I love the idea of co-op games, but from my (admittedly limited) experience playing them, “co-op” ends up meaning it’s much more likely that one player dominates play by coming up with the strategy, and others just follow along. Do others have the same experience? Which games reduce this effect?
The biggest way of preventing it is by playing something like Hanabi. You’re attempting to construct a fireworks show of a variety of different color fireworks (cards) by playing them in increasing order. But you can’t see your hand, only everyone else’s.
Everyone at the table can do one of three things: Play a card, hopefully in the right order (you lose a timer token if you’re wrong), spend a “hint token” to tell one person which of their cards are a specific number or a specific color (all of them, no cherry-picking), or you can discard a card. Either of the card actions cause you to draw a new one, so your hand stays the same size. You’re scored at the end by the number of cards you successfully played. It’s thorough in preventing that quarterbacking (it’s illegal to make any comments other than the ones with the hint tokens), but it’s a real brainburner.
Greatly improved review. Really love seeing game reviews in boing boing, please keep them coming. As noted in the review, Flash Point: Fire Rescue does a wonderful job of forcing players to make hard choices, however, in my experience the range of choices are somewhat limited. Meaning, players typically have to choose between mounting rescues or fighting the blaze. Moreover, the optimal choices can often be fairly obvious. This is not to say that things can not get out of hand very quickly, they can; however, the players ability to overcome challenges have more to do with chance then the quality of their decision making. That said, it is a fun gaming experience and so long a players know that their success may be dependent upon the roll of the dice (which determines where the fire will crop up) or the flip of a tile (which will determine whether a rescue will be successful) then a good time will be had by all. The components are solid, the game play is smooth, the theme is immersive and the mechanics are novel.
I have noticed a focus in these reviews upon co-op games. In light of this I wanted to give a few thoughts about co-ops so that people heading into this style of game go into it with their eyes opened.
First, co-op are a great deal of fun, they are a great way to bring new players into “designer” board games. These games make it easier for players to become familiar with the tactics and styles of these more complex games.
Second, co-op games are typically pretty darn hard to beat. While, most co-op’s have scaled difficulty levels (like Flash Point), striking the balance between too easy and incredibly hard is a daunting task. Therefore, when taking on a co-op know that losing (or not winning as you might hope) is very possible, if not highly likely. While the base version of Flash Point: Fire Rescue is on the low end of this spectrum (like other co-ops including the base version of Pandemic and Castle Panic) other co-ops are nigh near impossible to beat (like Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island and Ghost Stories).
Finally, co-op games are plagued by the alpha gamer problem, meaning a scenario where a dominant players directs the actions of others. Flash Point: Fire Rescue is troubled by this fault. Some games try to overcome this by requiring simultaneous play. Escape: Curse of the Temple is an example. Another example is Space Cadets (though I would recommend the superior Space Cadet:Dice Duels, while technically a team game it still has co-op features). Other games require the players to act autonomously in order to overcome this problem. Examples of co-op games that use this technique are Hanabi, Sentinels of the Multiverse and Dungeon Fighter.
This said, there are a ton of great co-op games. And while the style is not for everyone, every gamer’s collection should have at least a few co-ops within it and if you are a family gamer, Flash Point is a great place to start. (Castle Panic, Forbidden Desert or Mice & Mystics are good choices as well).
@waetherman This is an issue that the groups have, not the game. It was a problem in my group, and the solution for us was that the Alpha Player was told to not say anything unless directly asked.
It was humbling. I was the one who was told to be quiet. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. And I’m the one who keeps bringing the co-ops to the table (Arkham Horror, Pandemic, Flash Point, Castle Panic, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.)
Don’t fear the Alpha Player situation unless it starts happening, then I would suggest just asking them to wait on suggestions until directly asked for it.
Flash Point was my most recent purchase and my daughters (11,9,6) have been enjoying playing it with me. We’ve only played three games, and haven’t used the specific role cards yet. We’ve won each time save the first. Solid Co-Op game.
I get what you’re saying. And I think it’s pretty amusing that you admit to being the Alpha Player But I don’t think the “game” is blameless (or rather, the designers of the game); games are just exercises in designing group dynamics - a good game will encourage the best behavior and discourage the worst, either through a use of mechanics or rules. The fact that there is such a thing as the “Alpha Player Effect” suggests not enough has been done to think about how this can affect the game, or what can be done to prevent it. I’m curious to see the different models of how that can be done though, and will certainly explore some of the games you recommend!
Huh. Just like real firefighting, then, eh?
In fact, though, I do think every single one of those things - hard choices, limited options, obvious optima, luck is a big factor, and so on - makes Flash Point a far more realistic game - more like real firefighting - than I expected it to be.
Whether it’s fun or not depends on what you expect, and going in with a clear understanding that you can’t always win.
Again, kinda like real firefighting.
“Speak when spoken to” is a great rule for alpha gamers to live by.
Another good compromise is to present people with a couple cases (with pros and cons of each) and let them decide which course to take.
My favorite solution, however, is to just have a beer and relax. It’s just a game, right?
Yup! My problem was that i was the one who knew the rules and typically taught the games. Apparantly i wouldnt turn off teachng mode even after everybody had a good idea of how to play. Thankfully I’m pretty easy going, so once my Alpha gamer issue was pointed out to me, we went back to having fun playing the games.
I will have to take your word for it. I wish I were cool enough to be a firefighter. Actually, your comment brings to mind a podcast feature that we (meaning the podcast I host and produce) may soon do, namely playing themed board games with the professional group that do the featured activity in real life. I am looking forward to playing Flash Point with a group of real firefighters and hearing their thoughts.
Pandemic has you play with your cards hidden for just this reason. It seems silly because you’re allowed to freely discuss the cards in your hand, but making players talk about the cards instead of looking at all of them really reduces the chances of one player driving the game.
Note to parents of young children and squeamish people - nowhere in the game's rules or imagery is death mentioned specifically. Firefighters caught in the blaze are “knocked down,” and start their next turn in the ambulance; while victims are “lost.”Are there any players over the age of three who don't get what it means to be "lost" in a burning building? Or is there a list of words you can never say in a family board game?
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