Until I got into ‘modern’ unplugged games I thought at least one thing was true for pretty much all of them: the main high level aim of any game is to keep playing until one person wins, and therefore everyone else loses. Well, sometimes in games such as Uno, after the first person wins you could keep playing to determine who was second, third, etc. but there is still always one winner, and the motivation for playing the game is to try to be that winner.
The same is not true for all games however. Nowadays there are a range of co-operative games available where the main objective is for all players to work together as a team to try to beat the scenario presented by the game. For the un-initiated this can feel a bit strange at first, but after you get your head round it you can end up having some great experiences with this kind of game. It really can help bring people together towards a common goal, and significantly reduce common arguments that normally happen with competitive games.
One of the best examples of this kind of co-op game, especially for a newbie like myself, is Forbidden Island.
In this game, the theme/story is that you (the players) are a group of relic hunter/ tomb raider types who have found the fabled Forbidden Island of Archeans. This island is cursed, but it also holds four very valuable treasures. As soon as you land on the island, it slowly starts to sink, giving you a tight time limit in which to gather all of the treasures and reach the helipad to escape!
The board for this game is great, as it is made of several small squares that you lay out in the same shape, but in a random distribution each game, so every time you play the island is different! The other reason for this board setup is the sinking mechanic mentioned before. There is a pack of cards with each card matching a piece of the board, and after each player’s turn, a number of cards are dealt from this pack and the corresponding parts of the island are either flipped upside down, which puts them ‘underwater’, or if they are already underwater and the card comes out again, that piece of the island falls into the abyss and is gone forever! If a tile where someone is standing sinks with no tile around it, or one of the key tiles sinks, then it is game over!
Luckily, each player has the chance to save, or ‘shore up’ underwater sections of island on their turn. They can also carry out other actions, such as moving and claiming treasures. To claim a treasure you need to collect four of the same treasure card (you get two random cards each turn). Overall the gameplay involves trying to balance keeping the island afloat and working to collect cards in order to claim treasures. Through the course of the game, the island starts to sink faster and faster, so things become a lot more urgent the closer you get to the end!
There’s something about this game that really seems to draw everyone who plays it into the adventure. It feels genuinely exciting when you are near the end and only have one treasure to go, but the island is crumbling around you. Another way that the game immerses you in the adventure is that each player is given a character, such as Explorer or Diver, which each have certain special abilities such as being able to move diagonally, or swim through the water.
All in all, I really recommend this as a great alternative family game, rather than the latest version of Monopoly, you won’t regret it! It comes in a nice compact tin too, which is handy for storage and travel.
Also by the same game designer, Matt Leacock, are Forbidden Desert and Pandemic. Both of these are well worth checking out too, they are both co-operative and have similar game mechanics, but add slightly more complexity than Island. There is also a third game in the Forbidden series coming out in 2018: Forbidden Sky, I will definitely be keeping an eye on that one!