“My Top 5 Games of All Time!” or “What I Want In A Cooperative Game!”

I have to admit; I’m not really a fan of the “big coooperative” games this year that won the Board Game Geek awards.

  1. Arkham Horror: The Living Card Game just failed for me (see my review here).
  2. I am still learning Mansions of Madness, but at this point in time, the game is overwhelming me with its complexity. I spent two hours pouring over rules and set-up … and it just took it out of me … I couldn’t take any more, so I boxed up Yig and Hastur (before they turned me mad) hoping to try again soon.
  3. And I can’t get Mechs vs Minions. To be fair, I could have Kickstarted it, but the price point scared me away.

So, it almost looks like I didn’t like COOPERATIVE games???? Absolutely not! Here are my Top 5 Games of all time … note that that they are ALL cooperative!


5. Arkham Horror. I love this game, and it was probably the very first cooperative board game I ever played. I just loved that a board game could be cooperative! (And NO, Eldritch Horror has NOT replaced Arkham Horror for me).

4. CO-OP: the co-op game. This is self-serving, but I still like playing my game to this day.  It’s still fun for me to puzzle how to barely save the CO-OP in the last turn!

3. Pandemic (any version). Just a great game.  And yes, I am showing the old cover art because that’s the version I have.

2. Sentinels of the Multiverse! Why did it take so long to realize a cooperative super hero game?   (And yes, I am using the original box art because I got the original game waaaaaay before it was popular and had a second edition.  I had to order it from the web site because that was the only way to get the game back then).

1. Pathfinder and/or Dungeons and Dragons RPG: I love it because of the adventure I explore cooperatively with my friends!  (And yes, I had the old version, so that’s the art I am using … I am seeing a trend here …)

I put Dungeons and Dragons (or its equivalent Pathfinder, which is really what I am playing these days) at the top of my list because, it is really the first cooperative game I ever played! And it is open to imagination within a rule system. Some of my favorite experiences of all time were my friends and I exploring a world together.

So, I think my RPG experiences with D&D color what I want in a cooperative game. I want to be part of a movie! I want to have a plot that unfurls, where my decisions make a difference, and where there is some critical moment that decides the game!

What I like about Arkham Horror is that I feel like I can do whatever I want: there’s a lot of choices! I can go get a spell, a weapon, a unique item, heal, explore, close gates. My world is wide open! And the way we investigators work together influences whether we win or lose. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we will lose. But those moments when we just barely win or barely lose are the stuff of memories!

“Remember that time I closed the gate in the last round just before the last Doom token came out??!?!”

I like Pandemic and Sentinels because they are more puzzly: you have to do the best you can with the resources you have (which are much more constrained than Arkham Horror or D&D). These games still feel like movies to me though. In SOTM, Legacy punches and takes out the villain just before the the bad guys descend en masse! In Pandemic, the Medic flies to Laos in the nick of time to stop a massive outbreak!

One game that I like (but didn’t mention on my Top 5 list) was Agents of Smersh. It is also cooperative. It has a lot of these movie-like and puzzly qualities too … It has a book of encounters to be read aloud, but you are still making choices and moving around. (In my mind, Agents of Smersh completely replaces 1001 Arabian Nights. Agents of Smersh is a real, honest to goodness game, whereas 1001 Arabian Nights is just an activity … a fun one, but nevertheless not a game).

So, what do I want in a cooperative game?

Something that feels like a Movie. Me and my friends are working together. Making real choices. Just barely defeating the game in the last moment. And sometimes losing. (But not always losing: AH:LCG, I am looking at you …)

When I designed CO-OP, I wanted:

  1. Lots of flavor text like Arkham Horror and Agents of Smersh and SOTM. I like text, and I like the atmosphere it brings when you read it. All the cards in the game have some kind of flavor text, whether it be silly quotes or explaining what the card does.  In some ways, I wanted a book of encounters like Smersh, but I was able to simplify and achieve that with text on the cards …
  2. Meaningful choices. There’s a bunch of things you can do on each turn, but the work action forces you to look at all your cards and think about a lot of things at once: What do I play? Should I support another player? SOTM really influenced me a lot on this.  I like how SOTM and Pandemic force you to make the best of what you have.
  3. Suspense! … where we just barely defeat the game. I spent a lot of time balancing CO-OP so it wasn’t too easy or too hard. I can’t tell you how many games we just barely won in the last round, only because we puzzled how to use the cards just right. And that’s what I want!

In all the games in my top 5, there are always “movie moments” where we just barely won or lost. And we still remember to this day.

CO-OP represents a fusion of all my favorite games: a movie-like quality in a balanced puzzly game with lots of flavor text.

So, I am still hopeful for Mansions of Madness: it look like it will definitely evoke a movie-like play environment. I am just worried that “upkeep” will kill it: there’s SO MUCH upkeep at the start of the Investigators Phase! I am worried that all that upkeep will take me “out of the movie”.

I am willing to chalk up my Mansions of Madness issues as simply jet-lag from my Australia trip (see last blog entry). Or maybe I just went mad from playing …………. hahahahahahahah …. hahahahahahaha ……

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