CO2: Second Chance Review (Coop Version) – Carbon and Co-op
We are, it has to be said, trying to play more crunchy games. Crunchy games, for those unfamiliar with the term, are games that are heavier than normal. They are games that make it out less often to the table. They are games like Trickerion, Spirit Island, and Food Chain Magnate. Each week now, myself and one of my closest friends get together to play a game through, to familiarise ourselves with the rules, so the next week we can play them with a wider group.
The first game we introduced to these crunchy evenings is a game you may have seen around Instagram a fair amount recently – CO2: Second Chance.
CO2: Second Chance is a difficult game, and one that requires a lot of brain power. It also comes with two modes – cooperative and competitive. We have been playing it cooperative, and so today I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what that experience was like. Please note, this is not a review of the competitive game – only the cooperative.
Now before we jump right in with a CO2: Second Chance review (a game that is an analyst’s dream by the way) I thought it would be a good idea to start with a little note about crunchy games and reviewing them.
In most board game reviews we look at on this site, we tend to run through the rules in a fair amount of detail in order to fully explain what it is like playing the game. For crunchy games, well…we’re going to need to look at these a little bit differently. Crunchy games often have rule books that are 30 pages or more. To give a full explanation of the rules in a blog article would be both incredibly boring to read and write – so, we’re going to look at more of an overview. Instead of writing a full explanation up front, we’ll look at core aspects and then cover the more nuanced points about the game in the commentary as and when we need to. That sounds fair, right?
What is CO2: Second Chance?
CO2: Second Chance is the second printing of the game CO2, designed by Vital Lacerda. The first printing came out in 2012, with the rerelease being Kickstarted in 2018. The artwork is designed by Ian O’Toole, Paula Simonetti, and Giacomo Tappainer. It is a game where you play as a corporation attempting to solve the world pollution problem, determined to build more and more green energy plants.
As mentioned before, there are two modes in the game – one where the different corporations work together, and one where they work in opposition to one another. Always though, the goal is the same, to save the planet from excess CO2 emissions. As mentioned before, this is a review of the co-op mode.
CO2: Second Chance is for 1-4 players and the printed time on the box is 1-2 hours.
How Do You Play CO2: Second Chance?
In CO2: Second Chance, the cooperative mode is played over the course of four decades – 2010, 2020, 2030, and 2040. Each round is split into a number of turns (depending on the number of players), during which players perform one Main Action and up to three Executive Actions.
There are three Main Actions in the game –
- Propose a Power Plant – to gain knowledge and bonus goodies – scientists, tech cubes, money
- Propose Infrastructure – to gain bonus goodies – money, CEP (one of the core resources in the game), or technology cubes (another key resource)
- Build a power plant – to gain victory points and control of a region.
All three of those actions are required over the course of the game in order to build a power plant and built power plants get moved on the board to fill up set decade spaces.
The Executive Actions include playing cards, buying or selling CEP (which affects a central game market) and moving scientists.
Scientists can be gained through proposing power plants, and moving them can gain knowledge in certain power plants to make it possible to build more moving forward.
Types of Power Plants in CO2: Second Chance
There are five types of power plant in CO2: Second Chance. What is more, there are two levels of each plant type (requiring more knowledge to build), and different criteria to get each up and running. In order of how many points they are worth however, they go:
- Forestation Plants
- Solar Farms
- Wind Farms
- Hydro Electric Dams
- Recycling Plants
Recycling plants are worth the fewest points. Interestingly, Solar Farms have the highest ROI from a resource to points ratio, but that is an article for another time.
Scientists are an important part of the game as they are one of the core ways of increasing knowledge in different technologies throughout the game. Each type of power plant has its own tracker, and this is where it gets a bit difficult to explain.
There are tracks on the board for all 5 plants representing technology. Each space on the track also has a number associated with it, and several have a bonus associated with them as well. Scientists can gain technology points by going to a proposed plant and then speaking at a summit (the summit is what grants the bonus). Summits are at the top of the board and exist as a way of completing objectives and improving knowledge.
There are a lot of objectives in the game. These include private objectives, which hold no bonus in the cooperative game, you just need to achieve one each or else everyone loses. There are UN goals, of which, in the cooperative game, you need to complete three as a group.
Finally, there are global goals that can really hurt. These take the form of 8 power plant related goals, 5 technology related goals, and 8 summit related goals. For each one you don’t complete in the first decade, they are worth -1 points at the end of the decade. In the second decade each uncompleted goals is worth -2. In the third decade they are -3, and in the fourth decade they are -4 each.
At the end of the decade
At the end of the decade three things happen. First, you get income as a group. This relates to the positions people are on the tech/knowledge track. The first two positions (in a four player game) on any track get the number associated with their space in either coins or points (points – always points – it’s not even really a choice). That plus the points for any power plants or UN goals (a measly 2 points each) completed that turn make up your final score for the round.
You then get negative points in accordance with the uncompleted global goals as stated above. .
Finally, for each decade space on the board not filled up with a green power plant for that decade, a fossil fuel plant gets built. This increases the global CO2 level.
CO2, in CO2: Second Chance CO2 is a global detriment and negative towards the end of the game. It starts at 400 in the coop mode. It then goes up in increments of 10. You can win the game if it is 490 or below. The issue is, fossil fuel plants start at 20 and go up to 40 in size. If you exceed 500 at any point (which happens almost every round) you have to spend points to reduce the CO2 level again. In the first decade it is 1 point per 10 CO2. In the second decade it goes up to 2 points, in the third decade it is 3 points etc.
There are a lot of ways of losing points – and what is considered a good score in CO2 is actually remarkably low. If you end the game on 11 points, you are considered to be amazing at your jobs.
What is it like playing CO2: Second Chance
Wow – right? That was the brief summary of the rules and there is a lot to take in already. There are also, as you may have realised, a lot of different ways to lose points within the game. The game ends if you ever go below 0 points and we have come so close to losing so many times that it’s not even funny. There is a lot to keep track on within CO2: Second Change however, once you get used to the six different types of actions the actual game is relatively easy to play. There isn’t a huge amount of upkeep and there are no super complex if-this-then-that moments within the board layout. Instead, the gameplay itself is “relatively” simple.
The gameplay may be easy to get your head around; however, winning or defeating the game is not. There are so many aspects to CO2: Second Chance that it can actually become a bit of a mathematical exercise to try and optimise each turn. We are, within our gaming group, fairly analytical gamers when it comes to cooperative or crunchy games. We often fall into the trap when playing games like Pandemic of saying “Okay, but here’s what I would do…” and CO2: Second Chance takes that to the extreme.
What we found, through playing CO2: Second Chance a few times, with variable player counts (but always on the cooperative game) is that it plays more like a puzzle than it does a game. It is actually possible, since there is almost no randomness once the game is set up, to sit back and work out the chain of events for various parts of the game. You can see that A leads to B, which in turn leads to C. We found ourselves regularly calculating how many points we needed to achieve based on what we were proposing doing. Where this can be really cool, it also meant that the game lasted for MUCH longer than it needed to. Our last game, with four players, took just over 4 hours to complete.
There is no doubt about it though, a lot of that can be put down to the fact that we, as a group, take a lot of time playing crunchy games because we all like to unpack them. It could fit into 2 hours – although whether it could fit into 2 hours and still be won – I don’t know.
It has to be said though – there are a few aspects of CO2: Second Chance that really do go above and beyond the call of duty. Firstly, and this is purely from an aesthetic perspective, the power plants are excellent. When you propose a powerplant, it is a cardboard token. When you build infrastructure in place, you put a coloured wooden piece on top, and then, finally, when the power plant is built, it gets a wooden standee to top it all off. The wooden piece per power plant type is superb, and it really adds a certain quality to the game.
The tech tracks are also a work of genius, with a superb scoring mechanism to back them up. CO2: Second Chance is not a game where one player can just sit back and not get involved. Everyone needs to be involved to win the game. There are moments where one player needs to set the next player up, and that is really well thought through. It means everyone really has to play together and synergise to win.
There are, however, certain aspects that don’t gel so well with the cooperative version of the game – most notably the personal company objective cards.
CO2: Second Chance is a difficult game, and so to have objective cards that offer no bonus but only act as a way of adding an additional challenge, where there are no points but the game can still be lost if you don’t complete one – it feels a little bit like an unnecessary hindrance. It’s a small point, but one that needs to be said. The same can be said for the UN objectives. They offer 2 points for completing, but require so much more effort to complete.
Generally speaking though, CO2: Second Chance is an incredibly well put together game. It feels like a bit of a cliché to say that CO2: Second Chance runs like a well oiled machine, but the mechanics are incredibly smooth. At no point does it feel like the game is making you do something entirely unnatural. Instead, you go through the stages of building a power plant together, and cooperatively help complete the game.
As a game, CO2: Second Chance starts off difficult, remarkably so, as there are so many points working against you at the start of the game. That being said, as you find your flow and gain knowledge/tech, it gets easier. It’s not quite engine building, as the negatives also increase in size negating any engine building benefits, but it is more than possible to win the game.
So, all in all, an enjoyable game. It is crunchy, and it take a lot of brain power, but it is good fun to play.
TL;DR: The Good, The Bad, and the Personal Objectives
Like with all games we can break CO2: Second Chance into good, bad, and neutral points to summarise the above commentary.
- CO2: Second Chance works well as a crunchy cooperative game. Most heavy games are competitive, and so it is refreshing having a cooperative one.
- The scoring system in CO2: Second Chance is complex, but it makes sense. The game is challenging, mostly due to negative points.
- The theme is strong and the production value is excellent. The tiny wooden power plants are superb.
- The game plays like a collective puzzle. It is well thought through and incredibly challenging. The game plays logically, and there is very little randomness. This means it is possible to plan and see the game unfold before you.
- It is possible to over analyse the game and for it to take a long time to play.
- It can suffer from the cooperative struggle of “here’s what I would do”.
- The Personal Objectives and UN Objectives, in the coop game, don’t add anything bar additional challenge. This means you can see it as a positive, because they add that challenge, or you can see it as a negative because they don’t really add anything else.
Conclusion – CO2: Second Chance Review
So, how does one complete a review for a crunchy game like CO2: Second Chance?
Well, for the sheer brain power needed to win the game, it is most definitely a crunchy board game. It is complex – not so much to learn but rather crunchy to win. In a team of four it requires you all to work in sync.
Generally speaking though, it is an enjoyable game and one I look forward to playing (and analysing) in future.
The big question though – have you played CO2: Second Chance? If so, what do you think? Is it a game you enjoy? If you haven’t played it, is it one you would like to play? Let me know in the comments below.