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Subject: Cooperative Gaming: Win or Lose Together, but why?! rss

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A thought popped in my head a while back as I was watching a Flash Point: Fire Rescue 30 sec ad video that stated the best part of the game was that you win or lose together.

My thought was simply why? Why do we have to win or lose together?

There are some cooperative games that go against the grain. For example, Cuthroat Caverns you have to cooperate to survive, but you have to screw over your teammates to win. Also, Shadows Over Camelot and others implement a traitor mechanic.

That said, however, most cooperative games such as Pandemic, Eldritch Horror, Flash Point etc...have it to where you either win or lose together.

I'm sure a ton of people have played the videogame series Left 4 Dead. One of the best parts about that game was the fact that in your final battle to escape on the helicopter, it was never a guarentee that everyone would make it out alive.

Sometimes, you were forced to leave someone for dead so that you and the rest of your team could survive.

There might be a heroic player that sacrifices himself for the greater good of the team and takes on the zombie onslaught single handedly so that his teammates could escape safely.

Or there might be a devious player who screws you all over and hops on the helicopter all alone.

It was these final, climactic moments in Left 4 Dead that I always loved. You couldn't always trust your teammates to help you out. Or there may be situations where you were as good as dead, but the rest of the team could make it out.

I'd love to see a board game utilize this idea in a unique way and get rid of the everyone wins or loses together idea.


-Are there any games currently out there that utilize this mechanic?

-Are there any ways you would expand upon and add to this idea?

-Or do you feel its best left as an everyone wins or loses gameplay element?

Edit: There's nothing wrong with current coops. Pandemic, Eldritch Horror, and Forbidden Desert are some of my favorite games! But at the same time, I'd like to see a few more games where not everyone has to survive to be successful.
 
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Stephen Rochelle
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Lots of people enjoy pure cooperative games; I'm not sure why you see this as a problem that must be "solved". As you note, there are also plenty of semi-cooperative games, or directly-competitive games, or games with last-second reveals that upset the collective understanding of who was about to win.

If you don't like pure coops, don't play them. Done.
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Pasi Ojala
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Some people can't stand competition, because they do not like conflict (they may think people get mad at them if they attack someone in a game), or can not separate the game from reality (and a few other reasons), so for them the struggle for a common goal is a good way to approach games. They do not get the feeling they are picked on or made fun of, and even a beginner gamer can enjoy a hard game together with other players.

The one problem though, if you have the wrong kind of people playing, is the alpha gamer syndrome, where the co-op deteriorates to a solo game, where one player tells everyone else what to do. To combat against that, some games add hidden information, too much information for anyone to handle by themselves, or real-time aspects. Hidden traitors can also lessen the alpha-gamer effect as long as there is not a single 'correct' strategy on the game (so that deviating from that directly announces you to be a traitor).

Co-ops are also a good way to keep gaming if you have sore losers or bad winners, and you can't teach them proper manners.
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Lots of people like cooperative games, yes, but a number of people don't like them, too. I'm among the latter group. Part of what I dislike about them is what I call the Meathead Effect, where one player takes control of the entire game and dictates what everyone else will do. I tend to avoid cooperative games all together because of this, but I've stumbled across a couple that work very well. That they seem to be able to avoid the Meathead Effect is largely why I like them as much as I do.

Hanabi has a distinct challenge that's missing from other cooperative games, most notably the fact that one player can't steamroll others into doing a particular thing. Escape: The Curse of the Temple is just raucous fun, and it's also not easy for one player to dominate the game. So much is happening in such a short amount of time that it's easy to break off from the main group and go your own way. There are risks involved in doing so, but it is possible.

There's also Alcatraz: The Scapegoat, which I haven't played yet, but I want to try. In the game, players are working together to escape Alcatraz, but every turn, one player has to be the scapegoat to suffer the pains of the escape. In the end, one player won't win, while all the others will, and it sounds like another cooperative element that I might enjoy. Again, I think it would eliminate the Meathead Effect, since no one would really be able to trust the other players' motivations.
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Unfortunately you aren't going to get that Left 4 Dead experience in a board game. For me, board games boil down to the task I need to do and the algorithms, patterns and math that needs to be done to get there. Left 4 Dead has visual stimuli with zombies that you can see chasing at you, characters that have distinctive looks. You can hear grunts of zombies, yelling from your teammates, etc.

What looks cool in a movie doesn't mean it plays out well in board games.

If you die early in a board game for instance, you are just going to have nothing to do and will have to wait for your friends to finish. It is more thematic and realistic in this way, but it doesn't come off as fun.

So you have to look at both theme and gameplay fun and make a balance between the two.
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imtylerdurden wrote:
-Are there any games currently out there that utilize this mechanic?

There are plenty of hidden team and traitor games, see Red November for the dynamical traitor mechanic, and the Geeklist He's Lying...Trust Me: A Comprehensive List of Traitor-ish Games.
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A lot for people enjoy working as a team to achieve the same goal. This is why partner card games and co-op video games are so popular. I like to compete to win as much as anyone, but I also find the teamwork aspect of games enjoyable. I also like the possibility of everyone losing. It gives you something to work on for next time. It's fun to work out a strategy and learn from what didn't work before. I don't know that it's for everybody, but that's why there are so many different types of games out there.
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lomn wrote:
Lots of people enjoy pure cooperative games; I'm not sure why you see this as a problem that must be "solved". As you note, there are also plenty of semi-cooperative games, or directly-competitive games, or games with last-second reveals that upset the collective understanding of who was about to win.

If you don't like pure coops, don't play them. Done.


I apologize for giving off the impression that I don't like existing coops. I LOVE a ton of current coops such as Forbidden Desert. It's not a "problem" that you either win or lose together. There just aren't any games that I know of where some can survive while others don't.
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It sounds like dead panic is what you are looking for. I haven't played it, but from what I understand it is castle panic with a zombie skin until the end. Then you all need to run to the car to escape and you can trip your teammates up so the zombies eat them while you escape.
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imtylerdurden wrote:

-Are there any games currently out there that utilize this mechanic?


You should check out A Study in Emerald.
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Check out Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game!

It's a co-op, but any combination of people can win or lose, because players have their own secret objectives in addition to the objective/s that the group has.
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I must not understand where you are coming from. There are many games where not everyone needs to survive in order to win the game. Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Mansions of Madness, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, etc. All of these have co-op elements but keep open the possibility that not all of the players / characters are going to make it.
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Noogs wrote:
I must not understand where you are coming from. There are many games where not everyone needs to survive in order to win the game. Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Mansions of Madness, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, etc. All of these have co-op elements but keep open the possibility that not all of the players / characters are going to make it.


You can die in Arkham Horror, yes, but you typically respawn. Though, you can have some pretty epic finale's where one player goes down swinging against the old one, sacrifices himself, and the rest survive.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is an excellent example of that frenetic, climactic end game that I'm looking for. Unfortunately, I personally can't stand that game due to it's fiddly rules.

Descent and Mansions are both a little different as there's a person playing the dungeon, but good examples nonetheless.
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Quote:
There might be a heroic player that sacrifices himself for the greater good of the team and takes on the zombie onslaught single handedly so that his teammates could escape safely.

Lord of the Rings has this aspect, where one or more players can end up corrupted by the ring, effectively taking one for the team. It doesn't really have the flip side of one player winning specifically at the expense of the others (unless you play with the dark hobbit variant, which potentially adds a traitor hobbit).

Age of Steam Expansion: Mississippi Steamboats / Golden Spike has a quasi-team element on the golden spike side. 4 players play, two on each side of the map. In order to qualify to win, your side has to beat the other side, but then the better player on the better side actually wins the game, if I recall correctly.

There are also games like Chicago Express which do not have explicit teams, but which put players in situations were cooperation is mutually advantageous. Some would argue that managing these shifting implicit alliances is the core of the game. That and null auctions.
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cmarie wrote:
Check out Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game!

It's a co-op, but any combination of people can win or lose, because players have their own secret objectives in addition to the objective/s that the group has.


Absolutely love it! Must look into this more. A great spin on the coop genre.
 
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I dont mind working together as a team, and living or dying together. But then again, I'm the sort of person who would not finish a l4d level and go back and try to save someone so we could both live.
 
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I think you might be looking for a 'negotiation game' (which is as co-op or not as the players are willing to be), instead of a 'co-op game' (that requires it).

City of Horror would be a good example. You can help each other out, but you can also toss each other to the wolves (well, zombies) to get ahead. Entirely up to the players.

Or in an more 'open' game like Zombicide, you can make the scenarios you are playing land anywhere on the competitive spectrum you want.
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Gecko23 wrote:
City of Horror would be a good example. You can help each other out, but you can also toss each other to the wolves (well, zombies) to get ahead. Entirely up to the players.


But eventually, someone has to die (its a great game...)
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imtylerdurden wrote:
Or there might be a devious player who screws you all over and hops on the helicopter all alone.

I only played it once, several years ago, but I think Red November has something like this.
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GSReis wrote:
I think Red November has something like this.


It does. Inside the last 10 mins or so, a player can escape with the scuba gear. If everyone else dies - he/she wins.

Which I think is hilarious - need to play this game more
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imtylerdurden wrote:
There might be a heroic player that sacrifices himself for the greater good of the team and takes on the zombie onslaught single handedly so that his teammates could escape safely.

Or there might be a devious player who screws you all over and hops on the helicopter all alone.

This can and does happen in Shadows Over Camelot. A knight can sacrifice health to hold the darkness at bay, even if it is his last health point. And that devious player who is trying to screw everyone over is dictated by the cards, but other than that is like your lone survivor. The trick is, even a dead knight counts as winning if the loyal knights win, presumably because his heroic sacrifice is memorialized forever in song and legend.

Do you consider this a "lesser" win for the dead knight? I can see that option, just as I can see a lesser win in Pandemic (depending on difficulty level and number of sunset diseases). But you need to draw the line between winning and losing somewhere, and if heroic self-sacrifice makes thematic sense then I don't see the need to penalize it.
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imtylerdurden wrote:
-Are there any games currently out there that utilize this mechanic?
Yes. See the bottom half after the 2nd quote, below

imtylerdurden wrote:
-Are there any ways you would expand upon and add to this idea?
The one thing I'd like to see more in semi-coops are double agents. So is he really on the red team, or tricking the red team and working for the blue team?

Or where you're not necessarily black and white/good or evil, but also some shades of gray, like in Sabateur 2, the Geologist or Boss roles, or the Cylon Leader mechanic in Battlestar Galactica Pegasus and/or Daybreak.

imtylerdurden wrote:
-Or do you feel its best left as an everyone wins or loses gameplay element?
I feel this is strictly on personal preference. Some people prefer games with NO luck, others like auction games, some hate worker placement games, and others, it depends on how it's implemented.

I'm middle-ground. I wouldn't want to play fully-co-ops all the time, but wouldn't want to never be able to play them again. When I play fully-co-ops, sometimes, I don't mind an alpha person taking over b/c I just want to kick back and relax after a brain burner. Plus, I get to see how he does things. If I want to chime in, I'll make a suggestion, but the "leaders" I've played with have bowed down to group consensus, and were never, "we must do this or else you're all going to hell! blah blah!"

Othertimes, I'm not in the mood to deal with the emotional stuff of trusting someone or not. In typical games like Scrabble where you and I collaborate so that p3 doesn't get a triple word bonus and mop the floor with us; in semi-co-op games, if you're on my side, I come out ahead if I work with you, but if you're a spy/traitor, trusting you can be worse.

Plus, some games, we give newbies enough info through an unofficial tutorial and strategy advice anyways that we may as well play a coop

Last but not least, if you're playing a fully-co-op without hidden info, ANY number of players can play. You can vary it such that not every player controls exactly one character. This also gives the flexibility for people just getting in to join, or for those who need to leave to do so mid-game without seriously disrupting the game.


imtylerdurden wrote:
Edit: There's nothing wrong with current coops. Pandemic, Eldritch Horror, and Forbidden Desert are some of my favorite games! But at the same time, I'd like to see a few more games where not everyone has to survive to be successful.
I suspect some games out there have rules where if someone dies then the game ends in defeat, or he comes back to life right away as a "freebie" or two since 1) the game's not designed to have less the # of start players and 2) so that there's no player elimination, which some do not like.

Dungeons & Dragons The Board Game Castle Ravenloft, Ashardon (sp incorrect for sure), and the other 1 or 2 in this series have the group start off with 1 to 2 Energy Surges. If a player dies, he auto-revives, with some reduced stuff. If all Energy Surges are gone and someone dies, the game is over and lost.

Other games have something similar too. IIRC, Space Hulk: Death Angel (that co-op card game) has it where someone dies = game over?

Sentinels of The Multiverse has dead players not skipping their turns completely, but a sort of thing where they "play from the grave" with 1 out of 3 possible actions to do instead of your usual, living turn.


imtylerdurden wrote:
Noogs wrote:
I must not understand where you are coming from. There are many games where not everyone needs to survive in order to win the game. Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Mansions of Madness, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, etc. All of these have co-op elements but keep open the possibility that not all of the players / characters are going to make it.


You can die in Arkham Horror, yes, but you typically respawn. Though, you can have some pretty epic finale's where one player goes down swinging against the old one, sacrifices himself, and the rest survive.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is an excellent example of that frenetic, climactic end game that I'm looking for. Unfortunately, I personally can't stand that game due to it's fiddly rules.

Descent and Mansions are both a little different as there's a person playing the dungeon, but good examples nonetheless.
Among the semi/fully co-op games where someone can die, doesn't always die, but does happen every now and then:
-Ghost Stories
-Shadows Over Camelot
-Battlestar Galactica + Exodus expansion + the Ionian Nebula objective (but here, if you're eliminated, you cannot win no matter what your team was)
-Red November
-Lord Of The Rings
-Sentinels Of The Multiverse
-Mansions Of Madness
-Betrayal at The House On The Hill
-Castle Panic
-Order Of The Stick (almost any edition/variation)


"co-petitive" games, where by design, you sort of have to work together to overcome many of the game's obstacles, but in the end, there can only be one winner, determined by points, whatever:
-Lord Of The Rings IIRC had a variant
-Castle Panic has a variant
-Order Of The Stick, the regular rules make what's otherwise a fully-co-op into co-petitive
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Noogs wrote:
I must not understand where you are coming from. There are many games where not everyone needs to survive in order to win the game. Arkham Horror, Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Mansions of Madness, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, etc. All of these have co-op elements but keep open the possibility that not all of the players / characters are going to make it.


Add Zombicide to that list (although some scenarios do require that everyone makes it out alive).

Incidentally I totally consider a L4D mission where only one person survives to be a group win.
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Betrayal at house on the hill lets people die. Isla Dorada would also be good for you.


But really they are called cooperative for a reason. If you want a game with winners and losers there are many more competitive games than cooperative.
 
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Hmm, as far as I know from the cooperatives I have played, two of them that can be finished with some players eliminated (for several reasons, one of them sacrificing for the others):

- Lord of the Rings (Knizia). Here when a player is eliminated, is completely eliminated. Can't return to the game. I haven't played a lot, but it always happens (player elimination) at the last gasps of the adventure, so if the group manages to win, it's then an epic death for the others

- Ghost Stories. Here death is not irreversible. A player can be revived, and probably will. Again, at the last moments of the adventure, one taoist may do the kamikaze against the Wu-Feng incarnation or its minions.
 
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