Elevate Tabletop Skirmish Games With Cooperative Play

Elevate Tabletop Skirmish Games With Cooperative Play

Cooperative Play 

Tabletop Skirmish Games lean towards fast-paced, action-packed, kill-or-be-killed gameplay. Those aspects of gaming are fantastic and have an enormous appeal, but there is another fun way to play skirmish games—cooperative play. In this blog post, we delve into the world of cooperative play, where players join forces, pooling their skills and resources to overcome challenges and achieve shared objectives. 



The Benefits of Cooperative Play 

At the heart of cooperative (co-op) play lies teamwork, social interaction, and camaraderie. Beyond the thrill of individual victories, cooperative play fosters a sense of unity among players, transforming the tabletop battlefield into a collaborative adventure. As we explore this gaming frontier, we'll uncover the myriad benefits, from developing teamwork skills to strengthening social bonds among players. 

Co-op play is a fantastic way to play narrative campaigns where the focus is on the characters and their development. Working together to drive the narrative forward and unlocking new abilities, information, and enemies makes co-op play so fun. 


Design Considerations for Cooperative Play 

Designing a skirmish game tailored for co-op play presents unique challenges. Balancing gameplay mechanics, promoting collaboration, and providing strategic decision-making opportunities are paramount considerations. The success of cooperative play hinges on creating an environment where every player's contribution is essential and victory is a shared accomplishment. 

Character creation is vital in the co-op design process, so I made it the most important part of Population Z. Players create their Survivor characters from scratch. They assign them a job, hobby, and skill, all with different abilities that can be unlocked as the characters level up their experience. Each character has a size, and the size influences their characteristics. The variations are immense and allow the players to create exciting combinations and dynamics within the group of survivors. 


Cooperative Play Modes 

Diverse player preferences and group dynamics call for varied co-op play modes. Whether it's a fully cooperative campaign, asymmetric cooperative play, or scenarios against AI-controlled opponents, each mode brings its own merits to the table. By exploring these options, players can find the mode that best suits their playstyle and the dynamics of their gaming group. 

Sometimes, it’s fun to play a 2v2 battle and see who can achieve the objectives and win the battle. I prefer co-op play in a narrative campaign that does battle against the AI-controlled enemies and the game itself. Working together to beat the game rather than each other sets up co-op play as a perfect family game or game to play with your friends rather than against them. 


Team Dynamics and Roles 

Within a co-op team, defining roles and encouraging collaboration are critical elements. Together, players will explore the concept of character specialisation and how different characters or factions can complement each other's abilities and playstyles, creating a synergistic blend that maximises the team's effectiveness. 

Co-op play can become quite tactical as players collaborate and plan their moves, making decisions for the best success of the group rather than only themselves. 


Communication and Planning 

Effective communication is the backbone of successful co-op play. Players must discuss tactics, coordinate actions, and make collective decisions. Communication and planning are important considerations when designing your game, especially the gameplay loop. A good gameplay loop will see players naturally knowing when to discuss options and make decisions. 

As players discuss options and make decisions together, the bonds between them are strengthened. They’ll get the opportunity to role-play as their characters and have direct input in the game's direction. In Population Z, the rules include a section letting players know that when they activate a character, they should state what the character will do and act it out if they like, adding descriptions that deepen the narrative and their collective connection to the world. 


Scaling Difficulty Levels 

Adapting the game's difficulty to accommodate different player counts and skill levels is crucial. In Population Z, there are options to adjust opponent strength, resource availability, and victory conditions, ensuring a balanced and challenging experience for players of all skill levels. 

In Population Z, there is a tablet to use when deciding how many zombies will start the skirmish and enter the skirmish during the game. As the players add more Survivor characters, more zombies will come into play to keep the pressure on them and the game challenging. Getting this balance right was my biggest challenge during the game development. 


Cooperative Campaigns and Progression 

The concept of co-op campaigns introduces a narrative layer to the gaming experience. As players progress through interconnected scenarios, their decisions impact the overarching storyline and their characters' growth. Co-op campaigns can be the most engaging and memorable as players expand the world we’ve created for them as they interact with NPCs and make meaningful choices. 

World-building is an amazing part of the game creation process, but it doesn’t end once we’ve written the narrative, rules, and campaigns. It’s up to the players to populate the world, bring it to life, and expand it through their actions and accomplishments. It is a collaborative partnership between us age creators and our players. 


Shared Resources and Support 

Co-op play thrives on shared resources and mutual support. Mechanics for resource management, healing abilities, reviving fallen allies, and strategic buffs are key parts of co-op play, as they enhance the gameplay experience. 

In Population Z, the Survivor characters can carry a limited amount of gear and found items, and the size dictates how much they can carry. Players will plan for this and use the stronger characters as the workhorses to carry more items while the nimbler Survivors run around the board to search. It’s a fun mechanic that forces players to work together rather than go alone.  


Playtesting and Refining Cooperative Play 

No game design is complete without rigorous playtesting. I emphasise the importance of testing in almost all of my blog posts about game design, and it's for good reason. Gathering feedback and refining the experience based on player input is crucial for tabletop skirmish game creation. The iterative process ensures that the co-op play element is functional and enjoyable for all participants. 

You’ll learn so much from each playtesting session. It’s good to find a variety of players with different ages and skill levels and look for players who’ve never played a skirmish game before. Explaining your game rules to a new tabletop player is perhaps one of the best ways to determine if they are written well. 


Elevate Tabletop Skirmish Games With Cooperative Play


By embracing co-op play, players embark on a journey that goes beyond the individual pursuit of victory. It's an invitation to communicate, strategise, and work together towards a common goal, fostering a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that transcends the tabletop battlefield. 

My favourite and most memorable games have all been played as co-op play. Whether playing tabletop RPGs or Tabletop Skirmish Games, gathering with your friends and family to play together rather than compete against each other is such an awesome way to spend an evening. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the subject, so join in the conversation in the comments below. 

Thanks for reading!  


Look out for my new game, Population Z: Welcome to Huntsville, launching in January 2024. 


Join me on my Youtube Channel 



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