Competitive to Coop and Inbetween in Board Games
I am sure that I’ve covered this generally before, but I want to talk about the different modes of board games. There are three main modes. You have cooperative and competitive, but also there is semi-cooperative. But I am not going to just talk about those three, but inside of competitive I have two different types to talk about. And, in fact, two different types in cooperative as well. Each different type of board game has a place and a group of people who love them, but all of them might not be for everyone.
A cooperative board game is where everyone is working together. You have a singular objective that you are all working to complete. This could be something like killing monsters in Gloomhaven to curing diseases in Pandemic. But whatever it is, you are working together to complete that goal.
This is done in two different ways. The first one has open information and the second is hidden information. However, with both of them, you still are trying to complete an objective together. A few games do put a little twist on this. Uprising, a 4x fantasy game coming from Kickstarter, has each of you building your own group and playing them. You all need to beat two AI enemies though for the game to be won. But let’s talk about open versus hidden information.
Open information means what it says. All the information that each player has is out in the open. Everyone can see what cards everyone else has. This allows the group of players to make decisions more optimally and cooperatively. Pandemic is an example of that. You can see who has what city cards and what colors so you can work most effectively to cure a disease.
The upside and when this works really well is when the group can collaborate as you go. Now, there is the downside because it can also lead to more of an alpha player problem. If everyone can see everything, that means that one person can have an opinion on everyone’s turn. So when playing a cooperative game with open information it’s something to be aware of.
However, with that said, I do still really enjoy open information. It really does lead to more of a collaborative nature of the cooperative game. If I, and others, can keep from stepping on other players toes on their turns and we work together, it is a very different experience. I think that Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game is a great example of this working well for me.
Hidden information is the opposite. I have cards or information that I have and I can’t share. Gloomhaven is an example of this where I can give an idea of what my plans are, but I can’t tell you how fast I’m going or exactly what I’m going to be doing. Other games like Lost Expedition and Say Bye to the Villains as well do this.
The idea behind this is to keep the choices more in the hands of the player on their turn. You can’t see what I am doing or what my options are, so that means that you can’t tell me what to do. This is meant to alleviate some of the alpha player problem and I would say that it does to some extent. An alpha player will likely still have their own ideas to add, but it should help reduce that tendency.
This one is a bit trickier to define because it some ways it is competitive and in some ways it isn’t. I’ll give Dead of Winter as an example. All the players have one main objective that needs to be completed, finding a cure for zombies is one on of them. However, each player also has their own objective, and if you don’t complete that by the end of the main objective you don’t win. And there can be a traitor. That traitor might not need that main objective to be completed for them to win.
So you can see how it could be confusing. I think the main thing to note is the main objective and the player objectives. The main objective is really going to be cooperative in nature. All of the players, unless there is a traitor, will want to get that one done. But they will then be acting selfishly to complete their own objective as well. It really throws a different mix into how the game is played.
Also, a lot of these games will have a traitor in them, but not all of them. Dead of Winter might have a traitor but it might not. Something like Nemesis is going to not have a traitor, but everyone’s objectives might be at odds with each other to mean that if one person wins another person might not be able to win.
Finally we end on competitive. This is really where most board games lie. Everyone is out for themselves and the winner is the person who has the most points, takes over all the areas, whatever it might be for that particular game. No one will work together for a long period of time because you want to win yourself. Some competitive games an alliance might be useful for a little bit but for a lot of them it’s always about yourself.
There are two different types of games that I could qualify under competitive. Some competitive games fall into a solitaire competitive game and more of a cutthroat competitive game. Each has it’s place and some people will gravitate more towards one or another. When I was just getting into gaming I probably preferred more cutthroat competitive games, but now I don’t mind that, but I don’t want a game to be only that.
So cutthroat sounds very aggressive and it is. It can be something like Risk where you will get attacked if you are weak. Or Munchkin which as a lot of take that in it where you can make an opponents character worse or the monsters harder to beat. Those are extremely confrontational games.
But it can be simpler than that. I can just take the last worker placement spot or a card that might be better for you in a deck building game. Those are still mean or hurt you, but it is less of a direct take that element to the game. But it is a bit more than the solitaire which I’ll be talking about now.
It is often called multi-player solitaire as well. Because I am not talking about playing games solo. That is a separate thing. This is when you are playing against other players but what you do won’t affect them that much. This can be that deck building where you pick cards that mainly help your self. That might mean that you hurt someone else but it isn’t the goal. It is to improve what you are doing.
Something like Dominion or Ascension are generally this sort of game. You don’t want to bloat your own deck with cards that are bad for you, but some cards that might be better for someone else are also just good for you as well. So there is almost no interaction between players, especially in base Ascension, but a card that allows you to draw another two cards, that is good for everyone.
What is the Best Or Do I Prefer?
I probably prefer cooperative of any type. I don’t think that there is a best type of game. I enjoy a quick cutthroat competitive game, but I used to like longer ones, like Munchkin. Now I don’t like them as much anymore. And I think I like cooperative the most because I can help control that alpha player issue and because working together is just a lot of fun.
But what do you prefer? Do you like competitive games of a certain type of cooperative games? Let me know in the comments below.