CARL SKUTSCH
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Once again the ugly semi co-op controversy rears its ugly head. Once I again I offer polls. (But no bacon.)

Poll
Is the label semi co-op a useful and accurate way of describing certain games?
Yes, there are such games, the label usefully describes them.
No, semi co-ops do not exit. The games called such are either co-ops or competitive games with special rules.
I'm not sure.
I have another answer in mind that you haven't provided.
      130 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
      122 answers
Poll created by skutsch


And some older polls with a semi co-op focus.

Poll
Are the following semi-coops broken or deeply flawed? (This is not whether you like the game, but whether you think it works as a game.)
  Broken, deeply flawed conceptually It works ok as a game, but has problems Works as a game, but requires the right players Not broken, works beautifully as a game Never played it and/or not sure
CO₂
Archipelago
Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Castle Panic
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
Castaways
      213 answers
Poll created by skutsch


Poll
What do you think of semi-coops?
I like some or all of them.
I like some of them, although I focus on solo wins and don't worry about the coop thing.
I think they work but I don't really like them.
I don't like playing them, not my style.
I don't like (or won't) playing them because of their inherent flaws, brokenness.
I have no opinion about semi coops.
      223 answers
Poll created by skutsch
 
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Eric Brosius
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The Republic of Rome is a great example, and one that's been around for a long time.

To me, the best description would be "a game in which the game can win, making all the players lose." I don't really see that there's cooperation in The Republic of Rome; there's brinksmanship, but I still want to win if I'm playing.
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Eric Brosius wrote:
The Republic of Rome is a great example, and one that's been around for a long time.

To me, the best description would be "a game in which the game can win, making all the players lose." I don't really see that there's cooperation in The Republic of Rome; there's brinksmanship, but I still want to win if I'm playing.


Yeah, I don't see RoR as a co-op, semi or otherwise.

It's a competitive negotiation game.

It's true that it's necessary to work together to stop everyone losing. But allying against the game isn't that different than allying with someone against a third player in Diplomacy.

As a bare minimum, a semi co-op requires a group win condition. And that's still not enough on its own. Otherwise Illuminati: Deluxe Edition is a semi co-op which is self evidently ridiculous.
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When I play the early republic scenario of The Republic of Rome my primary objective is to beat the game. I also try to be the single winner but not too hard. If someone else is the single winner then so be it, at least we beat the game.

When I play the early republic scenario, I play it as a semi coop game, for sure.

There is some amount of group think going on here. Other groups might play it purely competitive. Even other members of my group might play it competitively only.

Semi coop is sort of in the eye of the beholder. Some players (like me) can occasionally play some games that give the feel of a semi coop. But others will always rank a group loss ahead of a win by another player. They will never get the semi coop experience in any game.

In the mid republic and late republic scenarios, I only play with a competitive victory in mind. In those scenarios there is no satisfaction in beating the game if another player is the single winner. Whereas in the early republic scenario beating the game is very satisfying even if another player is the single winner.
 
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:


As a bare minimum, a semi co-op requires a group win condition.


Dead of Winter is not a semi co-op?
 
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RingelTree wrote:

Dead of Winter is not a semi co-op?


Fair point. "Group win condition" is possibly misleading about what I actually mean.

I'd consider DoW a semi co-op because it's possible for more than one person to win at the same time. If it was only possible for there to be a single winner, I wouldn't see it as such.
 
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rubberchicken wrote:

When I play the early republic scenario of The Republic of Rome my primary objective is to beat the game. I also try to be the single winner but not too hard. If someone else is the single winner then so be it, at least we beat the game.

When I play the early republic scenario, I play it as a semi coop game, for sure.

There is some amount of group think going on here. Other groups might play it purely competitive. Even other members of my group might play it competitively only.

Semi coop is sort of in the eye of the beholder. Some players (like me) can occasionally play some games that give the feel of a semi coop. But others will always rank a group loss ahead of a win by another player. They will never get the semi coop experience in any game.


I don't consider a group loss better than a win by another player in RoR; I consider them equal.

Which is the only interpretation really supported by the RAW.

It sounds like you're putting value on keeping Rome afloat above everything else, which is entirely legitimate, but it's about personal play style rather than the game itself.

In the same way, we can't account for somebody whose personal objective is "annoy Dave" or "cause as much chaos as possible", it doesn't alter the nature of RoR.

It certainly means that you play it in a semi co-op style, but not that it's a semi co-op game.
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:


It sounds like you're putting value on keeping Rome afloat above everything else, which is entirely legitimate, but it's about personal play style rather than the game itself.


That is exactly my point. It is all about personal style of play.

The rules might say that the priority is to keep Rome afloat even at the cost of allowing another player to win. But in practice some players can do this but others cannot. In my case, I can do this in the early Republic scenario (probably because it is a challenge for Rome to survive) but I cannot mentally do this in the mid republic or late republic scenario (in both of those, my only objective is a personal victory.)

I think that a semi coop game is possible, but not for everyone and not in all circumstances. It depends on the mindset of the individual and the group.

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Here's the problem with Semi-co-op games. In order to work, they require that all the players buy into the flawed assumption that all players losing is a less desirable outcome than somebody else winning.

For example, in a 4-player game there are 5 for your standing in the game (assuming no conditions for a shared victory):

1st place
2nd place
3rd place
4th place
All players lose.

Now it's obvious that the best outcome is finishing in first place.

It's equally obvious that all players losing is a more preferred outcome than finishing in 4th place, you're going from a position where 3 people placed better than you to one where nobody placed better.

For 2nd and 3rd, it's not quite as clear, but for the most part, as soon as it's evident that 1st place is out of reach, it becomes your best interest to ensure that everybody loses, as 0 people placing better than you is a better outcome than even 1 person placing better.

In tournament settings this can be gotten around rather easily, by giving more tournament standing for finishing in 4th place than everybody losing, but in a standalone game, this incentive just isn't there, or is artificial at best. Points are generally only good for measuring standing within a particular play, and have no real meaning outside that one play (scoring 50 points in one game doesn't that you played better than a game in which you scored 30).
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I first encountered the semi coop problem back about 40 years ago when I was trying to design a 2 player nuclear war card game. There was only one winner but the victory condition was that nuclear war had to be avoided at all cost otherwise both players lost.

Needless to say it did not work. Whoever fell behind in the game would trigger nuclear war and treat it as a tie (and not as a loss).

My only solution at the time was to make it a 3 player game. There were three "2 player" games being played simultaneously. The first pair of players to trigger a nuclear war would cause the third player to win immediately.

It still did not work properly. But almost.

The key to making a semi coop game work might be to have a player external to the game become the winner when there is a group loss. Tanking a game when you are behind makes you a kingmaker rather than a person creating a tie.
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Semi co-ops are highly rated and many people enjoy them. Clearly they work, for those people.

It's similar to trading games and negotiation games. They work for some groups of people, not for others.
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If all players share a win, then it's co-op.

If all players share a win, however, there may be a traitor; then that's semi-co-op.

If there's only one winner at the end of the game, then that's competitive. The problem with basing competitive games around a co-op structure, is that a losing player can make everyone lose.

I don't know what to call Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. With the exception of the traitor, players aren't necessarily competing to win. However, individual win conditions mean you can end the game without a typical co-op win.
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VaultBoy wrote:
I don't know what to call Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. With the exception of the traitor, players aren't necessarily competing to win. However, individual win conditions mean you can end the game without a typical co-op win.

Survey says... SEMI CO-OP!
 
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cubbieblue wrote:
Here's the problem with Semi-co-op games. In order to work, they require that all the players buy into the flawed assumption that all players losing is a less desirable outcome than somebody else winning.


Not necessarily. If done well, it only requires players to buy into the assumption that all players losing is an equal loss to someone else winning. That's less flawed I think.

Quote:
For example, in a 4-player game there are 5 for your standing in the game (assuming no conditions for a shared victory):


If we assume no conditions for a shared victory, that rules out many of the games under discussion!

That aside, what you're saying here rests on several assumptions.

That there's numerical scoring of player positioning at the end of the game, rather than a binary win/lose condition.

That placing matters if you don't win.

I don't really follow the latter. "No medals for second place" etc. Gradations of losing only works for certain games. I treat games without a "everyone loses" condition exactly the same way. There's a winner. And one or more losers. Seeing someone as a "better loser" is no more artifical then relying on the assumption that all players losing is the worst outcome possible.
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:


That placing matters if you don't win.

I don't really follow the latter. "No medals for second place" etc. Gradations of losing only works for certain games. I treat games without a "everyone loses" condition exactly the same way. There's a winner. And one or more losers. Seeing someone as a "better loser" is no more artifical then relying on the assumption that all players losing is the worst outcome possible.


I find that "placing" can be a useful thing to look at in games in which you can see yourself improving. Playing against your placement in your last game and all that. Especially when you play the same game with the same group multiple times. Probably a discussion for another thread though...

 
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cubbieblue wrote:

It's equally obvious that all players losing is a more preferred outcome than finishing in 4th place, you're going from a position where 3 people placed better than you to one where nobody placed better.

No, it's not.

cubbieblue wrote:
For 2nd and 3rd, it's not quite as clear, but for the most part, as soon as it's evident that 1st place is out of reach, it becomes your best interest to ensure that everybody loses, as 0 people placing better than you is a better outcome than even 1 person placing better.

Why? If you place second, you bettered 2 other people. If everybody loses, you bettered nobody.
 
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Quote:
How would you label the following games?
Castle Panic
I'm not sure Castle Panic is a great game to put on this list. If I recall correctly the rules explicitly state that you can play it as a purely cooperative game or you can play it awarding the MVP player. So depending on how you choose to play it, it could be a cooperative game or a semi co-op.
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cubbieblue wrote:
Here's the problem with Semi-co-op games. In order to work, they require that all the players buy into the flawed assumption that all players losing is a less desirable outcome than somebody else winning.

For example, in a 4-player game there are 5 for your standing in the game (assuming no conditions for a shared victory):

1st place
2nd place
3rd place
4th place
All players lose.

Now it's obvious that the best outcome is finishing in first place.

It's equally obvious that all players losing is a more preferred outcome than finishing in 4th place, you're going from a position where 3 people placed better than you to one where nobody placed better.

For 2nd and 3rd, it's not quite as clear, but for the most part, as soon as it's evident that 1st place is out of reach, it becomes your best interest to ensure that everybody loses, as 0 people placing better than you is a better outcome than even 1 person placing better.

In tournament settings this can be gotten around rather easily, by giving more tournament standing for finishing in 4th place than everybody losing, but in a standalone game, this incentive just isn't there, or is artificial at best. Points are generally only good for measuring standing within a particular play, and have no real meaning outside that one play (scoring 50 points in one game doesn't that you played better than a game in which you scored 30).


This is why I enjoy the Legendary Encounters system over the Legendary system.

I believe that it doesn't matter if you win or lose if you play for the best result you can. So, if tied with all players is an option over coming in last, then I am in a situation where I have to want the game to beat us (otherwise I am 'tanking' the game by not playing for my best outcome)
 
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Thunkd wrote:
Quote:
How would you label the following games?
Castle Panic
I'm not sure Castle Panic is a great game to put on this list. If I recall correctly the rules explicitly state that you can play it as a purely cooperative game or you can play it awarding the MVP player. So depending on how you choose to play it, it could be a cooperative game or a semi co-op.


On the rare occasion I play it, I don't play with the master slayer. I don't want to be refusing trades because I want to try to score the points instead of someone else.
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Guantanamo wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
Quote:
How would you label the following games?
Castle Panic
I'm not sure Castle Panic is a great game to put on this list. If I recall correctly the rules explicitly state that you can play it as a purely cooperative game or you can play it awarding the MVP player. So depending on how you choose to play it, it could be a cooperative game or a semi co-op.


On the rare occasion I play it, I don't play with the master slayer. I don't want to be refusing trades because I want to try to score the points instead of someone else.


The rules include three modes, Standard, Co-op, and Overlord. Overlord is one-vs-many, but the only difference between Standard and Co-op is the presence of the Master Slayer. However, I don't think it's unreasonable to identify Castle Panic based on its "standard" form.
 
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:
It's true that it's necessary to work together to stop everyone losing. But allying against the game isn't that different than allying with someone against a third player in Diplomacy.

As a bare minimum, a semi co-op requires a group win condition. And that's still not enough on its own. Otherwise Illuminati: Deluxe Edition is a semi co-op which is self evidently ridiculous.


I don't believe a semi co-op requires a group win condition, just a group loss condition. Being a negotiation game (or any other mechanic used to co-operate against a group loss condition) in no way disqualifies it as a semi co-op. It's the avoidance of a group loss in pursuit of a individual win that defines the semi co-op, not the mechanics used to do that.
 
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dalestephenson wrote:
Abiezer Coppe wrote:
It's true that it's necessary to work together to stop everyone losing. But allying against the game isn't that different than allying with someone against a third player in Diplomacy.

As a bare minimum, a semi co-op requires a group win condition. And that's still not enough on its own. Otherwise Illuminati: Deluxe Edition is a semi co-op which is self evidently ridiculous.


I don't believe a semi co-op requires a group win condition, just a group loss condition. Being a negotiation game (or any other mechanic used to co-operate against a group loss condition) in no way disqualifies it as a semi co-op. It's the avoidance of a group loss in pursuit of a individual win that defines the semi co-op, not the mechanics used to do that.


I still do not believe a competitive game, such as Supremacy should ever get classified as 'semi-coop'. Even Nuclear War can end in everyone losing. I also see CO₂ in this vein. All these games you are trying to win first and foremost. You aren't cooperating so no one will win. You are racing to the win before everyone loses.

There are competitive games that you are balancing an edge of total destruction. Does not mean you are cooperating.
 
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Guantanamo wrote:
dalestephenson wrote:
Abiezer Coppe wrote:
It's true that it's necessary to work together to stop everyone losing. But allying against the game isn't that different than allying with someone against a third player in Diplomacy.

As a bare minimum, a semi co-op requires a group win condition. And that's still not enough on its own. Otherwise Illuminati: Deluxe Edition is a semi co-op which is self evidently ridiculous.


I don't believe a semi co-op requires a group win condition, just a group loss condition. Being a negotiation game (or any other mechanic used to co-operate against a group loss condition) in no way disqualifies it as a semi co-op. It's the avoidance of a group loss in pursuit of a individual win that defines the semi co-op, not the mechanics used to do that.


I still do not believe a competitive game, such as Supremacy should ever get classified as 'semi-coop'. Even Nuclear War can end in everyone losing. I also see CO₂ in this vein. All these games you are trying to win first and foremost. You aren't cooperating so no one will win. You are racing to the win before everyone loses.


If the game has no capability to pursue "avoidance of group loss", then it's fair to disqualify it as a semi co-op. I'm not familiar enough with those games to know if they qualify.

Quote:
There are competitive games that you are balancing an edge of total destruction. Does not mean you are cooperating.


If avoiding that total destruction includes optional actions to avoid it, it certainly possible to cooperate against the game.

Of course, since there is no one to either make or enforce formal genre definitions, arguments such as these cannot be settled by appeal to authority. There will never be total agreement on which games are covered by a given label, whether the label is "semi co-operative" or "wargame" or "filler".
 
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Thunkd wrote:
Quote:
How would you label the following games?
Castle Panic
I'm not sure Castle Panic is a great game to put on this list. If I recall correctly the rules explicitly state that you can play it as a purely cooperative game or you can play it awarding the MVP player. So depending on how you choose to play it, it could be a cooperative game or a semi co-op.


Agree. Plus, I can't imagine playing it other than purely co-operative or the competitive with player elimination (variant) since MVP feels too luck based.
 
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