Together Everyone Achieves More
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If I was to make a list of my favorite game mechanisms it probably wouldn't surprise most of the people who know me to hear that cooperation is at the top of that list. In fact one quick glance at my Top 10 will be all the evidence you'll need to see I'm sort of obsessed. However if you look even further you'll find that the general idea of teamwork is found in some small way in a lot of other games that I love.

So this list is dedicated to teamwork and all the different ways it has been incorporated into boardgames. If there are types that I missed, please feel free to add them to the list. Also, I selected my favorite game of the particular genre for each geeklist item if you have a different favorite game in that genre I encourage you to share your opinions in the comments.
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1. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.77 Overall Rank:709]
Ben Lott
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Pure Co-Ops - "I'm Here To Cooperate With You A Hundred Percent."

In pure co-ops it is all the players trying to defeat the game. Players work in full cooperation as they struggle to figure out what path is the best to take in order to attain victory. These games are often filled with major sacrifices being made by the players, and each individual giving up personal glory in order to attain a victory for the team. They often give you ways to track your victories and see how well you have done in the past so that, in the future, you can not only try to defeat the game but perform better that you did previously.

Critics will give these games grief because they are "like one big corporate meeting" or even worse "are not even games, simply puzzles to be solved." But what makes these games work for those of us who love them, is the fact that the "puzzle" is challenging and oftentimes there isn't one definitive right or wrong thing to do. So the team will have to put their heads together in order to figure a safe way to victory. In my experience these games, when lost, will lead to people requesting "just one more try." And when the team is victorious it rarely suprises me to see high-fives and hear cheering all around the table.
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2. Board Game: Shadows over Camelot [Average Rating:7.15 Overall Rank:323]
Ben Lott
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Single Traitor - "I Would Rather Be A Fool Than A Traitor."

These games take the cooperative mechanism and then throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing by having one player work with the game to defeat the team. The problem being...No one knows who is the traitor. The key to these games is working together as much as possible while always keeping one eye on your back so you won't get stabbed in it.

The players are challenged in this type of game to deduce based on a player's actions and behavior where their loyalty lies. It almost adds a secondary goal to the game because players must try to unmask the traitor and battle against the game all at the same time. It's always interesting to see how different players try to deduce the identity of the traitor. Some will watch mannerisms of the players, while others will only take into account their in-game actions. These games are often filled with finger-pointing and accusations, but not at the level of the following genre...
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3. Board Game: Saboteur [Average Rating:6.61 Overall Rank:864] [Average Rating:6.61 Unranked]
Ben Lott
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Multiple Traitors - "You Won't Know Who To Trust."

This genre of cooperative game takes the traitor idea to the next level. Instead of just one person working against the team, there's an entire group of traitors trying to force you to lose. Players will spend the entire game questioning any and every action that is made, wondering if the player's motives were sincere. There is rarely a moment in one of these games where someone isn't questioning another player and their loyalty.

The mechanism in these games seems to be working solely to break down the team dynamic. By forcing player's to question one another constantly, will they ever be able to form a cohesive plan and attain victory, or will it all just fall apart? And, as loyalties slowly become obvious over the course of the game, it becomes a big battle between the 2 teams to see which group can succeed. You will also often find in these games that the game mechanisms aren't working as hard to defeat you because there are so many people working to make that happen anyways.
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4. Board Game: Cutthroat Caverns [Average Rating:6.59 Overall Rank:1158]
Ben Lott
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Cooperative With A Single Winner - "There Can Be Only One."

This genre of games is very unique. They require all the players to work in unison to defeat the game, because if they don't everyone will lose. However when all is said and done, if the team defeats the game, only one of the players will claim a victory. So there is this strange tension as players must work well together, but they'll only do this to a certain point. It creates this unusual team dynamic that I imagine mirrors certain professional sports teams (a bunch of self-serving individuals trying to get the team to win while still attaining personal glory.)

The funny thing to watch when playing these games is the way that players, who find themselves on the losing side, end up rooting for the game. You see these looks that seem to say, "if I can't win...no one can!" There also seems to be a strange flow to the game as everyone starts the game thinking of the team but, the closer you get to the finish line, the more and more people start assessing their personal status and how they can push themselves past the other players.
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5. Board Game: Scotland Yard [Average Rating:6.51 Overall Rank:1076]
Ben Lott
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One Versus The Rest - "I Work Alone."

Unlike the games that have a traitor, in these games you know from the start who is your opponent. Whether it's a dungeon master controlling monsters that will attack you or someone on the run that the team must track down, this solo player generally has the upper hand. Therefore it will take a coordinated effort and full cooperation from the players to defeat their foe.

The team dynamic is once again really strong in this style of game, but the trick is that the enemy isn't a static pile of tiles or cards, but a human being who is sitting there and listening to every word you say. This works great in groups where one player is the competitive type and doesn't like to work with the team. It also can be fun to switch out the person who is the solo player and constantly change the team dynamic.
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6. Board Game: Time's Up! Title Recall! [Average Rating:7.76 Overall Rank:292]
Ben Lott
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Partnerships - "Dude, He's Your Partner."

Made popular in classic trick-taking games, this idea of dividing up into teams of two creates a completely different kind of team dynamic. In partnership games it is all about trying to help your teammate perform to the best of their ability. Playing in a manner that lifts up your teammate will improve your team performance and, let's be honest, make others want to partner with you in the future.

Partnerships have their upsides and downsides. When you are victorious it can lead to lots of high-fives and rubbing it in your opponents' faces. However, when you fail, there is often finger-pointing and laying blame. It's always interesting to see couples when they are teamed up together, because sometimes they click perfectly and other times, despite how they may behave in other aspects of their relationship, they form the worst partnership imaginable.
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7. Board Game: Wits & Wagers [Average Rating:6.97 Overall Rank:509]
Ben Lott
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Multiple Teams - "Team, Team, Team. No One More Important Than The Other."

This is generally used only in party games. Players split into 2 or more teams and they all work together in order to become the winning team. The big plus for games like this is that the number of players that can play is almost limitless. The other bonus you get with games like this, is that children (who might otherwise struggle with the game) are able to play because they have a group of teammates that will help them succeed. There are also some games that aren't designed with teams in mind but can easily be played this way, though these are usually party games of some type as well.

The drawback of large team games is that certain introverted players may fade into the background and let their more vocal teammates take control. It usually is a challenge to get everyone participating when there are so many people gathered around the game. But with a group of close friends the interactions from these team games will be fun and entertaining, and may even be a topic of discussion for years to come. Just be on the look out for the dreaded "guys versus girls" suggestion. It may sound like fun in theory but, in my experience, at least one or two people (perhaps even an entire team) will walk away from the game with a great deal of frustration, and someone might wind up sleeping on the couch.
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8. Board Game: Acquire [Average Rating:7.36 Overall Rank:212]
Ben Lott
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Temporary Alliances - "The Alliance...Will Die."

In this genre of games there are times when you will find yourself working alongside another player towards a common goal. Whether you specifically planned this alliance or it came about through some mechanism of the game, you need this other player in order to succeed. Of course, once the reason for your union is gone, you will be back at each other's throats trying to claim victory alone.

You might think that, through negotiation, you can form temporary alliances in just about any game. You can agree to avoid hurting one opponent in return for something from that player, and this forms a sort of team. In fact I have one geekbuddy who has openly said that, "every game is a negotiation game." However I'm referring specifically to games that, in their mechanisms, force people together. When in these partnerships, players will work with one another, hoping that they are getting the better benefit out of the deal.
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9. Board Game: FITS [Average Rating:6.60 Overall Rank:1283]
Ben Lott
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Multiplayer Solitaire - "Why Don't You Pass The Time By Playing A Little Solitaire?"

At this point you're probably asking yourself if I've gone completely crazy. In what possible way could this genre of games relate to cooperation and teamwork? Well, I have to admit it is a stretch, but when playing games with my family I often find moments of working together in this style of games. Since one player's actions don't directly affect another player's performance in these games, we will frequently find ourselves giving advice.

Now, I must add in the caveat that this usually only lasts for a game or two. Once the player is comfortable with the game, they should be able to manage to figure things out on their own. When I'm teaching these games it is fairly regular that I will hear someone ask "what do you think I should do?" Of course my advice is always accompanied by an explanation of why it is a good choice. This can't happen in games with interaction, because helping one player may hurt other players, but in multiplayer solitaire it seems to work. So, perhaps this one doesn't happen in your group, but it pops up with mine all the time.
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10. Board Game: Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game [Average Rating:7.75 Overall Rank:62]
Darrin Williams
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Allen
Texas
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Halftime Traitor = "Horray! I'm on the other team!"

Battlestar Galactica has a second round of loyalty cards which can turn a perfectly loyal human into a traitor midway through the game.

Betrayal at House on the Hill also has this element.

Some people don't like the fact that their actions in the first half of the game can cause them to lose, but I have my actions work against me enough in standard games, that it doesn't bother.
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11. Board Game: Castle Knights [Average Rating:6.52 Overall Rank:4274]
Sue Hemberger

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Dist of Columbia
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"Castle Knights: Together We are Strong!" is the English name of this bizarre but fun game. We just call it Burg-Ritter. The picture shows a super-sized version not available in stores, LOL!
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12. Board Game: Colosseum [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:355]
Jason Lott
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Cheverly
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Trading for Mutual Benefit - "I've been traded to Racine!"

Since we're stretching the meaning of cooperative play just a bit, I submit that another mechanic along those lines is trading where the quantities and items that a player owns are openly displayed. An example of this would be in Colosseum, where your resource tiles are placed in front of you (as are the shows you're working on). It's clear what you have, and also what you want. So in general trades are proposed that will clearly benefit both parties involved - "I see you need another gladiator. I'd be happy to give you one if I could have one of your lions."
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