Should have seen that coming

So I was board gaming with some friends a couple weeks ago, playing a game called Dead of Winter. Adam and I had played the game a few times with other friends and at conventions, but this was the first time for our friends, so they had some thoughts.

Dead of Winter, as we played it, is a cooperative game with a traitor mechanic PLUS not everyone who cooperated will necessarily win. And yes, it's skinned as part of the zombie apocalypse, but that's not really important, not to the game play. And for the first time in my experience, we a) had a traitor and b) lost hard to said traitor. Let me be clear, the traitor played extremely well – it was her first time playing and she saw about three different ways to simultaneously screw us all over. It was extremely well executed game play. And I was enraged. Not at her game play, but at how effective it was.

So that day I learned I don't like the traitor mechanic in my cooperative games.

But any rate, one of these friends didn't like that the game wants you to finish the main objective as fast as possible, whether or not all the other people have completed their secret objective. Because the game didn't, in his opinion, present itself as a competitive coop game. So you had a competitive coop without enough rules support for that type of play. And he felt like the special things happening card deck (called the Crossroads deck) wasn't triggered often enough given the expectations it set (by existing and being drawn every turn). And then he felt like the traitor mechanic was too powerful. That the designers had overcompensated for the traitor being all alone by making it so their actions were so powerful there was no way for the rest of the players to recover.

"So... you wouldn't play again, would you?"
"Not unless we play a purely cooperative game."
"There's rules for that."

This is what happens when I talk game design with a second generation science-fiction/fantasy fan who's been playing Euro-style games since their teens with an eye on how the mechanics work so he can win. It's a like a college course on game design stretched over a decade with practical applications. And I love it.