What can be done to improve Cooperative games?
Mel
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I find it somewhat difficult to round up players for a good long day of playing PvP type games, so I tend to purchase games that I can play solo. Many cooperative games can be played solo, and there are player versus player games that can be played solo, or have a solo varient. Here's a list of "some" with solo variants, or cooperative that I do have (some I may not of had time to play yet):

- Flashpoint
- Silverton
- Ledgends of Andar
- Defenders of the Realm
- Merchant of Venus
- Don Quixote
- The Legend of Drizzt
- Mice and Mystics
- Tales of the Arabian Nights
- Agents of Smersh
- Dungeon Twister 2 : Prison
- Fortune and Glory
- Arkham Horror
- Elder Sign
- Red November
- Castle Panic
- Pandemic
- Escape : The Cure of the Temple
- D-Day Dice
- Gears of War
- Onirim
- DugeonQuest
- Space Alert
- Level 7 [Escape]
- Atlantis Rising
- Lord of the Rings
- Forbidden Island

These games that I can play solo may possibly become somewhat boring (or might be in the future). The reason being is that they "seem" to all have 1 of 2 things in common (no matter how different the game mechanics may be). You are either trying to play the game in such a way that you beat your previous score, or you are battling a continuous onslaught of endless enemy buildup (which can be done with different types of mechanics to the game play, including the pressure of a time variant).

I'm curious to know if there is something more that you think can be done by designers? Why do I have to win or lose? Can there be a game designed where winning or losing is not the goal, but rather the FUN is the goal? Like... how much FUN did I have (without tracking some victory point value maybe)? It's not much fun trying to beat my last score (after a while), nor is it all that much fun (after a while) battling off a pile of minions and beating the so called KING before the minion pile up gets too concentrated, and that's generally what happens with these games when you play solo.

That's not to say I'm NOT having fun, but the point is I'm looking to the future and I want to see what you think could be done to improve the FUN? I have not played Agents of Smersh nor Tales of the Arabian Nights... *cough*... yet, but I can see that this is one way to improve what already exists. However, that still doesn't rid the pile up of eventual overload of monster, minions, or beating some previous score.

What do you think? Let's get creative.

**Edited later:** To make this a Geeklist you can add some games here that you think have pushed in the direction of improvement over monster hoard build up, time rush, or beating your last score. You can also add games you like and get creative about how you can improve on them. Or you can take some from my list (as one user has) and add creative ideas for improvement.
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1. Board Game: Voyage of the B.S.M. Pandora [Average Rating:6.69 Overall Rank:4028]
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    Focus on narrative.

    Some games such as Voyage are about exploration and discovery. To some extend the goal of "don't get yourself killed" is always present, but it's about the narrative that you weave. This game's successor The Wreck of the B.S.M. Pandora is in a similar vein but it has a timer -- you need to restart the ship before it drops into cold-shutdown.

             S.

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2. Board Game: D-Day at Omaha Beach [Average Rating:8.27 Overall Rank:485]
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    Add Complexity, Remove Control.

    Complexity adds value to cooperative games but fundamentally all of them pretty much rely on a bad-news deck. Finding a way to put adversity into the game that doesn't come from the card draw is valuable since it increases the number of potential paths the player can walk down.

    Bringing decision-then-luck elements into the play makes things better for me as well. D-Day at Omaha Beach (two players both playing the invaders) does it. By removing technical control from the player you actually give them more emotional control over how they approach the game. They get the opportunity to decide how much risk they're comfortable with and live with the consequences. That can't happen in best-practices games (luck-then-decision) where the proper reaction is immediately apparent.

             S.



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3. Board Game: Pandemic [Average Rating:7.65 Overall Rank:74]
Keith S.
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Make the game's "AI" more reactive to what the players do.

The "automated" mechanics of most co-ops, which provide the challenge, have the primary disadvantage of not being adaptable to the situation the game finds itself in. The players work against either a one-note buildup of the "enemy" (the diseases in Pandemic, soldiers in Omaha Beach, etc) or a series of widely-spread catastrophes (various different things going wrong in Red November, etc). The more random the bad stuff, the more the game throws off any systematic attack strategy by the players and thus makes the outcome of "good" strategic play less certain, but by the same token, the more complaints you get about the arbitrary nature of the game (when players make the best moves they can and still lose, or make obvious mistakes and still win, that causes the game to feel more like a lottery than a real challenge).

It would be cool to see a co-op whose mechanics for the game's "AI" were designed to be more reactive to what the players were doing to beat it. Instead of a relentless march of generic opposing forces, or a random onslaught of disparate problems arising, a game that actively countered the players' chosen strategy with specific counter-actions that reduced the effectiveness of the underlying tactic would make the game feel more like you were playing against an intelligence instead of a script. Of course, the game would have to accomplish this without requiring a computer to manage the artificial component (making it a video game with a real board, i.e. chess against a computer).

For instance, consider Pandemic. Your Role determines your primary function in the game, and the combination of Roles available determine's the group's overall strategy. If the Medic is available, his job is to go from hot spot to hot spot cleaning out cities about to Outbreak. The Researcher's job is to collect cards, and the Scientist's job is to cure diseases given cards from the Researcher. The Ops Manager builds Research Stations, and the Dispatcher is the general "enabler", using their actions to get everyone where they need to be to do their own jobs that much faster.

What if the game had mechanics that specifically frustrated these various tasks, beyond just throwing massive numbers of cubes in your direction? For instance, after a certain number of each color of disease cubes were removed via Treating that disease, the disease developed "resistance" to said Treatment that added a cost or chance of failure to each Treatment action until the Disease was Cured? What if money played a factor, and the players didn't have the relatively unlimited financial wherewithal to do their jobs? Players would have to decide whether building that Research Station was worth not being able to take as many Direct/Charter Flights, or even having the funds to develop the Cure for the last disease? What if Eradicating a disease increased the Infection Rate for all others by one (nature abhors a vacuum)?

Now, all of this, as added to the current "stock" rules, would make the game pretty much unwinnable, but coupled with balancing mechanics like adding one or even two actions per turn, reducing the overall Infection Rate, infecting more cities but not infecting any with three cubes, would give the game the same overall difficulty but penalize over-reliance on any one Role's special powers.
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