It’s Gloomhaven, the end. No, to go into more than that, why do I need Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion when I have Gloomhaven and Frosthaven? First part of it is being a completionist for that game. I have everything else, or it’ll be coming, …
So, after over a week off, though 10 Minute Marvel podcast still came out, for a little bit of a vacation and a chance to reset my brain during Covid-19 and protests, I wanted to come back with a Top 10 list that is a little bit more light hearted. These are games that you can play when life has felt stressful, these games aren’t always going to make you relax, but they are light, fun games, without too much in the way of stress inducing moments.
10 – Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger
If you’re familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you’ll know that they are silly books where they are taking you through some sort of crazy scenario, and if you make a wrong choice, generally almost at random, you’ll end up dying. Now, that doesn’t sound like that much fun, and it was annoying in the books at times where you’d feel like you were in a dead end and have to go back and start over again. In the board game version, something bad will happen if you die, but then you’ll reset to the previous decision and you always have a chance to go back. This game has some great writing, and is meant as silly fun for a group of players to sit around a table, make poor decisions and work through this cooperative story together. It’s extremely light and is just a fun time at the table for everyone as you go through the nonsensical story.
9 – Tokyo Highway
There are some games on this list because they are silly fun, there are others because the aesthetic is just amazing. Tokyo Highway is one of the latter. What’s basically is just little wooden cars and Popsicle sticks ends up looking like a piece of artwork on the table as the crazy roads interweave between everything. Can you get your roads to go over or under other roads in order to place your cars, and with that can you do that without knocking over precariously balanced roads with little to no room between them? The games rules are extremely simple, but there’s a little bit of tension at times as you place things, but mainly you’re just appreciating how cool it looks on the table.
8 – Small World
Now, I call this game a Risk killer, and for a lot of people, Risk isn’t a feel good game, so how can Small World be a feel good game? It’s because not only does it encourage conflict and encourage wiping someone else off the board as much as you can, it does that for everyone so you’re never down and out. If your race gets overrun, just get a new one and do it back to them, and you always have a special power, maybe you have something that makes sense, like pillaging orcs, but you might have something more out there like seafaring giants or flying sorcerers. Just the combinations, the massive swings from round to round, this game is meant to be light, and the combat doubles down on that, no more rolling lots of dice like Risk, now it’s just simply put down your tokens, and if you have two more than your opponent you take over their territory. If it wasn’t for the fact that you can always come back with another crazy combination, this wouldn’t make the list, but you’re never really down and out, and facing off wealthy ratmen against barbarian elves is just fun.
7 – Draftosaurus
If you haven’t seen Jurassic Park, you probably know about it. And the idea of a park with dinosaurs in just a lot of fun. Draftosaurus is a dinosaur drafting game where you’re trying to get pairs, as many different or as many the same, or other combinations, of dinosaurs to score the most points. You draft from a handful of dinosaur meeples that you have, and the game just is fun and vibrant. The dinosaur meeples look amazing, and the game play is very simple. The only thing that I don’t like about this game is that it doesn’t come with a score pad. It’s on the list of things to do for me to find one and print it off and laminate it so that the scoring will be more fun. That said, the game is simple, fast, and looks amazing because of the dinosaur meeples, it’s hard not to have fun when you’re playing it.
6 – Century: Golem Edition
This game is such a simple but beautiful game as you are building up an engine through a hand of cards to trade gems for other gems and get more gems so that you can activate golem that give you points. This is a feel good game because the artwork is amazing, the metal coins are nice, but it really comes down the gems that you are trading around. The gems are just beautiful translucent plastic pieces, that you can find in other games as well, but they just make the game because it’s fun to play around with them. In the end, you’re really playing a solitaire sort of puzzle with a shared pool of cards to purchase from. The game move incredibly fast as you have a card that you’ll play or purchase each turn, so you don’t have a lot of things to think about. There’s a more standard version as well where you are trading spices, but in my opinion, the Golem Edition looks better and is more feel good.
5 – Homebrewers
I wasn’t sure if this game was going to make the list, but as I thought about it, as a beer fan, I feel like it really is a feel good game. It might be less so for people who won’t like/drink beer, but what makes it feel good might even give them a good laugh as well. In this game you’re trying to build up the best engine to become the best homebrewer out there. You do this by adding ingredients to your beers and brewing them. What is fun about it is that you can make all sorts of crazy combinations. If you want a beer with smoke, oyster, and lime, you can do that, and you might end up with that because that makes the most sense for scoring points. At the end of the game, which is a fast game, you can look and see what crazy beers you’ve created. So even though the game is competitive, it’s over fast and not that cut throat in it’s competitive nature, and the beers are just a fun thing to see what you come up with.
4 – Second Chance
This roll and write, or flip and write, is just a fun little game where sometimes you are pulling for a shape to come out, but most of the time, you’re just doodling in the various shapes with their own unique look so that at the end, your board looks different than everyone else’s board, and has it’s own artistic flair to it. In the game you’re trying to fill in as much of your board as possible so that you have the fewest empty spaces left. Whomever has the fewest spaces left is the winner. But the game encourages you, as you’re filling in Tetris like shapes to have some fun with it and doodle in different backgrounds for the shapes so that you know what you put where, but also so that you have your own unique board when you’re done. If you give people the time they need to doodle, it is a very relaxing and feel good game.
3 – Sagrada
Now, with Sagrada there are some more stressful moments, at times, as you hope the right number is going to be rolled on the right color of dice to help you complete your stained glass window, but it’s hard for it to be too stressful because you are making stained glass windows. The game is just beautiful on the table, and the rules are quite simple, really, so when you’re drafting dice, you know what you’re going to want. The fact that the dice are translucent makes it even better because the aesthetic really is reminiscent of a stained glass window. The game also plays quickly, so the end game where you’re more worried about the dice that come out, goes by very quickly and then you can look at what you put together.
2 – ICECOOL
Dexterity games can sometimes be stressful, late game Jenga where you’re worried about knocking the tower over, might not be a feel good game for some people. But ICECOOL does a good job of not making it stressful. You can get good at ICECOOL, but with a theme of being high school student penguins who are trying to skip class and not get caught by the hall monitor because they want to get fish, the whole game is just silly. And whether you are trying to jump a wall, or get a crazy ricochet and go through several doors, it’s just a fun time. The theme and game play seems like it’d be best for younger kids, but I’ve had great success with this just with adults as it’s always just a silly fun time that everyone can enjoy.
1 – Marvel Champions
This game is just a fun game to play. It’s shown up high on a lot of my lists, but that’s because it’s a good game, and because you get to play as your favorite superhero. All the schemes of the bad guys are super villain schemes, and being able to play as Captain America and throw your shield to hit Ultron or Black Panther and break out all the Wakandan tech to take down Klaw is just a fun time. It feels like playing as the comic book characters, and while there is a good amount of strategy to the game, it doesn’t feel bogged down in that, and most of the time, you just do the thing that feels coolest and most like the hero would do and it works well.
There are more feel good games out there, cooperative games can as a whole lend themselves to that because you’re working together. But I didn’t include things like Gloomhaven and Pandemic, because while the end can be a feel good moment as you beat the game, there is a lot of stress in the game. I think out of the ones that I put down, I’d say that only Marvel Champions has some of that stress to it, the rest are very much lighter games throughout. And even with Marvel Champions, playing as a super hero is just so much fun that it has a lot of a feel good vibe to it.
What are some of your favorite feel good games? Are there any that you want to checkout from my list, or that you think I should checkout?
Recently I did an article talking about the different types of games, and one that I mentioned was campaign games. These are games that tell a story throughout as you play them and you are playing scenarios that tie together over time and create one big narrative. Campaign games can be Legacy games but don’t need to be destructive or changing in nature, it can just be a grand story that is told throughout.
Let’s get to the list:
10 – Sword & Sorcery
This is a big dice chucking ameritrash campaign game where you take your group of heroes of old who have been brought back in the nations time of need. You get to level up, get new skills and attacks and generally be pretty awesome as you chuck dice and go through a pretty simple story. The game really gives you a lot of dice to chuck and a lot of cool abilities to use. Just in the base game there are plenty of characters to checkout and you can get a whole lot more in small character expansions or in the bigger box story expansions. This is probably one of the most classic in terms of story that you’ll find for a campaign. It is a bit fiddly, but the upkeep and monster actions are fairly simple and the story is small enough that you don’t feel like you’re spending all your time adjusting the board and looking up story elements in the book, but the initial set-up can be pretty slow.
9 – Risk Legacy
Probably the campaign that has the least amount of story in it. However, the board changes in a legacy style as you play and you can unlock things as new things happen in the game to create even more weird challenges. The story of this game really comes from the players as you face off against each other over and over again for points in this Risk based game that allows you to win not from taking over but by getting victory points for taking out your enemies bases and completing missions. Each game goes pretty fast, which is enjoyable, and you feel like you’ve gotten that Risk dice chucking combat done, but without it overstaying it’s welcome. Plus, unless an odd situation happens, you’re always going to be able to hope back into the game and possibly mess someone up and get back into contention, versus being eliminated. Not a ton of depth to this campaign, but a fun time.
8 – Star Wars: Imperial Assault
The Star Wars dungeon crawl, Imperial Assault offers you two ways to play. First, you can do it with someone running the empire and working within the game to create scenarios and a story that you play through. Or you can be completely cooperative and play through the game using an app that helps you with your book keeping as to everything the empire needs to do. This was the precursor to Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle Earth in what it was doing with the app. The story is fun, and what I really like about this story is that it’s adjacent to the original trilogy story, at least out of the core box. So you don’t play as Luke, Leia, or Han, and you can’t kill of Darth Vader or the Emperor, but they might show up in your story as someone to help you or someone to run away from. It’s fun to see how they can weave that together and create a fun experience of a campaign.
7 – Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Another not that story driven one, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, has you play through a campaign of the books, getting new threats that you’re raising to finish and new bad guys you’re trying to beat. This is a deck building game that builds on itself as you play more and more games of it, there are seven total games to play out of the base box, one for each book, and you gain new abilities and new cards to build you deck in each one. It starts out simple, but eventually has you focusing more into what you can do really well. You get to play the main characters the base box has Neville, Ron, Hermione, and Harry, and take them through their times at Hogwarts. A downside is that while the game is simple, the longer you go, the more bad guys you have to beat.
6 – Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
One that I just got into recently but this game has so many things that I love. First, there is a digital component, not that that makes the game so amazing, but because it makes it more immersive as you’re trying to “solve” the case put in front of you. Then with that, you’re also using your own deduction skills, I really like using deduction and puzzling through things, even if I’m not great at figuring out the puzzle all the time, right away. There is so much going on in this game, story wise, that you feel like you’re in it trying to actually solve this case. It reminds me a bit of procedural crime TV shows, but you get to be the main characters. And while I’m not a huge fan of those shows, being a character in that show is fascinating. And while we were investigating, we were getting cards and things to be added into future cases because of what we’d studied before so out of the base box, with five cases, you develop a whole story as these cases tie together.
5 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
Arkham Horror is an interesting one to put on the list, because as a Living Card game it’s getting new campaigns and parts to old campaigns pretty often. Out of the base box, you have a three part story where you do the first scenario and what you do in that causes changes for future scenarios. There is a lot that I love out of this game, first you get to play through a surprisingly immersive story for something that is done just with cards. You have interesting and different characters as well in the story. And even with just cards, they do wildly different things at times. Add in that you can do some deck building in this game, not during the game but before or between, you can develop the strategy that you want to take into a case, it might be a strategy of more fighting or more investigating, or blending and balancing the two depending on your style, and unlike some of these campaigns where eventually you’ll have played through it, this one is still getting new content all the time.
4 – TIME Stories
This one has less of a through story than a lot of the campaign games, but there are certain elements that tie it together. You are always worried about another time agency that is trying to mess with time and multiverse in it, and thus far, I’ve really enjoyed every scenario. I feel like they’ve managed to change them up a bit, and while you often have combat or things that are just rolling dice and hoping to get lucky, it does work very well. Each scenario has very strong story elements to it as well as you are trying to figure out a puzzle and an optimal path through the game to win, but with that, you’re exploring and uncovering elements of the story as well. I really like the fact that you are put into “vessels” and that’s how you time travel in the game, and sometimes, you don’t do well enough and your “vessel” dies, but jumping back into the past, you can join the game again and do another run to try and solve the puzzle. It can get a bit repetitive for some, but I haven’t found that to be an issue.
3 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Second Legacy game on the list, and I will toss in Season 2 as kind of continuation of this if you want more content. Pandemic is a great cooperative game where you are trying to cure diseases. Pandemic Legacy offers much of the same with that, but story and a changing and expanding rule set as time goes on. The game never feels too complex, but it is more challenging than the regular game. I really like how they manage losing in the game, you continue on if you lost twice in a month, and help you balance that out by getting more useful cards back in your deck that allow you to bend the rules. And the story, while not complex is good, and it has a nice twist to it. I don’t think that the twist was all that surprising, but definitely changes up the game.
2 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
This game just screams epic campaign game. You get to level up and improve your character and you get to explore a massive story as you travel through the lands of Avalon. There are some things I really enjoy about the game, first is the story element. You get to delve into so much of a massive exploration journal and find out so much about the world. This is a dark world as well, and I really appreciate that the storytelling is set in that and that there is a survival element to the game as well. This can be a punishing game that makes you travel around places and do the same things multiple times, but that’s kind of the point of the game as you are traveling through this grim dark Avalon facing off against monstes, trying to hold the Wyrdness at bay by keeping Menhir lit, and struggling to find food. It’s played out over several chapters and you definitely don’t see everything in the game, so it’s a campaign you can come back to again and explore more to see if you can do better.
1 – Gloomhaven
My #1 game of all time, no surprise it’s at the top of the list. Gloomhaven just is a wonderfully massive game. It tells a good story, I wouldn’t say as good as Tainted Grail, but beyond that, the mechanics are amazing, I love the card combat and movement that you have in each scenario as you try and puzzle out what is going to be the best and what the enemies might do. And there’s just so much content in the game, not just scenarios, but also monsters to fight and characters to play as. I love that you have to retire characters at certain points, and that then gives you a new character that feels different from other characters, there’s just so much interesting things going on in the game and there are apps to help make it faster to get to the table that are great. I’ve talked about this a lot, so I’ll stop there, but it’s amazing.
One thing I’ll point out about this list, with the exception of Risk Legacy, all the games on the list are cooperative. It’s fairly rare for there to be competitive campaign games, that I’ve seen, though there are some out there with the likes of Charterstone, which is fun, and Seafall, which is long. But most are going to lean cooperative, so think about that, if you don’t love cooperative games and you want to play a campaign game. And I have a lot more to play and coming than I’ve already played. I really want to get the likes of Betrayal Legacy, Clank Legacy! and Aeon’s End Legacy to the table as well sooner rather than later, because all of those are campaigns based off of games that I already love. Also, I left Dungeons and Dragons off the list, because, I want to keep it board games versus adding in RPG’s which are great but different experiences.
What are some of your favorite campaign games? What are some that I should checkout?
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It might be kind of the wrong time to talk about this, we’re in the middle of the Covid-19 Pandemic, however, I think with that, for some, comes more time to delve into more story, including that of the Apocalypse/Post-Apocalyptic in nature. This is one …
This is going to be another Top 10 list that hits on a bunch of games that I like a lot. There’s something about cooperative games that is quite nice, mainly being able to sit down and if someone at the table is lagging behind in knowledge of the game, they can be brought up into the game without needing to know every rule perfectly because we can all work together and learn as a group versus be stomped if you don’t fully get the strategy in a competitive game.
So what are my top 10 cooperative games?
10 – The Lost Expedition
Number ten on the list is the smallest game of the group but also one of the easier ones to teach and get to the table. In this, you are your fellow players are trying to lead your team of adventurers on hikes twice a day so that they can get to the Lost City of Z, but the jungles are dangerous, and you never know what might be coming up next. But that’s for you to decide as players, without discussing, you put down cards for a morning and evening hike that might get you more food or cause you to find bullets or maybe you get hook worms, and no one wants that, but there are difficult decisions to make on each card, and you can discuss that part. One of the games that really has something built into to stop alpha gamers from being able to run the game. It’s a lot of fun, and it plays fast as well, which some of the games further on the list won’t.
9 – Arkham Horror: The Card Game
The first, but not the last Lovecraft Mythos game on the list from Fantasy Flight, this one is the smaller or the two, though it packs a lot of punch. In this one, like all of Fantasy Flight’s Lovecraftian Games, you are an investigator working together with the other investigators trying to stop whatever horror is being called through by cultists. But in this you can be fighting, but much of it is investigating, and the game is just basically cards and a bunch of tokens. You don’t need a bit board to tell a big story or change up the game. The different things that the cards can do and how they can use them to create a town or house or other locations and it feels different is impressive. Now, with the base box, it’s only a 1-2 player game, but with another core box you can play up to 4, so if you have a larger group it’s something to consider. And Fantasy Flight does a great job of supporting this, as they do with all their living card games, so there is always more story coming out.
8 – Aeon’s End: War Eternal
When it comes to deckbuilding a lot of them do similar things, you add cards, you maybe buy more cards or attack, and then you draw a new hand until you can’t fill the hand and then you shuffle up your discard and repeat the process. Aeon’s End: War Eternal is unique because you never shuffle, when you discard cards, you choose the order they go so that you can create, if you’re good at card counting, a hand or combo that you want to get because it’s going to be strong. It’s a lot of fun to see how that piece of the puzzle fits together. Plus, you’re all trying to take down a nemesis who is bent on taking out the town of Gravehold. And each nemesis plays differently. I have really enjoyed both plays of this game, and it’s a good challenge, there are a lot of mages, who play differently, and there are expansions galore for the game with even more nemesis and breach mages to choose from.
7- T.I.M.E. Stories
One of the most unique games on the list, T.I.M.E. Stories has an element of an escape room game, it has some role playing aspects, and there’s a good amount of narrative to it. You are all part of a time agency who is trying to stop unwanted time incursions from happening and messing up the timeline. This means you might be going to the earth in the 90’s, or another dimension where there is magic and dragons. And it can change that wildly in each of the expansions and each time you play. Now, each scenario can only be played once, but to get through and beat the story it is at least a couple hours of excitement for 4 players, if not up to 3, and it’s cheaper than a movie at that point. Plus, the upside, and sometimes downside, is that because it’s such a sandbox, you can do anything in the games, and the creators have done a good job of doing that, creating interesting puzzles and mechanics to test out along the way.
6 – XenoShyft: Onslaught
You and your fellow crack team of marines, scientists, and medics have been tasked with protecting a mining facility from hordes and hordes of giant monstrous bugs. Why did they build a mining facility on this remote planet, money of course, but now you’re about to overrun with bugs, can you fend off the waves they’re throwing at you? This is a very tough game, even though it makes it’s deck building easier than a lot of others. You can help other people, you can give them troops or weapons that you’ve bought for your deck to help them shore up their defenses, they can give you stuff in return, or use stim packs and grenades to help you when it’s your turn to face a wave of monsters. This game is clever in what it does, and it creates a good amount of tension, plus I like that the game is basically all simultaneous so there isn’t downtime for anyone.
5 – Pandemic Legacy Season 1
Seems a bit on the nose to be playing right now (article written 4/13/2020 during Covid-19 Pandemic), but it is a really good cooperative game. I could have put down either season of Pandemic or base Pandemic on the list, and any are great options. Can you prevent the spread and find the cures to four diseases before they run across the world and destroy everything? This game is pretty simple compared to the other ones, but still offers a lot of good choices and you always feel like there are 1-2 more things that you need to do on your turn and you hope that you’ve picked the right things so that you don’t have an outbreak on your hands. Also, do you have a good combination of characters that are able to fight it off and can you use it to the best of your ability. A lot of questions, but it’s a good game, a simpler game, and one that you can play faster and with more people than some because it an easier game to pick up.
4 – Tainted Grail: Fall of Avalon
When Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table came to the lands of Avalon, they were wild and untamed and the Wyrdness and Foredwellers twisted the land, but they forced it to their will, creating Menhir, but now that was long ago, and the Menhir are starting to go out and the Wyrdness is coming back over the lands. You and your fellow adventurers are only going out because those who were supposed to have saved you and your village have gone out and not come back. Can you survive the twisted lands of Avalon? This game works really well as it’s a very tough game where survival is the goal but not a guarantee, and you spend so much time exploring and discovering new things about Avalon and you might not have wanted to know. Then you go from the exploration piece of the game and jump into combat which can be tough as monsters aren’t always meant to be beaten and diplomatic encounters can turn violent if you’re not careful. There are chunks of the game that are pretty well split up where you can do daily actions separately or explore while someone else fights, but this is a grand free flowing game that tells an interesting story.
3 – Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
You, and your fellow paranormal investigators have been called to a mansion to explore some unnatural goings on. This might be a crazed cultist leading a band of cultists and trying to summon a deep old one. It could be you’ve made it to late and a town has been overrun with Deep Ones and you need to figure out how to escape. You and your fellow investigators could get split up in two different timelines and need to work together to solve the mystery and get the one who time traveled back. There are a lot of different scenarios, and an app that helps you keep track of everything. The game is set in the Lovecraft Mythos, but it has more of an investigative feel to it, than leaning into as much horror. If you want a game that is fairly big but doesn’t feel as daunting as some dungeon crawlers, Mansions of Madness is a good option.
2 – Marvel Champions: The Card Game
This game has made it on a lost of lists and it’s working it’s way up to being one of my favorite games of all time. The game just feels like you’re in a comic fighting a villain. And you get the full comic feeling as you can team up superheroes as well as flip back and forth between an alter-ego and superhero side in order to rest and recover if the villain knocks you around to me. The game does a lot of clever things, and you can create the team-ups that you always wanted, or at least some of them, eventually Fantasy Flight will come out with more heroes so you can create any team-up you want. And they’ve managed to make the villains feel different as well as the heroes, so you can get a lot of unique games.
1 – Gloomhaven
No surprise here, though there are some slight semi-cooperative elements of the game, mainly having specific goals that you need to do in a given scenario depending off of some card draw, but for the most part it’s working together, and those goals are just perks and don’t make or break the game if you don’t get them. Gloomhaven is an epic dungeon crawling and character leveling game where you and a group of fellow mercenary adventurers go through and try and figure out what strange things are happening in Gloomhaven and the surrounding areas. The story is fun but it really shines with a puzzly sort of card based combat that makes everything work together. And it feels like there’s always more to explore in the game.
I think that one thing I really like about cooperative games is that you get so many great shared stories out of them. Even the ones that aren’t just storytelling heavy can still have great moments in them as you roll the right number to get what you needed or draw the right card. It’s such a shared victory and moment that they often stick out to me. And I know that I have so many more cooperative games sitting on my shelf that I like and that are waiting to be played again or for the first time. What are some of your favorite cooperative games or cooperative gaming experiences?
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