Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over 18 months and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every other Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Amy's Top 10 Co-operative Board Games 2017

While I do find the competition in a standard board game enjoyable, there is something special about the warm fuzziness from working in a team. Human's are animals that actively seek out company to co-exist with and cooperative board games are a good way to scratch that primal itch. Some of them present themselves as more of a puzzle to be solved in unison with your fellow players, while others you feel like you're desperately trying to sandbag up your house before the inevitable flood reaches you.

Cooperative games make up some of my favourite games and they are getting more and more common. I find that sometimes it's nice to play something where everyone can get along, particularly as part of a gaming couple. So without further ado, here are my top 10 co-operative games.


Number 10: Sentinels of the Multiverse
Sentinels of the Multiverse is a game that I can’t get to the table enough, mostly because Fiona isn’t a fan. I love the theme, you play as a non-copyright infringing version of your favourite superheroes and fight your way through countless comic book stereotype villains in comic-book stereotype places. Sentinels has great replayability as you can pick a wide variety of heroes, villains and locations (and there are plenty more in expansions). Though as you’d expect with the number of different options some work a little better than others. The gameplay can be a little clunky at times, but if you are in any way a comic-book fan you’ll forgive it for the sheer love of the genre that the designers have!

Number 9: Ghost Stories
A common flaw in co-ops is they can be too easy, balancing a game to be a challenge to a group of players working together a challenge and you can’t blame developers for erring on the side of letting people win. You want your players to have a good time and people enjoy winning. Ghost Stories is a rare game in that it makes losing fun! Ghost Stories wants to see you fail, because only with the threat of failure can success truly have meaning. The theme is great, the use of miniatures adds to the feeling of the ghost’s inevitable advance. But most of all I love the ability for the game to start feeling completely manageable, and then always end up in desperation and despair by the time the big boss appears.

Number 8: Mysterium
Mysterium is an asymmetrical card game, where 1 player is a murder victim trying to give a bunch of psychic detectives clues about how they died. Unfortunately you can only give clues in the form of obscure dreams, represented by cards with off-the wall art. Playing as the ghost is fun and frustrating in equal measure as your players can’t see the obvious link between the abstract art that you handed them and the murder weapons. Mysterium is a fairly light co-op that scales up well to larger player counts, it’s a great experience in seeing how people’s minds work and always brings a good laugh with it.

Number 7: Pandemic
Pandemic is a veteran of the co-op world, you play as a group of scientists and medical professionals who are trying to prevent a global epidemic as 4 highly virulent diseases spread across the earth. There are a few different flavours of Pandemic and I’m hard pressed on whether I should actually have Pandemic Iberia on this list instead. Each version plays a little differently, but the core gameplay of scrabbling around the place trying to keep cities under control is always there. Pandemic actually feels fairly formulaic now, you see a lot of the same mechanics is many co-ops, but that’s because it wrote the formula! Pandemic is a classic which everyone should try.

Number 6 – Hanabi
Hanabi is a co-op that forces you to work together, there’s no risk of a power player because you are very limited in your communication. All you are allowed to tell your fellow players is what colours and numbers they have in their hand, and each time you do so you use a token. Play the cards in order and you will win, but make more than a couple of mistakes and the fireworks blow up in your faces. Finally a game that accurately simulates being blindfolded in a fireworks factory with blowtorches duct taped to your arms!

Number 5: T.I.M.E. Stories
T.I.M.E. Stories is a campaign game where you play as a group of time-travelling police, trying to ensure that the flow of time isn’t corrupted by malevolent forces. The game is episode based with some very unique card puzzles. Perhaps the most interesting part is that if you screw up, no worries, you can just use your time machines to start over again, but this time you know where some of the potential traps are. Every game of Time stories has been a blast, though I’ll freely admit that some have been better than overs and I don’t think that any have quite captured the magic of the first game.

Number 4: Flash Point: Fire Rescue
Flash Point is firefighting game, you enter a burning building, put out fires, save people and then run back into the burning building to save the puppy. Why? Because you’re goddamn heroes! Flash point has a lot going for it, each class feels unique in meaningful ways, but since you can change class mid game you don’t feel locked into hopeless situations when your particular ability is no longer helpful. It has varying difficulty going from a family game to enjoy with the kids, to an intense burning hellscape where everything is exploding and you learn why it’s best to keep doors shut in a fire! One of my favourite parts is the tokens, some are people to save, but others are actually blanks. There’s nothing quite like fighting through an intense blaze only to find out that the person you were trying to save was actually a TV someone left on!

Number 3: Mechs vs Minions
Mechs vs Minions is pure-brewed chaos in adorable packaging. From the moment you open the box you are in for pure joy, the production quality is beyond anything I’ve ever seen in a board game before. There is a decent sized campaign to play though with a good amount of unlockables and surprises along the way. The basic gameplay is personalised programming, you each control a mech that will stumble its way across the battlefield cutting down swathes of minions. So far so good, but add some objectives that need precise control to complete and damage cards that mess around with your programming by inserting random moves and you are in for a wild ride.

Number 2: Pandemic Legacy
Pandemic is a great game, it’s variants and expansions add a lot to it, but of them all Pandemic Legacy takes the cake, and the whole damn bakery besides! The game balances itself, so if you have a losing streak it will help you out, but if you win a lot then it will happily take away some of your toys. While the game can’t be replayed and you ‘only’ get between 12 and 24 games from the box, it’s a brilliant campaign experience which will bring your group closer together. Pandemic Legacy is hard to talk about, because spoilers would ruin the experience, but suffice to say that it is constantly evolving and changing making each game you play a little bit different. By the end of the campaign what you are playing is barely recognisable to how the game looked when you first sat down with it.

Number 1: XCOM:The Board Game
XCOM is my favourite board game of all time, so it should be no shock that it’s here. I’m a big fan of the computer games and this game manages to nail the atmosphere of the games. While the gameplay is very far from the computer games (they are strategy RPGs, think computerised versions of descent/imperial assault). The 2 phase system of Xcom means that in the timed phase you have to act on instinct as much as logic, there’s no time for a power player to take control or a AP player slow things down. The Asymmetrical play with the 4 player roles provides great replayability since it can be 4 games before you are even doing similar things and the difficulty can be taken from fairly evil to downright unfair with not only harder aliens, but less time to react to them coming. The app controls the game nicely keeping track how things are going without asking for every little detail keeping the gameplay fast and fun.

I'm always up for a good co-operative game so if you think I've missed out on a great game here then let me know, I'd be happy to try it, perhaps you can knock one of these games off the list?

10 comments:

  1. I'm a big fan of SOTM, though I fear it's better as an app because all the housekeeping is done for you.

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    1. The first time I tried it was with the app. I didn't really end up knowing what was going on because the person teaching us offered to manage it for us! I should probably try the app again now I know how the game works it might help take away all the fiddling with tokens.

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  2. Nice list! Reminds me I should really play XCOM again sometime. I don't think I ever got a group together long enough to try the hardest difficulty settings.

    My favourite coops of the moment are Gloomhaven and Arkham Horror LCG!

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    1. Xcom can be downright brutal on the harder difficulties, I truly recommend it for a tense, engaging game. But make sure your team know what they are doing because there is no time for indecision!

      We've backed the Gloomhaven 2nd edition kickstarter, looking forward to trying that in a few months!

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    2. I want to try Arkham Horror LCG too, but LOTR LCG is in our pile of unplayed games, so can't really justify it yet!

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  3. Nice list, I like co-ops, and have not played many of these titles apart from the great Xcom.

    Hete is something you might want to try : my favorite, space hulk: death angel, Shadowrun: crossfire, burgled Bros, sherlock Holmes consulting detective.

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    1. Of those we've tried Burgle Bros and Sherlock Holmes. Burgle Bros seemed very interesting, Evading the guards was a good challenge, I think we ended up in a situation where we couldn't get the last person escape. I would like to try it again at some point.

      Sherlock was a incredibly good Sherlock game, it oozed detective theme and really made you feel like you were investigating a crime. I loved the idea of it. Unfortunately I didn't actually love the playing of it, I don't think I was enough of a Sherlock fan to get absorbed by the game, and Fiona definitely wasn't! If you can't find yourself getting absorbed into the narrative then you will probably find it quite boring, it's definitely a story driven game.

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  4. Nice list you made there. I would give Mansions of Madness 2nd ed also a place in this list. Its a great story driven game that works very well together with the app.

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    1. That's a game we were really looking forward to. When we finally played it it was a long bloated murder mystery with no real action until the last 20 minutes.
      The people who owned the game freely admitted that it was the worst game of mansions of madness they had played by a large margin. While we obviously played a bad scenario, it hardly left us begging for more.

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  5. Good list! Love SOTM, GS, and Mysterium. I'd suggest trying The Captain is Dead. Similar in many ways to Pandemic, but I feel it ramps up in difficulty better and encourages more complex teamwork (and I prefer the scifi theme). :)

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