Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tales from the Table: Co-op or Versus

I play boardgames fairly regularly and although it has become of a fad of sorts, that is not the main reason we play. Instead what happens is we (as in my family, friends and self) have crazy schedules and so boardgames seem the most logical excuse to get together on a weekend. With playing table top games more regularly we have an on going debate... Co-op games or Versus. (image: Me)

Now I've played my fair share of role playing table top (and LARP) games over the years. I started in high school, oh so long ago, playing Vampire the Masquerade and other such games. Through university I was introduced to DnD (3.5) and a variety of others. We tried everything we could get our hands on... Buffy Table Top, Star Wars,... you name it and at least one of us had given it a go. Not only did we have fun we also had some pretty awesome and imaginative Story Tellers or Dungeon Masters, that really let us explore the game (and made things up as we went along at times). They never stuck to the rules as being set in stone and so we did things that others may deem as inappropriate or against the regulations. We always viewed them as guidelines and adjusted to our needs at the time to tell a better story.

From this we have a ton of stories (you can just ask my husband) that tend to get brought up and retold when we are in larger geeky venues or gatherings. Stories of how old DnD systems were broken and the DM let hilarious things happen (that usually resulted in someone re-rolling a character). Or tribulations of introducing new people to our group... and how that either went well or horribly wrong. Either way, we did epics! We would play from supper or late afternoon right on until dawn. Mind you we had no kids, no responsibilities (other than a few papers or work on Monday), so Friday and Saturday nights were ours to do as we please.

Now that we have all grown older (this age thing seems to creep up on you) and our commitment level has risen astronomically, we find it near impossible to have a proper RPG game. (LARP stopped long long before this). To play an RPG you need a fairly committed group of players who are willing to sacrifice (I use this word lightly being in high school and university this was never actually a sacrifice) our minimal downtime to an epic. We look at the new 5.0 books in longing and talk about how awesome it would be to game again (I have found over the years you need to have a small group... don't go past 5, it doesn't end well). We talk about building characters and trying to have a really loose ended game. Something with smaller time tables and more flexible story lines, so the players can come and go a little more freely. This, however, is a beautiful pipe dream. Unless we decide to start this for a kid (some of the children in our group are actually hitting high school age... AAAAAAAH), in order to show them the ropes. Then we could have a small committed group with only a few families involved... but we know better than to really plan for that.

Instead we now turn to boardgames. Boardgames are like Fight Club's version of Single Serving Friends... instead of being friends as the single serving, it's the game. You can play a board game and not finish it due to whatever, and never really feel bad about it. You can play a board game and when a new friend shows up, start over again so everyone's included without it taking you all night to create them a character and introduce them into the scenario in a not crazy way (Often it's..."You are all at a bar and a stranger comes up to you"... What's it with Bars and RPG's, are all adventurers alcoholics??). Boardgames are great because even the long ones have a clear beginning and end.

The main question with Boardgames is do you play a cooperative game... this is usually one where your main goal is to beat the board. Of course there is still usually a winner or a loser at the end, due to point tallies or whatever, but through the game your goal is to mostly work together. Or do you risk the RISK.... are you willing to play a versus game. If so do you play a versus game that is quick, with subterfuge and guessing, like "One Night Ultimate Werewolf" or "Coup", or do you risk it all with a truly competitive versus game... the Risks, Monopoly, or Catan's of the world. These games have been known to end friendships (at least for that night) and truly piss off people. With poor game play as a factor people will sometimes be left sitting out (due to being killed off early) for parts of the night. Also you have the whole ganging up on each other (which we say would never happens but totally does) issue at hand. When it comes to true Versus Games people sometimes go out of their way to push their friends big red button!
By CloakKnight, Found on VFDC
So what do you risk? Do you tempt fate and see if everyone can be civil, but run the risk of someone pushing that button until someone pulls a Cartman?

Well, I'll tell you what we do... all of the above. If we have the right group of people we will sometimes pull out the dreaded full Versus, kill you friends off, boardgames, but most of the time we don't. Often we have new people join us, random friends that bring friends... or are looking for something light that we can talk over. In this case we stick to the more Co-operative games (that can be really tricky at times... think Legendary or Pandemic), or we go the small fast versus games. This doesn't give anyone much ramping up time because the adversary is changing all the time... and most of the time you don't know who is actually the bad guy.

What do you do?? Do you risk it... do you not, or do you actually manage to figure out how to play a true RPG Table Top Game with family, kids and commitments??

Until next time.
Keep on, Geekin' on