In Above the Table we will cover discussions of all things gaming related. This column also gives the Meeple bloggers a thinly veiled excuse to occasionally wax philosophical and indulge in some hopefully entertaining navel gazing.
In the very first Above the Table, we discussed social interaction in games. In many games, and nearly all of the Classic Americana games that folks of my generation grew up with, that social interaction took the form of competition. These games are about conquering your opponent’s territories, negotiating a winning deal, or pulling off an artful bluff.
A growing number of hobby games turn this convention on its head, and require the players to work together as a team. One of the first well known co-operative board games was Arkham Horror, designed by Richard Launius, published in 1987 and republished in 2007. More recent additions to the co-operative game genre include titles such as Forbidden Island, Mice & Mystics, Flash Point, and this month’s Game of the Month, Sentinels of the Multiverse.
In these games, the players play against the game itself. In Flash Point, for instance, players take on the role of firefighters with the job of rescuing victims in a burning building. The players take turns moving their firefighters and engaging in a variety of tasks. After each turn the game itself takes a turn, in the form of the current player rolling dice to see how and where the fire spreads. If the players work well together, they rescue all of the victims and win as a team. If not, the building collapses on them and the players all lose.
These co-operative games are quickly becoming extremely popular, and it’s not hard to see why. The games engender teamwork – and as the name implies – co-operation. This is a welcome change for those less-bloodthirsty people out there who don’t care for competition and conflict.
The ability to help another player out also allows for an easier pathway to bring new gamers into the hobby. Whether it’s someone who isn’t familiar with games, or perhaps a younger player, the knowledge that the other players at the table are there to help – and not to crush you like a bug – removes some of the obstacle to joining a game. This particular dynamic makes co-operative games perfect for families with younger children.
Of course co-operative games can have problems as well. One potential issue is that of the “overly helpful” gamer who crosses the line from aiding another player into taking their turn for them. This is a fairly easy problem to spot however, and in most cases is equally easily corrected.
On the whole, cooperative games are a great addition to the hobby. They teach teamwork and co-operation, and make it easier to introduce new people to gaming. Anything that can accomplish all of that certainly has my support!
So when you next visit the Malted Meeple, be sure to ask your Game Master to suggest a co-operative game. Just remember, there’s no “I” in team!
Jim Reed is a lifelong gamer who started with the original red box Dungeons & Dragons. After spending 20 years in the corporate world, he decided it was high time that work be fun and struck out on his own. Jim now owns and operates Ravenwood Castle and The Malted Meeple, and spends his days ensuring his guests have as much fun as he does.