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Mythbusting: "Cooperative Games Are NOT ALL Solo Friendly"

Kevin L. Kitchens
United States
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Snowflakes Melt
Snowflakes Melt
This comes up from time to time and did yesterday on the Facebook Solo BoardGamers group... Fortunately this time the presentation was factual:

Meme shared by Glen Telfer

I've said this for several years and am happy to see there are clearly other right thinking people in the gaming world.

The reality is that all cooperative board games are solo-friendly. But then you have to look deeper at what a cooperative game truly is. Simply put, it's a game where the players fully cooperate to achieve the game's winning condition. Period. The key word being fully.

But what about Hanabi?

If they cannot cooperate fully, then we have another category for that: semi-cooperative. In semi-cooperative games, the cooperation between the players is limited or hindered in some way. Thus they cannot fully cooperate. Some information might be hidden. Communication might be restricted. Each player might have different, personal winning conditions that might impede another player's winning condition.

Because of those limitations semi-cooperative games are certainly not soloable (normally). But semi-cooperative and cooperative are two completely different categories of games.

But what about Hanabi?!

In cooperative games, a single player (true solo) can very easily play the game with one or more hands or characters as nothing is kept secret between the characters. Managing the actions of all hands or characters can actually make the game more fun because you alone get to be the alpha player and control yourself alone. No more talking back from other players who just don't understand your genius strategy! And if you do talk back to yourself...

But what about Hanabi!!!

Hanabi? Glad you asked.

photo by Club Amatent

For some reason Hanabi is the game that it seems everyone runs to as ABSOLUTE PROOF to try and dispel the truth that all cooperatives games are solo friendly. In reality, BGG classification error aside, the only myth here is that Hanabi is a cooperative game.

Even the designers of the game perpetuated this myth in the rules (as translated from German): "Hanabi is a cooperative game, meaning all players play together as a team." Except of course, all players being on the same team is not what makes a game cooperative. There are many other games, like Hanabi, where players are on the same team, yet cooperation is limited. That intro should be written as "Hanabi is a team game, meaning all players play together as a team." but then that would be redundant, so that erroneous piece of fluff text should probably just have been removed altogether.

Hanabi, as described above, is a semi-cooperative game, or as I prefer to call them: "common goal" games. The players are all trying to achieve the same goal, but they are not doing so in a fully cooperative manner. They are assisting each other, but cooperation is limited in what they can say to the player. Each player has some information hidden to them (their own cards or tiles). Semi-cooperative.

So the reality is, that in all cooperative games are completely solo friendly.

Disagree? Better yet, agree? Comment or feedback? Please send a GeekMail with your thoughts or opinions on the matter. Respectful comments for and against will be presented in a later post.
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