and on your marketplace) is always 1.
  • You are not allowed to dispose of coins or resource cubes that are on your storage spots in order to clear them.
    They can only be removed by using them to pay costs or fees or for the anytime action “Market trade”.
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