Fastball Special

fastball

80’s X-Men

I grew up in the 80’s with the X-Men of Claremont/Byrne/Austin:  this particular incarnation of the X-Men is the basis for many of the current X-Men movies (Dark Phoenix, Days of Future Past) and spinoffs. The great stories and art really carried me into another world! What I would have given to be training in the Danger Room with Cyclops and Wolverine and the rest of the team!

One of the lessons of Charles Xavier’s school was co-operation. If you couldn’t work together in the Danger Room, you’d fail the exercise. If the team failed to work together in the field, they’d die!

The epitome of this co-operation is the Fastball Special.

The Fastball Special is where Wolverine climbs onto Colossus, Colossus throws Wolverine, and Wolverine attacks. It’s a very co-ordinatinated long distance attack. And it doesn’t work unless Wolverine and Colossus work together in a very particular order.

Superhero Games

 

It surprised me how long it took for there to be a co-operative Super Hero board/card games. With the popularity of super hero teams working together: the Avengers (“Avenger Assemble!”), Teen Titans (“Titans Together!”) and the X-Men (“To me, my X men!”),  it seemed only natural to me that a co-operative Super Hero game would be in the works.

Sentinels of the Multiverse was the first to get there (Gen Con 2011),  with Marvel’s Legendary (November 12, 2012) and DC’s Super Hero deckbuilding game  (11/30/2012) following. There are others, and we’ll do a round up in  later blog post, but these are the most popular at the time of this writing.

Turn Order

 

The interesting thing to me is that it’s hard to do anything like a Fastball Special in any co-operative game!

Most co-operative games require players to play in clockwise, counter clockwise, or some very specific order. If Colossus plays before Wolverine, they couldn’t set-up the Fastball Special!

Sentinels, for example, requires players to play in clockwise order. Thus, if I want Legacy to help Wraith with something, but Wraith plays before Legacy, I am out of luck! So, at my gaming table, we actually  have a “house rule” for Sentinels that players can play in any order  they want so they can pull  off something like a Fastball Special if they need to.

So my question is, “Why, in a co-operative game, can’t you play in any order you want?”

CO-OP: The co-op card game

One of the mantras of “CO-OP: the co-op card game”  is that I wanted a co-operative game that I wanted to play. To this end, I made sure (during the design phase) that players could play in any order they wanted! (Also called “player-selected turn order”).

Here’s the thing: it can make things a little tricky. During one fairly recent playtest, I got the following comment:

“It’s a little hard to keep track of who’s played if we go in any order we want. If we just went in clockwise order, we don’t have to worry about that”.

And that’s one major reason why I think a lot of co-op games  don’t embrace “player-selected turn order”; It adds complexity. Also, people aren’t used to it! They expect to go in one order because that’s what they’ve always done in so many other board games.

But there are a couple of simple solutions.

Solution 1: Don’t Worry About It

Okay, this is not the “ostrich head in the sand” solution, but sometimes simply noting (smetimes) it just may not be a problem. For example, in CO-OP, we noticed that in 1 and 2 player games (1 player game plays two characters),  no one ever really complained about “Ugh, who has played?”  There’s only 2 characters, so people don’t get lost. It’s no big  deal, so no special mechanism is needed to deal with it. It really depends on how much information has to be “remembered”: a small amount doesn’t require anything special (because in the case of of CO-OP, keeping track of  2-players is easy).

Solution 2: Use a Marker

Use a marker.

Okay, this is a obvious solution, but there are many ways to skin this cat:

  1. Turn something (card) sideways (“tap it”) to show you’ve gone
  2.  Knock a marker over (one that stands) over to show you’ve gone
  3. Move a marker off a “home” space to another space to show you’ve gone
  4. Every player has a marker and they give that marker to a special player
    after they’ve gone.

After all the markers are consumed (to show everyone has gone), then the
markers are returned to their natural state to get ready for the next turn.

For CO-OP, we went with a variant of solution 3: every player has a stand-up marker (with a picture of the character) that they “move” from their character sheet to the StoreFront, Warehouse, Yoga Studio or Park to show what action they’ve taken. Why solution 3?

  1.  There’s no natural card to turn sideways. All cards have other things on them, and turning something sideways will “goose” other markers.
  2.  Thematic reasons. CO-OP is all about going to the Store to work and the Warehouse to meet distributors, so it’s very thematic to move your marker from place to place to show when you’ve gone.
  3.  Kids like it. We are targeting the age group about 10 and up. Kids really seem to like moving markers around!
  4.  ALL players can easily see if your marker is on your home or elsewhere. There’s no need to ask “Have you gone?” if you easily see the marker has moved.

A small complaint I’ve heard is that the marker idea is “fiddly”, but once  people see why you do it, they don’t seem to mind it as much. For example: At an UNPUB event in San Diego, I was playing a 2-player game of  CO-OP with a fellow game designer. A few turns into the game, another fellow joined us and we went to a three player game. After the game was over, the other designer noted:

“I thought for the two-player game, the marker you have is fiddly.
But once the third player joined, it felt like it was imperative that
we have this marker! I totally understand why you want the marker now.”
Otherwise, you lose track of who has played.”

Conclusion

Was it worth all the work to allow players to play in any order? Absolutely! I’ve noticed in my playtests that people seem to plan more and work together (one of the goals of CO-OP), because they KNOW they can go in any order to help each other out.

  1.  One character can pass off a “problem” CUSTOMER to Billy Crisp so
    Billy (on his turn) can sell him anything
  2. One character can pass of a DISTRIBUTOR to a BIZZIE that turn so the BIZZIE can get more goods to the Warehouse.
  3.  A player can play first and play a card that gives everyone else more cards (so all other players have a better selection that turn)
  4. words words words  (lots of other ways, but let’s not spoil them!)

There are a lot of ways players can use turn order to decide what’s the best cards to play. I think it adds a new dimension to co-op games, as it makes the turn order strategic.

I’d like to see more co-operative game embrace player decided turn order so more “Fastball Specials” can happen!

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