Some of my favorite mechanisms are those found in cooperative games. In these games, multiple players will play against the game itself, or the game and one or two other players. In my opinion, there are three main types of cooperative style games: hidden movement, traitor, and us versus the board. Each one allows for players to compete together for a common goal, but they each offer a distinct twist to the genre.
The us versus the board mechanism was the first one that I discovered, and has been made widely popular by Matt Leacock's Pandemic. Although this was not the first cooperative game, I believe it is the one that made the mechanism as popular as it is today. In these style games, everyone at the table is working together to defeat some evil or complete a common goal. In Pandemic, the world has had outbreaks of four separate diseases. Your team of experts in different fields must contain and find cures for the four diseases before too many outbreaks occur and the world is over taken by these diseases. There are also many other games that use this style of play such as: Star Trek Expeditions, Defenders of the Realm, Forbidden Island, and Flash Point: Fire Rescue. It is a very unique way to play games, that works very well with just two players, but is also a blast with 3, 4, and 5 players. It is an excellent mechanism that scales very well.
Hidden Movement games usually pit a player or team of players against one other player. In a game like Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan, you can have one or two players hidden versus one or two other players who are not hidden. These games have the hidden movement player usually using a paper map hidden behind a screen to make movements, while everyone else is in plain sight and they are trying to capture, kill, or discover something about the hidden player. The first game that I played that used this was Clue: The Great Museum Caper. In this game, one player is a thief stealing paintings in a museum, while the other players are guards trying to catch him. When I first played this game, I had never seen anything like it. I eventually went on Ebay and purchased the game as it has long been out of print. Most hidden movement games work best with a large group 4-6 players. However, I have found Letters From Whitechapel & Ninja: LOTSC to both be a blast with only 2. This is a great mechanism that can also be found in games such as Scotland Yard & Nuns on the Run.
Cooperative games that have a traitor are one of my favorite types of games. These are games that have everyone working toward a common goal against the game. However, someone amongst you is secretly working with the board, and wants to defeat all of the other players. The psychology in these games as great. The traitor can be constantly playing mind games with the other players. He will accuse others of being the traitor or do small little things to throw off the other players. They can also be very bold and make moves that make it very obvious that they are wanting to be caught. Sometimes in these games being caught means extra benefits for the Benedict. I love these games because you can never fully trust anyone. Even when the game seems like it is on the line, things are not always as they appear. My favorite of this type of game has to be Battlestar Galactica, but The Resistance and Shadows Over Camelot also are very fun and more accessible than BSG. As you can guess, these games do not work with only two players. Most of the time they are made for 3-6 players, and are more fun with more people.
Cooperative games have really opened up gaming to whole new sets of people. There are many who dislike games because they can become too competitive or one player has an edge because they have played 50 times. These games balance that out, and are also great for families because smaller children are able to get help from their older siblings and parents as they play. Finally, these games are great for couples (minus the Traitor style games). Some of our favorite games are cooperative games. The only downfall that these games have is that they can suffer from one person overtaking the entire game. It is very easy for a strong player to bully everyone else around and suck all of the fun out of the table (I tend to fall into that category). So, I have to keep myself in check when I play these games. And if you think you could also be this person, you probably are and need to try and let others lead, no matter how hard that might be.
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