I’m starting this thread a few days before 2019 because of a issue with the forum software generating a 502 error in the old boardgame thread. :)
This last weekend we played Big Trouble in little China. I was really impressed how will it plays for a co-op game! It also a strong narrative experience with lots of story elements playing out
In my experience co-op games often devolve into one player basically helping everyone else toward the goal. The mega player, that everyone else is being a ride along with. This game doesn’t enable/encourage that at all. It does encourage players to break up into teams that is suited to their strengths, but there is a lot of reason for each player to own their own agency. Each character has their own quest, as well as three random side quests and the big baddy quest. Each character has their own strengths and abilities they start with (all which you can choose). As you defeat enemies and complete quest you level up and get additional dice to your pool, a new ability or turn a existing ability into a epic.
The first chapter is spent trying to gain audacity and leveling up your character with new abilities or stocking up on equipment, while completing quests (hopefully your own) and gain audacity. Once the 2nd chapter is triggered the board is flipped over and how the game is set up is purely determined who triggered chapter 2, what the status of the various quests are and your new goal is to gather 3 keys and unlock the final area to face lo pann. The variety of quests, and the status of quests make each game feel unique as well as your own ability to effectively level up/gear up. Right behind gloomhaven as far as co-op games go.
The other game we played was Dragon Tides
Very fun and strong narrative, with branching story lines between mission based on the choices you make and the outcome of your battles. If you win as the Dragon (good guys) you level up and get new cards, but face a tougher next battle. You lose the person playing the enemy gets a boost and the Dragons get a easier battle. The Dragons you can play are Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee and a few other folks that look like popular a and b movie stars from action/kung fu films. The game fairly basic and has a few problems but its also a quick game that is the best thematic kung fu board game made yet.
A turn is as simple as choosing your special move, moving your movement, and taking a action (usually attacking). Combat is choosing between 3 movies, grapple (immobilizing your opponent and reducing his combat efficiency), Throwing (throwing him across the map) and Strike (doing pure damage). Each choice has a weakness so throwing beats strike and grapple beats throwing. If you get the advantage you get to roll 2 extra dice for your attack and power up your special. The battle maps are often cluttered with chairs, tables, chicken, sodas, and weapons which you can optional pick up and use in the battle. The rules are pretty straight forward and the combats are typically 30 to 45 min long. This isn’t the best mini board game out there, but its the best thematic kung fu board game ive found so far.