An exciting and always different cooperative game that opened my eyes to what co-op games could achieve. Filled with strategy but, more than anything, the capacity to force you all to adapt on the fly.
As a huge fan of robot wars as a kid, this is the closest I’ll ever get. It hits that perfect spot for me of tactical strategy sent horribly awry by the actions of others, with everyone sent skidding in different directions despite best intentions.
Escape from Atlantis
Another childhood fave, we had the Waddingtons original with the spinner! Being able to use sharks and giant octopus to scupper your rivals was great, but I loved how the island fragmented away to reveal a whirlpool, it gave me such an evocative image of disaster and I’ve never forgotten it.
Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs
My all time favorite of those was a game called Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs – I think it was the three-dimensionality of the board I liked – it had a temple, a volcano, a Pterodactyl on its mountaintop nest, dinosaurs, of course, and a swamp monster, and your explorer had to navigate all these things to grab the treasure from the temple and get out of the valley alive with it. It was a simple game to play but provided a lot of strategy and a lot of laughs! Pretty much all you want from a game, really.
Warlock of Firetop Mountain
Another favorite was a dungeon type adventure called Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Up to 6 characters had to navigate a perilous route, gathering items and facing off against enemies (and potentially each other), to fight their way to the Warlock and kill him for the ultimate prize. Having the Eye of the Cylops made that task a whole lot easier! The randomness of the placing of all the non-player characters and items made for a different game every time. We played that game A LOT!
I’ve always liked turned based squad type games, from the early Rebel Star Raider (on ZX Spectrum where you had to load the game via cassette tape!), and later, X-Com. The Alien films came out around that time and Space Hulk had that feel of fighting your way along narrow corridors with Genestealers coming at your Space Marine squad from all directions. Tense? Nervous? Spacehulk!
Current favourites would include Splendor, Fungi, Alchemists, Villainous, Photosynthesis, Troika, Odin’s Ravens, Mysterium and a bunch of others that have kept me amused and entertained during lockdown.
But all time favourites are actually ones I sadly haven’t played for a long time. They hold a special place in my heart for filling many youthful hours with fun.
Orcs, Goblins, a badass dwarf… what’s not to like?! I distinctly remember seeing the advert in about 1987 and, turning wide eyed to my mum, saying “Can I have that for Christmas please!”. The smell of the box when it was opened, assembling the pieces, marveling at the minis, and introducing my stepdad and long term playing buddy to my geeky world… marvellous.
Reiner Knizia’s LOTR
My stepdad and I played this endlessly and only won once in 15 years! It was my introduction to cooperative games and complex decision making systems. The art, the mechanics, and the theme gelled wonderfully and provided hours of head scratching fun.
Ghost Castle (1985)
I was six when my mum bought this for me on my birthday. I remember the cartoony imagery and the 3D castle with the stairs down which a GLOWING SKULL would roll, knocking flying any poor souls unfortunate enough to be on them. My mum and I played this seemingly every day and the very thought of it is synonymous with my childhood.
And there we have it! What are your top three? Not an easy choice to make when there are so many excellent games out there!