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Thoughts on a mechanic where the players take turns being the bad guys in a cooperative game.

5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 03/10/2012

I have always liked games that are player(s) vs. game. I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts on these types of games. I am thinking of attempting a game like this. I would like the players to cooperatively compete against different scenarios.

So my question is what are some advantages and disadvantages of having a player act as "The bad guys / moderator/ game master / etc. " for the round. Vs. having some mechanic that handles the bad guys so all the players can act all together.

As example of this I mean some thing like Mutant Chronicles : Siege of the Citadel. The game is a bit cheesy I know. but I LOVED it as a kid. The players take turns being the bad guys.

Crensh3000ad's picture
Joined: 03/06/2012
Hello there, there are some

Hello there,

there are some decent co-op games out there, that's for sure. The question is, whether you want your players experience something that draws them together OR lets them compete against each other. In most games the players act against each other, thus presenting different levels of "threats". The "drawn-together"-experience has to simulate the feeling of a desperate struggle against impossible odds, and it has do so stronger than in other games. Otherwise, the players are not challenged enough as a group. I guess that the supervillain formula from superhero comic books can be applied here as well: the weaker good guys have to band together against a stronger foe in order to make it exciting. Finally, it depends on the game and its theme. While a band of brave firemen or space marines would surely work together, in a game of space pirates, prohibition-era-gangsters or modern age bounty hunters the co-op idea seems not so well-fitted - these guys would only work together as an exception. Whether you play the "good guys" (knights and paladins looting a monster dungeon) or the "bad guys" (orcs and trolls waiting in the dungeon for victims like knights and paladins) depends on your choice of theme.

From more recent games, Space Hulk:Death Angel comes to my mind. It has great artwork, plays quickly and gives players that intense feeling that if they make one mistake their band of brothers will be torn apart immediately. The gameplay feels cool for a while, but, in my eyes, becomes repetitive afterwards - you get used to where the aliens come from and how to regroup and arm your men accordingly. In this game, there are no scenarios and I believe that it becomes toneless after 5-6 plays - you just get used to everything the game throws at you.

Balancing such a game seems a little difficult. If the game cannot manage its opposition to make things warm for the players, then the co-op play becomes a boring cakewalk. On the other hand, if it progresses too relentless, it will turn away more players than it will be able to attract. For me, there is very little fun in being smashed by the game in the face, time after time.

Horatio252's picture
Joined: 03/13/2011

I think the major challenge of that is motivation. The person playing the bad guy for the round is likely motivated to help the team (which he will be part of next round) to win by giving easy challenges. You need to find a way to motivate players to make it hard on the team. Perhaps a system where the team earns more points the harder the game is, so the bad guy is trying to push the team to just short of their breaking point. Or a system where player earns points from being the bad guy, so that if they can defeat the team, or hurt the team over several rounds, when playing the bad guy they win the game.

Bottom line: think about why the person who is the bad guy for the round would ever make things hard for the team.

Mike Young
Joined: 07/18/2011
personal motivation

You could also make it a personal motivation. The turn's bad guy has a sliding scale of personal rewards depending how bad he makes it for the rest of the team. So he might get some sort of spectacular special ability to use in the future if he chooses the worst scenario for the rest of the team.

If it doesn't disrupt game play too much, you may also want to consider putting in anti-collusion rules, like they do in Betrayal on the House on the Hill where the antagonist leaves the room while the protagonists discuss what they do.

Maybe the turn's bad guy must choose the bad thing to do without any prompting from the other players and then the players can work together to react to it.

Joined: 03/10/2012
Excelent toughts

I had in mind a reward system for the players and for the "Bad Guy" player. A system to reward the players for successful completion of the mission, as well as points for the "Bad guy" player to keep him on scale with every one else. And to offer more points for the "bad guys" to defeat the players. Making that players character average better then the players IF the players are foiled. So the bad guy player is hopefully motivated to do work as hard as then can to stop the players.

Joined: 01/17/2011
Rewards for the GM

Rune is an RPG with a rotating GM. The GM earns XP based on his performance in the scenario, which he can spend on his character in the same way as the rest of the players who earned XP. This avoids the issue where your PC falls behind in XP/skills/power just because it was your turn to be GM.

Space Crusade is an old Games Workshop game where there is a GM and up to 4 players. In each scenario the space marines fight cooperatively against the orks, etc to reach the objective. The scenarios were balanced so that the players almost always achieve the objective, but the GM earns XP for each space marine killed. The GM can then spend his XP in future scenarios to use special abilities, so if the GM earns too much XP in the early missions he might be able to wipe out the players in the later missions.


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