Sync or Swim
by: Ted Alspach
What comes to mind when you think of cooperative games? The ideal co-op game is one where the entire team works together for a common goal, and victory (or defeat) is the result of how the team works together, through successful interaction and communication. All too often, however, co-op games can lose some of that teamwork when some players have more experience with a game than others. It can turn into a situation where a few gamers end up telling the other players what they should do, which might make the group successful, but is a less-than-satisfying experience for both kinds of players.
There are some games that have approached these issues in successful ways, such as Pandemic Legacy’s ever-changing rules, which effectively puts all players on equal footing, or The Crew’s random Captain assignment, which gives the first turn and some critical decisions to a different player each round. Bezier Games has never published a cooperative game before because we never found one that really was a true co-op game; one where each member of the “team” was just as valuable as every other member. Then Luke and Divya Hedgren submitted Sync or Swim to us, and we saw the possibility of creating a co-op game that checks all of the boxes that were important, and even a few we weren’t even aware of!
Sync or Swim breaks new ground in the realm of cooperative games in all sorts of interesting ways:
No Limits on Communication
There are absolutely no limits as to what you can say to other players. You can tell them exactly which cards you have, what cards you’d like, and everyone can openly discuss possible strategies and tactics at any time. You can give cards to any other player, and they can give you cards, with no restrictions. Communication is key to teamwork, and Sync or Swim gives you unlimited freedom to discuss everything with everyone during the game (or even in between rounds, to help prepare you for the future rounds).
A Rotating Team Captain
As you play through each round, the captain moves from one player to the next, whether you are successful or not at each round. There’s always a different player who’s directing the team, learning from past mistakes, trying out new strategies and ideas, and building on the decisions made by previous team captains. The captain, who has the phone with the free app in front of them, controls the pace of the game, sets goals, and tries to ensure the team is operating at peak performance. There’s extra pressure when you’re the captain, and it’s incredibly satisfying to move past a particularly sticky round when you are the one directing the team.
Knowledge that Builds on Previous Rounds
Because of the building-elements structure of the game, where rounds are repeated when you aren’t successful, and then included as part of the routine for the next round, each game the team will develop unique techniques and strategies. Even if you’d played dozens of times before, you’ll find yourself coming up with new ways to help you get past the current element or twist.
The Competitive Aspect
There *is* a competitive aspect to Sync or Swim, in that the team is always trying to beat their previous score, or beat the scores of other teams, or even just trying to get further in the campaign. A successful round always allows the team to move on to the next round, but at the same time, you’ll want to repeat routines if you think you might be able to do better next time from everything you’ve learned. You’ll find yourself playing the same round multiple times, hoping to shave off a few seconds here or there, optimizing your actions and strategies to ensure you reduce the number of fails and boost your successes.
Sync or Swim Adjusts to Your Skill Level
Regardless of players skill level and experience, the game automatically compensates for your style of play by adding time to help you with challenging routines as you progress through each round. The last few seconds of a round might cause the team to panic and make a mistake, but the next time you try it, even though only ten additional seconds have been added, the team will be pleased to finish the routine with 30 seconds or more left on the clock. So in many ways, your skill level will increase as you play, even as the game is forgiving and helps you out.
As co-op games continue to evolve, Sync or Swim pushes the genre forward in all of these ways and more. It’s super-accessible to casual gamers, yet provides a challenge for experienced gamers, and puts both types of gamers on an even playing field (pool?) which enhances the game even more. We’re incredibly excited to be launching Sync or Swim this year, and can’t wait for you to be able to experience it for yourselves! Click here to sign up and be notified when Sync or Swim launches on Kickstarter January 11th!