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Only the Closest Gaming Groups Can Survive These New Co-Op Games

Games were designed as a competition, each player pitting their strength and wits against their opponents. And while competition is thrilling, repeated take-that mechanics and gloating smirks don’t always engender the warmest of feelings among friend groups. When tensions are high, reach for these co-op games for some serious gaming group team-building exercises. 

Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood – Kickstarter (Coming Soon) 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

This one may sound familiar to quite a few of you. That’s because Shadowborne Games originally Kickstarted it back in 2019 and are currently finishing fulfillment now. There has been such a swell of positive reaction to this game, though, that a second reprint is already in the works.  

Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood is a grim-dark adventure game designed to push the co-op skills of 1 – 4 players to the limits. For starters, we know that grim-dark settings are never forgiving, and this one is no exception. A colossal, blighted forest, the Deepwood, has sprung up to choke the land. Smaller communities have been completely wiped off the map, and civilization has retreated behind city walls for protection. Now, these cities are isolated and constantly on the brink of destruction as the creatures of the Deepwood test the walls and defenses of the few remaining defenders.  

Cities are fighting back, though, by sending Free Companies of adventurers into the woods to root out the evil that has metastasized within. But these creatures aren’t your standard wandering monsters. Encounters in Oathsworn are designed to always feel epic with each one essentially being a boss fight. Players will hex crawl their way through a world map, learning about and studying their foe as they go. Choices in this phase are critical and varied considering that the adventure book contains over 200,000 words worth of story. The game is also a legacy game, so within all of those possibilities, your choices will affect when, where, and how you encounter your quarry.  

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

At some point the book, or integrated story app if you prefer to use that, will direct you to an encounter box. These boxes all contain a complete encounter including at least one 100mm base miniature. While that base alone sounds big, trust me when I say that the miniatures are bigger than you’re currently imagining. I got to see them first-hand at Gen Con, and any one of them could easily double as an improvised melee weapon.  

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

When a big bad comes out, it’s fight time! Up to this point you’ll have been able to customize and outfit your character for just this moment. Combat is done through multi-option action cards and cool down management on the player end and a randomized behavior deck for the monsters. Like most combat-heavy games, you can roll dice to determine the effectiveness of your actions, or you can choose to use a deck of cards instead. The cards have a mix of the same symbols as the dice, ensuring you will get every possible roll at least once. On the flip side, the stability of the cards means that you’re guaranteed to have fewer big swings in your favor. Decisions, decisions.  

Oathsworn: Into the Deepwood is published by Shadowborne games and is coming back to Kickstarter soon.  

Mammothodus: The Forgotten History – Kickstarter (Oct. 4) 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

Mammothodus is similar to Oathsworn: civilization is falling back before a tide of primitive savagery, desperately defending its last strongholds. In this case, “civilization” are the clans of the Ancients and the savage hoards are…us. 

See, it turns out that back when we humans first arrived on the scene, intelligent, magic-wielding, anthropomorphic, prehistoric mammals known as the Ancients were already here and thriving. Seeing humanity, with its ridiculously thin and squishy skin, teetering on the brink of extinction, the Ancients took humanity under their wing and gave us valuable knowledge. But humans being humans, we of course stabbed the Ancients in the back and set out to take their power for our own.  

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

Apparently we were pretty successful too because the Ancients have basically called Earth a loss (which is fair) and are now trying to leave. The story picks up with 1 – 4 players acting as one of the Ancient clans, Mammoths, Wooly Rhinos, Bison, or Sabretooths, attempting to hold off a human onslaught while simultaneously attempting to open a portal to another, less human-infested world.  

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

To do this, you and your Ancient brethren must locate Shards of Power across 21 different territories in order to raise Points of Power.  As if having to cover so much ground wasn’t difficult enough, humans have breached the Ancient’s valley refuge in 3 locations, with more new entry points popping up as the game goes along. To make things even tricker, opening Points of Power draws in Spirits of greed and destruction who will drive the humans to even greater violence. Solid planning and communication will be a must in this game if you don’t want to become extinct. 

In addition to the base game, there are already 2 expansions planned, one featuring 4 more Ancient factions and another expansion for 5 – 8 players.  

Mammothodus is published by TuiToy Boardgames and Miniatures and is coming to Kickstarter Oct. 4.

Spark Riders 3000 – Kickstarter (Sept. 13) 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

For something a bit brighter, hop aboard the Spark! This self-described “Star Trek meets Mad Max” game sees 1 – 4 players coming aboard as the crew of the Spark. After receiving a delivery scenario, it’s up to the players to ensure that the Spark arrives at its destination in one piece.  

Each turn, players will move around the bright, colorful, vaguely Millenium Falcon-esque Spark in order to fend off attackers, tinker with the ship, or pilot from the cockpit. Tinkering allows players to add and improve gun turrets to the ship, add shields and armor, or maintain the Spark’s engines. It can also be used to repair the ship when it invariably gets damaged.  

That’s right, turns out space is actually a pretty dangerous place. In addition to natural hazards like asteroid fields, solar storms, and micro particle fog, there are swarms of space pirates who want to steal your cargo and turn your ship into glittering space dust. When this happens, it’s time to man the turrets and start blasting! Or head to the cockpit to try and out run or out maneuver your attackers. Roll the dice and hope luck is with you because if not, your ship will start to take damage, limiting the number of spaces and options available. Lose a critical location on the ship, and your toast. Space toast.  

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

This is why character placement is key in this game. Each character can only move 3 spaces on the Spark per turn, so it’s important to try and be near where the action is going down. If you’re ambushed, do you run to the turret or do you run to the damaged area and attempt a repair? 

Fortunately, the ship is here to help you. The Prosperity Dispenser located in the ship’s core allows you to spend credits earned during the game on equipment and items that can help you along the way. Then there’s IRIS, the ships AI. She comes in the form of a voice activated companion app that lets you speak directly to the Spark and live out all of your star ship captain fantasies simultaneously. In turn, IRIS will be talking to you, giving you updates on the game status and making sure you know where the worst trouble is at. Man and machine working as one, the ultimate co-op victory! 

Trademarks and visuals belong to their rightful owners. 

Spark Riders 3000 is published by Arkada Studio and is coming to Kickstarter Sept. 13. 

by Zane Messina

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