Co-operative loss (Topic Discussion) – Tabletop Games Blog

A large number of board games are about winning and losing. Sure, for many of us, it doesn’t really matter whether we win or lose, as long as we have a good time, either with friends, family or alone. In co-operative games, you play against the game itself and either you win or the game does. The same goes for solo games, of course, which are basically co-operative games, but with a single player. In this article, I want to look at the different win and loss conditions you can find in co-operative or solo games.


Let’s look at the loss conditions first. In a lot of games, you lose if you are unable to complete one or more objectives before a timer runs out. The objectives can be in the form of finding a number of cures, such as in Pandemic by Matt Leacock from Z-Man Games or they can be more complicated missions, such as exploring a tomb, finding a number of keys, then finding a sacred shrine, unlocking it with the keys, grabbing the sacred idol and getting out alive, before the volcano explodes and the lava kills you all, like in Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge by Tim Pinder and Rose Atkinson from Inside the Box Board Games.

The timer is often in the form of a deck of cards, such as the Player deck in Pandemic or in the form of lives, a health counter or similar, such as the Outatime marker in Back to the Future: Dice Through Time by Chris Leder, Ken Franklin and Kevin Rodgers from Ravensburger.

Loss and Win Conditions

There isn’t always a timer though. Sometimes the game ends and you lose if certain conditions are fulfilled and that can happen at any time during the game. Using Pandemic as an example again, it ends when you need to add infection cubes, but there aren’t any left or if the eighth outbreak occurs. In Sub Terra II: Inferno’s Edge you lose if all of your adventurers are knocked out.

Winning a co-operative or solo game goes back to the objectives I talked about earlier. Find the cures in time, get the sacred idol out of the underground tunnels before you get buried in lava or return all objects from their different time zones back to where they belong before the Outatime marker reaches the Game Over spot.

In many games, it’s really obvious if you’re likely to win or if you’re about to die and might as well give up. However, in some games, you won’t know if you’ve won or lost until right at the end, even if there is a timer.

Win It

I like how you’re never quite sure if you’re going to win or lose when playing Codenames: Duet by Vlaada Chvátil and Scot Eaton from Czech Games Edition. There isn’t really a timer, even though you are limited to 9 turns, but instead, you are all focussed on not uncovering one of the two assassins, because then you lose the game immediately. If you do really well, you can win really early on and if you do particularly badly then you lose on your first turn by revealing the assassin.

Open Worlds

In Sleeping Gods by Ryan Laukat from Red Raven Games, you do have a timer, a deck of event cards, but you’re never really certain if you have won or not until right at the end. Mind you, that’s not quite true, because once you have played the game until the end, you will know what the goal is the next time you play – except that you will probably have forgotten by the time you play the game again. So winning or losing is definitely uncertain on your first play of the game, but then becomes more certain the next time you play it.

The 7th Continent by Ludovic Roudy and Bruno Sautter from Serious Poulp is an open-world game, so even though there is a timer, it’s not clear how you actually win, other than the rather vague aim of defeating the curse. You just stumble through the wilderness and try to survive. It’s the sort of game that seems to have more loss conditions than it has win conditions. You will die when the deck runs out a second time or when all the players take part in an event that goes badly wrong.


Now, I would argue that the trick-taking game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine by Thomas Sing from Kosmos is a little bit different to all of the above. Of course, there is a timer, in the form of the hands of cards everyone has and there is an overall objective that you’re trying to complete. However, more often than not you will lose before the last trick has been played, so the timer is really only an upper limit that you have to keep an eye on.

In a similar vein is The Mind by Wolfgang Warsch from Nürnberger-Spielkarten-Verlag. Again, there is a timer in the game, in the form of players’ hands of cards and there is one objective, to play the cards in ascending order. However, if you lose, you usually lose well before the last card has been played, so it’s a lot more about focussing the mind and getting in synch with the other players.

How About You?

So I’m wondering what other win or loss conditions you have come across in co-operative or solo games. Are there games that don’t have a timer at all? Are there win conditions that you thought were really clever? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think.

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Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

Increased Cooperation – the popularity of cooperative games (Topic Discussion)

I always used to be very much a competitive player. Pitting my wit against other people was my thing. I would usually lose games and still do, but it was always a lot of fun. Cooperative games really only came into my life when our daughter was young enough to play games with us that weren’t just roll-and-move. I remember our first game of Forbidden Island, which we all really enjoyed and played many times since. So in this article, I want to explore why cooperative games have become so popular in recent years.

From Competition to Collaboration

Cooperative games are clearly quite different to competitive ones. The gaming experience is quite different between them. Instead of pitting players against each other in some form of a race for victory, cooperative games allow players to team up and try to achieve a shared objective. Rather than fighting each other, people play against the game itself. Everyone has to work together and collaboratively to achieve success.

There are many types of cooperative games available now. Many of you will be familiar with escape-room-style games, where you try to solve a series of puzzles. In a similar vein are murder mystery games. The game that, in my mind, has really cemented the concept of cooperative games in our hobby is Pandemic, where everyone tries to battle a global virus outbreak while also working on finding a cure. Most recently, I’ve played Castle Panic, where you battle against a seemingly never-ending horde of orcs, goblins and other creatures.

So there is a lot of choice, but whatever it is that you like, cooperative games shift the dynamics from competition to collaboration. Cooperative games create a sense of unity and camaraderie. You have to strategize together and pool the group’s skills and abilities.

Fostering Connection and Social Bonds

The emphasis in cooperative games on teamwork promotes a cooperative spirit, encouraging players to support and uplift each other, fostering a positive and inclusive gaming experience. If done well, cooperative games have the ability to foster meaningful connections and strengthen social bonds among players. Unlike competitive games, where winning is all that matters and sometimes people end up being lost in their own thoughts, cooperative games prioritize communication, cooperation and shared decision-making.

A great cooperative game encourages players to actively listen to one another and collaborate on finding solutions. Cooperative games work in similar ways to party games. They allow everyone around the table to get a better understanding of each other’s strengths, weaknesses and general character. As a group, you will become closer. The shared victories and defeats experienced throughout the game build a sense of shared history and camaraderie.

Cooperative games can also promote inclusivity and accessibility. The collaborative nature of these games encourages everyone to actively participate, regardless of their skill level or gaming experience. Everyone contributes their strengths and as a team, everyone can help each other. Cooperative games can also nurture a sense of agency and empowerment. Each player has a vital role to play in the team’s success. Their contributions are valued and recognized, which fosters a sense of ownership and agency. It empowers players to take an active role and shape the game’s outcome. So while you’re working as a team, everyone also can get a sense of personal achievement.

the Pandemic game board with a number of components in the foreground and the game box in the background
Pandemic can encourage collaboration in the face of adversity

From Collaboration to Quarterbacking

At the same time, there is always the risk of one player taking over a cooperative game. It’s in the nature of these games to give everyone a voice, but at the same time, it’s also very easy for one person to overrule everyone else. When one player is more knowledgeable or their specific skillset is particularly useful in the game, they might feel and quite rightly so, that they know best. The rest of the group may willingly defer most of the decision making to them. At this point, the cooperative game becomes a solo game.

Some cooperative games try to prevent this by limiting the publicly available information, limiting the types and amount of communication possible, overloading players with information or a large decision space so that they have no choice but to focus on their turn only or by some other means. If done well, these cooperative games can still work really well, but they often start to stray away from a collaborative experience into the realms of a multi-player solitaire game with a common goal.

Therefore I think it’s up to the group of players to choose the game that’s right for them and their character mix. Additionally, alpha players, who like to take over a game, should learn to hold back and give everyone a voice and allow them to make their own decisions. There are also games that are semi-cooperative, which can be a better fit for some groups. Ultimately though, some groups just don’t suit cooperative games and that is absolutely fine. Not every game is for everyone.

Embracing the Cooperative Gaming Experience

However, I have really started to love cooperative games. I know that some of my friends don’t like these types of games and that is fine. At the same time, cooperative games played with the right group create an amazing experience. By shifting the focus from competition to collaboration, these games create a unique space for fostering connection and promoting inclusivity. Whether you’re embarking on an epic quest, solving a challenging puzzle or saving the world together, cooperative board games offer an immersive and rewarding experience that transcends individual victories.

What About You?

So what about you? Have you ever played a cooperative game before? How was it? Do you like them? If you’ve never played a cooperative game before, would you be willing to try one? If not, what’s stopping you? As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. It would be great to hear what you have to say about this genre of games.

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Intro Music: Bomber (Sting) by Riot (

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Out of the Skies, Under the Earth by Chris Zabriskie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.