Here’s a couple of cooperative games that have struck my fancy for May 2019.
1.VENOM Assault Reprint, plus expansion: Villains & Valor
Up again for a second try, this expansion for Venom Assault (a cooperative deck builder with a GI Joe theme) adds more cards and gives you the opportunity to get the base game as well as the expansion. It didn’t quite fund the first time, so I am hopeful it funds this time: this game made my honorable mention of Top 10 Cooperative Games of 2017! Give this one a try, I think you’ll really like it!
One of the things we were worried about, happened: the binding isn’t great.
After a single play, one of the pages fell out of one of the books! It’s not a deal-breaker: you can still play the game. It’s just sort of frustrating.
After reading through the rules again with a big group, I understand the icons on the edges of the panels a little better now. Sometimes, to make sure you have “solved” a puzzle, the Icon on one panel corresponds to the Icon on the “solved” panel. So, that made more sense after playing some more. The down arrow in the picture below is an example of that … the “K” .. is something else!
What didn’t make sense it why the instructions didn’t include just a few more Icons? For example, in the instructions below, the rules say:
…If a player sees a panel with their character’s initials in the corner of the panel …
So, there are at least 4 things wrong with these instructions!
Why not show the 4 initials? They are actually very stylized in the game, and don’t “quite” just look like initials (see picture above with the “K”). This is an opportunity to just show 4 Icons in the instructions. When I go looking for Icons in the Instructions, my eye would catch those 4 Icons, and I would know what they are. Instead, I am scratching my head.
They say “initials”, but they are really more “stylized” Icons, so it wouldn’t catch me the first time (or second) that they are initials … I would just think they were some random Icon!
Where are the Icons? It should say “in the upper right corner”!
What are my initials? I know each character is playing a different character, but the name is NOT actually on the front cover!. It’s on the back, but kinda tiny. As we played, I don’t think any of us ever “knew” our characters name. I feel like it should have been more “prevalent”: In bold on the cover? On each page at the bottom? Something to emphasize or more! Or maybe just the Icon on the bottom of each page? The Icon that we don’t know???
Holy cow was the scoring complicated! There were several math majors/minors, engineers, computer scientists at our table and we had to re-read the scoring a few times to get it! And it’s a tiny font!
I like that the scoring tries to adjust for age, number of players, etc. At the end of the day, though, I think this game just probably just be played for “fun” and just compare how many gems you got for last time.
Okay, this is where the game shines: multiple players! When we played, we all interacted, made decisions together, congratulated each other when we solved puzzles, and had fun! This is really the best part of the game, exploring as a team, being excited by finding stuff. It really worked well for that. We felt like we were exploring an island and solving puzzles. And the time flew by! It was a blast!
One of Sarah’s favorite things about this game: there was almost no set-up: you pulled out the books and the maps and you started. That’s it! A few minutes the first time to read the instructions, but then it’s just “jump right in” after that!
Even though the books are “smallish” (not giant tomes), we still don’t feel like we saw too much. I was worried, because the books weren’t huge, that the replayability would be diminished. Nope! After playing through for an hour, there was still a TON of stuff to see!
My group really had fun! We lost track of time for that 1 hour, playing and having fun! Everyone said they would play it again! The cons (lackluster binding, small margins, wonky Icons, weird scoring) brought the group’s rating of this down, but we all ended up between 6 and 7 (on the BoardGameGeek rating). I think in the end, it gets about a 6.8.
The Crusoe Crew was a Kickstarter from Van Ryder games back in late 2018 (Nov. 12 2018 to Dec. 3). It just delivered this last Friday (April 19th, 2019) when it was supposed to deliver in March 2019. A month late? That’s great by Kickstarter standards!
The Crusoe Crew is a cooperative adventure game for 1-4 players. It’s a story telling game! Each player takes one of 4 roles and works through an adventure together. Let’s take a look at it!
Spoiler Alert if you are Junkerman or the Chamberlin family! I got three copies of the game!
For Junkerman, who’s an English teacher and finds games like this great for his classroom
For the Chamberlins: A family of 4 who loves games!
I had a good experience with Van Ryder’s previous work and wanted to share the love.
What’s going on with the box?
The box has one of the magnetic clasps and a little ribbon that you use to “pull” stuff out of the box. It’s very nice quality. The back of the box shows 4 players reading the 4 books together in unison: that’s the nature of this game!
Notice the 7+: this is perhaps aimed at younger players.
What’s in the Box?
The game’s main components are the books. There is a map, which underscores the explorative nature of the game, which has has the instructions on the back.
The instructions are a little sparse, (and the font a little small for my taste), but I got going pretty quickly.
You probably want to make a copy of the instructions, or print out another copy (the Van Ryder web site has more) so you can mark it up and note things (days, inventory, rubies, etc).
To play the game, 1-4 players each take of the booklets and assume the role of that character! The players then read the books “together!”
In my first play, I played a solo game (yes, this game adheres to Saunders’ Law) and played the Grey Guy. Each character has a special ability. The Grey Guy is strong and can kick down/smash some things. Other characters are taller, can climb, and solve puzzles. This special ability gives each player an advantage and allows them different options in the game.
The game works by each player looking at their storybooks in tandem. They all “basically” see the same frame on the same caption: note the numbers in the upper left of each picture. So, players all turn (generally) to the same number and “see something”. There are typically numbers on the picture which give you options: do you go to 55 or 77? The players decide together and all turn to that caption.
What makes this different is that each player sees something “slightly” different. The Grey character is strong, so he might something that can be smashed, so he might see a different number hidden in the picture (43 is hidden in a wall). That means he can do something the other characters can’t! So, you decide as a team, do you want to do there? Does just one person go there?
You move through the story, picking up items and rubies. You try to get the best score picking up as many gems as you can.
Solo Play Thoughts
This game reminded me a lot of Robit Riddle: I reviewed it about a year ago here and here. It’s a story telling game which is much more text based. It’s aimed at a younger audience. The main difference was Crusoe Crew had more puzzles and much less reading: Crusoe Crew is a graphic novel!
I had the same problem with Robit Riddle that I had with Crusoe Crew: I don’t think it works well with 1 player. I am just flipping through pages by myself, just going through the motions. I am looking forward to trying this with a group, because I think it will work much better! Which is where Robit Riddle shined.
I have a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Books. My group just recently moved to D&D 5th Edition, but I was reminded of an issue that D&D 3.5 had that Pathfinder fixed.
Look closely at the inner margins on the two books: Pathfinder has plenty of space, but the D&D 3.5 book has text smashed into the inner margins, so it’s hard to read!
Unfortunately, Crusoe Crew has the same problem: it’s kind of hard to look at the pictures who are smashed into the inner margins of the book:
It wasn’t a deal breaker by any means: I could see stuff I wanted, but I had to “force” the book open a little. I am very worried this will cause the spine to crack and pages to fall out. I am worried for the longevity of the books because to see things (“wait, is that caption 46?”) you have to kind of jam open the book.
The game still works, it’s just worrisome. It’s also a little annoying and a surprising problem.
Thoughts For Now
So, this game has really great art. Except for the margin issues, it’s easy to read the text in the book. I wish the instructions had a little more info (What are those Icons in the picture above? Nothing in the directions tells you that! I supposed more plays will help me figure them out, but why have Icons if you explain them NO WHERE??), but in general it’s easy to jump right in.
I admit I am a little disappointed in a few aspects (margins, quality of binding, solo play, lacking instructions), but the art is really great and does really bring you into the game. This game feels like Robit Riddle: I think it will shine at 2-4 players. Stay Tuned for more plays.
There seems to be a flurry of interesting cooperative board and card games on Kickstarter this Month!
1. Venom Assault Expansion: Villains and Valor
Venom Assault is a cooperative Deckbuilder set in the world of something legally distinct, but highly reminiscent of GI Joe! Venom Assault made my 2017 list of Top 10 Cooperative Games (well, Honorable Mention, if only because it wasn’t clear if the release was late late 2016 or early 2017, depending on when you got your Kickstarter).
You can get the expansion and/or the original game! The expansion adds the new idea of medals, for adding something else to be working towards on your turn! Check it out!
This dice driven cooperative game has the players working together to save a species from extinction! The art by Beth Sobel and Ben Flores looks fantastic. It looks a little different than most cooperative games (not just a Pandemic reskin), so check it out here!
At the time of this writing, the game is very close to being funded! Don’t let this “Endangered” game fall away!
3. Kingdom Rush: Rift in Time
This cooperative game is blowing up right now! See here! I am not 100% sold on it, but it might be worth getting simply because there are so many stretch goals unlocked! And there’s a lot of buzz, so I admit to being a pawn to Kickstarter hype and have backed it myself! Check it out here and see if it’s something you are interested in!
I had some trouble with balance in Sidekick Saga. In a couple of ways:
Issue 2 was too easy. At a playtest in Las Cruces, the players just walked through it.
The more players there are, the easier the game
After tweaking the game a little, I had a playtest the other night. And it went AWESOME. I am so happy with the game right now.
Issue 2 Balance Issues
Issue 2 was too easy, so I stepped up the difficulty by replacing as card or two, and added another “Ice-a-cane” (Thanks to Cristina Mamar for the art!)
The interesting thing about this card: it can’t be hacked, attacked, put into disarray or anything. The only thing you can do is (a) wait it out or (b) suck it up and barrel in. With two of these on the board, the players were able to wait out one of them, but someone had to make the supreme sacrifice for the second one! (If you don’t, you have no way to attack the main Villain and you will lose).
IT WAS AWESOME! The players “argued” about who should make the supreme sacrifice! And then in the end, one player did it before the other! It totally reminded me of a “Teen Titans” comic where Cyborg and Raven argue about who’s going to make the sacrifice for the team … and then Robin does it while they arguing!
This is EXACTLY what I want in a comic book game! Players arguing over WHO will make the sacrifice! This is great. The only thing that would have made this better was popcorn. 🙂
Early playtests led me to believe the game was much easier when 3 or 4 players played. Why? It seemed in like a 2 player game, the characters are much closer to death, whereas in a 4 player game, the characters were all very healthy. The game gets the same number of actions (total), Bad News cards (total) and actions, regardless of the number of players. So why the difference?
Because I didn’t vary the Hit Points. With 2 Players at 12 Hit Points each, there are a “total” of 2*12=24 Hit Points for the Bad Guys to inflict to win. At 3 Players, that’s 3*12=36 Hit Points. At 4 Players, that’s 4*12=48!
I learned one great lesson on balance from the “Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game”: the number of hit points a character has diminishes as the number of players goes up. My original playtests showed that making this exactly 24 Hit Points each time was TOO restrictive. (4 Players would just DIE quickly as 6 HIT POINTS each was no where near enough). Why? Because of imperfect communications, sharing of cards is less direct, and you usually don’t do “perfect” strategy when you have more players.
So, this seemed like a good compromise.
At 2 Players: Each Player gets 12 Hit Points
At 3 Players, Each Player gets 10 Hit Points
At 4 Players, Each Player gets 8 Hit Points
That seems to keep the game balanced a little better. Thanks Warhammer Quest!
I feel like Sidekick Saga is ready. I saw the closest game of Sidekick Saga I have ever seen the other night: Only 1 player was alive and she went in and just barely defeated the main Villain. The Sidekicks won in the very last Act, even though the other 3 players were defeated. It was Epic, Tense, Fun, Cooperative! (And we got some new art … see above! Each City Location has its own art now!)
It’s already been another year! 2017 was a great year (with a good top 10 cooperative games). RICHIECon 2018 came and went …
2018 was an interesting year: it felt like most of the new cooperative games I played came out near the end of the year! So, there are a few I didn’t play that are still on my pile! (Notably, Detective, Direwild, Metal Dawn and a few others) But, this was still a pretty awesome year! There were a lot of Superhero games (which isn’t surprising if you know me).
As usual, we will invoke Saunders’ Law: (Does the cooperative game have a viable solo mode?) when we discuss this year’s top 10 cooperative games!
Honorable Mention: The 7th Continent
Playable Solo? Yes, you can play solo easily.
Strictly speaking, The 7th Continent came out LAST year. But it never hit retail. It was ONLY available on Kickstarter! So, I missed out on the first printing. Well, it turns out they had a 2nd Kickstarter in 2018, which is “arguably” a 2018 release? Strictly speaking, it’s not a 2018 release, which is why it is an Honorable Mention for 2018.
This is a great adventure game with a lot of content: very choose your own adventure as you explore an evolving landscape. Very fun! This would have ended up in the top 3 if I were allowed to put it in this year’s list …
Playable Solo? Yes, it plays solo, but you have to play two characters.
This game has a lot going for it: it’s a Richard Lanius game, it has Batman, and you get to play SuperHeroes! Batman, Robin, the Commissioner, and CatWoman! I must admit, I was very nervous when I first played this game! It looked a LOT like my own game Sidekick Saga, but it turns it was very different. This is a dice game, where you all work together to keep the City of Gotham from being destroyed by all the Villains in the Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery! Each Superhero has his own way of mitigating/enhancing the dice roles, so each character plays very differently. It’s not super deep (no pun intended), as you role dice and do the best you can to stop the Villains. It’s a fun, medium filler! (The rulebook could have used a little more work, but it was good enough). Check it out!
Playable Solo? No! There’s no mention you can play it solo, although if you take 2 characters, you can play it solo. It works well enough that way.
Forbidden Sky is the third in the “Forbidden” series, with Forbidden Island being the first (a good entry cooperative, especially for kids), and Forbidden Desert being the second (an excellent medium-weight cooperative game). In this game, the players collectively build a skyramp (see picture on box), trying to collect the lightning so they can launch their spaceship! The players have to avoid high winds, the self-same lightning, all while trying to build this circuit to launch their spaceship. Now, here’s the cool part: you actually build a real-life circuit where real electricity flows! When you complete the physical circuit (which is on the game board), the rocket “launches”! Well, it makes real-life noises pretending to launch! It’s cheesy, but pretty cool.
I think Forbidden Desert is still my favorite of the series, but Forbidden Sky has high “coolness” factor building a real circuit, and it’s a fun game!
Playable Solo? Yes, but the game doesn’t work well until about 3 players.
See my full review here: This was a Kickstarter that delivered in 2018. It’s a fairly fun reading/storytelling game, aimed at a younger audience, but I find that I enjoyed it. It has a lot of educational value (I know, usually the kiss of death), but it was fun.
Playable Solo? No, not really. You could kinda fake it with 2 characters, but this game is all about the interaction with multiple players.
So, my friend Sean brought this game over to one of our game nights. We played it all the way through AND HAD A BLAST! I picked it up myself soon after that! It’s a very lightweight filler game, but you can make it last as long you want! Each session last 5 minutes, as all the players collectively and simultaneously play cards to defeat the bad guys. If you continue to play, the bad guys get harder and harder! It is a realtime cooperative card game, which I usually hate, but this one was fun! Thanks Sean! I think the Superhero nature of the game pumped my enjoyment a little …
Playable Solo? Absolutely: A great solo mode where you play just one character!
This one was a surprise to me! I almost backed the Kickstarter, but didn’t. I got it later from a friendly retailer. If I am in a bad mood, I was describe this as “fiddly Pandemic meets Hacker”. BUT, I think a better description is “Dynamic Pandemic meets Hacker!”
Hacker is a old Steve Jackson game where you build a network of computers and work competitively to take over the most machines. Renegade takes this premise and makes it cooperative as you all fight against the SMC! (A Big Bad!) It has a Pandemic-like mechanism as sparks collect, and three sparks cause a Guardian. And sparks and guardians “collect” on your servers and partitions (instead of cities and countries of Pandemic), and if too many come out, you lose!
There’s a lot of rules to this game! It’s very thematic, with neural nets and viruses for battling sparks, but there are a lot of rules! I almost gave up on this game because the game seems sooo fiddly. It could really use a player summary card. BUT once I got into it, it was fun, challenging and very interesting! Give it a whirl if you are looking for a more “complicated” Pandemic!
Playable Solo? Inasmuch as Sentinels of the Multiverse plays solo. See my post here on how to play Sentinels solo. You can apply that here.
It took quite a while (2+ years?) to go from Kickstarter to delivery. But the game finally arrived in 2018! This is more than just an expansion for Sentinels of the Multiverse, this is a very different way to play the game! See my reviews here and here! This is a VERY fun Superhero romp! It’s EPIC! It’s CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS … I mean multiverse, as you are trying to stop THANOS … I mean OblivAeon from destroying the multiverse!!!
It’s a very long and fiddly game. 3+ hours and lots of rules to wade through. BUT, it is the most EPIC SuperHero game you will ever play! But, whatever you do, DO NOT play this until you have mastered the base Sentinels of the Multiverse game! There’s just too much until you know the game.
It’s a fun game, as your heroes die (!), you move back and forth between realities and fight SO MANY BAD GUYS! Fun.
Playable Solo? Strictly speaking yes, but these games go SO MUCH better with a few people!
One of my favorite experiences of 2018 was playing this Unlock adventure with Delia and Sam at RICHIECon! It’s one of the more intricate Unlock games, as you play all the 4 characters from the Wizard of OZ. And without giving away too much, it has a really cool little cardboard device you use throughout the game.
Probably not a good Unlock game to start with, but once you kind of know how the Unlock games work, this one is fantastic. Yes, I would play it again.
Playable Solo? Yes, but you have to play 2 characters at once (alternating)! The game is balanced so that the Heroes always get 4 actions per turn, regardless of player count.
So, this game is a reskin of Warhammer Quest: the Adventure card game!
Unfortunately, Fantasy Flight and the Warhammer people (Games Workshop) “broke up” about a year ago, which meant Fantasy Flight couldn’t use the Warhammer IP anymore.
Which means NO MORE expansions and NO MORE game! (The Warhammer game had two very minor expansions by adding two new characters, but that’s it).
This is a great game system! It’s simple, as each player only has to manage 4 cards. Each card is “tapped” after you use the ability, and you have to do a “heal” or “rest” action to get all your cards back. A very simple mechanism as you explore dungeons!
This is pretty much the same game. You are just in the Terrinoth universe instead of the Warhammer universe. There are minor differences, but it’s the same game. It’s a great game! The main problem with the original game was that there were ONLY 5 scenarios with the game! It CRIED for expansions! Now, with Fantasy Flight owning all the IP for Terrinoth, maybe we will get some …
If I had to characterize this game, I’d say it’s an old text-style adventure game! What? In the old adventure games, you could only “manipulate” the items on screen on in your inventory. “Get light”, “Drop light”, “talk man”, “ask guard about skull” and so on. In this game, all your items are on cards in front of you! When you want to interact with the items, you use your smart phone to scan a code on some cards! So, if you want to “ask guard about skull”, you’d scan the code on the Guard card, then scan the code on Skull card! And the phone would tell you what he said!
This interaction is great! Except, you are trying to solve a crime by interacting with the world in front of you! Really, really fun! You move around from location to location, physically LOOKING at animations at locations (really!), and then scan cards. (“I think there’s a shovel here at this location … Um … Oh! There’s a ‘gardening tools’ card! Scan that!”)
Surprisingly fun, amazing graphics (you HAVE to have a smart phone to play), but a lot of content! It’s also easy to play! A GREAT game!
It shouldn’t shock you that my favorite game is a Superhero game. What should shock you is that it’s basically a DICE GAME! I usually don’t like dice games that much. But this one was fun fun fun!
This game is a surprise on so many levels! It was a Kickstarter that delivered ON TIME! The components are absolutely amazing! (See my review/unboxing here) The gameplay is interesting and uses Player Selected Turn Order (one of my favorite cooperative game mechanics)! The game is hard! But, there are so many interesting decisions even if it is really just a dice game.
This game also introduced me to Superhero world of the Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson.
This was my favorite cooperative game of the year 2018, and it shocked me too.
If you are wondering why we haven’t finished a few reviews for this site, it’s because we have been busy working hard on Sidekick Saga! I’ve been working a lot on the art and graphic design with some great people! (Well, I have getting art from some great artists and great people to help me with graphic design). And getting ready for the Kickstarter! So we’ve just been busy!
Dice Tower Con West
I am excited that we will be previewing Sidekick Saga at Dice Tower West this March 2019! We will have a booth there … come by and get a demo of Sidekick Saga!
Here’s a picture of Scenario Book Cover!
Here’s a sample card (it will be spruced up some more, but this is pretty much what it will look like):
Fewer and Fewer Games!
As this Sidekick Saga Kickstarter gets closer and closer, I am actually playing fewer and fewer games! (So that’s why we have had fewer reviews …) I have at least 6 cooperative games that I really want played, but I am spending all my time getting Sidekick Saga ready to Kickstart in March 2019!
Here’s a quick look at some cooperative games that have gotten little-to-no play!
Forbidden Sky: We’ve actually had 3-5 plays of this, and its decent! Some people like it better, but Forbidden Desert is still my favorite.
The Batman Animated Series Game! Dang! I wanna play this! Richard Lanius and a CO-OP. Maybe this weekend.
7th Continent: Spent at least 2-3 hours sleeving the darn thing. Still haven’t played it!
Detective: Still sitting there …
Heroes of Terrinoth: Just came in the mail the other day. I am a huge fan of the Warhammer Quest Adventure Card Game (which was basically unsupported after Fantasy FLight lost the Warhammer license), so this is supposed to the be the same game in the Terrinoth universe!
Exit games … so many exit games …
About the only game that’s gotten consistent play: Pandemic Legacy Season 1! We have actually been playing 1 session a month where we play 1 or 2 games (if you lose, you have to play a second game to try to catch up). Next month, we will finish everything! One way or another!
Our apologies … we hope to get some of the games played over the Turkeyday break, and give your you our thoughts! Have a great Thanksgiving and PLAY GAMES!