Over the last couple of years, I have noticed a spike in the number of board games offering some form of campaign play. Specifically, almost every cooperative game that I’ve purchased or have been looking toward has been built with this in mind. For some (such as Pandemic Legacy and Kingdom Death: Monster), this is core to the gameplay and, as such, don’t really support a one-shot style. Others (like Galaxy Defenders and the Lord of the Rings LCG) don’t directly require campaign play, but have that capability and I want to play it that way.
While I’m excited about the thought of a campaign game, I’m not really sure it works well with my current group for a couple of reasons. The first reason is due to attention spans – doing anything for 20+ weeks (that’s about five months!) in a row is going to be a challenge for any group, especially when there are other new things to try. Once you throw in everyone’s availability, this can get sketchy very fast. The second challenge, especially for my games at the shop, is getting people excited about the same thing. I’ve got a fairly diverse group of people, and having enough people who are actually interested enough in something to dedicate that much time to it can be tricky.
The other thing that I’ve noticed about campaign games, is that they have a tendency to encourage specialization, which (if not regulated well), can very quickly lead to every game feeling very similar. Of course, the draw of a campaign game is that every game is different, but I have noticed that when it comes to actually interacting with the mechanics, player actions can quickly feel the same once you get into a groove. Further, if the game dissuades players from making significant changes to their play style, this groove can wear very deep.
That’s why, even though I’m really excited about the Arkham Horror cooperative living card game, I haven’t yet decided whether to get it or not. There are already more than a few cooperative campaign games on my shelf at home (Galaxy Defenders, Kingdom Death: Monster, Time Stories, the Pathfinder ACG, and Myth) as well as games that we’re playing at the shop (the Lord of the Rings LCG), so I think it’s unlikely I’ll actually get the chance to play through another one (I don’t think I’ve actually completed a campaign of anything except Descent…) That being said, I really do want to play through some of the ones I have and an Arkham Horror LCG would be high on my list.