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Phantom Leader» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Review as a Co-Op game rss

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Matt Thrower
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I recently posted a full review of Phantom Leader. You should check that out before reading this article. However having completed that piece I realised there were some things I probably could have elaborated on. I might have pointed out how attached you actually get to your pilots over the course of a long campaign. I might have opined that really I'd liked to have seen more differences between the "Rolling Thunder" and "Linebacker" campaigns. However most of all I really ought to have made more of something I mentioned in passing in my review: playing Phantom Leader as a co-operative game.

I tried this exercise in the form of a play-by-forum game with the blessing of the designer, Dan Verssen. In passing on his permission for me to run the game he pointed out that he's actually tried it co-op and found it to be entertaining.

We played with four players total. The game worked by each player being assigned two specific pilots - we tried to average out the skill levels but ended up rolling off to see who got the best of the bunch. We also decided that one player (the most experienced) would be designated as officer in charge and would be given the casting vote if there was a tie in decision making. We found this idea to be very fitting with the military theme of the game, so you may wish to include it even if you're playing with an odd number and don't really need a casting vote. The key to enjoying the game as a co-op experience is to have a group discussion and then allow each player to make their own decisions about what their pilot does, whatever the group discussion suggests. The officer in charge vote comes into play whenever there are group-only decisions to be made such as the spending of special operations points. This provides a good mix of group action and independent action and stops the game degenerating into one where the bossiest player just tells everyone what to do.

As a whole the game worked well played co-operatively. It even offered the extra thematic flavour of having a ranking officer in charge of a strategy discussion by more junior officers and pilots. Because each problem offered by the game - in the form of differing targets surrounded by differing defensive units - rarely has a clear and obvious solution or best approach to ensure success there's plenty to discuss each time, with the spending of operations points being a particular hot potato. It's not something I'd try face-to-face with more than two or three, otherwise the discussion element would probably come to dominate the actual game play and that wouldn't be much fun. But overall I'm surprised the player number poll here on BGG is limited to "best with one player". Be adventurous. Try it with more. You may be pleasantly surprised as well as extending the replay value of this fun solo game.
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There's a huge difference between the Rolling Thunder and Linebacker campaigns - if you play them as the USAF. For the Linebacker campaign you may only choose Phantoms and Wild Weasels and there will be a considerate lack of SOs (from picking old planes) and tactics (no AGM-45 available). I found the USAF Linebacker campaign to be the hardest.
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