The Tao Of Cooperation

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m not a fan of cooperative boardgames, which seems contrary to my personality, but what they so often suffer from is the lack of need of players.  The effect of having more players is simply to have less efficient information, which is defeated if everyone plays like a hive mind.

Then, you get games with traitors.  That has ended up being anti-fun in my experience.  I don’t like games where you know people are on the other side but don’t know who they are, nevermind games where you don’t know if someone is on the other side.  I’d much rather play a team* game.

*  I should try to look around for good team games that aren’t, obviously, computer games.  Computer games are often fantastic for team play, but it’s a separate post for why computer games leave me cold.

So, I bring this up because I played Ghost Stories, recently – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/37046/ghost-stories.

I liked it well enough.  Why?

Aesthetics

Stuff looked good.  The haunters and Buddhas were really nice, especially the latter.  The dice were “eh”, but the art was good.  This is another contrary-seeming thing, as I’m not really strong in the caring about aesthetics, though, I suppose, when I talk about art in L5R 4e books, it shows some interest.  I like Ultimate Combat!, and its art is awful.  I think V:TES has bad art.  Magic has a lot of amazing art, yet it doesn’t make me want to play the game.

Character Abilities

I think this is what really set the game apart from other cooperative boardgames I’ve played.  Component quality for boardgames has gotten crazy good.  But, compare Shadows over Camelot’s “oh, I got the guy whose ability is meaningless” to Ghost Stories’ “even though your guy gets two actions a turn, I still like my guy better” badassery.

Theme?

While I dig the theme – I’ve much more wanted to play an Asian fantasy Ghostbusters style game, kind of like Inuyasha, than play in Rokugan – I like Knights of the Round Table, yet find Shadows over Camelot to pretty much just be a grind.  That I don’t like new Battlestar Galactica may influence my lack of interest in that game.

It’s probably because you actually get to do things you want to do in Ghost Stories rather than just being some cog in SoC or Lords of the Ring that the theme actually matters.  I felt like there was a bit of a story, even though the layout of the game really, really doesn’t give you an evocative sense of what’s going on.

Shadowfist?!?

Totally off topic, I taught some Shadowfist, recently, as well.  Why not theme the post on recent gaming?  Because I don’t know that I have a ton to say on this topic.  Sure, I could do game reports, but some of the games were over quickly as people got problematic draws and couldn’t dig out of holes.  That was the main observation of the new players – the game is enjoyable, except for how you can be completely screwed in the beginning even with a bunch of discarding.

An observation of mine was how different the games were when only my decks were being played, when someone didn’t get an awful draw.  Now, it could be that the sample size of playing in Oakland is so small that bad draws are much of the reason for the impressions I get, but it just seemed like my decks were more consistent but also more consistently slow.  I’m risk averse, so I put the consistency down to wanting to be able to function even when things are going poorly.  Speed, in CCGs, can actually be the risk averse way to go, but I think V:TES has inured me to long, slow games.  None of my decks are large, and they are shrinking, which is another element to consistency.  I see 50 card decks as being wastefully bloated with worthless foundation characters.

On the other hand, the most epic game saw both of my opponents get decked.  I only had two FS Sites at the end of the game, playing all out defense, at the end.  I got close to decking, myself.  The one other thing, maybe just because of increased number of games played, was that I saw my decks do things they’ve never done, like the Hand deck actually have a horde in play.

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