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[personal profile] marcusmarcusrc
I've played two cooperative strategy games in the past couple weeks, and it highlighted some game design issues for me. Namely that one potential drawback to a cooperative game is that, in the extreme, it can turn into a one player game with many pawns (described on one webpage as "Coop Syndrome"). Eg, Pandemic, which we played yesterday, is a great game: but even though each person is assigned a role, it is basically the whole team making decisions. If in a coop game, someone can go to the bathroom and the rest of the players can take their turn for them, then there isn't enough individuality in the game in my opinion.

So the question for me is how to bring more individuality in? Pandemic's "attempt" at that is to have players hide their cards. But since you are allowed to say what you have, that just seems like an artificial barrier. (and if you're not allowed to talk about what you have, then that would pretty much eliminate the card-trading mechanic). (I kind of wonder what would happen if the only person allowed to talk was the person whose turn it was?)

The other cooperative game I played recently was Betrayal at the House on the Hill (for the first time, despite wanting to play for ages). I liked this solution. Everyone is cooperating to explore the house (I also like games where there's a tile-turn-over to make the world component), but there's incentive to play somewhat selfishly because, hey, maybe you'll end up being the Haunt. I prefer this over the straight traitor games (eg, Shadows over Camelot) because I don't particularly like the stress of lying to people*. Now, in some ways it is a weird hybrid game: cooperative individuality to begin with, followed by one player versus a team of everyone else. But it worked for me in a way that neither pure team games or pure one player versus everyone else** games do.

(aha: a quick google search found other people complaining about "Coop Syndrome":

(and now, having gone down the linky rabbit trail, I'm really curious about Space Alert, which at least one boardgamegeek person theorized solves the Coop Syndrome problem)

*For example, Settlers of Catan has two problems in my mind. One is a common problem of long strategy games in that a poor start can doom you to a long game of being in last place (and the games where a poor start doesn't doom you often do it by adding randomness, which isn't satisfying either). The other is that the trading mechanic allows people to win by convincing people to make trades with you even when you're winning (bad for them), or convincing people to take down the leader when you're not winning. When I play with non-MIT gamers, I find that I'm pretty good at this, and then feel vaguely slimy afterwards (whereas when playing with former Assassin Guild types, they're the ones playing mind games). I think I'd feel the same with pure traitor games.

**Eg, Scotland Yard. If I'm Mr. X, I just feel stressed the whole game, if I'm not Mr. X then it _still_ has Coop Syndrome.
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