Teamwork. It’s not just for sports and company retreats, it’s also integral for running successful campaigns. At the most basic level RPGs are cooperative strategy games that require characters to combine their unique abilities in order to overcome challenges.
Despite the benefits of teamwork in building a strong storyline and in achieving combat success, many adventuring parties only engage in the bare minimum of teamwork needed to survive. I believe that this occurs for several reasons that may or may not surprise you:
1. Players get excited about what their characters can do and want their characters to be their best at all times, even if it isn’t what is best for the party.
2. The combat and loot centric nature of many games promotes the character optimization mentality.
3. Gamers tend to be competitive and like to “win”.
4. Players who roleplay altruistic and self sacrificing characters are often thrown under the bus by other players who are more than willing to take an extra share of the rewards or use them as a meatshield.
As a solution to these issues I suggest using cooperative board games as a team building exercise for your party. The three games pictured above demand that you be willing to make sacrifices and work as a team in order to have any chance of success. Players must coordinate their efforts, share information, plan out turns, and put the overarching goals of the group above their own desires. Cooperative games usually include role systems that make each player feel valued and important which greases the wheels of teamwork. Furthermore, cooperative games such as these reward players for their teamwork with an immediate sense of accomplishment that may not exist in RPGs. When you and your friends work together to stop the plague in pandemic you get a tangible victory, when you put the team ahead of yourself at the D&D table you might not get rewarded until the end of the arc or campaign. Also games such as these get people into the habit of rewarding each other for teamwork so that instead of the healer being a thankless job the players might verbally thank the cleric for his/her efforts.
As silly as it may sound I find that these games promote social skills that aren’t inherent to D&D but are integral for a successful party and story arc. I try to get my players to play cooperative board games together so that they get used to working together and thinking about how their actions effect others so that when we sit down to play D&D they might put more stock in group glory than their own. I have also used games such as these as effective primers for getting new players into pen and paper RPGs. These types of board games often include simple mechanics and require skills similar to those in RPGs making them an ideal stepping stone for the first time gamer.