Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cooperative Board Games

In the past few years I have been introduced to the world of cooperative board games (thanks, Zeke!).  For those of you that don’t know what these are, they are essentially a paradigm shift away from the standard American games like Monopoly, Sorry, etc., or even European games like Formula De.  Here the objective isn’t to win, it’s to not lose.  Games like ShadowsOver Camelot, Yggdrasil, Lord of the Rings and Battlestar Galactica, just to name a few, pit all of the players against the game instead of each other, forcing them to team up to outlast the game.  The form that this opposition takes varies from game to game, but it all boils down to “Prevent this from happening, or you lose.”

Many of these games involve players strategizing between themselves, but there are a few that don’t allow it and that is because they add Traitors to the mix.  Battlestar Galactica and Shadows Over Camelot are the two that standout in my mind for this, which adds another level of depth to the way the game is played.  In these cases you have players that are secretly trying to make you lose the game and if they are found out, they join the enemy and can really work you over.  This isn’t something that I’ve experienced in gaming, but it is definitely there in literature (Mordred anyone?), and it adds quite the level of paranoia to playing.

All in all, I find these games to be much more satisfying than the board games I grew up with.  I’m not sure why this is, unless it has to do with my gaming background.  It is rather reminiscent of a group of adventurers taking on a large challenge, which is not necessarily balanced with their abilities, and overcoming it through a group effort.  If you haven’t tried a game like this, I would highly recommend finding someone that knows how to play one of these games and asking them to teach it to you.  It’s a fairly difficult thing to pick up on your own the first time.

1 comment:

  1. You can view RPGs in this fashion. Players in a game system fighting for a goal with the GM acting as the "AI" for the system. Though RPGs generally do push towards more complex character development and motivation as compared to the fairly simple "do not lose" goal of most cooperative games.

    Oh, and a nit-pick. To the "purists" Battlestar Galactica is viewed more as a team game (Team A vs Team B) than a cooperative. You just don't know who necessarily is on Team B (the Cylons). There is at least one, there might be more. And you might not know yourself to be on Team B until halfway through the game. :)