Roll for initiative!
August 6, 2014 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Mr. Machine and I have a blast playing D&D 4th edition, but our group doesn't get together as often as we'd like. Please recommend games we can play to fill the terrible void.


  • Does not require a DM.
  • Cooperative play, so that we don't end up divorced due to my intensely UGGGH I HATE LOSING AND I HATE LOSING TO MR. MACHINE IN PARTICULAR UGGGH personality.
  • Ideally, this is something that would be totally fine for us to play as two people or in groups of up to six or even eight, so that we can play with other members of our D&D group when they start jonesing and/or lure our non-D&D playing friends into a life of occult sacrifice.
  • Campaigns would be OK, but something we could rip through in two or three hours with snack breaks would be preferred.
  • Role-playing would be great.
  • Getting to shake dice to determine outcomes would help us with our jonesing.
  • If it matters, Mr. Machine plays a half-elf bard right now. He used to play a summoner, but enjoys his current mix of range/positioning attacks attacks, getting close to hit things somewhat effectively, and buffing people to hit things really effectively. I play a Goliath fighter and enjoy not having to think too much in order to hit things really, really super-hard.

    Our experience is primarily with Euro boardgames that don't quite fit the RPG/cooperative requirements. See above for my dislike of losing to Mr. Machine combined with my, uh, distaste for strategic thinking.

    It would be super-cool to give money to Paizo for writing awesome stuff, but we've never played Pathfinder before. It looks like we can't play the full thing without a DM, but maybe the card game?
  • posted by joyceanmachine to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
    I haven't played it myself, but a friend of mine has been playing Mice and Mystics (video intro) with his son, and it sounds like it might fit. And if you have two computers near each other in the house, Divinity: Original Sin (co-op Let's Play) might work.
    posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:31 AM on August 6, 2014

    There are D&D co-op games set in the classic settings like Ravenloft that have "AI" (so to speak) dungeon masters built into the rules.

    Here's the BGG entry on the Ravenloft one.

    I haven't tried them, but I've heard they're pretty fun, and that the AI does a decent job of making it entertaining.
    posted by codacorolla at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2014

    I am not a gamer but my husband is, and he has really enjoyed the collaborative gameplay of Fiasco. Oh but now I see that it's meant for at least 3 players; I have no idea if it could be modified for 2.
    posted by rhapsodie at 9:34 AM on August 6, 2014

    Fiasco is 3-5 players, but if you think you'll be able to get that many people together even a couple of times, it's definitely worth trying out! It's an interesting step away from both D&D style RPGs and Euro board games.

    * No DM

    * The gameplay is both competitive and cooperative, or neither, but somehow it's possible to play it aggressively and come away having had a lot of fun even when you get bad outcomes.

    * It can be played as one-shot games or very short campaigns; a game tends to take about 4 hours

    * Lots of roleplaying but no strategic thinking and very light on rules. In fact, your characters should preferably be foolish, selfish, and short-sighted.

    * Watch the Tabletop episode with Wil Wheaton!
    posted by Jeanne at 9:39 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

    You want Fiasco. It is GMless. It is meant to model a film, ideally a Coen brothers style drama featuring characters with high ambition and low impulse control, but it could be done for any kind of story in a genre from which you can bounce off genre conventions. Here is a huge, free list of playsets (settings).

    Here is a game of it on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop vidcast, featuring the playset "Saturday Night '78." The link is to the character setup, which is interesting, but you'll want to stick around through at least the first actual play scene.

    Players take scenes in turns. When it's your turn, your character is in the scene, and you get to choose (a) establishing where you are and who is with you and what, roughly, is going on, or (b) whether the scene ends well or badly for your character, in a simple thumbs up/down sort of way. The other players get to decide whichever you don't pick. If you pick (a), at some point during the scene any other player can decide (b).

    There are an equal number of thumbs-up and thumbs-down scenes, and people tend to load up on the thumbs-up scenes early in the game, so things tend to fall apart in entertaining ways late in the game. There should be twists, perhaps betrayals, and plenty of moments when players know a character (must, will) fail, so they can say in character "I sure hope this tenuous plan doesn't fail!" just before it does...
    posted by dramatriangle at 9:41 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Pandemic! It's my current go-to rec for a cooperative game that's great for two or a crowd. There are expansions to spice things up, and it's a game that can be really hard but and not exactly role-playing, but still! It's a lot of fun.

    We also just got Fiasco, and it seems fun, but a little tricky to modify for two, given the scenarios available. I'd probably have each person play additional characters if it were me, but that seems ....slightly awkward.
    posted by PearlRose at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

    Any of the three D&D Adventure Systems boardgames (Wrath of Ashardalon, Castle Ravenloft, or The Legend of Drizz't; note that this list does not include Lords of Waterdeep, a contemporary licensed D&D product which is mechanically entirely different and doesn't meet your criteria).

    Arkham Horror is quite well-loved by your criteria, too, although a game can easily run well upwards of 3 hours.

    I think Witch of Salem and Ghost Stories are good cooperatives and they're much shorter, but they're very hard to win and can get a mite frustrating; also, they're sufficiently difficult that roleplaying takes a back seat to not losing horrifically.
    posted by jackbishop at 10:19 AM on August 6, 2014

    Seconding Arkham Horror, or even it's more approachable sibling, Eldritch Horror. Both have elements of RPG, are cooperative, and in my opinion engrossing.
    posted by drewski at 10:21 AM on August 6, 2014

    Regarding the 3 D&D Adventure Systems games, I believe Legend of Drizzt is generally considered the best of the series.
    posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:33 AM on August 6, 2014

    Thanks, everyone! We have Castle Ravenloft (our baby training D&D wheels!), and will look into Legend of Drizzt.
    posted by joyceanmachine at 10:40 AM on August 6, 2014

    Eldritch Horror is a good idea. You may want to look into Tales of the Arabian Nights - it is not cooperative, but I wouldn't call it competitive either. It's a kind of shared storytelling game with lots of randomness (think Choose-Your-Own-Adventure). See this review for a better description ("Pros: Roleplaying Light and it scratches that RPG itch between sessions" / "Cons: Not for the competitive").
    posted by Paragon at 2:25 PM on August 6, 2014

    Elder Sign is the only one of the cooperative Cthulhu games that I've played, but I really hated it. Way too random and fiddly. I've heard similar complaints about Eldritch Horror.

    I would absolutely suggest trying any of them in person at a gaming event first, because I've only heard love / hate things about those.
    posted by codacorolla at 4:20 PM on August 6, 2014

    Nthing Pandemic. We've had a ton of fun with Escape!, but haven't done any of the expansions. Fiasco is also a blast, but it seemed like everyone had to have a similar sense of humor.

    Eight is a tough number for non DM-style role playing games. Maybe bust into two groups of four?

    you know in your heart that the answer is Diplomacy...
    posted by Sphinx at 6:43 PM on August 6, 2014

    Pathfinder Adventure Card Game can be played with up to 5 or 6 but easily works with 2 - just give each player 2 hero cards.
    posted by fiercekitten at 9:41 PM on August 6, 2014

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