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Board Game Gift Guide 2013

Cooperative Games

Not everyone enjoys competing against others.  Don’t worry, there are games they can enjoy.  These games are called cooperative games.  In cooperative board games players are working together rather than individually to win the game.  They win or lose as a group.  Sometimes the games may introduce a traitor who may be secretly working against the group.  Below is the list of my favorite games to play with family / friends.

1.  Flash Point Fire Rescue

I love the theme of this first game.   Players are firemen and women working together to put out a fire and rescue the people / pets inside.  The game offers rules for both a family version and an expert version.  The expert version includes special abilities for the rescuers and the ability to drive the Fire Truck.  The expert version even offers different levels of difficulty.

Players win if they are able to rescue seven victims from the flames or lose if four victims perish in the fire.  I love the dice rolls, the fear of the fire spreading as your try to rescue the victims, and those amazing feats as rescuers battle to flames to bring the 7th victim to safety.  Everyone around the table cheers them on, knowing they have just won the game together.  It’s beautiful production, quality components, theme, and exciting game makes it my favorite cooperative game.  The rules can be a bit confusing to read for new players.  I suggest playing with someone who knows the game well.

2.  Escape: Curse of the Temple

In Escape: Curse of the temple, players are, you guessed it, working together to escape from a cursed temple before it collapses.  Everyone escapes, or everyone loses.  The game is timed and will last only 10 minutes!  If you lose, it is easy to set the game up and try again.  It comes with a exciting soundtrack or you can use the sand timer.

During the game players are simultaneously rolling dice and taking actions.  The symbols on the dice let you enter a room, reveal new tiles, or discover magic the gems needed to escape.  Beware of the black mask and its curse.  Until a golden mask is rolled a die with a black mask cannot be used.  With only ten minutes to play there may not be a lot of strategy discussion.  There will be a lot of chaos, cheering, and shouts as players call for golden dice  and run to help other unlock the gems.  It can be intense, so play without the timer the first time or with younger players until they understand the basics.  Once you have the basics down, the race against the clock opens up an incredible cooperative experience.

3.  Forbidden Island / Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are two cooperative games by designer Matt Leacock.  I have not had the opportunity to play Forbidden Desert but the theme of escaping the desert may be more appealing to some people and that I why I included it.  Both games are similar, but I’ll speak more about Forbidden Island.

I’ll start with the beautiful artwork and components of Forbidden Island.  They are gorgeous and will definitively draw players into the game.  The solid rules and game play make this beautiful game an incredible experience. Players are trying to collect treasures and escape the island before it sinks.  As the game progresses the water level rises, making it harder and harder to win the game.

Like many cooperative games, there are varying levels of difficulty to help players first learn the game and then challenge themselves as they become more advanced players.   Special player powers give players many options to claim the treasure and escape the island.  The strategy is fun to discuss and even younger players can offer valuable thoughts.  Plus both games are very affordable and can be found for around twenty dollars or less.

4.  Pandemic

Pandemic is another game by Matt Leacok, but the more difficult rules and larger scale makes it more appropriate for older children and adults.  In Pandemic diseases are spreading around the world and players must work together to treat and research cures for the diseases.

Players must travel around the work to treat infected people, build research stations, and discover cures.  Every turn players must spread the diseases and watch out for the Epidemic cards and outbreaks that spread the diseases more quickly.

If one or more diseases spread beyond recovery the players lose.  If they can cure the four diseases they win.

The theme of curing diseases will bring in players.  Who doesn’t want to save the world?  Only by working together can players defeat the diseases and cure the world.  Winning the games isn’t easy and you will not win every play.  This is what makes the games so great, winning is a time for celebration and congratulations for a game well played.

5.  Shadows Over Camelot

The first cooperative game I played was Shadows Over Camelot.  Players are Knights of the Round Table who must work together to complete different quests.  For example they will need to defeat the Black Knight, find the Holy Grail, or claim Excalibur.  Completed quests place white swords on the Round Table and failed quests place black swords.  Too many black swords and Camelot will fall and the players will lose.  The Knights also face invasions for siege engines and barbaric tribes. Too many siege engines will also cause Camelot to fall.  But if players can gain the majority of white swords Camelot will be saved.

The Theme, the beautiful high quality components, and various quests make Shadows Over Camelot a family favorite.  The game also introduces the possibility of a traitor into the cooperative game.  So players may start to wonder if one of their own is working against them.  The multiple quests and ways to win white swords let players play to their and their knights strengths.  The game is easy to learn, but mastering and pulling out a win isn’t easy.

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