The Gassy Gnoll: Encouraging Coop in a Competitive World

The Gassy Gnoll has two daughters, both brilliant maddening messes of youth, and they fight non-stop. One irritates the other in some way darn near every waking moment they’re within 15 feet of each other. The youngest wants to be like her big sister and her big sister wants nothing to do with her.

So what’s a furry father to do? Much like a GM or DM, I’m forced to make a choice. Do I reinforce the competitive nature of their relationship or nurture a cooperative spirit? It would be much easier to just give them weapons, lock them in the back yard, and let them battle it out until only one was left standing… but I can’t quite bring myself to do that. Yet.

There’s nothing wrong with a healthy sense of competition. But my girls already have it in spades, whether at home or on a soccer field. So we look for cooperative exercises to work on the other side of that equation…

There are two brothers in the group I’ve been playing 4e with of late. The two of them are what I hope my daughters will be like in another 20 years or so – competitive in a good-natured way and able to work together to solve problems. So far as I know, there’s no better environment for encouraging that coop mode for life than gaming. And we’ve done some of that in the last couple of years quite successfully.

When I’ve seen them play RPGs,
their tendency is to work together… for a while. Self-preservation kicks in when HP get low, but usually they find ways to get things done. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the normal card or board games we play from time to time. It’s an “every person for themselves” situation when we play games like Munchkin, Fluxx, Sorry!, or any of the two dozen or so games we have at the house. And I’ve struggled with this problem for a while.

Pandemic is a cooperative board game that doesn’t just encourage cooperation, it requires it. If you don’t work together you’ll never manage to stop a single disease, let alone three or four. But it’s not the most family- or kid-friendly game topic for 8 to 12 year-olds.

Recently Pandemic was featured on Wil Wheaton‘s Tabletop web series. In the gag reel for that episode, he mentioned another game from its creators – Forbidden Island. I immediately went and picked up a copy and I’m excited to say we’re going to give it a shot this week. It sounds like a blast – more of an Indiana Jones vibe than a mad dash to stop worldwide diseases from destroying mankind. ๐Ÿ™‚

So I have some questions for you – the few, the proud, the readers of GKR…

  • Have any of you played Forbidden Island? And what do you think of it?
  • And what would you recommend to encourage cooperation over competition? We’ll be doing some role-playing over the holidays (which I’m very excited about), but I’d like other games to try as well.

Thanks in advance fearless readers!

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7 comments to The Gassy Gnoll: Encouraging Coop in a Competitive World

  • Forbidden Island is a great game. The cooperative aspect of it is wonderful for kids who sometimes get a little too competitive. With this game we can all work together to gather up the treasure and get everyone off of the island. It also makes it much easier to help the youngest if she needs a little bit of advice to make her turn (though, she does pretty well).

    Competition in this game really won’t get you anywhere since you have to get all four pieces of treasure off the island before it sinks. They will pick up on that pretty quick as they see how the game works.


  • I’ve played it and loved it, and have never played it with anyone under the game of 27. And we still had a great time. For me that’s a pretty reason to also play it with youngsters, as you will have a much better experience if you enjoy it yourself.

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