Skip to Content

Brainstorming Codependent Cooperative Games

4 replies [Last post]
A Round Tuit
A Round Tuit's picture
Joined: 01/21/2016

I've been brainstorming ideas for codependent cooperative games. I've got a few possible themes but finding viable core mechanics has been rough. I'd love to hear your ideas for possible games in this sub-genre!

What do I mean by "codependent"? Well, players in co-op games usually have complete autonomy of movement. So, my idea was, "What if you're all tied together and literally can't progress without working together?"
I imagine there ARE board games like that, I just can't think of any. Although Space Cadets, the co-op levels in Portal 2, multiplayer 'Splosion Man and the Left 4 Dead series seem close.

•The first theme my mind went to was "low ropes courses" which consist of team building and communication exercises like human knots, scaling a 10-foot wall, or getting everyone from one side to the other of a bungee cord spider web without touching it or using the same hole twice. Some people are small and some are tall. Some are strong and some are weak. Everyone is self-sufficient in some situations, but sometimes you absolutely need the help of your team to succeed.

•The second theme, which came from the first, was rock/ice climbing. Every player is tethered to each other and must rely on their team to set anchors and help anyone who falls. There's a lot of room for including weather effects (Slick ice, surprise gust of wind, avalanche, etc) and individual character strengths (Good with knots, has more specialized equipment, strong grip, high endurance, etc).

•The third theme idea put me back on the ground with a budding prison break where each player is physically chained together. I felt this would work better as a real-time, frenetic mess of players getting tangled around poles and furniture and generally panicking, like Escape. My roommate thought it would work better as a pre-escape attempt stealth game with special character powers (pickpocketing, chemistry, explosives, computers, murder, etc. You know, the usual), like Nuns on the Run or Specter Ops. Either way, you're stuck with each other whether you like it or not. I've been told that I need to watch "O Brother, Where Art Thou" for inspiration.

•The fourth theme was "rowing", which might win an award for original/obscure theme. A (team?) racing game where players need power and speed, but mostly to be in sync with each other. Imagine Snow Tails with an 8-dog sleigh controlled by 4 people... Being in sync would be more additive to speed while being out of sync would be more averaging or dragging. Or maybe one team trying not to go off a waterfall. Hmmm...

Just through writing this, I already made some decent progress on developing the raw ideas further. Thanks... for listening, I guess. :)

Is this an already existing genre that I'm not aware of?
Is it a terrible idea for a genre?
What mechanics would lend themselves well to this genre?
Thoughts? Ideas? Heresies?

ElKobold's picture
Joined: 04/10/2015
The main issue here is to

The main issue here is to make sure that both players participate in the game in equal measure.

Many of these games fall into the trap of one player deciding what other players should do.

Pandemic, for example, while a great solo game, can dissolve into the other players just being there to hold cards for a player who is making all the decisions.

Joined: 07/03/2013
The key is to restrict knowledge

As you may have noticed, the idea works well enough, but doesn't work once one player gets the hang of the game and can order others around. That's where knowledge restriction comes in.

The award-winning game Hanabi does this by restricting the number of hints players can give to each other about their own hands (since they can't see their own). This means that each player must think independently and guess what their partner is going to do (and try to interpret the vague hints they've been given).

That said, this style of game would work very well with a game with a rhythm, like the aforementioned rowing game. I imagine that you could set up the game to work as a 2v2, where each player has a hand of cards, and must try to keep their boat rowing straight, but the players cannot communicate with each other. Each turn, both players on a team play two cards from their hands simultaneously, and if the number of "row" cards each player places don't match up, the boat veers off-course (having a boat marker on a circular board would be great). After veering 2-3 rows off course, you can't progress until your partner rows to straighten you out. Again, you only progress if you play simultaneously.

Since you have no control over what you draw, you might include a way to pass cards between players. other ideas include paddling a canoe, where you're allowed to switch the side you're rowing on with a card as well, or the ability to so something to an opponent to veer them off-course.

Interesting ideas, all!

Corsaire's picture
Joined: 06/27/2013
Time constraints as in the

Time constraints as in the XCom board game have a nice checking mechanism.

Speaking of XCom as in the video game: a tactical move, cover, and fire game with time constraints could be pretty intense. It's a familiar motif which done right could be a neat gateway game for the Counter Strike and such players.

Hidden knowledge, agendas, unexpected options, or longitudinal awards/badges could all work. For unexpected options, in a timed game you could draw an opportunity card on your move that might benefit the team, but break from an alpha's strategy. By longitudinal I mean you could have experience that improves your character for the next session, or player badges.

I have a game in the works that might be a great rainy day game for schools. It has different length & difficulty scenarios. Something I'm thinking about is having a tracking sheet that could be copied and then use stickers to track accomplishments.

A Round Tuit
A Round Tuit's picture
Joined: 01/21/2016
ElKobold: Agreed. I'm aware

ElKobold: Agreed. I'm aware of the "Alpha gamer" problem and mitigating that particular potential pitfall is definitely a good thing to keep in mind through every stage of the process. The balance between complete autonomy and the ability to collaborate and brainstorm ideas is one that will probably change from design to design.

ruy343: I hadn't actually thought of switching the side your paddle is on... which could add some interesting dynamics. I was only thinking of two oars for each person with cards played for each oar. In general I'm leaning toward restricted knowledge and simultaneous play. But if I want players to voluntarily restrict knowledge I may need a motivation to not be completely open about what you can or plan to do. Hidden agendas and rowing don't seem like a sensical mix... Mutiny? Or simply go with "You're being dragged toward a waterfall. You don't have time to talk it out. Start rowing."
"Veering off course" reminds me a bit of "...and then we held hands", a puzzley co-op which doesn't allow communication or strategizing and requires you to be mindful of your teammate's situation and play accordingly.

Corsaire: I like time constraints. :) Keeps players too focused on their own tasks to worry about bossing others around.
Something that throws off the planned strategy can work, but you'd have to keep the alpha from simply dictating the new strategy.
I like the idea of having carry over from play to play. It might just be me but I'd prefer to keep the process simple. Upgrades/alterations that affect play in interesting ways without requiring complicated character sheets and stats.

In my notebook scribblings, there are notes about how to avoid Alpha problems for every one of the designs. Some are more definitive than others, but it is something I try to keep in mind.
•Low Ropes - No solid solution. Just a warning that one player could easily direct how others play. Silent game?
•Ice Climbing - Each player has their own (hidden) grip and fatigue to worry about. Depending on how much communication is allowed (its an ice-storm!) players might only know that others need help from in-game cues like adjusting to rest on a ledge or the more obvious slipping and falling to their doom. Or communication could be open but players are still only obligated to help insofar as they are able. Maybe a few turns later once they're better situated.
•Chain Gang - I preferred a real-time mechanic because I thought it would be too easy to "solve" if players had time to deliberate about who should move where. My hurdle with this idea is how the game would actually play and how to represent being chained together with cards or minis, etc, but that's another conversation. The stealth mechanic version feels like it could suffer from Alpha Gamer Syndrome no matter how I spin it. Maybe players would have to direct each other with hand signals like in Ugg-Tect... That could be fun to watch. Anyone know of any silent tactical games that require hand-waving? [There's a guard around the corner.] [The coast is clear? Sweet!] *bang*
•Rowing - Not much figured out yet. Maybe cards are only drawn after a discussion phase? I don't know.

Silence and unknown information seem to be a viable mechanics throughout... but its effective.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut