A Simple Way to Get Along Better

With any luck, this will help you stop beating your wife and/or girlfriend…when you play games.  Or maybe when you play games with your significant other.  Or your friends.

Most of us have grown up playing competitive games starting with simple games like Candyland and moving up to Monopoly and other “family” games.  If you’re like me, you then discovered Risk and possibly all the SPI and Avalon Hill board games.  All of these will help teach you to take over Austrailia so you can rule the world…oh, wait, we aren’t talking just about Risk.  All of these games teach you to plot and plan to take down your opponents and win the game.  If you aren’t careful, you can get tied up in PVP mode (player versus player) and never come back.  If you really want endless PVP you can always reach for Munchkin.

There is another way to play if you are around people who aren’t into smashing down each other’s chances of winning board and card games: cooperative games.  In these games players typically have to work together and plan strategies to beat the game.  Instead of a single winner, everybody wins or everybody loses.  This can make for a more enjoyable evening, especially with friends who are not semi-professional competitive gamers.

There was a time in the sixties when peace and flower power were the watchwords of the day and group games were invented to help people learn to work together.  Tie-dye shirts were optional.  It was a passing fad, but interest in games where people work together to accomplish goals continued.  In the past few years, some very creative people managed to create some games that were challenging and fun.  Listed below are a number of games you may want to investigate further; the list below has them listed by price (the further down the list you go, the more expensive the games get!)  Where available, I’ve included links to the rules for each of the games, and those pages usually include copies of the game boards as well.

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. Forbidden Island is a great starter game for cooperative play.  The game is inexpensive (retail is only $20), takes only about thirty minutes to play, and has multiple levels of difficulty.  There’s even a novice level for new players that is designed to help the players win.  The game can be played solo and becomes more difficult as you add more players – cooperation becomes critical.  You are trapped on an island that is sinking into the ocean, and the players are trying to obtain four treasures and escape on a helicopter before the island sinks completely into the ocean.  Forbidden Desert is a sequel to the first game that is similar in many ways but includes additional complications in the mechanics.  This time aroundForbidden Desert, you are trying to reassemble a flying machine and escape a sandstorm before you are all trapped and killed.

Pandemic. In Pandemic you are a group of researchers at an unnamed disease control center in Atlanta who are trying to stop deadly diseases from spreading worldwide.  This is a significantly more complex game designed for 2 to 4 players, so it helps if at least one player in a group has played the game before.  Games typically take about 45 minutes, but using the more challenging versions of the game can take longer (or, in some cases, much less time to lose).  You will be moving around the globe, building research centers, finding cures, and potentially stopping the spread of various illnesses before they turn into uncontrollable pandemics.  If you really enjoy the game, you will find numerous expansions and scenarios available.  For the horror-minded, there is a standalone version of the game, Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu where you fight the spread of Cthulhu instead of a disease; diseases are probably easier to counter.  And speaking of Cthulhu…

Arkham Horror. In this game players run around Arkham, Massachusetts, doing their best to close portals that will allow the evil Ancient Ones to relocate to our world.  This is an extremely complex game which takes 2 to 4 hours to play, and the game is probably not for beginners!

Castle Panic.  Monsters are threatening to kill everybody in the castle, and you have to defend the castle’s towers to protect those who have taken shelter there.  The game comes complete with castle walls and towers (some minor assembly required).  There is a huge stack of monster tokens and an equal number of castle cards you can use to stop them.  And one six-sided die.  The game takes about an hour to play.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. Unlike the previous games, this is a cooperative deck-building card game.  Ideally, 2 to 4 players can tackle a series of villains, usually taking 30 to 60 minutes to overcome.  The seven scenarios are increasingly difficult to beat, but your characters accumulate increased abilities as you go along.  An expansion affords you the opportunity to tackle additional baddies.

Dresden Files cooperative card game is another deck building card game.  The game comes with five decks, one for each of the first five novels in the series.  Players can play Harry and an assortment of his friends to take on individual decks, or turn the game into a campaign and play through all of them using special rules.  Each deck takes about a half hour.  There are already three expansions, each of which offers new assistants and two additional novels.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Board Game.  This version of a Buffy game (there have been several) lets 1 to 6 players take on the roles of the Scoobie Gang and deal with situations from the show’s first four seasons.  In a nod to the show, the players have to first defeat three monsters of the week, after which the Big Bad pops up as a final challenge.  It takes a half hour to an hour to defeat (or to lose to) one of the four Big Bads.

Dead of Winter.  There’s been a zombie apocalypse, and players are members of a colony that is struggling to survive the hardships of the Winter.  There’s a random overall scenario for each game (and a specific one to pick the first time you play).  Each turn brings a new crisis, and the players must work together to overcome them.  Each of the players has their own group of survivors that are members of the colony.  If the colony doesn’t survive, the players (mostly) all lose…but in a twist from the other cooperative games, each player also has a secret victory condition.  As a result, a game can end where everybody wins, everybody loses, or there is a mix of winners and losers.  There’s even a secret victory condition where a player seeks to betray the colony and see it destroyed.

The Spinners first hit the charts in 1961 with a song nobody remembers, That’s What Girls Are Made For.  It was 1972 before they put together a string of hit records, peaking when Then Came You, their duet with Dionne Warwick, climbed to number 1.  Here they are singing about the Games People Play.

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