Solo board game corner
A place to discuss board gaming from a solo perspective.
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Like my last post about my official-ish solo play of #Cry Havoc, I got to play the solo variant of #Targi that is also official-ish. The variant was designed by the original designer of Targi so you can probably say it’s more official than a publisher-accepted, fan-made variant like that of Cry Havoc.
Needless to say, it was good! It adds and takes away a few things from the game as expected, but still play very similarly. The AI functions as a “player”, yet receives no score. Your win conditions are based on points acquired and objectives completed.
Overall, it was difficult and I lost...but I had fun doing so! Another incentive to buy Targi!
Let's talk about the best solo board games!
- But first, are you a solo gamer? What is the appeal? If not, how open are you to the idea, and why?
- What are your best games to solo?
- What makes up a great solo game?
- Which 2019 game or newer release do you expect will make the biggest jump in this list? (1 Player Guild's 2019 People's Choice Top 100 Solo Games).
Here are my answers:
1. Soloing board games is a relatively new thing for me but I like it. It gives me a chance to explore games that will otherwise be hard to get to with my wife. We typically play about 2 times a month together so soloing just helps me squeeze in more gaming time too. I think the hardest thing about soloing is fighting off the laziness. It's always way more difficult to start a session if it's solo vs. multiplayer because laziness kicks in when I start imagining all of the setup and cleanup involved. But when I do get to it, I typically find it a great way to unwind for the night.
2&3. The best solo games in my book are ones that are compelling enough to make me avoid just playing an app. It should be engaging, but not too much that it stresses you out. Setup time should be reasonable and around 5 minutes. With that said, the best solo board game in my collection is #Root. For a while, this spot was held by #Architects of the West Kingdom, but I think I know the reason. Root offers many of the euro-y mechanics that I love as a strategist and tactician, but gives me just enough of that luck that I tend to love in games because of the thrill and the "story-telling" moments. The game often presents situations where I'm just hoping that the bot won't escalate the situation or attack a certain area, and it's reminiscent of my chess days where I would think "please don't do that, please don't do that". Besides Root and Architects, I've also enjoyed soloing #Viticulture: Essential Edition and #Clans of Caledonia, which are both very tranquil in theme and offer a really nice puzzle to think through.
4. Most of you know by now that I'm unapologetically a Root fan. Now that #Root: The Clockwork Expansion has seen retail release and with many having tried the Better Bots PnP, I'm hoping to see it break into that top 100 list (if they count solo games implemented through an expansion). I also think many of these new entries in that 2019 list will make a big jump:
- #Cloudspire - Considering how well #Too Many Bones has placed on that list, and with NPI recently reviewing and seemingly praising its solo options, I think this one will place quite a bit higher for 2020. It's a heavy game alright, but lots of heavies seem to place well on that list.
- #Tapestry - I haven't played this yet but there are hints of it being a top contender on the 2020 list. Automa solo modes are typically received well and three of Stonemaier Games' games are already in the top 20.
- #Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North - Haven't tried out the solo mode yet but I'm pretty sure this is a great solo game, where I'd even say that it could be a better design than its multiplayer counterpart. Heard great things and I suspect it'll soon surpass #Imperial Settlers (#42 on that list).
- Lastly, I bet there will be a 2020 David Turczi game that will make a big entry on the 2021 list (I think the releases will be way too late to make it onto 2020's). His solo mode designs are always well received and he's coming out with tons of games this year. My bet is on #Tekhenu: Obelisk of the Sun.
I asked @Skurvy5 what his top 5 solo games are. So, I thought I should post mine. This is different from my top 5 or 10 games, these are ranked soley on my preference for solo play.
- #Spirit Island Such a great game, it can be tough to beat, but it so so so good. I am not really that good at it, but I have such a fun engrossing time each time I play it. I highly recomend it.
- #Star Trek: Frontiers This is a retheme of #Mage Knight. If you want a big meaty puzzle game this will deliver in spades. I wish that the components would be better,,,, but you can't have everything.
- #Scythe This is my favorite game of all time, but, it is my favorite game because of its multiplayer play. I still love it solo, and If I tried #Scythe: The Rise of Fenris it might bump it up to the number 1 or 2 spot.
- #Agricola (Revised Edition) I like this one multiplayer, but I might actually prefer it solo, I love puzzling over the economy and wrestling with my choices, while not feeling bad about taking too much time on my turn.
- #Deep Space D-6 This is a solo only game, It is a quick fun light dice placement game. It is not particularly strategic, it is mostly all tactics, but it is a lot of fun. And, it is a great game to bring out when you don't want to take time to set something bigger up, or you don't have the mental energy for something heavier.
BTW this is my 100th post. I have loved my time in this community, and I thank you all for making my time here pleasant. I look forward to continuing to interact here with you all.
I've got a pretty respectable collection, but I don't get to play as often as I'd like with other people, so I play solo games a lot. However, many of the games in my collection weren't designed for solo play, and I've either created solo variants or played with user-generated solo variants I've found on BGG.
Do you have a favorite non-solo game that you like to play as a solo variant?
The ones that stick out to me are:
Dragon Brew (although there is now an automa available)
Above and Below
Dead of Winter (TONS of solo variants and scenarios available for this)
What are some of your favorites to explore?
So I finally got to play Cry Havoc, though not in the way I expected. I recently found a fan-made solo variant for the game that Portal likes enough to make it its official solo variant.
This game in particular did not gain a whole lot of steam initially, but is a good, fun game. In short, it is an card-driven, asymmetric strategy game, with mechanics such as: area control, deck building, and various types of combat. Your goal is to be the faction with the most points. However, even though each faction generally acquires points in the same way, each faction also has other unique ways to score additional points by using skill cards.
I personally enjoyed this solo variant. It was relatively smooth for my first go at it. The only con for me was navigating the rule book and setting up, but this was expected with the first play though.
And the best part is, I have an extra copy available for trade! Haha
It took several sessions of learning the game through videos and reading the rulebook, but I finally got in a solo session on Saturday night. Here are my first impressions!
I love the box.
Love the purple, love how dense the box is. It's a small box with so much game inside and the organization isn't compromised much at all.
Great rulebook, until I got to the solo mode rules.
Surprisingly a good and easy read with plenty of visual guidelines. It had me nodding again and again just thinking about what the game is attempting to accomplish and how the design is trying to support it. Strangely, once you get to the solo mode rules, there aren't anymore visual guidelines. There are also several glaring grammatical errors and it's not as clear as it could be sometimes. Perhaps nitpicky, but it made me wonder if the draft of the solo mode rules might not have gotten enough eyes after it was added onto the main rulebook (the solo mode had a separate designer).
Fast setup and teardown.
Most of the setup time goes into constructing the draw deck for the market. Otherwise, it's surprising how little there is to do to start the game considering its depth.
Similar weight rating as #Root? Hmm...
- Lots of rules overhead. Both Pax Pamir 2E and Root have simple core mechanics but are difficult to teach for different reasons. For Root, most of the difficulty comes from having the asymmetric factions. Otherwise, it's surprisingly simple because most of the rules are right on the player boards. For Pax Pamir 2E, there are significantly more small rules to internalize that I hoped I got at least 80% of the rules right while playing. I had to keep referencing the rulebook to check myself or ended up catching my errors.
- Opaque. Especially if you're new to this type of game, the decision making process feels a bit like you're pressing a button just to see what happens, at least in the beginning couple of rounds.
- In line with this, there's a lot of abstraction that represents the political dynamics the game tries to capture. It's definitely there, but it's harder to recognize than Root's.
This is a game that makes me want to learn the history of its settings.
Whenever I play a game like #Pax Pamir (Second Edition), it amazes me that there are people out there who can think like this. While abstracted, the mechanics of the game are great at capturing the shifting alliances and political instability of the setting. I'd have to say that it takes some effort to fully picture the theme come through as you make many of your puzzly decisions (and it sure would help to be a history buff), but the decision making this game allows is very fun once it clicks.
Speaking of which, I really like Cole's designs. It's ambitious, elegant, yet complicated to a point that it can be too inaccessible for casual/new gamers. But it's so rewarding for groups that see its worth and hang onto it because it feels like player interaction is at the forefront of his design, instead of being a byproduct. That comes through even as I played against Wakhan (the AI opponent), and I can see how Pax Pamir 2E could easily become a group favorite.
Wakhan feels like a worthy and real opponent.
Wakhan makes for a fierce AI opponent because of her flexibility. And that's not just in her ability to maintain loyalty to multiple coalitions at a time, but also in her decision-making that's always geared toward maximizing her benefits. Her decisions typically reflect what a human player would do, and that means you can't make plays hoping for a lucky break in card draws.
Production is off the charts.
Great production goes a long way when it comes to solo gaming. After all, why wouldn't I just play a video/PC game if a board game didn't reward anything other than just a really great puzzle? The tactile fun in this game is the best experience I've had to date.
Verdict: I think this has high potential to be my favorite solo game, but we'll see!
Hey guys, I have made a solo dungeon crawler - already 65% funded and it has been going for 2 days :) please check it out - you might like it :)
I finally got arround to playing the solo Trismegistus. Wow! I scored 164! Completed three manuscripts, got to the top of every track, completed 6 experiments, and 6 of my philosopher's stone. Botmegistus scored 58. I'll up the difficulty and try running this one again.
I've played Marco Polo on my own to get familiar with the mechanics before teaching it to my wife, but this was my first ever "real" solo play!
My wife and I were supposed to play Marco Polo last night but she hit the bed early after a long day of looking after our son. So, I decided to take out the Automa deck and give it a go.
First off, I'm starting to understand the value of a good insert and why a lot of people prefer having the base + expansion content all in one box. Reduces hassle of setting it up and I feel like it's important for solo experience to not make you imagine the work needed just to get one game going (Viticulture's good because I can at least put the Tuscany board into the original box. My only complaint is that the indent that houses all of the Automa, Mama & Papa, and field cards is very deep with little room leftover and it's hard to pull out the cards even with my relatively thin fingers haha. Wish there were a little slot I could slide my fingers through to retrieve the cards more easily instead of having to take out ~5 cards at a time. Otherwise, the insert seems fantastic).
Here's the general structure of Viticulture and the Automa for those who aren't familiar:
- Viticulture is played in multiple rounds where each round is a "year".
- In each year, players choose how early/late they want to wake up from the wake-up chart, which determines player order as well as the corresponding bonuses they will receive for that year.
- A year is separated into different "seasons": Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.
- Each season has action spaces that you'd generally associate with that season, and each season helps build your engine to be able to accommodate a variety of grapes, plant grapes or interact with people visiting your vineyard, harvest your field and get orders, then end the year with fulfilling orders, doing more maintenance/building of new structures to prep for next year, etc.
- In each season, you place as many workers as you'd like (you place one at a time in a PvP setting) and then pass off into the next season.
- Each player has a Grande worker which is able to access an already occupied action space. How you manage this worker is one of the crux of the strategies.
- The main method of scoring VP's is by fulfilling wine orders. You also gain VP's for bonuses, doing certain things for your visitors (Tuscany has an additional way to score VP's in mini game of area control that represents the prestige/influence of your vineyard relative to other players).
- The end of the game is triggered when a player has reached/exceeded the minimum VP of 20 for Viticulture or 25 in the case of Tuscany.
- I won't mention all of the details, but the basic idea of the Automa is--you draw an Automa card at the beginning of each season (example pictured below), which shows different action spaces that the Automa worker will occupy. So in Spring, the Automa occupies the action space displayed in green, while yellow is for Summer, red/purple for Fall, and blue for Winter. So if the card below had been drawn during Summer, you'd luck out and the Automa won't occupy any of the spaces in that season. The Automa simply occupies available action spaces and that's it. It doesn't actually carry out the actions indicated on the space, but only serve to hinder your strategy. The Automa's player maker is place at 25 VP's (for Tuscany) and will gain additional VP's base on a little mini game of area control I mentioned earlier.
- A solo game vs. the Automa is played in 7 rounds/years. This is because there are 7 different wake-up times in the wake-up chart (with associated bonuses) and you can choose each of them only once. So you need to make a decision--should you start off the earlier years with more money? vine cards? visitor cards? get an extra worker early or should you save that bonus for the end game?
Now that we've gotten those things out of the way, here are my impressions:
- The Automa deck is very good at capturing the essence of the player interactions. You often run into players getting to action spaces you were really gunning for to complete your strategy for a particular year, and boy, it's luck dependent but managed to thwart my plans more often than not and I had to be flexible. Drawing an Automa card gives you that same feeling of "please don't go there, please don't go there.."
- You have to be efficient. If you didn't get to push your engine significantly by the end of one of the years, you'll probably lose.
- If you want to win, it seems like you need to make sure to get some grapes and an additional worker by the end of the first year, if not by early 2nd year.
- It's challenging. VERY challenging. I got pummeled in my first run. Lost by 10 VP's or more. It's been balanced to set the Automa to have around 11 additional VP's by the end of the game in addition to the 25 VP's it starts with (for Tuscany), and while you can take away some of those VP's by doing certain actions, it can detract you from focusing on building your engine.
- I played a second game right away because I didn't like losing to a bot. Lost again.
- Played for a third time aiming for maximum efficiency. I ended up winning by 1 VP but it left a sour taste in my mouth because I'm pretty sure I made one slight rule goof along the way.
- While it sure doesn't bring the same level of joy as playing with my wife, I can see it being able to satisfy the itch pretty well!
- There's also a campaign mode that I haven't tried. It's supposed to up the difficulty even further and I don't even want to imagine what that's like haha. In the end, I like how challenging it is and will be trying it out in the future.
I just finished a "quick" solo "first mission" playthrough of Star Trek :Frontiers. I know I messed some rules up but.... What can you say. Here are my first thoughts in no particular order.
This thing is so fiddly and complex. But I find that enjoyable in this context. But trying to wring good stuff out of my deck is so fun, even though it gives me a headache in a good way.
This thing is brilliant. At first blush, based on gameplay alone, I'd give it a a 9 or 10 out of ten. There are so many things that are so satisfying, the feeling of leveling up, the slow burn of your deck, the cool story beats that come through. Speaking of story......
The theme is essentially pasted on. And there are moments of thematic disconnect, for instance you can have Picard decimate a random innocent planet, and sometimes it makes gameplay sense for him to do that. But, at the same time they're are moments where the ship is in a battle and you pull off a brilliant win in spite of the odds. Basically, if you are winning to hold the Star Trek theme a little loosely a good story does emerge though it may not be star trek canon.
Components are not great. They aren't bad they would even have been really good 15 years ago. But they just aren't great.
Art also lacks. All the art is movie stills. I wish they would have done what FFG does with their Star Wars games and gotten some good original art for it. I am suspicious that the Star Trek franchise might not allow original art, because I have never seen anything other than movies stills in any star trek themed boards game. But it is worse than that. The crew card art is sorta fuzzy, I know these shows were shot decades ago, but, come on. Also, the general color palate is quite dark. I know space is dark but I do prefer what Ian O'Toole did with space in Black Angel.
Iconography : I don't feel like it will be too hard to get the hang of it. But there are a lot of small icons, and they can make a big difference on gameplay.
Rulebook(s) I feel are generally ok.they could be really good if they included an index.
Final thoughts from my first impression. I loved my first game. I can easily see this becoming my favorite solo experience, maybe even favorite game. I think with a little bit of experience I can get a solo session whipped out in 90 minutes or so, in other words, perfect for my son's Sunday afternoon naps. But, I do think there is a steep learning curve. And I would find it difficult to recommend wholesale. I would not say that this is a game that everyone needs too play. But for me, it is great.
Disclaimer. These are my first impressions. I'll try and let ya'll know more after I have more time with it. Also, I will link to a review below that I feel has a lot of good points.
I play a lot of solo games these days. Sure, "a lot" is subjective, but it's certainly more than I play with other living souls (human or otherwise). Have any of you played Proving Grounds from Renegade Game Studios? It's a solo-only game, it has 6 modules, and it comes with a novelette! As a writer myself, the included story almost had me more hooked than the actual game. I write board game-inspired stories, so this was certainly intriguing. But could they pull off the tie-in?
The story sets up for the big battle that the game lets you play through. And, it's a really fun game. Dice chucking and real-time, so if those aren't your jams (or peanut butters), then you may not like it. But I think it's great. Gets my heart pumping every time.
Have any of you played Proving Grounds? Regardless, what are your thoughts?
Typically if I'm in the mood to play something solo I'll pull out my switch and play a game, but lately I've been looking at my board game shelf and seeing games I still haven't played and wonder if it's worth learning the solo experiences. I've got Teotihuacan and Scythe unplayed still and have debated playing solo. Do you think it'd be worth it?
Are there other games that'd be worth it?
I used to turn up my nose at solo board gaming. But now I enjoy it. How many of you play solo? Or do you think that is something only sad lonely people do?
For those of you who do play solo games what are games that you enjoy both solo and multiplayer?
What are solo games worth a good AI to play against? I can enjoy a "beat your own score" variant like Agricola. But I enjoy playing against something.
An overview and time-lapse of Spell Saga. A truly unique solo only experience about eploration, adventure, and seeking truth. Can't get enough of this game!
YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/gigVFWwJtEQ
Join me as I play Undaunted: North Africa - SOLO!
In this video I'm playing the two-player WWII card game two-handed, that is, I am controlling both sides of the battleground. I'm playing Scenario 3 "... and the Anvil" as the LRDG attempt to gain control of an Italian fortification in Libya.
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I just finished sending Liz Davidson of Beyond Solitaire (and contributor to The Dice Tower Network) my interview questions! She's an avid solo gamer and was featured on The Dice Tower's Top 10 Solo Games video.
With that in mind, I had a question. It feels like most solo gamers don't start out as a solo gamer, but go through a certain "transition". How did you get into it and which game hooked you in?
#Clans of Caledonia for me. I usually avoid "beat your score" types, but it's challenging and can't ever go past the "rookie" score. It offers plenty of great tactile experience and the theme is so soothing. While I'm still not an avid solo gamer, it opened my eyes to its potential. Plus, it was one of those games that I immediately saw my wife's eyes light up after a few turns, and I always hold those games in high regard!
#DIE in the Dungeon! hits Kickstarter soon and he just released the intro video (link below).
I'm really excited for this game. I love a good dungeon crawl, and the solo aspect makes it quite appealing to me (although I do hear that you can play 2-players cooperatively as well). I've been following along with the game's production and I like what I see. Anyone else interested in this one?
[Race for the Galaxy: The Gathering Storm, Race for the Galaxy]
[Deep Space D-6, Agricola (Revised Edition), Star Trek: Frontiers, Spirit Island, Scythe]
[Power Grid, Above and Below, Scoville, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Dragon Brew, Azul, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Pax Pamir (Second Edition)]
[Star Wars X-Wing Second Edition: Core Set]
[Viticulture: Essential Edition, Tuscany: Essential Edition]
[Undaunted: North Africa]
[DIE in the Dungeon!]
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