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I play games almost exclusively with my wife and older children. They learn and enjoy playing games like Puerto Rico, Diplomacy, 7 Wonders and Dominion so I am looking for gamer games, not Apples to Apples.

However they don't play most of these games very competitively. Rather, they will often change plans just to be nice to another player.

I have read that some highly recommended gamer games, like Power Grid, really lose a lot if the group isn't playing in highly competetive mode. What are great gamer games that stay great even if the group playing is pretty generous toward each other?

Obviously all great cooperative games would qualify so I am asking about non-cooperative games.

Edit: Certainly having extra players is sometimes a factor (we have 8 children, though only our oldest 3 can play these games with us at this point - of course, that will change in time). However simplified rules is really a non-issue from what we've played so far (Puerto-Rico being the most complex so far). Also we have no qualms about editing a game for family (or for ourselves). e.g. some of the cards in 7 wonders.

Edit. I made part of the question bold just because people kept missing that part and I've noticed those that do are getting downvoted.

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closed as not constructive by Pat Ludwig Jan 8 '12 at 7:10

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Closing per our policy against game rec/shopping questions. –  Pat Ludwig Jan 8 '12 at 7:11

10 Answers 10

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I'd assert that Settlers of Catan works just fine, even if you're not being very competitive. There's lots of trading, which can actually work better if both traders are genuinely interested in "playing nice." Similarly, there's nothing in the building of cities and roads that mandates competition. The nature of the board does encourage confrontation, in that you're likely to eventually conflict for space to expand, but that's not necessarily a deal-breaker in this regard.

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There are some house rules that can make the game nicer still. I think the nastiest aspects of settlers are the robber and the monopoly cards. –  tttppp Mar 9 '11 at 8:13
    
+1 for Settlers, and for the house rules. In my experience, house rules can really make Settlers a nice game to play if you don't want a fight (my in-laws are almost anti-competitive, I'd dare to play Settlers with them, just to illustrate ;-) ). –  Zsub Mar 9 '11 at 8:35
    
It really is the ultimate passive-aggressive game. –  Michael May 6 '11 at 17:07

Agricola is a great game, that remains good even if you're being nice to each other. The main interaction between players is that each action space may only be taken once per round, and so players are able to develop their farms largely independently of each other. To be nasty towards another player requires studying their position, and deliberately taking the action that they needed.

The game comes with rules for a family version, which is much easier to pick up than the full game.

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I can't help but upvote my favourite game ever! –  thesunneversets Mar 8 '11 at 17:55
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Yeah, Agricola is the game I most enjoy losing. The sense of building something is there even if you are behind the other players. I think part of the magic is that you don't keep score as you go along, so it isn't in everyone's face. –  Drew Hoskins Mar 14 '11 at 22:35

Bohnanza

In our experience Bohnanza lends itself very well to being nice to each other. The fact that you are often better off with a "bad" deal than none at all opens the doors for a lot of "You owe me one" deals.

The real competition in the game does not generally come from fighting over resources but from better evaluation of what kind of beans are gonna come up (or are not going to come up) plentiful.

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We've had plenty of arguments in Bohnanza of the kind "Why did you give that to him rather than me..." Maybe that's just us though. –  tttppp Mar 10 '11 at 7:57
    
I didn't say that all groups play it like this. If your group likes to fight over individual deals then that's what you like. Nothing wrong with that. –  Kempeth Mar 11 '11 at 9:20
    
This game is a lot of fun! –  David Oneill Mar 15 '11 at 1:54
    
@tttppp if there's an argument our players often decide to give trades/donations to whatever player has less money if all other things are equal. :) –  Gordon Gustafson Mar 15 '11 at 21:37

One attribute I think you should look for is non-elimination games, that is, games where all the players stay in until the end.

  • is a great gamers game and also co-operative.
  • is team-based and although it's possible to eliminate one player in practice the game can be more fun if each side plays as a team
  • is another popular game where everyone's in it until the end
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+1 for Arkham-Horror. It is all the players VS the board, so cooperation is required (unless you LIKE having Cthulu eat your brain). –  GWLlosa Mar 9 '11 at 12:45

My usual recommendations for cooperative boardgames are:

  1. Lord of the Rings
  2. Shadows over Camelot
  3. Pandemic

(The first link is from board game geek- you can search for the other games there also as I couldn't post more than two links)

But really, any of the games in the cooperative category of BoardGameGeek should work for you. Sort by ranking, and there are some good ones in the top 10.

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I agree with all points, but the asker specifically said they wanted non-cooperative games. :D –  Gordon Gustafson Mar 9 '11 at 23:47
    
You are so right! In that case, I'd say Cutthroat Caverns. Not cooperative, but competitive up to a point. Infernal Contraption is also a good one. –  wraith808 Mar 14 '11 at 2:14

Scrabble

Scrabble is a nice choice because if nobody is playing defensively, then people just get to build longer/more fun words. If your family won't cringe that Mom just opened up the triple word score for one of the kids then it can be a nice casual multi-player game.

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Munchkin

Munchkin is well-loved by my more hardcore board gaming friends, but it is a very silly game that is best played non-competitively. It's often more fun to play with a goal of doing things in the most ridiculous manner (I'm going to use my Tuba of Charm to destroy that monster in spite of the Chicken On My Head!) than to try to actually win. Players can go it solo, but there is a lot of potential for collaboration - the most memorable Munchkin games that I've participated in have been won by two or more people working together at the last minute.

Fair warning: this game is PG-13. Some of the more lewd jokes will go right over the heads of any little ones ("Crabs: If this monster catches you, you will lose all your armor and any items worn beneath the waist"), but others will teach them some new language ("Sneaky Bastard Sword").

Killer Bunnies

Appealing for somewhat similar reasons to Munchkin, but it's G-rated and less likely to remind one of dungeons and dragons. The end-game is somewhat random, so playing competitively can leave you disappointed (the person who was worst off throughout the whole game still stands a chance of winning).

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If you're looking for games that work well when you don't feel like being competitive, what about games that are by nature cooperative? Space Alert is absolutely fantastic in this arena, and it's a great combination of analytical, communicative, and pressure-handling skills: you need to work together with the other players to craft solutions to often-difficult problems quickly. Get one of those three wrong and you all die, which honestly is half the fun anyway. The instructions are a blast to read even if you don't plan to play the game (I didn't, until I was done with the rules!), and there are several ways to adjust the difficulty to a level you're happy with.

Also worth noting in this sort of genre are Pandemic and Betrayal at House on the Hill. Both of these are good, cooperative games (though the latter generally becomes less cooperative when one of your number is randomly selected to betray the others). Personally I put Space Alert on top of the heap by a mile, but as a matter of taste you might find you prefer the others if you are really into deep analysis.

NB Betrayal was reprinted recently, and the new edition is a lot shabbier: bits tend to warp and generally aren't as nice. But I understand it's a lot cheaper, and it's still perfectly playable, so make your own decision here about whether you look for an old edition.

Edit: Apparently I completely overlooked the "only looking for competitive games" part of your question. I'll leave this here anyway, in case you aren't already aware of these.

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+1 for Betrayal. –  Adam Wuerl Mar 13 '11 at 4:04

Dominion works pretty well... just don't use any of the attack cards.

FGU's Star Explorer (I have reason to believe it's soon to be reprinted by a new company) also works extremely well; it's multi-player limited interaction, race to complete missions.

Ticket to Ride (any flavor) works pretty well as long as everyone's the same level of competitiveness.

Carcassonne also tends to do well with friendly games, at least in most flavors; Carcassonne: The City tends to be a bit more competitive.

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Death Angels is pure coop play (the aliens play "themselves" with some rules) just with cards and dice (very portable).

Castle Ravenloft is also "group of good guys only" with automatic foe movement, attacks, etc. A dungeon crawler

And as a third recommendation, Betrayal at House on the Hill is really great, but the second half of the game (when one "omen roll" is failed and the bad guy(s) are chosen) requires at least one person to become enemy/bad and a bit of competition is introduced.

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