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Subject: "Quarterbacking" in co-op games? rss

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Pete Hornburg
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I haven't played a ton of different co-op games, but some co-ops have been absolute favorites for me.

Betrayal at House on the Hill for example, is probably my favorite game.

Looking back now at previous plays of certain games, I am starting to now think I may have formed a negative opinion on them due to feeling just bossed around the board.

For me, Pandemic is probably the poster child for this feeling. I have walked away from the game a couple times feeling like I hadn't made any decisions for myself and it just really turned me off on the game.

I don't mind the sharing of ideas and thoughts and group decisions. My chief concern is when one person kind of slides into a dictator role.

I would appreciate any advice on how to deal with this in a friendly and diplomatic way. I put extra emphasis here on "friendly". I'd like to correct the issue without chasing the players(s) away.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Keep on gaming!
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Robert Wesley
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I'm more of the 'Coach Z'-type, so I can "B" quite overbearing at times, so what I "do" is PRESENT all manner of *Options* from which someone could CHOOSE for theirs, 'correctly' or otherwise then. Some learn quickly from their ongoing 'mistakes' whilst the remainder PERISH!
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Iffix Y Santaph
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I always do the exact opposite of what I'm told to do, just out of spite. It seems like a terribly mean idea at first, but eventually they get the idea that I will generally make a very good decision that will help the team if they keep their mouths shut.
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Robert Wesley
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Them folks are so E-A-S-Y to 'manipulate', since I just SAY the 'comopposite' for what is required of these. "uhhh... don't ATTACK there!" laugh
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Chris Kohlman
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I played Pandemic at a convention this past year. As I was sitting down at the table to play in the tournament, one of the other players announces that he has played the game 100 times in the last 3 months in preparation for this day. At that point I knew what was going to happen...

Sure enough, the first turn he starts telling everyone what they should do. When he gets to me and starts helping me, I tell him "I've played the game before. In fact, we're playing my copy." in a pretty direct tone. I got a "Oh, okay." and he was quiet for the rest of my turn.

He stopped for about 1 round and then started up again. I think it was more the way he was doing it. It wasn't suggesting a move, it was more of a directive. It ceased being a collaborative game. I just left it alone and figured it wasn't worth taking a stand, especially with three other people I just met playing with me.

It certainly sucks the fun out of the game.
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Pete Hornburg
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Chris-yeah! That's pretty much exactly the kind of scenario I've been in.

And "sucks the fun out" is a really good way of expressing it.






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Christopher KrackerJack
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petegrey wrote:
I would appreciate any advice on how to deal with this in a friendly and diplomatic way. I put extra emphasis here on "friendly". I'd like to correct the issue without chasing the players(s) away.


Here is how I handle this type of situation: ask, why? Put the dictator on the spot to give a thorough explanation of why their approach is the best. If they get huffy about you "questioning" them, explain that you want to understand the thought process to improve your game.

As they explain the plan, look for opportunities to poke holes in it. Present some what ifs and highlight the risk in a given approach. Look for opportunities to flesh out alternative paths, if-then branches, and techniques for dealing with catastrophic success and failure. Insist that the plan be updated after any turn that has a significant event (epidemic card, outbreak, or special card in Pandemic for example). After you have worked through this, you'll find that you have executed collaborative planning and have come up with a better plan than the "dictator" started with. You will have all benefited from the discussion and you path to victory should be cleaner.

If the "dictator" is unwilling to indulge you and the rest of the players with an explanation, politely explain that you aren't going to do what they say if they can't even explain why you should do it. You could even accuse them of not knowing what they're talking about if you want to get confrontational.

By bringing the discussion into the open, you make the game collaborative again. You can easily ask these questions without being confrontational. You just have to ask them in the context of learning about the game.

Good luck.
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Robert Wesley
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Re: "Quarterbacking" in co-op games?
to which I instantly and haughtily retort with: "why NOT so serious!?!" and then proceed to depict this insolent 'pup' disparagingly, and it shall even "B" immense!
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Hector Fudus
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Sorry to say it but my experience has been the same as yours and my thought is to get used to it, co-op will always have a quarterback!!!

I also like Betrayal, but I don't think it fits the mold of co-op because there will eventually become competing sides. The other games such as Pandemic or Forbidden Island feel like a puzzle with one person playing and the others watching.

I've never played a co-op game where one person did not act as the pack leader and basically run the game. As much as everyone tried to play as a team, every experience has been one person playing and the others along for the ride. I've listen'd to advise on the bgg but it hasn't mattered, someone is alway's going to run the game. If you don't believe me, try making a stupid move in any of the co-op games, the pack leader (and maybe the others) will not allow it, it's alway's been the same and not my cup of tea.

I will keep trying because I like the idea of co-op but I feel that it is impossible to have a co-op game that everyone contributes equally, there will alway's be a pack leader playing the game by themselves.
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Reis
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KrackerJack wrote:
petegrey wrote:
I would appreciate any advice on how to deal with this in a friendly and diplomatic way. I put extra emphasis here on "friendly". I'd like to correct the issue without chasing the players(s) away.


Here is how I handle this type of situation: ask, why? Put the dictator on the spot to give a thorough explanation of why their approach is the best. If they get huffy about you "questioning" them, explain that you want to understand the thought process to improve your game.

As they explain the plan, look for opportunities to poke holes in it. Present some what ifs and highlight the risk in a given approach. Look for opportunities to flesh out alternative paths, if-then branches, and techniques for dealing with catastrophic success and failure. Insist that the plan be updated after any turn that has a significant event (epidemic card, outbreak, or special card in Pandemic for example). After you have worked through this, you'll find that you have executed collaborative planning and have come up with a better plan than the "dictator" started with. You will have all benefited from the discussion and you path to victory should be cleaner.

If the "dictator" is unwilling to indulge you and the rest of the players with an explanation, politely explain that you aren't going to do what they say if they can't even explain why you should do it. You could even accuse them of not knowing what they're talking about if you want to get confrontational.

By bringing the discussion into the open, you make the game collaborative again. You can easily ask these questions without being confrontational. You just have to ask them in the context of learning about the game.

Good luck.


Why would you start playing this weird game of opposition instead of just saying "You're making this unfun, I'm going to go play something else?"
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Aaron Bohm
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Easy fix:
Play a coop game with a traitor in it...
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chearns
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Pete,

I was going to say kidney punch, but then I saw that you wanted a friendly solution.

Which is part of your answer, I think co-ops really thrive in an environment where you are playing with your friends, that way you and your fellow players have already got the tools in place to step away from the game and discuss like adults what's going on and why you aren't enjoying it.

Games occur in a social context, but when you are playing with strangers, the impulse might be to try and resolve things in the game (like by doing the opposite of what is suggested, or by questioning the person Socratically (which, along with quarterbacking, also inspire me to want to kidney punch)) because, hey, they are strangers and you don't know how to approach them, but the game has no tools to resolve this issue because it's not a game issue, but an issue between the players.

Look, imagine that you were playing a competitive game with someone who was making it unfun for you, what would you do? If you have a non-socially dysfunctional answer to that question, then odds are it's the same answer to this one.

Or, really, any situation in life where someone is ruining your fun. Someone talking while your favourite telly program is on. Someone smoking in the car. Someone not putting their dishes away after they eat. Whatever it is, the way we deal with those issues, are pretty much the same way we should deal with someone doing an action during a game that is resulting in us not enjoying the game.

EDIT: That presumes that your solutions aren't to turn up the volume, not say anything and then explode at them over a minor issue in the future, you leaving your dishes out so they can see what a mess this creates... in other words, you have to find a problem in your life where you deal with it constructively, not dysfunctionally.
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Christopher KrackerJack
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Luce wrote:
Why would you start playing this weird game of opposition instead of just saying "You're making this unfun, I'm going to go play something else?"


I wasn't aware that what I described is a "weird game of opposition." Where I come from it is called "collaborative planning." One person has a plan, the other players poke holes in it and seek to identify areas of risk in order to improve the plan. Any plan (or planner) that cannot stand up to some scrutiny is nigh worthless. Besides, I thought these games were supposed to be social.

This discussion gives a great opportunity to socialize. Do you really prefer sitting quietly staring at your cards and hoping no one talks to you about the game? I suspect the answer is no. The questions I outlined do not have to be confrontational. They should be friendly and diplomatic as per the OP's request.
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Terry
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BUCFAN wrote:
Sorry to say it but my experience has been the same as yours and my thought is to get used to it, co-op will always have a quarterback!!!


Pandemic indeed is a total bore, as are many other "real life people vs contrived virtual threats" games.

What you want to do is look for games where one player can win more than other players. Saboteur or "we all win, but I win more" mechanics make the quarterback problem mute, and just make for much better games.

Battelstar Gallactica and Terra are good examples of this type of interesting co-op game.


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chearns
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Terry,

Terra, Battlestar Galactica, and Saboteur aren't co-op games.

I'll also add that your opinion differs strongly with the majority of this sites users, who rate Saboteur and Terra significantly lower than Pandemic (and play all three of them less than they play Pandemic).

Lots of users play and enjoy Pandemic, so I'm not sure that "don't play co-ops" is really the only solution to the "quarterback" problem.
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J.L. Robert
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I will not submit to a psych evaluation before I pick my co-players in a boardgame. That's about the only way to make sure you don't have personalities that clash with your personal sensibilities.
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chearns
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J.L.

Or you could play with your friends. Am I the only one who plays boardgames with friends as opposed to people I only know through boardgaming?
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Konata Izumi
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That's why Space Alert is the best true cooperative game ever made. There is simply no time for one person to boss everyone around.
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J.L. Robert
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chearns wrote:
J.L.

Or you could play with your friends. Am I the only one who plays boardgames with friends as opposed to people I only know through boardgaming?


I guess I'm just more sociable a gamer. I enjoy meeting new people over a game board. You just might find another friend that way.
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Kaiwen Zhang
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Plain coop games are boring due to this problem,

Common solutions are:

1) Hidden, non-sharable information (such that sharing the information would break the game, counter-example: Pandemic has hidden information, but sharing it does not break the game)

2) Traitor(s)

3) Real-time
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Evgeny Reznikov
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I tend to agree with the last post.
More "boring to some" than plain boring, though - some people enjoy playing by committee, for a reason I can't fathom...
Every time I play a true co-op, I feel that if I happen to leave the game, nothing would really change, gameplay wise. It kinda sucks the fun out of it.
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Kevin C.
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Quote:
I wasn't aware that what I described is a "weird game of opposition." Where I come from it is called "collaborative planning." One person has a plan, the other players poke holes in it and seek to identify areas of risk in order to improve the plan. Any plan (or planner) that cannot stand up to some scrutiny is nigh worthless. Besides, I thought these games were supposed to be social.


It just seems like you have constructed quite a formal process for this. It could just be the way you are describing it. In play, it probably comes across much more organically.

What you describe doesn’t seem so much casually “social,” as it does formally hierarchical. You seem to be giving the 3rd degree to the plan. There is a bit of, “I hope this big mouth is wrong and I’m going to really try to find a hole in his plan so he isn’t so bossy the rest of the game.”

Rather than go through the formal process you describe, it might be more expedient to just say, “This is Castle Panic, bro—it’s a boardgame, not a boardroom. Go easy with the overbearing attitude.”

Kevin
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Red Devil
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When I first started playing co-op games I came across this problem. To prevent it happening we decided to treat the game like any other in that we don't coach each other. We share information when the game allows but we leave each other to make our own moves based on our own view of the threats on the board.

There are times when the game beats us which could have been avoided if the more experienced players had taken charge, but the game would have been less enjoyable.
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Dave G
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Pandemic is my number one most regretted game purchase. I initially rated it pretty high and was excited about the prospect of a co-operative game, working together as a team to beat the system, etc. I soured on it quickly, though, and this "quarterbacking" issue is one of the biggest reasons why. At the end of the day, the game is basically a puzzle, and it's entirely likely that someone in a given group is going to be better at figuring it out than the others. That leaves you two choices: Play to win, following the general (or specific) direction of the player who has it solved, or play for "fun," of which there's very little to be had.

I just don't like cooperative games, it turns out. If it's just a puzzle to be solved, I'd rather do it by myself. If I have friends around, I'd rather see if I can outsmart and outplay them in something competitive, not play against a contrived mechanic. I don't think quarterbacking is a problem of cooperative gaming, it's a feature. I'm not willing to sit back quietly and let someone else make mistakes that will cause our "team" to lose, that's not the point of a game.

The only co-op game I've played and really enjoyed is Space Alert, primarily because a) you can play it while getting hammered without really losing anything, b) no one can really tell you what to do, there's not enough time and everything is too muddled, and c) there are battleducks.
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Michael Tagge
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Konata wrote:
That's why Space Alert is the best true cooperative game ever made. There is simply no time for one person to boss everyone around.
I actually found the opposite to be true. The one night we tried it my group got tired to losing and nominated me as dictator as they were a bit burned out after three runs.
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