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Why co-ops suck?

Ignacy Trzewiczek
Poland
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I hate co-ops. I played countless number of different cooperative games looking for the one I finally find interesting. I played and played and it always was the same. Co-ops suck. Most of them at least. They suck, because you can't become winner. They suck because they don't react for your actions and they act like moron. They suck because your friend John drives you mad everytime you play co-op by telling you what you should do this turn.

Missed something? Oh, yes, I hate co-ops.

I'd like to discuss this three issues here on Boardgames That Tell Stories. Today I start with „I can't win issue.” In next posts I will cover 'Leader issue' and 'Dumb player issue'.

I can't win issue
Some players find it difficult to not be an ultimate winner. To not crash opponents. To not be the best at the table. To not win against everybody. They just want win. Pure win.

When playing co-op game you win as a team. There is no one winner. In most cases of course...

Traitor
At some point designers introduced traitor rule. You find it in Shadows over Camelot, you find it in Battlestar Galactica, you find it in plenty of other co-ops. Oh, yeah, this is fun. One player against others. He wins and is happy dancing in front of them and they are mad. Or the opposite. They won and are laughting and make fun of him and he is sad. Or mad. Or, let's face it – he is pissed off.

Aren't games supposed to be fun?

Right, I am not big fan of traitor in games. Either traitor or rest of players will be mad. I don't find it fun. I don't want my games make someone mad.

However I know that Traitor solution is very popular. I know many players love it. So, what the hell, I don't like it, I don't think it is a good cure for 'I can't win' issue, but de gustibus non est disputandum...

Semi co-op
At some point designers found different solution for „I can't win issue”. They created semi co-ops. Semi co-ops have an interesting concept – you all play against the game, but also against each other. You have to cooperate at some level so the game doesn't win, but on other levels you all fight – only one of you will win. This looks like great solution..

I have to admit – I haven't played many of semi co-ops. But my experience is bad – we play pirate semi co-op. At some point of the game Michał Oracz sees that he will not win. He just lost some resources and there is no way he can win the game.

What does he do?

He does mess. He starts to destroy the game. He does everything he can to make it hard for us. He is drawning and he is taking all of us with him. 30 minutes later we all loose.

Was it legal? Yes, it was.
Was it fun? Try a guess.

One loser at the table and we all suffer. He can't play but he is not just loosing but he is also destroying all fun we could have. Brillant.

Aren't games supposed to be fun?

I know, Republic of Rome is known as one of the best games on the planet. I know, Defenders of the Realms are great too. But... I don't know. Perhaps I wasn't lucky enough.

Anyway, semi co-ops have their fans. De gustibus...

Role Playing roots
I play Role Playing Games since 1993. Will be 20 years soon. In high school I played twice a week. In college I had less time, more things on my head but... Yep, played RPG twice a week again. Then I founded Portal and had time only for one game per week. These days I play once or twice a month. Too much work on boardgames...

Anyway, for past two decades I was learning that team play is fun. We played as a group of adventurers or investigators or samurai warriors or whatever – one for all all for one. This is how I played for 20 years.

I can't win issue? I don't find it issue. I find it fun. I find it a big advantage of co-ops. I like the concept. I like sitting with my friends and discussing what to do, helping each other, trying to fight against the game. In Robinson I didn't introduce traitor nor semi co-op solutions. I like co-ops in their base format – we all play. We all win or we all loose. Thats most siginificent trait of co-ops.

For many of you this may be issue. For me this is a great feature of co-ops games. This is why they are worth playing. This is why they are worth working on and trying to make them better. I was trying to fix 'Dumb player issue' in Robinson. I was trying to fix 'Leader issue' in Robinson. But 'I can't be a winner issue'? I didn't touch it. For me this is feature, not problem.

[in next episode I will talk about Leader problem, see you soon!]
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