RichieCon 2021 and Top 10 “Interesting” Cooperative Games

RichieCon 2021 has come and gone this last weekend and was a success! We had to suspend RichieCon 2020 (for obvious reasons) but we “remembered” RichieCon 2020 with a C++ post-increment on this year’s RichieCon token (see above). 20++ is 21 … if you look at it after the sequence point.

RichieCon 2021 continued the traditions of RichieCon 2019 and RichieCon 2018 with a record number of people attending from all over the USA! Attendees were from Austin TX, Hays KS, Phoenix AZ, Tucson AZ, Sonoita AZ, Las Cruces NM, Albuquerque NM, Madison WI, and Ft. Collins CO! See some attendees below helping with clean up.


Day 0: First Game … Kapow!

The first game of RichieCon 2021 was played innocuously in the mancave! I usually can never get 2-Player games to the table, but with Joe (aka Junkerman) here, I was able to play Kapow! Longtime blog readers know I love superhero games (see the Top 10 Cooperative Superhero Card and Board Games here), and even though this one wasn’t cooperative, it was a blast!

In Kapow!, you build dice and buy new “faces” for the dice or just new dice! The mechanics worked really well, it was fun and pretty quick! It’s a 2-Player dice game that looked good, played fast, and had some really neat dice. Great way to start!

Day 0 … Nighttime: Las Cruces House


One of the bigger groups from Las Cruces rented a “group” house for playing game when we couldn’t get to the Rec Center. We affectionately called this “RichieCon After Dark”. See the Las Cruces contingent playing (to no one’s surprise), 7 Wonders. The first night of RichieCon 2021 was spent playing games there!


Day 1 … Morning: Rec Center


Some of the first attendees playing the Reckoners (one of my favorite cooperative Superhero games).


Lords of WaterDeep, 6 Player game!


Come back later … still going? That’s a long game!


Century Spice Road, Golem was a hit! I think I played it 3 times and I saw it played MANY times!


An Intro game of Dice Throne for a bunch of people!


Defenders of the Realm! A Richard Lanius game: Pandemic meets D&D!


Nathan and Caroline and Anders teach CrossTalk: designed by a friend of theirs!


Rescue Polar Bears! A cute cooperative Pick-up-and-deliver game with little Polar Bears! It’s s deceptively hard co-op!


Wait, they are STILL playing Lords of Waterdeep?


Aeon’s End! The original! With the ORIGINAL art! It made our Top 10 Cooperative Deckbuilding Games!


More Century Spice: Golem Edition! I had to give up my seat to teach …


CO-OP: the co-op game! A silly cooperative game that made our Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor!


Hope, Chris, Will, Cassidy (not pictured) and Max saved the CO-OP from Mondomart!

Day 0 … Dice Throne Tournament


There was a Dice Throne Trophy made by Teresa! Unfortunately, the Dice Throne tournament was one game: Kevin vs. Caroline. Caroline has yet to claim her prize! She must bring it back for RichieCon 2022 to see if she can win again!

Day 0 … Top 10 Interesting Games We Discovered During The Bad Times

Our Top 10 list this year was 10 interesting games that we found during the last two years.  My top 10:


  • 10.  Umbrella Academy.  Stay away: this is the worst cooperative game I ever backed on Kickstarter!  It was unplayable out of the box, and barely playable with BGG rules updates.  We reviewed it here!

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  • 9. The Crew.  I have the physical game, but I think I have played it exactly once with the physical components.  On BoardGameArena, on the other hand, me and my friends have played this multiple times.  It’s a great little cooperative game that made our Top 10 Cooperative Space-Themed games and it should have made our Top 10 Cooperative Games That Can Be Played Online!  This was a great game that we played over discord that kept me and my friend connected.  (It also won the Kinnerspiel Des Jahres for 2020)
  • 8. Just One.  I have never had this cooperative party game NOT work.  It worked online with Discord, it works in person.  It works with gamers, it works with non-gamers.  See the Top 10 Cooperative Games That Can Be Played Online!
  • 7. Tainted Grail.  We played this beautiful, well-written game over 40 hours!  It has one of the best Intro Play Guides, and some of the best writing I have seen in a storybook game. And we stopped playing because it was too grindy.  Teresa has plans to repurpose it for a D&D campaign.  I had to tell people about it: it’s interesting.  See our saga documented here and here.
  • 6. Gascony’s Legacy.  This game has gotten no love as far as I could see, but I really enjoyed it!  It’s a cooperative game in the swashbuckling world of the Three Muskeeteers!  See our review here!  It also was so neat, it inspired a Top 10 list: Top 10 Cooperative Swashbuckling Games!
  • 5. Pandemic: Hot Zone — North America.  This is a weird little game: It made our Top 10 “Small” Cooperative Games, but it is interesting for what it is.  I think the original Pandemic is still better, but this might be a good way to introduce people to cooperative games without the “full” overhead of Pandemic.
  • 4. Detective: City of Angels.  This game has become an evergreen in our group: we love playing it!  It’s interesting because the base game is NOT cooperative, but we ALWAYS play it cooperatively.  It made many, many lists here, including Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games and Top 10 Cooperative Storybook Games.
  • 3. House of Danger.  This is a game that we have been able to play online with friends and family to keep us connected.  It’s ridiculous and fun.  You can get it at Target, and Junkerman and I played it ONLINE with his niece and sister online for her birthday!  This game has made many top 10 lists, but the reason it was interesting this year was because it made our Top 10 Cooperative Games You Can Play Online.
  • 2. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. So, I have played the first 4 cases online (over discord) with my friends.  It was a full-time activity to keep me and my friends connected during COVID.  It’s “interesting” because it’s so hard and Sherlock Holmes is SUCH a jerk in the game.  Some friends still want to continue playing and some don’t, but it has been an interesting ride playing this online.  It made the #1 spot of our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games. 
  • 1. Sherlock Holmes: Baker Street Irregulars. This game was so interesting because were able to play this online over discord and it worked just as well as if we had been in person!   Someone buys the game and then shares the books physically (there are 4 distinct book: each player takes one of the books).  Players then play online cooperatively (each with their own book).   Follow our Journey here and here.  It made our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games, Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2020, and Top 10 Cooperative Games You Can Play Online.


Day 1:  Water Games


Junkerman went on a crusade this year to make games you can play in the water! Unfortunately, it rained and thundered most of the weekend! Finally, Saturday night, the thunder and rain let up so Junkerman could try out some of his games!


The water games played at RichieCon 2021:

  1. Walk The Plank (thanks to Sam for this one: copied/laminated cards and wood meeples)
  2. Quarriors (dice and copied/laminated cards).  See Joe drying the dice above!
  3. Martian Dice: just dice and some laminated rules.
  4. Uno (plastic cards)


Day 2

Day 2 was just more games!


Chronicles of Crime! Made our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games! Lexey, Linda, and Greg play the intro with their phone!


Detective: City of Angels! Played after it made my Top 10 Interesting Cooperative Games!


There were so many games played over 3 days and people had a blast! We’ll do RichieCon again next year! Some lessons learned:

  • Wear Nametags: “Who the heck are you?”
  • Put out some healthy snack options: “That was a LOT of sugar!”
  • Keep Jeremy’s BBQ: The Vegan and Omnivore BBQ went over fabulously!
  • The RichieCon Token is silly, but people still like it!  Thanks to Josh for designing it and Max for printing it!
  • Move the Top 10 Earlier so people have some game recommendations before they start playing!

Thanks to everyone who came and we’ll see you next year!

A Review of Paleo, Part I. Unboxing, Solo Rules, and Initial Impressions


Paleo is a cooperative game for 2-4 Players: it’s set in a “paleolithic time” (read: era of cavemen or stone age).  It’s currently up for the  Kinnerspiel Des Jarhes (see here) award in 2021.  (EDIT: It won).  Interestingly, especially in our cooperative blog, that all three entries for the Kinnerspiel are cooperative games! Micromacro and Robin Hood (the other two: see here) are also cooperative games!  What a glorious era to love cooperative games!

We’ll take a look at Paleo here!



Paleo has a really nice minimalist aesthetic with lots of white space: see above.


The basic resource components are pretty nice (just not Lost Ruins of Arnak nice) with wood components for the wood, food, and stone. The wood dice, however, seem extra cool. See above.

A lot of this game is in the cards, but it’s not a legacy game (usually the STOP! cards are reserved for legacy games). In this case, the game is all in the cards, but you never “destroy forever” cards. During gameplay, you will however discard cards to the graveyard so they out of the deck for the rest of the game. See the graveyard below.


Paleo is all about combining basic cards and two modules to form a “deck” of cards. These cards are what the players will be “exploring” and turning over.


See the cards above: the backs of the cards give you “hints” about what the cards will do, and you turn them over to see what you can actually do! Since the game is all in the cards, you want to be careful not to look at too many cards at the start of the game … you don’t want to spoil the surprises on the cards! Note that the cards are very nice linen-finished cards!


Everything else in the game are cardboard components: See the three main boards above! See the heart, skull, and tool tokens below.


Overall, the components are nice enough. They are all very easy to read and have the same minimalist look/feel with the white theme.

The workbench, although it looks cool (see below), is one of the most annoying components when it comes to set-up and tear-down!


Sure, it looks great above, but building it was messier than it should have been. It barely had a 10th of page to describe how to put it together:

You can barely see what it looks like! The next page has a completed picture, but its still not great at showing it:


That’s fine, because once it’s built … it does look cool. But wait! How do you put this away? I am pretty sure they thought about it (because it does fit in a very particular way), but did they document it? Nope! Are you supposed to take it apart to fit in the box????

No, you just have to make sure you put the rules UNDER the insert, and NOTHING else on the right side and it just BARELY clears the lid!

You might think this is a minor thing, but when you are putting it away, it can be very frustrating! So, learn from my experience: pull the bottom part off of the workbench, put the rules and extension rulesheet under the insert, clear the bigger part and make sure the workbench sits JUST SO (see picture above).


Overall, the game looks good and has a consistent look-and-feel: the cards are linen-finished and easy to read, the tokens are easy to read, and the wooded resource tokens are nice. The workbench looks cool, but is annoying the pack back into the box.



All the rules are there and the rulebook works fine. But I feel like they skimped in a few places. The components list is just a sliver at the stop of the 1st page:

The set-up is next and works well enough:


The rest of the rulebook works okay, but again, I feel like they were skimping. This game has a lot of iconography: where do you go to see iconography? Isn’t there usually a summary on the last page with the iconography? Usually on the back page. Nope, somewhere in the middle.


Look, it’s not a big deal, but I felt like the rulebook has “let’s cram as few pages as possible into the rules so we can save some money”. That’s fine, I understand, but I felt the rulebook could have been better.

Like I said, the rulebook worked and it was fine. This is just a minor nitpick, but since Lost Ruins of Arnak (see here and here) and Ares Expedition (see review here) had such wonderful rulebooks, it’s a little harder to deal with. Especially since The Lost Ruins of Arnak is ALSO up for a Spiel Des Jahres award!

Solo Rules

By default, Paleo DOES NOT follow Saunders’ Law: it has NO Solo Rules!  See the box cover above!  The main reason (I think) for lack of solo rules is that one of the main features of the game is that you can choose to “help” another player on your turn:

In the card above, the player can either choose to hunt the Mammoth (if he has the resources, which is unlikely) OR he can help out one of his neighboring tribe-of-cavemen!  The little “hands-shaking” symbol is the sign for “help your neighbor” in this game.    This is a central mechanism in the game (for balance, for fun, for winning), so you must play with it! 


All this means for the solo player is that the solo player simply takes the role of two tribes of cavemen!  See above!  Tribe 1 has a Scout and a Guardian.  Tribe 2 has a Hunter and a Scout.  Each tribe plays a card separately, like it would in a 2-Player game (note the second tribe has just played “At Home” to the right).  The only difference is that the solo player must make all the choices himself. 


It can be  little daunting to play 2 Tribes as a solo player, but you can really feel the need for the cooperation when you play.  (I tried playing a solo game with just 1 tribe … it was miserable and I immediately stopped).  

I really think the rulebook could have included a simple sentence:

A solo game of Paleo plays exactly like a 2-Player game,  where the solo player plays both tribes of cavemen separately

Initial Impressions


The game looks good on the table.  The game really does feel like you are exploring: you choose a card based on the back of the card (like a hint from the environment) to play every turn.  After all players flip their card, then each player (in Player Selected Turn Order) chooses a card to play.  But there’s so much more to the game:

  • You can get Visions (which help you choose what you will do next)
  • You can get Ideas (for “tech” to build: wood and a rock? A spear of course!)
  • You can avoid Bad Cards!  All hands are “littered” with Bad News, and you have to know when and when NOT to avoid the bad news cards!
  • You can build tools!  Using the ideas you had earlier, you can make them real!  Make a REAL Spear!
  • You need to feed your tribe!

This is a Euro cooperative game.  What do you I mean by that?  The game is all about getting enough resources to get stuff done, but as a group.  Cavemen need to get ideas (one type of resource) to build tools (another type of resource) using wood and stone (yet another type of resource).  Where this game differs from other Euros is that it strongly encourages cooperation through the help mechanic!   Players work together to get resources.


A “win” is getting the entire cave painting built!  A “lose” is getting 5 skulls (see above).  As the game progresses, there are many opportunities to get cave painting pieces: for example, defeating the Mammoth below gives a piece!


 The game really does feel like you are exploring.  Since cards go to the Graveyard after you have “defeated them”, there is a clock running!  Thematically: you killed the Bull Mammoth (above), got his meat, and he’s not coming back!  At some point, you will run out of cards to keep the cavemen alive!!!  You must explore to survive, but a some point you must figure WHAT you need to do!! That’s part of the fun of this game: you don’t know exactly “what” you need to do to survive until you have gone through the deck a few times (in a typical game, you go through the deck many times).

You must explore to find out what you need.



In the end, I liked Paleo as a solo game (even though it doesn’t have solo rules). It sometimes feels like you don’t have a of choices as you explore, as you can only see the backs of the cards and you don’t even know what you need at the start of the game! BUT, this was thematic as an exploration game! The more you get to know the modules you are playing, the more predictive your choices can be! And once you flip the cards over, there are still interesting choices to make! Are you a good neighbor or do you overcome your own challenges? And the game has some replayability, as choosing 2 of 10 modules (A-J) per game gives you (10 choose 2) = 45 combinations.

I see why this game was a Kinnerspiel Des Jahres nominee! It’s pretty fun, looks good, and has some unique mechanisms and ideas I haven’t seen elsewhere. And Paleo really does encourage cooperation with the way the cards are revealed and resolved with Player Selected Turn Order allowing players to choose (as a group) how to play! Paleo really captures the feel of cavemen exploring and trying to survive.


We just finished RichieCon this weekend (full report next week), and I was hoping to get Paleo to the table with some groups.  It just didn’t happen, even AFTER I explained “Hey!! Paleo just won the Kinnerspiel!”  I’m not sure: I wonder if the theme was offputting?  Maybe the art on the cover wasn’t appealing?  Just a quick note that maybe you might have trouble getting people to play with this with you, despite the Kinnerspiel award …

Top 10 Cooperative Games With a Sense of Humor!

A lot of cooperative games have very dark and depressing themes: “Work together to save the world! Or everybody dies! AHHH!” (In fact, that’s exactly what we did to make Lost Ruins of Arnak cooperative last week!) We wanted to point all those cooperative games where a “sense of humor” permeates the game. What do we mean by that? Something that makes you laugh! As you read the rulebook, as you play the game, you notice little touches that tickle your funny bone. It may be flavor text, or the way a rule is expressed, or just some picture that make you giggle and not take the game (or life) too seriously.

To be clear, these are all real games (some heavier than others), and not just excuses for jokes!

10. Dungeon Lords


So, we are cheating a little bit here:  Dungeon Lords is ONLY cooperative if we play with our rules from our Top 10 Games That Can Be Played Full Cooperatively.  This would probably be further up the list if the cooperative rules were better fleshed out.  (Hint, hint, Rich).   Dungeon Lords has one of the funniest rulebooks we have ever read, the art is silly and evocative, and the games mechanisms and cards reinforce this sense of humor.  The funniest bit in the game: the Dungeon room where, for 2 imps and a food, you can create another imp—we call this “The Romantic Dinner Room”.


9. Far Away

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This is further down the list because, although the sense of humor pervades the rulebook and the box and the components, its not quite as prevalent as we start playing: it’s a pretty heavy game.  We reviewed the game here  and it also made our Top 10 Cooperative Space Themed Games.  Overall, the game has an almost dark sense of humor!  My favorite joke: 


Overall, this is a heavier game (see below) that uses a sense of humor to keep it from being too much.

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8. CO-OP: the co-op game


CO-OP: the co-op game is a silly game where Hippies of all generations come together to stop Mondo Mart (which is nothing like MegaloMart or Walmart) from taking over the local CO-OP.   The rules encourage you to embrace the hippie vibe of the game and roleplay your characters.   The cards have funny little flavor text at the bottom,  but the best part are the ridiculous things you can buy at the shop such as 103% Dark Chocolate, Chaka Reversers, and the game itself (yes, you can buy CO-OP: the co-op game  in game).  It’s a silly but fun light-hearted co-op.    It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2017.


7. Unlock: Squeek and Sausage


Squeek and Sausage is an Unlock Escape Room game (we’ve reviewed a few of Unlock games: Unlock Epic Adventures and Unlock: Star Wars).  This particular universe, with a silly professor who has “doomed us all”, has been so popular that he has spawned two more Unlock Escape Room Games: A Noside Story (from Unlock: Secret Adventures set) and Professor Noside’s Animal-O-Matic (from the Unlock: Mythic Adventures Set).  Squeek and Sausage is still my favorite, as it introduced us to this hilarious world.


6. Agents of SMERSH


I was a kickstarter of the very original Agents of SMERSH back in 2016!  (And I am kickstarter on the reboot in 2021 as well: this is a neat game).  This is a storybook game (as it made our Top 10 Cooperative Storybook/Story Telling Games), where players roam around a world map trying to find and take out Dr. Lobo before he can “destroy the world!”.  But, this game is very much a love-letter to the silly 70s tropes of Secret Agents and James Bonds. The text that comes out in the storybooks is very action-packed, but still has decisions and a sense of humor. This game also made our Top 10 Cooperative Games “Off The Beaten Track”.  


5. Spirit of 77


This game almost didn’t make the list, because it’s a Role Playing Game rather than a board game, but the game is cooperative. It is also THE MOST RIDICULOUS GAME I HAVE EVER PLAYED.  In a good way.   We reviewed it here, and tried to explain how the game naturally encourages a sense of humor with playlists, twists, and other mechanisms.  The game is strongly dependent on the group itself having a sense of humor, so you have to make sure your group is in the right frame of mind.   I look forward to further plays with silly thing like Bigfoot jumping over 30 Ford Pintos in a Dodge Pacer.


4. Forgotten Waters


We initially reviewed Forgotten Waters here, but the game has just gotten better and better for us!  It’s a silly, pirate themed Adventure game with a great story!  It has some really silly jokes dressed up in an App that makes it that much more thematic!   Forgotten Waters made our Top 10 Cooperative Storybook/Story Telling Games, our Top 10 Cooperative Swashbuckling Games, as well as our Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Games of 2020.  It’s a real fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but still has a lot of good choices.


3. Scooby Doo: Escape From The Haunted Mansion


Scooby Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion is essentially a Scooby Doo themed Escape Room game.  The players, as a group, take the roles of the Scooby gang.  Each character has their own “verb” they apply to objects throughout the Mansion: Fred can investigate, Velma can research, Scooby can smell, and welllll, Shaggy can eat.  That’s right, Shaggy will frequently just pop things he finds around the Mansion into his mouth and try to eat them!   There’s a fun mystery to solve, and the interactions in the game are pretty hilarious.  This game really brings in that sense of humor from the Scooby Doo cartoon.   This game made our Top 10 Cooperative Creepy/Spooky Games as well as our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Board and Card Games!


2. Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger


This is probably the lightest cooperative game on this list, but maybe the funniest by itself!  It made the number 2 spot on our Top 10 Cooperative Storybook/Storytelling Games because of how easy it is to play and how ridiculous it is.  You can pick this up at Target for fairly cheap, and also play online fairly easily (see our Top 10 Cooperative Games You Can Play Online).   It’s a pretty simple story game, but the stories it tells are just hilarious and your choices do kinda matter!




1. Cantaloop


Cantaloop may be my game of the year for 2021! We reviewed it more deeply here. This game has the best sense of humor I have ever seen.  Jokes, throw-away and essential, permeate the game.  The art style is silly and works with the game.  And yet, for all the humor and silliness, this is still a fantastic point-and-click adventure game masquerading as a board game!  One of many throw-away jokes: “What’s the best time of day? 6:30 hands down!”  



A Cooperative Mode For Lost Ruins of Arnak


In last week’s entry of Co-op Gestalt, we discussed the Lost Ruins of Arnak, a 1-4 Player Worker Placement/Deck-Building game that is a competitive “get-the-most-victory-points” game. Some of my friends have loved this (beautiful production, lots of choices) and some of my friends hated it (too fiddly, bad online implementation, the “disparity of experience” problem). The conclusion of last week’s blog was simple: The Lost Ruins of Arnak needs a cooperative mode to help bring in the detractors.

So, I put my money where my mouth was. I mean, this is a cooperative games blog after all. Included somewhere below is a cooperative mode for Lost Ruins of Arnak. It’s only 18 cards and a page or two of additional rules.

Cooperative Mode


The cooperative mode adds two new sets of cards:

  1. 14 Shadow Creatures Motivations
  2. 4 Character Cards

The basic premise is that the players must work together to defeat some Aliens threatening the Earth! From the Introduction:

Some strange, shadowy creatures have been spotted in major metropolitan areas across the globe! These strange creatures, dubbed “The Shadow Creatures” have been dealing chaos, havoc, and damage everywhere they appear! What do the Shadow Creatures want? What are their motivations?

With the world in chaos, major governments have shared all their intel on the Shadow Creatures. Synthesizing this collective intel, the world’s top researchers have gleaned that the Shadow Creatures have some connection to the Lost Ruins of Arnak. But what is that connection?

The answer lies nears the site of the Lost Ruins of Arnak! The researchers must travel there to find the answer! Using research, exploration, smarts, and a little luck, the researchers will work together to discover the Shadow Creatures motivations and the appropriate response!

Can the researchers figure out the Shadow Creatures motivations before time runs out and the Earth is destroyed? Can YOU help them?

To win the game, players must together discover and satisfy the Shadow Creature Motivations to save the Earth!

At the start of the game, the players choose two Motivations cards (called Characteristics in the original 3×5 card version) which will set the victory conditions for the game.


At the end of the 5th round, the players must collectively be able to satisfy BOTH conditions to win the game. The rest of the game essentially stays the same, but all the victory points are unused as the Shadow Creatures Motivations (see above) take over for deciding victory points. No one cares about victory points when saving the Earth.


There aren’t any rule changes, but a couple of additions:

  1. Players can share resources at the start of round
  2. Players can do “research” to flip the Shadow Creatures Motivations up early.

The Shadow Creatures Motivation cards are face-down at the start of the game: they get flipped face-up at the start of rounds 4 and 5.   It can be too late to do what’s necessary, so there are mechanics for “Researching Motivations” so you can flip the Motivations earlier.   See the picture below for the original rules for how Researching Motivations work.  The full rules are available in the PDF at the end.


Essentially, players cooperatively have to choose when to use resources to build engines or research motivations.  This is one of the things the players will have to discuss!



One of the things the cooperative mode adds is a unique character card for each player.  Why?  Firstly, because variable-player powers in cooperative games tends (for me anyways) to make co-op game more fun!  Do you want to play “MoneyBags” Thad or “Sky-King” Cooper or “Deal-man” Kerns or “Inspirational” Allison?  More fun!  However, more importantly, the addition of variable players powers helps balance the game:  the Research Motivations actions costs extra resources and by giving characters extra resources, we are preserving the original balance from the original game. 


Solo Mode


The cooperative mode essentially adds a couple of new solo modes to the Lost Ruins of Arnak! The cooperative mode scales from 1 to 4 Players, so you can play solo by playing the cooperative mode with one player controlling 1 character. For a harder solo mode, a solo player can control 2 characters in the cooperative mode.

Alpha Version


So, directly below is the PDF that describes version 1.0.0 of the cooperative rules. This is the Alpha version of the rules: they work, we’ve play-tested them, and we like them, but there are still some rough corners. We are releasing this partly so we can get feedback. Was any Motivations too easy? Too hard? Do certain actions require clarification?

Lost Ruins Of Arnak Cooperative Mode (PDF)  Version 1.0.0 

Please feel free to send us email at



I’ve really enjoyed my competitive and cooperative plays of The Lost Ruins of Arnak. Hopefully, the addition of the cooperative mode will bring in some of friends who didn’t like the original game.

Exploring The Lost Ruins of Arnak and The Disparity of Experience: Why We Love Cooperative Games


We will having our next RichieCon 2021 very soon (see here for previous RichieCon 2019 and RichieCon 2018 highlights)! This is our yearly (modulo last year) event where we get together and play games for two to three days at the Rec Center at the top of the street! This year, we have people coming from all over! Tucson AZ! Las Cruces NM! Phoenix AZ! Madison WI! Fort Hayes KS! It’ll be fun to get together with friends I haven’t seen in a long time!


Unfortunately, my friend Nevin can’t join us this year, so he went ahead and sent me an early birthday present for RichieCon 2021! The Lost Ruins of Arnak! (See above). This is a hot new Euro that’s currently up for the Kinnerspiel des Jahres 2021 award and it won the BoardGameGeek Medium Game of the Year for 2020! I love the theme (kind of an Indiana-Jones-exploration thene) and I think it would be great for the “hot games” table at RichieCon 2021! So Nevin, in all his magnanimity, went ahead and gifted a copy of Lost Ruins of Arnak to RichieCon 2021! You’ll note that this is not a cooperative game, it’s a stone-cold Euro. So why are we talking it in this cooperative games blog? Keep reading dear reader …



I think one of the reasons this game is up for the Kinnerspiel is because it looks so nice! The components and art are fantastic! See above and below.


The art on the cards, board, and locations is downright gorgeous. The plastic components (arrowheads, gems, tablets) are top-notch quality and fun to manipulate. Overall, the game looks gorgeous on the table.

Solo Mode

The solo mode is pretty good: it’s how I learned the game. There’s deck of about 12 cardboard cards (see above) which basically are the deck of a second “automated” player. There are very special rules for what the automated player’s cards do: you basically alternate turns between the automated player deck and your “normal” turn. The solo player plays like a normal player would, and the automated player usually blocks spaces and take resources/spaces before you can sometimes. The automated player represents another player “blocking” you.

Screenshot from 2021-07-03 08-56-42

If you look online (see above for web site), you’ll see there is a Solo Campaign available to play as well. I haven’t played it yet, but you can either print out the solo campaign or play online with it.


Overall, I enjoyed the Solo mode okay. I didn’t love it, but it really did teach me the game.

In Person vs. Online


So, at this point, I’ve played 1 solo game in person and 2 4-Player in person games.

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I have also played 2 4-Player online games on BoardGameArena (see above). The experience has been very interesting. Simply put, people who have played Lost Ruins of Arnak in person have liked it, and people who have played it online have not. One of the players even said he think he’d love the game in person, but he hated the BoardGameArena implementation. Me and someone else played both online and in person, and we liked both experiences.

I think that because the game is so big and sprawling, Lost Ruins of Arnak can be fiddly and intimidating online: you’ll notice that BGA had to squish the whole board into a small computer screen that you have to scroll a lot (Recall that most online games seem lesser games if you have to scroll too much) . But, if you play in person, you can see the whole grandiose board and focus easily on the areas you need to.

I think the lesson here is simple: play Lost Ruins of Arnak in person first, and then, if you like it, then try it online. Once you know the game and like it, the BGA implementation is good. My experience has been that people don’t seem to like this game if they are introduced to it online.

Disparity of Experience


So, after each play of the game, I asked people what they liked and didn’t about the Lost Ruins of Arnak. One of the things that came up is a criticism of many games: “Anyone has played the game more has an advantage”. I trounced my friends online (I didn’t mean to: it’s hard to keep track of points until the very end) because I have played more times than them. This led to discussions of “This is like Lords of Waterdeep: I’ll never play that game with Kurt because he’s played like 100 times and he just destroys us! It’s fun, but I don’t like to be destroyed!” Games like this suffer from a disparity of experience: the more experienced players (at that game) tend to beat soundly the less experienced players. It’s not like me and my friends have to win, but it’s usually no fun to watch someone do so much better and take away options (especially in worker placement games like Lost Ruins of Arnak and Lords of Waterdeep).

It’s pretty clear that half of the people I played Lost Ruins of Arnak with will probably never want to play this game again. The disparity of experience (both the first game and future games) really soured them to the game.

(I guess you could argue it’s my fault that I soured the game to my friends, but it was clear to everyone in my group that this was just a first play/learning game. The point was that me and Teresa both had an advantage as we had played more than them. And as long as we all play this game together, we will continue have that advantage. On the same note, I will never play Lords of Waterdeep with Kurt because our disparity of experience is so wide).

Why We Like Cooperative Games


And this is why we like cooperative board and card games: they don’t tend to suffer from disparity of experience nearly as much as competitive games. Even if one player has played a cooperative game significantly more than the other players, everyone is a cooperative game can usually still participate and contribute! It’s a group effort and you can still feel empowered contributing to the shared victory or commiserate with your friends in a shared loss. Either way, all players are part of the group.

You can still have Alpha Player Syndrome, where a cooperative game can be co-opted by an aggressive player, but this is orthogonal to the disparity of experience problem. An Alpha Player tends to be an Alpha Player regardless of their experience. As an example: I remember teaching my friends a game and we had playing for about an hour. The Alpha Player walked in, and after after 10 minutes, started telling us what to do! He didn’t know all the rules AND he had never played before. The Alpha Player is just an Alpha Player. But usually the problem is pretty easy to solve: don’t play with Jerks. (There are other ways to mitigate Alpha Player Sydrome: see here for some suggestions).


You may or may not like Lost Ruins of Arnak: you will probably have a decent idea of your interest level after reading this. The solo mode in the physical board game is good for learning the game, and there are even solo campaigns (online) to extend your solo experiences! I strongly suggest playing the physical board game in person first to get the best experience! The online experience on BoardGameArena is decent, but that online experience seems to have soured many of my friends on this game.

Unfortunately, Lost Ruins of Arnak definitely suffers from the disparity of experience problem, which tends to make certain groups of people dismiss it. I think the disparity of experience problem does go away over time, but it’s definitely something that will sour certain people (as I definitely saw). The solution is obvious: we really need a cooperative mode for Lost Ruins of Arnak. EDIT: So we made one: see here