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Subject: Been giving some co-ops a chance, not sure what I think of them... rss

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Keith Doyle
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Ok, so I've been exploring a couple of co-ops. I started with Forbidden Desert. Not bad, but I didn't go "wow." Played it a couple of times. My feeling is, it won't have a lot of longevity.

Also tried Hanabi, a unique co-op filler card game. Again, reasonably fun, but no big *wow* factor. My first game of it though went badly, my friend misunderstood the rules and ended up hating it, even once realizing the mistake. Another friend liked it, we did pretty well (scoring 22 out of 25) and I figure if we play it much more we'll have to crank up the difficulty with the expansion cards included with the game, otherwise we may ace it every time. It'll probably get a few more plays, but I feel here too, that the longevity may be a bit weak.

Finally, figured I should try one of the top rated-- Pandemic. I don't care at all for the original theme though, so I opted to get Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu. About the same reaction as Forbidden Desert, not bad, but no big *wow*. Well, Matt Leacock is behind both of them, so I guess that should be no surprise. My girlfriend thought Reign of Cthulhu was kind of boring. Two other friends in the game seemed to like it, but it remains to be seen if they'll be interested in playing again (we lost the first game, but seemingly, only by a couple of moves).

So I noticed the similarities between Forbidden Desert and Pandemic/Cthulhu. I began to think about identifying exactly what they are-- a mechanism for updating the hazards that occurs on every turn, driven by cards (the storm deck in Desert and the summoning deck in Reign), and a mechanism for increasing the velocity of these hazard updates (the meter in Desert, and the Old One track in Reign), randomly acquired special abilities (equipment cards in Desert and Relic cards in Reign), board movement and trading items between players, character powers, some time-pressure mechanism (running out of time, not unlimited number of turns/rounds), and a means of adjusting the difficulty level by tightening up that time-pressure clock. The games have very similar mechanisms for all these elements for the most part.

What I'm wondering is to what extent these similarities may be because the same designer was behind them, vs the fact that for the most part, some equivalent to these mechanisms are likely necessary in a co-op game of any sophistication? Are there other games (beyond fillers like Hanabi) that are co-op in nature, board or tile oriented and relatively sophisticated, but are distinctly different in mechanisms than Matt Leacock's designs?

I've always felt that when playing a co-op game, the players are playing against the "AI" in a game. And while there are multi-player co-op computer games that I think do this well, that's not what I'm interested in these days-- my friends and I are preferring board games to computer games because we already spend too much time with "devices" and are looking for a low-tech way of relaxation and fun, that encourages some interesting interactions.

With a board game that is co-op, it seems to me the problem is to design a purely "mechanical" AI (since there's no computer) that can adapt to what the players do in some kind of useful way. In both of Leacock's games, increasing the difficulty primarily occurs by manual adjustment, it's not as dynamic as it might be in a computer game, where the game automatically gets more difficult depending on how well the players are doing (though I presume this could be done mechanically in a board game). Then again, you don't want an AI that completely compresses all the dynamics of the human players out of the game and compensates perfectly for their playing abilities-- generally some random factor takes care of that I suppose.

My gut feel tells me these co-op games won't have the longevity of some of the other games that elicited that "wow, cool, let's play that again right away" reaction. And the new trend towards "legacy" games doesn't interest me at all, at the very least because I play with different sets of friends, and a legacy game works best when you play with the same group every time.

Games that *have* provided that wow factor for me and my friends have been, Bohnanza, several of the push-your-luck games (Circus Flohcati, Port Royal, Dead Man's Draw), Takenoko, La Isla, Dominion and some engine building games (Port Royal, Splendor), Lost Cities and Tobago. And most of these have so far, stood the test of time pretty well. Others I've tried but fell a little short were, Ticket to Ride (Takenoko does the hidden-goal thing much better), King of Tokyo (too much like Yahtzee, which I played to death as a kid), Carcassonne (passable, would play again but like TtoR it seems unremarkable), card drafting games like Sushi Go and Tides of Time, and Machi Koro (seemed too random).


So what does everyone else think? How are you finding the co-op options out there?
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Stuart
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I've played all four of those games and found them utterly dull. With the card version of Hanabi being particularly excruciating. With Leacock's games the moves seem obvious and losing is usually down to a bad card being drawn rather than a player's bad decision earlier on in the game. It's beyond me why his games are so phenomenally popular

Oh, and I don't like co-ops to the point I refuse to play as I've never played one I liked that wasn't a dungeon crawler where I could convince myself I was role playing.
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Keith Doyle
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Your Hanabi reaction was pretty much my friends reaction to the first game of it we tried. "Excruciating" is the right term for it. I won't go that far, but it was certainly underwhelming...
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Craig B
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If you already are beyond the limitations of most filler co-ops, don't play them. Play semi-co-ops (traitors, etc.) so you get the much needed human element mixed in.
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Crazed Survivor
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These games are fine gateway co-op games. Wanna be impressed? Try Aeon's End. Overwhelmed? Try Sentinels of the Multiverse. Broken, both your body and your wallet? Try Kingdom Death: Monster. These are all on another level.

Or you can start small with a game from the Oniverse line, preferably Onirim (second edition) and Sylvion but Nautilion is also fine.
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I've had several co-ops and ended up selling them all (except DOW).

Mansions of Madness
Imperial Assault
Robinson Crusoe
Mechs vs Minions
Aeon's End
Descent
...

They all bore me pretty quickly so I guess I'm just not a co-op person, I did give it a shot though .

 
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Matt L.
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Co-ops are great, and just like Abstracts, or Worker Placements, Set Collection, Auction, Stocks... They work for certain groups/people but not others. Games are like anything else, play what you like.

I've taught a lot of people new games, teaching games is probably my favorite part of this hobby. Forbidden Island has a huge "WOW" factor for people who haven't gotten heavily into games yet or people that want to have a beer sit back and chat more than strategize and Hanabi is constantly requested with lighter game-nights.

Zebo wrote:
Are there other games that are co-op in nature, relatively sophisticated, but are distinctly different in mechanisms than Matt Leacock's designs?


Yeah, have you been looking though? I mean there's lots of variation, but one thing that co-op games can't get away from (that I know of) are just raw random elements, how those take shape and the overall swing they add to the game is what you're asking about though right? The Forbidden Desert and Pandemic have an Escalation factor to them, another style of co-op games pit you against a set number of rounds, here's a few of those.

Freedom: The Underground Railroad
- You're fighting to optimize, you need to maintain movement and make money to reach your goals in a set number of rounds.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
- Worker placement game, various scenarios built around a solid framework, game is a race to win/survive and risk management with variations based on scenario.

Mage Knight Board Game
- Mage Knight laughs at "Reasonably Sophisticated"


Here's the list! Sort the linked items by ranking and have a look around!
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgamemechanic/2023/co-operativ...
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Jonathan Challis
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Zebo wrote:

I've always felt that when playing a co-op game, the players are playing against the "AI" in a game.


Of course - that is pretty much by definition, that's all you ever do in a co-op...

I hate co-ops except for solo play, but I kinda wonder how you were expecting them to play, if you are not competing against the other players, and if you were all competing against an 'AI' built into the game?
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Ron
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Coops brought me a lot more gaming time, as my wife totally loves them; especially the FFG Lovecraft games, like Eldritch Horror and Elder Sign, but also games like Zombicide: Black Plague. We play them nearly exclusively 2-player.

And I found all the games I mentioned above awesome! meeple:
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Crazed Survivor
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Co-ops end up taking most of my gaming time.

I'm a very competitive player. I win a lot of games and I hate losing them. I'm not proud of that, but I'm a sore loser, trying not to.
The thing is, the people I play with don't like losing games with a 50 points difference (which is HUGE in the game we play). So co-op games allow us to get together, and play together, without anyone being unhappy about the game. And that's great. Plus we get to work together to achieve a common goal, and I can share my vision of the game with them, thinking differently than they do. I'm the only former M:tG player and mostly play card games.

I've played Pandemic and Forbidden Desert, along with Room 25 and Shadows Over Camelot. These were not my kind of games but I enjoyed the opportunity they gave to have a good laugh with other people. I like working together.

Plus my co-op games can be played solo too. I wouldn't play a lot of games if I didn't play solo
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Keith Doyle
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Razoupaf wrote:
These games are fine gateway co-op games. Wanna be impressed? Try Aeon's End. Overwhelmed? Try Sentinels of the Multiverse. Broken, both your body and your wallet? Try Kingdom Death: Monster. These are all on another level.

Or you can start small with a game from the Oniverse line, preferably Onirim (second edition) and Sylvion but Nautilion is also fine.


Aeon's End looks pretty interesting, I may have to try that as we all like deck building quite a bit. Kingdom Death: Monster is wayyyyy too expensive . Sentinels looks ok, but comic-book theme is pretty low on the list and several other things make Aeon's End look to be a better choice...

I've got Onirim, tried it as a solitare game and was not all that impressed, but I'll probably give it a try as a two player before long to see how it goes...

Thanks for the suggestions...
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Keith Doyle
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Kelanen wrote:
Zebo wrote:

I've always felt that when playing a co-op game, the players are playing against the "AI" in a game.


Of course - that is pretty much by definition, that's all you ever do in a co-op...

I hate co-ops except for solo play, but I kinda wonder how you were expecting them to play, if you are not competing against the other players, and if you were all competing against an 'AI' built into the game?


Well, that was my lead-in to my comments regarding how good the AI might be. Years ago a group of friends and I played a 4-player co-op on the Atari 800 that really elicited a sense of cameraderie and "everyone against the computer" feel. That worked well, and I'm not opposed to it. My concern is however, that a computer opponent has the ability to more readily be adaptive to the playing style of the human players-- more so than a board game would likely be given it's limited to mechanical as opposed to digital-computer based AI...

I'm not objecting to the idea of playing against the AI in a board game, just questioning how good it is likely to be in a game that doesn't include a computer...
 
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Keith Doyle
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Nofunatalll wrote:
I've had several co-ops and ended up selling them all (except DOW).

Mansions of Madness
Imperial Assault
Robinson Crusoe
Mechs vs Minions
Aeon's End
Descent
...

They all bore me pretty quickly so I guess I'm just not a co-op person, I did give it a shot though .



Yeah, that's pretty much where I'm at-- "giving it a shot" and trying to decide what games are the best shots at it... Disappointing to see Mechs vs Minions on your list, I placed an order with the second printing, due mid-year. I figured that one may be likely to be as "different" as Pandemic/Forbidden Desert as any, and it seems like a good idea in concept. Well, at least the resale value is probably decent if I decide I don't like it...

The only way I'm going to know is to try a few more before I decide if it's a category that's for me or not...
 
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Keith Doyle
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LunaWolvesMan wrote:

Freedom: The Underground Railroad
- You're fighting to optimize, you need to maintain movement and make money to reach your goals in a set number of rounds.

Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
- Worker placement game, various scenarios built around a solid framework, game is a race to win/survive and risk management with variations based on scenario.

Mage Knight Board Game
- Mage Knight laughs at "Reasonably Sophisticated"



Thanks for the input. Yeah, I realize it's "play what you like" but sometimes you don't know what you like until you've tested the waters, that's where I'm at now...
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Kevin Shillinglaw
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I love co-ops. I haven't found one I didn't like.

As mentioned earlier, co-op is a type of game and isn't for everyone. There are too many games out there to play ones you don't like.
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Most Leacock-Games feel alike. I like the systems he uses but I don't think you need to try out more of his games if you didn't like them that much.

Just to give you a broader perspective on coop-games: Games like Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: The Thames Murders & Other Cases, Space Alert and Witness have a totally different approach to coop gaming and gaming in general. Play these and you get a feeling of what can be done if you are not limiting yourself to standard game mechanics. I like these games but I would not recommend them to just anyone. Sherlock and Witness are both not very gamey and if you don't like deduction don't try them out. Space Alert is hard to learn without someone who teaches you and real time isn't a concept that appeals to everyone. On the other hand, you can really put a lot of effort into Space Alert to master it. Its difficulty scales so damn well, it's the one coop game that never gets old with my group.
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Zebo wrote:
Kelanen wrote:
[q="Zebo"]
I've always felt that when playing a co-op game, the players are playing against the "AI" in a game.


Of course - that is pretty much by definition, that's all you ever do in a co-op...

I'm not objecting to the idea of playing against the AI in a board game, just questioning how good it is likely to be in a game that doesn't include a computer...



How good is a bicycle versus a motorcycle?
How good is an abacus versus a pocket calculator (think about that one for a second...).

The point I am shooting for is that you are comparing apples with orchids:
it's such a fundamentally different experience that it's simply not a comparison.
With computer AI, you are playing against the AI: tension, mechanical precision.
With co-ops, you are playing with your friends and/or family: time, social contract.

And 'social contract' is a Key! (a 'synecdoche', ho! ho! ho!)
A mastermind controller or an indifferent play group breaks the contract,
and renders the exercise pointless: null and voided. (Insert bowel jokes)


My top co-ops right now are Yggdrasil, The Captain Is Dead, Pandemic (classic), and Zombicide;
each scratches a slightly different itch, and appeals to a specific different Player's (in my personal play group) tastes and strengths.

Yggdrasil is my 14 year-old sons' favorite Co-op, and I like it too!
It has perhaps the single most gorgeous Play-Board of any game, ever. Superb graphic design.
This is a _GREAT_ 'game to engage his planning skills (we let him 'mastermind' a bit, because he -really- likes this game).
It might have something to do with our Danish heritage, dunno!



Pandemic is my Missus' favorite: she is a health professional,
and the theme really speaks to her.
Plus: we like to study world geography & anthropology, so the map acts like 'flash cards' to stir up various trivia in conversation as we play.
I admit: this one I probably would be done with if she didn't enjoy.
She does enjoy it, and that makes it fun again for me!



Zombicide? hee-haw-hee...
That's for when we lose at Pandemic, of course!
I'm a miniature painter, and so that drew me into this game, but it's pretty hilarious.
It's sloppy, silly, colorful, and impossible to take seriously. It's also great fun.



The Captain Is Dead? Well, I grew up on Star Trek (the Original Series, if you please! !/2 cheese badness, 1/2 brilliant Cold War era SF)
The graphic design on this one is impeccable, and we end up making Futurama and Babylon 5 references the entire game (that's a 'good thing' BTW).




But anyways: if co-ops aren't working for you they aren't working for you,
but I'll gently suggest that you are comparing the co-ops weaknesses to a computer's strengths.
Apples and orchids, remember?
The strength of a co-op is the experience it gives to the group of people playing together.

Thus Endeth the Sermon.


{ Edit: Post-Game Canticle )
(that is: I kept thinking about this for a while after my initial post, and had something else to say. Potentiall pretentious philosophizing below, so:
~~> Fair Warning!)

Throughout History, taste in Art, architecture, food, music and design has been the subject of debate and dispute.
Should "gaming" as an art form be any less subject to examination?
Taste is inherent not so much in the subject, but in the intention of the consumer.
Taste is choice and meaning in the preparation and selection of how we organize our time, our friends, our families, and ultimately: our lives.

And our Games, too!
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Trent Boardgamer
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Nofunatalll wrote:
I've had several co-ops and ended up selling them all (except DOW).

Mansions of Madness
Imperial Assault
Robinson Crusoe
Mechs vs Minions
Aeon's End
Descent
...

They all bore me pretty quickly so I guess I'm just not a co-op person, I did give it a shot though .



Although Descent can be a co-op with the App, Imperial Assault and Base Descent are one vs many not co-op. I suppose they are close in concept though to co-ops, but some people that don't like co-op's do like team games of one versus many. Fury of Dracula is another one that sits in this camp. I get something very different from these than playing pure co-ops.
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mortego
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"Been giving some co-ops a chance......."

why bother if you phrase the question like this? They must generally suck for you or somehow aren't "real" games.

Too funny, maybe I should say, "Been giving some deck builder games a chance (since they normally suck), not sure what to think of them..."

I am glad you are so generous for giving "co-ops" a chance but honestly, they don't need to be given a chance, they are as awesome as deck-builder games i.e. Pandemic is as good as Dominion otherwise it wouldn't be so popular (same for Forbidden Desert).

You could've said, "I don't like co-ops, do you?"
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Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game is really worth looking at
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Someone should create a game called Zombie Thread.

It's a coop, where someone who can't be bothered to check the forums for the dozens of similar posts, asks the same question in a new thread -- extra points if it's a disingenuous opinion rather than a sincere question. The winner has the most posts posts for asking the same question, the BGG users who keep answering the same question win if they get the most coins or tips. (Does this make it a semi-co-op?)

Bonus points if the user also posted this to Reddit.
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Keith, it may be that you simply aren't a co-op gamer.

Board Game "AI" and Computer "AI" will never be on the same page. A Board game can't process like a computer and so fundamentally, the cooperative experience is entirely different.

Games like Ghost Stories or Yggdrasil which are very different in design and mechanism from Pandemic are often regarded as two of the more tough co-ops out there. This toughness is from learning how to manage and mitigate the random factor but also mitigate playing with everyone else. That is, when you break everything down, the underlying challenge with all co-op board games. Once you've "solved" the game so to speak, the challenge is over and you've "beaten" the game. This doesn't necessarily happen in one game, it may take dozens of plays of both wins and losses before you figure it out. At that point many would argue that you've gotten your money's worth.

But if solving complex social puzzles is not your cup of tea, then by all means, what you are looking for will always be best represented by a video game that can scale with you.
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Zebo wrote:
So what does everyone else think? How are you finding the co-op options out there?


I really like cooperative games. Of course, they have to be well-designed, so they are not boring after a few plays and provide a proper challenge.

The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game is my #1 game at the moment (and for quite some time already) and is one such game, which is fully cooperative, but not boring at all. It is interesting on so many levels, and offers so much variety, that it can be played over and over again.

Bye
Thanee
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Drift Marlo wrote:
Someone should create a game called Zombie Thread.

It's a coop, where someone who can't be bothered to check the forums for the dozens of similar posts, asks the same question in a new thread -- extra points if it's a disingenuous opinion rather than a sincere question. The winner has the most posts posts for asking the same question, the BGG users who keep answering the same question win if they get the most coins or tips. (Does this make it a semi-co-op?)

Bonus points if the user also posted this to Reddit.


The expansion pack, called "From the days of USENET", features people complaining that no one uses the search function anymore.
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Zebo wrote:
Also tried Hanabi, a unique co-op filler card game. Again, reasonably fun, but no big *wow* factor. My first game of it though went badly, my friend misunderstood the rules and ended up hating it, even once realizing the mistake. Another friend liked it, we did pretty well (scoring 22 out of 25) and I figure if we play it much more we'll have to crank up the difficulty with the expansion cards included with the game, otherwise we may ace it every time.
If you're acing Hanabi every time, then I suspect you might still be doing something wrong.
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