When most people think of boardgames, they think of two or more people sitting down opposite each other and embarking on an epic struggle of titanic proportions as they attempt to capture their kings / sink their battleships / build the longest train network in the USA.
There’s a lot of fun to be had in competitive games: where the board, rules and pieces provide little more than ammunition to try and defeat your opponent. But there can be an equal amount of enjoyment in co-operative games too: ones where you and your fellow players are competing against the game itself.
So whether it’s exorcising angry spirits, racing against awakening demons, treasure hunting on a sinking island, or trying to stop the twilight of the gods: here’s our list of four essential coop boardgames on the iPad: where your objective isn’t to rub your opponent’s face in it, but to outsmart the clockwork-like mechanics of the board.
Ghost Stories is one of the most complex and fiendish co-op games out there. As you and your fellow players take on the roles of Shaolin monks, the game starts off with a relentless pace, summoning a legion of oriental ghosts which threaten to overrun the village you’re defending from the very first turn.
As is common in co-op games, each player has a unique ability; and the skill lies in being able to use these to your best advantage, as well as working together with up to 3 other players as you agree which foes to tackle, resurrect each other and generally band together to face insurmountable odds in the best way you can.
With a style all of its own and a difficulty level almost as scary as some of the demons which feature in the game, Ghost Stories is not a co-op game for the faint-hearted: but is one of the best ones currently available.
Elder Sign: Omens
Elder Signs: Omens is the closest you can currently get on the iPad to playing seminal co-op Cthulhu boardgame Arkham Horror. With a similar premise (racing against the clock before a Great Old One awakes and brings around the end of the world) and similar artwork, Elder Signs: Omens is a game dripping with high production values and atmosphere.
There’s actually not much in the way of interactive co-operative play on offer, with each investigator taking it in turns to attempt to complete adventures which literally spring up within the confines of Arkham Museum. Occasionally, two players on the same space can add an extra chance to defeat the terrible foes; some characters can also heal their fellow players: but in general, this game is a take-your-turn-and-wait affair.
It’s to the game’s credit however that this doesn’t present a problem: as the sense of impending doom and insurmountable odds are enough to keep the game exciting even when watching other players take their turns.
Recently expanded with additional foes to defeat and as an example of a high quality co-op title which has effortlessly made its transition to the iPad, Elder Signs: Omens is hard to beat.
Forbidden Island is probably the most co-operative game in our selection. Here, players helping each other is vital to victory, as up to four characters race around an island which is slowly (at first) sinking beneath the waves.
Some clever mechanics pace Forbidden Island well, with the waters rising at an increasing speed as the game progresses. As more and more of the island disappears underwater, players must spend action points moving themselves and others; swapping cards with their comrades; and generally collaborating on every move and tactic to try and retrieve the four treasures and escape from the helipad before all is lost.
With a selection of player characters with different special abilities, Forbidden Island is perhaps the perfect co-operative game on the iPad – not suffering from the common problem of sitting and watching and waiting whilst the other players take their turns. Here, you’ll find yourself involved and affected by the actions of the other players as much as you will your own.
At first glance, Yggrdrasil looks to be a hugely complex and impenetrable game full of confusing layouts and indecipherable symbols. At second glance, it looks much the same…but as you get more familiar with its mechanics of trying to use your limited actions in the most economical way to defeat the advancing evil Norse gods, a deep and complex game is unearthed. You’ll still probably not be able to pronounce it though.
Like Elder Scrolls, there’s not a huge amount of collaboration going on in the average game of Ygdrassil, although the ability to swap resources with other players is something you’ll be glad of. Most times however, you’ll be taking your own turn at your own pace with your own Norse god, whilst the other players wait patiently in Valhalla to get their own chance to smackdown Loki or banish Hel.
A challenging game with some clever mechanics and enough variety to hold interest, Yggdrasil is an original and enjoyable addition to the coop genre: just don’t expect to share too much quality gametime with your fellow gods and goddesses…
If you’ve never tried a co-operative boardgame before, the titles above represent the best of the genre currently available. Starting with the relative simplicity of Forbidden Island and ending with the punishing challenge of Ghost Stories, these games show you can have as good a time playing with other people as you can against them.
Of course, another advantage of co-op games is that they can be played solo, with one player controlling one or more of the in-game characters. Playing in this way can get a little confusing at times, and isn’t as fun as the camaraderie that’s generated by playing with other people, but it’s a bonus nonetheless.
So the next time you’re after a bit of boardgame action, why not consider pulling up a chair next to your fellow players rather than opposite them: and face the challenge of trying to defeat the game itself.