Top 5 Cooperative LCG’s That Should Exist
It was really The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game that got me back into gaming. After being absolutely devoted to board and card games in my teenage years, I spent much of my twenties ignoring the hobby for other pursuits, despite some entertaining game nights with my friends here and there. However, it was really the LCG model generally, and LOTR LCG specifically, that reignited my passion for gaming. I’ve told this story to a few people, but haven’t shared it on this blog before, and I’m using it here to introduce a pretty light and hopefully fun topic: the top 5 cooperative LCG’s that I believe should exist. As I said, LOTR LCG tuned me back into the gaming world, but there aren’t a ton of options out there if you are looking for a similar cooperative experience with solo potential, so I’ve spent a not insubstantial amount of time here and there daydreaming about new possibilities for FFG’s LCG model (not that I really need another game in my life to occupy my time, but it’s fun to speculate). I’m a big fan of the LCG approach, as while I participated in several CCG’s during their heyday, I never enjoyed the whole idea that purchasing power was essentially the key to gameplay power. Even worse, my completionist tendencies clashed directly with the reality that there was no way in hell that I’d ever come close to a full collection of any of the CCG’s. Therefore, the LCG model is perfect in my book; all the deck building and expansion possibilities of a CCG, while providing a level playing field and opportunity to collect everything that is released. So with this in mind, what properties and worlds out there would make a perfect match for a cooperative LCG? I was personally disappointed that FFG decided to pull the plug on the cooperative version of Star Wars and transformed it into a competitive game instead. While I understand that competition perhaps breeds more attention and money in the form of tournaments, there is certainly room for another cooperative LCG (since anyone reading this is probably an LOTR LCG fan, I’m likely preaching to the choir here). Anyway, let’s not postpone the countdown any longer!
Note: I left out those worlds that practically beg for a competitive model (i.e. Dune), those that already have a cooperative card game option available somewhere (i.e. Sentinels of the Multiverse for superheroes), and obviously those with which I simply don’t have enough familiarity. Some of the properties that did make my list have previously been shoehorned into competitive formats when they so obviously are meant for a cooperative incarnation.
#5: The Witcher
The Witcher is a fantastic video game series based on a series of novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. Without delving into too much detail, the main character of these stories is Geralt of Rivia, a witcher. In Sapkowski’s dark fantasy world, witchers are essentially mutants that serve as monster-slayers for hire. Although the political intrigue and complex characters of The Witcher are noteworthy, it is really this monster hunting aspect that I think would make ripe fodder for a cooperative LCG.
Imagine each “quest” of a Witcher LCG focusing on a different boss-like monster with its own particular strengths and weaknesses. The opening rounds would focus on gathering potion materials, recruiting allies, fighting smaller foes, finding/forging new weapons, and researching the monster. There would probably need to be some mechanic to limit the amount of time you have available before the final confrontation, and perhaps different strategies/paths for taking it on. Then, the final boss fight would involve epic combat against a tough behemoth, with all players having to use everything at their disposal to have a chance at victory. Defeating the monster would give you a certain amount of gold, with the potential of gold bonuses for achieving certain feats, and this could be used to power up your decks/characters.
I see this as a perfect fit for a cooperative format because of the teamwork needed to defeat a large monster. This may chafe a bit against the “lone wolf” nature of Geralt, but even in his adventures, he often receives aid from others. There would undoubtedly be some competition as to who gets to control Geralt himself, but with there being other witchers in the world, each player can perhaps have the chance to control a witcher of their own. For those who enjoy boss battles, this would be a perfect game.
#4: Doctor Who
There have been quite a few attempts to make a viable card/board game version of Doctor Who, and most of them have been pretty dreadful (for an exception, see this game, which I did a whole post about). It would be nice to finally have a quality card game for this quality series. Obviously, there is an extreme wealth of material to draw from, which could keep an LCG afloat for years. The biggest hurdle, which afflicts some of the other properties on this list, but is probably most distinct here, is that there is one main character that not everyone would get a chance to play: The Doctor. Perhaps one player would control The Doctor while others take on the role of Companions, but this would feel a bit unfair and unsatisfying. Another option is for each player to control a different incarnation of The Doctor, making the experience akin to one of the anniversary specials.
As for the game itself, Doctor Who lends itself well to a cooperative environment, as the series itself really revolves around the solving of mysteries and conflict with episodic foes. Teaming together to overcome these obstacles probably makes more sense than opponents squaring off, with one controlling The Doctor and the other taking on the role of Daleks or Cybermen or The Master, for example. This LCG would provide an interesting design challenge, as it would have to focus on gameplay experiences that are not necessarily tied to combat, as The Doctor usually resolves problems without resorting to violence. Finding a way to accomplish this while keeping the game compelling would be a tough task, but certainly possible.
Each “adventure pack” (perhaps “episode pack” would be more appropriate) could focus on a particular point in time and space and involve one of the many colorful adversaries from the Doctor Who universe. Gameplay would focus on exploration, investigation, solving mysteries, thwarting plots, and lots and lots of running.
#3: King Arthur
I was a huge fan of King Arthur stories growing up, and I still think there’s tons of rich material contained within those legends (Excalibur is my favorite movie adaptation of King Arthur if you’re interested). Unfortunately, most of the King Arthur games out there have been competitive, which completely baffles me, as a proper Camelot experience should revolve around the Knights of the Round Table going on quests together and fighting off dark forces. I know a semi-cooperative board game exists, Shadows Over Camelot, that I’ve heard good things about, but I’d love to see an LCG version. Would there be enough material to sustain a game? Perhaps there isn’t as much available as with some of the other worlds on this list, but there still would be plenty to draw upon and tons of colorful characters.
The tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight itself could surely make up a whole cycle of its own, with the players working to fulfill Gawain’s promise to place himself at the mercy of the seemingly immortal Green Knight’s axe without losing his head. The quest for the Holy Grail could certainly constitute another, and there are several other prominent tales to build cycles around. The final showdown with Mordred could mark an epic finale that few other games could hope to match. And while there is a “main character” in the form of King Arthur, there are a ton of other intriguing characters to play with, from Merlin to Lancelot to Guinevere to Gawain (and many more). I particularly like the idea of each character having both a special ability but also a tragic flaw, as this would truly capture some of the flavor and inherent tragedy that is part of the mythos.
A King Arthur LCG could provide a mix of combat and questing similar to LOTR LCG. However, in order to make it different, the focus should really be placed on the internal conflicts of the characters. I mentioned the idea of tragic flaws for each character. I also think there should be a focus on the code of chivalry that all the knights (and thus players) should have to follow, which would sometimes prove inconvenient when it requires paying attention to distractions from the quests or when it makes things harder than they could be otherwise. Players should have the option to break the code of chivalry, but at the risk of ultimately contributing to the downfall of their character. It should be possible for a character in a King Arthur LCG to not only die physically but to also suffer a spiritual death as well. If this growth and change was tracked over time through some sort of campaign rules, it could make for a rich and dramatic storytelling experience that would be fairly unique in the world of card games.
#2: Sherlock Holmes
Ah yes, how could I resist? Sherlock Holmes would possibly present the toughest challenge in terms of translation into the format of an LCG, but it could also prove to be a rich source of material. As with King Arthur, I grew up reading and enjoying the Sherlock Holmes stories, and have finally gotten around to watching the recent BBC incarnation (spoiler alert: it’s awesome!). Whatever particular version the LCG draws upon, the central dynamic would be clear: working together to solve a particular mystery. Who hasn’t daydreamed about playing Sherlock and showing off their deduction skills?
There would be a few big challenges to successfully pulling off a Sherlock Holmes LCG. First and foremost, there’s only one Sherlock, so what role would be left for other players? Perhaps everyone could play the part of a “consulting detective”, but it might not be quite the same. Another challenge would be creating a set of game mechanics that give you the feel of solving mysteries while allowing for replayability and preventing “quests” from devolving into puzzles that have one particular solution. Finally, it’s hard to imagine exactly what would constitute the player cards for such a game, while there is no shortage of material for “encounter cards” (“mystery cards”?).
Still, despite these challenges, there is no doubt that a Sherlock LCG could be rich in theme and gameplay. Imagine starting off with a body and a crime scene and having to investigate to uncover clues. Then, these clues could be “spent” to unlock different leads, which would lead players to new locations and the possibility of finding more clues. Along the way, there would be obstacles: traps, thugs, false leads, distractions, and villains (including Moriarty himself). Characters could be rated in terms of deduction skills, perceptiveness, firearms, fisticuffs, and more. I need to stop now because I’m sad this thing doesn’t exist…
#1: Star Trek
Well, to anyone who knows me, my #1 pick is not a surprise at all. I love Star Trek and played the Star Trek CCG (First Edition) back in the day, but this is another property that I think begs for a cooperative incarnation. After all, isn’t one of the dominant themes of Star Trek that diverse individuals can work together to solve problems and work for the common good? With this in mind, competitive Star Trek games have always felt a bit strange to me (outside of starship battles).
The most substantial obstacle to doing a cooperative Star Trek LCG is that there are so many cool “factions” that players would undoubtedly want to control: Borg, Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, etc. They might not be content to simply play as the Federation or Enterprise Crew. A possible solution could be for each “adventure pack” to represent a general scenario/quest/dilemma, and players could use the faction of their choice to play against it (think of each race as a “sphere” in LOTR LCG terms). There should definitely be a mixture of space travel/adventures and away team missions on various planets. Gameplay could combine combat (space/ground), exploration, problem-solving, and diplomacy, with each faction having their own approach and preferences.
As an example, imagine an episode pack centering around the search for an ancient alien artifact. Each faction would have their own motivation for searching for it, but the guardians you come up against it and the plot twists and turns would be similar no matter who you’re playing. The difference would emerge in which path you take to reach the ultimate goal. A Klingon player might just blast their way to the ultimate goal, but might struggle with anything that involves diplomacy or science. A Federation player, on the other hand, might be able to find non-violent solutions, but would have to make a more circuitous route to the finale. What would be unfortunate is that this approach might prevent interaction between the factions. Therefore, another possibility would simplyvbe to put players in the role of Starfleet officers, each running a particular starship or perhaps all players constitute the bridge crew of a single starship. With this approach, you could replace LOTR spheres with areas of expertise, such as engineering, communications, security, science, etc. Whatever was decided, a Star Trek LCG has enough material available to run for an eternity!
I hope this list has provided a bit of amusement and joy on your Friday. What world would you like to see transformed into a cooperative LCG? What ideas do you have for the properties on this list?