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Our Favourites: Co-Operative Games Special

We're big fans of innovation here at BoardGameGuru, and one area of games that is seeing lots of growth in popularity at the moment is Co-Operative games, and their evil twin, Semi Co-Operative Games.

The clue is of course, in the name, as far as co-operative games go. In games such as Arkham Horror and Pandemic, the games rules dictate a way in which the forces of evil or diseases spread across the land, and the whole set of players work together to overcome this problem.

Taking Arkham Horror as an example, each turn you draw a card which shows how evil will progress this turn; where gates to other dimensions will open which spill out evil monsters , where any monsters will move and many special effects too. These cards, in their presentation of challenges and development of the on-board situation are the heart of the game since they take the place of a human "gamesmaster" (such as those needed for roleplaying games) and allow all players to share the same goals.

In Arkham Horror, the players will socialise, agonise and organise together in a bid to defeat the forces of darkness and prevent the games major enemy, or "Great Old One" from awakening. If they do so, the players will usually have to defeat them in combat, but the odds are so often stacked against them in this final battle most groups try to avoid this if at all possible.

It's an intense and exciting game experience as you and your friends or family will fight monsters, explore dangerous and eccentric locales and ultimately try to win the game. The game is extremely tough, however and don't expect to win first time out.

Co-Operative games like Arkham Horror are excellent for groups who want to avoid the usual confrontational aspects of gaming. Since you are all working together there are myriad opportunities for creative problem solving as a group - meaning that valuable social interaction, one of the major advantages of the board gaming hobby over many other pastimes, is maximised.

In terms of complexity of rules Arkham Horror is far more complicated than Pandemic, but whichever you choose it will provide exciting challenges for your friends and family and they come highly recommended.


If you are intrigued by what was meant by "evil twin" when I mentioned Semi Co-Operative games, read on.

These games are a relatively recent wrinkle in the gaming world, and are a great example of how modern board games are constantly innovating and improving on themes and mechanics to provide satisfying new opportunities for fun and learning.

The most famous example, some would say originator, of this sub-genre, Shadows Over Camelot, was published as recently as 2005. In this incredible game, you and your friends play the part of the brave knights of the round table, and by using the cards in your hand you stave off the forces of evil and try and complete such quests as the search for the Holy Grail, combat with the Black Knight or rescuing Excalibur from the water.

The difference between this and, for example, Pandemic, is that unlike that game not all the players are necessarily on your side - one of the Knights may be a traitor, secretly hindering your attempts to defeat evil while outwardly working for good.

I stress the word "may" in that last sentence, because it is always possible in any game that there is no traitor at all - and false accusations can be as costly as correct ones can be rewarding.

It's a wonderfully nasty twist to the co-operative game concept and makes for some memorable and frequently hilarious game nights.

For example, this weekend I was involved in a game and because I was certain a traitor was somewhere because various very helpful cards had gone missing, discarded no doubt by the nefarious ne'er-do-well that was hiding in the shadows.

I examined my fellow players' actions closely. In time, I became convinced that one of the other players, Sir Bors, was a traitor. He hadn't done anything obviously wrong, but his demeanour and reactions to the evil events seemed a bit off. I made the accusation that he was a traitor, as is my right - only to find he had been loyal all along! This false accusation meant that I had caused two white swords (the loyal knights' "score") to become black swords (and score for evil instead).

So my false accusation eventually led to the fall of Camelot, as the real traitor was elsewhere in the form of Sir Owain.

The great thing about Shadows Over Camelot is that despite the loss to the evil traitor we all agreed to try again immediately, since each game takes only about an hour and a half at most.

A similar idea has been developed into the tie in game for the new Battlestar Galactica series. In this game the humans are trying to protect themselves from the forces of the Cylons, a race of robots who have managed to create exact replicas of human beings as sleeper agents, who infiltrate the fleet and wreak havoc.

The game depicts this struggle by handing out the loyalty cards at the beginning and the middle of the game so someone who has spent the whole game thinking they were human suddenly changes sides. Of course, this is all secret information, so they are able to choose the right moment to reveal themselves and join their robot pals.

An excellent tie-in for fans of the show, since it captures the feeling of suspicion and desperation that pervades the series' best moments, it is also a fantastic game in its own right, presenting a severe challenge for the human players but with excellent game play for the Cylon agents too.


If you are interested in these or any other games you read about on this blog, our shop at BoardGameGuru is available for you to purchase them. Feel free to send any queries or requests for tailored game packages to paul@boardgameguru.co.uk

....keep playing!

The BoardGameGuru Team

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