Alright, now we’re into the sweet spot for games. There are a lot of them out there that really work best at 4 players. This can be for a number of reasons, but most of the time it’s because 4 players is the maximum player […]
Tag: Pandemic Legacy
One of the last two board game top 5’s I’m going to do. Cooperative games are a ton of fun, sure you might like to beat up on another person in a game, but what works well with cooperative games is the game is going to provide an appropriate challenge. There are games where if you’ve played more than I have, it will almost be impossible for me to to win because of the experience difference. In cooperative game, you tend to have games that level up in difficulty as you play them more, if they are campaign driven, or that you can make harder if you choose.
So what are my top 5 cooperative games?
5. Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
It’s in the title that it’s a cooperative game. This is a very challenging game, but a simple game to play. You are having to balance card use for gaining action points (fate points), investigating, and fighting, and you’re probably not going to have enough time to do everything you want to do. For me, that is a hallmark of a good cooperative game, there are always going to be a handful of good things to do and you are never going to be able to do them all. The game also has some Dresden Files feel to it as you feel like you are up against it throughout the whole game and most likely you are just going to eek out a win. It has some interesting mechanics with how it deals with what cases and targets you can deal with depending on where they are on the board. It’s a fun game to play the specific characters in the books with the different scenarios based off of the books, so you feel like you are in fact playing through the book.
4. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition
An app driven game in the 2nd Edition, Mansions of Madness allows it to be a combat game, a puzzle game, and an exploration game all at once without one person really needing to play the game itself. This can make the book keeping phase of the game, or mythos phase as it’s called in Lovecraftian games most of the time, a whole lot faster. Also, because it’s app driven a scenario is going to be slightly different if you play it multiple times because the app can set-up the house or location where you are investigating differently. You have a lot of the standard investigator pieces to it that you get in Arkham Horror or Elder Signs, but it provides it in a tighter package.
3. Arkham Horror LCG
I really enjoy this game as one that scales well in difficulty. Based off of the modifiers that are placed into a bag that are then drawn throughout the game. What I like is that this is a fairly heavy story game while being a smaller card game. If you get everything for the game, there are a ton of cards, but no matter what you have, it’s always a card game. It gives you feel of exploring through Arkham to complete cases. Another thing that works well in this game, is because the locations the locations are cards, you can scale the story up to as large an area as you want or as small an area. That’s something that Mansions of Madness can’t do.
2. Pandemic Legacy
This game really works well as a cooperative game. Whereas some on the list have hidden information because that helps with the alpha player problem, Pandemic and Pandemic Legacy is a straight forward enough game that people can get up to speed quickly and start making decisions. The game also has a good story to it though not as in depth as some of them. The ability to also get the game to the table quickly is a bit different than some of the other games.
My favorite game, what I like about this game is that you can really tailor who you are playing in the game. You get some interesting teams, but it gives you a ton of choices as a player. This is the game that I was thinking about when I was talking about scaling, or one of them. I’ve talked about the game a ton, so I am not going to add in all that much more on this one. But the scaling is amazing in this game, and the ability to tailor your character to your style is great. It’s also a massive game that gives you tons of game play.
There are a ton of games I could put down as an honorable mention, but I’ll try and keep it just to five:
T.I.M.E. Stories – Super fun puzzly game where you jump to different timelines and dimensions to stop things from destroying the timeline.
Hanabi and Forbidden Desert – Check out the previous Top 5 list for more on those games .
Xenoshyft: Onslaught – A cooperative deckbuilder with some interesting choices, in particular being able to build your deck but also being able to help other peoples decks as well.
Lost Expedition – A simple game, but challenging as you decide as a group how to deal with problems as you try and advance to the lost city of Z
There are so many more that I could have listed and that I’ve enjoyed playing. I really enjoy cooperative games as they seem easier to get to the table when you’re all working together towards a goal. Not to say I don’t enjoy a good competitive game, but cooperative games tend to feel like they are more unique even though they are common now.
What are your favorite cooperative game, do you, like me, have a big stack of cooperative games you have yet to play?
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Between campaign building, I want to go back to some of the board game lists. And this is probably my favorite mechanic for a game, where people can do things just a bit differently than other players. 5. SmallworldThe lightest game on the list by far, […]
I don’t really think I planned on going with some board game history and mechanic posts for a series, but I liked how the previous one turned out, and I thought it would be interesting to look at some more mechanics in that in-depth a way.
Story games are interesting because they care as much about the story and theme as they do about the mechanics a lot of the time. But for a long time there weren’t a ton of story games. Games, for a long time, were pretty straight forward either luck or logic games. A game like Chess or Go doesn’t really tell a story because it’s all been abstracted away. Even though you have two armies facing off in chess, they are just pieces that have specific movement rules, not like they are tied into the different types of characters and why they move the way they move.Or you would have luck based games. A game like Monopoly seems like it has some more story that is going on, but the game is so random that you can’t really tell a story in it.
Then there started to be some story games, but they weren’t your regular board games. RPG’s were the first games that really told stories and really focused in on story telling. There was story in some games prior to that, war games for example told the story of a battle, but D&D and RPG’s were the first to really create those story gaming moments. But even they had a lot of rules at the beginning, now we’re seeing the loose story based RPG’s that don’t care nearly as much about the rules or have abstracted most of the rules away into a single, simple roll of the dice for anything.
But in board games there were games that tried to delve more so into story, and we’ve actually seen the idea of story telling board games really take off as of late. A lot of this can be attributed to the growth of the hobby, but some of the earlier ones also helped the hobby grow. While games like Catan or Ticket to Ride have abstracted away all of the story and are some of the biggest ones for growing the hobby, story based games helped the hobby continue to grow into the big hobby it is today. Finding that sweet spot of where people could play a game the way that they want while still having some rules and structure makes gaming a lot more appealing to a lot of people.
There are a number of different story telling games. There are some that are basically light RPG’s and some that are board games that tell you a story. We have a number of interesting examples to look at though in board gaming.
Tales of the Arabian Nights and Near and Far are two interesting games where you are going out exploring. There are plenty of game focused parts to what you are doing and you have some skills, but the main focus of the game is going out exploring and getting a little bit of story. So that’s what most people are playing them for, being able to make those few decision bits in their story. Now, I personally enjoy both of these games, but they do have a bit of a flaw to them. That’s in both games the story while being loosely connected at items, especially in Near and Far, are random bits of story that you are reading from a book. The story isn’t cohesive as it goes along so while it starts to feel like a story game, it is missing a little bit.
Take that in comparison to a game like Sword and Sorcery. Now I haven’t played Sword and Sorcery, but it is one that I’ve seen played. In that, and in Tainted Grail, you are finding story events for various scenarios that unfold the story for you. A certain card or a certain place might trigger a different bit of the story. So while you don’t have to find the story in a specific order, always, you are figuring out the story and what’s going on in the world as you go. These games are newer than either Tales of the Arabian Nights or Near and Far (though Near and Far is quite new), and they can get away with it, because you are playing through chapters and scenarios.
That leads us into other scenario games. In particular, I’m thinking of Legacy games here. I don’t know that you’d consider Pandemic Legacy to be a scenario based game, but as you play through and find out more information about the story, it feels like it’s a scenario based game for how you have to win each game. In this case, they are handing out specific story points at very specific points in the game. And that works really well for a game like Pandemic Legacy or even a game like Gloomhaven which isn’t a true legacy game or is the new wave of legacy game where you can play it repeatedly without buying a new copy.
Seafall in comparison gives you a different story feel. While in Pandemic Legacy you can make choices that will affect the game, you are following a pretty linear story. In Gloomhaven you can go further afield from the story, but you are still focused on the story and you get the main story to unfold in a certain order. What Seafall tried to do was too ambitious in creating a story that unfolded in whatever order you read it. The issue is that it doesn’t really work, because you have to be so vague about it. That turned the story into a bit of a mess.
So, what other ways are we seeing stories besides these scenario games?
We’re also seeing story in games where the game is about making up your own story. Once Upon a Time and Gloom are two examples of this. In Once Upon A Time you are trying to create a fairy tale by playing cards while telling a story and eventually leading the story to your own ending that you got at the beginning of the game. This works okay as a game, but does run into a run away leader problem and the rules are just very loose, so it isn’t going to work for everyone. Gloom on the other hand is a depressing story as you try and kill off your family of characters while they are miserable. But the more miserable they are, the more points you get, so you are playing a card each turn and telling a story as you play the card as to why your character is more miserable or someone else’s character is less miserable. These games take the story telling away from the game itself, and mechanically add the story telling element to the game with what the players need to do. The downside to this is that if you don’t have a creative group, or more so, if you don’t have a group that is just going to be silly, the game isn’t going to work as well.
On the opposite side of things you have games that basically are only story. I did an article on them recently with RPG Lite. But two great examples of this are Legacy of Dragonholt and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. Both of these games are really just Choose Your Own Adventure, with a couple of mechanics added in so that you can’t quite just only do it as a book.
On the opposite side of things you have games that basically are only story. I did an article on them recently with RPG Lite. But two great examples of this are Legacy of Dragonholt and Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger. Both of these games are really just Choose Your Own Adventure, with a couple of mechanics added in so that you can’t quite just only do it as a book. That takes away the pressure of the story or the pressure of learning a lot of rules from the players and puts it back onto the game designer, but when you strip away most game mechanics, you can basically just worry about writing a story, it works well.
So, where do I fall with story games?
For me, if a game doesn’t have an interesting theme, I’m less apt to enjoy the game. There are some games where the look is nice enough or the mechanics are good enough, that I like it without having an interesting theme. But most of the time I want theme, and because of that, it means that I want heavy story as well. The story is one way to get a lot of theme into the game. So you’ll see what are commonly called Ameri-trash games showing up on my reviews more likely than a Euro Game because Euro Games tend to be pretty themeless. Even Euro Legacy games, like Charterstone, the story is 100% outside of the game and doesn’t impact what you do or how you play the game at all.
I also think that story is something that is important to games in terms of getting new people into games. There are some games that are simple enough that they don’t need story, but it’s easier to pitch a game to someone where they get to be a hero fighting against the evil corporation, versus a game where they are collecting gems. Even if the second game is a better made and balanced game, it’s still harder to get people to play it.
So, let me toss it out to you, what are some games that are story focused that you really like? How much story do you need in the game?
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Maybe instead of gifting for a gamer, you are gifting to someone who is just getting into the board game industry. They’ve played a few of your games and are looking to start getting a few games of their own. What games should you look at for someone like that?
Ticket to Ride
This should be the first game on basically any intro to modern board gaming list. It’s a smart simple game where you are trying to collect sets of train cards of various colors and connect routes across the board. That’s what the game is, but there is some strategy to it as to when you complete a section of your route, when you take train cards, and when you might want to get more routes. Not all that complex, but enough so to keep more serious gamers engaged well enough and so that people can pick it up quickly. There are also a ton of different versions of the game. The United States map, just called Ticket to Ride, is the most straight forward, but anything that’s added in the other boxes can just be skipped and you can play it as the normal Ticket to Ride.
This tableau building game as you competing for the favor of nobles and building up your supply of jewels. The game is simple as you start out building out your tableau by taking one time use jewels but soon you’ll have built up a good jewel collection so you have permanent jewels. The game is another pretty straight forward game with a limited number of actions in the game. That makes it a lot easier to teach. Now, this game is pretty themeless actually, but the components and artwork are nice, so it gets to the table pretty easily that way.
Sushi Go! Party
Card drafting games aren’t always the easiest to teach, but with the very cute artwork of Sushi Go! Party, it’s definitely an exception. I will add in one caveat for this game, there are a few of the specials that I would avoid at the start because they are a bit more confusing, but the game itself is pretty simple. You take one card from your hand and pass the hand to the next person and repeat the process until you’ve done that with all the cards. The game plays fast and while the first couple of decisions might be a bit trickier or explaining the rules the first time might be a bit trickier, the game is easy to play multiple times in one sitting.
Or as it used to be known, Settlers of Catan. This game is one of the games that started the modern board gaming trend. While it still has some of the classic board gaming issues, mainly there isn’t a way to mitigate just rolling poorly, it’s going to be one that a lot of people are familiar with. The game is pretty straight forward but it’s still enjoyable and it’s something that people will recognize as compared to a game like Splendor that people might not have heard of.
This is probably the trickiest game on the list because there’s more strategy in this game than some of the others, but because of the presence on the table. In this game you are drafting dice to create a stained glass window, and you just have to follow certain die placement rules about colors and numbers being next to each other and while filling in certain colors or numbers based on the window that you are creating. The game play is fast and there is an expansion that allows it to play up to 6 which might make it easier to get to the table and keep everyone involved at a family holiday party.
I’ve managed to get Pandemic Legacy on to two other lists (too big for a stocking), but for this one, I suggest the base Pandemic. This is a really good cooperative game and a game that lays out what is done on turns and peoples actions really nicely. It’s also not that tough a cooperative game so for a new player, they aren’t going to feel like they’re being beat down over and over again. It’s also not that long a game for everything that is going on in the game. If you haven’t played it yourself, I’d recommend it for someone who is even a gamer or the Legacy version as it’s a really good game.
There are a ton of introductory games, and I might give out some suggestions next week for what to give people if they like a certain classic game already, but that will be later.
What are some other games that you’ve used to introduce people to modern board gaming?
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