Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cooperative Games

Lately, I've been playing a ton of cooperative games. And semi-cooperative games. And I'm learning a lot about them and the folks I play with in the process.

There are really two broad categories of games, here.

Cooperative games are games where all of the players are working together to defeat the game. Everyone wins or loses collectively.

Games in this first category include Ghost Stories and Pandemic and Forbidden Desert.

Semi-cooperative games are games where one of the players is a traitor. They are trying to pretend to be part of the team, but they are working against everyone else. Most players win or lose collectively in this style of game.

Games in the second category include Room 25 and Battlestar Galactica and Shadows Over Camelot.

I'm not putting together an exhaustive list of cooperative games, here, but here are a few that I own (and like) and my thoughts on them. I've talked about some of them before. Some of them are games I need to discuss more later. Before my summaries, though, I'm going to use two specific terms that could probably stand to be explained:

Replayability - How much fun the game is on multiple plays and how the game maintains this replayability.

Commander Effect - Many cooperative games suffer when one player decides to take charge of the game.  It makes it less fun for other players. Some games take steps to stop this through limiting information-sharing between players in some way. Some games have other limiters.

Pandemic - This game was, in many ways, the herald of the Age of the Cooperative Game. It maintains replayability through randomness, and is subject to the Commander Effect. Realistically, I prefer to play this via app these days. There are expansions available, but I don't own them.

Ghost Stories - Another of the early cooperative games. Replay through randomness, and subject to Commander. This is one of the most difficult cooperative games to beat for new layers. Some folks find it frustrating because of it. There's an IOS app for it, but nothing on Android yet. There are a couple of expansions for this game available.

Room 25 - Depending on the mode played, this is either fully-cooperative, team competition, or semi-cooperative. It maintains replayability through randomness. and there is currently one expansion out with a second due later this year.

Forbidden Desert - Another Matt Leacock design (he also did Pandemic).  The basic design itself is apparently older than Pandemic's, but it's also a very random game. I prefer Forbidden Desert to Forbidden Island, but both are solid. Even though the Commander Effect can be an issue.

The Grizzled - This is a relatively new game. Players take the role of soldiers during WWI. The goal is to deplete one deck of cards before the other deck is depleted.  It's replayability comes from randomness, but it avoids the Commander Effect by limiting what players can say. This is a game I need to say more about if I haven't already.

Witness - Witness is a Blake & Mortimer-licensed cooperative logic problem.  I love logic problems, but this game is tough. It's scenario-based, and each scenario is a puzzle. If you have a strong memory, each scenario has zero replay value. If your memory fades over time, like mine does, you can replay scenarios every few months. There are fifty or so scenarios in the game, so you're not likely to burn through it quickly. There is no Commander Effect here - each player works the puzzles and answers the same questions to gain a collective score. The game is a test of memory and communication.

TIME Stories - In many ways, this game is The New Hotness.  It's good. It's like one of those old LucasArts point-and-click adventure games in cooperative tabletop game form. There is possibility for the Commander Effect. And, similarly to Witness, there is almost no replay in the game unless your memory is not great.  I have a hunch that Asmodee's demo folks will be playing the heck out of this one.  There are several expansions, now, each of which is a new scenario.

Mysterium - I'm pretty sure I've talked about this one before.  It's Dixit crossed with Clue. One player is working to convey information to the other players.  The other players can bet on which answer they think is correct. Sometimes, one of those other players will be SO SURE that they have the correct answer that you'll see a bit of Commander, but not often.

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