“I Know The Secret of Monkey Island!” or Discussion of What Makes a Solo Game Fun

About a week ago, on September 19th 2022, the final game in the Monkey Island series (Return to Monkey Island) was published on Nintendo Switch and Steam. The Monkey Island series is a a bunch of point-and-click adventure video games starting with The Secret of Monkey Island. To my mind, the original game, The Secret of Monkey Island, is one of the greatest video games ever made, and the other five in the series are just as good (well, mostly). The games are funny, they have interesting puzzles, they are well-crafted, and they are well-written.

To be clear: these are not lot a lot of games like these in the current marketplace: there’s no “shoot-em-up”, there’s no “online multiplayer”, there’s no “do stuff in realtime” (mostly). These are adventures where you go explore your own pace solving puzzles in the islands of the carribbean. There’s a story.


I make the bold claim that the original Secret of Monkey Island (see above) is so thoughtful and tightly crafted, I would say it approaches the status of literature, telling an amazing acompelling story regardless of what Steve Jobs thinks: See Ron Gilbert’s post on meeting Steve Jobs here.


We have frequently discussed Monkey Island here: it was exciting when Monkey Island I and II were ported to iOS (that’s good), but depressing when Disney let the app lapse on new releases of the operating system (that’s bad). We did find that GOG (Good Old Games) had made the first 4 games available. That’s good! Ron GIlbert had even famously texted Disney to sell him the rights to Monkey Island so he could make a new game. They didn’t “seem” to respond (that’s bad), but after his initial contact, we see that Ron Gilbert and Dave Grosssman have teamed up once again and “somehow” gotten the rights to make the final chapter of the Monkey Island saga. That’s good! That’s where we finally find … the secret of Monkey Island in Return To Monkey Island.

Quick Review

If you liked any of the Monkey Island games, you will like this one. It has all the qualities of the original games: funny, well-crafted puzzles, and a sense of exploration. I wish they had stayed with the art style from Monkey Island 3 (with the animated style), but I mostly like the new art style here: see below.


My only complaint was that the right stick (I played on Switch) was always supposed to move around to “hot spots” on the screen, but if you sat for even a second, it would just disappear. I had to move the left stick then the right stick just to jump around. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was annoying.


I don’t really want to share too much more, because this is a game about discovery (in so many ways). One major joke throughout the series (and indeed, Ron Gilbert’s other games) is that even though the original game in the series was called The Secret of Monkey Island, you never find out what the secret is in the game itself! In Deathspank (another Ron Gilbert game), one character even proclaims to know the secret, but declines to follow up on it.

In this game, we do find the secret.

There’s a moment of silence in the very last frame of the game where Guybrush Threepwood just sits there, reflecting. For a few moments. And you find yourself reflecting too, almost as if you were sitting there with Guybrush as well. It was one of the most poignant moments in a video game I have ever played.

This is a great game and a great representation of the series: by all means pick up The Return to Monkey Island if you like the series. To be clear: this is a go-at-your-own pace adventure, with lots of puzzles to solve as you explore: This is not a shoot-em-up or MMORPG. This is a solitaire adventure.

Solo Games


“Hey! Wait a minute! Isn’t this a cooperative board and card games blog? Why are you yammering so much about a video game?”

Yes, yes, you are right! Why are we talking so much about Monkey Island? In many ways, my expectations of a solo game come from my experiences with adventure games, text and graphical. The text-only adventure games of the late 1970s and the point-and-click adventure games of LucasArts (like Monkey Island) of the 1980s were my first solo gaming experiences. They set the bar pretty high for what I wanted in solo game:

  1. Not too much maintenance.  By having the video game engine keeping track of a lot of stuff, you just get to play the “fun parts”.   You stay engaged.  If you are doing too much maintenance per turn to keep a solo board game going, it takes you out of the world.  I think the solo game of Deep Space D6: Armada suffered from too much maintenance per turn: see our review here.  A better example would be Legends of Sleepy Hollow: it’s great as a cooperative game, but it has way too much context switching and maintenance to be a fun solo game. See our review here.
  2. A sense of humor.  It’s hard to expect a sense of humor in a lot of solo/cooperative board and card games, because typically you are trying to save the world!  “Save the world or we all die!! AhHHH!”  The Monkey Island series showed that you can still have fun and laugh even when trying complicated puzzles. It’s rare that solo games have  sense of humor.  Maybe that’s why I liked the Cantaloop series so much! See reviews here and here. The Cantaloop solo board game adventures have a sense of humor, but still present a real interesting game.  See out Top 10 Cooperative Games with a Sense of Humor.
  3. Well-crafted text and puzzles. I find myself drawn to “one-and-done” games (like Exit, Unlock, Detective: City of Angels) because they have well-crafted puzzles and mysteries.  Solo games where some puzzle is just “randomly combined to make a puzzle” are less fun to me.  I like the narrative to keep me involved,  and I like to feel like the puzzles make sense in a context. See our Top 10 Cooperative Detective Games and Top 10 Cooperative Spooky Games.
  4. Exploration/ Engaging Environment. Even if a game fails the first three criteria, as long as a game embraces a theme and won’t let go, I can still love it as a solo game.  The Robinson Crusoe solo game breaks all three of the previous criteria, but I still like it because it really does feel like I am stuck on an Island trying to get off: I think the exploration aspect keeps me engaged.
  5. Play At My Own Pace.  I am generally not a fan of real-time games.  In the Monkey Island series, there are very few true realtime puzzles: most of the time, you can solve a puzzle at your own pace.   I find that I prefer solo games where I DO NOT have a realtime clock or timer.


I hate to say this, but solo games have a hard time competing against video games sometimes.  I think there are a lot of great solo board and card games out there (see Cantaloop above), but it seems to be harder for me to find solo games I really like because of the bar that the Monkey Island games set.



If you like ponderous exploration games with a sense-of-humor, and you’ve never tried any of the Monkey Island games, check out the very first one to see if you might like this series!  Basically, if you like the Unlock games and Exit games or Cantaloop, (or frankly any Escape Room board games), you might really enjoy the Monkey Island series.  I play the original The Secret of Monkey Island on my PS3 (I bought the actual physical disk), but you can still get The Secret of Monkey Island from Good Old Games (http://www.gog.com).  I promise this isn’t an ad … I just don’t know where to get it otherwise.  I have the Amiga 3000 version, but I don’t think the disks even work anymore.  EDIT: You can also get the Monkey Island games on Steam.

If you find that you love the first Monkey Island game, you need to play Money Island II and Monkey Island III!!  Only play the final installment, The Return to Monkey Island (on Steam and Switch) after you’ve absorbed (at least) the first three.  Monkey Island IV and V are still good games, but not as essential as the first three.  

You want a new solo game series to keep you busy and laughing for a while? Try the Monkey Island series. They are my favorite solo games of all time.

A Review of Platypus: A Cooperative Party Game

Platypus is a cooperative word game meant for larger groups of 3-8 people: it’s a party game!


I picked this up from GameNerdz during one of my online orders.  It came out probably about mid 2022.



Um, this is a party word game. There’s not much to unbox here: there is a little board to put word cards on, and a bunch of word cards.


There are some numbered cards which describe the 8 positions on the board.

Mostly, there are word cards. There are two types of word cards: adjective cards (see above) and noun cards (see below).


If you are starting to get a Apples to Apples vibe from the game, don’t ignore that vibe! I really think this is striving to be the cooperative Apples to Apples in many ways.


Overall, the game has a cute cartoony platypus vibe. The cards are easy to read and the orange blue color palette is very distinctive without being too annoying.

Solo Play


Solo play? What are you talking about? This is a party game!”

Oh yes, Platypus definitely needs at least 3 people to play! But, I always try to play every game solo at first, so I can teach my friends how to play. This game does not follow Saunders’ Law: it doesn’t have any solo mode, and it really can’t have such a mode. Even with something like the Changing Perspectives idea, you can’t really play this solo! Too much of the hidden information can only be gleaned from contextual implications: you can’t really just look at the board to make pure logical deductions.

Without a lot of work, you really can’t play this solo. But that doesn’t mean you can’t set it up to teach it to yourself! That’s what I did!



The players divide into two groups: Guides and Explorers: basically, the Explorers (1 or 2 people, depending on the number of players) are trying to guess which of the eight noun cards is “the Platypus” (the hidden word) and the Guides (which are everybody else) are trying to help the Explorers find “the Platypus” using only the adjective cards they have.


For example, one Guide might have the 7 adjective cards above as clues. After the Guide shows an adjective, the Explorers will need to eliminate one or two Nouns on the board: you can see the board below where the Explorers have been able to whittle down the board to only 3 Nouns!! Which is the final answer? What noun is “the Platypus”?



There is a little strategy in being a Guide because you are always discarding cards, and you only draw back up when you get below 4 cards. So, you may want to reserve some better adjectives to when the noun is almost chosen.

Again, it feels a little like cooperative Apples to Apples: Guides play adjective cards to help Explorers guess noun cards.



Apples to Apples is a very apt comparison to Platypus. In Apples to Apples, a single Judge (like the Explorer) tries to choose the best match for the noun from the adjectives he gets (from many Guides): it’s a very subjective silly assessment! But, in Apples to Apples, if you have crappy words, you can just say “these suck” and just throw out a crappy card to the judge: sometimes complaining about how bad your cards are was the funnest part of the game! Or you can go for the funniest implications with the crappy cards you have! In Apples to Apples, you can still have fun with crappy cards!

And that’s the problem with Platypus: you can’t have fun with crappy cards! You are too constrained! Platypus is fun as long as The Guides have relevant adjectives to use. I remember being shocked that Guides started with eight adjective cards (“Wow, that’s a lot!”), but then I saw why: frequently, Guides get adjectives that are not really apropos! And Guides don’t get to draw back up to eight adjectives: they have to shrink down to three adjectives before they can draw more! Basically, if you get crappy cards, you are stuck with crappy cards! And then Platypus is NOT fun! It’s frustrating!


Compare this to Codenames or So Clover or Just One where the players gets to choose words as clues! Any word they want!! Even when players get to choose any word in the English language, sometimes those games are still hard! But at least you feel like you have agency and choice. Now imagine you only have 4-8 words and they all suck! No fun. In a word, it was … Frustrating.



House Rules


I think some House Rules could help fix this game up a little.

A very simple rule to help: allow the Guides to always draw back up to 8 adjectives after they play an adjective card!! That way, the Guides always have 8 adjective cards! I feel like the game was the least fun when I had fewer adjective cards.

An addition of a some reset tokens would be useful: a Guide could discard one of the reset tokens to draw a brand new hand of adjectives!! You could make an “egg” be the one-time reset token, and turning it over would be a cracked egg! It would fit with the theme of the game! I guess each player would have one “egg” token which would allow them a one-time “redraw all my adjectives”. Heck, even Mysterium allows up to 3 clue redraws for the ghost … why can’t Platypus?



Platypus is an okay cooperative party game: it’s not bad, but it’s not good. I’d recommend any of the Top 10 Cooperative Party Games on this list before Platypus. It just doesn’t feel like players have enough choice or agency for this to be fun.

I can’t recommend Platypus as it stands, because there’s so many other great cooperative party games which are better! BUT, having said that, I think with just a few tweaks (using some House Rules like we described previously), Platypus can be a lot more fun! Give the game a try with our House Rules: you may love Platypus with those changes applied!

A Review of Flamecraft: A game that’s not cooperative but it does have a solo mode, so you can play it cooperatively

Flamecraft is a competitive, worker placement game where players compete to get the most victory points. Players each play as a dragon helping out a local village.


You might be wondering “Why are you reviewing a competitive game on your cooperative games blog?” For two reasons:

  1. Solo Mode: Flamecraft does have a solo mode, and we take a look at a lot of solo games here at Co-op Gestalt: we have looked at Batman: The Dark Knight Returns here and Nemo’s War here, just to name a few.
  2. Implied Cooperative Mode: If a game does have a solo mode, we can frequently derive a cooperative mode for it.  We did this for Canvas (the Converse of Saunders’ Law, see here) and something similar happened for Elia and Something Shiny (see here).  We’ll talk about this more in the Cooperative Mode section below.


Flamecraft is an incredibly cute game: the version (above) is the deluxe Kickstarter version, with a pin, bookmarks, and extra cards.

Unboxing and Components


The deluxe version of Flamecraft is chock-full of gorgeous components.

The cards are linen finished, and the art is top notch.  If you only get the regular version of Flamecraft, you will still get the same super cute art, if not all the deluxe wooden bits and mats.




This was one of the better rulebooks I have read in a while. The rules were well-written, easy to understand, and had a lot of pictures annotating the examples.


The game is just so cute. The components pages might have been overkill!


There’s not THAT many components, and they take up two pages! But it’s nice to see everything well annotated.


The set-up pages were fantastic: see above.


You can see from the example above, there were lots of pictures, lots of annotations, and large, easy-to-read text.


One of my favorite parts of the rulebook is that they use the special “!!” section to note a rule that is an “expert clarifications” (see above).  This is a rule you won’t read or understand the first time through the rulebook, but after you understand the game better and are looking for exceptions/clarifications, it’s easy to find them.  (We saw something like this in Tokyo Sidekick, except they used red text to show these “expert clarifications”: see our review of Tokyo Sidekick here).


You will have no trouble getting through this rulebook. It was fantastic.



This is a pretty simple worker placement game: the box tells us we can play 1-5 Players at ages 10+.


Each player gets their own summary code: see above.  The game is actually quite simple!  On your turn, you move your dragon to a new shop in the village:


If there are other dragons there, you have to give them each one resource: this is the penalty for going to a popular shop!

Once on a village space, you choose one of two paths: Gather or Enchant.


In Gather mode, you collect as many resources are in the location!  For example, for the Draco Bell above you would get 6 meats (3 for enchantments, 1 for base location, 2 for artisan dragons already there), and 1 diamond (from the diamond artisan dragon).   If you have some artisan dragons and the shop has space (Draco Bell doesn’t have any openings), you can place it and get a reward.  Finally, then you can activate one artisan dragon:


Pan (above) allows you to draw one more artisan dragon into your hand.

If you choose the Enchant mode, you will be enchanting the location, which adds resources to a location and (typically and more importantly) gives you victory points!  See three different enchantments below.

For example, if you pay 2 leaves and 3 meat for the Fairy’s Jubilee Enchantment, you  get 4 victory points and new artisanal dragon!  (And you place the enchantment on a Bread shop to make it more productive!)  One of the best parts of casting an enchantment is that you then activate ALL artisanal dragons on that location!!!

And that’s pretty much the main idea of the game!   Move, Gather or Enchant, repeat!!! There are also other rules about new locations, Fancy Dragons, and a few other mechanisms (coins are special), but that’s the main idea!


Players play until they run out of Artisanal Dragons OR Enchantments!  Whoever has the most victory points wins!

Solo Mode


The solo mode is covered in two pages at the very back of the rulebook.  I admit, the rules for solo look daunting at first, but it really doesn’t change the game that much.  The solo player will play a single dragon trying to get 75 victory points using the normal mechanisms in the game. To simulate other players on the board, there will be a very simple AI moving the other dragons around the board: so you may still have to pay resource to go to a space you really want!  The AI also casts enchantments as well, so it’s as if another bunch of players are playing.


The goal of the solo game is to get as many victory points as you can: it’s not considered a win unless you get at least 75 victory points! See the victory point track above, early in the game I am at 24 victory points.


Flamecraft works fine, if not great, as a solo mode. It is a really good way to learn the game. The AI operating the other dragons is simple enough, so you aren’t overwhelmed by lots of upkeep. The game also moves quickly and is fun. The only reason I say this is “fine, if not great” is that the game is a little light: however, I think that’s the point of this game (see our Conclusion). This is meant to be a lighter worker placement game.

There is a fair amount of set-up and tear-down to the game, but once you get into the solo game, it moves quickly and is fun. It is also great way to learn the game so you can teach your friends.

Competitive Mode


In the base game, the game is competitive: each player plays a dragon, moves around the village collecting resources to help generate victory points. Whomever has the most points at game end wins.


The competitive mode works very well. It’s simple to explain, play moves quickly, and there’s not a lot of take-that: the only take that is really that you have to give all other players resources if you go to their village location (and that’s pretty mild).

Cooperative Mode


Elia and Something Shiny is a multiplayer game we reviewed a little while ago (see here). It’s a cooperative game where the players are all working together to play “one creature” (Elia). The players all have to come to consensus as to what Elia will do on her turn. As a group, they operate one character.


For Flamecraft, we can do the same kind of thing to get a cooperative mode! Players collectively operate one dragon in solo mode, much like all players operating Elia in Elia and Something Shiny. A cooperative group will simply play one dragon in solo mode, trying to amass the needed 75 victory points for a win!


You might remember that we also suggested a similar cooperative mode for Canvas: in that review, we called this inferred cooperative mode Saunders’ Law Converse:

The converse of Saunders’ Law would say “If a game has a solo mode, designers should really put in a viable cooperative mode“.

In the case of Canvas, Elia and Something Shiny, and Flamecraft, this inferred cooperative mode is dirt simple to try out: just play the solo mode with multiple people.  


One of the reasons I think this implied cooperative mode works is that these are ALL LIGHTWEIGHT FAMILY GAMES: I can very easily see playing all of these games with a younger child operating the main character (dragon, Elia, etc), with Mom and Dad “helping” like a cooperative game. If you wanted to get Flamecraft, but were wary you couldn’t play it cooperatively, worry no more! You can!! I will say that this implied cooperative mode probably isn’t the best way to play: Flamecraft was meant to be a game with multiple players and it works best as a competitive game … but honestly, there’s not that much “take-that” in the game if you were worried about a super competitive game.

Sense of Humor

So this game has a little bit of a sense of humor. The Enchantments all have silly names (I think Hobbichino, above, is my favorite).


The names of the locations in the village are silly. Draco Bell? Like Taco Bell?

Honestly, this sense of humor didn’t detract from the game for us: it lightened the mood and made the game that much more fun.



Flamecraft is a beautiful game with gorgeous art. The gameplay is really straight-forward, it’s easy to teach, and players will always feel like they are doing something on their turn. There’s not really a lot of getting in each other’s way other way, so if you don’t like super-competitive games, Flamecraft will be up your alley.


The art style is a very much an indicator of what the game is like: if you don’t like the art, you may not like the game. This is a simpler worker placement game: it may not be the first game you want to teach a new gamer, but Flamecraft would be very good as a next-step game. It’s a little more complicated than some intro games (like Forbidden Island, Splendor, Century Spice), but not too much more complicated.

The solo mode is great for learning the game, and pretty good for ongoing play. The implied cooperative mode also gives players another play option if they want to play Flamecraft cooperatively: this cooperative mode might be best for a family playing together … but it’s probably not the best way to play! Honestly, the competitive mode with multiple players is probably the best way to play, but the extra modes give the game more variety.

Flamecraft is a great “lighter “worker placement game: it’s super cute aesthetics, gorgeous components, and sense of humor will attract a lot of players. And it’s pretty fun. One of my friends wanted to order this immediately after playing it.

A Review of Switch and Signal: A Cooperative Train Game

I have many friends who love trains: talking trains, taking trains, training trains … Don and Patrick in particular. When I go to lunch with Don and Patrick, I’ll say: “I’m going get to a drink refill, you guys talk about trains while I’m gone”. It’s not that I don’t like trains, I just don’t have the same passion that they do. So, I was excited when I discovered Switch and Signal: a cooperative train game from Kosmos! This ticks the boxes for all of us: trains, cooperative, game!


Unboxing and Gameplay


Switch and Signal comes in a standard sized box. It’s about the same size as what we call the Ticket To Ride sized box: I suspect this is not a coincidence.


The rulebook is colorful and easy to read. 

This is a train game, so it has to come with a map! In fact, the game board is a two-sided map! The Europe side (above left) is the introductory map.   The North America side (the flip side, above right) is the more advanced map.


This is a train game, so there have to awesome little plastic trains! Note that each train has space for a goods cube!


In fact, there is a die for each type of train!  Players will roll those dice to move trains of that color. 


Also, because this is a train game, there have to be goods cubes to deliver!!  See the colored cubes (yellow, red, white, blue) above. This game is all about delivering goods cubes to the harbor before time runs out!!  And because this game is called Switch and Signal, there are switches (the little black circles above) and signals (the green discs).  The signals open train lines, and the switches redirect trains along different lines.


For example: the black train above can’t move across the Salzburg switch because the switching is the blocking the way.


The grey train (above) can move into Marseille (with the white goods cube) because the (green) signal on his track is open.  Notice the (red) signal on the leftmost (east) entry into  Marseille is NOT open!


How do players operate the switches and signals?  Through card play!  Each turn, each player plays his 5 (or more) cards to cause stuff to happen on the train tracks. The cards are dirt simple: you can move a signal (left green card), update a switch (middle black card) or move a train (rightmost train card).  And that’s it!   Note that we say “move a signal” because you can only move a signal from some other part of the board to an empty signal slot … you can’t introduce more signals!  Similarly, on a switch space you can only reconfigure a switch (no moving them off the switch).  And finally, you can move a train via dice. Remember those dice you saw earlier?


When you play a train card, you can move a single train, using and rolling the appropriate die.  Notice that the trains all move different speeds! The grey trains tend to moves slowly, brown trains  tend move normally, and the black trains tend to move very fast!

How do trains get on the map?  The departure cards (see above) specify what color trains come out (and also move them). Usually, one comes out every turn.  If you run out of departure cards, you have run out of time and players lose the game!


The time tokens (above) help count down time as well.  Every time one of your train gets “stuck” (can’t move because it’s behind another train, or at a closed switch, or at a closed signal), players lose some time tokens.  If players lose too many time tokens, they discard an extra departure card! The normal flow of time causes the departure cards to count down slowly, but blocked trains lose extra time. It’s important in the game to keep all your trains moving!


You’ll notice the two brown numbered dice above: the sum of those two dice tell you where a train will come out! There are 10 locations, labelled 2-12. This mechanism adds a a bit of randomness in the game, but the locations 6,7,8 tend to be the busiest locations.  See below and below.

Putting all together, players need to try (cooperatively) to deliver all the good to the harbor before time runs out!


If you deliver all the cubes, you win!  If you run out of time (no more delivery cards), you lose!


Overall, this game looks good.  All the cards and locations are easy to read and see.


This is a very good rulebook.  It’s short and succinct: only 8 pages.  The pictures are very helpful and useful, especially the set-up which spans two pages!   It is so easy to set-up!! The base rules are explained well. More importantly: all the edge cases seem to be discussed one way or the other.   This rulebook is easy to read, easy to peruse, and easy to search.  

Solo Play


Somewhat surprisingly, this game doesn’t adhere to Saunders’ Law: Switch and Signal doesn’t have a solo mode!  In the modern gaming landscape, many cooperative games add a solo mode just to appeal to more gamers.  Nope!  Not Switch and Signal!


Weirdly, I don’t think it would be that hard to add a solo play.  I went ahead and played two-handed as if I were two players and it worked fine (see above): in fact, it was a great way to learn the game. After getting through the game, I could see how easy it would be to play this one-handed for a solo game!


This is nominally a hidden information game, as players are allowed to talk about the cards in their hands, but they can’t show the other players.  (It’s not 100% clear: the rules explicitly say you can “talk about the cards in your hand” but the rules only imply you can’t show your cards to other players).  So, a two-handed solo game has everything laid bare like the picture above: there’s no hidden information!  So, is the game too easy with all information laid bare?  Perhaps that’s why there’s no solo mode?

Honestly, I had a great time playing a two-handed solo game!  Even though I lost my first solo game (see above), I could easily see playing this as a solo game again.  It was fun!  So, my recommendation?  Play it two-handed  solo to learn the game: that was a great way to learn it.  If you like that mode, there’s nothing to stop you from playing solo that way!  I don’t think the board game police will come and get you for playing this solo.  I think.

Cooperative Play


I was able to get this played with 2, 3, and 4 players and we all had a blast!  It was quite a hit at RichieCon 2022!  As we look at the board, we decide as a group which things we need to deal with: we set direction for the current player and a little bit of direction for the next player.  We have fun just having these discussions! I mean, the train people love just having the discussions about trains!

I could see there might be an element of Alpha Player Syndrome in Switch and Signal, as you really do need to discuss things and come to consensus as you play: Alpha Players aren’t as good at coming to consensus.   This is especially true (when sometimes your hand isn’t very good) when all you can do is set-up the next player!   So, I am pretty sure that’s why you can only discuss what’s in your hand and not show it.  I think if an Alpha Player shows up in your game, you have to lean hard into “I can’t show you what I have” rule and simply engage discussion at a higher level.  If your group luckily avoids the Alpha Player, I don’t think there would be a problem showing your cards.



If Switch and Signal were trying to be the cooperative replacement for Ticket To Ride, I’d say they succeeded!   Switch and Signal is a light game that plays quickly (in 45 minutes), it’s easy to teach, it’s easy to play, but it has lots of interesting decisions!  There’s not quite as much cooperation in Switch and Signal as other cooperative games (like, say The Reckoners, which we’ve reviewed here, where every dice face and order matters), but that’s probably a good thing: my train friends tend to be fiercely independent creatures!  There’s just enough cooperation to make us feel like we are working together, but there are enough independent decisions to keep each player focused on their hand.

Switch and Signal is a rare thing: a cooperative, simple, light, but deep game that plays quickly. I suspect me and my train friends will be playing this quite a bit in the future.  If you aren’t a train person, I suspect this game will still appeal to you.


Top 10 Cooperative Light Deduction Board and Card Games

Recall that we did the Top 10 Cooperative Detective Board and Card Games here: we could have also called that list Top 10 Cooperative Heavy Deduction Games because many games on that list are heavier deduction games. This list here concentrates more on the lighter cooperative deduction games that are easy to bring out in a group. When you want something quick and simple, try one of these!

10. Crack The Code

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Crack The Code has interesting ideas with hidden elements moving around the board.   Player have to get the proper colored balls to each player.  The components are little rubber balls that go from player to player and can generally only move left and right.  There are a few component issues (sometimes the little balls get stuck), which is why this is number 10, but there are enough interesting ideas in this light deduction game to make it worth a look.

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9. Mysterium

NOT the USA release of Mysterium!

The only reason that Mysterium is number 9 on our list is because the deduction is more inference and guessing than other games on this list.   But Mysterium is so fun, it has to be on this list!  One player plays the ghost, giving clues to all the other players.  These clues (clue cards) are meant to help the players guess aspects of the ghost’s murder!   Using these clue cards, which are crazy and wild pictures, (see some below) players try to “deduce” what the ghost is trying to communicate!  It’s so hard to be the ghost, but ultimately very rewarding.  Some players may like Mysterium Park better: it’s essentially the same game but a little more streamlined.


8. Mysterium Park


Speaking of Mysterium Park: This game offers a very similar experience to Mysterium, but in a streamlined fashion.  The game center on a carnival setting, with creepy/spooky cards in that world.


A game of Mysterium Park only plays in 28 minutes, but has the same creepy and weird cards that Mysterium does.  It’s also a much smaller box!


7. Outfoxed


Outfoxed is a very lightweight games, mostly for kids but still a fun deduction romp you want something very simple.  The ages of the game are labelled 5+: I could easily playing with my young nieces. But, I could also see this being an end-of-the-night game when you want something light and fun.  


The components are nice, and it even has a little toy factor with the orange clue looker-upper!


Overall, we had a nice time playing Outfoxed, even if it is a little lighter.


6. 5-Minute Mystery


We reviewed 5-Minute Mystery here some time ago: this game is only 5 to 8 minutes per session, but has a major toy factor with the codex the players use.  This game is a combination of “find the hidden symbols” and “deduction”.   I didn’t think I’d like the hidden symbols portion, but it was fun and worked great in a cooperative group setting.  This is a fun, light deduction game with a cool plastic codex!


5. Stop Thief!


Stop Thief!  is a cooperative deduction game by Restoration Games.  The original 1986 game was one-vs-all, as one player played “the thief” moving around the board, and others had to try to catch him.  When Restoration Games “restored” this game, they added an app which can play as “the thief”, thus allowing the game to be played fully cooperatively.  Players work together to deduce where the thief has been so they can try and catch him.  This is a fun little puzzle with the thief controlled by the app!  Stop Thief! also made our Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Games with an App!


4. Rising 5: Runes of Asteros


Rising 5: Runes of Asteros is an older game which we reviewed here.  It’s essentially a cooperative version of Mastermind, where players have to work together to deduce some symbols.  This game is set in a fantastical space setting with Vincent Dutraite art and  it simply looks fantastic.  The game is run by an App giving out clues to the players as they try to guess the symbols.  A player can sit out and you can play without the app if you like, but the App is great! You can can scan your board with your camera and it will give you the hints you need to deduce!  This is a light game that can be played in about 20 minutes.  It also made our Top 10 Cooperative Board and Card Games with an App!


3. Paint The Roses


Paint The Roses is a deduction game by Ben Goldman where players have to guess the symbols on each others cards.  If you don’t do it quickly enough, the Queen of Hearts comes around and chops of your head!   We originally reviewed Paint the Roses here!

This is a silly deduction game for 2-4 players with beautiful art by Jacqui Davis.  The deluxe version has beautiful plastic components.  This game is interesting because you can go as shallow or deep as you want in your deduction: do you use just positive information or negative information as well?  See our review here for more discussion!


2. Shipwreck Arcana


We reviewed Shipwreck Arcana here some time ago, but it has become a favorite game here at Co-op Gestalt! Shipwreck Arcana inspired us to develop the Changing Perspectives idea and also made the top spot on our Top 10 “Small” Cooperative GamesShipwreck Arcana is a very pure deduction game where players can only use the information on the board to guess what number is hidden for each player.  It’s a fun and light deduction game, but it can be very thinky.   Some might have trouble with calling this a “light” game, but at the end of the day, there’s not too much too it!  Just some cards and a few things you can do on your turn: it’s just that this is probably the thinkiest game on this list!

Basic Set-up (for a solo game): After a few turns where the DOOM token has moved up to 3, and the Guesses token is only at 0! I haven’t guessed anything right yet!

1. Hanabi


Hanabi is an older cooperative card game, but it is such a tight and clever deduction game!  It’s probably the lightest physical game on this list, as it is just a small deck of cards (see below), but it may be the heaviest in pure deduction.  Hanabi is the definition of a hidden information game, as each player can see all hands of cards except their own!  Players can only communicate in very strict terms: “You have a/some [color or number]” and that’s it!  It’s pure deduction and won the Spiel Des Jahres game of the year in 2013.  This game took my game groups by storm in 2013 but it still gets played to this day.