History of Fun: Cooperative Board Games - cutlassboardgame.com

History of Fun: Cooperative Board Games

Mental Floss
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The history of board games covers thousands of years of history and speaks to some big questions: What happens in our brains when we play board games? What is fun? And (slightly less profound, but potentially of interest to intellectual property lawyers) who’s really responsible for Monopoly?

Board game game history touches on culture and technology, psychology and politics. Why are cooperative games like Pandemic, Gloomhaven, Arkham Horror, and Hanabi so popular? Is it fun for everyone to lose? Welcome to the History of Fun, a new series about the history and science of humans’ favorite ways to have a good time.

In this episode of The History of Fun, Justin (@juddtoday) explores the interesting history of board games, specifically cooperative games, with board game designer Matt Leacock, who is responsible for the Pandemic game series, Forbidden Island, and so much more.

Make sure to subscribe to stay up to date on new episodes of this show. And leave a comment letting us know what topics you’d like to see covered next!

Special thanks to Matt Leacock! If you’d like to check out his work (including his new game Daybreak), check out his website here:

Music in this episode by:
Kevin Macleod

Drawings by: Nick Cox

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78 Comments

  1. Dungeons and Dragons is a cooperative game. Discuss.

  2. I used to be a dungeon master playing with a group of medical students, letting them relax for awhile on Friday night. Instead of just making hack and slash dungeons, I created ones with elaborate puzzles that had to be figured out. My adventures lead to a lot more cooperative work among the players, and they seemed to enjoy it a lot more.

  3. I love this episode. I too also looove boardgames. I love finding new fun games to play and try while out camping or with friends. I recently held a murder mystery game night where everyone played a character and it was sooo much fun!

  4. Have you tried the collaborative card game called "The Mind? It's soo easy to learn and a toooonne of fun!!! My favourite 2 qualities!

  5. Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of my favorite games to lose at. It is so much fun and I immediately always want to play again.

  6. I took the regionals trophy in Candy Land, but there was a cheating scandal in nationals, and we couldn't finish the tournament.

  7. For me Betrayal is the best co-op game. It can be replayed over and over. Even if u end up playing the same scenario, each time is different because the map/playground is not the same.

  8. Close to heart, should have commented on Frosthaven as a successfull KS.

  9. I love Pupularity even losing building my pup persona is always fun

  10. Chartbuster was a favourite game of my childhood.

  11. I would like to hear the history of dolls, and some doll history from several different cultures. Thanks!

  12. Please do an episode on the history of satire from ancient Greece to now! Who doesn't love a bunch of sarcastic horse dudes

  13. at 16:27 is the E=MF^2 a mistake or just something I'm not getting? Maybe Entertainment = MVP * Fun ^ 2 ?

  14. One game that I loved when I was a kid in high school was called stop thief and it's a cooperative game where you try to catch a jewel or bank robber.

  15. Can you please do one about the ouji board?

  16. Mansions of Madness is definitely one of my more favourite Board Games to play, as it is fully cooperative (until someone loses their mind that is). My friends and I are currently working through Betrayal Legacy, which is a lot of fun on its own, but still often has at least one losing player (not counting the ones that are dead), if there is a traitor that wins or loses. A tight victory in those cases is still fun for the winners though ^^

  17. They blew the budget on this episode and bought a giant flip notepad.

  18. "Why is losing fun?"
    Ask any Dwarf Fortress player.

  19. At some point during the pandemic, my friends and I found an online version of Hanabi. It was almost more fun when we failed because of everyone's reactions

  20. I'm not a fan of coop bard games. Gloomhaven on PC is great however – even in multiplayer (but it takes about 3 times as long this way!)

  21. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is because when people go to puy a horse, the first place they look in at the horses teeth to judge it's health. The phrase saying to not look inside the mouth of a horse gifted to you is saying that when sameone gives you something, do not examine it for defaults. Just be greatful for the gift.

  22. 1000 more years of Justin describing board games, please!

  23. lmao they stopped the gloomhaven manual halfway through too

  24. I LOVE King of Tokyo. What's interesting is that the most memorable moments are when one person is in the lead, and the remaining players team up to try to take them down. Whether they succeed or not, it's exciting and results in lots of shouting, jumping up and down, and laughter. Even in a competitive game with a single winner, the cooperative aspect ranks very high in providing "fun."

  25. I am an avid board gamer but I have general disdain for most cooperative games. Competing against people in a game will always be more fun than people competing against the game itself. Cooperative games also provide for very unique "bad feels" in the form of the pressure that individual players feel when faced with being solely responsible for the entire group losing. It's hard to write it off as "losing together is fun" when the loss is clearly the result of a single person's actions.

  26. Cool video! I've been a board gamer since June 2021. I'm homebound and it saves my sanity 😀 I mostly play solo but even then, modern board games have great solo mode that don't make you feel 'alone'. You feel like the automa/AI opponent is really there, like having the designer right there playing against you. I love when hubby says he'll play with me though! Nothing beats that and we do enjoy coop, too.

  27. Galaxy Trucker is an amazing game to lose. It's not cooperative, but it's not really that competitive either. Everyone tries to build a ship from a common pool of parts, and then watches as bits get blown off and the deck and dice proceed to screw everyone to varying degrees. And if anyone in your group has gotten good enough that their ships tend to get through unscratched, there are multiple ways to handicap them built into the rules.

  28. I love the concept for this series and this episode was great. I love board games and my favorite is, by far, Pandemic. I would love to see this series tackle playing cards, jigsaw puzzles, and role playing games. Also, I think looking into the origins of different sports could be really fun as well.

  29. Ahhhh now I'll have to look for landlord's game prosperity rules (unless you found them in your research and can share?). I've wondered before if a co-op version of Monopoly would be fun, and if anyone had houseruled it, but "house rules co-op monopoly" just gets you senate proceedings.
    And hey, Justin's Mom, I know someone else who teaches board games professionally — has his own business of bars paying him to bring his massive stack of board games, which he then helps people pick out and play.

  30. Interesting hinting on how board games are propaganda… e.g. pandemic hysteria and climate hysteria

  31. My favorite game to win AND lose is "What card does Justin have?" This turned out amazing, dude. Congrats!!

  32. Subscribed! This is such a good thing to watch! I do love playing co-op games specially the new games such as X-MEN united. And often times, I lean on "losing" in our game sessions specially if I'm the one who taught the game. Sort of giving them the satisfaction of winning.

  33. Was this meant to be titled "History of Cooperative Board Games"?

  34. I like this video, and then the presenter mispronounced Reiner Knizia and then I lost interest.

  35. Great video but I take issue with Justin's take on "losing is fun" which is not to say it's wrong but difficulty and defeat need to be earned and players need to feel like their loss was balanced against their actions. I may not be a boardgame expert but I've played a handful of cooperative games that have very arbitrary or unfair or poorly designed game mechanics that will cause you to outright lose or enter an unrecoverable fail state.

    One game that comes to mind is "Space Food Truck" which is a deck-building game on Steam. You can play it solo or cooperatively with other players taking on the roles of the ship crew. The game has so much potential but unfortunately it draws from a very limited pool of events most of which are bad, either causing damage to your ship/shields, and there just aren't sufficient options for the player (or players) to recover from those events. Often you'll get thrown an event, like an invading fleet, that will literally do one point of damage per turn and only the ship's captain can get you out of there; if that event happens after their turn that means you need to wait 4 turns before its the captain's turn again.

    Difficulty and defeat shouldn't be based on RNG; it should be a combination of steadily increasing challenges and giving players sufficient agency to address them.

  36. I love to play games, but I can't get any of my people to play with me.

  37. Wow, this was a surprisingly pleasant and educational and even philosophical insight into board gaming. As a European, growing up me and brother would spend the colder months playing all the classic board games, and we even created ones ourselves. I always loved maps, so I would make huge RISK-style games by meticulously tracing coastlines and borders on semitransparent paper from atlases onto large pieces of white cardboard and then inventing the game's overall theme and goal along with intricate rules and exceptions to those rules. And yes, we did learn a LOT from that. Nowadays, I'm a pub quiz afficionado excelling in: geography! 🙂

  38. Is the game Sheldon plays on TBBT when Bernadette is waiting to go into labor real because I don't really like board games that take for ever to play and has a book of rules and ways to play lol

  39. Does the board game Pandemic have a COVID-19 expansion yet?

  40. A friend & I will play this cooperative Doctor Who game sometimes. We loose half the time (literally), but it feels like the game was designed for you to lose . . . which takes some of the fun out of it

  41. Having missed this episode and watched the roller coasters one first thinking it was first in the series and then being directed back here (thanks mental floss team) not only do I still look forward to more in the series I think between the 2 while both great this episode was a bit above the second. Either way tho both great love it can't wait for more!

  42. The possibility of losing is the point of any game. Playing a game I know I'm gonna win every time is no fun at all. This is why I hate cheating. Cheating defeats the point of the game.

  43. During the pandemic my friends and I had to find creative ways to do board games virtually. We started playing over board game arena

  44. I legit understood his introduction as "I'm just a dud"… And I thought he was being harsh on himself…

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