As a follow up to JR Honeycutt’s article on Cooperative Games: Advice From the Experts, we asked some of the top board game designers of cooperative game experiences this question:

What win % do you want first time players to have in your co-op game?

I had heard that Anthony Bauza had a number in mind – 0%! Could it be true?
Did anyone feel the exact opposite at 100%?
Well, we didn’t find a designer touting 100% quite yet, but Mike Selinker is our highest bidder at a 75% win rate.

Here’s the chart, followed by some brief reasoning from the designers.

Designed Win % for First time coop play

Antoine Bauza

First game for a new group? I want them to lose, always, so 0% winning rate, period. (Ghost Stories, anyone?)

Justin De Witt

Shooting for 60 losses to 40 wins for the general light strategy gamer. (Castle Panic)

Matt Leacock

Roughly 40% for the first time through a cooperative game – but for an experienced group (e.g. Pandemic). 60% for a session in a cooperative legacy style game (e.g. Pandemic Legacy).

Jerry Hawthorne

From the interview with JR, Jerry cites ‘I shoot for a 70% win rate because I don’t want my players to have to play through a chapter too many times to beat it.’ (Mice and Mystics)

Mike Selinker

People don’t like losing anywhere near as much as they say they like it. (Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Betrayal at House on the Hill)

And there you have it. If you have designed or are designing a cooperative game, where do you see your goals on this chart?

Name Your Win % in the Comments!

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Peter Vaughan

Game Developer at Breaking Games

Peter eats games for breakfast! Founder of First Play LA, Squirmy Beast and League of Gamemakers, and Director of Development for Breaking Games. First published designs include What the Food?! and Nightmare Cove, and development credits include Letter Tycoon, Boomtown Bandits, Sparkle*Kitty and Rise of Tribes.

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6 Readers Commented

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  1. Bryan Merlonghi on August 22, 2016

    A long time ago, Eric Vogel (creator of The Dresden Files Co-Op Boardgame) told me around 30%. And that’s really stuck with me. I think it’s the perfect window.

  2. Brad Brooks on August 22, 2016

    I think it depends on whether you’re talking about a game with progression (like Pathfinder Adventure Card Game or Mice & Mystics) or a regular co-op (like Pandemic or Ghost Stories). If there’s progression you don’t want the players to have to play the same scenario too many times (as Jerry Hawthorne said), but in a non-episodic game if players win too easily they may feel they’ve mastered the game and there’s no further reason for playing.

  3. Gabe Barrett on August 22, 2016

    I agree with Jerry for a story driven game. But for all other games, 25%. For a non co-op 4 player game that none of us have played, I feel like I have a 25% chance of winning. So, I think a co-op should have the same odds for a first time play.

  4. Norv Brooks on August 22, 2016

    Freedom: the Underground Railroad has some options which gives a player a better chance of beating the game. So, if the first time player is playing with the options than maybe a 40% chance is good. Otherwise, without the options a 60% chance of beating the game. If the first time player doesn’t at least get close to winning, they may not come back for a 2nd play.

  5. Lewis Pulsipher on August 23, 2016

    I should think this depends heavily on the nature of the co-op.

    Some are very much like puzzles, with few random elements/little uncertainty. Players of those games should have a high chance of losing to begin with, because as they play again they’ll have a better idea of how to solve the puzzle, and improve their percentage until it’s very high. If they start with a high chance of winning, the game will be insufficiently challenging to warrant many plays.

    Other games may have more elements of uncertainty and randomness, e.g. a co-op wargame with dice rolling. As players have a second or third go they’ll improve quite a bit, most likely, but they should never approach a very high win percentage. The first time, given the possibility of just getting lucky, their win percentage ought to be higher than for the puzzle-game.

    Of course, this also depends on what kind of game you’re designing, one that is played a few times (as most currently published games of all types) or one that can be played 25 times or more. The initial win percentage will be much higher in the first kind of game.

  6. Frank West on August 29, 2016

    It depends on how much of it is random vs strategy. If a game is based on luck it should have a higher win chance.

    I’m designing a game where I expect a 0% win rate for first time players but it’s pure strategy.

    After roughly 20 groups of playtesters not 1 has won but all of them have wanted to come back and can see what they should improve to win next time.

    As long as you can see what you need to do better to win, and can do that next time, then 0% is great.

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