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5 Fun Cooperative Games to Play at your Next Game Night


5 Fun Cooperative Games to Play at your Next Game Night

While it is certainly fun to leap from your chair, point at your friends and laugh in their face as you celebrate your victory, sometimes your friends don’t like that. Sometimes you want everyone to celebrate a victory, and you win or lose together. Here we have 5 fun cooperative games that are all about working together and being a team.

5 Minute Dungeon (Spinmaster Games)

This game is a cooperative, real-time dungeon delver. In order to defeat a monster, players must match symbols from their hand with ones on the monster’s card. At the end of each dungeon is a boss, and you can keep playing to defeat hard and harder bosses. There are ten heroes and the game plays up to five people, so there’s a lot of replayability built right in. Plus, it moves so quickly, you can get multiple playthroughs at once, or just use it as a palette-cleanser between bigger games. It’s easy to learn, plays quickly, and you’ll be working with your friends instead of against them like other real-time games. Its expansion: 5 Minute Dungeon: Curses, Foiled Again! releases this month. Definitely worth checking out.


Legends of Andor (Kosmos)

Legends of Andor is an adventure game in which a band of heroes (you, the players) work together to defend a fantasy realm from invading hordes. You can play good guys or anti-heroes, humans or mythical creatures. Even the character cards are reversible so you can play as a male or female-identifying character. This is a cooperative game, but it doesn’t require tons of commitment, because it’s not a campaign the way a legacy game or an escape room game might be. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate how the game is so user friendly and helps teach you how to play the game as you play. (If you’re interested in different ways to learn to play a game, check out our article about that here) There are a LOT of expansions, and a lot of customizable options, so it’s a great choice for people to find a good game and stick to it.


Gloomhaven (Cephalofair Games)

If you haven’t heard of Gloomhaven you’ve been living under a rock, or you don’t play a lot of board games (in which case, welcome! Glad you’re here). It has been on the Board Game Geek Top 10 list every month for what feels like forever, and it has won tons of awards including the 2018 Origins Game of the Year award. This is NOT a light and easy game. This game has some heft, both in size and in gameplay. It has a lot of mechanics and a lot of minis. It’s awesome. You’ll be playing various campaigns as wandering adventurers forced to work together to survive, and your actions have consequences on the future of the game. It’s hard to summarize this monster of a game in less than a paragraph, but I will say if you don’t know anything about it, and you like Euro-style, complex games, but want something more, you’ll like Gloomhaven. Finally, if that’s not enough for you, its expansion, Forgotten Circles, was released this summer with 20 new scenarios and 7 new monster types. 


The Mind (Pandasaurus Games): 

You know how close friends can kind of read each other’s minds? Want to put that to the test? In The Mind you and up to 3 other players will be trying to lay down cards in ascending number order without talking or otherwise communicating. It’s like that game you used to play in school where you had to line up by birthdays, but you couldn’t talk to each other. Well now you can’t gesture or grab and yank either! It’s all about just knowing what the other people are going to do. This game is highly-awarded, including a 2018 Spiel des Jahres nomination, a 2019 Origins Awards Best Card Game nomination, and the 2018 Golden Geek Best Cooperative Game winner. Find it at your FLGS!

Escape Games: Escape Tales (Board and Dice), EXIT the Game, Adventure Games (Kosmos) 

We’ve talked a bit about these types of games, and I’m about to do it again. These games are awesome. You get to hang out with your friends, problem-solve, make choices, and maybe roleplay, if your group are those types of players. Or even if you’re not. Tom from Kosmos said even he felt like he was getting into character when he played through Adventure Games. Some of these games can be played in one sitting, and others are so long and in-depth that you’ll want to break it up into multiple sessions. This is great for a single game night, or recurring; family gatherings or date night. And with certain games like Escape Tales and Adventure Games, they’re replayable! Some have different endings, some just allow you to take a different path to victory. So play it with different groups of people, and enjoy a different experience each time.


Which of these games do you want to try at your next game night? Have you played any of them before? Let us know in the comments!


Different Ways to Learn a New Board Game


Different Ways to Learn a New Board Game

Picture it: You’ve returned from your FLGS with a brand-new game that you’ve heard great things about (perhaps from Active Player Network?), you gather your friends for a game night, you present the game box magnificently upon the table… and no one has played the game before. Now, rather than a fun-filled 3-hour venture into a new game, it’s a confusing 3-hour slog through the rulebook with a lot of “no, wait” and “are you sure?” and “let me check”. Granted, even seasoned players have those moments, but too many at once can definitely affect table morale. 



So how do you avoid this? Ideally, someone at the table already knows how to play the game. But how do you learn a new game? Do you read the rulebook? Do you watch a video? Do you learn by playing? And do you have friends that learn differently than you do? That could be because of Multiple Intelligences, which is a learning theory created by Dr. Howard Gardner in 1983 and is used a lot in schools to advocate for different teaching styles.


Long story short, different people learn differently, and knowing how you learn best can help you both in the classroom and in life. the 8 intelligences are: Linguistic (word), Spatial (visual), Interpersonal (people and interactions), Intrapersonal (self-awareness), Logical-mathematical (numbers/reasoning), Bodily-Kinesthetic (body awareness), Musical (music), and Naturalist (nature).


I could do a whole other article about different games that highlight these different intelligences (and perhaps I shall!) but for now we’re going to focus on how knowing how you learn in general can affect how you learn to play a new game. Some of these don’t really apply (I mean, I guess you could just go play the game outside for those Nature-inclined learners), but I’ll be covering as many as I can.


Verbal learners: Read the rule book

This one is the most traditional way of learning a game. You open the box, pick up that rulebook, read it cover to cover and emerge victorious and ready to play. Seeing everything laid out in front of you step-by-step with the designer’s words and intentions can be super helpful, and it serves as a great reference if there is ever a question while playing. Publishers have gotten so good at condensing their rules to something as concise as possible, so even the heavy euro games aren’t a slog to read anymore.

DnD books.jpg


Visual/Spatial learners: Watch a How to Play video

Visual learners around the world rejoiced when YouTube How to Play videos began emerging. From what board set up looks like, to seeing how a turn plays out, or just being able to follow along with the video. How to Play videos are like having someone teach you only they’re not in the room. And you can’t ask questions. For that you have to turn to…


Interpersonal learners: Have Someone Teach You

This is the go-to method for game nights. Someone comes in with a game they love, and then they have to wrangle everyone’s rapidly shortening attention spans long enough to teach it. People who teach others to play board games are saints, so if you’re someone who learns well by being taught, be sure to thank your teacher.



Kinethsetic learners: Learn While Playing

You have to touch the pieces to remember what they do. You have to perform the actions to understand how they work. Kinesthetic learners are a bit rarer, but they’re definitely out there, and they can find themselves the most frustrated when being talked at or trying to read a new game.  These learners do best with a trial game first, just a few rounds to get the feel of everything and test actions without consequence. Then you can go back and start the game for real.



If you have trouble learning a new game, maybe you aren’t leaning into your learning style. Try changing it up and see if a different way to learn eases that frustration.


If you already know what your best way to learn a new game is, let us know in the comments!


What are We Demoing at Gen Con?


What are We Demoing at Gen Con?

Making plans for Gen Con? Be sure to visit us at booth 2535! We’ll be demoing a ton of awesome games, and for the first time we’ll also have them available for purchase! Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re planning:




The journey is more important than the destination with Tokaido! You play a traveler along the east sea road (what Tokaido actually means) in Japan, having wonderful experiences along the way and trying to be the player who has the best time. Tokaido is coming up on its 5th anniversary so it seems like the perfect time to help make some new fans.


Catch the Moon

Stack the ladders as tall as you can, and don’t let them fall or you’ll make the moon cry! We’ve demoed this game before and in doing so we’ve learned that this truly is a game for all ages. It’s super easy to learn so definitely come by and play a few rounds.



We have too many games and not enough table space, so these next four games will be on rotation at one table. Check back as we get closer to Gen Con for a complete schedule of when you can find each game.


Men at Work


Men at Work is a fun little dexterity game where you’re building a “work zone” for meeples in tiny little hardhats. Follow the instructions on the cards to add to your work area: a beam, a worker, a worker holding supplies, you never know. Make sure your hard hats don’t fall off, or you’ll lose a safety certificate! It puts a new spin on the term “worker placement game”.


Century: New World

Plan B’s final installment of the Century trilogy, fresh from its release at Origins, will be hitting the table at the Active Player Network booth! Come learn all about this worker placement-style game and add to your Century collection.




The winner of the 2018 Spiel des Jahres award, the 2017 Golden Geek Best Family Game of the Year, and many more, this tile placement game has gorgeous artwork and easy-to-learn gameplay. Azul is as stunning to look at as it is to play. If you don’t know how to play yet, come on by and we’ll show you. 



It’s a race against your friends to see who can build the shape on the cards first. You use the white blocks to help support the shape of your gray, purple, blue (and yellow, if you’re playing advanced) blocks. Easy to learn but only the truly dedicated can master these shapes!



The final table at the booth will be dedicated just to card games, and we will have official Bandai staff at the booth to help teach these awesome games that will be rotating throughout the weekend. Just in time for series 7 to drop, we’ll have the very popular Dragon Ball Super card game. We will also have the Naruto Boruto cardgame, as well as the highly anticipated Godzilla Card Game due to release in September. Both of those games use the Chrono Clash game system created by renowned designer Ryan Miller. Whether you’ve played these before or you’re curious about how they work, it’s definitely a fantastic opportunity to learn from the best possible source.



 That’s it for today’s Gen Con update, active players! Keep checking back as we continue to keep you posted on everything you can look forward to. We will have an official game rotation schedule as the con gets closer, and you can always come visit us at booth 2535 once you’re there to learn more. See you there!



Player Character Spotlight- The Meta Game Designer

Gamers are all around us, and I was reminded of this when I was chatting with a co-worker of mine from when I was a bartender. Aura and I had known each other for weeks, talking about all sorts of random nonsense, before I even knew they played games. So it seemed perfect that they would be one of the first people I chatted with about prioritizing play in your life. I’m so glad I did, because I was reminded about how problem-solving in games can help you problem-solve in real life, which is a much needed reminder for many. Active players, I present to you my interview with Aura Belle, game designer and podcast producer in Savannah, GA.

PC Spotlight Aura Belle.png

RP: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into the gaming hobby?

AB: My name is Aura Belle, I'm a non-binary femme (they/she pronouns), and I've been role-playing since I was very, very young. My brother used to play D&D with his friends and I would watch, trying my best to understand a game with no board or pieces, yet dice for some reason. And people just kinda saying whatever they want. I started playing all kinds of games as I got older, then eventually got into the game design scene a few years back, as well as publishing an Actual Play podcast with my group called Vantage Point of Death, which you can find on iTunes, Google podcasts, and most other places.

RP: Cards on the table, you and I know each other from a previous, unrelated job, but you never told me you were in game design! Tell me more.

AB: I made my first official game called Producers back in 2014. I still play it at parties. You play the part of movie idea pitchmen, suggesting movies to the group at large, except the specifics are fed to you by the other players so you get these really stupid, off-the-wall ideas that you have to defend. It's a lot of fun and the success and support of it led me to keep going with other things. I had a long-running Patreon which gave me about 1/3 of my monthly net income. There I made games about queer sex, gender identity, loneliness and connection, and our expectations of each other as people.

In addition to the podcast I've published several games (most under the name Caitlynn Belle) including Our Radios Are Dying (which has been played on multiple podcasts), Singularity, a transhuman and gender non-conforming dating sim released through Ginger Goat Games, and A Real Game, which won the 2016 IGDN Game of the Year award at Gen Con. It's a game rulebook that you print out that instructs you how to play itself, except as time goes on, this stack of paper gets existential dread about its purpose and fear about its inadequacy as a game. It gets really meta. 

RP: Your games sound super unique, where do you get your inspiration?

AB: As I was making games, I was interested in playing with the form of "a game" itself, trying to find new ways to present play and new topics to explore. I talked about my stuff early on in an episode of the Backstory podcast (which is a very good podcast) hosted by Alex Roberts. I took a lot of influence from performance art and works of art that played with their own physical form or demanded special interaction from the viewer. I was looking for something that engaged back instead of simply being on display.

Queerness is a big part of everything I make. I have trouble viewing the world through cishet eyes, so I make characters that see the world how I do. I want beautiful, messy queer entanglement, gender exploration, non-traditional relationship structures, and really just people who look like my wonderful queer friends. A lot of what I make demands that you make it queer and abandons you if you won't. A lot of them require movement, because I need to move to think. And they're all more or less about one person needing to communicate someone with others but not necessarily knowing how, and the problems that arrive from that.


RP: What are some of your favorite games and why?

Fall of Magic is a big favorite of mine and my group. We play it once a year in the holiday season, it's become tradition. It's a role-playing game about how magic is dying in the world and this powerful wizard is travelling across the lands and the ocean to the birthplace of magic to try to figure out what's what, and everyone plays their companions accompanying them. You play the game on a large scroll map, unraveling it as you go to explore new lands. It's absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking and conjures such strong visuals. It lets you play with metaphor and imagery naturally and lets you dig into the identities of these characters who start out as vague brush strokes and become just these beautiful, heart-breaking narratives by the end of it all. I've cried so much playing that game.

RP: Are there any types of games you haven’t played that you would like to?

AB: I have a soft spot for games about armies and conquests, things like War of the Ring or even Twilight Struggle. I'm not really a history or military nerd so I don't know why I like them so much, maybe it's just the scale. But I'd really like to dig into more of those. Especially miniature games, I'd love to build and paint squadrons and move them around these big, tactical maps, I'm all about that. 

RP: Do you consider gamer an integral part of your identity?

AB: I consider myself someone who sees "play" as a necessary part of human life, be you child or adult. It's something you need to tease your imagination with. You never stop needing to play, but most people fall out of it. So, in the sense of looking for ways to filter life experiences through mechanics and narrative, I would say so. 

RP: What is the relationship between gaming and your mental health?

AB: A lot of my gaming history and design philosophy comes from the indie publishing scene that surged out in the mid 2000s. This kind DIY ethic of making sad, strange little games that examine what big publishers wouldn't. All of the games I've designed have, in some way, been about myself - about personal trauma, or loneliness, or my need to communicate, but my desire not to. Embodying a character and playing out experiences I can't parse effectively helps me get a new perspective on it, and writing about things I don't know how to talk about has been invaluable. I'm an anxious wreck, but I would be more of one had I not had a bunch of weird game designer friends out here making weird games about queer identity, love, and isolation. 

RP: How do you balance gaming with your real life?

AB: Not very well. I used to attend regular board game meetups, but with working multiple jobs and everyone getting older, those fell by the wayside. My podcast group and I basically force ourselves to find time to get together and record, but it's not always easy. It can be hard! That's a running joke about role-playing groups, the hardest part is getting together on a schedule that works for everyone. You have to make concessions one way or the other. 

RP: Do you have any advice for people looking to get started with gaming?

AB: Hit up game stores and meet people and try to go to a local con if you can. Cons can be stressful, but they're also usually fun. You get a lot of energy and inspiration from it. Try different things also - I know several role-players who have never tried any other games besides D&D, for example, and are shocked to find out there's this entire world of millions of cool games out there. Keep yourself open.




If you enjoyed this interview, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. If you would like to be featured as a Player Character, please fill out our application here!





Great Games to Play for Father's Day


Great Games to Play for Father's Day

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 16, and I don’t know about you but I think games make great gifts. Getting together to play a game is a memory-making experience, and one that you can enjoy whether you’re a gaming family or you just want to try something new. Here are a few suggestions for games to play with your dad this weekend, or any weekend because who needs an excuse to play games?

Forbidden Island- GameWright Games

Cooperative games are great if you’re trying to get people into gaming. You’re all working towards a common goal so you’re helping each other rather than competing against each other. I like Forbidden Island in particular because it’s easy to learn, there are great moving visual pieces, and you can adjust the difficulty level. You play as two to four treasure hunters traversing a sinking island, and you have to locate four artifacts and get them off the island before you find yourselves in a watery grave. Leave no man behind (no seriously, if one of you gets trapped on the island you lose). If you have a group larger than four playing or you want to add additional rules and variants, try Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Sky.

How the last game we played wound up. Literally JUST made it.

How the last game we played wound up. Literally JUST made it.

 Hanabi- R&R Games

Hanabi is another cooperative game, but it has such a fascinating game mechanic that it truly is unique even amongst other cooperative games: you don’t get to see your own cards. Your goal is basically to line up 25 fireworks cards (5 different colors in order 1-5) by giving clues about what is in each other’s hands. If you play the wrong card, such as the red 3 before the red 2, your fuse gets shorter. 3 mistakes and your fireworks explode. Hanabi is a great game for communication and one of my favorites to play with new people for that very reason. You get to learn how they think. Theoretically, playing this game as a family means you’ll be in sync because you know each other, but let’s be honest, someone’s going to wind up shouting “Why didn’t you warn me I had a 5 in my hand?!” and as long as no one is super competitive, that’s part of the fun.

What do you mean you  forgot  which card was the white card?

What do you mean you forgot which card was the white card?

 Munchkin- Steve Jackson Games

Okay enough with being nice, let’s start throwing monsters at each other! Munchkin’s original concept is building characters and traversing dungeons trying to be the first to level 10, and using cards in your hand to achieve your goal and stop other players from achieving theirs. It rapidly evolved from a Dungeons and Dragons theme to over 30 different genres and expansions, from pirates, to Marvel, to Rick and Morty, to Shakespeare. It’s an easy to learn game that is guaranteed to have a theme that dad will like. 

Our community manager Anne got to sit down and discuss two of the newest editions: Unicorns and Friends, and Warhammer 40K at Essen Spiel

Coup- Indie Boards and Cards

Bluffing games! We all fudge the truth with our families, why not make a game out of it? With Coup you’re playing various influential figures in a dystopian future and you want to be the last one standing. Each card has a different ability, but nobody knows what card you have, so you have to call people out if you think they’re using the ability for a card they don’t have. Clearly, I have a running theme here, which is Short and Sweet, but if you like the idea of any of these types of games but want a longer version, they exist, and Coup is no different. If you want a longer bluffing game, try ResistanceResistance: Avalon, or Ultimate Werewolf (and if you want to really make a commitment, try Ultimate Werewolf: Legacy

I knew you weren’t the ambassador!

I knew you weren’t the ambassador!

 A Role-Playing Game. Any RPG (as long as you like it)

RPGs are great for family nights and great for all ages. You’re using your imagination, you’re communicating and thinking critically, and best of all, you’re telling a great story. If you’re an experienced player (or you’re a gaming family) you can consider a higher commitment game like Dungeons and Dragons or Starfinder. If you want something with more structure you can try an RPG in a box like Thornwatch. If you’re short on time there are plenty of one-shot options for a single game with easy-to-learn mechanics.


 Okay, not all dads are going to agree to this one (mine, for example, can’t bring himself to be creative, and doing so is NOT his idea of a good time) so use your best judgment. But if you think this is something your dad would agree to, give it a try! You might be pleasantly surprised.

What games will you be breaking out this weekend?


It's a good day to Die Hard Dice


It's a good day to Die Hard Dice

Our friends at Die Hard Dice gave us a chance to check out some of their awesome products this past weekend, and we wanted to let all our active players in on what we found. 

Dice Trays


Dice trays are necessary for a lot of reasons: they save your dice from falling off the table, they protect your table from getting scratched or dinged up if you’re using a heavier material dice, and it is scientifically proven that you’ll get the most random dice results by letting your dice bounce off at least 2 surfaces after you let it leave your hand. Die Hard Dice’s dice trays lay flat for easy storage and transport, and then snap into tray form when you’re ready to use them. They come in multiple colors and three different shapes so you can get the exact style you’re looking for.

The Dire d20s


For the big important rolls, you need a big important die, and that’s where the dire d20 comes in. At 25mm instead of 20mm, it’s got a bigger size that makes it easier for the rest of the party to see what you roll. It definitely adds to the excitement when the entire party sees that natural 20 (or the natural 1!). One important thing to note is that if you’re going to use one of these dire d20’s you’re going to want to use a dice tray to protect your table-- these things pack a punch due to their bigger size and their metal material. Speaking of which…


The Metal Sets


There is something so immensely satisfying about the feel of heavy dice in your hand and the thud they make as they hit the table. It’s like that moment in Fellowship of the Ring when Bilbo drops the One Ring on the floor at it just stops. Not a lot of bouncing or rolling. Finality. If you want to feel that powerful, then these are the type of dice you want to own. They also come with a metal carrying case with foam inlay to keep them nice and protected. And with full sets ranging from $35 to $55, they’re not going to break your bank. Just your enemies. 


The Polymer Sets

Of course, not everyone can afford the fancy metal dice, and that’s okay because Die Hard Dice also offers a huge variety of affordable, lightweight polymer dice. If you’re like Critical Role’s Laura Bailey (or APN’s own Risa) you can horde dice to your heart’s content and select the ones you’ll use for each night’s session based on how they roll or what color you’re feeling. The purple moonstone ones, in particular, have a way of glowing that we haven’t seen in polymer dice before.



If you’re looking to add to (or start) your dice collection, hit up your FLGS and pick up your own! If you do, make sure to take a picture of them and use the hashtag #activeplayer so we can see! Happy rolling!