Welcome to the 2018 Zatu Selections - our very own board game awards. In the Co-op Game category, our team of writers have chosen the co-operative games which they feel have been the most exciting, engaging and, in some cases, innovative.
They are the board games which make it fun to work together as a team, ones which make you think carefully about what your next move should be, and ones which create tension and risk as you play!
Will M - Tiny Epic Zombies
The Tiny Epic series of games prides itself on easy entry, high strategy, low downtime, short playtime, high replay-ability and a small box! Tiny Epic Zombies conforms to those directives and boy does it pack a lot into a tiny box or what!
While the game offers a solo mode, a competitive free-for-all with the game controlled Zombies and a competitive free-for-all with Zombies controlled by a player, the co-operative modes (with game-controlled Zombies or with Zombies controlled by a player) are where most of the fun is to be had, and is why it’s my co-operative game of the year.
In this finely produced game each player takes control of one of 14 unique survivors, ranging from an athlete, teenager, mechanic, photographer, mall cop, etc., each with their own special abilities and you must complete three missions (from a possible nine) in a mall which is being invaded by bloodthirsty zombies! The missions range from assembling an arsenal, to investigating the source of the zombie plague, to saving the stranded and escorting the army.
The meeples that the players control are Gamelyn Games’ special “ITEMeeples”, which have little holes in their arms so they can physically carry weapons such as chainsaws, shotguns, axes and uzis – adorable. The zombies are beautifully cut printed wooden sculpts, and the game even comes with a motorbike (“Go Daryl!”) and a cop car that the ITEMeeples can actually fit onto.
The game itself can be both intensely punishing and satisfying as you weigh up the quandary of whether going off to explore the food court will leave the courtyard undefended from the zombies who can’t wait to knock down your barricade and munch on your helpless survivor friends – on the bright side, your friends are in the same situation and are there to help!
Simon L - Just One
My co-op of the year could easily be one of several games, partially from the party genre. However, in the serious weighting you have Pandemic: Fall of Rome, Nemesis, Robin Hood and the Merry Men, Forbidden Sky and Root (marginally collaborative). However, my pick for Co-op of the Year would be a party game. In fact, it's up there in the top three for game of the year. A simple game, akin to Codenames and Decrypto, a word game where you work together - Just One.
I was at the inaugural Tabletop Gaming Live in September. Whilst I thought I wasn't sure the event was going to be a hit and knowing some people skipped it in case it wasn't, I can see it growing in attendance next year (however, being London, I heard the fees for sellers were high). So, I was demonstrating some games on the Saturday. Decrypto was put away apparently in the night and a game with Under Construction printed on the cover was on a table (with Just One also listed). We learnt some other games we hadn't so far then, like nervous, curious and timid, yet bold cats, we walked over and had a look.
We quickly learnt it and the seven of us (plays seven) sat down and gave it a go. There are many cards, each with five words on them. The guesser says a number and the group, co-operatively, must get the guesser to guess the word correctly. Play continues until 13 guesses have been made and you aim to get a high amount of correct answers. However, everyone writes down on their written rack, with the erasable pens, one word to aid the guesser. The twist is, once written, everyone reveals and those with the same words are cancelled out and thus reducing the clues available. The laughter that followed led to other groups becoming curious and taking a look.
Game Shelf - Chronicles of Crime
Co-operative games are often some of our favourites – it’s definitely fun to work together as a couple and for us it can result in fewer arguments over the tabletop! Chronicles of Crime was a fantastic new experience for us in co-operative gaming. Murder Mysteries and whodunit style games have never before been our style, but Chronicles of Crime was so accessible and intuitive that it totally won us over.
What caught our imagination, and probably many others, is how the game seamlessly integrates app technology with the gameplay - using QR codes and VR to intertwine the two. Since its Kickstarter campaign we're still yet to see a flood of app-integrated games and I don't recall any VR games in that time, so Chronicles of Crime remains very innovative.
Each scenario has a rated difficulty and I think I'm most comfortable at easy and medium. The only hard scenario we've played did start to verge on frustration for me, as I felt we were going round in circles and not really learning much additional information, but we weren't being allowed to solve the case. All of the other scenarios have really given us the feeling of being good detectives and coming to good conclusions, whether or not we do well in the final scoring of the game.
I really hope that Chronicles of Crime continues to get app support into the future. Already there is the promise of more content when you open the app - it appears that some content will be in the form of physical expansions (as included in the Kickstarter campaign) and others will be in-app purchases, that presumably re-use the characters, locations and clues that you already have. There's so much that Lucky Duck Games could do to give this game longevity.
Louise G - The City of Kings
The only way to improve a fantasy-based action RPG is to take your friends along with you on the journey! You and your fellow party members have been tasked with taming an enchanting yet treacherous world, helping to rebuilt settlements, whilst conquering the evil forces which plague the lands. Along this journey, you and your team will find yourselves uncovering the stories and mysteries of a world bursting with character.
Co-operative puzzle solving and strategic battles lie at the heart of Frank West’s The City of Kings. With seemingly endless stories and missions to endeavour, from dexterous scarecrow building to tactical boss battles, certainly The City of Kings claims the best co-operative RPG of the year. However, co-ordination and co-operation is essential, even within the humblest of missions, you and your team must work together to devise the best strategies. Sharing and allocating your loot is essential for success, ensuring that items and power-ups suit the play style of the party best. So, perhaps you should think twice about the risk of your greedy play, is it really worth jeopardising the rest of your team?
These are just few of the many co-operative challenges that need to be regarded if your party is to succeed in reviving the world. The City of Kings encourages and reinforces this sense of friendly co-operation, you can rest assured that experience points are always rewarded equally, with a party wide experience system. This promises a balance of levelling up within the party, leaving no player (healer) behind and creating a fair and inclusive experience for everyone!
Unique special abilities and customisable stats allows players to follow various skill trees in attacking, tanking, healing, worker placement or whatever else you desire, how about commanding your own pet Wyvern? After all, each role holds equal value and can reap grand rewards, but victory can only be reached by players who work as a team!
Nick W - Kick-Ass
I’m just gonna say it - Pandemic almost put me off co-op games. I’m not entirely sure what it was about it, maybe that it just seemed that no matter what you do bad card draws could make the game impossible to win sometimes. I don’t mind losing but I’d prefer if it were my fault, than luck. However, when I discovered there would be a Kick-Ass co-op game I was intrigued. I enjoy the source material and hoped it would translate into a good game - thankfully I was correct!
Kick-Ass sees you take the role of a vigilante trying to balance the pressures of everyday life with crime fighting. New York is populated by event cards that add minion level criminals to the board, if a location ever has too many they flow towards the centre of the board and eventually will cost you the game if left unchecked. Thankfully you have various cards and additional powers/upgrades at your disposal to try and stem the tide.
The core mechanic is hand management driving stat management. Your hero will have tracks for happiness, strength, social media fame and health. Each action you take will generally affect these for the better or worse earning and losing you benefits. Earning money may enable you to buy that death dealing Katana - but selling your soul to do so makes you unhappy. Become too unhappy and you will gain a hardship that will negatively affect you until you regain equilibrium. These hardships range from depression to drug dependency via alcoholism - this is definitely one for the adults.
Fighting is done via dice rolling but with a good chance to improve your odds by teaming up with other vigilantes for combat bonuses. The hand management is handled really well. You basically start with a hand of five cards and you will never have more than five cards so every time you add a card you must also discard one. Getting the right balance of hero and life cards soon becomes hugely important. Kick-Ass surprised me with its gameplay and tight decisions making it one of my favourite co-ops ever, not just 2018.