Co-operative boardgames? How does that work?

Co-operative games are games where you work together towards a common goal.  It is what makes MMORPGs so popular because you form strong bonds with the people you play with regularly.  But how on Earth does it work in board games?  Surely a board game is only fun if you get to mess with your friends?  That’s the only joy anyone gets out of Monopoly!

In Elder Sign you work together to stop an Elder God awakening. Even Elder God’s are scared of family monopoly nights!

These are valid points, however there is a new breed (newish anyway) which sees people working together against the board.  Now the board doesn’t anthropomorphise – growing hands and legs then chasing you around until you beat it down again – that would be horrifyingly epic though.  No, it will have a mechanic that you need to follow that will tell you what is happening from turn to turn and you’ll need to react to it, usually having a limited amount of time before the game ends.

Pandemic well under way, the cubes represent outbreaks and each turn there’s the chance for them to spread further

This could be by having cards that get drawn at the end of turns that change the landscape like in Forbidden Island, or maybe it brings new rules in that makes the game harder like in Elder sign, or maybe they just increase the number of things you need to get rid of like in Pandemic.  Maybe it’s preset scenarios you need to fight through where the events and enemies are controlled by an app on your phone like Descent 2nd edition, or there’s set ways that things can move against you like in FlipShips.  There are even games that emulate escape rooms like Exit and Unlock!

FlipShips – the ships automatically move towards you at an end of the round

Whichever mechanic the company , something bad is happening and you and your friends as a team have to stop that bad thing from happening or its all over!  Well…the world may not end but the game certainly shall!  The tension that usually arises from playing against other people is instead replaced by the mechanics of the board.  And most of the games have varying difficulty levels you can play them at as well so they can be a fun and easy thirty minutes or a real gruelling brain burner which is also fun!

The Lord of the Rings game is very difficult – but the fellowship’s journey really was difficult so it makes sense!

Each player often has different abilities that can help the team as a whole and you need to figure out the best way to use your abilities together to win – it really is like a puzzle that you work together to complete.  Often the games have strong themes as well, people playing them can get really immersed – especially in games like Descent and Gloomhaven where you are playing through a story together.  They are often very replayable as well although there are some games that are massively difficult and you may only get through them once, but you will feel a massive sense of satisfaction when you complete them together.

Image courtesy of Freepik

Questions to explore character.

  1. How did you feel when one of your abilities helped your team mates?
  2. Did you enjoy working together to complete the game?
  3. In your life when have you had to work together as a team?
  4. Did you work as hard in that setting as you did in this game?  If not why not?
  5. How do you think your character in the game would feel if they failed?
image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures

Link to Faith

The Bible has a lot to say about working together as opposed to individually.  The one quote I think sums it up best is in the book of Ecclesiastes:

Two can accomplish more than twice as much as one, for the results can be much better. 10 If one falls, the other pulls him up; but if a man falls when he is alone, he’s in trouble.

11 Also, on a cold night, two under the same blanket gain warmth from each other, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And one standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer; three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 The Living Bible

Ecclesiastes was most likely written by King Solomon and just before this quote he is talking about how if you are only ever competitive you may end up with more wealth but you will struggle and have very few friends and family.  This is all about the fact its better to have companionship, its better and easier to work together towards a common goal than struggle and fail alone and abandoned.  There is strength working together that you never find working separately.

Suggested Games

Reminder, all Amazon links from this point on are Amazon Affiliate links and will provide me with a slight commission. For more information check the Disclosure page.

The Pandemic Series – Pandemic set the standard for co-operative games.  It’s the one people are most likely to recognise.  In the original game, legacy and iberia you are playing as a team of scientists trying to stop diseases from spreading and destroying the world.  There have been a couple of rethemes as well – rising tide you are trying to stop floods and cthulu you are trying to stop the rise of the elder god cthulu.  They are all very good fun, though if you go for legacy it is a game you can only play through once.  Decisions you make change the map permanently and destroys cards permanently.

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert – in both these games you play a team of adventurers who need to collect things before they can escape an area that is actively trying to kill them.  In Island you are trying to take the islands 4 treasures and escape before it sinks into the sea. In Desert you have crash landed and need to find all the parts you need to fix your ship and escape the growing sandstorm.  They are great fun and very kinaesthetically and visually pleasing as the game board is tiles that you need to move around.

Flipships –  this is effectively Space Invaders on your tabletop, cards from a deck of spaceships are continually moving down a grid towards the edge of a table and can only be removed if you successfully flip one of your ships – a small token – on top of them. You also need to be flipping your ships into the ‘mother ship’ in order to destroy it before you get overwhelmed. It can lead to a frantically fast paced game trying to get your ships to land on the right targets.

Descent 2nd Edition – in this game you are playing a party of adventurers trying to stop the evil overlord from carrying out his vile plot. This can be a fully co-operative game as the overlord can be controlled by an app on your phone. It can also be a 1 versus many game if you have a player who really dislikes co-op play as they can be the overlord.

T.I.M.E Stories – this provides you with a story you follow, choose your own adventure style where you choose what to do at each place you investigate, trying to save history from destruction. This is done through a deck of cards which each have a small part of the puzzle on them. It’s really good fun, and one worth buying with friends so when you have completed it you can pass it on to them.

Posted in All