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Top 5 Cooperative LCG’s That Should Exist

by on November 8, 2013

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 mainwitcher 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 doctor who(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 king arthurmy 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 sherlockLCG, 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, star trekbut 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?

 

 

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25 Comments
  1. A good friend of mine just recently unearthed his Trek CCG collection. It’s about to go down.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I got a chance to play a game of Trek CCG at Gen Con for the first time in about 15 years or so. It definitely was a blast from the past.

      • I can speak from the blast from the past… I still have some 1st Ed and 2nd cards lying around somewhere… 🙂

  2. For Doctor Who, I definitely don’t think you can have 1 person controlling the Doctor, whilst everyone else doesn’t. Having him rotate, like Frodo/Bilbo in the saga expansions could work, although there’s a danger of making him an add-on who isn’t central to the way you play, and that doesn’t really fit the tone.
    Perhaps the multi-Drs thing is the way forward. The different regenerations could replace spheres, with allies being linked to the Dr (or two) that they were associated with.

    An Arthurian one could be brilliant- and the fact that there is no single canon gives so much scope – probably the hardest thing to do would be to pin down the feel you wanted from the hundreds of different versions out there. I love Bernard Cornwell’s Arthur series, and remember really enjoying Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle (although I’ve not read them in years), but in practice, for a card game, it’s probably more realistic to go with something like Malory’s Morte D’Arthur. As an aside, Shadows Over Camelot is definitely worth a play (the board game) – the expansion and the card version are both a bit more hit-and-miss.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      For Doctor Who, I like the idea of the different regenerations being like different “spheres”, so you could have a Fifth Doctor deck or a Ninth Doctor deck, etc. I think that’s a good solution, if not the most thematically appropriate for the Doctors to be hanging out all the time.

      As far as Arthur goes, that’s definitely true about there being many different versions of the stories, all with their own “feels”. I would agree that Malory’s Morte D’Arthur provides the best match for an LCG, and I prefer a darker, more tragic take on the Arthur tales. Also, I’ll definitely have to put Shadows Over Camelot on my wish list.

  3. Scroll Lock permalink

    I would love something inspired by Simon Scarrow’s books- Eagle Series, but it is not popular enough. 😥

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Hmm, I’ll have to check those out, I haven’t heard of them before.

  4. Wrobel Swirek permalink

    I wish there was extension for the trilogy written be Pierumov (the one happening 300 years after the LotR war.

  5. Are the Perumov books available in English at all? if not, I can’t see there being enough interest in the source material to support branching in that direction – personally I’d love to see a Slimarillion spin off for this LCG…

    • Wrobel Swirek permalink

      Not sure – I have them in Polish 🙂

  6. Thaddeus permalink

    A good Doctor Who game, one that really works in the classic stuff would be tempting.
    A half-way decent King Arthur game would be a sure thing for me though.

  7. Meltoid permalink

    The Sherlock one should be like Netrunner where you can bluff (if it was in competitive form)

  8. Tiandes permalink

    I think the Wheel of Time serie might be the best option for a cooperative LCG.

    Plus seeing how it has so little interest from the gaming industry so far, it could be a great opportunity for FFG.

    So many characters to choose from, so many possibility to build encounter decks!

  9. DavidJC permalink

    Have you ever read any of China Mievilles books? Very dark vision, but capable of taking in all sorts of fantastic images. It could perhaps be both cooperative or competitive, with factions from the city creating and destroying alliances at different stages of a campaign (but not in-game). Cactus men, Evil empires, vampires, liches, people/mechanica hybrids, mages, steampunk and more. Even interdimensional beings. Or perhaps i have been looking too much at summoner wars.

  10. David permalink

    By the way, you may be too late for a Cooperative LCG as Ignacy Trzewiczek (Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, The New Era, Pret-a-Porter) is apparently doing The Witcher board game.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      Cool! I hadn’t heard of this happening, and now I’m genuinely excited. I looked it up and can’t find information on whether it’s cooperate or competitive.

  11. throttle permalink

    My favourite series about King Arthur is The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte. Brilliant series.

  12. Jim Beszhak permalink

    While #’s 4 & 5 aren’t very appealing to me. (not knowing that much about them) I’m really up for versions of King Arther, Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek. Though I think King Arthur & Star Trek could be problematic for the reasons you mentioned. Like you “Excalibur” was my favorite movie take on the subject, but there is so many other sources to draw from. If anyone has read Mary Stewart’s trilogy, and a not as good fourth finally, it has a great source to draw from – the books are written from the perspective of Merlin. He is treated more like a ‘man’ than a wizard though he certainly has both abilities. It follows a more normal progression that Morte-D’Arthur lacks.

    I would REALLY be in for a Slimarillion go at it. There is SO much detail to draw from – so many quests that could be drawn. Breath taking, I believe.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I definitely need to read some of the takes on King Arthur that are out there that I haven’t gotten a chance to read…and I need to pull my Excalibur DVD out for another viewing!

  13. VladVoivode permalink

    I love all of the suggestions and I was especially pleased to see a suggestion for Arthurian legend as it is one of the richest legends ever written with contributions from so many countries! One of the most fascinating I have ever read was a Japanese addition to “The Matter of Britain” that is absolutely wonderful.

    As for Star Trek, I love it, but, I have to confess that when it comes to gaming licenses, digital or otherwise, Star Trek has unfortunately fallen into too many hands that have watered down the franchise. The STCCG was okay but when it first came out, the Federation was so overpowered it was almost broken. If you had Picard, Data, and Riker in your deck, you could faceroll any game.

    Fleer created one for TOS but it never caught on; the game’s core mechanic just didn’t work. Digitally, the only real standouts were the Starfleet Command series and really of those, Orion Pirates was the most complete. Activision made the mistake of dumbing down the game with Starfleet Command III however.

    It’s really a shame to think of this storied franchise having so many gaming failures including: Star Trek: Borg, Starfleet Academy, Star Trek Away Team, the two recent Trek games from the franchise reboot, etc.

    Back to King Arthur, I don’t see it as problematic at all except to decide upon what source material from which to draw. Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur is generally considered the classic but there are sources much older. Additionally, in Arthurian literature there has been a movement to place Arthur back on center stage. Parke Godwin’s novel Firelord is a splendid example of this. I also think that Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work is well worth a look, and, let’s not forget T.H. White!

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      There truly are so many versions of Arthurian legend out there, and I’m surprised that no one has mined the material for an expandable card game of some sort. Decided on what source material to use would truly be a challenge, as there’s so many good versions out there, and they all tend to have a different feel.

      As for Star Trek, I agree that many video game and board game adaptations have fallen short of the mark. It’s difficult to represent the core of what so many people (including myself) love about Star Trek, which is the exploration of philosophical issues and character interaction. I think a lot of Star Trek games have tried to shoehorn it into the competitive mode, which is a bit of a missed opportunity, as working together to solve problems is pretty core to that universe.

  14. bryanruhe permalink

    Star Wars! Really annoyed that there is no official solo or co-op mode for the Star Wars LCG.

    • TalesfromtheCards permalink

      I agree with you 1000%. I’m not sure if you heard, but the Star Wars LCG was originally supposed to be co-op like LOTR, but this version was scrapped in favor of the competitive model. I’m still heartbroken.

  15. Interesting ideas. I dare say someone from FFG is listening and we get to see a co-op Star Trek or Dr Who LCG soon. That said, I would pay good money for a Master of the Universe LCG!

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