I have recently rewatched a classic 1995 movie "Jumanji", surprised how well this movie aged. What bugged me during the entire movie, though, was if the Boardgame was intended to be cooperative. Sure enough, that's how the players played it, but they may have been metagaming to make the game easier and have it end quicker since they didn't enjoy it.

I have paid much attention to the details written in the game itself, and here's what I found:

  • at no point the game refers to a singular "winner" (which would be an instant proof that it's a non-cooperative game),
  • the game tends to make lives difficult to all the players making environmental changes. One of the notes (the one that summons the lion) even refers to a party, which indicates a cooperative nature (though again, maybe the players are themed as an adverse party):

    His fangs are sharp, he likes your taste. Your party better move post haste.

  • there was not a single instance where a player was punished due to help being granted to some other player (for example, by giving a catch-up help for the person who is in the last place) - the game is exclusively about dealing straight punishment either to the current player or the entire team.

All of this hints at the cooperative nature of the game, but with no concrete proof. Is there something that I'm missing, or some background material that is more clear on the subject?

  • 8
    "have it end quicker" as in Alan's 20 years?
    – Zommuter
    Dec 18, 2019 at 7:38
  • 6
    TL;DR--not it's not a co-op game, but once it gets going, all parties mutually want it to end. The best way to do that is to work together. The game is designed for people to play against one another, but in effect, players end up playing together, just to end the game.
    – RLH
    Dec 18, 2019 at 16:08
  • 1
    This assumes the game was designed in some sense similar to the usual mortal process.
    – aschepler
    Dec 19, 2019 at 3:14
  • 2
    Quote: "at no point the game refers to a singular "winner" (which would be an instant proof that it's a non-cooperative game)". Completely wrong. One of the best cooperative board game of the last decade has a single winner.
    – motoDrizzt
    Dec 19, 2019 at 11:21
  • 3
    @motoDrizzt Which game are you referring to?
    – RIanGillis
    Dec 20, 2019 at 19:31

4 Answers 4


The inscription indicates that the game is intended;

  • For more than one player
  • As a competitive game
  • With a single winner

A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind. You roll the dice to move your token. Doubles gets another turn. The first player to reach the end wins.

This doesn't necessarily mean that players won't need to cooperate in order to actually reach the end and call out "Jumanji!". One assumes that if all the players die, that just means that they're all losers.

enter image description here

The game had four tokens, indicating that up to four players can play.

enter image description here

And Alan was trapped in the game for decades because he had no second player to compete against.

  • 15
    multiplayer =/= cooperative
    – Skooba
    Dec 17, 2019 at 15:58
  • 42
    "The first player to reach the end wins." does seem to answer the question though
    – OrangeDog
    Dec 17, 2019 at 16:09
  • 11
    I think they call this "semi-cooperative" Over on BGG
    – Jontia
    Dec 17, 2019 at 17:37
  • 7
    @Jontia - I think we can be sure that the real winner is supposed to be "everyone having an exciting time"
    – Valorum
    Dec 17, 2019 at 18:30
  • 47
    Alan was trapped not because he 'didn't have a second player to compete against' - but because the second player hadn't taken a turn in 20 years. If he only needed a second player in general, Alan and the kids could've played themselves - they wouldn't have had to go find Alan's childhood friend that ran off.
    – Robotnik
    Dec 18, 2019 at 4:05

The confusing issues mentioned in the question arise (in the meta sense) from the way the story from the original 1981 picture book Jumanji by Chris van Allsburg was modified for the film.

Original Cover

The basic idea of the game and much of the way that it affects reality was carried over from the book to the 1995 movie. However, the identities of the players and the specific encounters the players experience as they move through the jungle were changed for the film version. In the book, encounters on the game board (particularly encounters with negative consequences) cause elements from the game (most commonly, animals) to appear in the house where the siblings Judy and Peter and playing the game together, causing increasing amounts of chaos and damage.

What distinguishes the game in the book from the one in the movie is that in the book's version, the strange things the game summons up never actually impede the ability of the players to continue the game. There are brief delays (such as when the pair pause to trap a lion in the master bedroom), but the monsoon, volcanic eruption, monkeys raiding the supplies, etc. never present real impediments to the game continuing. (Peter contracts sleeping sickness when he loses a turn, but it only lasts as long as the time until his next roll.) Peter and Judy do cooperate to ameliorate the increasing inhospitability of their home environment and to try to finish the game—once they realize that finishing is what they need to do.

Because the game's hazards never prevent the players from continuing (including nobody getting sucked into the game), it is no problem for the game to be competitive. This element was carried over to the 1995 movie, even though the competitive aspect did not really make sense for the film's version of the game, because in the film, the hazards are genuinely hazardous—and not necessarily just to the player whose roll caused a hazard to appear. Thus the film version forces the players to cooperate in ways that seem opposed to the generally competitive nature of the game, whereas the book's Peter and Judy could have played as competitively as they wanted (had they been more interested in winning than in just getting everything back to normal).


This answer is based entirely on personal interpretation of the movie

I don't think Jumanji was meant to be a co-op game (in that the game wouldn't punish you for playing with or competing against the other players, you are free to do either if you wish)

  1. The game can be played single player

I am basing this mainly on the fact that there is nothing in the movie to state otherwise. If I remember the scene correctly Alan first puts his token on the board which gets ready to start play immediately, it's only that Alan didn't manage to roll the dice. His friend Sara joins in later but in fact becomes the first one to roll the dice and start the game. Presumably, after the second turn (and Alan getting trapped in the jungle) had Sara not run away, they could have just continued to play normally with two players. Given that two new players were able to join 20 years later and just continue the same game without resetting everything, indicates to me that there is no player number requirement

  1. The game does define a "winner"

which is always a single player, the first to reach the centre and say Jumanji out loud,

The first player to reach the end wins (instruction on the Jumanji box)

it doesn't define a team win. Everything that happened during the 20 years the game was in progress also got reset at the end, further indicating that Alan was the only winner

  1. There are hazards that target a particular player

Most of the hazards from the game can equally harm the players or non players (the stampede, earthquake, etc.) but some of them target the player as well. For example, Van Pelt says at one point that he didn't shoot Alan's friend when he got a chance even if he could, because Alan was the one who rolled the dice. Throughout the movie he is focused on specifically hunting Alan. Even the lion initially seems to go after Peter since it came out when he rolled the dice, before it is locked up.

I think these all indicate that it's every player for him/herself in Jumanji. They can work together if they want to, but in the end there will only be one winner of the game (of course being the winner is moot if you get trampled or eaten by wild animals while playing, so probably Jumanji is designed to force players to work together towards the goal of finishing the game)

  • Internal gameplay (the board)

Everything that happens on the actual board (internal) is just rolling dice. So, in terms of actual gameplay, there is absolutely no player choice (which is, like, #1 thing to avoid in good game design), so the players cannot actually compete, just participate. Making the internal gameplay lack competition. They do, however, have the choice of cooperating to survive the external, potentially lethal special effects.

  • External gameplay (everything that comes out of the gameboard)

Zathura, which is essentially a space version of Jumanji, is a movie adaptation of another book by the same author, Chris Van Allsburg. One of the characters playing the game is lost, and the game cannot be played because it is the turn of a player who is gone. So the remaining player is stuck in a house drifting through space.

Taking a similar concept, externally, Jumanji must be meant as a cooperative game.

  • Answer to question: Yes

Because the game probably cannot be finished without all the players, and the actual gameplay isn't competitive, the game WAS meant to be cooperative.

  • 3
    "good" game design opinions are a) subjective b) at best only useful when considering the target market for the game c) not on topic for this site. But I can't leave it alone....;) Candy Land is arguably an extremely well designed game because it meets the exact gameplay capabilities of it's intended audience with pleasing aesthetics. 4-5 year olds won't get much out of Terraforming Mars
    – NKCampbell
    Dec 19, 2019 at 19:07
  • looking up definition of competition defines it as when two or more parties strive for a goal that cannot be shared, where one gain is another's loss. In this sense it is a competition, however, without player choice, the "competitors" are at the mercy of the dice, meaning, it is completely random. With the definition of compete: strive to gain or win something by defeating or establishing superiority over others trying to do the same. Because it is random, the players themselves are not showing superiority. Dec 19, 2019 at 19:23
  • yup - and in the case of a game for toddlers / young children, good game design
    – NKCampbell
    Dec 19, 2019 at 19:25
  • fair, I will remove the candyland reference. However, the lack of competition in the main subject at hand is still there. Dec 19, 2019 at 19:29
  • 2
    I like the points you're making, but claiming that a game is badly designed kinda misses the point IMO. I think it's obvious by the events of the movie that the game itself is pretty darn terrible, as both gaming groups that were shown to play it wanted neither to replay it nor to recommend it to any other gaming group. In fact they were quite adamant on not recommending it to anyone.
    – VienLa
    Dec 19, 2019 at 19:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.