Sebastian Zarzycki
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If you tend to browse comments/ratings for various games, you must have bumped into this one. I'm seeing this repeated over and over, usually with a complementary rating of 2. Not going to name the person, but everyone can easily check anyway.

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Cooperative games are not games, they are puzzles. And whether I win or lose against a random inanimate/unintelligent algorithm, I am left feeling unsatisfied. I'd rather play a One versus All or a Team versus Team game.


I must admit, that I saw this comment one time too much. As if someone had a personal vendetta. If you don't like coops, why are you playing them? Or worse, rating them without playing?
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Corey Hopkins
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I'd say it's probably one of two things: the individual had a bad experience with a co-op, or they play games solely in order to "beat" others, so co-ops are pointless to them.

Either option is fine on its own. We all have bad experiences and different reasons for playing games. But this has been coupled with an urge to crap all over everyone else's fun. Not a good combination.
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Hedyn Brand
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I guess single-player computer games aren't games at all then.

OR

Every game is a puzzle - you just have to solve your human opponent.
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chearns
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Eh, I appreciate the comment as it gives context to their rating. If I don't care about their semantic argument, then I know I can ignore their rating as being irrelevant to me.
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Ben Kyo
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Recently I have been thinking that comparing cooperative/solo games to competitive games is a bit weird. They are completely different experiences for me, and while I do enjoy cooperative games (especially ones that cannot be played solo), it feels wrong to be ranking them on the same scale.

That said, It also seems tricky to get past the "everybody competing to figure out the puzzle better" early stage of most competitive games these days, as it's hard to get the same game played twice... so in that respect cooperative games aren't that different.
 
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Daniel Krauklis
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Also seen this argument quite often in comments and, frankly, don't really understand the logic behind it. So flogging this dead thread to see if somebody could please extrapolate.

Why would coops, specifically, be more puzzle-like than any other game?

Is it that the AI seems static? Just laying there, passively resisting your efforts to fit the right piece - if so, doesn't the element of randomness many (most?) AI systems incorporate mitigate that?

Is it that the AI lacks a human touch, that there's no actual person to talk to, be surprised by, to out-think and be out-thought by? If so, I'd assume that many engine building and worker placement Euros (at least those where you basically play in parallel and have little or no interaction) would also be puzzles?

Is it a preference thing, that they seem to be poorly constructed and only offer token resistance to slow you down on your way to achieving the winning condition, offer no real challenge - are merely a time sink? If so, how does that compare to facing a less experienced player in a game you've mastered yourself?

Is it that they are, basically, solo games with multiple participants on the player side? If so, solos would obviously too be only puzzles, as would - I assume - to a lesser degree also team based games if they're designed for two sides (like, say, Axis & Allies). Only games for three or more players would be "real" games, right?

I think I might understand the grievance in general, like there apparently being some sense of emptiness to playing a coop, but am genuinely confused on the details.
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Ben Kyo
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Sardauk wrote:
Also seen this argument quite often in comments and, frankly, don't really understand the logic behind it. So flogging this dead thread to see if somebody could please extrapolate.

Why would coops, specifically, be more puzzle-like than any other game?

Is it that the AI seems static? Just laying there, passively resisting your efforts to fit the right piece - if so, doesn't the element of randomness many (most?) AI systems incorporate mitigate that?

Is it that the AI lacks a human touch, that there's no actual person to talk to, be surprised by, to out-think and be out-thought by? If so, I'd assume that many engine building and worker placement Euros (at least those where you basically play in parallel and have little or no interaction) would also be puzzles?

Is it a preference thing, that they seem to be poorly constructed and only offer token resistance to slow you down on your way to achieving the winning condition, offer no real challenge - are merely a time sink? If so, how does that compare to facing a less experienced player in a game you've mastered yourself?

Is it that they are, basically, solo games with multiple participants on the player side? If so, solos would obviously too be only puzzles, as would - I assume - to a lesser degree also team based games if they're designed for two sides (like, say, Axis & Allies). Only games for three or more players would be "real" games, right?

I think I might understand the grievance in general, like there apparently being some sense of emptiness to playing a coop, but am genuinely confused on the details.

Randomness is irrelevant - working out probabilities is no more or less challenging than no randomness.

Yes, the lack of a "human touch" is the overriding problem. The difference between "little" interaction playing in parallel and there being no-one to out-think and be out-thought by is massive, and then there's the whole world of games that aren't parallel-play Euros...

Yes, it's a preference thing, and of course I prefer to play games against people who are as good at or better than me. The "difficulty" of cooperative games is really an arbitrary setting that is of little interest to me - do I have a 30/50/70% chance of winning after I've figured out the systems? Not too bothered, to be honest, though if I had to choose I prefer the lower probabilities.

Yes, "cooperative" games that can be soloed are the bottom of the barrel. I do actually have respect for cooperative games that require cooperation - Space Alert and Hanabi, to name a couple.
 
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Benkyo wrote:
Randomness is irrelevant - working out probabilities is no more or less challenging than no randomness.


Irrelevant, also, as in not something that makes coops like puzzles? Personally, I think that guesstimating what other players will do is basically a probability exercise too. So is more or less challenging than no randomness.

In any case, thanks for the feedback!
 
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Bryan Thunkd
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Sardauk wrote:
Benkyo wrote:
Randomness is irrelevant - working out probabilities is no more or less challenging than no randomness.


Irrelevant, also, as in not something that makes coops like puzzles? Personally, I think that guesstimating what other players will do is basically a probability exercise too.
In a multiplay competitive game, there can be multiple valid strategies. Someone might focus on getting a lot of points and rushing the end of the game, or they might focus on building their engine and hoping for a longer game. What they do might also change based on the actions of other players. In this example if another player does something to rush the game, that might skew which plans make sense for the other player. Or a move that a third player does might open up possibilities for the second player. Calculating the probabilities is a very uncertain thing that often spirals out beyond what is calculable due to uncertainty and all the possibilities that players might choose.

Co-op's typically play against the game in a way that the game's actions are very rigid. In Pandemic for example, while the exact order of the cards is unknown, you know exactly how cards come out and know what cards are being shuffled back into the top of the pile. You also know which cards have been played and can't come out until the pile is reshuffled. It's much simpler to calculate the probabilities because there's no intelligence at play that might make different choices or change the paradigm. You can make definite statements like "We haven't see Jakarta yet. It's in the next five cards, so the odds that it comes up before John's next turn are X%". And while you can't know the best play for certain, as the card order is unknown... you can often determine the best play given the information available to you.

There's never a time when you're surprised in Pandemic because the game chose a strategy you didn't consider, or made a move that you ruled out as suboptimal, or choose between two equally good strategies. Nor will the game ever note that you're doing well and form alliances against you. People are unpredictable in a way that a game AI isn't.

Co-ops are also sometimes unsolvable. If the cards come out in the wrong order in Pandemic, then you could just lose outright. I think it's actually possible to lose on an initial turn if the cards come out in the right way. Alternatively, if there is a way to win, i.e. the card order doesn't make it impossible to win, then the challenge is simply finding out the correct way (or possible one of several correct ways) to get to the win. There's usually an optimal move, or multiple moves that are equally as good. It's more like a maze puzzle than like a competitive game.

It can still be challenging or fun, but that doesn't mean it's not more like a puzzle than a competitive game.
 
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Ben Kyo
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Sardauk wrote:
Benkyo wrote:
Randomness is irrelevant - working out probabilities is no more or less challenging than no randomness.


Irrelevant, also, as in not something that makes coops like puzzles? Personally, I think that guesstimating what other players will do is basically a probability exercise too. So is more or less challenging than no randomness.

In any case, thanks for the feedback!

Irrelevant, as in the presence or absence of randomness is not something that differentiates cooperative games from competitive games in any meaningful way. I do understand that some people define puzzles as having no random elements, and I've seen this distinction used as a way of arguing that cooperative games are not puzzles (by people who see puzzle as a derogatory term). It seems like an unnecessarily narrow definition of puzzle to me, but seeing as some people use it, and some people are offended by the description of solo/cooperative games as puzzles, I have decided to try not to refer to them as such on BGG. Regardless of your definition of puzzle though, I will always see solo/cooperative games as having far more in common with puzzles than they do to competitive games.

Oops, seems like I just repeated a lot of what Thunkd wrote.

EDIT: It's probably worth mentioning that I even found a puzzle I enjoyed for a quite a long time - Mage Knight - until I got to the point where I had to play against an opponent for the game to remain interesting.
 
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marc lecours
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I like puzzles.

I have no problem if you say that solitaire games are essentially puzzles because I like puzzles.

Chess is a two player game, but it is essentially a puzzle also. If your opponent is a good player then each player is trying to find the optimal move on their turn.

What games are not puzzles. Maybe games with imperfect information about your opponent's position. Then there is bluffing and trying to guess what your opponent would do. But maybe even then there is optimal play, in which case maybe all games can be viewed as puzzles.

So that puzzle and game do not end up meaning the same thing, it might be good to define "puzzle" much more narrowly.

Personally, I don't view "scythe" and "terraforming Mars" as puzzles. I guess I define puzzle more narrowly. But I can see how they could be seen as puzzles, if you define puzzle more loosely. I have no idea what the exact wording of a definition of words like "puzzle" and "game" should be.

 
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rubberchicken wrote:
Chess is a two player game, but it is essentially a puzzle also. If your opponent is a good player then each player is trying to find the optimal move on their turn.

What games are not puzzles. Maybe games with imperfect information about your opponent's position. Then there is bluffing and trying to guess what your opponent would do. But maybe even then there is optimal play, in which case maybe all games can be viewed as puzzles.

So that puzzle and game do not end up meaning the same thing, it might be good to define "puzzle" much more narrowly.

Personally, I don't view "scythe" and "terraforming Mars" as puzzles. I guess I define puzzle more narrowly. But I can see how they could be seen as puzzles, if you define puzzle more loosely. I have no idea what the exact wording of a definition of words like "puzzle" and "game" should be.

Chess is not a puzzle. Presence/absence of randomness and/or perfect information are not defining features of games or puzzles.

I see Scythe and Terraforming as puzzles if you play them solo, but games in normal play. Adding an algorithm/mechanism to simulate an opponent, or setting an arbitrary target score for solo play provide the player with ways to turn their game into a puzzle. There's a whole other thread about whether or not adding solo play limits a game's design space, but I'm not going to touch that discussion.

A fairly common narrow definition of puzzle is one that requires a puzzle to have a solution, but this seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction to me. In a game you can say that the solution is to beat your opponent, and I'd say in Pandemic, in the case of a loss, the solution is the set of optimal choices that lead to that loss.
 
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The first time I saw the rating/comment mentioned at top of thread, I thought it was thoughtful. After seeing duplicates in every co-op game I looked at, not so much.

In general, I don't understand why people rate games they haven't played. I don't mind when they leave a negative comment as long as they indicate they haven't played it and don't give it a number rating.
 
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boardgamescardgames wrote:
In general, I don't understand why people rate games they haven't played. I don't mind when they leave a negative comment as long as they indicate they haven't played it and don't give it a number rating.

One day it would be nice if number of recorded plays was paired with comments and ratings (and perhaps even the player's mean, mode, and median, but that might be a little too much to ask for; even though with all of that we would have excellent context with which to understand the player's point of view).
 
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marc lecours
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chearns wrote:
boardgamescardgames wrote:
In general, I don't understand why people rate games they haven't played. I don't mind when they leave a negative comment as long as they indicate they haven't played it and don't give it a number rating.

One day it would be nice if number of recorded plays was paired with comments and ratings (and perhaps even the player's mean, mode, and median, but that might be a little too much to ask for; even though with all of that we would have excellent context with which to understand the player's point of view).


The problem is that people would record imaginary plays to make their ratings and comments stand out more.
 
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Thunkd wrote:
In a multiplay competitive game, there can be multiple valid strategies. Someone might focus on getting a lot of points and rushing the end of the game, or they might focus on building their engine and hoping for a longer game. What they do might also change based on the actions of other players. In this example if another player does something to rush the game, that might skew which plans make sense for the other player. Or a move that a third player does might open up possibilities for the second player. Calculating the probabilities is a very uncertain thing that often spirals out beyond what is calculable due to uncertainty and all the possibilities that players might choose.


Well, actually, I find it fairly easy to see where another player is going, most of the time - if I'm aware of all paths to victory, and if I know the other person. Most of the time, their personality dictates their approach to the game, and strategy. In that sense, they would be the puzzle. Might be that I'm not up to date on how to define a puzzle, ofc. Only rarely am I taken completely by surprise by someone's moves.

Now, when there are hidden factors weighing in on a player's choices - especially more or less randomized hidden factors, like the cards in Blood Rage for instance - they can't always act according to their own preferences, which makes it more difficult to predict what they're going to do. In that regard, chance is actually relevant. Sometimes a well constructed randomization engine can be a greater challenge than a human opponent, at least to me. Which would perhaps make coops less like puzzles. So to some degree, I think that knowing all or most parts of a system and the thing being to figure out how to put the pieces together would feel like a puzzle, and other players can definitely be known quantities.

In any case, well written and explained! The puzzle argument makes more sense now. Still don't quite agree, but wasn't really looking for a debate.
 
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Ben Kyo
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Sardauk wrote:
Thunkd wrote:
In a multiplay competitive game, there can be multiple valid strategies. Someone might focus on getting a lot of points and rushing the end of the game, or they might focus on building their engine and hoping for a longer game. What they do might also change based on the actions of other players. In this example if another player does something to rush the game, that might skew which plans make sense for the other player. Or a move that a third player does might open up possibilities for the second player. Calculating the probabilities is a very uncertain thing that often spirals out beyond what is calculable due to uncertainty and all the possibilities that players might choose.


Well, actually, I find it fairly easy to see where another player is going, most of the time - if I'm aware of all paths to victory, and if I know the other person. Most of the time, their personality dictates their approach to the game, and strategy. In that sense, they would be the puzzle. Might be that I'm not up to date on how to define a puzzle, ofc. Only rarely am I taken completely by surprise by someone's moves.

Now, when there are hidden factors weighing in on a player's choices - especially more or less randomized hidden factors, like the cards in Blood Rage for instance - they can't always act according to their own preferences, which makes it more difficult to predict what they're going to do. In that regard, chance is actually relevant. Sometimes a well constructed randomization engine can be a greater challenge than a human opponent, at least to me. Which would perhaps make coops less like puzzles. So to some degree, I think that knowing all or most parts of a system and the thing being to figure out how to put the pieces together would feel like a puzzle, and other players can definitely be known quantities.


I think it is useful to be aware of just how simple most of the games we play are. Not simple in terms of rules, because there are often a ton of rules and moving pieces, but simple in terms of decisions. We kid ourselves that we are engaged in something deep, but for any game in which you "find it fairly easy to see where another player is going, most of the time", the activity you are engaged in is not a very complex one at all.

I'm also a bit surprised by the assertion that opponents' decisions are more often than not based on their "preferences". If anyone I'm playing is competent at a game, I'll expect their decisions to be based on the optimal paths to victory, which change according to the game state, not the way they like to play games.

Take chess as a counterpoint (I don't play chess to a high level, but it's a better-known touchpoint than Go, which I'm moderately good at). Beyond some well-known opening moves, are you really able to usually see where your opponent is going, most of the time?

In comparison, the average modern game with a few paths to victory, hidden information, some randomness, etc., in which other players can be considered a "known quantity" must be a fairly simple game, or at least a game which is fairly close to being a puzzle.

Of course, there are also plenty of deep and engaging games out there. It just can be tricky to get past the initial dozen learning games with the same players to get to the real meat of the game (which is another reason why I like playing games with long-established communities, like Go).
 
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rattkin wrote:
If you don't like coops, why are you playing them? Or worse, rating them without playing?


Pettiness, I’d assume

*edit - I stand corrected. Not pettiness. Bigotry!

“I am a boardgame bigot, and judge games before I have played them, so try not to internalize a stranger's subjective opinion.”

There’s something to be said for being self aware
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Benkyo wrote:
I'm also a bit surprised by the assertion that opponents' decisions are more often than not based on their "preferences". If anyone I'm playing is competent at a game, I'll expect their decisions to be based on the optimal paths to victory, which change according to the game state, not the way they like to play games.


I'm not a psychic, but like you write, many games aren't that complex in terms of decisions. For instance, they could have four main routes to victory - like Sid Meier's Civilization - or be more of a point salad mix in which you still want to focus on a few obvious areas of interest - like Agricola, where you want to max out your number of actions and create self-perpetuating point increases. Or other, defined victory conditions.

Likewise, many players tend to lean towards preferential tactics. There are the milk and honey players who only want to build, and never go into conflict. There are the traders and deal makers. The backstabbers. The aggressive war mongerers. The opportunists (I'm probably one of those). And so on.

So, let's say I'm playing Civ against my friend the builder and my friend the militant. The builder levels up his city. The militant goes "exploring" on the map. Now, I would be playing badly if I didn't take into account that they would happily exploit any weakness I showed, and try to win in a (for them) uncommon way. But I also see what they're already doing. It could be a feint, but likely not. So my response should ovbiously be to counteract their moves, further my own agenda, and keep the balance between the three of us so I don't skew the game to their benefit.

Not particularly difficult. Of course they'll want to do something unexpected, but like all of us they'll probably do that in the general direction they're already going (or prefer to go). So the militant could be researching some tech that allows him to teleport over the board and take my capital. Sure, that would be mildly surprising, I didn't know he'd do exactly that (or I'd have countered it), but it's not like he's not playing according to profile.

Playing the players is part of the game.
 
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